'I' Is for Innovation

July 23, 2010
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Ask marketing professionals for input on the big picture.

You may have played this game when you were young: Think about what the letters in a word stand for.

In the word “marketing,” the “m” stands for many things—measurement, metrics, mass media, and market share.

For the sake of this exercise, look past the “m” (and several letters after it) to the letter “i,” which stands for innovation.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineFrequently overlooked, innovation is still a vital component of marketing. And part of innovation is challenging assumptions and exploring new and better ways of doing things.

Marketing has its finger on the pulse of most aspects of the credit union. Marketing professionals manage:

•  Communication conduits, including Web sites, newsletters, direct mail, social media, and public relations;

•  Promotions, involving clever and results-driven marketing activities, and products targeted to the right members at the right times;

•  Pricing, by participating on the asset/liability management committee to determine market potential and profitability factors; and

•  Products and services, by identifying the best audience, the appropriate price, and the best position and messaging for each offering. Marketing’s hand is deft in shaping, selecting, and defining the credit union’s product line.

A fine marriage of creative and analytical abilities gives marketing professionals skill in finding new ways to create income strands, new sources of revenue, and new ways to reach untapped markets.

To cull the best from your marketing staff, ask them:

•  Does our marketing plan align with the business plan? If not, make adjustments.

•  What does our credit union do well? Is it speedy loan processing? Meeting the needs of select employee groups (SEG)? Ask marketing and business-development staff about credit union strengths, and look at product use. This isn’t a once-a-year question; it’s an ongoing part of the marketing process.

•  Can we replicate this success in other areas of the credit union? Do our strengths align with the business plan?

•  What do our members want? Review your credit union’s membership surveys. Are there ways the credit union can creatively meet members’ needs to differentiate it from competitors? Are members’ wants addressed in the business plan?

•  What do our SEGs and other members want?

•  What can we do better or differently? Encourage marketers to ask high-contact staff (branch managers, tellers, and call center staff) what adjustments the credit union can make to improve member service.

Answers to these questions are merely a start on the path to innovation. As the credit union business model changes daily with legislation, technology, and other factors, marketing professionals play a key role in your credit union’s adjustment to the new landscape.

Now is a perfect time to give marketing professionals executive leadership roles. (If your credit union has done this already, bravo!)

You might be amazed at what marketing leaders can do for your credit union.

ANNE LEGG is vice president of marketing at Cabrillo Credit Union, San Diego, and chair of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council. Contact her at 858-653-3295.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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