'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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