Raise Gift Cards Above the Clutter

Offer something unique that inspires members to buy CU gift cards.

December 01, 2010
KEYWORDS cards , credit , gift
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Credit unions face stiff competition on the gift card front from supermarket and convenience store gift card racks. But most of the cards sold in those outlets are closed-loop and can only be used at a particular retailer, says Jeff Falk, director of product development at The Members Group.

“They’re not as appealing as open-loop cards that can be used with almost any merchant,” he says.

Still, to raise their gift cards above the competitive clutter, credit unions must offer something unique that will inspire members to buy gift cards from them—either the card itself or something extra.

“For example,” Falk says, “can they design a gift card that stands out and inspires recipients to pull it out and talk about it with friends? A good-looking card plants a seed that later gets people through the door.”

Among the gift card marketing tips Falk offers credit unions:

• Use strong collateral material that points out the convenience and advantages of gift cards, as well as the credit union’s traditional reliability and trustworthiness when it comes to fees.

• Make a value proposition. Why buy from a credit union rather than a retailer?

“For one thing, credit unions have the ability to set fee parameters, which allows them to be competitive,” Falk says. “Also, some credit unions offer a sale promotion, such as two for one, where a member can buy two cards for only one set-up fee, or buy five cards and receive a sixth one free of fees.”

Falk’s other keys to promotional success:

• Work with small businesses by suggesting gift cards as bonuses or spot awards.

“When business members come in looking for 10 crisp $100 bills to hand out, a teller can upsell them to Visa gift cards, which are safer to carry, can be tracked, and show that the givers went to some trouble,” Falk says.

• Hold contests where tellers vie to sell the most gift cards, with the winners themselves receiving cards.

• Create Christmas Club variations, where the credit union sends club members a charged gift card around the holiday season that can be used right away versus a check that has to be cashed and cleared.

• Offer gift cards as an incentive to open an account or take out a new loan.

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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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