CU Marketers Take a Multichannel Approach

Three award-winning CUs use new and traditional tools to get the word out.

February 01, 2013
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Your credit union could have innovative products and state-of-the-art delivery channels, but if it doesn’t get the word out, it could become your community’s best-kept secret.

Your marketing efforts should tell current and potential members about the products and services that make it extraordinary. The three credit unions profiled here—all CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Diamond Award winners—use a combination of technology, social media, traditional media, and face-to-face contact to tell their stories.

Maps Credit Union won a “Best Practices” award for its Buy Local program. Listerhill Credit Union won a “Complete Campaign” award for its loan attraction promotion. And Generations Federal Credit Union was voted “Most Edgy” for its youth initiative. Here are some of their strategies and tactics.

Reach all niches

The mission statement for Maps Credit Union, Salem, Ore., is “Every member benefits.” That statement guides its marketing and business development philosophy.

“We’re community-chartered, and it’s our responsibility to reach all niches with our products and services,” says Jill Nowacki, vice president of development.

Every time a member uses a Maps debit card, for instance, a penny goes to the Maps Community Foundation to benefit financial literacy. “It connects our outreach efforts and our credit union mission,” Nowacki says.

In 2011, the $447 million asset credit union launched its Buy Local campaign. “We’re particularly proud of it because we’re helping make local businesses more sustainable,” Nowacki explains.

“In 2010, a new tax on businesses made it harder for them to stay profitable, and many were closing,” she continues. “To help these businesses be successful, we started a program where members get discounts at local businesses when they use their Maps debit cards. This generates business for the merchants and increases our debit card usage.”

The credit union also offers local businesses joint marketing opportunities on its website, and reimburses the businesses when members redeem coupons. “We’re not just advertising, we’re investing in businesses and helping our local economy,” says Amanda Brenneman, business development officer.

The number of businesses participating in the Buy Local program increased 10% in 2011, with 95% renewing in 2012. Website traffic on the credit union’s Buy Local page increased, and Maps infused about $2,500 into the local business community.

Nowacki and Brenneman credit much of their team’s success to community connections and knowing their members and potential members. “Managers and staff at all levels are involved in local organizations,” Nowacki says. “If they serve on the boards of nonprofits, for example, they come back and tell us about the community’s needs. It sparks innovation of new products and services.”

Brenneman says the spirit of collaboration among credit union staff—and members—is a primary asset. “Every idea counts,” she says. “We take each one seriously and talk about it. We accept advice and we work together.”

The economy remains the biggest challenge. “Programs that might have been successful before the recession might not be today,” Nowacki says. “Members are looking for different types of loans than they were before the recession. We’re adjusting to the new normal. We can’t expect it to look like any other time in history.”

This year, Maps is focusing its attention on those new loan types, such as consumer loans for green or sustainable remodeling projects. “We want to offer products that help consumers,” says Brenneman. “And we want to help businesses close more deals.”

Nowacki advises her fellow marketing/business development professionals to know their audience and what’s happening in their communities. “So much will become apparent when you get out in your community, volunteer, get to know other business professionals, and discover your community’s unmet needs.”

As local organizations, Nowacki says credit unions are in a unique position
to help. “We’re well-positioned to learn from our community and to discover what products and services we need to offer.”

NEXT: Creativity through organization

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