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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Creativity through organization

It’s easy to overlook little things, says Kristen Mashburn, marketing director at Listerhill Credit Union, Muscle Shoals, Ala. “But true creativity comes through organization, and that involves agendas, clear objectives, clean files, current calendars, good project management, and the ability to capitalize on every medium,” she says.

“To harness our credit union’s creativity, we have to be organized and mind the details,” she adds. “It sets us apart from other businesses, not just other credit unions.”

That strategy appears to be working. The community credit union’s “Just Move It” effort won a 2012 Diamond Award for “Complete Campaign.”

The promotion  offered members incentives of up to $200 for moving loans to the credit union. Promotional media included billboards, coffee-cup sleeves, online ads, and direct mail.

“It went really well,” says Mashburn. “We netted more than $90 million in new loans. “We ran a similar campaign in 2012 with a similar incentive structure and netted more than $104 million in loans. By tweaking the media and message, we were even more successful.”

The $600 million asset credit union frequently evaluates, enhances, and reruns campaigns. “We’re really creative and want to be doing new things,” Mashburn says. “But we’ve found you don’t always need the novelty factor, and it’s very cost-effective to reuse something that works.”

Sometimes, however, you do need novelty. Listerhill recently launched SET Magazine, which publishes the works of younger people within its community.

“It’s a really interesting way to engage them and help them learn about personal finance,” says Mashburn. “It’s local and free, and we’re the only advertiser. It covers things like music and art. We thought it filled a gap and we’re getting a good response.”

The credit union is planning a major branding project for its branches in conjunction with a third party. “We want you to feel like you’re walking into our brand when you walk into one of our branches,” Mashburn explains.

Community outreach is central to Listerhill’s marketing/business development efforts. “We just merged with a credit union in Tennessee and, as a state-chartered credit union, we had to enlarge our field of membership,” says Mashburn.

“We plan to reintroduce a campaign we ran a few years ago where we donate $50 to a school of members’ choice when they open accounts,” she continues. “The last time we ran it we raised more than $250,000 in seven months for local schools. “It will position us as a true partner in our new communities. We don’t like to just give money to communities, but to be really invested and involved in them.”

The credit union uses local people in its ads and always strives to make sure its advertising dollars go back into the communities it serves. “A few years ago we had a ‘Cash for Your Cause’ campaign where people made videos vying for money to go to a local thrift shop, food pantry, or other organization,” Mashburn says. “Social media was a huge part of it and we advertised it at a really low cost, so most of the money went to the organizations receiving the grants.”

While Mashburn is an advocate of social media, she realizes that “feet on the street” and face-to-face conversations are essential. “We’ve had a lot of success with event-based marketing,” she says. “We helped a young man propose to his girlfriend through a staged prize drawing at one of our downtown festivals. And for Christmas we paid a photographer to take pictures of Santa with children, and the pictures have our logo on them.”

Mashburn says the key to success is having the right people on your team. “We have a dedicated, passionate team made up of people with different strengths, and we all come together as a strong team.”

Also, keep people informed, she advises. “Marketing is only as effective as the people putting it together. Communicate openly so your staff has all the information they need to make good decisions.”

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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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