New products and cutting-edge technologies are fueling great changes in credit union marketing, requiring marketers to constantly come up with new ideas, says Anne Legg, vice president of marketing for $740 million asset Financial Partners Credit Union, Downey, Calif.
This constant change, she says, is both a “blessing and a curse.”
In the second of a five-part series, three Diamond Award-winning marketers discuss how they come up with fresh ideas and new approaches to their craft:
• Legg, vice president of marketing for $740 million asset Financial Partners Credit Union, Downey, Calif. (Marketing Professional of the Year);
• John Godwin, vice president of business development/strategic alliances for $1.1 billion asset MECU of Baltimore (Business Development Professional of the Year Award); and
• Kim Wall, community development director for $900 million asset Georgia United Credit Union in Duluth (Hall of Fame inductee).
CU Mag: How do you come up with fresh ideas and new approaches to your job?
Legg: One of the things that’s exciting about the marketing world—sort of a blessing and a curse—is that it’s constantly changing and you have to change with it. Technology has been driving that, not to mention product.
I'm constantly looking outside of our industry for ideas because we are, at the end of the day, a retailer. So I love looking at what Apple is doing and just about anything in that environment.
We created a virtual dealership basically by looking at what eBay does. I was curious about what eBay was doing; what it was selling and how it was selling. And they actually do sell cars. People actually buy cars, without driving them, online.
We also did an online auto sale, taking a page straight from the online retailers who’ll say, “Take advantage of this offer for the next 48 hours.” And that’s what we did.
Aside from looking to other industries, don’t take no for an answer. Many times I’ll walk into a meeting and say something like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we do everything on a tablet?” And then you watch the rest of your management team cringe.
But you have to keep pushing; don’t give up. When I first told everyone I wanted to create a virtual dealership the response was, “Oh my gosh.” But it turned out to be so much fun and so cool that we could create something that would allow members to both shop [for vehicles] and get their loan online.
So it’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. There are many different ways to get creative ideas.
Wall: I feel like I’m reading, reading, reading all the time, and not just the industry materials but anything to glean an idea or concept.
I also like to brainstorm with others. Most folks are “closet marketers,” so brainstorming with others can be very beneficial. One of my favorite things is talking to our younger colleagues, especially those in their '20s, because they look at things in a different way.
And like Anne, they don't take no for an answer. They say, “What if?”
Legg: That’s exactly it, Kim. It’s about looking at what can we do better? What’s the member’s point of pain, and how can we make it better?
Godwin: I’m going to steal “feeling comfortable being uncomfortable” by the way.
We force ourselves to be creative in our department—each one of us is tasked with developing one new idea each week, which is tough.
To be honest with you, we’re not always feeling creative. So some of the ideas are like, “We need to repaint the wall.”
But some gems do come out of this. And we encourage each other to think of crazy ideas. Even if an idea sounds crazy, we put it out there because there might be an offshoot from that idea.
These ideas form a list of potential initiatives for this year and the next year. We do an off-site retreat for the department in the summer to develop the plan for next year, and these ideas really fuel the following year’s plan. This has been a huge part of the progress we’ve made in our department, and it’s fun.
I get a real kick out of seeing an idea come up in a meeting, seemingly out of the blue from somebody’s head, and come to fruition.
NEXT: What’s one gem that has turned out well?
CU Mag: What’s one gem that has turned out well?
Godwin: I can’t think of a single one…. No, one thing we’re going to start doing whenever we go to a conference is to participate in some type of outreach in that location.
That idea came up in a discussion about outreach. If you’re fortunate enough to go to a conference, why not get in a little early and do something in the community where the conference takes place? I love that idea.
This practice also fosters rapport. We’ll come up with ideas that, frankly, aren’t that good. And we’ve developed this open rapport where we can tell each other “that’s not a good idea” in a way that’s constructive and usually funny.
One idea, that we should give away pillows, was just torn apart. My team has no trouble—and often rejoices in—telling me when my creative juices are less than wonderful. So this fosters open communication, as well.
Legg: We also had a gem. We found that federal government employees’ pay sometimes is delayed when the government is closed for a long weekend, like over Thanksgiving. We put together a loan product that automatically deposits the amount of their paycheck when there’s a delay. When the paycheck does come in, it’s all good.
They love this, and they’ll talk to each other: “You’ve got to be with the credit union because you’ll get early pay.” Even if it’s not early pay, that’s the perception.
Wall: I think the economy can give us some new ideas based on members’ needs. If you didn’t already have second-chance checking or a restart auto loan, you certainly developed more products like those because there’s such a need.
In part three of this series, Godwin, Wall, and Legg discuss the increasing role of the tablet and other tools in marketing and business development. The CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council honored these marketers during its annual conference in New Orleans.