Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Save Small Credit Unions?  Marketing is the Answer

Rob Kimmett, Sr. VP Marketing, New England Credit Union Services, LLC

Small credit unions face tremendous pressure in the marketplace.  Go to any planning session.  The flip charts are resplendent with environmental factors that challenge credit unions – competition, low margins, the technology gap, lack of human resources, product development and compliance.  After these problems are discussed the conversation often turns to more global considerations like relevance, purpose and commitment.  The small credit union faces a tough upward climb, to be certain. 

However, if the credit union stakeholders are committed to fighting for their institution’s future then the answer is clear and certain.  Because after all of those challenges are examined, the fact that the credit union needs to attract a constant stream of new and profitable business. 

Large credit unions and those that are on the way to becoming large have embraced the need to “market.”  They actively, strategically and systematically identify opportunities to gain new business and they pursue it.  Are these efforts always successful?  Not by a long shot!  But one thing that every marketer knows is that a mere presence in the marketplace is not going attract enough trade to keep a going concern in business for long. 

Similarly a halfhearted effort is not going to yield results.  One ad will reach a small percentage of the target market.  It will strike a chord with a small percentage of that group and only a fraction of those will act.  Credit unions must pick their targets carefully and go after them with imagination and vigor.

It is much easier to say than to do, though.  Where does a small understaffed and underfunded credit union start?  Here’s a start:

  1. Build Consensus – It is absolutely essential that the credit union stakeholders buy into the idea that marketing is the key to the credit union’s future success.  If that is not accepted as a given then the necessary commitment is not going to be there.
  2. Be Prepared – Get your team ready, be certain your product/service offering is ready for prime time, spiff up the credit union and the website get point of sale ready to go, make sure you can deliver when the member inquires.
  3. Commit Resources – The credit union is not going to attract new business without some investment.  Hiding is not a strategy.
  4. Allocate Resources Carefully – Spend time, energy on money on the projects that are going to yield the biggest bang for the time and money.
  5. Be Enthusiastic – Selling the credit unions product is a service to the members.  It ensures that they are getting the best financial products and it helps keep their credit union alive.  Your people should be proud to do it. 
Posted by Rob •
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