Your credit union is not only different than traditional banks and financial institutions, it’s different than every other credit union out there. Some credit unions have been around for generations, while some were founded recently. Some have an exclusive membership for people of specific industry or occupation — like a firefighter’s credit union — and others are open to everyone. One thing almost all credit unions have in common is a limited marketing budget, making it critical to develop a truly effective marketing strategy that delivers new members and builds loyalty.
Your credit union’s marketing strategies–and challenges–are shaped by your unique products, services, location, and member demographics. Just as every brand must differentiate itself from competitors to attract and retain customers, credit unions should showcase what sets them apart from other banking and loan options in their area. Your difference is your strength, and the key to creating a successful credit union marketing strategy is to make it as individual as you are.
There is no one-size-fits-all credit union marketing strategy, but there are some time-tested best practices and powerful marketing principles that all credit unions should implement in one form or another. These credit union marketing strategies are relevant to all credit unions that want to thrive in the digital age. It’s up to you to get to know your members, and decide which strategies to emphasize when creating your own marketing mix.
Differentiate On Your Values
You may think you need to compete primarily on rates and fees. But the truth is consumer decisions are driven by many factors, including emotions, community, connection, and personal values. In fact, according to psychologist Dr. Peter Murray, neuro-imagery reveals that when making purchase decisions consumers rely on emotions and experiences more than information.
If you market on your rates alone, it’s only a matter of time before another bank or credit union outdoes you. You’ll find yourself caught in a losing battle for members’ loyalty. As Jason DuPlant of Neches Federal Credit Union says, “For any offer or rate, a prospective member can probably find 1,000 more just like it — or better.”
Focus on the less tangible, but priceless benefits of joining a credit union: like community connectedness, trust, belonging, neighborhood improvement, personalized experience, and shared ownership. But don’t throw out all logic; put your values first and make personal connections with prospects and members, then show them why your services are a sound, logical choice as well.
You have a wealth of customer data at your fingertips that can help you determine what your members like, dislike, or need from your financial institution. Harness data from account history, social media, support center information, and email communications to gain insights and tailor your marketing to suit their needs.
Invest in Meaningful Content Marketing
A crucial step toward differentiating on your values is to make those values known. Credit unions can do this by creating content for their website, blog, mobile app, email, social media accounts and more that speak to the emotions, needs, and questions of the members they would like to attract. Content can educate, answering common financial questions and sharing valuable tips on savings, home ownership, building strong credit, and more. It can also tell stories that will resonate with your ideal member base; for example, a profile of a local individual who turned his or her life around by using your financial services, or a story of your involvement in the community. And, of course, strategic content can boost search rankings (SEO) and help more relevant prospects find you.
Digital content will have the farthest reach, especially if it is designed to be accessible and shareable across channels and devices. And in our noisy, oversaturated digital landscape, creating quality content is key. Tell captivating stories that leave a personal impression on readers so they will want to come back to learn more.
Try a mix of the following types of content as part of your credit union marketing strategy:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Email newsletters
- How-to guides
- Video and graphics
- Mobile apps
- Podcasts and webinars
- Research reports
People looking for the right credit union also depend on social proof. They are more likely to want to join your credit union if your members seem visibly satisfied with their experience. Members are more likely to feel satisfied with their experience if they feel other members are satisfied too. Add testimonials, reviews and case studies to your digital content to tell your members’ stories as well.
Nurture and Reward Members With a Referral Marketing Program
Ninety-two percent of people trust recommendations from their community of family and friends over all other forms of advertising. That’s why member referrals are a proven method for attracting new credit union members. And they only cost you a tiny sliver of your marketing budget. Integrate digital referrals into your member journey with an easy-to-use refer-a-friend program. Your satisfied members will be happy to spread the word about your credit union services when you offer a reward for their time and participation. Cash and value-added services can be very attractive incentives for members to refer new, highly qualified leads to your marketing team. The leads your members refer will be their own friends and family, and thus are likely to be very similar to your happiest customers.
Referral marketing programs return lots of value to credit unions. Part of this value is hard to quantify, like more involved, satisfied, trusting, and loyal members. And the other part is very measurable: Research shows that the average cost-per-acquisition (CPA) for banks and credit unions can soar up to $400 per new member. But referral programs cut the average CPA by almost 75 percent. That’s a lot of extra room in your marketing budget.
Speak the (Digital) Language of Younger Generations
The typical credit union member is a middle-aged or older homeowner nearing retirement. Many credit unions struggle to attract and retain young people who are just now marrying, starting families, launching businesses, and buying homes. It’s not because your values don’t resonate with millennials–they do. It’s more likely that your message isn’t reaching a Gen Y audience at all.
Millennials seek financial advice from parents and other trusted elders, and through online forums. Their decisions are largely based on digital convenience and technological functionality, so if they can’t get their questions answered in real-time with an online chat feature or commenting on a social post they may opt for a more savvy institution.
Reaching millennials will depend on being active on the channels they use. Attracting the twenty-something market requires a credit union youth marketing strategy that delivers great digital experiences, while engaging their socially conscious values and building trust with quality financial education.
Build a Solid, Loyal Membership With Effective Credit Union Marketing Strategies
RewardStream helps credit unions to acquire, engage, and retain their ideal members. We empower your members to find new members who are typically younger, between the ages of 18 and 24. We want to see credit unions with limited marketing money to spend measure amazingly low cost per acquisition rates and attract more loyal members.
Our credit union referral marketing program supports all social media and online communication channels and mobile access across all devices, making it easier for you to build on all of the credit union marketing strategies mentioned in this post. From content marketing to refer-a-friend programs, and multichannel consumer engagement, RewardStream has the expertise to help your credit union thrive in the digital age.
Learn more about RewardStream’s Credit Union Referral Marketing Program, and contact us to find out how we can help implement these strategies.
Editor’s note: Originally published March 19, 2015. Updated with additional, fresh content and republished June 13, 2017.