The two biggest challenges that any business faces are how to grow their customer numbers over time and how to retain the customers they already have. Successful customer retention is a product of a satisfied, happy customer base —a feature that can draw new people to your business. Let’s use credit unions as an analogy for retail businesses in general. Credit Unions are great examples of businesses – like any other – that need to focus on growth and expansion of the CU. The difference for CUs is that – unlike the majority of businesses – their members tend to be fiercely loyal. Credit Unions in North America enjoy a 92% customer satisfaction level, And yet even CU’s struggle to attract and retain their members while creating e an exciting and dynamic environment where members want to stick around.
Although these two concepts are connected, most of us think of marketing as a method to bring in new people, rather than to satisfy and retain existing members. In this article, we will look at six digital marketing tactics that you can gear specifically toward member retention. In the long run, these methods can help you grow your membership as well. Let’s start by looking at what you can do to keep your existing members around.
- Establish a seamless communication network
Communication is essential to retaining credit union members and keeping them satisfied. In a 2010 article, highlighted the role that marketing plays in member retention. The article made a pitch for consistent marketing efforts—specifically, upselling of new services and rates to existing members—as the potential key to successful retention. The roadblock to many organizations using this strategy at the time was poor communication.
Even six years later, the Credit Union Times article remains a valuable read. While it’s likely that the number of credit unions without an effective contact management strategy has declined since then, maintaining contact databases continues to be challenging. Members move and forget to update their mailing addresses. Others leave their jobs or stop using past email accounts. Many credit union members share an email address across family members, or prefer not to bank online. The result is that communications may not be delivered. These missed communications make it difficult to serve your members effectively.
Hiring a third-party company to update your database is one way to address this issue. Companies like Talk2Rep offer this service as a way to make sure your digital marketing messages have a good chance of reaching their intended audience. When you have valid email addresses and supporting contact information, you are better positioned to implement every other strategy covered in this article.
- Start conversations
Direct mail is a great way to hit your credit union members with promotions and offers. However, it is not the best path to create ongoing conversations. Using email, text messaging and social media to engage with your members allows you to start and maintain trackable and actionable conversations with them.
Using messaging systems and social media to start a conversation with your members pays off. As noted in an article by The Financial Brand, Navy Federal Credit Union leads the pack in Twitter followers and Facebook likes among credit unions because of their dedication to opening a dialogue online. NFCU invites followers to post directly on their Facebook page with questions or comments and send almost immediate responses, while their Twitter celebrates their members’ feedback with replies and retweets – their strategy is about encouraging and celebrating intercommunication.
You can inspire a similar result by reaching out to members asking for feedback. Inquire about the services and perks members would like to see. Use tools like Promoter.io to conduct Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and evaluate overall satisfaction levels. Ask members to reach out to you personally if they have comments, suggestions, or complaints to share. If the first step to member retention is making sure you have the database necessary to communicate with your members, it stands to reason that step two is all about opening those communication channels and making your customers feel heard.
- Make communication options flexible for your members
In part, the out-of-date database problem is impossible to solve completely. However, it’s worth noting that modern communication methods can more reliable than traditional ones. You might be using a different email address than the one you had ten years ago, but you still probably have the same Facebook account. Popular social media sites present sound alternatives to the database woes that affect so many credit unions.
Writing for CEO Advisory, Glenn Christensen advised flexibility in the contact channels that you use to communicate with your members, as well as in the options you give them to respond to those communications.
As demonstrated by Navy Federal Credit Union above, start by reaching out to members and engaging them via their social media profiles. From Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google+, these accounts remain useful for finding and contacting your members on an ongoing basis.
Go one step further by making sure your members can get in touch with you via multiple channels. If you are reaching out on Twitter or Facebook, include an email address and phone number in your profile that members can use to reach you. When they are on your site, make sure you give them the opportunity to engage in a chat with a live representative via tools like Drift. If you are exchanging emails with your members, include links to your social accounts. Members will be more likely to respond to you if they can do so on their own terms.
- Create individualized promotions for long-term members
One of the core advantages of being able to reach out to all your members and engage them in conversation is that you can take a more personal angle. Instead of just blasting all your members with the same promotions and upsell offers, work to create individualized promotions—especially for your long-term members. The veterans of your credit union should feel like they are getting perks and commendations for staying involved for such a long time. Giving them superior rates and other significant advantages will not only keep them satisfied enough to stick around but will also push other members to stay around until they can get the same benefits. Social Annex’s 2016 Customer Loyalty Survey notes that “87% of shoppers want loyalty programs” for their continued service and “83% of loyalty members say that rewards make them more likely to continue doing business with a brand”. Consider sharing micro-rewards with them when they promote your brand or share your content and social posts with others or rewarding them for their referrals.
- Offer perks and services to all your members
There is a benefit to making your long-term members feel like true VIPs. Just because you are working to provide individualized perks to your top members doesn’t mean you can’t provide perks for other people in the credit union. On the contrary, one of the most effective ways to keep your members onboard is to provide them with convenient, accessible, and complimentary services.
Writing for CUInsight.com, Celeste Cook—President and CEO of cuStrategies—recommends offering free credit score analyses to all members. Providing a digital portal that members can use to check their credit report, predict future scores, and figure out strategies for lowering loan payments is a handy perk that will help members feel like they are getting something out of their membership.
- Start using social proof marketing
We talked at length about social proof in a previous blog post. People 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.
Not only can you use social proof to help with member retention, but you can also leverage it to drive new members to your credit union. Start by giving your customers a voice. Encourage them to write reviews of your credit union—either on your official site or more general sites like CreditKarma.com, especially after they’ve had a positive experience with your brand. Ask your members to be honest and candid, and don’t censor fair or negative reviews. To that point – never buy fake reviews. Either of these steps can create the illusion of social proof, but both will almost always backfire.
Seeking honest feedback and responding to it—whether on reviews or in less formal environments like Facebook and Twitter—will make your members feel like you are listening to them. In turn, your members will start to trust you more, which will increase the frequency and positivity of union-member interactions.
These positive brand interactions, especially with your top customers and long-term members, are exactly what you want. When you are engaging with those members, you are not only helping them feel more satisfied and at home as members of your union, but you are also creating opportunities where you can ask for referrals.
Another element of social proof is that your top members, (by referring friends and family to the credit union), will bring in more members who are like them. Thus, you will be able to grow the size and quality of your membership at the same time.
Every tactic on this list—from cleaning up your databases to improving your communications with your members—could be positioned as a step on the road toward effective retention and acquisition. By developing your database, you will be able to communicate with your members on a more personal level. By communicating with them on a personal level, you will be able to earn their trust—as well as learn what types of perks might push them to refer you to their friends and family.
Do you have digital marketing tactics that you’ve used to grow your credit union in the past? If we missed any of them, we invite you to share your tips and experiences in the replies.