While technology is changing how credit unions market (think e-mails, QR codes, videos, web banners, etc.), one core communication piece remains critical: the member newsletter. Since newsletters below are five keys to ensure your credit union’s newsletter is effective. These comments are courtesy of Jim Foley, president of Loudthought, who served as judge during the Texas Credit Union League’s Marketing Conference “Tear It Up Session.”
1. Kiss It or Kiss It Goodbye
We have a phrase in our industry called KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Newsletters shouldn’t be used to share everything about your credit union, with the hope that members read it. In fact, the more information you include, the less your members will read. Provide all of your credit union’s valuable information on your website. Keep your newsletters simple, clean and do not be afraid of white space. If you fail to follow this rule you might as well kiss your newsletters goodbye, as they will prove to be both ineffective and a waste of money.
2. Content is King
The length and topics of the newsletter are extremely important. Make sure the content is relevant, timely and pleasant to read. Layout your newsletter based on a hierarchy of significance. Look at newsletters and its’ content as voices. Then ask yourself, “How many voices are talking at the same time and trying to capture the member’s attention?” Too many voices confuse the reader and portray the credit union as unorganized. This will cause disconnect with your brand, as well as with your members.
3. What's In It For the Member
With busy schedules, the question always arises—what's in it for me? Why do I want to stop down from my busy life to read a newsletter? Give the reader relevant articles and a reason to sit and read your publication. Maybe it’s a member profile, details of a promotion or information on a new product that enhances their life—online banking, specific loan, etc. Become the financial expert instead of just a financial vendor. Are your members reading the newsletter? Ask them to provide stories or articles that are interesting to them. We heard from a credit union that wanted to determine if their newsletter was relevant. In their newsletter they included a small ad saying, “If you read this, call us and we’ll give you $25 dollars.” Out of the 3,000 newsletters sent, only 3 people claimed their $25.
4. Graphic Stimulation
Add engaging graphics to the newsletter such as photographs, illustrations or charts that compliment your articles. Don’t go overboard though (see KISS theory). Try to avoid “standard” stock illustrations or photos. When it comes to images, have a plan in place. Think through your marketing for the upcoming year and hire a professional photographer for a day, as a way to create your own personal library of images. This is a cost effective way to use images throughout the year. The key is to remember that we live in a visual society and tend to be “scan” readers, so the newsletter must be engaging. Members will scan articles and only stop to read the ones that are interesting or applicable to them.
5. Think Outside the Credit Union Box
Credit unions tend to think like credit unions, which is a big problem. For inspiration don’t look just at other credit unions websites, marketing materials or promotions. While that’s a great start, also look at what banks are doing—the big ones. They are moving forward at lightening speed when it comes marketing. Most have materials that are relevant, pleasing to look at and provide insight. Bottom line, they are your competition. Look for various ways that are outside the traditional credit union box to engage your members.
— Jim Foley, Loudthought
Loudthought is a full-service branding/design firm, specializing in advertising, branding, consulting and website design. Based in Dallas, Loudthought works with credit unions throughout the nation to ensure their thoughts and ideas are given a voice – a voice that resonates in the marketplace. To discuss your credit union’s branding and marketing needs, visit www.loudthought.biz.
It’s that time of year again: strategic planning sessions are in high gear. Many credit unions use September and the fourth quarter to plan for next year’s objectives. Whether you use an outside consultant or your own executive team, planning sessions are critical to any credit union’s success.
Many credit unions use the traditional SWOT analysis (although I recommend “Throwing out the SWOT" and other techniques to maximize their plan’s effectiveness. Regardless of the model you adopt, below are ten questions you should ask during your strategic planning session.
(1) What new products or services are we going to introduce in 2012?
(2) What initiative can we introduce next year to be more employee friendly? What can we do to help our staff do their jobs better?
(3) How are we going to push the technology ball down the court in 2012?
(4) What are we going to do to close the “back door” at our credit union and increase member retention?
(5) We’ve talked for years about moving to a sales and service culture. What really needs to be done in 2012 to get us there?
(6) We can’t be all things to all people. What are our niches and what can we do to advance our brand?
(7) What can we do to better engage our members?
(8) What are going to do different in 2012? What issue is preventing us from being all we can be as an organization?
(9) If Steve Jobs were running our credit union, what would he do?
(10)When the calendar flips to December, 2012, what do we want to say we accomplished this year?
Those are a few ideas to help you kick-start your strategic planning discussion. They are designed as open-ended questions to start your executive team and board of directors thinking. You can turn the answers you develop into your 2012 plan.
We often ask in member surveys, “how satisfied are you with the credit union.” Typically those questions are graded using a scale (on scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with the credit union). The problem with those type questions is members can be satisfied with you, but still leave your credit union.
According to Business Week, between 60% to 80% of defecting customers described themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” just before they left a service provider. Even though credit unions are financial institutions, they are also service providers. The bottom line is that member satisfaction number can move quickly.
As Jeffrey Gitomer says, “member satisfaction is worthless, member loyalty is priceless.”
The net promoter score is a much better measurement to use. As the “ultimate question,” it asks “on a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to refer a family member or friend to the credit union?” There is tons of information about the net promoter score so this post won’t recount its importance. Rather, we will remind you that the net promoter score is a much better measurement to take than member satisfaction.
The reality is you may not know their satisfaction level. According to the Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study, only six percent of shoppers who experienced a problem with a retailer contacted the company, but 31% went on to tell friends, family members or colleagues. In other words, you may think your member satisfaction level is high because you are not hearing many member complaints. Don’t let that fool you.
You want to measure more of a member’s real commitment to the credit union rather than their happiness with you.
“Satisfaction is not a bad thing,” says Tim Wackel, a sales training guru. “However, loyalty is much richer and deeper.”
Why are members leaving your credit union? Does that question keep you up at night? It should. While many credit unions have a front door problem (not getting enough consumers to join their credit union), they also have a back door issue. For every one new member they bring in, they see one (or even two) walk out the back door.
When someone leaves your credit union, you need to ask them why (in the form of an exit interview). This is invaluable data you should gather. Analyze and study it for patterns. Are there service gaps where you fall short? Is there one branch that is giving poor service? Is there a product you are not offering that your members need?
Here are several common reasons why members typically leave a credit union and possible solutions for solving it:
(1) You are not convenient—This is probably the number one reason why members leave. It’s all about convenience, convenience, and convenience with consumers.
- Solution: Educate members about shared branching, mobile banking and ATM networks. Offer as many of these products and services as possible. Show members they can access their money anywhere in the world without fees.
(2) You turned them down for a loan—Members can get mad at you; and they can get real mad at you if you deny them for a loan. They have the attitude, “no loan, then no more membership.”
- Solution: Loosen your loan policies, counteroffer on the loan (i.e., get them to gain a co-borrower, etc.) or educate the member on what they can do to get their next loan with you. Of course, loan personnel are probably throwing things at the computer screen right now. That’s okay—but maybe it’s time to take a little more (calculated) risk.
(3) You never demonstrated value—In essence, you didn’t give them a reason to stay. If consumers don’t feel they are getting a good deal from you, they’ll leave you. A regular part of your marketing communication efforts should be showing how much the average member is saving at your credit union by having their loans, their credit cards, their checking accounts and their savings dollars with you.
- Solution: Calculate how much money your members save in fees if they have your checking account, how much money they save in interest if they have a car loan with you and how much more money they make in interest with your savings account. Put pen and paper to it and determine a hard core number (you can do this by comparing rates and fees with your top competitors and multiplying that by the time value).
(4) You failed to connect with them—Relationships are critical in today’s marketplace. Know the members by name. Show them you care. Get to know what is going on in their lives. If you don’t do those basic fundamentals then don’t expect a high retention rate. If members feel you are their friend, they are less likely to leave you.
- Solution: Conduct service and sales training on a regular basis. Implement “cheers marketing” tactics where you treat members just like they did Norm on the show Cheers.
(5) You didn’t deepen your product penetration—The more products and services a member has with you, the less likely they are to leave you. But it’s not just number of products: it’s type. You want members to have “sticky” products (those that if a member has they “stick” with you). In a Wall Street Journal article, a Bank of America executive noted that “once a customer goes through the trouble of setting up electronic bill payment, he or she is 80% less likely to switch loyalties.”
- Solution: Implement a marketing campaign (something like “plus one”) where you encourage your members to add just one more product or service per household. But as you do that campaign, be sure to promote products such as bill payment, direct deposit, and home loans.
The best way to solve these “member leaving” issues is to address them before the member leaves. In other words, take a proactive approach instead of reactive.
Roy Page, CEO of Third Degree Advertising & Communication, Inc. recently spoke at the Texas Credit Union League’s Marketing Conference about experiential marketing. He challenged attendees to “fight smarter. It’s not about reaching millions; it’s about reaching hundreds of thousands,” he said.
Page defined experiential marketing this way: “It allows customers and prospects to interact with your brand, products and services in sensory ways. Experiences help people connect and make informed purchase decisions. It’s not about ‘telling people’ features and benefits. It’s about letting them ‘experience’ features and benefits.”
But how in the world does that work at a credit union level? Page suggested credit unions focus on three key areas:
- Combination of both
In other words, engagement can happen at multiple levels.
Page gave two credit union illustrations for experiential marketing:
- Gabby (Fort Worth Community Credit Union)—Gabby is actually a virtual spokeswoman for Fort Worth Community Credit Union. Through Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, a microsite, web banner ads, and multiple digital and non-digital platforms the credit union was able to reach one of its key target markets: women. The online and offline efforts lead to great results: over 11,000 unique visits, almost 3,000 contest entries and mentions and retweets from CNN’s Money Magazine, Martha Stewart and Oprah Magazine. You can learn more about Gabby at Third Degree’s website.
- Buck the Norm (Tinker Federal Credit Union)—This complete campaign by Tinker Federal Credit Union targeted a key demographic: Generation Y. Through specific website, Twitter account, contest, mall banners, and “on us” cards, Tinker FCU focused a great deal of its efforts on financial education and empowerment. You can see the Buck the Norm case study here.
Page’s tips for experiential marketing included the following:
- Niche your target
- Engage the audience creatively
- Interaction is key
- Start with something manageable
- No “knockout punch”
- Be consistent, persistent and evolve
“Genuine engagement is what credit unions do best,” Page concluded.