Silos. Every credit union has them. Whether it’s accounting and marketing; branches and back office; or lending and retail. Sometimes, particular groups are just polar opposites of each other.
Two areas of your credit union that should closely align are marketing and human resources. Why? Because brands are about people. As Ray Davis says in Leading for Growth, “A lot of companies say they hire only the best people—people with character, integrity, drive and ambition. But in many cases it’s not true.”
One of the reasons that may not be true is there is a disconnect between H.R. and marketing. It is neither area’s fault; but it can develop over time. The more aligned these departments are, the more likely your credit union will succeed. While marketing may develop the brand, it’s the employees (with H.R.’s help and expertise) that must execute it.
Here are three ways to link marketing and H.R. together:
(1) Align them under one division—Look at your organizational chart. Where does H.R. fit? Where is marketing? If they are on polar opposites or if one reports to the CEO while the other reports to the COO there is a possibility of misalignment. You want both areas thinking alike. Some credit unions have gone to the model of having H.R., marketing, training and business development all under one senior level position.
(2) Ask marketing questions during the interview—Your hiring should reflect your branding. Questions you can ask in an interview are: “Our brand is about _________________; how would you reflect or live that at our credit union?” “We believe everyone is in marketing. Why do you agree or disagree with that statement.” “How can you engage our members?”
(3) Put a marketing twist on training—New hires need to completely understand and get what your credit union is all about. More than having them read your vision and mission statements, your training should engage them in what your brand is about. Demonstrate and give examples of how they can live the brand every day on their jobs.
Both marketing and human resources play a critical role together in your brand’s success. One won’t work without the other—and your credit union won’t work as well if these areas are not linked.
Executive Compensation Solutions (ECS) has announced its annual call to participate for The Survey: Employee and Executive Compensation and Benefits for the Credit Union Movement.
For nine years, The Survey has served as a preferred information resource for the credit union movement. The Survey gives credit unions statistical and peer group data that helps design better compensation and benefits packages for their key value creators. The data is compiled from credit unions across the nation and helps target relevant information from credit unions by total asset size, location, charter type and number of employees.
“We have participated in the ECS Survey for a number of years,” says President/CEO of Oxford Federal Credit Union Matt Kaubris. “It is a great tool for us as we review our salary and benefits plan each year. We want to stay competitive in the marketplace and the information we receive from this survey certainly helps us do just that.”
The Survey has a valuable charitable aspect as well. For every credit union that participates, ECS will make a $10 donation to Credit Unions for Kids. Credit Unions for Kids, the name under which credit unions help raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, has raised over $100 million since 1996.
Credit unions will be able to respond to The Survey online through the ECS website at www.ecs-m.com. Click on “The Survey 2012 Questionnaire” link to be directed to a secure site for survey completion. Each respondent will receive a $10 Starbuck’s gift card and a free copy of The Survey once it’s published this November.
As noted in a previous post, compensating executives is a strategic issue credit unions must address.
For more information about The Survey and how to participate, contact Pam Wheatley at (626) 914-2333 or email@example.com.
Member service is just the basics today. To truly engage members you must “wow” them. In other words, provide some type of experience that gets them talking about your credit union. You must make your credit union memorable.
But how do you do that on a practical basis? I was recently teaching “Advanced Branding for Credit Unions” at the Southwest CUNA Management School and we discussed that very topic. I was amazed at the creativity shared during that session.
As I told the students, “steal some of these ideas!”
Here are some of the best examples of how to wow your members:
- Have a live band at your annual meeting—More and more credit unions are moving away from having lots of people attend their annual meeting. What if you took the opposite approach and wanted to make the annual meeting a big event? Oklahoma Central Credit Union (Tulsa, OK) did just that by hiring the Little River Band to do a concert at their annual meeting. They even charged their members to come to the concert (about $10 or $15)! But their attendance soared: they had 1,000 people at their annual meeting. They could have opened the concert to the public but they made it a special event (and pricing) just for their members.
- Give gift cards on Black Friday—As if that wasn’t enough, Oklahoma Central Credit Union had another brilliant idea: they gave gift cards on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving when all the crazy shoppers are out looking for deals). But here’s the catch: they didn’t give the cards at their credit union; credit union employees actually went to various retailers (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc.) starting at 5:00 a.m. and distributed the cards to various people at the stores. They gave cards in various amounts ($10, $25 and $50; about $5,000 worth total). Their message was simple: Happy Holidays from Oklahoma Central Credit Union; we hope this helps with your shopping. It took them about three hours to give away all the cards but the buzz they created was phenomenal.
- Celebrate unusual days—Have you felt there is a holiday for everything? Well, there actually is; and one credit union used that to their advantage. By following the site Holidays for Everyday, TTCU (Tulsa, OK) noticed there was a National Kazoo Day. So on that day, they had kazoos at every branch and would use them when members walked in to celebrate members and kazoos. It made their members laugh, smile and remember the credit union.
- Bake a retirement cake—For an investment services retirement promotion, InTouch Credit Union (Plano, TX) baked a retirement cake and displayed balloons and a retirement banner in their lobby. When members walked in they would ask, “Who’s retiring?” The credit union employees would then say, “Hopefully you are; would you like to talk with one of our representatives about how to help prepare you?” The results: over 80 referrals in one day.
- Tie donations to a work day—Credit unions get hit up every day for donation requests. Sometimes we write a check and other times we say not now. When school groups (like cheerleaders or drill team, etc.) ask Mobil Oil Federal Credit Union (Beaumont, TX) for a donation the credit union makes the donation with a catch: they like the group to come to the credit union for a couple of hours and do something for their members (like pass out water in the drive-through). It gives the group added exposure but also creates a better relationship between the credit union and the group.
None of these ideas cost their credit union tons of money. But they did wow their members and create a buzz.
What other suggestions do you have?
We recently spoke with Angie Owens, CEO and President with American Airlines Federal Credit Union ($5.5 billion, 234,000 members) about her thoughts on credit union relevancy in the modern financial services world. Owens offered keen insights every credit union should consider on how to remain relevant.
Why do credit unions struggle with being relevant today?
I think the entire industry is working diligently to remain relevant. This means all credit unions large and small, located anywhere with any field of membership. One challenge in particular many credit unions face with relevancy is in working with boards that are happy with the status quo. While we always respect and value their volunteerism, expertise and time, boards must be willing to move forward and plot a brave new course into the future for their credit union. We also live in unprecedented times, with the volatile economy and rapid technological innovations. All credit unions, as smaller institutions (when compared to the big banks) must leverage all their resources and expertise to stay in the game.
What are a few signs that your credit union may be in danger of becoming irrelevant?
Obvious signs include shrinking asset size and membership numbers. We also must delve deeper and look at less overt but equally compelling information, like products per member (PPM). Credit unions must also ask the tough question: do our members see us as a savings-only place? If so, a credit union could be headed down the path to irrelevancy.
How can credit unions remain relevant in the marketplace?
Credit unions must have the technology and infrastructure required to build a 24/7 all-access member service organization. This means more than just the technology, however. It also means having the right people in place to handle this type of growth and the inevitable challenges that come with it. We must also stay on top of what our members tell us they want and need and develop key products and services to address this. Listening to members is the key here. They do a good job telling us what they need. Credit unions need to have the ears to listen and the initiative to respond. This is where education is also critical. Credit unions must continue to educate members and the public at large about who we are and what we do.
How important is embracing new technology for credit unions to remain relevant?
This is an enormously important initiative for all credit unions. I’d call it our number one priority as an industry. Members expect 24/7 access to their financial institutions and technology provides this doorway.
People receive over 3,000 advertising messages a day (more or less depending on your source). But are they receiving your credit unions’? They probably are not receiving your messages if all you are doing is making noise.
As author Jim Stengel says in Grow, “You can’t have a highly effective business culture without highly effective communication. A business that communicates as one team with one dream can make beautiful music together. A business that communicates at cross-purposes is just a lot of noise.”
Today, marketing is not about sending your messages and hoping someone sees them. Marketing is about connecting.
So how do you know if your marketing is effective or if it is just a noise-maker? Here are some questions to honestly answer:
- Does everything match—From business cards to brochures to logos to websites, all your marketing should look coherent. Over time (as multiple people touch and produce your marketing), your brand can lose consistency. Line all your marketing pieces together and see if it passes the matching test.
- How professional do your materials look—Your offline and online materials say something about your credit union. Are they communicating that you are a “mom and pop” shop with hand written or photocopied material? This is especially relevant with in-branch materials. Examine your pieces and see if they pass the professional test.
- Is your communication real—The best marketing practices today communicate what is real and authentic about your brand. Do the stock photography images you use in your newsletters, brochures, etc. look like your members or like “perfect people.” Look at your visuals and see if they pass the reality test.
- How short are your messages—People’s reading and attention spans are at an all-time low. You are doing good if you can get them to skim the bullet points in your copy. When it comes to the written word, less is best. Review your writing and see if it passes the short test.
”The highest-quality businesses—the fastest growing, most profitable and most innovative—share a common thread: their high-quality communication,“ Stengel adds. “Everything expresses and supports the brand ideal.”
So is your marketing supporting your brand or is it just making noise?