"We've got for the most part a short-term audience who'll for the most part will be here for four years, and it is very hard to sway someone to switch accounts once they're established someplace else," said UTFCU Marketing Manager Malinda Wood. "So we have to offer flexibility on account openings and transfer opportunities, educate them on our convenience not just on campus but in their hometowns too, and then they turn the corner so to speak. UT is part of our name, so we're doing everything to show that we are a community partner and keep that line of communication open."
To spread the word about its new student Web site (utfcu-rocks.com), staffers didn't opt for traditional marketing media but instead headed to "the rock" on the University of Tennessee's fraternity row to spray paint the message, "UTFCU Rocks! Text UTFCU to 25827."
The message was designed to encourage students to sign up for the credit union's text message alerts on everything ranging from interest rate changes to financial tips and upcoming giveaways. The site itself features a weekly blog, YouTube videos, access to UTFCU's calendar of sponsored events on Twitter, fun polls and a Flickr page where students and faculty can find a variety of pictures taken at events.
"The rock is an enormous touch point here. If something happens in the community--say we win a national championship or any event happening on campus--it's on that rock. This is the first time the credit union has done it, and it put us on a level where students appreciate our efforts to connect and reach out," said Wood. "As for the text alerts and the ability to open their accounts online, that is technology students are comfortable with. They want and expect a different experience, so we're trying to tailor our site to what we think they're interested in."
UTFCU has also recently become the official "bank" of the Orange Nation, an all-inclusive pep club created to help instill pride and school spirit into the University of Tennessee and its athletic teams.
The partnership between Orange Nation and UTFCU will provide Orange Nation with additional monetary resources to reach out to students in coordinating the support network counted on by athletes, coaches and other University of Tennessee Volunteer fans when facing another season of fierce competition.
"As important as athletics are to all of us, the students are our primary reason for entering this partnership. Americans under the age of 25 are filing bankruptcy faster than any other age group. We want to reach out to college students and help them get their financial lives on the right foot," said UTFCU CEO Debbie Jones.
Going beyond just sponsoring Orange Nation as it reaches out to the student population this year, UTFCU plans include hosting several upcoming special events ranging from tailgate parties to Guitar Hero and Sing Rocky Top events.
"It is up to us to communicate with students and faculty in a way they are most comfortable with, so we'll continue to look at more viral marketing to help break the ice," said Wood.