Technology Credit Union Marketer Relishes the Role of Provocateur
According to Technology Credit Union Vice President of Marketing and published author Kathleen Litman, proactive marketing and public relation moves have helped the credit union's new-member growth while building brand awareness. In addition, Litman was recently tapped by Aspatore Publishing to write about Tech CU's marketing approach for its latest Inside the Minds series: "Leveraging Marketing Innovation for Optimal Results."
"It was very exciting to be able to share how marketing is a great department or function in an organization that can optimize innovation for member acquisition and the brand management process," said Litman. "It was great to talk about how we're able to innovate having a commodity product and for us that means being very aggressive in the market."
She added that when the financial sector started its nose dive last July, it was like opportunity knocking-and the $1 billion-asset Tech CU answered with its safe harbor message.
"It was a series of branding announcements in the form of full-page ads that sold not products but Tech CU as an institution representing strength and capital," said Litman. "Our staff liked it so much that we turned the series of ads, one of which featured our financial data including delinquencies, ROA, charge-offs, etc. into flyers. Then it also became a tool kit for staffers that was posted on our intranet."
Litman said the credit union was doing its best to leverage the drastic financial changes and shifts by reinforcing the San Jose, Calif.-based CU's tagline: "Everything we do is on your account" and by addressing consumers' concerns head on with transparency and honesty. She added that the message was delivered across all channels from within the branches and on its Web site (www.techcu.com) to radio ads, Facebook and Twitter. The tool kit provided staff talking points, and when IndyMac closed its doors, Tech CU responded immediately with an open letter from CEO Ken Burns explaining the credit union difference.
"At that time no one else had an advertising campaign like that, and in October after the Lehman Brothers bloodbath, we were the first out the door with a dedicated campaign that really became all pervasive," said Litman. "We have to be creative, make the most of opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition and be very aggressive."
According to Litman, with no change in rates, the credit union increased deposits by $5 million within a two-to-three-month period. While she can't say there is a 100% correlation, she believes the economic environment and the safe harbor campaign helped drive members in.
"It boils down to using and leveraging opportunities in a respectful way," said Litman. "For example, earlier this year when a local credit union was acquired by an out of state credit union, we aggressively ran ads playing up all the good things about Tech CU that we're doing fine and we're local."
"When the WesCorp situation developed," she said, "we immediately contacted the local reporter to talk about what it meant for Tech CU and its members. Reading about our credit union in an article has a bigger impact than any campaign."
Litman says it also helps to have happy stories to share. Looking ahead, Tech CU will focus its marketing efforts on building grassroots campaigns under its GrowYourGreenCampaign.com microsite, which is designed to help and encourage members to save. The site features fiscally fit tips and provides resources and expert financial advice on how to become a better saver. Those who save $25 per month can enter to win a monthly prize of $100.
This summer, in the wake of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed $4.8 billion cut in K-12 education next year, with California's schools facing teacher layoffs and dramatic shortfalls in classroom funding that will negatively impact area kids, Tech CU has launched Save 4 Your School. The objective is to rally parents, students and teachers to come together and start a savings program this summer with proceeds earmarked to go toward their school or a particular program that is in jeopardy.
With Save 4 Your School, individuals or groups can save money throughout the summer with a Tech CU Savings Challenge Account, and Tech CU will match the funds of the account that saves the most through Sept.30, up to $500. To spread the word, Litman said the credit union plans to rely more on social media via blogging, Facebook and Twitter. A full-time copywriter will be responsible for writing blogs and posting links to interesting, relevant articles throughout the day.
"We're excited and the hope is that this grows into something more as more parents and students talk up the summer challenge," said Litman. "We want GrowYourGreen to be the local resource that helps consumers and our local schools do more. Our message of being safe, strong and secure remains, but now we're also letting consumers know that we care and we are working together to help them become fiscally fit."