Recognizing that the average age of credit union membership is steadily declining, the paper, "Youth Marketing: Strategies and Tactics for Attracting and Retaining Young Members," discusses youth marketing and communications planning and strategies in addition to tools and tactics. It includes 10 case studies featuring credit unions that were successful in attracting and retaining young people through effective marketing and communications programs.
According to Lauren Mayhew, marketing director at Daviess County Teachers FCU in Owensboro, Ky., who is cited in the white paper, "We have to attract young members before they reach borrowing age, so when they do reach it, they'll think of us."
Author Judy Dahl said that before credit unions begin to market to young people, they need to determine what their credit union can offer them, their value proposition. Then they can move on to developing a marketing/communications strategy for building awareness of the program-determining who they want to reach, what actions they want them to take as a result and what goals they want their programs to achieve. She added that youth marketing plans should roll up into overall credit union marketing plans.
Credit unions should also take the time to figure out which channels their youth members and potential members use.
"Increasingly, young adults aren't reading paper newsletters, or the newspaper, or using the traditional channels credit unions use to get information out," said Ben Rogers, director of research at Filene Research Institute. "There's still a value in direct mail aimed at parents. It's still one of the most effective channels, and lets you leverage the trust you have with parents to present new products, with messages like, 'Look what we have for your child at school.' That built-in connection is still one of credit unions' most powerful assets."
Credit unions were also advised to have an attractive, interactive Web site along with incentives and contests, community partnerships, in-school branches and financial education-all can help credit unions get young people's attention.
Dahl added that credit unions have to show young people that they're convenient and have the products they want. In addition, given the influence parents have over young people youth marketing efforts must include them as well.
So how does your credit union become the go-to financial institution for potential youth members?
"It's the combination of products, information and communication tools," said Bryan Sims, founder and CEO of BrassMedia, a media and technology company that helps young people better understand money. "You have to tie one communication channel to the next, have a consistent message and be authentic and truthful."
To track the effectiveness of youth marketing efforts Dahl suggested that credit unions use average member age-or average new member age-number of youth accounts, response rates to promotions, youth member retention, use of Web sites and other technologies, and product and service as metrics.
Although many credit unions now offer youth programs, sometimes the age range in the groups is too large, and the paper advised credit unions to consider targeting smaller segments, such as preschool (up to age 6), elementary school (ages 6-10), tween (ages 11-13), teen (14-17) and young adult (17-21).
"Young people have as many variations in needs, wants, and marketing appeal as adults do. Never have just one program-have two at the very least: one for the 12 and under group and one for the 13 and older group," said Pam Swope, marketing manager at FinancialEdge Community Credit Union and treasurer and past vice chairman of the National Youth Involvement Board/ Michigan Credit Union League Financial Education Council member.
Credit unions are also reminded to ensure their volunteer and employee ranks have a youth infusion as well.
"The best way to stay relevant is to have young adults putting together your campaigns. They viscerally understand what other young people are looking for in a financial institution," said Rogers. "You can't hire 10 Gen Yers and expect to transform your credit union in a month. You need them at all levels-as marketers, management, and board and committee members. That's the medium- and long-term solution."
While integrating young people throughout the credit union takes time, even in the short term credit unions can involve them in developing their marketing plan.
"Avoid top-down, older, adult-driven advertising planning," advised Philip Heckman, director of youth programs at CUNA. "Involve your target market in the construction of your strategies and advertising messages."
The paper is available online in the white paper section of www.cunacouncils.org.