Goldenwest Credit Union has literally taken the credit union difference message directly to locals.
When Barnes Banking Co., which had a branch in South Ogden, Utah, closed its doors for good on Jan. 16 after being in business for 119 years, Goldenwest Credit Union launched a creative, direct campaign that specifically targeted the bank's customers.
"This bank has been a huge part of the community. Its closing really hit everyone hard and there was this sense of loss, that a partner of theirs was gone," said Goldenwest CU Marketing Director Diana Windley. "We wanted to let people know that we are here as a local option to help during this difficult transition. They don't have to go to a big regional or national bank, they can be a member and not only have that sense of community and personalized service but also better rates, better terms and fewer fees. I think our message provided the bank customers a sense of relief."
"All the direction has come from our president and executive team," said Goldenwest CU Sales Manager Ben Joe Markland. "They called us Friday night and asked if we could work on Saturday morning, and we had a plan ready to go in a few hours."
Those plans, which focused on the message that there is still a local option ready to help, included creating Barnes Bank customer specials of $75 and $100, respectively, for new personal checking and business accounts opened; offering a five-year in-house mortgage special rate of 4.99% and seven-year in-house mortgage rate of 5.74%; opening branches on Martin Luther King Day; leasing office space across the street from Barnes Bank to open accounts; handing out flyers in the Barnes Bank parking lot; and having a team of staffers go door-to-door talking to locals.
In addition to immediately posting a message on every electronic board in front of its branches and buying ads in three major Utah newspapers, Markland also tapped the power of Twitter by tweeting about the bank closing and alerting followers how Goldenwest CU could help. Internally, a press release detailing the bank closure and the $715 million credit union's message emphasizing financial strength and commitment to help bank customers ensured that every employee was aware and ready to deliver the reassurance locals needed.
"I think we redefined the term 'turn on dime' as far as acting on our plans and getting the message out," said Windley. "There was no waiting until after the three-day holiday weekend and everyone in the entire credit union wanted to be involved from our IT director who was on vacation quickly posting the specials on our home page to staffers opting to work during the Martin Luther King holiday, when we were originally supposed to be closed. We've got a great team that really answered a call to serve."
Markland added that because he already had a presence on Twitter, talking about more than just Goldenwest CU products and services helped with credibility when he delivered the news about Barnes.
"I've been on Twitter for over a year, and I already had relationships with people," said Markland. "Our first account was opened in the first hour from someone who tweeted me, 'My dad has an account at Barnes Bank. Can you help him? Here is his phone number.' I called him, he came in and opened a substantial account. Even going door-to-door, you could feel the appreciation for what we were doing. We even met with the mayor of the city who said, 'Wow, thank you for coming out.' People were so warm and welcoming because they were confused about what to do next, and we were able to help them have a good understanding of what happened."
Windley added that the biggest mistake in social media is only reaching out to talk about the credit union's specials or products. She said it is important to keep social media conversations interesting and relevant to what is going on locally in the community.
The aggressive approach is paying off as former Barnes Bank customers have been flocking to Goldenwest CU's Kaysville branch. The credit union opened over 500 new checking and savings accounts in just four days, setting a new record for most accounts opened at a single branch.
"We waited for the right opportunity to use it. We didn't want to do it just to say we are out there on social media. We were looking to be relevant and an opportunity presented itself," said Windley. "Our goal is to keep the grassroots movement going. Someone came in and said they heard about our credit union from my Starbucks guy. We love to hear that. We have a 30-day window of opportunity so we're doing what we can to keep it going."
To that end the, credit union has launched Operation GoldenWave, where more than three dozen Goldenwest CU staffers hit the ground knocking on doors canvassing neighborhoods and local businesses and spreading the good word.