Guess again if you think a community charter or expanded field of membership guarantees overnight growth.
The reality is that most consumers probably aren’t waiting and wondering why XYZ credit union isn’t in their area. When it comes to growth, planning is key and it’s a slow and steady pace.
It was a lesson learned when Delta Community Credit Union opened its field of membership to serve residential communities of specific counties and employees of various companies in 2006.
"I think we were a bit naïve in the beginning thinking that after 65 years of telling people they can’t join unless they are Delta employees or relatives of one, by opening the FOM in these communities, it would be a 'say it and they’ll come'," said Mary Olson, vice president of marketing for the Atlanta-based credit union. "It doesn’t work that way, and it takes a lot of advertising, PR and years of work to change people’s perception of whom you serve. We quickly learned just because you build it, they wouldn’t necessarily come."
For the first few years the $3.5 billion credit union had to play catch-up by aggressively opening an average of three branches a year in areas where potential members lived rather than worked. Olson added that serving a diverse community presented other challenges in terms of marketing.
"That first year we had a pretty diverse media buy. So we regrouped, worked with our PR agency to really define who we were, and because we had a limited budget, we had to determine which media buys would most effectively reach our target audience of women age 25 to 49."
That targeted, strategic approach combined with a real community presence has continued to help the credit union grow not just in terms of members but awareness as well.
When consumers were looking for sound and responsible financial institutions amid bank closures in Georgia, Delta Community unveiled its "10 Reasons to Switch" campaign in 2010.
The multimedia campaign featured different reasons over two-month periods, leading up to "Switch Day" on Oct. 1, 2010.
"We were everywhere, from reaching out to media outlets to partnering with Chick-Fil-A offering free breakfasts when they went through the drive-up window," said Olson.
Paying homage to its education roots while taking a deliberate strategic approach to expansion has proved beneficial for OnPoint Community Credit Union. The $2.8 billion credit union has recently expanded its field of membership to include both Crook and Jefferson Counties in central Oregon.
"We had about 5,000 members in that area that either moved to live there full-time or had vacation homes. There was also a newly developed retirement community of new potential members. Given the research it made sense to include those counties in our field of membership," said Robert Stuart, president/CEO of the Portland, Ore.-based credit union. "The opportunity was more than we even anticipated. Our branch managers there actually took the contact information of locals who were coming into our branches wanting to join while we were researching the area. This week they were busy calling those folks and direct mail will be sent in early April."
The credit union, formerly known as Portland Teachers Credit Union, changed its name in 2006 to OnPoint Community, and the challenge became how to bring value to all the different communities served.
"One thing we were very aware of was that people were not just going to come just because we opened our doors. So our member growth, product growth we were very deliberate and cautious. We set our goals based on our existing year over year growth, not on what we thought we’d obtain as a community credit union," said Kelly Schrader, vice president of marketing/member services at OnPoint Community. "In a lot of ways we measured conservatively and had greater return."