Credit unions are constantly looking for new, more efficient and effective ways to better connect with members.
Over at Credit Union ONE in Ferndale, Mich., President/CEO Gary Moody has hosted a Facebook online chat. Fans were encouraged to send in their questions in advance to be answered during the hour-long chat.
According to Judith Desilets, public relations director at the over $739 million credit union, the chat session was created as a way to help answer questions that members may have about a variety of financial topics but don’t necessarily have the time or the opportunity to ask someone face-to-face.
“Our ad agency, the BERLINE Group, brought the idea to us as a way to let our members know we are in fact out there listening,” said Desilets. “We thought it’d be yet another good channel to reach our members while letting them get to know our CEO on a more personal level.”
She added that the topics ran the full spectrum from when will there be a mobile app to explaining net worth.
“It was a first for us, but it went so well that we plan on continuing it to include other credit union experts from various areas such as mortgage lending, risk management or fraud,” said Desilets. “That way we can have experts from across the credit union participate at least on a quarterly basis.”
Wanting to reach a younger demographic motivated The People’s Federal Credit Union to turn to IMN, a content driven e-communications provider.
“We realized that this demographic is not only primarily online electronic users, but they want the latest news immediately, so we had to change with the times as well by offering an e-newsletter, Member Adviser,” said Kenja Purkey, director of marketing at the Amarillo, Texas-based credit union.
In addition to its quarterly newsletter, the $126 million credit union has had some success communicating with members across multiple channels including Facebook and Twitter.
“Our strategy the first year was to build the fans,” said Purkey. “We have about 620 fans now, so with that audience we’re working on engaging them. We have Tuesday trivia and Fan Friday, where we profile one of our fans. We’re focusing on having more of a conversation. I know we’re not where we’d like to be yet but we’re slowly building relationships.”
She added that when it comes to effective communication, no channel can be disregarded so it still offers a more traditional mix that includes direct mail.
“We want to show that we’re different and that we truly care about what goes on in the community, so being available across all these touch points reinforces that we are putting people first and that we stand out in the communities we serve,” said Purkey.
Kari Valentine, marketing specialist at University of Iowa Community Credit Union, agrees that there has to be some variety in communication and the key is making the most of the medium members prefer. It’s a task that has been made easier since a recent core system and online banking conversion at the Iowa City-based credit union.
“Whether email, direct mail or Facebook, we’re there,” said Valentine.
In those early days, Facebook was primarily geared toward University of Iowa students. Given research that reveals that the Facebook demographic is actually in the 35 to 40 year old range, the page has undergone a redesign that appeals to all members, including students.
“The response has been good we have anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 likes and we’re pleased with how many fans regularly coming back.”
She said the strategy to use the page to spotlight community events and volunteering efforts out and about in the communities served has been a big draw for members.
“Our fans love to hear about what we’ve got planned next, and the results of how much we were able to raise for a particular organization or how we’ve helped out this town or local neighborhood. We’re also pretty proud that we’ve consistently been ranked in the top 1% for return of the member, and most recently we were named No. 1 out of 7,441 credit unions.”
She tied a focus on building trust and relationships to the success of the $1.2 billion credit union’s auto and home loan marketing efforts in Linn County, Iowa, which is a new market entered last spring. “UICCU is a leader in automotive lending because of our aggressive rates, effective marketing and indirect relationships with many of the auto dealers in the area,” said Valentine. “UICCU is also a leader in home loans because of our competitive rates, relationships with realtors and referrals from current members.”
She added that since partnering with the top realty firm in Linn County, the word-of-mouth advertising has effectively eliminated the need to promote its home loan department.
“Our lenders do such a great job serving the membership that word-of-mouth advertising has been very successful and kept them incredibly busy,” said Valentine.
Credit unions continue to explore the possibilities of Facebook. For example, MAFCU Federal Credit Union members can manage their finances from their Facebook profiles.
MyMoney is an online banking application that allows members to view their account balances, transfer money between accounts, and review account history without leaving Facebook.