Marketing: Tweaks to Traditional May Aid Organic Growth
More and more credit union marketers have been taking a second look at their existing membership to find ways to deepen those relationships.
For some, the most basic steps can sometimes deliver big results.
At Montana 1st Credit Union, that turned out to be a simple pre-screen done in conjunction with 1% cash back rebates for those who moved their auto or personal loan to the Missoula, Mt.-based cooperative.
According to Tyler Disburg, assistant vice president at the $60 million credit union, with the pre-screen, those who qualified would get a lower rate and those who didn’t would get the same low rate offered to everyone. In just five business days, Montana 1st did some $1.7 million in loans.
“Our rate was already very low, we just took it a step further by pre-qualifying members so they were basically already pre-approved and we billed it as a no hassle loan. Come in and give us five minutes and they’d walk out with the loan,” said Disburg.
“We’d do all the legwork so all they’d have to do is sign to fund the loan. For the past two years, we hadn’t moved the ball, never gaining ground on lending. This was the first quarter we were able to move that forward,” Disburg said.
He said the “hassle-free” element was vital to the campaign’s success.
“Consumers’ perception of banking is that it is very difficult so we made sure hassle-free rang true in every bit of messaging and that we lived up to it. We got the payoffs, called them to come in and sign the paperwork,” said Disburg. “All we do is focus on increasing our share of wallet and to deepen our relationships. Our letter to members let them know if they are interested, the paperwork is already done and that I think was another reason it was so well received.”
He added that it when it came to lending, it took quite a few misses before finally being able to hit one out of the park.
“The best advice I can offer is to get past the barrier to entry; that consumer perception that they are in for a long, arduous task and that banking is something you leave to when you have time, which never happens, or you just take the first offer that comes to you,” Disburg said. “The way you get past that is by showing it not just saying it. So yes, it takes way more commitment and front end work on the part of staff, but the rewards are there.”
Over at Eagle Community Credit Union in Lake Forest, Calif., quarterly lunch-and-learns has helped more than double its new federal employee membership compared to 2010.
“One of our branches is in a federal building, which is wonderful. Hosting the quarterly sessions has really helped us interact with more of the employees in that building,” said Emily Friesen, vice president of marketing at the $196 million credit union. “The employees absolutely love it. Each session is full, we have grown membership, and best of all, it's helped us build strong relationships that opened a lot of doors for our business development team.”
She added that Eagle Community has also made the most of its Visa program by highlighting its relatively unique fixed rate credit cards.
“Members love it and we have had success just through awareness campaigns [and] educating members that we have a fixed-rate card available,” said Friesen.
The credit union just wrapped up a dual promotion that offered 2.9% balance transfers and 0% on gas and groceries. Friesen said by running the promotions concurrently, the credit union was able to both increase balances and shift behavior to have its Visa be their go-to card. She said in 75 days, Eagle Community grew its entire Visa portfolio by 25% and increased monthly new Visa growth by more than 300%.
She said the renewed focus on existing members this year and increasing products per household has paid off. It’s not just a marketing initiative, she explained, but rather an organization-wide goal that has buy-in from every employee, which has made all the difference.
Meanwhile, a closer look at its select employee groups has helped GEMC Federal Credit Union in Tucker, Ga., identify a green lending opportunity. The $81 million credit union has found success with its HomePlus Loan program, which was designed to help local families not only save energy but money as well. GEMC FCU has booked over $6.5 million in loans since launching the program last summer.
With SEGs of electrical cooperatives in throughout Georgia, the credit union said it recognized the opportunity that existed in helping encourage consumers to purchase and install energy efficient home improvement products.
“We got it up off the ground in about two months. With funding by a federal grants program consumers can finance up to $5,500 in energy efficient improvements at 0% [annual percentage rate] for 36 months,” said Denise Swan, CEO of GEMC FCU.
The program has taken on about 1,700 new members and has helped the credit union’s loan growth bring in about 10% over the year, she added.
Swan said the relationship with the SEGs has been the key to the program’s success. Many of the heating and air contractors would spread the word about the program through their websites to consumers and when they were called out to their homes.
“It’s a great program that we plan to continue even after the stimulus funds expire with different interest rates and terms that are not as formal as they are now,” said Swan.
The $133 million Public Service Credit Union in Romulus, Mich., also took a different approach to growth when its advertising budget cut nearly all broadcast funds for 2011.
“One of the best things we did at PSCU was to reignite our SEGs. Not only SEGs that had been part of the credit union for years, but also looking at our commercial accounts and approaching them as potential SEGs,” said Amy McGraw, who served as marketing director at the credit union until she recently became the vice president of marketing at Miramar, Fla.-based Tropical Financial Credit Union.
“We also utilized branch managers to reach out to their surrounding communities for new SEG [and] commercial account opportunities,” McGraw said. “We introduced new marketing materials and pop-up displays for each branch manager. We also looked to our community partners as potential SEGs.”
According to McGraw, the effort proved wildly successful thanks to the commitment and dedication of Linda Wallace, vice president of operations, and Bettye Misuraca, business development manager. As of September the credit union had grown by more than 5% with virtually no external, traditional forms of advertising.