Want to grow your credit union?
First step, get over the stigma and negative connotations associated with the word 'sales.'
“Everyone will tell you they hate sales for xyz reasons or they think of that stereotypical used car salesman,” said Evan Hitchcock, marketing and business development manager at the $166 million E-Central Credit Union in Pasadena, Calif.
“What you’re doing is providing a service. It’s really a matter of asking the right questions to understand their needs and making the right recommendation to help them,” Hitchcock said. “It’s something that, in reality, is done every day with your spouse, on a date and in the workplace.”
Simply put, once the connection has been made that sales people are, in fact, professionals who provide a solution or help others solve a problem they can be respected just as much as an attorney, CPA or doctor, Hitchcock explained.
“It’s an evolution and requires constant coaching and yes, selling them on the benefits of providing solution based services,” he added. “I view business development as the outside sales force of the organization and a mobile extension of the brand.”
In simplistic terms, business development is another word for sales; and, sales is a function of marketing, Hitchcock said. Both departments have to be in sync with each other to fulfill the brand promise of the organization and to meet corporate goals.
For example, if loan growth is a primary marketing objective, then business development should focus on acquiring select employee groups that are more likely to have employees who borrow.
The demographics of SEGs can vary depending on the type of business and employee population. Therefore, some employees could be good borrowers at one company, while another company could be a great place to target checking accounts.
“When I came to the credit union nine years ago, the organization did not have an incentive plan or even a business development plan for that matter,” Hitchcock recalled.
In the beginning, E-Central’s goals were a simple part of a building block to a more robust program, he said. Today, business development representatives have monthly goals for checking accounts, home and auto loans and new deposits. These goals are tied to the credit union’s organizational growth goals.
Hitchcock said the biggest challenges were getting the team to buy into the plan and change its approach to sales.
“Business development had to be more than handing out brochures and signing a few members up,” said Hitchcock. “We wanted them to be engaged at the beginning of the new member cycle to improve cross selling ratios and an overall product penetration.”
As a big believer in building relationships face to face at E-Central, the business model incorporates multiple onsite visits at targeted SEGs. Serving some 600 SEGs, the team goes regularly out in the field. Through data research, business development teams have been able to identify which SEGs have employees who have a higher propensity to be good borrowers.
“Organizationally, we’ve been successful in promoting auto refinance and when we visit a company, we look to build instant value by helping an employee save money on their auto loan,” said Hitchcock. “In many cases, the employee was just planning to open a savings or checking and we cross sold them a loan.”
As the credit union works through the employee population to help more people, it shares its success stories with the SEG’s human resources department and upper management. This reinforces our relationship with the organization and positions us for future sales, Hitchcock said.
As society has become increasingly mobile and connected through smart phones and social media, Hitchcock said business development has to adopt new ways to reach out to new SEGs and new members.
Reaching out to members also has also kept $562 million Tropical Financial Federal Credit Union busy as it has found a way to ride all the publicity garnered from Bank Transfer Day.
According to Amy McGraw, vice president of marketing at the Miramar, Fla.-based credit union, the Swipe Where it Counts campaign has been a great success. Not only has it continued to help the credit union grow but it has also affected the average number of swipes members do in a month.
“Prior to launching the Swipe promotion back in October, our members were averaging less than 11 swipes [per] month,” said McGraw. “Since the launch of the campaign, the members who have joined the credit union are now swiping an average of just under 17 swipes [per] month.”
The original promotion was set to expire on April 30, but due to its great success, McGraw said it has been adopted as a permanent feature to new checking accounts. Now, any new checking account will have an opportunity to earn up to $5 each month for the first six months.
“We were able to leverage the media coverage we received from Bank Transfer Day to continue the conversation with local media as well as potential members in the marketplace by using the Swipe campaign as our vehicle,” said McGraw.
Tropical Financial has not let up in its messaging or advertising since October and the results have been phenomenal, she said. Prior to October, the credit union was averaging 400 new accounts each month. Since October, that average has shot up to 672.
McGraw said that since the media isn’t done with the banks, marketers need to be diligent to opportunities as they present themselves.
“We need to be very careful of our messaging. To maintain our credibility as a trusted financial partner we need to be up front and transparent as possible,” she suggested. “We also still need to keep a watchful eye on the social space and how it’s being utilized and leveraged.”
McGraw said even if marketers choose not to engage, they should remember that the social space is an excellent place to look to get a temperature reading on how the public feels about issues and what affects them.
“With advances in technology moving at such a rapid pace, we as credit unions need to keep pace to stay competitive; even if they can’t offer the same level of technology as the big banks, find ways to focus on what you do have and communicate those benefits often,” Hitchcock said.
With credit unions at the height of popularity, now is the time to act.
“Be loud and be proud. Now is not the time to take the if we build it, they will come approach. We may never get another opportunity like this again,” McGraw said.