Since 2003, Beyond Marketing LLC has been helping shift the general marketing assumptions – one credit union and CUSO at a time.
“We believe marketing is more of an investment than expense or line item in a budget,” said Curtis Hays, director of strategy at the Lenexa, Kan., CUSO. “It’s about how do we create positive, sustainable results so that the money spent is used to help the credit union do more and do better for their members.
“Ultimately there has to be some measure of ROI but that doesn’t necessarily always mean making more money but can be brand presence, building awareness, unaided recall. Regardless of what’s being measured, we believe in the credit union philosophy and working on how we can help CUSOs and credit unions to maintain their difference.”
Founded by credit unions for credit unions, when it opened its doors, Beyond Marketing LLC became the first full-service marketing CUSO for the financial services industry.
With a focus on providing revenue and ROI-driven results the CUSO’s service offerings range from strategic planning, market research, brand identity development and interactive Web design to print design and production, public relations management, advertising and promotion implementation, media buying, direct marketing and broadcast production.
As for what it takes to be part of the team of 12, Hays said it goes beyond just skill sets to having a passion.
“It’s funny most resumes are basically a list of features and benefits, a track record of what’s been accomplished,” said Hays. “But we’re more interested in exploring who they are. Are they risk-takers, unafraid of introspection, do they have a willingness to be accountable? What matters to them, are they willing to push and critique their work to do more?
“Most importantly do they have that spark or enthusiasm to be a part of a community dedicated to helping others? Basically we want people to do what they love. Not everyone can be the right fit and that’s OK.”
Hays said the result has been building a Beyond Marketing team that approaches innovation in a manner similar to an article he recently read in the Harvard Business Review, which discussed the idea that a lack of conflict creates greater opportunity for more innovation.
“That doesn’t mean not challenging ideas but being focused instead on the same goal, which is delivering a solution that addresses clients’ unique challenges,” Hays said. “There’s a tendency for departments to work in silos, sales versus IT versus compliance etc. and get caught up in turf battles. That is when you run into slowdowns or failure.
“Conformity toward the vision gives a path to follow that creates the opportunity to continue to move forward without the personal agendas to truly innovate. Great ideas are only as good as they can be implemented and out to market,” he said.
Hays added that some of the best ideas can come from credit unions’ core member facing staffers and middle management levels.
“Every credit union employee wants to be empowered and accountable so why not give them more say and a role in the process and delivery,” he asked. “They interact, hear and experience members’ frustrations and know their real or perceived issues. Who better to be a part of the solution process?”
According to Hays, a focus on results over individual bragging rights has been a cornerstone of the culture at the CUSO. The team works together brainstorming and crafting solutions that draws from their individual talents and expertise.
In keeping with that sense of community, Beyond Marketing began offering BFree, a portfolio of free customizable designs and campaigns. A free theme, which may contain everything from branch promotional materials and direct mail to Web and e-marketing, is offered quarterly.
“When the economy changed and budgets became tighter, we thought we could best help by providing a free marketing collateral service around loans or the bank/credit union difference,” he said.
“The idea was we just wanted to help credit unions during this tough time continue to grow. If we’re not giving back into what sustains us then we’re not living that credit union philosophy of sharing and being a part of a community that works together to help others.”
He added that he wished more credit unions would take a step back for the big picture view of who they are and what they want to be five or 10 years from now.
“Instead of the common assumptions that members don’t like change , the core system can’t do that and this is how it’s always been done, I’d love for it to be replaced with the question of if we were starting over with our credit union what would we keep and what would we change,” said Hays.
“Credit unions can get so busy with what’s happening now and filling those buckets of their portfolio versus I want to be the credit union of choice for a specific area. To be that may mean loans or branches but it shapes what changes need to be implemented to accomplish that bigger, long-term goal,” he said.
“What happens is answering that question really drives the overall direction and helps create alignment of different departments to find ways to make it happen and breaking it down year by year on how it will look. Always having your credit union’s long term vision in mind and living it helps build a stronger organization.”
He added that other challenges facing credit unions include how credit unions can effectively engage consumers in a meaningful way and delivering relevant messages and services in a fast-paced world.
“Smartphones make a better computer than cell phone, and consumers are doing things on them that weren’t even possible 10 years ago,” said Hays. “So given the faster rate of adoption and higher consumer expectations on how people transfer and exchange money and make decisions, what makes us think some disruption won’t happen?
“I can’t see why the future competition won’t be Google, Apple or even some new start up. The question is if someone does disrupt the channel, who gets cut out? Where do financial institutions fit in? How do they remain relevant?”
Click on the icon below to hear a radio ad created with Mazuma Credit Union in Kansas City.