At Fibre Federal Credit Union in Longview, Wash., and at the Tampa, Fla.-based Grow Financial Credit Union, community engagement has gone a long way in building awareness and showcasing the credit union difference.
Having had success working with Invest in America for a few years offering members nationwide discounts on big ticket purchases, in 2012, the $755 million Fibre Federal wanted to develop a local version of that and launched its Featured Business program.
“We have always been a big fish in a little pond that's a bit saturated so it's been an evolving process but we’re focused on really doing things in the community based on what we think is right,” said Shannon Cahoon, Fibre Federal community outreach coordinator. “We want to develop the right strategic partnerships that will have a significant impact.”
Created as a way to recognize and promote many of the local businesses and organizations, it also provided an opportunity for the credit union to capitalize on its healthy member business portfolio, Cahoon said. To kick off the program, the team initially approached organizations they had already had a good working relationship with that had a business account in good standing with an invitation to participate. Those opting in would provide their logo, copy and an exclusive offer as an extra perk for credit union members.
“Our approach was to just talk about how we could help small businesses and our members as well,” Cahoon said. “What was interesting with the small business interactions is that we learned a lot of them didn't go into business thinking about marketing. So we discovered how we can help small businesses meet their additional needs and it's been a great program to strengthen those connections.”
Grow Financial's More in Return microsite showcases how different the experience is at the credit union.
Cahoon said the Fibre Federal's marketing team encouraged area businesses to be creative with discount offers that would stand out while remaining sustainable. In addition, the credit union would randomly select one of its featured businesses to shine a spotlight on its website and in the branches each month. The advertising combined with the unique benefits for the entire membership provided by participating small businesses has helped position the credit union as a true community partner, Cahoon said. The program now includes some 50 businesses and additional staff is now able to devote more time to it. As a result, Cahoon believes the sky is the limit on growth.
“We’re not only helping them advertise, but the shop locally initiative is something that has resonated with consumers here. They were excited to learn about businesses they might not have known about before they were featured,” she said. “There's an incentive for members to think why not try this little place down the street and support our local economy.”
She added that with about 80% of Fibre Federal's 69,570 members living locally, the program has given participating small businesses additional exposure to some 55,650 members.
The credit union also experienced an overall loan increase of 3.63% and brought in new business members, Cahoon noted. While still going through the 2013 data, during the first year, Fibre Federal's business services program included 283 new business members with shares of $329,257, 241 business checking accounts with new balances of $2.3 million and 70 new business loans with balances of $13.2 million.
Whether its supporting local sports, launching a Project Quince savings account, forming partnerships with University of South Florida business college, or using a virtual money machine, the $1.9 billion Grow Financial has always been an active community partner but only recently has been able to focus on sharing how it helps members get more in return, the credit union said. Since changing its name from McDill Federal Credit Union in 2007, has been busy building brand recognition.
“At that time, large banks were taking over area banks so that's the association members had so they thought Grow Financial had taken over McDill,” said Brian Holloway, assistant vice president of marketing. “So for quite a few years, we were really focused on getting awareness that it was just a name change and getting our brand message that we’re not a new financial institution and McDill FCU is now Grow Financial.”
The credit union is now past that hurdle and is ranked in the top five financial brands in the Tampa area, Holloway said.
Fibre Federal's Featured Business program has been a win-win for area small businesses, members and the credit union alike.
Revolving around its tagline “More in Return,” the World of More campaign, including Joe Grow, a new spokesperson, was launched.
The new campaign focuses heavily on the member services provided and how members receive more from the Grow Financial. Part of the new campaign launch includes a new microsite, www.moreinreturn.com, where members and non-members can visit to learn more about various products and services, watch fun videos and member testimonials that showcase how Grow Financial provided more for them. In addition, microsite visitors can enter what they would like more of whether it's caffeine, family time or even diapers and Grow Financial will deliver on making those “more moments” happen at their place of business or any of its branches. Staffers will also be on the lookout for ways they can provide more while out and about or at the branches.
“We wanted a relatable message people would instantly remember because they are either going through it or could foresee it in the future,” said Holloway. “We want to deliver a different experience because competing on price and rate is a lot of work with little return. Every week we try to surprise people.”
For example, when a teller noticed a member's Vera Bradley wallet was held together with duct tape, marketing was alerted.
“It's not my area of expertise but we went to the Vera Bradley outlet got eight to 10 different bags, purses, satchel backpacks, wallets and asked the member to come to the branch,” Holloway recalled. “When she came in and she opened the box we gave her, explaining we noticed her wallet had years of use, she was thrilled.”
Holloway said it's been fun and the credit union has shared quite a few of the “OMG” moments for members and employees alike via the microsite, Instagram and Facebook. The drive to encourage more interaction and engagement has carried over to its approach to sponsorship and community events, focusing on creating experiences during its face-to-face time as a way to show the Grow Financial difference, he added.
“We want to share the visuals and go surprise people where they work so everyone can see what we just did,” Holloway said. “We want to generate that buzz that we are different and get people in their workplace thinking, ‘Hey my bank doesn't do that for me.’ It makes it easier getting the word out there than we even anticipated.”
Targeting the 25 to 35-year old demographic, the campaign also includes television spots featuring Joe Grow, which are aired during sporting events, the Grammys or TV shows such as “The Big Bang Theory.” Created in-house with an assist from Campbell Creative, for the next two to three years, the campaign will further build on the more in return theme.
“In the past we’d basically start from zero every time we launched a campaign but this is a commitment we’re making so each level will build on the other without losing traction,” said Holloway. “Our target demographic is young families as they get married or have kids and all the things that come with the American dream; we want to be top of mind when they have that realization of need.”
Just a month into its launch, Holloway already had to set the initial social media goal higher because the 10,000 likes goal has already been reached.
“We started the year with 5,800 Facebook likes and more importantly, the people making comments and interacting with us on it has skyrocketed. We’ve now got to figure out how to challenge ourselves for the rest of the year,” he joked.