2017 Marketing Trends to Watch
If the economy continues its strong positive momentum, 2017 could turn out to be a great year especially for credit unions that capitalize on marketing strategies and tactics to reach members, millennials, and Generation Z who are feeling pretty optimistic about the future.
Marketing experts, consultants and executives share their insights about what marketing trends credit unions are expected to focus on in the New Year for these expected member and loan growth opportunities.
“A lot of millennials graduated from college into a job market that was horrific, but that has improved dramatically over the last few years, and I think the job market will continue to do well over the next few years,” Andy Reed said, who chairs CUNA's Marketing and Business Development Council and serves as president/CEO of the $23 million Texas People Federal Credit Union in Fort Worth. “I think you’ll see more young people leave their parent's home, so they’ll be looking to build their credit, they’ll be buying their first cars or they’ll be buying their first homes.”
Moreover, credit unions that offer business and commercial loans may also see strong growth next year. More than 80% of small business owners plan to expand their companies in 2017, according to a survey of more than 1,000 small business owners conducted by Insureon's Small Business Institute in Chicago. Some of those business plans include buying new equipment or furniture, hiring new employees, moving to a new location or offering new services or products.
While there are a variety of ways credit unions can get in front of members and small business owners, what seems to be trending up is solution focused marketing campaigns, not product focused campaigns.
“We want to speak the language of our members in a solution focused way. Sharing that we have auto loans and what our rates are is simply a selfish inward message focused on the credit union,” Bo McDonald, president of Your Marketing Co. said. The Greenville, S.C., firm specializes in credit union marketing.
“Promoting how we make the process of applying easy from start to finish, and for some of our credit unions (that means) using a car buying service and offering insurance,” he said. “We’re trying to spend more time identifying the pain points that people have and how the products and services our credit unions offer can solve a problem.”
For example, some credit unions like the $657 million Tropical Credit Union in Miramar, Fla. and the $274 million DuGood Federal Credit Union in Beaumont, Texas, have transformed their websites to appeal to the emotional goodness of financial well-being that can help members feel positive about credit union banking.
More importantly, these sites demonstrate how the credit union can help people advance their financial interests. Instead of just promoting lower interest rates, their auto loan product pages guide members through a simplified process of comparing auto loan rates, calculating monthly car payments, getting a preapproval and facilitating a haggle-free car shopping experience with the credit union's trusted auto advisers.
Helping instead of selling to members is a marketing tactic credit unions may be wise to bolster next year, Alan Brown, co-founder and CEO of DNA, said. His Seattle-based advertising agency develops brand strategies for the $15.6 billion BECU in Tukwila, Wash., the $10.3 billion Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento, as well as Alaska Airlines, Pemco Insurance and the Clinton Global Initiative.
“What we do know from quantitative research, and this has been consistent over time, is that people choose credit unions,” Brown said. “The reason why they (consumers) choose credit unions is that they have a very high degree of trust in them. That trust gets demonstrated by understanding the credit union model.”
Brown believes marketing the credit union trust factor will become even more important next year because of the uncertainty of the incoming Trump administration and its pledge to roll back regulations, which may trigger consumer concerns about the return of predatory or questionable financial practices.
Among consumers, the overall trustworthiness of credit unions is 88%, compared to 77% for regional banks and 76% for national banks, according to FICO research from last year. What's more, credit union members had the highest satisfaction rating at 90%, compared to 79% for regional banks and 78% for national banks. The FICO research also showed credit unions are perceived to have lower fees and rates among consumers.
“Right now, only 10% of 25-to 34-year olds are using credit unions. When you combine that statistic with the fact that 25-to-34-year olds are more likely to switch banks, it's easy to see how this group represents a tremendous opportunity for credit unions,” the FICO research report concludes. “What credit unions lack in convenience, they make up for in high satisfaction ratings, low fees and trustworthiness. The key for credit unions is crafting the right marketing programs that reach those customers.”
While credit union membership growth is expected to continue next year, the ranks of new members also increases the diverse range of financial needs among them, making it more challenging for credit unions to know what products and services members might purchase next.
To address this challenge, Jeff Rendel, president of Corona, Calif.-based consulting firm Rising Above Enterprises, said he expects to see more credit unions in 2017 explore the tools of big data or data analytics without the necessity of spending a ton of money on add-on analytics software.
“Where big data holds out great promise for credit union marketing, i.e., the ability to enrich target marketing, forecast next best products for members, and generate more efficient marketing budgets; it also yields great strategic value,” Rendel explained. “Big data – better said, your data, can create unrivaled value for your members. Your data produces more than the next best purchase or transaction; it initiates models for loyalty and lifetime value from your members.”
Rather than purchase add-on analytics software, Rendel said one of his credit union clients worked with its core processor, CRM partner, and card services partners to produce business intelligence for marketing, process and service improvements.
“The data existed,” he said. “The credit union just needed specific support from its partners.”
The CEO of the near billion-dollar credit union told Rendel that the data insights could help the cooperative double its assets without adding one member.
A second credit union client of Rendell's sought to shift its focus from growth through indirect lending to direct marketing because the scale required to compete in indirect lending was more than this credit union could support.
The credit union also realized that just one-third of its members were traditional members while the remaining indirect members were top line customers, for all intents and purposes; and, the traditional members were three times as profitable, the CEO told Rendel.
“Working with its CRM partner, the credit union learned which members were most profitable and loyal; and, it developed an original member acquisition, development, and relationship model,” Rendel said. “While still involved in indirect lending, the credit union's growth now derives, largely and strategically, from direct marketing and business development.”
To reach millennials and the generation coming up behind them, Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2010, credit unions will be hanging out on Instagram and looking for ways to reach and keep young members via their smartphones that they simply can't live without.
“We are also seeing a lot more financial institutions on Instagram than we saw earlier,” Meredith Olmstead said, who is an inbound marketing consultant and founding partner of Social Stairway, a Connecticut-based credit union digital marketing firm. “Instagram is also owned by Facebook, which makes it a great place for targeting credit union members and potential new members with promoted posts. And just generally, (Instagram) is a great way to further build your visual brand and to add a more human side to your credit union. The (Instagram) audience does skew a bit younger than Facebook, so that's also a factor for credit unions considering the platform. Our agency isn't sold 100% on the benefits of Instagram for credit unions, but we have invested in considerable staff training to keep up with best practices and continue to try new content and campaign approaches for credit union clients there. I believe we will know much more in 2017 if this is a place credit unions will stay.”
Snapchat is attracting the younger crowd as well, but the jury is still out as to whether the social media site can be an effective marketing channel.
“Snapchat is struggling to tell its advertising story,” McDonald said. “The average video on Snapchat is viewed for less than 3 seconds. While you can still capture an impression, the reports are that people are just tapping through. Several of our credit unions and one league that we work with are having fun using the (Shapchat) geofilters to promote events, but overall, we are advising our credit unions to experiment slowly with this new platform.”
Whisper is another social media platform that is reportedly popular with Generation Z. The mobile phone app enables users to anonymously post their “secrets” or “whispers” and others can anonymously respond. According to an August 2015 USA Today article, Whisper describes itself as the anti-Facebook “where folks don't go on its social network to boast about their great vacations, anniversaries and work triumphs, but instead to reveal their inner feelings.”
The anonymity of Whispers allows people to post their inner thoughts without the stress of being bullied, criticized or attacked. The social media platform does not allow bullying or slanderous comments.
According to an article in AdWeek, Whisper is an up and coming advertising medium, because it has sold promotions to Coca-Cola, Hulu and 20th Century Fox and many other brands. Founded in 2012, Whisper already has more than 10 million users, 10 billion page views and one million app users a minute, according to AdWeek.
In addition to reaching young members through social media sites, credit union marketers are looking at the possibilities of ad placements in mobile game apps.
“There are a couple of ways to do that, which is either inserting your message in places where they (young people) are, which is intrusive and that can work for some people,” Brown explained. “Then there are ways to try to embed your message to other places that feel more inclusive or supportive.”
For example, users of app games can pay for additional game credits or get free game credits in exchange for viewing an ad.
Though young consumers enjoy game apps, they also expect their financial institution to have a mobile app.
More than 90% of 18-to-34 year olds own a smartphone and 72% of them use their primary financial institution's app with 66% who access the app several times a week and 30% use it once or more a day, according to FICO.
“Generation Z is an extension of the Millennial movement we’ve seen over the last few years. As a group they are socially conscious, community-focused and tech savvy,” McDonald explained. “They’ve never known a time without the internet. They are also connected to their phones at every waking moment. Reaching them is about putting out a mobile friendly, user-friendly message that is engaging, not “pitchy”. The Gen Z audience has been sold to their entire lives and they are over it. They want a compelling conversation and engaging content. It's all about finding ways to reach them by showing how we can make their lives easier.”
A 2016 survey by OpenMarket, found that millennials prefer receiving texts from companies rather than phone calls or voicemails because 76% of Gen Y consumers surveyed said texts are more convenient and 63% said texts are less disruptive. Nineteen percent of millennials also said they never check their voicemail.
OpenMarket, a Seattle-based mobile engagement provider, also found that 75% of millennials say text reminders for appointments, deliveries, payments, promotions and surveys are helpful.
Text message marketing may open a new frontier for credit unions to reach millennials as well as Generation Z who live out of their smartphones.
Before launching a text message campaign, however, credit unions are required by federal law to first secure written consent from members to put them on a text message marketing list.