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<p>DALLAS – Neighborhood Credit Union simply wasn’t interested in a punch-and-cookies affair for the grand opening of its new Mesquite branch. Instead, the credit union opted to host a block party that generated more than $1.3 million in new business. “Just like there’s a post office, a fire station and a school in every neighborhood, we want a credit union in every neighborhood. And what better way to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors than with a big block party,” asked Mark Arnold, Neighborhood CU’s SVP of Technology, Employee & Member Development. “We had a formal ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce, but we kept it totally separate from our member event by holding it the day before.” Staged on a Saturday, the four-hour Block Party featured all the elements of a successful event: food and drink, entertainment, giveaways and excellent weather. The credit union served hot dogs, popcorn, soft drinks, bottled water and a state fair favorite, Tornado Taters. Guests at the event included Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban, Miss Texas 2001 Stacy James, local radio celebrity Hal Jay, and the Dallas Mavericks mascot, dancers and street team. “By far the most popular draw we had was the caricature artist,” Arnold said. “People waited in long lines to have their pictures done.” The credit union capitalized on the marketing opportunity by stamping the bottom of the artist’s pages with Neighborhood’s logo and Web address. “They’re never going to throw that away,” Arnold said. Other favorites included a jump house for the kids and a wheel to spin for free prizes, many of them imprinted with the credit union’s name. Don’t think the party got in Neighborhood Credit Union’s way of conducting business. According to Arnold, the credit union has been molding an internal sales culture for more than a year, so preparation was easy event day. The 20 staff members working the event were given just two simple instructions. “I told them, `Have fun, and make sure everyone knows who we are and what we do,’” Arnold said. Credit union personnel wore special shirts so they were easily recognizable. A centrally located information booth displayed brochures on all services, and four offices stayed busy handling member transactions. The new branch is equipped with three video tellers, enabling live tellers to manage both lobby and drive-thru traffic. Arnold said the video tellers offer protection for employees and efficiency for members because cash is dispensed by the machines. “The absolute key to the success of our Express Tellers is having a lobby greeter,” he said. “We have someone stand in the entrance to welcome everyone who comes through the door and help them use the video teller.” Arnold revealed his secret weapon for getting adults inside the facility. “Miss Texas had on a long gown and a crown, so I would say to the little girls, `There’s a princess inside. Why don’t you go take a look?’” Extensive preparation was undertaken to ensure that the event went on without a hitch. An invitation was mailed to 20,000 homes in the neighborhood. Posters were displayed in surrounding businesses and apartment complexes. Newspaper and radio advertising promoted the party. The credit union even consulted the Farmer’s Almanac to boost its odds of having winning weather. As a result, the credit union opened 29 certificates for $974,856, 6 money market accounts for $61,050, and 21 checking accounts, originated 4 loans for $51, 396, closed 25 loans for $271, 937 and enrolled 52 new members in an 11-day period. Expenses for the event totaled $28,133. Arnold said credit union branding, beginning with establishing strong name recognition, has served as the cornerstone of the successful promotion. Branding consists of three components: brand equity, sales culture and retail marketing. “If even one of the three had been missing, our efforts would not have been nearly so favorable,” he said. [email protected]</p>

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