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EAST LANSING, Mich. – For Michigan State University Federal Credit Union marketing strikes the perfect balance between technology and creativity. The $929 million credit union recently won a first place NAFCU marketing award for its “Great Minds Think Alike” membership promotion. The promotion was a multimedia mix consisting of a catalog of services, brochures, postcards, and a CD-ROM highlighting services and included the ability to link directly to MSUFCU’s Web site for more information and to apply. “When deciding where the e-commerce division should be placed some thoughts were for it to be under IT but I really pushed to have it because it would be like expecting marketing to run but then cutting off our legs,” said MSU FCU Marketing Vice President Joyce M. Banish. “The e-commerce department is an important part of the marketing process we can no longer just think print but we have to think electronically where to place promotions on the front page off the Web site.” According to Banish, the “marriage” has been particularly helpful with targeting promotions and tracking. For example, the credit union can send e-mail messages notifying members of credit union events that would be of interest to them such as an Enterprise car sale to those without automobiles. “With the car sale we got back letters from our members saying `this is the kind of e-mail I like to receive’”, said Banish. “Our e-mail response is so fast that we can see and track how the members opened it, if they went to the Web site after opening it etc. So far we’ve ended up with about twice as many online applications this year alone.” Banish says technology also helps in the fine-tuning of other campaigns. For the “Great Minds” campaign the marketing department strategically sent direct mail postcards several weeks apart encouraging students to sign up online with incentive drawings from paying for fall semester books to 60-minute phone cards. As soon as one postcard mailing ended another would be sent out. Banish says after each mailing the online applications spiked from 10 to over 50. A total of 9,286 pieces including the in-house designed student booklet and postcards were mailed and the campaign costs totaled $22,334.23. Students that didn’t have a computer were not sent CD-ROMs. Every mailing label had a unique code to identify each member so if the student was a freshmen and entered the code when signing up, a pop up pre-approval for a Visa card would appear. Some 34% of those that used the code also signed up for a Visa card. “This is something we encourage because it creates a tie between the student and the credit union,” said Banish. “Sometimes people move and while they may not always take their checking account they will keep the Visa. Although now with electronic access and direct deposits it is easier for members to manage their checking accounts.” Creatively Banish says she is blessed with a great team, and generally from brainstorming to implementation, promotions take about a month. Marketing specialists are each responsible for different areas which Banish says helps keep everyone always thinking about their promotions and campaigns and how to improve them. “We are always busy, and it helps that we have certain promotions that run at the same time every year to coincide with natural university events and holidays,” said Banish. “The way the department is organized now it is not only easier to track but also by focusing on certain areas specialists learn more and have an opportunity to apply something they saw outside and figure out a way it can be effectively applied to an internal campaign.” Banish says much of what the team accomplishes is because MSU FCU President/CEO Patrick McPharlin encourages using the latest in electronics and provides them with the tools they need creatively such as keeping the stock photography up-to-date so that the credit union can target the right groups. In addition to stock images the credit union mixes photos taken from around campus so that members can better relate to what is being presented. “We try to take the best of campaigns that we have used before, add new elements and find ways to improve it so we can keep past campaigns fresh,” said Banish. “We’re very lucky here. I have a great creative team in-house, and now with e-commerce I have the technology to create and produce exactly what we want.” Despite having a membership that graduates an average of every four years, the credit union has grown, and a recent satisfaction survey of car loans reveals that 36% of those borrowers joined as students. “Our turnover is pretty low because of good service and computer line remote access, and ATMs,” said Banish. “The key is to maintain them as lifetime members. That is why we spend the extra money to be a real part of the university. We are at every fair, resident hall event, new faculty orientation, campus party, and we offer seminars and classes. If there is a chance for us to be involved we are there. In fact I had to laugh when a rival bank about two blocks away came to our branch to hand out their flyers because we had students lined up outside our doors.” Banish says because the credit union is so visible it becomes a part of the campus. “The best marketing is when members are out there selling your services,” said Banish. “We have to do multiple things to get the message across – it is not just an ad or brochure but being personally involved. One-on-one marketing is very important and our brand image as a financial institution in the community is very strong but the #1 reason we’re able to grow is because of the MSU people-it’s the one time where having that special unique exclusivity really works.” [email protected]

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