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NASSAU, Bahamas – No credit union brags about being mediocre, but mediocre credit unions do exist and are endangered by competitors such as banks and new players such as Wal-Mart that are hungry for credit union members. To remain competitive, says Roxanne Emmerich, a keynote speaker at the World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU’s) Leadership Conference held August 1-4 in the Bahamas, CUs have to become more sophisticated, create a “passionate culture” from the top down, and do that now rather than later. Speaking on the topic of “Almost Every Credit Union is Dead Wrong with Its Marketing and Sales Management Strategy,” the president of The Emmerich Group Inc. and owner of North American Banking Company, Minnesota said, “The reality is that non-bank competitors will be able to deliver better pricing. They have better deals.” So what is the solution for credit unions? Mission statements aren’t the answer, says Emmerich. “Throw them away,” she advised. What credit unions need is vision. “Vision is (John F.) Kennedy’s statement to put a man on the moon or Bill Gates’ statement to have a computer on every desk.” She knows what she is talking about. As head of the Emmerich Group, a company that is earning in the seven figures, she was twice voted Entrepreneur of the Year. She has written two books, one for the banking industry on how to build better banks and has just released a book called Extraordinary Credit Unions: A Proven 7-Step How-to System to Unleash Breakthrough Success. To be successful, Emmerich says everyone in the credit union from the CEO down to the janitor has to be fully involved. She wants every employee to be passionate. High expectations may begin with training, but that is only the start, she says. It isn’t enough for a CEO to send employees to a sales training course, tell them to be passionate and then to return to his desk and never speak about it again. Passion is a full-time, every day job, Emmerich says. Emmerich cited Southwest Airlines as an example of a company that has a passionate culture. By creating a passionate culture such as theirs, she says, it is necessary to engage the heart of the employee. Employees have to believe that their job involves helping their credit union become the major financial services provider for each and every member. As an example she cited a person in a credit union sales center who is called by a member for a mortgage rate. In most cases the person on the phone would tell the member whatever the going rate is. The truly passionate employee would engage the member in conversation about their needs. Even if the house buyer asks other financial institutions about rates, they will remember the credit union that didn’t give a pat answer and was interested in helping them on a one-to-one personal level. “It is not a matter of intellect, but of the heart,” she said. Emmerich says credit unions no longer can rely on the “We are nice, buy us, we’re a credit union” mantra. There has to be a visible difference. She gave as an example four jewelry stores on the same street. If one had a sign that read, “design-winning jewelry”, it would set itself off from the others. If another said, “35% off on all 14 carrot gold”, it too would be eye catching. The two stores that looked like everyone else would be ignored. Credit unions have to set themselves apart as well. Credit unions need a strategic plan. Emmerich says, “I have looked at over 1,000 strategic plans and less than a handful have any strategy. These plans should contain what it is necessary to meet the vision.” Marketing plays a major role towards that. Emmerich talked about how she and her husband live on a lake and fisherman gather in one spot. “Why don’t they go some other place,” she asked. “Honey,” he said, “That’s where the fish are.” Credit unions have to market where the fish are.” The products and services have to be out there so every credit union member comes to the credit union first. “Me too-ism” doesn’t do it, Emmerich stresses. -

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