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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Mark Adams doesn’t pull any punches in discussing how credit unions nationwide treat potential members on the telephone. “Congratulations,” he told a gathering of marketing professionals at the 12th annual CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference. “Everybody stinks.” And with that, Adams, a former college basketball coach turned motivational speaker, launched into his spiel urging credit unions to look at how they are perceived and to challenge themselves to do better. His luncheon talk March 17 challenged the audience to decide whether credit unions “give heck or help,” if they are “personal or corporate” and if they try to be “politically correct or morally right.” Adams, president of EnthusiAdams, Inc., also questioned whether credit unions were too worried about competition and not enough about themselves. Adams offered a list of suggestions, from getting credit union staff to develop the right attitude to getting the marketers to “beg, borrow and steal” every promotional idea possible. His speech, stressing it would take discipline, perseverance and faith to “get you where you want to go,” was one of three motivational talks designed to fire up the marketing professionals at the March 16-19 conference at the Riviera Resort here. More than 400 marketing and business development professionals attended the conference. At the conference’s closing session, Patrick Adams, executive vice president of St. Louis Community Credit Union, urged credit unions to develop “new and better ways of doing things” and said they had to become more marketing driven. “What I’m talking about is taking those resources that we’ve deployed in other areas of our operation and moving them into marketing and business development, elevating that function to become a marketing-driven organization. All the great companies in this country, bar none, are marketing driven, are business development driven,” he said. “Marketing rules as we go forward,” Adams insisted. “Our credit union, credit unions around the country, I think it’s time that we start moving in the direction of being marketing driven organizations. That’s what makes us successful.” Author, consultant and motivational speaker Barbara Sanfilippo urged the marketers during the conference’s opening session to become “ambassadors for the [credit union] movement,” to adopt the title of “director of fun and passion” for their credit unions and to become “key players” in their institutions. She warned that the biggest challenge facing marketing professionals today was complacency. “If you’re still using brochures with a photo of the CEO when he still had all of his own hair and most of his own teeth then we know we need to make some changes,” she said to audience laughter. “The status quo is not an option,” Sanfilippo said. “I really want to challenge you to think about doing something else.” Patrick Adams also warned against maintaining the status quo. “Too many times in our credit union movement conservative myopia strikes us because of our homogenous leadership,” he said. “We’re all the same . at the board levels, the volunteer level, the senior levels of our management team. We all think everybody should look like us.” Sanfilippo warned that complacency often leads to a “copycat mentality.” “Find out what your competition is doing and do something else totally different,” she suggested. “We’ve got to start reaching out and looking at new and better ways of doing things,” Patrick Adams added, urging his audience to adopt a “kid spirit.” All three speakers encouraged the marketers to find out more about what members wanted from their credit unions. “We’re in business to support members’ lifestyle. Our job is to make their life easier,” Sanfilippo said. She recommended that the marketers conduct informal focus groups with members to brainstorm about things the credit union could be doing to help members outside of financial services. “You would be amazed,” she predicted of the results. Adams followed a similar track, saying that the same question he asked his players during his 17-year coaching career – “How can I help you be more successful?” – was applicable to credit unions as well. And he indicated that credit unions that he surveyed had a long way to go to improve. He said telephone calls to 800 credit unions nationwide asking about such things as the difference between a credit union and a bank – then scoring the results on a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 being the highest – resulted in an average score of 1.55. California credit unions scored best with 1.80. Community banks were rated at 1.56. Sanfilippo also urged marketers to expand their roles both within their credit unions, including getting involved in strategic planning, and the broader credit union movement by working with credit union leagues. “That would really make a difference,” she said. “We are the voice not only of our credit union, but of our members. If we don’t speak up, speak out, stand up and share with our managers and our board what our members really need, who is really fighting for them?” She also questioned whether marketers were “too insulated” by not being involved in more organizations outside the credit union, such as the Direct Marketing Association whose members represent a variety of other industries. “If we only read credit union material, if we only go to credit union conferences, how can we possibly be innovative and bring things back,” she asked. Sanfilippo, author of the book Dream Big! What’s The Best That Can Happen?, urged the audience to follow that advice in their personal and professional lives. “Whatever you’re dreaming it’s not big enough,” she said, adding, “Never ever give up your dream.” Mark Adams ended his speech on a similar note. “Never underestimate what you do for a living,” he said. -

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