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LOS ANGELES -A focus on truly making a difference in the lives of its members and the life of the community it serves has helped SCE Federal Credit Union discover its place here. “Because we are a very, very small player against all large financial institutions in the community, if we want to create awareness we have to do it at a different level,” said SCE FCU Chief Planning & Development Officer Irene Whitcomb Sarber. “So we appeal to the heart to develop relationships we need and want long term with members. We want to earn their trust and prove ourselves to be worthy of it so they stay with us.” What works for the four-person marketing team is an all-inclusive marketing approach working with an outside agency and a cross-functional credit union team of executives from other departments, branches and management. “We have an extremely close relationship so it isn’t just marketing it is all of us working together so our meetings are always open and we have sales staff, business development executives and others providing input for areas of specific interest,” said Sarber. “Our real goal is to develop relationships with consumers who become our members and provide lots of options to meet their needs at the time and that is how we train staff as well.” All promotions are discussed in advance meetings with staff, individually, in a large group, and at the branch level. The team also develops talking points to highlight the benefits of each product to speak to that solution and discuss any potential member reservations. “It’s important to equip the employees with the tools they need to provide a holistic solution to help make sure members get what they really need,” said Sarber. ” One of the challenges is that we don’t want to push products-it’s a commodity so we focus on what members need instead of product quota.” Emphasizing a personal approach, the credit union directs messages to specific audiences such as the community and existing members. In addition for the past seven years SCE FCU has had what Sarber says is a distinct focus on the underserved that goes beyond lower income to extend to small business owners and middle income families who are not currently taking advantage of the broad scope of financial services available. She adds that the credit union also considers all Hispanic consumers as part of the local community so they are not a separate audience. “ With the assumption that our community is predominantly Hispanic all branch communications, brochures and at least 50% of the staff are bilingual,” said Sarber. “Even our agency partner specializes in the Hispanic market so we target messages based on the consumers’ need and relationship with us.” Sarber says all campaign talking points are also in English and Spanish to help representatives when conversing with members. “Even staffers who are fluent Spanish speakers may not be as familiar with financial terms, so the talking points help,” said Sarber. “Another unique quality is that our marketing partner doesn’t simply translate the English material to Spanish but rather trans-creates so they translate the essence not just the words, paying attention to local idioms and the local community.” Sarber adds that it helps staffers feel more confident in dealing with Spanish speaking families when they have the appropriate materials. She credits a solution focus in helping address each audience. For example community efforts are kept very local usually within a five-mile radius of branches and employee groups so most of the advertising can be found either in branches, at SEGs or in local businesses. Sarber says the team takes a personal approach and it isn’t uncommon for them to deliver flyers or just visit area businesses. Messages are also posted on the Web site and Sarber says door hangers with promotional information such as “we’re available for you” have helped with brand awareness. A community partner, SCE FCU also frequently hosts financial literacy and business finance classes to increase understanding of financial issues while broadening awareness of the services available to help consumers maximize funds and opportunities. In addition, the credit union participates in community events beyond providing funding. Just this year SCE FCU has hosted 23 workshops with a total participation of 341 of which 148 were unbanked. Area branch staffers conduct the majority of classes in Spanish so that when consumers walk into a branch they’re able to recognize a familiar face. “It is another way to make a connection and let them know that we’re invested in the local community,” said Sarber. “Education is important but the giving back to the community is also important because it helps create a sense of legitimacy in the community and helps builds credibility.” For existing members SCE FCU has tapped Raddon Financial Group and Bouchard McElory Communications Group for a program called Matrix Manager that can breakdown the credit union’s entire membership by age and lifestyle. Messages can then be less generic and more based on their actual relationships with SCE FCU. To help manage the more challenging existing member promotions since staffers wouldn’t know what each member would receive, all promotions are placed on the intranet categorized by possible member profiles such as age group or new households etc. “We’re also able to track all promotions either through staffers asking questions or the specific coupons so that way we can measure at the end of the year if our efforts are reaching the right audience,” said Sarber. “We’re proud of the fact that marketing here is very inclusive not just a department but truly a credit union-wide effort to be really involved in the local community and consumers here recognize that.” [email protected]

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