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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -They say $100 doesn’t buy much these days, but First U.S. Community Credit Union is hoping it will buy one new member – and result in about 1,200 new members by the end of the year. The $160-million institution is marketing the three-figure incentive to residents who live within two miles of its three branches, in an attempt to gain marketshare in the highly competitive Sacramento area. “It’s so competitive, with some of the largest credit unions in the country headquartered here,” said Marketing Manager Julie Ainsworth, referring to industry behemoth $5.6 billion The Golden 1 Credit Union, and $1 billion-plus SAFE Credit Union and Schools Financial Credit Union. “We’ve done promotions in the past that offered $100, so we know that number is enough to get people to take action,” Ainsworth said. First U.S. Community has previously offered $100 to refinance a car loan at the institution, and rewarded Home Equity loans and credit lines with a $100 gift certificate to Home Depot. To qualify for the current $100 offer, new members must establish membership along with a qualifying service: checking with direct deposit, a certificate with a 12-month or longer term, a new or used auto loan, or a real estate loan. The $100 is deposited into the member’s account when the loan is funded, or when the first direct deposit is received. First U.S. Community tapped Virginia-based Group Marketing Associates for the promotion, which featured a direct mail piece in the form of a letter explaining the promotion, and included a $100 non-negotiable check at the top. The promotion dropped around the end of June, and Ainsworth said the institution has received some new members and phone calls so far, although it’s too early to report any results. The marketing manager said she didn’t specifically plan for the $100 promotion when writing her 2005 marketing strategy but decided to try the attention grabber in an attempt to reach the credit union’s annual growth goal. “What’s strange is that we’ve only been averaging around 2% membership growth the past few years, but our deposit and loan growth has been double digit,” Ainsworth said, adding the credit union increased its loan portfolio by 20% last year. Funding for the $100 per new member idea was already in the budget, set aside for a membership drive Ainsworth already knew she would have mid-year. Ainsworth said if she receives a 1% response rate, the return on investment would average about a $200 cost per new member. “Two hundred dollars for a new member sounds like a lot, but when you break down what banks and other competitors spend on advertising and marketing, we’re right in line,” she said, adding that the high cost of new member promotions drives home the old adage of how much cheaper it is to keep an existing member than attract a new one. First U.S. Community membership is open to federal employees who work in the state of California, and anyone who lives, works or worships in the greater Sacramento metro area. The credit union currently has approximately 11, 770 members. -

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