Editor’s Introduction: This opinion piece by CUNA lays out why they think this year’s Future Forum will be worth attending, and how they are changing their marketing strategy to more effectively meet CU needs. “Solution sets” Aid in Rapid Resolutions for CU Decision-makers MUG: Kevin Lytle is CUNA’s Vice President, Marketing and Sales Administration. He can be reached at (800) 356-9655, ext. 4001, or klytle@cuna.coop. This year’s CUNA Future Forum will once again offer a top quality educational experience along with enjoyable social events and networking opportunities. The educational offerings focuses on leadership, security/risk management, lending, community charter issues, sales/marketing, volunteer/board governance, and issues affecting our future. In other conferences there is little connection between the educational content and the solutions offered by the credit union suppliers found in the exhibit hall. Conference attendees are left to wander the hall hoping to stumble across a solution to one or more of their business challenges. Sometimes this process is made easier when the supplier contacts credit union decision-makers prior to the conference (usually through direct mail) to invite them to stop by their booth to learn more about a specific solution. At this year’s Future Forum, we’ve made the process much easier – at least for CUNA programs, products and services. We’ve aligned our solutions in the same categories used to organize the educational offerings. In this way, attendees will simply look for their categories of interest and won’t have to make assumptions about the applicability of the product to the specific business challenge they are looking to solve. In the future, CUNA will be expanding on this concept in its regular marketing strategies. Consider the following: If you are a typical credit union decision-maker, you are inundated with communications every day, some important some. not so. If you are a decision-maker in any credit union, you have probably instructed your administrative assistant to cull through the mountain of marketing solicitations and invitations to special meetings you receive every day to look for anything that may help you solve one of several dozen challenges you are currently juggling. Based upon CUNA’s 2005-2006 Credit Union Environmental Scan (E-Scan), your challenges have to do with one or more of the following: increasing loan yield or loan demand, security breaches and/or fraud, recruiting highly skilled talent, increasing services to people of modest means, and attracting more members who understand the difference between your credit union and banks. Earlier in 2005, CUNA sponsored an online survey of credit union CEOs to learn which business issues were “Critically Important”. Sixty percent of CEOs said “Increasing consumer loan demand” was critically important and 48 percent felt “Achieving/maintaining net income levels” was critically important. CUNA has 18 programs and products created to help credit unions increase consumer loans. But again, if you’re a typical credit union decision-maker, you don’t know about these resources. These programs and products have traditionally been marketed via direct mail and have contributed to the mountain of marketing messages you receive on a daily basis. CUNA has made several strategic changes in 2005 that will benefit credit unions in 2006 and beyond. First, we will be organizing our programs, products and services within solution sets around strategic issues faced by credit union decision-makers similar to those identified in the E-Scan report. Rather than wading through 18 direct mailings from CUNA, the credit union recipient will have one comprehensive piece that contains information for all CUNA programs and services relevant to that specific issue. The credit union benefits by saving precious time and CUNA benefits by raising the awareness of its stellar programs and products. Second, CUNA is piloting a strategic relationship with seven leagues to represent its programs and products where the league does not have a competing product. The league representatives typically focus their conversations with a credit union decision-maker around the credit union’s current challenges, so CUNA’s new solution sets can be incorporated into the conversations easily. Offering a consolidated solution set of resources is only half the answer. CUNA will also improve its accuracy in matching the appropriate solution set with the credit unions that need it most. Marketers understand the key to success is contained in the old saying, “offer the right customer, the right product at the right time”. Having the right solution set is part of the answer, but we also need to identify the “right” credit union. Over the past three years, CUNA has collaborated with three economists from universities in New York, Brussels, and Copenhagen to create a new approach for finding a credit union’s true peers. The software will be marketed to credit unions under the name Credit Union Benchmarker. Credit unions can order custom reports showing all credit unions that outperform them using multiple variables simultaneously. The report will also list all credit unions that underperform using the same business model. CUNA will use this new software to identify groups of credit unions that share the same financial condition as reported in the most recent NCUA 5300 Call Report. By aligning the right solution set with the right credit union, CUNA will be able to offer the most appropriate resource to address each challenge facing the credit union decision-maker. Over time, CUNA will contribute less to the mountain of marketing messages and promotions you receive on a daily basis.