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PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s time for credit unions to get their members talking and Psst, a word of mouth marketing agency created exclusively for banks and credit unions, is ready to help.A division of Portland, Ore.-based marketing and experiential brand development agency Creative Brand Communications, Psst specializes in word of mouth marketing comprising guerrilla marketing, viral marketing, social media, buzz generation and grassroots marketing.According to CBC CEO Jeff Stephens the timing for such an agency couldn’t be better.“Word of mouth marketing has over the past few years shaped up as a respected marketing discipline and there have been some really good public cases of the many uses of social media-the biggest example of which would be the Obama campaign,” said Stephens. “From a financial institution standpoint, with the economy the way it is, credit unions can’t afford to pay for the waste that goes along with traditional marketing and the diminishing returns and results of old advertising.”He added that word of mouth marketing is about giving people something worth talking about and making it easier for that conversation to take place.“I think credit unions have a little inflated idea of how much word of mouth there is about them right now. And if I ask the average credit union marketer, they’d say ‘yes, our members are talking about us’ and there might be something to it but it is not as much as it could be if it isn’t harnessed toward a goal or purpose,” said Stephens. “Too often the talk is just circumstantial rather than credit unions putting some strategy behind it.”Credit unions seem to have an edge over banks given that they generally have a great story to tell, but Stephens said effectively harnessing the power of word or mouth marketing boils down to identifying just what will get members buzzing.“I think credit unions have to be honest about what is worth talking about and what may be interesting for a credit union person is not interesting enough for the average member. Is anyone really going to bring up a credit union’s home equity loan at a summer barbeque or talk about a credit union’s customer service?” said Stephens. “A home equity loan that comes with a free housewarming party-that might be worth talking about.”To be effective, word of mouth marketing has to be honest, genuine, organically spread, transparent two-way communication, according to Stephens. He added that it goes beyond just offering members a cash incentive for referrals and that credit unions are word of mouth marketing friendly.“The reputation of financial institutions in general has been really tarnished and consumer trust is at a low. Getting a recommendation from people you trust is valued as a more credible resource than any typical marketing campaign,” said Stephens. “You’ll stand out from the crowd and rise above the advertising clutter when people talk about you. If people are already having a conversation about your brand why not jump in, participate and make it work for you?”He said there are five basic steps to take before rolling out an effective word of mouth campaign: identify the people most likely to talk about the credit union and determine what matters to them, what they talk about and how to best contact and communicate with them; determine what topics a credit union can discuss that would be buzz-worthy-the company story, the campaigns or products and services; ask what tools can the credit union provide to maximize the spread of conversation; decide how the credit union will participate in the conversation; and figure out how the credit union can not only find out what people are saying and how to measure return on investment but which tools would be most effective.“Credit unions in general are a lot more aware and interested in social media than banks, but it’s important to note that social media is just one ingredient in word of mouth marketing and that there a lot of other things credit unions could be doing as well,” said Stephens. “Think of word of mouth marketing in terms of quality over quantity. There are conversations going on out there about your credit union so find out how you can be a part of it and have it be louder and impactful in growing your credit union.”–[email protected]

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