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The $705 million Advantis Credit Union of Portland, Ore. is perfecting the notion of a sales blitz to gain market awareness with a $20 million deposit surge-drawing 400 new members-as part of a two-day promotion to open a new branch. The concept of high-rate certificates to quickly gain awareness in a new market is hardly new, but the Oregon CU produced high-quantity results with the campaign to open its new Hillsboro branch in west Portland. The branch now accounts for 800 of the 4,000 new members added by Advantis this year, representing a 35% increase in deposits. The deposit incentive included an 11-month, 5% APY CD, in addition to 2% cash back on auto refinance loans over $10,000. The average CD balance was $33,000. “There are always two ways to new market awareness in a branch opening-stick to a basic cut-the-ribbon, provide cookies, bring in the mayor approach, or create real excitement with a special sales offer to build relationships,” explained Mark Weber, head of a Seattle marketing agency that designed the Advantis program, which he described as “a sales culture on steroids.” “This is really a way of generating a lot of buzz in a new community, and so far it has worked well for Advantis,” Weber said. The Hillsboro branch was the CU’s fifth branch. Advantis has 39,000 members. The CU said that since the grand opening, new deposits at the branch have now topped $38 million. Wendy Edwards, vice president of marketing and human resources for Advantis, said the grand opening was advertised in community newspapers and direct mail to over 22,000 households. The cost of the two-day event and related media expenses was $63,000. The promotion included six weeks of radio ads promoting a checking account and the new location, plus expenses for a Hawaii trip giveaway and 10 instant prize giveaways. “Although the giveaways created excitement, most people came ready to open a CD or a Fusion checking account,” said Edwards. “We knew the 5% certificate would get attention, but we didn’t want to end up with a lot of new single-service households,” said Edwards, noting also that Advantis began training staff on cross selling weeks before the event. “We did efficiently manage over 200 guests per day using the Weber method.” In its promotion, Advantis hit on a safety and soundness theme, citing consumer worry over the economy and a volatile stock market. In this kind of environment, consumers “are turning to credit unions like Advantis for safety and better value for their money,” explained Ron Barrick, president/CEO of the CU, which also saw a 26% increase in loans during 2008. Barrick said the CU’s menu of financial products is now of keen interest to “panicked” consumers and see the wisdom of improving their condition by switching to a CU. Barrick noted also that his CU is well positioned to “avoid the national credit freeze” because it pursued sound underwriting practices, steering clear of subprime mortgage loans. As ranked by Callahan & Associates, Advantis was “No. 1 credit union in the nation for returning financial value to its members” for the first three quarters of 2008 based on 195 CUs with assets between $250 million to $1 billion. –[email protected]

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