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During these economic times when spending money on branches may seem foolish, William Bily, vice president of design at design/build firm DEI, said credit unions need to think long-term and act accordingly.“Maintaining the status quo may seem like a good idea now, but low-cost investments in your credit union could potentially be worth market share later,” said Bily. “The question credit unions need to ask is: If your competitors have been investing in themselves during this recession, how will your credit union compare when the economy picks up again?”He added that when the economy does improve credit unions should be ready to move quickly.“Now is the time to reconnect with consumers and show what your brand is all about, making that emotional connection to help re-establish trust,” said Bily. “There are all kinds of things you can do by paying attention to your brand and the message you are sending your members. The healthy financial institutions out there should keep leveraging that solid record and relationships in crisis to connect with members.”He said simple renovations and applying your brand to your facility could increase your marketing efforts now and later when those who have come out unscathed will be fighting for market share.“Updating your look, or even cleaning up your brand, doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg,” said Bily.The first step to a cost-effective renovation starts with credit unions establishing their brand or re-evaluating it and finding ways to reinforce the brand message across the branch network.“Making sure you have a solid brand is more critical than ever as the consumer relationship is at risk for financial institutions, and people are bouncing around for emotional reasons,” said Bily. “With the consumer suspicion and feelings of uncertainty with larger banks, there is a huge opportunity for credit unions to highlight their points of differentiation and connect with these people who feel that they haven’t been treated that great in the last few years.”Once the brand is established, Bily said graphics are an inexpensive opportunity to connect with members and talk about your credit union’s promise and positive future.“Large scale graphics are an impactful way to change an environment completely and catch members’ attention,” said Bily. “When consumers see improvements in the branches, however small, it gives them confidence that the organization is doing well.”He added that refreshing the interior-from adding color to replacing the flooring-can add a whole new layer of life to branches.“Really you need to look at it holistically in terms of your retail facility strategy as to where focals will be placed and where communication is placed, the scale of communication, the products offered down to the messages you’re giving members,” said Bily. “A lot of times there is too much clutter. There is stuff everywhere and the message is not consistent or organized. You have to look at your facility as a great retail store where everything is intentionally placed to move consumers throughout the space. You want to make your branch shopable and welcoming.”He added that many credit unions make the mistake of just using graphics to display their product offerings everywhere rather than explaining or showing members how their products are special.“If you just have all these signs all over your branch, members aren’t even going to notice them, and what they then become are just insincere messages,” said Bily. “Think about what you want to say to your members. Let me know how your products and services are unique and can help improve my life versus doing my banking across the street.”–[email protected]

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