Three ways to better connect with your membership

As small niche financial institutions, it is imperative that we don’t lose sight of who we serve.  It is essential to your credit union’s survival to be highly focused on your niche and to customize and personalize your credit union’s solutions. One of the most essential ingredients in this process is how to connect with your member.  Now, what do I mean by connecting?

connect with member

Connecting is about being highly relevant and memorable at multiple levels.  This starts with the aggregate credit union brand, moves to the products & services, and ends with the individual member.   At the end of the day, if you can create continuity between all three levels you will have members that love you. This is the goal. Members who love your credit union then tell your story and bring their friends to you.

There are three things that can help you better connect with your membership.

Utilize video to Connect with Members

Video is becoming highly important in today’s digital world.  In the next few years, it is anticipated that more than 80% of all content consumed online will be in video.  Your credit union’s website, member interactions, and content should all be heavily reliant on video first.   Every website should have biography team videos, a video on the problems you solve for members, video member testimonials, and at least one video on EVERY page.  All these videos won’t happen overnight, but list out all the videos you need, prioritize, and start tackling the videos one at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it is time to get working on the foundation!  Videos are an essential way to connect with your member.

Connect with Members with a Blog

Now I know what many of you may be thinking, blogs are stupid and no one reads them.  Not true! A blog is simply a more frequent newsletter that allows you to maintain consistent communication with your members.  It is also a key way to train Google on the problems your credit union solves and the community you serve.  Your blog should not be an in your face marketing channel. Members will not click on and read your blog regularly if it is sales pitch after sales pitch. Regular distribution of educational content is a great way to connect with your member. Your blog should be simple quick articles, community news, and things that are relevant to your members. Don’t forget to optimize your posts for keywords and Google.

Use data and machine learning and other tools to hyper-personalize.

Amazon is an example of a company that is a rock star at this.  If you and I both pulled up Amazon on our computers right now, we would see different things based on our historical purchases and what Amazon believes might be interesting to us.  However, your credit union website looks the same to everyone who pulls it up.  The offers on your website are not personalized to the member.  To stand out and be relevant, credit unions should be using analytics, machine learning, marketing automation, and website design to highly personalize every interaction with a member.  The most important ingrediant to connect to your member is personalization.

Ultimately, connecting with members is what it is all about.  Seeing the difference your credit union makes for each and every member is highly rewarding.  Smart use of video, blogging, and data will allow your credit union to enhance those connections and make you highly relevant to your membership.

Originally published on August 1, 2018 on CUInsight

Being Relevant to our Members

credit union data

In my last blog, I talked about cleaning up data. Ugh. It is hard work, and I was primarily focusing on core system data. Today I want to suggest thinking about new ways Credit Unions can use existing data.

Most Credit Unions have a heartfelt mission of supporting member’s financial well-being. Yet in some ways – we simply do not engage members enough. What! Hear me out – I’ve got an idea…

Credit Unions can use their data in creative ways to be more relevant to our member’s lives. Let’s take the example of a car loan. We spend a lot of effort and money on “selling” the loan. We offer great rates, we make the buying process convenient, and we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on systems that will make the loan application process easy with features like automatically creating their membership or integrating with online banking. OK, we got them, they purchased the car and we closed the loan. We did it!

That member now has a 60-month loan and, if they pay on time, we’ll send them their pink slip in 5 years. For many Credit Unions, this scenario is the extent of the relationship between the credit union and the member’s car loan.

It’s all about the data.

What if we used the data we have about car loans to make relevant offers at relevant intervals for something that a member wants? (I know, you may be saying you already make offers at regular intervals, but staying relevant means offering something the member wants.) In the case of a car loan, how about offering a credit card at 18 months (when cars typically need new tires) and double or triple the points off on tires? For an even sweeter deal for the member, work with a box store or a local tire shop to provide even deeper discounts.

The Credit Union gains a more engaged member and credit card revenue. The member gains a deal on a credit card and a discount on something they know they need to purchase soon anyway. The local tire shop gains more awareness and local business.

WIN-WIN-WIN

Now, if you are an even more entrepreneurial community Credit Union, you can offer business customers faceless data. In the auto loan example, if the tire store could see how many tires your members purchased over the last year, they could use that data to improve their marketing efforts and the timing of their advertising and discount offers. They would not be able to see individual transactions, only the aggregate information on purchases.

Now you have an engaged business member that is only able to get that information from your Credit Union.

WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN

The digital journey requires us to find creative and innovative ways to use data to help our members while becoming more engaged in their lives, not just their financial lives. Becoming more innovative with information is a transition that Credit Unions must embark on to continue to be relevant!

Read more about Credit Union Data and Data Analytics:

Getting Your Data In Order – A Recipe for Digital Success

Credit Union Data Analytics: Put the Community in your Fees!

The Vanishing Credit Union Gets Bigger

By Robert McGarvey 

For Credit Union 2.0  

The April CUNA Mutual Trends Report drops a paradoxical bomb that leaves us confused: are credit unions getting bigger? Or are they vanishing? 

First the good news: more of us belong to credit unions, reported CUNA Mutual.  “Credit union membership growth was on a tear during the first two months of 2018, adding 850,000 new memberships versus the 650,000 reported in the first two months of 2017.” 

CUNA Mutual went on: “Credit unions should expect membership growth to exceed 3.5% in 2018. This will push the total number of credit union memberships to 117.6 million by year end, which is equal to 33% of the total U.S. population.” 

Roll back to 1960 and, per NCUA data, just 6 million of us belonged to federal credit unions.  A similar number belonged to state chartered institutions. That’s 12 million total, out of a US population of 180 million.  That’s about 6.7% of us, far below today’s one in three. 

Plainly, a lot more of us belong to credit unions now, probably because of expanding FOMs and also because many credit unions offer tempting deals – for used car loans, for instance, and in some markets home mortgages – that bring in members at least for those specific products. 

More credit unions also are working smarter and better at communicating that their membership is pretty much open to all. There remain some of us who believe they can’t join a credit union because they don’t belong to a union – but those numbers are shrinking. 

Member growth is good.  But do the CUNA Mutual data mean the credit union movement should pop open champagne and toast the good times? 

Maybe not. 

At least not just yet.  There’s more to digest in the CUNA Mutual data dump. 

Toward the end of the report, CUNA Mutual serves up these disturbing numbers: “As of February 2018, CUNA estimates 5,757 credit unions are in operation, down 240 from February 2017. The pace of consolidation in the credit union system is accelerating due to the following factors: retiring baby boomer CEOs, rising regulatory/compliance burdens, low net interest margins, rising concerns over scale and operating efficiency, rising competitive pressures, and members’ demand for ever more products, services and access channels. NCUA’s Insurance Report of Activity showed 9 mergers – 7 mergers were due to ‘expanded services,’ 1 for ‘poor[Text Wrapping Break]financial conditions,’ and one for ‘lack of growth’ – were approved in February with a merging credit union average asset size of $13 million. This is a fewer than the number of mergers reported in February 2016 with a merging credit union average asset size of $10 million. We are forecasting the number of credit unions will decline 250 in 2018.” 

Do the math. If the current rate of consolidation continues, by 2028 there will be a bit over 3000 credit unions. 

In 1960 there were about 10,000 federally chartered credit unions, per NCUA.   

As for the membership growth, CUNA Mutual sees it continuing, sort of.  “The membership gain was partly driven by the 502,000 new jobs created during January and February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and by the tremendous growth in credit union indirect auto lending. During the last few years credit union membership growth has been highly correlated with job creation with the seasonally adjusted annualized growth rate exceeding 4% over the last year. With job growth expected to slow slightly in 2018 to 2.2 million, we forecast credit unions to pick-up an additional 4.0 million members.”  (Emphasis added.) 

Many credit union executives, at least privately, of course grumble about indirect car loans because the “members” they bring in often limit their memberships to the car loan and they aren’t especially profitable. 

Add this up and what’s the meaning? Credit unions need to do a much better job of expanding their relationships with members.  It is great to have an expanding number of members, it is not so great not to be creating more solvent credit unions. 

The truly good news is that if one in three Americans belong to a credit union that is plenty of bulk to use to seek to grow the institutions organically.  For instance: get that indirect car loan borrower using a sharedraft account and a credit card and the credit union is onto something wonderful. 

The alternative is to join the thundering herd of dying credit unions, many of which are like wildebeest in the Tanzanian Great Migration, there essentially to be picked off by predators. 

Parse the CUNA Mutual data and just maybe the message is a double edged sword: grow membership, especially the right membership, and success may lie ahead. Or shrink into extinction. 

That is the stark choice in front of today’s credit union executives. 

The 21st Century Credit Union Welcome 

By Robert McGarvey 

for Credit Union 2.0

 

Sign up as a new member at your credit union – or pick any credit union – and what happens? 

Ask yourself a sharper question: what doesn’t happen?  Think hard on that because the future of this new member relationship hangs in the balance. 

Amy Downs, CEO at Allegiance Credit Union, a $260 million institution headquartered in Oklahoma City, has been thinking hard on these very questions and she believes she has found an answer that helps bring her credit union squarely into the 21st century’s digital world. 

Mind you, Amy has worked at Allegiance for many years, 30 in fact. She remembers the new member welcomes of the old days. Back then Allegiance was officed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and it serviced federal employees.  As new workers were onboarded by human resources, they ordinarily were brought by the credit union and of course they got a warm welcome from the credit union employees, recalled Amy. Many of those new employees signed up on the spot.  And why not? They had been sincerely greeted by credit union employees – probably including the president, definitely senior managers. They knew they had a name and face they could seek out down the road if they had an issue they wanted to discuss. 

What bank could match those human faces at the credit union? 

Flashforward to nowadays and what happens when a new member joins a credit union? Increasingly that happens online. Then what? Probably there is a welcome email – and doesn’t that sound warm, friendly and inviting? 

Not. 

Probably, too, there is a welcome packet that arrives by US Mail – along with bunches of postcards from nearby dental offices, solicitations for donations, and maybe a past due notice on an electric bill. 

Credit unions are scrambling – and many are failing – to make good, warm ties with new members. And many of those new members drift away or, even more commonly, they never put more than a few dollars into their credit union account. The bulk of their wallet is at another institution. 

The future for credit unions is terrible – if things stay like this. 

Matters got especially complicated at Allegiance. In 2002, the credit union got a community charter where it now serves people who live or work in the six counties around Oklahoma City. 

In that transition, what was lost was that new employee introduction and that was a powerful moment that set up thousands of strong member – credit union relationships. 

Amy thought on this and then she heard about an alternative.  What she now sends new members is a welcome video in which her smiling face is on camera, offering a sincere happiness that the new member brought Allegiance their business. 

A couple times a week she scans the list of new members and when she recognizes a name, she makes a personal video. When she saw a husband of a close personal friend, she laughingly said in that video, “About time you listened to your wife!” 

But even with the members she doesn’t know, what they see in Amy’s video is a person who is glad to meet them. 

“We are losing our personal touch, all credit unions are,” said Amy.  “Everything has changed. It’s not the way it was, when we were on a first name basis with all our members. Now we have to work at it.” 

When Amy heard about new member welcome videos, she wanted to know more. When she discovered the costs are nominal – she records her own, using a digital video recorder that cost $65 – and the actual time to record is a matter of minutes, she was all in. 

Understand: the video is similar to what would have been an in-person meet and greet with a new member a generation ago. Amy’s videos are in the vicinity of 30 seconds. That matters because our attention spans just aren’t suited to movie-length video welcomes.

The bottomline for Amy and Allegiance: “We have to start marketing in different ways, or credit unions will be left behind.” 

Use the technology that is readily available to forge stronger ties with new members. Welcome videos – absolutely – are a step in that direction. 

Credit Union 2.0 has developed video solutions for new member welcomes – they in fact facilitated the work for Allegiance. For more info, here’s the contact. 

Want to see Amy’s video? Click here. 

Speaker Spotlight: Kirk Drake Helps Credit Unions Connect with Members

by Catalyst Corporate | Mar 20, 2018

Timing is everything, especially when it relates to a credit union’s long-term success, says Kirk Drake, co-founder of CU Wallet, LLC and CU 2.0 strategist. Drake, a featured speaker at Catalyst Corporate’s 2018 Future Forums, believes implementing technologies at the right time is key to a credit union’s sustainability.

“Don’t believe a technologist who tells you they know where innovation will be in three to five years,” said Drake. “It’s impossible to predict where technology will be that far in advance.”

And therein lies the challenge. Credit unions still try. When implementing new technologies and services, credit unions aim for perfection, says Drake. This approach creates long product rollouts and lifecycles before ever introducing members into the process.

“In 3-5 years, the technology that was once brand new is now obsolete,” said Drake. “We’re solving a problem that’s no longer a problem. By the time a strategy is ready to roll out, the wow factor is gone, and you don’t have the first-mover advantage.”

What should credit unions do differently to achieve long-term sustainability?

“The successful brands put things out before they’re ready for primetime. This helps determine trends and interest before betting big,” said Drake.

Drake discusses this approach in his book, CU 2.0: A Guide for Credit Unions Competing in the Digital Age. The “if you build it, they will come” approach is destined to fail, he said, because no one is joining a credit union for what may come. A better user experience will keep more members around, but it’s not going to make people switch financial institutions, he added.

Building that exceptional member experience requires some effort, said Drake. First, credit unions need to understand the needs and wants of their community. “Recognize that the connection point isn’t necessarily the products you think are valuable, but the things members are interested in,” said Drake.

He suggests approaching product and service development like one might approach dating. “It’s not about you. It’s about them,” he said. “Every credit union has a unique story to tell. We need to focus on building relationships in which we seek to understand the problem before we prescribe a solution.”

Second, Drake says to focus on trends, rather than fads, to help better a credit union’s timing. “Credit unions want to be involved in trends. Fads, they don’t,” he said.

“Video is the No. 1 technology trend today,” adds Drake. “But credit unions must be surgical and strategic about its use.” Drake explains that video must be highly personalized and contain relevant information. While credit unions are great at adapting to new technologies like video, they may struggle with deployment.

“Half of the challenge credit unions face is finding the right technology, and half of the challenge is learning how to deploy that technology in an effective way,” he said. “Video is not new technology, but credit unions can learn to use it more effectively.”

Other technologies credit unions should employ include marketing automation, blockchain and voice integration, said Drake.

Conversely, Drake suggests retiring a few technologies. “No one should be using a fax machine anymore,” said Drake. “They don’t deliver a good member experience, and there are better ways to accomplish the same function.”

Drake also believes non-responsive websites and call-tree phone systems are a way of the past. “Let’s hurry up and get rid of old implementations of technology,” he said. “We’re not saving any time. We’re just poking members in the eye.”

For more on this topic, don’t miss Drake’s presentation, “Connecting to Members in a Connected World,” Thursday, Oct. 4, during the payments segment of the Future Forums. To see a complete list of all Future Forums (Economic and Payments) speakers and topics, and to register for the event, visit catalystcorp.org/r/forum.