Which would you prefer:
You use print, radio, TV, and banner ads to attract new members and market specific products and services.
You let eligible, already-interested parties come to you for those same products, services, and membership benefits.
Those options represent the difference between outbound and inbound marketing. Of course, you don’t have to choose between them. You can (and should) use both methods. But if your credit union is interested in inbound marketing—and letting leads and prospective members seek you out—then this primer should help.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing leverages content such as blogs, videos, case studies, and social media to attract leads and capture new business. Search engine optimization (SEO) makes the content easy to find online.
As people search for answers to their questions, businesses preemptively answer those questions in their content. That content starts as a helpful resource for the searcher, and the company that posted it begins establishing trust.
That content should then point to other related, informative content. Content becomes a trail of breadcrumbs, leading people toward specific solutions.
Content marketing reaches fewer people than traditional marketing efforts. However, content is usually found organically by the person searching for it. Thus, content marketing ensures that the people reading your content are already interested in your product, service, or offer.
The leads you’ll get through content marketing have essentially qualified themselves. They are higher quality leads overall.
Why Inbound Marketing? Does It Work?
People don’t buy things the way they used to. There’s so much information readily available on the internet that most folks do their research and shopping from the comfort of their own home. So, the buyer’s journey has changed, and inbound marketing is a reflection of that change.
Chances are that you’ve purchased something in the last five years that you discovered through your own web searches. And, if your research wasn’t answered through Reddit, Quora, Yahoo Answers, or the like, then you read inbound marketing content.
But why try inbound marketing? Well, it costs a lot to acquire new members. And once you get new members, you have to make sure they stick around. Chasing down leads and marketing to disinterested strangers is tough work. Wouldn’t it be easier to grow your credit union if eligible prospects came to you of their own accord?
But does it work?
Today, 70–90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before they talk to sales. They’ve already decided that they want a product or service, but they haven’t decided on the specifics.
For example, when shopping for a new smartphone, you might…
- Look at what your provider offers on their app or website
- Read online reviews about the best smartphones available
- Compare features across several different models
- Look for any discounts, sales, coupons, or offers
- Walk into the store with a good idea of which model you want (down to the color). You may ask the sales rep if they’ve heard anything that would make you reconsider. Or they might steer you toward a model that they think might better fit your needs.
By the time you reach that last step, you already took yourself through most of the sales process. You learned enough from online content to feel comfortable making your decision. You might even purchase online without ever speaking to sales.
So yes, inbound marketing works.
Inbound Marketing for Credit Unions
We mentioned shopping for a new smartphone above. It’s something we’ve all done, so it’s an easy example. But obviously there are differences between buying electronics and joining a credit union or applying for a mortgage, right?
Well, not exactly.
For credit unions, inbound marketing means prospective members already know a lot about you:
- Where your closest branches are
- What your monthly fees are for the account types they want
- How your credit cards compare to the competition
- What kind of loan terms they can expect (if that’s what they’re after)
They’ve probably found most of what they want to know about you on your website. What they want after that research is to move forward with confidence. They want to know they’re keeping their money and their future with people they can trust.
Your credit union can get a head start on building that trusting relationship through content. Your content should be insightful and informative. By the time a prospective member meets you, they should feel like they know you.
The process remains basically the same for a member or prospective member looking for a particular loan type. They probably already know your rates and how they compare to other loan rates in the area.
Whatever products or services you offer, you must assume that interested people have already done their research. They’ve read articles, reviews, and how-to guides. And, if you provide those guides, you have better control over what they read—and who they trust during their research process.
How to Get Started with Inbound Marketing
Getting started with inbound marketing is (relatively) easy. Here are a few steps to building a sustainable inbound marketing strategy for your credit union.
1. Commit to it
Inbound marketing attracts high-quality leads and moves them through sales funnels. But SEO content is a very competitive space. It might take weeks or even months before you start ranking well in search engine results. Some content might never really succeed.
That doesn’t mean it’s not working, though. We often advise our partners that inbound marketing often takes about six months before you see the results you want. That means you need to commit to inbound marketing as a strategy. Give it a full year. If you really try but you still see no results, then it might be time to rethink your strategy.
2. Strategize your content
Inbound marketing works best with some kind of overarching strategy. It’s not good enough to simply write once about a product or service and be done with it. You’ll want to cover every possible angle to answer every conceivable question a prospect has. And then you’ll need to do that with every product or service that you want to market.
Your marketing team should figure out which products and services you want to promote. Then, brainstorm what kind of questions a prospective buyer/member would have about them. From there, put together a timeline of when you want to start publishing each piece of content.
Posting weekly is good. Posting several times per week is better. As a credit union, you might even aim to post new content daily.
3. Find someone to own it
Identify someone who likes writing, because they’ll need to do a lot of it. They may also need to source content from other employees or credit union subject matter experts. Managing a single brand’s content and content strategy can easily be a full-time job.
This person may also be in charge of learning SEO optimization. They’ll need to research keywords, competitors, and what the best performing content looks like.
It’s important to find someone to own the process. Your credit union’s inbound marketing project will quickly fall apart if nobody takes responsibility for it.
4. Start writing
Inertia has killed more projects than ineptitude ever will. Don’t let inertia win.
Especially when you’re starting out, it’s okay to make mistakes. You’ll learn from those mistakes, and you can always edit blogs down the line. If you follow step 1 (commit to it), you’ll quickly see what works and what doesn’t. The quality of your content will improve over time.
If writing your own content is hard, consider outsourcing some of it. You can visit our CU 2.0 Marketing Strategists page for fresh, shareable content daily. You might also consider hiring an agency to create content for you. (Note: CU 2.0 provides this service as part of our marketing automation platform for credit unions.)
5. Promote your content
As a credit union, you already enjoy tens of thousands of visitors to your website per month. Maybe you get more. Consequently, search engines will assume your content is authoritative, giving you a leg up over competitors’ content.
But that’s not always enough. Your content will be far more successful if you promote it. Post it on your social media accounts. Send out newsletters inviting people to check out your blog or other news from the week.
If you drive traffic to your content shortly after publishing it, search engines will pay attention, and you’ll be more likely to feature on the front page of search results.
6. Analyze and follow up
Using Google Analytics and other tools, you should be able to track visitor activity on your website. You should know:
- Who is visiting
- How they found you (search engine, social media, email, etc.)
- If they’re a member already
- Which pages they viewed
- How long they viewed each page
- Any other pages they visited
That information might just sate your curiosity. It might also give you a better idea about what kind of content and promotion work best. And, if you use marketing automation, you can start sending individualized content to people based on their interests and browsing history to move them further down the funnel.
The Thrilling Conclusion
In a nutshell, inbound marketing changes the entire marketing approach. Inbound marketing uses content to help inform people about specific services. It might answer frequently asked questions, address pros and cons, introduce pertinent news, and offer perspectives on a marketing offer.
Then, that content is made readily available online. People who are interested in reading it can access it at their leisure—everyone else is spared the spam.
In this sense, inbound marketing works on the principle that you don’t need a big audience—you just need the right audience. And if you create useful content, the right audience will find you.
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