By Wendy Beswick – October 26, 2018
This article originally appeared on CUInsight.com.
Credit unions serve a vital purpose in the economy, providing the only real alternative for consumers in an increasingly monopolized lending environment. Financial services is also in the midst of a quiet revolution, thanks to technology and innovation from new market entrants, in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago. How can your credit union differentiate itself and compete? Purpose marketing revolves around an organization’s greater purpose, going beyond selling a product. This is crucial for credit unions now – it’s how marketers today can showcase what their credit unions do for their membership and communities.
While many financial products are marketed almost exclusively on rates and pricing, this causes a “race to the bottom” that ignores the broader goals of the consumer and the purpose of credit unions. Banks have sacrificed customer service, eliminated physical branches and resorted to ever-higher fees in this rate-based competition, all the while ignoring the individual needs of their communities and members.
I passionately believe that credit unions are different, each existing primarily to serve the needs of their local area and member base. Our mission statements are critically different from those of publicly traded banks that exist to enhance profits. We provide loans to families and businesses that banks might never consider, and we recirculate our profits back into the communities we serve.
Many marketing departments perform an admirable job at promoting their credit unions’ products but could do more to inform non-members of their overall purpose. After all, when one becomes a member of a credit union, they are not a customer, but rather, a part of an operation with a bigger purpose that transcends rates and pricing, with an organization that will have a life-long impact on their friends, families and communities.
Our members are ready to hear this message: research shows Millennials and Gen-Z’ers connect deeply to the brands they support through purpose. Additionally, many Millennials are using non-traditional forms of banking – such as digital-only banks – and this is where credit unions can make a huge difference. These are the next generation of our members who understand that the economy is about more than money, and society emerges from the communities it comprises. Marketing departments now have the opportunity to showcase the values of their credit unions and create deep, lifelong relationships with their local members.
Here are my top 3 tips on marketing with a purpose:
- Go Beyond Rate Reductions – You should have a balance of product and brand messaging/promotions within your marketing plan. There is a seasonality to when product pushes make sense. Schedule those and blend your messaging. If you aren’t able to go pure brand and push purpose, blend the two. Ensure your mission, vision and your credit union’s DNA are blended into your messaging. Making that emotional connection with today’s generations is critical to success.
- Quality Over Quantity – The content game is not what it used to be and everyone is publishing content 24/7. Determine what is going to work for you and your team. The core social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are still workhorses for SEO, blogging and getting your message out to the public. Develop a content strategy and find your secret sauce. What makes your credit union unique in a crowded marketplace? How can you help both your members and your non-members save money? According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, despite low unemployment and a strong stock market, Americans today are saving only 3.8% of their disposable income compared to 6% in 2015.
- Member Experience – Marketing has to work up, down and across the organization to be successful and be included in strategy and experience initiatives. Working closely with your retail division and other areas that impact member experience such as online banking, mobile and in-branch will drive a stronger experience for your members from a messaging and brand perspective if you have a seat at the table.
Purpose-driven marketing matches the DNA of what credit unions do and why they exist. Think about how you can get your members involved in your mission. If we all drive more purpose-driven marketing, our industry will only become stronger. These are just a few tips to get your message out in a stronger way and to be heard by your members and non-members in your community.