Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Teaching Smart Money Management” column runs the second Tuesday of every month.
Ah, if only it were that simple. Your members have jobs, families, vacations, cooking, cleaning, shopping and lots of other joys and responsibilities. Understandably, financial education isn’t the first thing on their minds. And that’s OK. But you can’t expect to come up with a financial education program and then sit back and wait for members to start using it, because you may be waiting a long time. Turns out that it’s not enough to simply offer financial education. The reality is that you also have to market it.
You can hide money management tidbits in your newsletter, on your Web site, or even in your social media communications. You know, the way a health-conscious parent might try to sneak shredded carrots into a home-made chocolate cake. But one way or another, you need to market financial literacy to your members and your community. The question, of course, is how? So here are some ideas. The key is recognizing that it takes more than having a financial education program in place to get members to use it.
1. Make it a part of your marketing plan. Acknowledge both the importance of financial literacy and the fact that members have a lot of other priorities, so it’ll take some coaxing to get members to participate. Whatever you’re doing for financial literacy, let members know through your newsletter, Web site, e-mail, social media, and direct mail marketing.
2. Watch your language. The word “finance” sounds scary (I won’t understand it anyway, so why bother?) and literacy sounds like I’m an adult who didn’t finish grade school. Use words your members can relate to. Words that sound exciting. Money is better than finance. Smart Spending is better than budgeting.
3. Make it interesting. You can’t expect members to show up for a two-hour class one evening and listen to someone drone on and on. Not only won’t that be effective, but it’ll alienate anyone who comes. Pick your program carefully and make sure it’s engaging, interactive and exciting.
4. Make it free. Keep offering freebies: tip sheets, classes, one-on-one counseling, e-books. Anything that you can call “free for members only” will generate interest.
5. Charge a fee. Yup, this goes against another way of looking at it, but when you charge for your program, you’re communicating that there’s a value to what you’re doing. Perhaps charge for some things, a premium version, but not everything.
6. Run a contest. Competing with others can be more engaging than anything else. And asking members to come up with their own content (for example, compete to create the best video on savings, debt, etc.) is something several credit unions have done successfully.
7. Make it spreadable. If your financial education program is really good, members who use it will have no problem letting others know about it … if you make it easy for them. Before putting a referral program in place, consider whether it has the potential to become viral.
8. Ask for feedback. As you develop the program(s), ask members who participate why they chose to use it. The answers may surprise you, or maybe they won’t. Either way, you’ll know what motivated people to get involved and you’ll know what needs your marketing messages should address.
9. Reward them. Offer incentives, such as lower loan rates, loyalty points, or other goodies for participation.
10. Show them their progress. Everyone loves to see how far they’ve come. Play into that aspect of human nature by offering before and after grading, or by showing members how far they’ve progressed in an all-encompassing, ongoing program.
11. Make them leaders. Ask each member who finishes your program to mentor another member or lead a group. Not only will those members who become teachers retain more, but you’ve recruited an army of volunteers that will help you accomplish more than you ever could alone.
12. Draw it out of them. Run a cartoon and ask members for their feedback. Open a topic for discussion on your blog, Web site or social media. Start a financial book club. Look for ways to involve members in educating themselves.
13. Get creative. For example, instead of spoon-feeding the information to your members, why not give them a list of questions to answer or facts to verify, and have a virtual scavenger hunt? Look for ways outside the box to get members interested and involved.
It’s great that you’re offering members financial education, but it’s not enough. Take steps to see to it that members are using the tools you’ve given them, absorbing the information, retaining it, and implementing it in their lives.
Laura Enock is CEO of CUVA and publisher of www.CUcontent.com, a newsletter and Web site content service for credit unions.