May 20, 2010
Credit Union Management magazine’s “Inside Marketing” column runs the third Thursday of every month.
Surveying most marketing folks today regarding the best way to advertise their wares or attract their target audience, nine out of 10 will most likely say fostering word of mouth from end users is tops. For credit unions, motivating your members to become your ambassadors is the Holy Grail of marketing. There’s really no better way to promote your organization than an objective referral. But how do you get to the point where your members start talking about you and referring you without any prodding? How do you build value and trust that will trigger them to act autonomously to champion your credit union?
Well, step one is to provide a quality product or service—and credit unions are slowly but surely bringing in the latest technology products to level the playing field to compete. Step two, back it all up with bend-over-backwards member support. We all know this industry is second-to-none in that department. So wouldn’t it seem simple enough to succeed? Easier said than done because you can't please everybody—no matter how hard you try. But there is one thing you can do that will please members and attract prospects: Educate them.
You're an expert in your field, right? So why aren't you educating your members, providing them with your experienced financial insight? Instead of showering them with messages of how great a particular product or service is (a blatantly biased message), politely and practically educate them on how they can experience a better life with a bit of valuable insight from your credit union. Believe me, they will appreciate it. And believe me, your peers are already doing it.
Here are a few “educational” ideas for your members:
- 5 Tips on Better, Safer Investing
- 6 Steps to Buying Your Dream Home
- 4 Money Saving Means to a Robust Retirement
- How to Set a Monthly Budget and Stick With It
- 7 College Savings Strategies That Won’t Break Your Budget
- Today’s Top 10 Mortgage Packages That Fit Your Needs
There are hundreds of these types of ideas to promote. And they don’t necessarily always have to be delivered as written content in the member newsletter or a local newspaper article, although these media are a great start. You can use many channels to deliver targeted messages to your members to foster your value and build their trust:
- expert videos posted on your Web site,
- a series of blog posts,
- free seminars on a Saturday morning with a financial expert who provides free advice at your credit union,
- a daily e-mail advice alert, or
- a simple direct mail piece that accompanies a statement.
People are always clamoring for financial advice. Why do you think the financial and “do it yourself” sections at the Barnes & Noble are always crowded on the weekends? The masses are hungry for this information. They need help. Turning your credit union into the bookstore’s helpful financial section will turn your members into loyalists and, ultimately, ambassadors who spread your word. You’ve helped them out and made their lives better. Subsequently, they’re going to tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends—and you know the rest.
Time and time again, this educational angle far outweighs the sales angle. Your members will appreciate the practical insight provided to them, whether it's advice relating to investments, loans, mortgages, collections, taxes, etc. They can then incorporate this knowledge into their lives for a better existence. And, even better, they can hand down this data to their children or pass it on to friends. As a result of this knowledge transfer, friends and family can become potential members, which, obviously, benefits your credit union. This is word-of-mouth advertising at work. This information exchange only enhances your credit union’s value in retaining members and gaining new ones.
In the end, this education provides member trust—which ultimately leads to a sale. Who doesn't want to do business with somebody they trust? It's all about developing that trustworthy relationship and nurturing it to create an ambassador who will sing your song—which results in the perfect promotion. It all starts with a non-threatening, helpful, educational message that will make an empowered member’s life better. Try it.
Mike Lawson, principal of the PR/marketing firm DML Communications, has two decades of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. His unique and robust knowledge allows him to meet the varied needs of editors, end-users and clients. Lawson's expertise enables him to enhance his clients' market exposure through media relations, social media tools, advertising efforts, target marketing strategies and more. He also speaks on PR, marketing and media issues to audiences nationwide. For more info, visit www.dmlcommunications.com.