The Elusive Big Bang for the Marketing Buck Spent!

A suggested definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I believe we all have traveled down this road in one manner or another...especially when it comes to marketing, what traditionally was considered credit union core products and services, such as credit cards, checking accounts, equity loans...etc.

In today's market; do credit unions enjoy a competitive advantage offering these products and services? To help better develop an accurate response...let's look at the following questions.

  • What do you consider core products and services today?
  • Do you have an accurate current member profile?
  • Do you use a MCIF (Marketing Customer Information File) program to help you segment and identify members and their potential needs?
  • What delivery channel(s) do you use to market to your members?
  • Why do you expect a member to buy or use your product or service?
  • Who is your competition for these products and services?
  • Is your product or service better when compared to the competition?

These questions are a good starting point to determine if you understand your membership and whether your current products and services are relevant in today's marketplace. The pivotal word is relevant and in too many cases the answer to that question is...I think so or I don't know! Unfortunately, if your answer is one of these, you are probably not realizing the elusive "Biggest Bang for the Marketing Dollars Spent" or more simply put...you may be wasting valuable marketing dollars! With today's super thin margins, it is not cost effective or responsible for a credit union to attempt to buy market share. If you have not evaluated whether the products and services you offer your members are profitable and important and benefit your members and your credit union...then it is safe to say you may be wasting money.

Today with the fierce competition for wallet share it is more important than ever for you to know your membership. To gather knowledge that is accurate and useful requires an individual with highly developed skills to interrogate a database and extract and analyze member data and then present the true potential of that data to the decision makers. Research can also identify possible trends that may lead to new products and services. Regardless whether the research shows a single or multiple new products; you have to decide if your credit union can offer this new product or service in a cost effective manner that will benefit your member and credit union and possibly earn the classification as a new foundation product or service.

Historically, very few financial institutions could not or chose not to compete with credit unions on what was considered a credit union core or foundation product. Now, do you know what will be the new credit union foundation products or services? Really no one can definitively say what these will be across all markets...however, you can no longer operate in a vacuum or as suggested; continue to market the same products and services, in the same manner and expect different results. With differentiation being the marketing buzz word... how much difference is your credit union able to offer in these new products and services that would make them attractive enough for your members to use? Or are you basing the success of program on member loyalty?

Never the less, once a potential new product or service is identified; is your organization positioned to use the best delivery channels to maximize marketing dollars you spend? If you do not have an accurate member profile, you will not know what your typical member looks like or reacts to today and more importantly, what marketing channel is most likely to produce positive results. In other words; not knowing your member profile relegates you to market in the same "one size fits all" manner...promoting products and services to your entire membership without regard to whether they need or can use what you are promoting...this approach squanders marketing dollars.

Maybe your credit union does not use a MCIF program or does not have a current accurate member profile...does this mean you cannot successfully market to your membership? Certainly not! However, you need to know where do you look for help? You may find the true credit union spirit of "people helping people" by asking another credit union for help that may have more experience in this area. You might ask your state association for help and please; do not forget your membership. You may have a member with marketing experience willing to help "their" credit union.

If you cannot find a cost free solution to your marketing challenges...you always have the option to hire an outside source. However, before you sign any service agreement; do a thorough due diligence check on the possible choices and work with the firm that best fits your credit union's budget and needs.

Cos Manzo