Having worked with credit unions for a number of years, there’s one thing we can say with certainty: credit unions are excellent at putting people first, but not always! Too often credit unions – along with many organizations in other industries – promote their products and services in a way that meets their own needs, rather than those of the consumer. In other words, they take an organization-first approach to marketing instead of a people-first approach. And this does not bode well, neither for the organization nor the consumer.
By neglecting a people-first approach in marketing, you are giving consumers a reason to at best, ignore your brand, and at worst, form a negative opinion about it. And with today’s consumer firmly in power, the only way to succeed is to prioritize the needs of the consumer.
The good news is implementing a people-first marketing approach doesn’t have to be difficult. And credit unions are at an advantage, considering how well-versed they are in people-first practices. Here’s how your organization can start doing it today.
Advertise For Them, Not At Them
Why do you advertise? Is it for the benefit of your organization? Or for the benefit of potential members? Let’s look at an example: when executing a home loan campaign, is your goal to drive an increase of home loans at your credit union? Or is it to empower as many people as possible to achieve their dream of owning a home?
Already you can see how this shift in thinking changes the way the promotion would play out. By prioritizing the consumer you are able to deliver a message that is far more compelling and relevant to them. Similarly, you are more likely to produce a campaign that is more entertaining and engaging, as you are no longer feeding audiences a dry sales pitch. By giving the consumer more opportunity to relate to your message, they will be more receptive to what you are saying and more motivated to explore what you have to offer.
With this approach, you’re no longer another annoying advertiser that’s interrupting the consumer. You’re a helpful, informative resource offering something of value.
Understand Your Audience
Do you know the preferences and habits of your target audience? Really know them? Be honest here. You might have made some assumptions in the past, but if you don’t have hard and current evidence then you are setting your brand up to fail.
Today, consumer habits and preferences change faster than ever and that means your organization needs to keep up. You need to make a determined effort to analyze your audience – consistently and frequently. It’s no longer viable to choose mediums or channels based on what your organization is comfortable with. You need to be where your target market wants you to be, and the only way to do this is to know how they act, think, and feel.
If you aren’t regularly gathering insights, or if it’s been a while since you’ve done so, there are simple yet effective ways to get started. We highly recommend incentivized surveys, both online and in-branch. A gift card is a good option for generating interest from both existing and potential members, while cost-effective tools like SurveyMonkey allow for seamless insight gathering online. Surveys at least once a year – if not every quarter – ensures you are doing the right thing for your audience and ultimately your organization.
Cut The Self Talk
You might be used to talking HELOC’s, REFI’s, and the benefits of being a member-owned organization all day long, but that doesn’t mean your target market knows what you’re talking about. One of the biggest traps credit unions fall into is ‘talking to themselves’. That is, communicating with common credit union lingo and messaging that many outside the industry would struggle to understand. And with many people still unaware of what a credit union is and how it differs from a bank, this ‘self-talk’ ends up isolating potential members.
To combat this, we suggest talking to someone outside of the industry to get their take. This could be trusted non-members or a professional communications consultancy. Doing this will help you craft a message that appeals to your target consumer, even if they have never heard of a credit union before. Remember: it’s how consumers actually interpret the message that’s important, not how you want them to perceive it.
People-First All The Way
People-first marketing does require a shift in thinking and an adjustment in action. It’s likely you will start doing things differently to what you’re used to, but that can only be a good thing. Delivering value and providing consumers with what they want will only make your credit union stronger, helping to secure your organization’s success for the future. You’re already doing this with the services you provide, isn’t time you started doing it with your marketing, too?