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Marketing strategies for small credit unions

October 29, 2014 -- Eager to expand your member base and spread the word about your products and services? As a small credit union, you’re probably wondering if you should even bother with marketing a program if you don't have thousands of dollars to spend? The answer, of course, is yes. It's financially riskier not to market your credit union. Further there are many cost-effective ideas you can use to get your name out.

Below are some marketing tips and strategies to help small credit unions create an effective marketing plan that don't cost a bundle and that can work for most any small credit union.

All credit unions are unique – from their product and service offerings, member demographics to the daily challenges they face. Accordingly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to market your products and services. When creating an effective marketing strategy, credit unions must consider their business goals, membership base, member demographics, the local environment, and other characteristics that make up the uniqueness of their credit union.

To get started with creating an effective marketing strategy, consider forming a marketing committee to develop a marketing plan that correlates with the credit union’s mission and business and strategic plans. The plan should include the goals of what you want to accomplish. The marketing plan should include a marketing budget indicating the type of communications channels that will be used (i.e. direct mail, social media (free), electronic e-mail, radio, network television, cable television, and newspaper advertising).

Below are additional best practices to incorporate into the marketing plan:

  • Know your members and have an understanding of the demographics of your membership. Understand the expectations of Generation Y, Baby Boomers, Seniors and Generation X in your current and potential membership and how to market to each of these groups. For example, social media is the best way to communicate with younger prospects and members, while more traditional forms of marketing may work better for more mature members. To reach unique demographic groups, have a presence at community events celebrating their cultures, such as the Asian Festival and Hispanic Heritage Fair. Of course utilize resources available at the credit union such as lobby space with promotional posters and brochures, as well as stuffers in monthly statements. Create a membership packet that includes a membership application and list of products and services and consider that it may need to be bi-lingual.
  • Get involved in your community. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend their networking events and bring business cards and credit union brochures. Develop a partnership with a local non-profit and collect donations at the credit union from your membership. Have an open house at the credit union and send invitations to community organizations and local businesses. Let them know what you do and what makes your credit unique. Forge strong relationships with human resources departments of local business and ask them to invite you to new employee orientations, and other events.
  • Establish and maintain a good working relationship with the local media. Get to know the reporters and make sure they know you and your credit union. Provide them positive stories relating to community impact made by way of your credit union’s service. If possible, tie your story to a trend or item of local interest.
  • Understand that your employees are your best ambassadors. Having an articulate and informed employee base is essential to the success of your credit union. Be sure they understand the mission of your credit union and why prospects should join. Develop written sales/cross-selling programs and expectations for credit union staff and volunteers. Investigate “hiring” a low-cost or no cost college intern to lead a marketing campaign. NCUA periodically offers student internship grants to low-income designated credit unions.

Much of the information included in this piece came from a recent complimentary booklet commissioned by the NCUA’s Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives titled, “Marketing Tips, Techniques and Tools for Credit Unions with Limited Resources.” So for more in-depth information as well as additional marketing tools provided in the booklet, visit the Resources tab at NCUA’s Web site.