Credit Union Marketing Plan Ideas You Can Use to Make a Difference

Are you putting together your credit union marketing plan for the year? You hash and rehash, trying to work out the best possible mix for the coming year. Maybe your budget is stagnant – or worse, decreasing! How are you going to make a difference? By doing just that.

Make a difference.

Marketing, A Love Story by Bernadette Jiwa, is a terrific book that makes many astute observations that are helpful as you plan. Six of those thoughts provide the framework for this post.

1. How do your potential members want to feel?

Why did so many folks move from banks to credit unions during the Great Recession? Was it just to get lower loan rates? Better mobile platforms? Nope. People switched because they wanted an institution to care about their hard-earned money. I spoke with a friend who couldn’t identify a single difference between a credit union and a bank other than to say she didn’t trust her bank anymore.

“If you want to be the best in the world, don’t start by trying to create the best product or service. Start by figuring out how people want to feel.”

Bernadette Jiwa

In the short term, anyone can beat you at the commodity game. When you take the time to care about your members – and how they feel about you – you will be built for the long haul.


2.  Be who your members want you to be

Pithy sayings can capture eyeballs. Well-written copy is undeniably impactful. They key is to align those marketing messages with your core principles.

I talk with folks all the time about what I do – helping bring money-smart learning (financial literacy) to school-age kids and their families. Virtually everyone intellectually agrees that members want a resource to help their kids. It’s even a core principle of the movement. Yet, programs are often “back burnered” in favor of commodities.

Instead of forging new ground and providing something potential long-term benefit, institutions take a mercenary approach. They decide to compete head-to-head with commodities. The differentiator – we’re a little bit better than them. Commodity products are essential. But is that tiny incremental difference a differentiator?

I recently spoke with a credit union marketer who said his budget hadn’t increased so he wouldn’t be able to implement the program we had been discussing and which he loved. “Do you think you might have a marketing program that either isn’t working or is only marginally effective that perhaps you could replace with a youth marketing and education program?”

Almost without hesitation, he replied, “Yes. I think I do.”

Are your current marketing programs the ones your members care about?

3. Experiences matter

By way of example, think about the feeling a mom will have when she leaves your credit union knowing that her son or daughter has now embarked on the process of learning to become money-smart at an early age. Can you imagine how empowering that will make her child feel? How empowered she will feel?

“People pay for the intangible value, for what they experience and what they care about.”

Bernadette Jiwa

Your well-trained staff, invigorated by the materials of a well-supported program, communicates your credit union’s commitment to this one woman’s child. How do you think she is going to feel about your brand when she walks out the door?

Now think about her receptivity to your message when you discuss a home loan or mobile banking with her.

“In a world where everything is a tap or a click away, what matters is not what is bought or sold, but HOW it’s delivered, and how that made someone feel as she walked out the door.”

Bernadette Jiwa

4.  Spending money on marketing campaigns to increase sales is fleeting

If you watch the show Shark Tank, you’ve seen Mark Cuban dress down the entrepreneur promoting sales generated by PR. Cuban shakes his head dismissively, explaining the temporary nature of those sales. What’s the plan for the long haul?

“…if the only way you can get sales to go up is to spend money on a campaign to make sales go up, then you’re going to have to keep spending money on campaigns to make sales go up.”

Bernadette Jiwa

Make sure your campaigns are created in the context of your greater goals. And your goals must align with your institutional principles. Year end is a good time to review all of your campaigns in this context.

5. Find a way to matter to your members and prospective members

Take another look at your credit union marketing plan. Think about it through the lens of your members and prospective members. Is what you’re doing going to matter to them?

“We are at our very best when we see the world through the eyes of the person we’re trying to matter to.”

Bernadette Jiwa

Find initiatives that are going to make you jump out of bed in the morning to get started helping folks. Make a difference and your mornings won’t come soon enough.

6. Always Remember Rule #6

For the last point, I reference another: 

“Don’t take yourself too damn seriously”

Ben Zander

The quote comes from The Art of Possibility by Ben and his wife, Rosalyn. Another terrific read. This rule #6 helps to remind us that although we may do serious work, we must maintain a lightness to put all of it in perspective.

“Marketing is usually billed as that icky thing you have to do to sell more tins of beans, to get attention for your work, your business or your cause, and the only reason to care about it is because it’s how you survive.”

Bernadette Jiwa

Remembering Rule #6 can help reduce the “ickyness” by helping us stand above the fray and focus on answering an important question with everything we do:

“Why will someone care about this?”

Bernadette Jiwa

I hope this post has been helpful and that you can get at least one good takeaway to improve your credit union marketing and to perhaps help you make a difference.

Good luck.