Originally published in Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Inside Marketing” column runs the third Thursday of the month.
There’s a giant ocean wave that breaks on the north side of Maui each fall and winter called Pe’ahi (PAY-ah-HEE). It’s a wave so big that it would crush most credit union headquarters, leaving little left in its wake. It has been nicknamed “Jaws” by the locals because of its immense power and ferocity.
But we’re not here to discuss how Mother Nature can destroy man-made structures with one swipe of her hand; we’re here to discuss how this massive wall of saltwater can transform your credit union – metaphorically, of course. You see, everything has a “give and take”: relationships, exercise, business, food, weather, and, yes, waves.
Amazingly, surfers ride these 60-foot behemoths, skirting death each time they even try to catch one – let alone surf one.
What the wave, Pe’ahi in this case, “gives” is that life-changing experience for the surfer: a) hopefully surviving, b) hopefully riding one (successfully), and c) ultimately getting to tell all his/her buddies about it boosting their big wave riding cred. These are “takes” for the surfer. Conversely, the surfers’ “gives” to the wave are respect, reputation, and a boatload of gratitude. Lastly, we pray that Pe’ahi doesn’t experience any “takes” – if you know what I mean.
Ok, let’s get out of the water and into your credit union.
Credit unions already give a lot to members: Low rates, free checking, nationwide ATM access through shared branching, mobile and online access to accounts and friendly staff. But what about financial guidance? Are you a resource for them? Are you their go-to money expert?
Most members won’t need more than transactions. But do you want to stick to that superficial relationship? In this day of social media, is that all you want to be?
Social media can be great for sharing interest rate specials, quick product promos or your CU’s funny TV commercial. I’m a big fan of social media and its real-time communication capabilities. But can you use the unique two-way conversation opportunities that social media sites provide to give members more empowering information? For every promotional post you make, try making two educational posts. Try how-to articles on such topics as retirement savings, investing, budget tips, etc.
But don’t just save the how-tos for social media. Think of ways to incorporate your financial resources into all touchpoints. What is your new member account opening process? You get them set up with a checking and savings account, right? Provide a list of ATM and branch locations, certainly. Ask about refinancing loans (I hope!). When you’re handing them that pile of brochures, why not also include an article about building wealth?
When a member applies for an auto loan (take), you could give articles about car shopping and a list of reputable mechanics.
When a member applies for a mortgage loan (take), you could give articles about the home buying process, what appraisals are all about, information about local schools and neighborhoods, plus lists of realtors and movers.
Here’s the real take: Consumers out there in any asset category want financial assistance. And there are lots of ways you can give it.
$64 million/12,500-member Natco Credit Union, Richmond, Ind., recently opened a Community Empowerment Center, using funds it received via a Community Development Financial Institution grant. This CEC is a financial resource center to help consumers who have been hit hard by the economic downturn that devastated the area’s businesses. Natco CU has proactively constructed this center to give back to its community. In return, the CU hopes to gain a few more members who can use its other services to help regain their financial footing. Can you say “reciprocity”?
Here’s another example. At $218 million/35,000-member Pelican State Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge, La., every employee is certified as a financial counselor. The CU’s CEO Jeff Conway, a CUES member, explains in this YouTube video why the made this step. The CU’s membership was struggling in the bad economy and they needed help. “Empower everyone” is the CU’s slogan, he says. “Being able to assist the member, that’s what it is all about … We want to be the credit union that is there to assist them.” Now, each employee is qualified to provide that assistance to members at every touch point. The credit union is truly a financial resource to its members.
Your competitors are all great at transactions. But when you can be a financial resource, you can set yourself apart and be the trusted advisor that keeps members coming back.
And, again, like Pe’ahi, there is a boatload of gratitude. This give and take creates a need to go back. When surfers survive and thrive there, they have this digging desire to go back again and again for that addictive, life-changing experience. The reputation subsequently grows.
Don’t you want that for your credit union?