it's time for some new ways of thinking

It’s a new decade, and it’s time for some new ways of thinking. We sat down and made a list of 20 Monster Ideas we’d like credit union marketers to ponder as we head into 2020.

Here are the first ten ways to pump up differentiation, connect with the next generation, break out of your rut, get smarter, and kick off a monster 2020.

Stayed tuned next week for the other ten!

1. Charge a membership fee. Then give it back.

Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club, and many others charge an annual membership fee, and guess what? Millions of people pay gladly because they get a great return on their investment. And paying a fee brings people closer – they use membership services more because they want to maximize their benefit. So go ahead, think unthinkable thoughts – what could you do if each member paid an annual $50 membership fee? (In a CU with 20,000 members, that’s a million bucks.) How could you make sure every member gets far more value than that back?

2. Bring back member dividends

Back in the old days, most CUs took their “excess earnings” (AKA profits) at the end of each year, divided them up and returned then directly to their members as membership dividends. It’s never a lot of money, of course, but it makes a tangible impact far beyond the dollar amount – hey, we really are different. This ain’t no bank. And actually, member dividends are seeing a resurgence in the last few years. So run the numbers and ponder the power of showing your members in the most direct way possible “Hey, we really are not-for-profit, and you really are an owner. Really.”

3. Banish NSF fees

Here’s another unthinkable thought to ponder. Yes, at most credit unions non-sufficient funds fees are avoidable for most members most of the time. But these fees are still out there. It’s time to reconsider kicking your members when they’re down, and it’s time to reap the brand and marketing benefits. Dare to dream up ways you can manage risk while better serving members who make an oopsie. Compounding a mistake just isn’t very credit union-ish.

4. Introduce a weird new product or service

Car loans and checking accounts are boring. What if you dig deep into your members’ lives and fill some ultra-local, super-specific need no one else is willing to consider? Even if you don’t see a ton of takers, you’ll demonstrate to absolutely everyone that your credit union is flexible, innovative, and deeply in tune with their lives and values. You can do a lot with fresh labels on regular old products; for example, a Podunk High School Band Trip Loan, Deer Season Savings Account, or Snowbird Special Checking.

5. Electrify your auto lending

Electric vehicles are Officially a Big Deal, no matter where you live. What’s your plan for the EV future? Many major manufacturers are committing to going all-electric over the next several years, and Tesla is finally seeing some serious competition. EVs change the transportation cost and finance equation. Make sure you keep up.

6. Make a marketing and PR disaster plan

It’s never fun to think about things going wrong (unless you’re pondering a zombie apocalypse or insolvent aliens landing next to a branch). But disaster planning isn’t just some pile of paper those folks over in operations have to put together. Marketing means communication, and communicating with your members is a vital part of dealing with any sort of mess. Marketing must be deeply involved in all disaster planning, and make sure you add and plan for some gloomy scenarios of your own.

7. Sign up 20% more 20-somethings

Attracting younger members is absolutely crucial to every credit union’s future growth. The 20-somethings now in college and starting their careers really are fundamentally different than their parents. Get to know them, bust out of your marketing silo and commit to the new generation with products, policies and services that work better for them.

8. Stop tolerating your crappy website

Seriously. WAAAAYYYYY too many credit unions still have websites that positively reek of Ye Olde Ancient Days of 2016. If your website isn’t accessible, mobile-first, simplified, sleek, super-fast, SEO-ed, responsive, driving your digital marketing, and adapting itself to every user, you’re losing truckloads of members and potential members (including lots of those coveted 20-somethings). An updated website is an absolute screaming, slam-dunk bargain compared to just about anything else. And it’s just not optional in 2020.

9. Get hyper-local

Credit unions are fundamentally local. How can you turn that up to 11? Get to know and love your city and your community more. Go to live concerts, art shows, tractor pulls, or halloween zombie runs. Hit the farmer’s market for some great locally grown veggies and weird pickles. What can you personally and your credit union do to find more of that local flavor, passion and connection?

10. Get out of town 20% more

Attend at least one new credit union marketing conference. Of course, you’ll learn a thing or three and come back with lots of new ideas. But spending time with fellow credit union fans is a fantastic way to reinvigorate and recharge your own CU energy.

Stay tuned next week for part two!

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