Are financial services a necessary evil or a commodity?

Are you a commodity?

Is it any wonder the public does not know there is a difference between credit unions and banks?

To the average consumer, financial services are often seen as a necessary evil, or at best, a commodity — something pretty much the same quality no matter where you get it, and sold by such a large group of providers that choosing which one to use becomes a matter of convenience or the lowest cost.

With only 5.6% of all assets of all financial institutions, credit unions are barely on the average consumer’s radar of FIs. And even when they are, banks and credit unions often look the same. Both offer the same basic products: savings, checking, credit cards, auto and home loans. Both have brick and mortar locations with drive-thru windows and a few ATMs. Both have similar rules and similar “gotcha” fees when you don’t follow the rules.

Even the term “Banking” has become a generic word so commonly used to describe the activities involved that many credit unions aptly use it as a shorthand description of what they offer in order to be more easily understood by their market.

So how do you stand out from the competition? How do you become more than a commodity?

By not being the same as everyone else.

Tell them what you stand for. If people knew as much about you as you think they should, they’d already be a member. Find a Central Emotional Message that resonates with your audience and build it into your long-term marketing plan. Then keep focusing on that message. When you are getting tired of it, your audience is just beginning to hear it. When you are getting sick of it, your audience is just beginning to believe it.

Show them what you believe. Actions reinforce what you say. Build an active partnership with your potential membership based on community involvement. Hire staff that are involved with their communities and make that involvement part of their job.

Listen to what they want. Stop reciting the rules before you hear what they say. Then provide the ideas, products, resources and opportunities they need.

Welcome them into your world. Make it easy to be a member, make it beneficial to be a member, thank them for becoming a member, and do everything you can to not drive them away.

Kent Dicken

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