you may have to first change the way you work

Are you marketing inside out?

Traditionally, marketers have worked inside out, isolating themselves from the rest of the world, all alone in their office bubble, dreaming up concepts and doing their creative voodoo, then broadcasting it out into the world and crossing their fingers in hope of reaching a few receptive ears.

But what if you were marketing outside in?

What if you could attract people rather than interrupt them? What if members helped you build the products they wanted, and were so happy you listened that they invited other people to join?

From Twitter to Facebook to Angies List, it is the power of the community that makes it grow and thrive. All those people entering all their observations, comments and reviews that build up a rich, central resource of information that becomes more valuable as it grows through participation.

What if your credit union was viewed as a central community resource for all things financial? After all, as a CU you are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this switch in orientation since you are a cooperative owned by your members and founded on the principle of “people helping people.” So philosophically it even fits nicely. It just may not be easy.

Because you may have to first change the way you work:

Burst your bubble.

Instead of working alone, you need to open your door. Even better, leave your office and do some legwork. Get to know your front line staff and ask their opinions in a format that makes them comfortable – for some that may be face-to-face interviews (although we’ve found more real honesty with online responses). Invite feedback on your products and policies. Include management in collecting the information or at least be sure all of management listens to the responses. Then do the same for your members, and use this information to build richer profiles of their needs and preferences. If you can’t take any of these steps yourself, work with your agency or consultant.

Build a community.

Every successful community has a sense of belonging, a central belief or benefit; a “Sense of Community” according to experts McMillan & Chavis. The four elements they claim make up a community include: Membership (boundaries, sense of belonging, personal investment), Influence (members feel they have influence, the group provides cohesion), Integration and Fulfillment (members feel rewarded for participation) and Shared Emotional Connection (shared history and participation).

Sounds like the definition of a credit union to me.

But not all CUs are communities, regardless of what it says on their charter. So how do you turn your CU into a community? As you have gathered your research with your members, keep in contact with those who offer ideas. Let them help you build the products that will help them the most. Pick their brains as to what excites them and you have the selling points to include in your marketing (and share with your agency). Make this a regular part of your member communication and watch how many of them become active recruiters for membership.

Let it grow.

What other tools and services can you provide to become their central financial resource? Is it financial education, youth or school programs, seminars? Is it providing links to other trusted experts that can help your members in ways you cannot? Is it building products that allow your members the opportunity to support the community directly?

Go ahead, flip your marketing to outside in.

The best part of changing from inside out to outside in is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Your members and staff will be working with you to discover what is important to the community, to assist you in implementing these new programs, and to help you deliver a wonderful new brand promise.

Kent Dicken

CEO/El Queso Grande of iDiz. When not designing logos or consulting with clients, Kent is likely renovating a community park, repairing the 115-year old home of iDiz, or growing hops and brewing craft beer.