A few tips for balancing strategy with resources to get the biggest bang

Bracing yourself for CU budget season

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is beaker-eek.gif

All across the land, credit union marketers are polishing up their crystal balls, sharpening their pencils, and gearing up to face the most fearsome beast of all: next year.

Following are a few tips for balancing strategy with resources to get the biggest bang for your members’ hard-earned bucks — and your time and energy.

Think more like a CEO

That is, think in terms of long-term high-level strategy and the best tactics and plans for getting you there. If you start by counting the number of pens and brochures used this year, you’re grabbing the job from the wrong end.

Where does your Board want the numbers to go in the next five years, and how do you get them there? What are the big transformations coming up and underway? What are the big threats you’ll watch for, and potential opportunities to hope for and seize? If you don’t keep your focus on that sky-high, long-range vision, you can’t make progress; you’ll just end up repeating whatever you did last year, and hoping for the best.

Plan to change the plan

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that everything can change in an instant. Part of every good strategy and budget is a process for regular review, and for spotting and reacting to new challenges and opportunities.

There will be times when something’s just not working, or there’s an unexpected challenge, and you’ll need to cut the losses and re-allocate on the fly. Be ready for that.

Plan for good stuff, too — what happens if you meet your growth goals early? Do you just sort of stop there, or do you invest more resources to make the most of the opportunities?

Budget time and attention, not just money

This one’s key; with who you have on hand and their skills and time, can you realistically get everything done with the time and attention on tap? Don’t fall into the DIY trap and try to do everything in-house.

Enlist experienced, CU-savvy partners like iDiz to help you develop strategy and get everything done. We’ve helped lots of small CU marketing departments expand and extend their marketing capabilities.

Budget big for your website

If we have one piece of specific budget advice it’s this: invest in your website. Just launched a revamp this year? Evolve and fine-tune and make it even better next year. Got any pain points with keeping your website updated and fresh? It’s past time for a fix. Credit union websites should be in a state of continuous improvement. If your vendor or website platform can’t keep up, it’s past time for a change.

Bring some focus and funds to content and social media

Focus on the things you can realistically do well in social media, then invest the time, attention, and funds to do them right and to get some results, and learn. If blogging and Facebook are your thing, maybe it’s time to drop Twitter and double down on blogging, repurposing content for Facebook, boosting, and buying ads. The right mix is different for every CU, and you’ll need to try new things to figure it it out.

In other words, don’t forget to deliberately experiment. For example, it takes a little more time and money, but you can gain some surprising and interesting (and sometimes just plain baffling) results by doing A/B testing with your social media and website content. Or if you have a lot of professionals as members, maybe it’s time to try LinkedIn for a while and see what happens.

Be smarter about your dead trees

Here’s another very specific piece of budget advice: paper newsletters and statement stuffers are soooooo last decade. Move those resources to your website, content, and/or social media pronto.

That said, there definitely is a place for print. Well-targeted direct mail can still be surprisingly effective, especially if you take advantage of digital printing, which can be cost-effective with lower, highly targeted volumes, and can offer personalization to boost effectiveness. There are more options than ever for attention-getting physical mail, especially in blended campaigns that coordinate closely with digital marketing components.

Drop when you add

Focusing on the most important, highest-value goals and projects is the toughest part of CU marketing. You want to do it all, but no one has unlimited resources. If you’re doing a new thing next year, decide what you’re dropping so that you’ll be able to succeed.

I already mentioned paper newsletters and statement stuffers. How can you redirect time and dollars from other places? Maybe it’s time for a faster, easier-to-update website, or streamlining your email marketing to save time. Are your vendors delivering results? Are there things you should outsource so you can regain time, sanity, and focus?

Get some professional help

You’re not alone. The times are strange, and CU budget season is harder than ever. Get in touch if you need numbers, ideas, and solutions.

Brian Wringer

Email this article to a friend or coworker.