Tough times (and yes, Weird times) are exactly what credit unions are made for.

Budgeting for Weird Times: It’s Opportunity Season for CUs

Whatever your personal, political, or economic beliefs, we can all agree on one thing: things are Weird, with a capital “W”, and they’re getting Weirder.

Any way you slice it, 2020 is going to be one wild ride.

In this series of “Weird Times” articles, we’re going to explore how credit union marketers can shape their strategies and make their budget plans to make the most of the opportunities found in extremes of uncertainty.

Weird is what credit unions are made for

Weird times are a golden opportunity for credit unions to grow market share and wallet share.

Remember the little smiling umbrella guy from your CU History 101 class?

Credit Union Umbrella Guy

Sure, he’s a little corny (he’s a refugee from the 1920s, after all), but he makes a good point: credit unions are a powerful way for regular people to band together and help each other make it through tough times.

Credit unions will always be key to helping regular folks weather whatever storms are brewing. Tough times (and yes, Weird times) are exactly what credit unions are made for.

During the 2007-2009 recession, credit unions continued to lend, even when other financial institutions had stopped. And afterwards, credit unions also participated heavily in mortgage modification programs to keep thousands of members in their homes rather than foreclosing.

Making brand lemonade

Whether we’re heading into a recession or something else, and whatever twists and turns the 2020 election brings, turmoil will create demand for several specific emotional needs.

You’ll need to be ready to respond to these needs with product innovation, a strong, well-articulated brand, policy updates, transparency, clear, authentic messaging, and maybe even a little tech.

And of course that means you’ll also need to be ready to shift and beef up your marketing budget to ensure dollars go where they’re needed most.

Focus on emotions and answers

No one knows exactly what’s coming, so trying to predict rates and margins is impossible.

The key is to think about the emotions and needs people will have, and use these insights to figure out how they relate to your brand, products, and marketing.

Build your 2020 Weird Times strategy around the emotional needs you’ll fill.

Here are a few examples:

What are younger members thinking?

Younger adults are especially vulnerable economically, and they’re very worried about their short-term and long-term future. They’re also idealistic and compassionate, to a degree not seen in previous generations.

More to the point, they are extremely receptive to credit union ideals – if you can clearly communicate and show an authentic difference, they’ll get it. And they’ll respond.

What can you do to give young members a CU to believe in?

For example, do you need to beef up your content marketing to increase engagement? Or revamp your “write-a-check-and-forget” community service program around something your employees are actually passionate about? Are you willing and able to lend to a first time car buyer, or nurture a young family working toward buying a home in 2022?

How can you tell their stories?

Safe and sound

Over at least the next year or so, lots of worried folks will be in “batten down the hatches” mode; thinking about things like debt consolidation, lowering payments, or wondering whether they should keep their cars longer.

Older members (well, everyone, really) will be looking for messages of stability, and safety. And they’re paying attention to how you treat their young adult children.

Get your tech together

Take a good honest look at your website. If it’s dingy, dumpy, mobile-unfriendly, and hard to update, you’re bleeding members and money. Mobile usage has tipped past 50% at most CUs; don’t try to face 2020 with a website from 2013.

Budget and leverage your time

While you’re shuffling dollars and cents, don’t forget to plan how you’re going to use something even more scarce; your staff’s time, energy, and attention.

For example, if your responsibilities have grown but you’re not ready to add staff, maybe it makes sense to focus more on steering the strategic ship and lean on your partners for more of the planning and production. Or maybe it’s time to get an outside perspective to help untangle a particularly knotty strategic threat.

Brian Wringer

Former watermelon farmer Brian Wringer wears several hats for iDiz Incorporated, including Web Projects Manager, Wordsmith, and Big Idea Guy. He builds better credit unions by day and weird old motorcycles by night.

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