What's on the minds of CU leaders right now?

Candid Conference Conversations

In the last month, I’ve been to two state credit union league conferences (the Virginia CU League‘s Growth Conference, and the Indiana CU League‘s Convention right here in Indianapolis).

Wondering what’s on the minds of CU leaders right now? Fresh from the schmooze-a-thons, here’s a quick recap of some of the problems and solutions we discussed.

“We need more young members”

The member aging monster is very real, and he’s got a gummy grip on way too many credit unions. Unless your main SEGs employ a lot of young people, or you’re signing ’em up in droves at the local college, attracting younger members is one of the most common CU marketing conundrums.

Sure, tech and features are important to younger members, but just as important is how you’re living the CU difference every day, the authenticity of your online brand, and your everyday presence in physical and online communities.

Younger members, maybe now more than ever, are ready to embrace the credit union ethos. They just need a credit union to believe in.

“We need deposits – the right kind of deposits”

No surprise there, eh? Most credit unions are thinking about ways to retain and attract deposits right now. There are plenty of certificate specials out there, but there’s also an awareness that “renting” money with high rates isn’t the best solution, and may not lead to much long-term loyalty.

But there’s a lot of variation, too. Some CUs are still more focused on lending and interest income, and so far their deposits are not an issue. And others just don’t think in those terms — as one person put it “we’re focused on growing by simply providing what the members need”. (That variety is one of the things I love about working with credit unions.)

“What’s the biggest problem facing credit unions right now?”

Someone saw “Big Idea Guy” on my name tag, and asked this out of the blue. It stopped me in my tracks, but I surprised myself by blurting out “bankification“.

And by that, I meant that credit unions have to think and feel and act undeniably, incontrovertibly different in order to survive long-term. Differentiation is pure marketing gold, but the call of the mild is strong.

Credit unions exist to do what banks can’t and won’t. CUs need to be funky and fun and human and corny and interesting. They need to embrace their places, confuse the competition, and turn that fabulous CU flavor up to eleven.

“We need checking accounts”

This was pretty interesting — does anyone still write checks? Be honest, do you know where your checkbook is? I know, I know… the world just hasn’t yet come up with a better name for your central “daily stuff” account, the one attached to your debit card. And checking accounts are indeed still pretty “sticky”; if a member has their checking account at your credit union, it’s a safe bet they’re going to hang around.

But marketing checking accounts, especially to non-members is incredibly tough. It’s a big move, and a huge ask, like getting married on the first date. Big banks are just plain bribing people to switch with $300 or more, and that’s still not all that effective.

Maybe “membership growth” doesn’t always have to mean “checking account” — bigger picture measures like services per member or household profitability are a better way to look at loyalty.

But the real key is for marketing to focus on the tech and policy features people actually want and care about; amazing online banking apps, financial automation, P2P payments, early wage access, no NSF fees, “oopsie” forgiveness, round-ups, ATMs and shared branches, rewards, etc. Oh, by the way, sure, all these need a checking account… but that’s not the focus.

“Our website is stale and hard to update”

Website woes? Yeah, we can help with that. We talked with a lot of credit unions working to raise their online game with a mobile-first website that evolves with their member’s needs, is easy to update, has great accessibilty, and pushes their brand forward. Again, your website is a 24/7/365 glowing outpost for your brand — and it’s incredibly important for younger members and potential members doing their due diligence.

“We’re having trouble keeping up with content”

Feeding the content beast is starting to become more and more of a problem. Even with all the zoomy automation in the world, there’s still that “now what?” moment. What am I loading up to post on social media, email to my target markets, or put in the blog? How can I get video and community event photos if everyone runs away when they see a camera?

You still need a solid strategy and significant resources (and maybe a little help from your friends at iDiz) to keep cranking out all the content needed to get everything done.

Tell us your CU’s problems

Discussing problems and solutions is one of the foundations of good credit union marketing. What kinds of problems is your credit union facing going into 2024? If you’ve got questions about or solutions for any of the problems we mentioned, let us know! And if you think we missed a big one, we want to hear that too.

Brian Wringer

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