Compliance and Marketing can and should be BFFs

Compliance needs marketing love, too

Wait, isn’t that weird? Aren’t Compliance Officers the credit union marketing buzzkills? I mean, every time we come up with a brilliant marketing idea, those mean ol’ meanies want to cover it in fine print, or just take all the fun out of it. Aren’t we natural enemies?

Well, no. Here’s why Compliance and Marketing can and should be BFFs.

Compliance Officers are people, too

The first thing credit union marketers need to know is, hey, Compliance Officers are real people, and they’re on your side. They’re just trying to keep the credit union safe. They want NCUA examinations to proceed without any hiccups, and to head off any questions or complaints from management, staff, the Board, and members.

Get to know your Compliance Officer(s). Get your mitts on the information they’re getting; newsletters, emails, blogs, and so forth. If they attend a webinar or conference, ask them for some tips and takeaways afterwards. Show an interest in understanding their perspective, and they’ll be more interested in yours. Turn them into collaborators, not gatekeepers.

Know the rules and regs cold

This is going to take some homework, but you absolutely can’t skip it; credit union marketers absolutely must understand the rules and regulations that define what we can and can’t do. You have to know this stuff backward, forward, and upside-down, and you have to stay on top of changes.

For example, one great place to start is subscribing to NAFCU’s Compliance Blog. Sure, some articles don’t directly apply to you, but it’s a great way to stay informed.

And of course, there are several ways you can get the “basic training” and all kinds of information on compliance, risk management, and the regulations from NCUA, your State’s League, CUNA, CUES, NAFCU, and many others.

Hey, why not ask your Compliance Officer for advice? It could be your prime bonding moment.

There are a lot of CU compliance myths out there

The more you learn, the more you realize… wow, there sure are a lot of things done in the name of compliance that are just myths, or leftover habits. Of course, you just can’t toss every disclosure out the window right away, and a lot of things really are in the regs. But once you know the real rules, you can begin to tell the difference and work with your Compliance Officer to make needed changes.

For example, did you know that the regulations around advertising allow a huge range of flexibility based on the limitations of the medium? As long as you’re not deceptive or misleading, it really is OK to leave the giant disclosure out of your Facebook post, video, or billboard.

The big scary lawyer warning when you click an offsite link on a credit union website is another example. At best, the “usual” wording is inaccurate, frightening, and pretty pointless – and it’s not actually in the regs. You do need a speed bumps for off-site links, but why not word the notice so it’s correct, understandable, and friendly?

Over-compliance is a real risk, too

The most classic symptom of over-compliance is, of course, the gigantic cloud of fine print, the massive overwhelming disclosure. But surely, it can’t hurt to stuff it in somewhere, just so we can be “safe” under a fuzzy blanket of teensy weasel words…?

Well, yes, actually, it does hurt. The more fine print, the less effective your actual message is. You look shifty, shady, untrustworthy. Plus, it’s ugly. And besides, no one will ever read it. Maybe it’s so small or goes by so fast in a video no one ever could read it, even if they wanted to. Every word reduces response rate.

And so you’ve created another risk; with too much fine print, you’re risking your marketing investment. You’re throwing money away.

It’s all about balance. Instead of recycling the same old boilerplate legalese, think carefully about what actually needs to be there, and how you can make it understandable and useful to your members.

Be creative and be open to changes

Sometimes you can alter the message a little to remove the need; listing a specific loan rate, for example, triggers the need for several added bits of info. Why not leave it out? Besides, there are lots of messages that matter more than a rate.

And quite often, your Compliance Officer will be able to spot a potential problem you didn’t know about. Instead of just asking for a directive or a new disclosure, work together to research the regs, find options, and develop the best overall solution. Whats the real concern underneath the regulation?

Be willing to stick your nose into new places

Your marketing machine doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just like your new Compliance bestie, Marketing also needs to be involved in product and policy decisions. All these things affect messages, offers, marketing effectiveness, and growth.

For example, was Marketing involved in creating your online loan app? If it takes more than about five minutes with a mobile phone to apply for a car loan, you probably have excess sludge in your loan app. Maybe someone once thought that asking about shoe size reduces risk somehow, but every nosy question mostly just increases the risk that the member will give up and get their loan somewhere else.

What’s the bottom line?

Marketers, get out there and buddy up with your Compliance Officers. You’re on the same team, and you have a lot to learn from each other. And best of all, understanding, collaboration and cooperation will mean better results all around.

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Brian Wringer

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