Big Data is Marketing's big baby

Core conversions need Marketing love, too

Technology moves fast, and credit unions need to move faster. Or at least keep up. If changing or upgrading your core processor is on the table, here’s why Marketing needs to be sitting at that table.

Be there from the beginning

No one embarks on a core conversion for fun. It’s a monster project, and you need very good reasons to go through the disruption, effort, and expense. Of course, core conversions are historically driven by things like IT needs (updating old hardware, security or speed  concerns), by inflexibility or constraints on what the old system can do, by the need for greater cost efficiency, or by some core vendor issue, such as an outdated or discontinued product.

Marketers and your marketing and growth strategy have to be part of these decisions as well. One of your jobs as a marketer is to bust those “IT”, “Finance”, and “Ops” silos. As the lead brand steward and member advocate, you need to be involved in and driving big decisions that affect the member experience.

Big data is Marketing’s big baby

These days, one key driver of core conversions is the need for better tools for making the most of member data. Credit unions have access to a wealth of member data, yet very few are making much use of this to improve products and service, inform strategy decisions, and supercharge growth. 

Sure, “data” sounds like an IT thing, and you definitely need good technology to make everything work. But in the end, using the data to drive growth is a Strategy and Marketing thing – make sure Marketing is at the head of the table when selecting the technology. 

Remember to tell the members

Once the vendor is selected, the dotted line is signed, and the project is underway, plan and budget time, money, and attention for the impacts on your members throughout the process.

It’s not just managing notices for things like reduced staffing or downtime; it’s getting members excited about the new capabilities and benefits. Tell them how this will make their lives better. 

Along with all the physical and technical logistics, put together a complete communication plan. How and when will you say what to who on your website, statements, email, branches, phone systems, and every time they interact with the credit union?

And get ahead of the questions, too – put together an FAQ on your website. For example, sometimes core conversions spark fears that there’s a risk of losing data or money, or that it indicates some sort of problem, or that account numbers or services will change.

You’ll also need to let people know exactly what’s changing (and not changing) and give them previews of things like a new online banking system so they’re not lost when the changeover happens.

Remember your staff, too

Getting the staff informed and on board is absolutely a marketing thing as well, not just an HR thing. Don’t deny the obvious – it’s a LOT of extra work and training for everyone – but make sure everyone sees the upsides too.

Yes, there will be grumbling. Change is always hard. But inform the troops early and often about the greater speed, flexibility, and abilities to serve members in new ways. And work with HR and across all departments to develop the incentives, communication, and motivation you’ll need to pull everyone through the project.

Plan for contingencies

Remember Mr. Murphy and his ironclad law? He just loves to hang out around big complicated projects like this. Most CU core conversions go smoothly, but make contingencies part of your communication plan.

For example, most conversions happen over a weekend, and involve a day or so of downtime. But what if you’re not up and running on the dot at 8am on Monday? Plan for this, and have a message ready to go on your website. Update it often with any new info.

Plan for a few extra staff on the phones, and keep a close eye on social media, email and all other communication avenues. Some people will have questions, and a few may have problems you’ll need to know about. 

Do the same for any tech or service change

Of course, the same principles apply for any operational change. Whether you’re updating your online banking, changing credit cards, or moving a branch, it’s important to get Marketing involved early and often.

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Brian Wringer

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