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Budget Season: Different is your best investment

CU Budgeting for Weird Times: Double Down on Different

It’s budget season for credit unions, but it’s also silly season in politics and wacky times in finance. Even the weather is off-the-charts odd, and strange growth-eating monsters are creeping over the horizon in every direction.

In times like these, how do you even begin to make your plans for the strange and stranger times to come in 2020?

Weird is what credit unions are made for

Strange times are a golden opportunity for credit unions to grow market share and wallet share. Credit unions will always be key to helping regular folks weather whatever storms are brewing.

Credit unions at their best represent safety, security, and sanity. These are important emotional needs, and they’re only going to get more important.

Get to know your monsters

Monsters are the problems, big and small, now and in the future, that keep you from growing. Whether you’re facing the Wimpy Website Monster, the Static Strategy Monster, or the horrible Bankthink Behemoth, you’ll need to be brave and snuggle up to find their weak spots. 

Fixing these growth-blockers must be a high priority when you’re building budgets; credit unions simply can’t afford any added barriers. For example, if your website is still screaming “2002” (or even “2012”), it’s costing you members every day and needs to get fixed, pronto.

Emotions are the key

No one knows what the Fed is going to do in 2020, but with a little imagination you can pretty accurately predict what sort of emotional needs your members will have.

How will you fulfill these needs better than anyone else? And what do you need to change and budget for in order to more clearly communicate the differences?

Differentiation is the secret sauce

You can’t be bigger than the big banks, you can’t always be cheaper, but you can always be “Differenter”, and meet these emotional needs in a different and better way. 

Credit unions absolutely own concepts like warmth, humanity, and caring. Make the most of that. Make sure everyone can really feel and see an authentic difference.

Different is your best investment

And that’s the key to sorting out the best places to invest money, time, and energy: what’s going to get you the biggest, most emotional, and most different bang for the buck? You are what you spend

Here’s an example: if community service is an important part of your “different DNA”, turn it up to 11. Instead of writing the same checks every year, how can you donate more time to multiply the effectiveness of the dollars? Are you supporting causes your members and employees are truly passionate about? Is there a plucky little nonprofit working on a little-known but important local cause where your involvement could change lives?

Or maybe your website is OK, but there’s no “WOW!” factor any more. Tech changes fast, so maybe it’s time for a re-skin. Challenge your website developers to make your site simpler, faster, more finger-friendly, easier to update, and more integrated with your digital marketing. Make sure your tech is up to snuff and everything online is 100% mobile friendly.

What if your credit union could do a better job of being where members turn for trusted answers? Maybe it’s time to focus on creating and sharing great online content fine-tuned for the issues folks in your town are worried about.

If you’re wondering where all the younger members went, maybe it’s time to give them a CU to believe in. Younger people are very worried about the economy, and looking for answers. They naturally “get” the credit union difference, but only if they know about it.

Budget more than money

This budget season, you’ll need to bring your marketing and branding “A” game.

Don’t forget to budget and manage time, energy, attention, goals, and expectations as well as dollars and cents. Leverage professionals to make the most of your time and bring more spark to your creative.

The credit unions that thrive in weird times will be the ones that make the smartest investments in amplifying and refining their unique, emotional connections to their members.


Also published by CUInsight.

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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