This should be a long-term relationship. Hire for your future.

Culture vs. cost: how to find the right CU partners

A good fit between your credit union’s culture and your agency’s culture is the single biggest factor in success – far more than pricing. In fact, compatible cultures will minimize your costs and maximize marketing and brand effectiveness.

There are lots of good companies out there doing great work for credit unions. While none of us are “the best in the world” at everything, one of us is likely the best for your credit union.

If you’re thinking about a credit union website, revitalizing your brand, refining your marketing strategy and creating campaigns, here’s how to find a great culture fit and ensure success.

First get a handle on your credit union’s culture

Figure out where your credit union’s culture is now, and where it needs to go. Where do you need to push for change, and where do you need to double down?

This should be a long-term relationship, so hire for your future. Work with an agency that can take you where you want to be in two, three, or five years.

Five culture indicators

The following are five dimensions of credit union and agency culture that help ensure a good fit. It’s not about making an exact match in all dimensions; it’s about finding the most compatible mix. Sometimes you need contrast, to bring something to the table you don’t have. And sometimes you need alignment.

Of course, there’s no one perfect answer, but in each I’ve discussed the options, where iDiz Inc. falls on the spectrum, and why we do things that way.

Formal vs. Informal

Here at iDiz, we’re definitely on the informal side. There’s little to no hierarchy, and I haven’t worn a tie in years. If your culture demands a strict dress code and formality, we might have some barriers.

On the other hand, we’ve done some of our most valuable work by helping our more formal clients break out, by asking tough questions, and finding more creative solutions that shake things up.

Credit union specialization

Are you looking for an agency that already “gets” credit unions and that shares CU values? One that already knows CU marketing regulations forward and backward, and won’t need babysitting? Then iDiz is probably a very good fit in this way; most of our clients are credit unions, and we’ve been working with CUs for a long time.

On the other hand, some CUs might be looking for a specific style or skill outside the industry, or wonder if an outside perspective might work better, and they’re willing to work through any language and compliance issues.

Process and Flexibility

Some agencies have a suite of very specific processes for each type of project. We’re going to do X, Y, and Z in this order, and this is what it’s going to cost. This can be great if you need a lot of predictability, if you’re starting from near zero, or if you’re in a hurry. On the other hand, force-fitting to someone else’s process can be stifling, and can lead to assembly-line design.

We’ve found a lot of value in a different approach; yes, we have well-tuned processes for everything we do, but we modify and customize everything to fit the needs of the client. For example, every website we build is different, built specifically to best fit the needs of that credit union, and the processes are a different mix every time.

Playing Nice With Others

Credit unions depend on a lot of vendors and relationships to get things done, including local printers and designers, marketing staff, online banking, core, and IT vendors, and many others.

We’ve always had an unusual approach: we’re happy to work with your staff or other vendors, even other agencies, in whatever capacity works best for you. We can do it all or do only the bits you need.

For example, with many of our clients, we share duties with their in-house staff when we’re building a marketing campaign. They get a creative boost while taking a greater hand in the promotion’s success. We’re also happy to work with online banking and core vendors to make sure things like website logins work correctly, and online banking matches the website.

Some agencies prefer to keep more control, or offer larger packages of services that don’t allow for much overlap. This can make life a little simpler sometimes and even save money, but it can also lead to headaches if it’s not a perfect fit or if you need extras.

Personalities

This is about the people. Do you like and respect each other? You’re going to be working together for a while, so can you communicate clearly, agree and disagree productively, accept and give constructive criticism, and solve problems together? Do you trust each other?

Make sure you get to know the people you’ll actually be emailing and on the phone with, not just a salesperson or account executive.

These connections and relationships are crucial, so at iDiz Inc. we work directly with our clients from first contact, with no salespeople or account execs.

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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