The brand cost or benefit should be part of every fee equation.

Fees need marketing love, too

For credit union marketers, fees can be a real pain in the patoot. There are all those pesky clouds of fine print we have to stuff in somewhere, not to mention all those negative vibes.

But fees are a necessary part of keeping the lights on at every credit union. Fees make up most of the “non-interest income” line on your CU’s call reports, and that’s a number you really can’t ignore. Plus some fees are required by regulation.

Here are a few ways CU marketers can start to give fees a little love and understanding, and turn fees into a competitive advantage for your credit union:

Check the competition

Get a little perspective – where do you stand in the fee field against the local bank competition? Most CUs have a fee structure that could save members a lot of money compared to banks.

It’s an advantage that might even call for a more horn-tooting. Are your mortgage, credit card, checking, and loan fees lower and simpler than the competition?

Be up-front

Make sure your fee schedule is easy to find on your website, with no weasel words. Do your fees make sense and provide value? Explain in clear terms that you’re a member-owned financial institution, and that fees go directly into providing services, not pumping up profits.

Most credit unions have much simpler fee structures than the competition. Fee transparency and predictability are huge advantages, simply because people hate surprises.

Leverage the credit union difference

Everyone benefits when your members bring more of their financial business to the credit union. It’s a two-way street, and it’s a core part of the cooperative difference. Make sure that concept is clearly communicated without making things overly complex. And make sure these rewards are available to as many as possible.

For example, overdraft fees are another opportunity to show the difference with member-friendly automatic overdraft transfer and maybe even “Overdraft Oopsy” fee forgiveness.

Show the value

The value of fees is a two-way street as well. Members get upset when they perceive fees as punitive, surprising, or too high. In the long run, is the income from each fee worth the potential impact on the credit union’s brand perception, and is it pulling members closer or driving them away? How can you show them the value?

Make sure you talk to some members, too – their perceptions and uses of fee services may be surprising. For example, in every credit union, there are quite a few people who rack up multiple overdrafts every month and don’t seem to mind. That means they’re getting value. Maybe they just hate to balance their accounts, maybe they’re too busy to keep track, but they see overdraft as a service they’re willing to pay for.

Who’s using the fee services you provide, what is the value they’re getting, and are you charging the right amounts?

Get Marketing and Branding into the fee conversations

What fees have an oversized negative brand impact relative to their size? Are you annoying thousands of members and fielding hundreds of phone calls over a $2 fee? Maybe it’s time to put a positive spin on it – eliminate the fee for members who participate more.

When fees are the topic, you need to be out of your marketing silo and sitting at the table; you’re the brand expert and the brand caretaker. The brand cost or benefit should be part of every fee equation.

Brian Wringer

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