It’s a tough time to be on the smallish side as a credit union. It’s getting harder to compete with larger FIs of all stripes, and it’s tougher to stay in the black while offering the same things everyone else does.
Maybe THAT’s the problem.
You don’t need to offer everything to everybody, especially what everyone else is offering. You need to do something truly unique and leverage your built-in advantages to stand out.
Here are five Big Ideas, free of charge:
1. Mobile Branches
Brick and mortar branches are expensive to build and to maintain, and only convenient for members who live nearby. Meanwhile, everywhere I go there’s another food truck offering something tempting for tastebuds. Why not replace one or more static branches with a branch on wheels (or a fleet of mobile branches)? Send them to community events, the local farmer’s market, visit major employers during lunch hour, the local grocery on Saturdays, maybe even the church parking lot on Sunday? Talk about visibility in the community!
2. Mobile Money
Even better, take a tip from Uber and Lyft and bring a branch to members when they need you. Can you imagine how amazed members would be if they could tap a button on an app and a mobile branch showed up? Most members hardly ever need to visit a branch -– you could build a lot of loyalty by going to see them in person when and where they need you.
3. She’s not just a Branch Manager. She’s a Community Organizer.
Whether your branches stay in one place or roam around, make the most of your branches and your branch managers. Any boring bean counter can make sure the drawers balance – your branch managers should become community organizers, and their branch becomes a valuable community hub. Community involvement should be a critical career expectation for branch managers and staff, and branches should be designed for a variety of uses tailored to their community – movie nights at the branch near the park, a Food Truck Friday downtown, or a Pinewood Derby at the branch in the ‘burbs.
4. Total Car Ownership Loan
Auto loans are the boring old bread and butter product for every lender. And that’s the problem – they’re pretty much all the same, so you’re left talking about rates. You know your members and your community better than anyone – put that CU magic to work! What if you took all of the costs of owning a car – loan, oil changes, maintenance, tires, insurance, etc. – and packaged everything but gas into one monthly cost? Members get a car loan, a “Car Care Card” Visa, and one combined payment to budget instead of several unknowns. You could even work with local providers to include perks like a free or discounted rental car when theirs is being repaired, rides to and from the shop, car seats, discounts on car washes, tires, insurance, etc.
5. So valuable they will be happy to pay for membership.
Amazon Prime customers are extremely loyal for more than one reason: free two-day shipping (sometimes same day), unlimited streaming of movies and tv shows, special offers, early access to deals, etc. They happily pay $99 a year because they can easily see that they’ll quickly get more value than that in return. Same with Costco and Sam’s Club. Active customers quickly earn the membership fee back in savings, plus they’ve made a commitment – they have a stake in getting the most value in return.
Why couldn’t a credit union follow these examples? Offer a package for $50 or $100/year that gives incredible value back to the member. Combine special rate discounts with better Visa Rewards, personal lines of credit that automatically transfer to cover overdrafts and avoid fees, lower or no closing costs on mortgages, etc. Maybe you can partner with other local member-owned businesses to offer even more discounts and perks. Pretty soon, membership in your CU will begin to have an actual value, and you’ve turned everyday members into loyal advocates.
While none or all of these Big Ideas might be right for your particular credit union and your community, you definitely need to step outside the “mini-bank” model in order to do something different. Figure out what’s perfect for your community, and go where the big boys can’t follow.
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