there are still a lot of things small CUs can do to survive and thrive.

Five ways to make a small CU roar

According to this article by Glenn Christensen on CU Insight, small credit unions are notably less efficient with their marketing dollars.

The numbers are gloomy, but not all that surprising. After all, the cards are stacked against the pipsqueaks in many ways, not just limited budgets — marketing time, attention, money and (dare we say it?) talent are all in short supply. Fortunately, there are still a lot of things small CUs can do to survive and thrive.

1) Get “More Differenter”
Here’s some branding secret sauce, free of charge:

Stop trying to act like a mini-bank — you can’t compete on the number of services, pricing, nationwide reach, etc. But there are lots of other ways to compete that the big banks can’t touch — you’re local, you know your members better than anyone, you’re different, you’re quirky, you’re corny, you’re hometown, you’re fun, interesting, non-corporate, real, purple, weird, human.

Turn small into one of your main advantages. Understand what you are and what you aren’t. Base your plans on emphasizing your differences. Differentiation is pure marketing plutonium, and small CUs have the advantage — make the most of it.

2) Prioritize your Web Site and Online Banking
The web is the one arena where a small CU can compete on a fairly even basis. It’s also the “face” of the credit union your members and potential members will see the most often. If your web site and/or your home banking look like homemade refugees from 2001 and don’t work on mobile devices, get them up to snuff, pronto.

3) Develop a simplified, results-oriented marketing plan you can stick to. Then stick to it.
One of the biggest marketing money pits is scattershot one-shots. It’s also easy to get paralyzed by lofty, esoteric strategies and impossible goals. Set a small number of simple, realistic, plain English, short-term and medium-term goals — nothing more than six to 12 months in the future, nothing outrageous, one page. Give yourself a time limit of one hour.

Then, start prioritizing and planning — what’s the target audience for each one? What’s the one simple message each should convey? What will it take to get this message? Which has the best potential for financial results? How can we track this? Again, keep it simple, keep it real, make it simple and practical, prioritize results.

4) Get Professional Help
At small credit unions, everyone wears several hats. The thing is, marketing is far more than just another hat. Marketing and branding require very different sets of skills and experiences than operations or finance.

The solution, of course, is to rent the expertise you need, when you need it. For example, we’ve worked with lots of small and large CUs who use our expertise and experience to fill gaps and leverage their staff time — from developing marketing and branding plans, to targeting, planning, concepting, creating, and designing promotions, to building websites and microsites.

5) Insist on Quality
Excellent creative multiplies results, while poor quality creative wastes money and damages your brand. From the smallest statement stuffer to your web site, insist on marketing you, your staff, and your members can be proud of. It’s more than good looks — make sure everything your members see is on-brand, unique, emotional, and authentic.

Brian Wringer

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