Marketing checking to non-members is like asking to get married on the first date.

Getting married on the first date

Why do credit unions still focus so much on marketing checking accounts to non-members?

I mean, I know why — the checking account is still the best indicator of a PFI relationship, and it’s extraordinarily “sticky”. Members with checking are loyal members, or at least they’re stuck with you for a while. I get that.

But marketing the checking account to non-members is like asking to get married on the first date.

It’s WAY too much commitment, WAY too soon.

They don’t even know you very well yet! And no matter how you spin it or how much you help, moving a checking account is a huge, enormous pain in the rear. Who can make that kind of commitment before they’re sure where this relationship is going? What if you turn out to be just like the last checking account?

Even bribery can only get you so far. Baubles like $100 cash and even tropical cruises will only attract shallow-minded gold-diggers, not the kind of members next door you can settle down with.

What paths to membership can you open up that don’t require going steady right away?

Perhaps a better approach would be to focus on building relationships and trust with members before proposing the big step of opening a checking account. What everyday problems can you solve for people?

Or maybe you can create a way for people to “sample” the CU difference — let them have a quick, no-strings-attached fling just to see if the grass really is greener over here. For example, lots of CUs are wondering just what to do with members brought on board through indirect auto lending. You’ve got three to five years, so how can you get them all the way on board?

Another approach is to make the switch less scary.

What would it take to offer a guarantee that you’ll fix any mixups and even reimburse any accidental fees that might pop up from the transfer?

Or maybe there are times when you’ve already got a beautiful thing going, and another commitment would just mess it up. Dig in to your member data, and I’ll bet you find plenty of loyal longtime members who have a steady checking account somewhere else. And is that really so bad? After all, checking accounts cost a lot to run.

Maybe it’s time to think about checking a little differently.

It’s not the only kind of relationship any more, and we need to take more care to build the relationship first before asking people to take the plunge.

Brian Wringer

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