“We’re just here for the low rate, thanks.”

Indirect auto loans need CU marketing love, too

Indirect auto loans are a sticky issue at a lot of credit unions. Folks you might not ever see in person get their car loan, pay it off in a few years, and then leave without opening a checking account, a credit card, or even stopping by a branch to try your custom roasted coffee.

“We’re just here for the low rate, thanks.”

Converting indirect members to fully-involved members is often considered a nut too tough to crack. Onboarding these single-service folks is famously hard to do.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s worth a shot. Sometimes indirects just need a little CU marketing love to feel wanted and consider getting more involved.

Is converting indirect members even worth trying?

It’s a valid question. Sometimes the answer really is “nah”. If you’re getting plenty of bang for your marketing buck in other ways, then it might not make sense to tackle one of the toughest crowds around.

Some CUs take it a little further, treating their indirect lending program almost like a separate profit-generating CUSO. Those indirect members might even be tracked separately and have different goals, and might never even hear much from the credit union once the loan is closed.

Still, lots of CUs would love to turn indirect members into life-time members, but not many actually do.

Which brings us to the next point… who are these people, anyway?

First, get to know your indirect members

Snuggle up with a heaping helping of big data and get to know your indirect members. Separate them out and figure out how they compare to your “regular” members.

The big question, of course, is what’s keeping them from becoming more involved? For example, sometimes it’s just geography. If indirect folks just live further away, do they need to hear about shared branches and your killer mobile app?

And how are your indirect members similar to your involved members? You might be able to get some insights from your available data, or you might need to set up a few surveys to find out for sure.

Open the door on the ground floor

Indirect members require a different onboarding process. Remember, they’re usually starting from somewhere south of zero. They don’t really know you at all. They might not even remember the credit union’s name, and in the rush to get the keys and drive home, they certainly didn’t do any research on your mission and values.

So it’s well worth a little postage and a few emails to introduce the CU properly. Let them know in as few words as possible what the CU is and that you do much more than auto loans.

Get that CU difference and flavor across, but don’t overwhelm them with jargon either.

Start with a few quick wins

Honestly, the biggest barrier to converting indirect members is contentment. For example, most people are reasonably satisfied with their checking account. And moving a checking account is a really big ask, like getting married on the first date. Save that for later.

But can you make a balance transfer a no-brainer with a cool-looking card and an amazing rate? And of course they already know you for lending — is there another car loan in the family, or even a home equity or mortgage you can refinance?

And what can you do to make their lives easier? Can you automate their payments? How can you show them you’re different?


Indirect members are members, too. They’re just a little different, and they need help getting up to speed. As you start to figure them out, don’t just set and forget your indirect onboarding. Switch things up, keep track, and see what sticks.

Give your indirects a little marketing love and attention, let them know they’re wanted, and you’ll find ways to convert more of them to fully participating members.

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Brian Wringer

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