Right about then I realized I am a true Marketing Junkie.

Marketing junkies, cold calls, and business development

I actually took a cold call the other day. Why? Because she was polite, friendly-sounding, and I have empathy for anyone that has to do that as their job.

That’s right, I felt sorry for her.

But it was how she described her organization that got me to listen.

She was calling on behalf of a business owner’s “un-networking group;” she spent a lot of time telling me why they weren’t a traditional networking group. Since credit unions spend so much of their time explaining why they aren’t the same as a bank, I decided to learn more about how they presented their case.

She was calling with a personal invitation (positive) for me to attend a lunch at a local steakhouse (positive) where during a couple of hours (negative) I could find out why I would want to be a part of their “un-network.” One of their current members had recommended she call me (positive), so I asked who, but didn’t recognize his name when she told me (negative).

Now we do have a few local clients, and I enjoy a steak once in a while, but I wasn’t crazy about spending 2 hours for lunch without knowing more about what I was getting into. So I told her that. She promptly emailed me the invitation (positive) since she conveniently already had my email address (negative).

I read her email, scanned the invitation and an attached pdf, then clicked through to their web site. Then I googled them to find out what other people thought of them. Then I decided to tell her what I thought in an email:

I know what it is like to call someone out of the blue. So I looked at your site and your pdf. I’m not interested, but since you gave me an idea for a blog post for my business, I can give you some free recommendations to improve your marketing:

1. The invitation is a good idea, but if it supposedly comes from someone already in the group, make sure it is by someone that the recipient recognizes.
2. Both the web site and the pdf from your email simply repeat the same marketing pitch, and neither one even covers what it cost per month. More transparency would be better in this era; what it costs and a list of participants. Something that tells me what is in it for me without first committing 2-3 hours to a lunch.
3. Get some press online that isn’t from your web site. I can’t be the only one who is skeptical of a networking group that spends so much time saying it isn’t a traditional networking group.
4. Receiving an email from a generic comcast address that isn’t even tied to your web site hurts your credibility.
5. Make sure your materials all stay up to date. Your link in the pdf on membership information does not exist.

Then it hit me. I had found the initial positioning interesting. She had an interesting angle to open the conversation, but no substance to back it up. So I wrote her to tell her how to improve her pitch. Right about then I realized I am a true Marketing Junkie.

But that is also when I realized that the problem this sales person was experiencing was probably very similar to what your Business Development people face every day.

Every CU claims they want and need more new members. But credit unions tend to be focused more on Operations and Finance, with Marketing getting the leftovers, and poor Business Development usually getting the crumbs left by Marketing. They are often left dealing with inconsistent, even erroneous information in brochures printed last decade (but of course still being used in the New Member Packets because no one will throw them out.) There is no consistent brand message for them to present, no strategy, no “hook” to to gain new members. Or, if there is a hook, there is nothing to back it up.

So the next time your BD people approach you for new materials or your help, stop what you are doing and listen. Help them craft a message that resonates. Give them the resources that do a good job of explaining the advantages of belonging to a credit union. Use your brand positioning. Make it personal, and believable. And by all means, make sure your web site is consistent with your printed materials and pdfs.

Who knows? You just might help BD hit those outrageous goals set by management this year. Sure, they’ll get the credit. But at least you can smile because you got your marketing fix.

Kent Dicken

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