Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Ways to Grow Your Credit Union This Summer

Most organizations seem to face a summer slowdown each year, even credit unions. Thanks to summer vacations, both staff and members become sparse. Even though on some of these slow, summer day it’s nice to relax and enjoy the calm. But there are several, and more productive, ways to spend these upcoming summer months.

  1. Play Online
    No, we’re not talking about Candy Crush Saga or Minecraft … But on a slow business day take a look at all of those new social media platforms you’ve heard about but never tried. Set up a business profile and test it out. Come fall, if you don’t think it’s worth it – just remove your profile. You won’t know unless you try!

  2. Update Your Site
    We’re sure you’ve been meaning to update your website’s content or layout all year long. But the day-to-day tasks can force you to put it on the backburner. Summer is the time to go through your site to ensure everything is current. It’s also the perfect opportunity to review it and see if it’s time to get a new look to better mesh with your credit union’s brand, or update it to be responsive. Don’t wait until fall when your workload picks back up.

  3. Get Out There
    With all of the summer festivals and community events, now is when you want to get out and about and mingle with your community. Sponsor a charity run or host a booth at the art fair. You’ll not only get your credit union’s name and brand out there, you might get the chance to network some new partnerships and enrich the ones you already have. Plus, who wants to sit at a desk when it’s so nice outside!

  4. Snap Some Pics
    While you’re out and about this summer, don’t forget to take plenty of photos! Thanks to the prevalence on cameras on phones, you have no excuse to get some pics when your credit union is at these community events. Once you take them, just don’t forget to post them on your Facebook page or website for all to see. Nothing boosts traffic as much as a great photo.

  5. Tend to Your Staff
    Staff development can also be something that gets put on a backburner when those deadlines keep looming. Work one-on-one with staff to ensure they’re keeping up with their goals and that any issues are being properly addressed. No use waiting until the end of the year reviews to improve the performance of not only your staff, but your credit union as well.
The good news is that no matter what season, the CU Solutions Group team is always ready, willing and able to support your credit union. Our marketing, technologyand HR divisions can help you with any and all of the tips above. Just let us know what we can do to make your credit union’s summer be the best yet!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Credit Unions Can Ride the Tide of Increasing Auto Loans

Recent reports from CUNA show new auto loans increasing 1.1 percent in March 2015, and a whopping 22.6 percent year-over-year since March 2014. While other economic indicators have bounced around during the first quarter, these auto loan numbers suggest increased consumer confidence in their own ability to repay on a major purchase.

Credit unions can ride the tide of growing auto loans by integrating Spireon’s LoanPlus CMS into their loan offerings. The program was designed to help members with less than perfect credit finance a vehicle at a reasonable rate while simultaneously protecting the credit union’s (and the greater membership’s) best interests.

More loans, less risk

With LoanPlus CMS, your credit union will be able to have a small electronic device installed on the vehicle that your member is financing. This “Remote Collateral Management Unit” is essentially a GPS tracking device. For recovery efforts, the system not only allows a credit union to locate a vehicle, but an additional option allows it to be remotely disabled.

The overall goal is to allow you to say “yes” to a member auto loan when you would have otherwise said “no.” Some credit unions have balked at the idea of expanding their loan portfolio through non-prime offerings, and it’s an understandable sentiment. After all, one of the cornerstones of the credit union movement is to provide members the best available options, typically through lower fees and better rates. But it’s important to view this from the member’s perspective. That’s exactly what this is – their best available option.

Treating everyone fair

In the financial services industry, it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone will be treated equally, but it is reasonable to expect that everyone be treated fairly. When a member approaches you with a less than ideal credit history, offering the best possible option while helping them rebuild their credit creates a best case scenario.

When denied by their credit union, many borrowers turn to buy here/pay here lenders. The rates that your members accept from a dealer direct program are loaded with acquisition and assignment fees in addition to participation and other hidden charges. Offering an attractive alternative to borderline predatory lending will save your at-risk members hundreds, even thousands, in up-front fees, and thousands in interest over the term of the loan.

This is an excellent option for members who need a fresh start or are just beginning to build their credit. Even when opportunities are limited, it’s still our duty to create a best case scenario for these buyers. Treating our most vulnerable members fairly while mitigating risk to the cooperative can be a precarious balance, but the LoanPlus CMS program can do just that.

Read more about Spireon’s LoanPlus CMS program here, or contact CU Solutions Group to learn more about integrating this collateral management program into your lending strategy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Credit Union Marketing, Appealing to Emotion and Millennials

I recently read an article written by CO-OP Financial Services that was published in the Credit Union Times. Four Major Consumer Trends This Year focuses on opportunities that credit unions have to improve their bottom line and strengthen bonds with their membership. The trends identified were:
  1. Betterment – The Human Desire for Constant Improvement
  2. Ubitech – The Pervasiveness of Technology
  3. Helpfull – The Age of Increased Member Expectations
  4. Local Love – Community Was Never More Important
I hadn’t gotten far through the article when my mind took a detour. While all of these components are important, and in many ways essential to acclimating to a changing landscape, the philosophical concept of betterment can underscore any and all marketing efforts enacted by a credit union.

Strategy over tactic

The article sites Maslow’s “Heirarchy of Needs,” the idea that humans have several levels of requirements which fall into a hierarchical pyramid. Near the base are more physiological needs concerning basic health and safety, and near the top are ego-leaning needs regarding esteem and self-worth. It follows … Someone struggling to make ends meets is probably not all that worried about designer suits and handbags (at least we’d hope not). An individual must sufficiently meet a lower level’s needs before moving onto the next set of concerns. It’s this cyclical human drive that is at the base of our approach to virtually everything: betterment of the self.

This reminded me of another study I had recently read conducted by Filene Research Institute. Its Gen Y & Money: Overconfident and Undercapable study asserts that while 70 percent of Gen Y respondents regard themselves as having “high financial knowledge,” only 24 percent were able to answer three of five simple financial literacy questions correctly, and only 8 percent were correct on all five.

How it all adds up

All very telling, but what does it all mean? It suggests to me that these young accountholders want to think of themselves as knowledgeable; there is a desire for financial betterment. While overconfidence invites criticism and head-shaking, let’s ignore it and feed their desire for economic understanding. We don’t have to feed their egos, but we can keep their secret safe while giving them the knowledge to give their claims substance.

Consider tying financial education into content marketing when reaching out to millennials. There are simple instances where these individuals may have a rudimentary understanding of a financial process, but lack real specifics. How many millennials can accurately account for interest paid over the life of a student loan, or the benefits of consolidation? How many can clearly define the monetary implications of a 60- versus a 72-month auto loan? How many can detail the intricacies of APR and closing fees when purchasing their first home? This is knowledge that they want – perhaps part of the betterment that can help them along to another level in their hierarchy.

If you’d like to learn more about CU Solutions Group’s turnkey financial education tools, or need help developing a content marketing piece, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us today!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Digital or Personal Banking – Which is More Important?

According to a recent poll published by Gallup, Americans are preferentially split between digital and personal banking. The question was posed, “If you had to give up one aspect of your relationship with your bank, the digital (you would no longer be able to interact with your bank through mobile or online channels) or the personal (you would no longer be able to visit a branch or call a call center,) which one would you give up?” The results show slight favoritism towards digital, with 53% reporting that they would give up personal service, and 47% suggesting that whey would give up mobile and online.

Even Keel

This highlights the generational gap with which many financial institutions struggle, and once again begs the question of which methods and channels are best for member satisfaction, interaction and marketing efforts. While some suggest that younger accountholders are the future of the industry and require more attention, others contend that these individuals bring a much slighter share of wallet, and that focus is better spent on their elder and more versed counterparts. The results of the poll would suggest that the truth lies somewhere in between.

The overarching question posed is a hypothetical situation that forces respondents to lean completely towards one method or the other. In reality, digital and personal preferences fall on a continuum with most members employing a mixture of both forms of interaction. It does, however, accentuate just how evenly split members currently are when it comes to the preferential mode of interaction with their financial institution.

Digging Deeper

Follow up questions in the study reveal a much more detailed picture. When the same respondents were asked if their current banking relationship was more personal or more digital in nature, roughly 62% indicated a preference match – that their current relationship is as personal or as digital as they would like it to be. The 38% of accountholders whose preference did not match their actual relationship were far less likely to be engaged with their financial institution. Meeting your members where they want to be, and engaging with them according to their own preference, is what will drive the bottom line.

This is a fact that brings with it more complications than answers. Even more revealing than the split towards preference is the level of disengagement when preference is not met. Credit unions have to meet members on their own terms and deliver a satisfying experience every single time whether digital or personal. While the conversation is often dominated by debate over which methods of member interaction and service are more important, our focus should instead be on the specific products and services that are most important to members, and how we can meet their needs best on both fronts.

If you think that your credit union could benefit from a more even-handed approach to member engagement, Technology Solutions is here to help. From design and hosting, to support and custom app creation, we drive both style and substance.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Branding – Part 2: Taking action

In last week’s post, we discussed branding from an overarching and conceptual standpoint. It can be an ethereal topic, but eventually something has to take shape and lead us to specifics like planning and execution. If your credit union has made the decision to take control and project an identity, or if you think it’s time for an image update, here are a few considerations to take into account.

Putting together the pieces

  • Define yourself – Before deciding on color, font, messaging or logo, it’s essential to define your credit union’s brand. Take inventory of the components that are already in place. What is your stated mission? What are the consumer benefits of working with you? Who do you want to attract to your member base? How can you differentiate from your competition? These are all great questions to take in to account when evaluating your identity. Be confident in who you are, and don’t be afraid to project it to current or potential members.
  • Develop your look – Logo work, colors, typeface, style – it can be a lot to handle. If you’re going to employ outside help on anything, this should be it. Professional graphic designers spend years honing and developing the nuanced points of typography and color theory. A good designer will be able to take your credit union’s stated mission, goals and targets, and create a visually appealing palette that is appropriate, unique, versatile and memorable.
  • Create consistency – The point of branding is to develop a memorable identity. If the look and feel of your collateral changes piece to piece, it could confuse the intended audience and water down your messaging. Items don’t have to be identical, but there should be some continuity among brochures, business cards, letterheads, signage, packaging, forms and the like. This goes beyond the obvious visual aspects, there should be a conceptual continuity as well regarding voice and personality.
  • Build awareness – All the branding in the world won’t make a difference if it doesn't reach your audience. Creativity and a good marketing team go a long way in terms of execution. Know your target, stay visible and measure ROI to keep track of what works.
  • Follow through – Your credit union’s brand identity is its first impression, but with the right moves, it will be the first of many. Once you've attracted new members and expanded your membership, follow through and keep your promises. The altruistic nature of the credit union industry makes this step especially important, but perhaps the most easily executed. Your members love you for a reason. Once you get them in the door, keeping them coming back should be the easy part.
This may seem like a tall order, but keep in mind that with the onset of any new system, the initial investment (whether time or money) is often the biggest obstacle. Once you've established a structure and have a set of guidelines in place, the routine becomes much more simplistic. Just remember to trust your intuition, engage your audience and be consistent.

As always, CU Solutions Groups is here to help if you need assistance with anything graphic, identity or marketing related. Contact us today to discuss brand development and connecting with current and potential members.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Branding – Part 1: Why No Presence Can Be Better Than a Bad Presence

First off, let me start by saying that I’m not advocating for credit unions to have no presence – quite the opposite. But I will stand by the idea that anything worth doing, is worth doing right. This is especially true of well-executed and consistent branding by your graphics and marketing teams. 

Better than bad, or worse than good?

Allow me to illustrate this point with a little story. I put myself through college performing as a professional mobile DJ. My weekends consisted of weddings, graduation parties, sporting events, festivals and fundraisers. Coming up as a young freelance entertainer, I've had several mentors to which I owe a great deal.

One of these mentors was an amazing DJ and emcee – probably the best I’d ever worked with – but his business sense and company presence wasn't quite there. His website, business cards and collateral materials lacked consistency. Colors and fonts changed from piece to piece and page to page, photos were pixelated, and the designs, plain and simple, were not attractive. It was a hard subject to broach, but I always felt that his poor design and execution drove more business away than it attracted.

I took this as a lesson and sprung some extra money for a professional designer. My website, business cards, letterheads and other related collateral had a sleek and professional design that matched throughout. If you put our two companies side by side, there was no question that potential clients would gravitate towards my services, while in reality, he had much more experience and expertise (I was certainly no slouch, but just being honest). Here are a few examples of some well executed and consistent branding. It’s plain to see how much of a difference good branding can make.

What this means for credit unions

Your credit union’s design is your credit union’s first impression; it is your identity. It sets the tone for the relationships that you will build with your members. In a consumer-driven society, you’re vying for time with every other sign, billboard, commercial or mailer that an individual comes in contact with, and the decision to review your info and services is made in a matter of seconds. You might offer the best rates, lowest fees and excellent customer service, but none of it matters if you’re not able to bring new faces in the door.

Deciding to re-brand is not a decision to take lightly or make in jest. It is a big commitment that needs to be thought out and contemplated from many angles. In part two of this post, we’ll look at specific goals and tips for developing an effective, attractive and consistent appearance for your credit union.

If you think it’s time to consider a re-branding of your credit union, an investment in professional graphic services with CU Solutions Group can underscore your marketing efforts for years to come. Contact us to today!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring is in the air!

It’s finally here (at least for most of the country)!

We all know the feeling – driving with the windows down, radio turned on, arm out the window with the breeze on your fingers ... Joggers and dog-walkers passing by, kids playing soccer and baseball at the park and the smell of the fresh spring air. We’re finally starting to thaw from a cold and stale winter, and there’s no denying it, the weather puts us in a different place.

Credit unions can capture this sentiment by rolling out a new marketing plan that rides the wave of spring’s rejuvenation. Offering GM discounts though Love My Credit Union Rewards can be the perfect way to help get a member into the right car for the right price just in time for spring cruising, and is a proven way of generating new auto loans for credit unions. Through this program, members are able receive exclusive pricing on new Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles that’s in addition to most current incentives!

Love to Shop is another great perk that credit unions can make available with a spring theme. Whether your members are looking add to their warm weather wardrobe, or transform their backyard into a fun place to cook-out and entertain, with Love to Shop credit union members can earn cash back at over 1,500 retailers – Home Depot, Target, Macy’s, Gap, Neiman Marcus, Nike, JC Penny and Sears, just to name a few.

When we think about seasonal promotions, we tend to about Black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other traditional holidays, but are plenty of other creative opportunities in which we can converge.

To learn more about Love to Shop, the credit union GM discount program through Love My Credit Union Rewards, or for help with a marketing solution tailored to your credit union, contact us today!