On Branding: Is Your Marketing Plan Running Around With A Big Net?

When students train to be doctors they take an oath to "First do no harm." It's a shame that CU leaders responsible for marketing don't make the same promise. Because whether you follow a clear, logical strategic path or toss all your marketing efforts into a cart and make a run for more assets, more members, more checking accounts, more of whatever you can get with a big net and good intentions, your Credit Union's future is being determined by the ways you "market" it today.

If you go to Dictionary.com and look up the definition of "Marketing" you'll discover two possible meanings. The first definition is "selling of products or services". That makes sense. The second definition is "grocery shopping", and sad to say that describes the way some CU management teams treat marketing-a lot more like grocery shopping than a strategic way to grow their CU.

To market successfully you must understand that to "sell products and services" to your members and prospective members requires an understanding of the roles of Marketing, Sales/Business Development, and Public Relations.

Marketing/Advertising: This is the main engine that should power your growth and profitability. Once you know where you want to go in your marketplace this is the main roadmap that will take you there. You need a marketing strategy that specifies the kinds of people you want to appeal to as you look for new members. Once you have a plan, then you develop tactics to put the plan into action and create ads to carry your messages to the market. Your marketing process consists of developing relevant messages and placing them where your prospective members will see them as often as possible.

Sales/Business Development: Somehow "sales" got a very bad and underserved reputation in our industry. If you ask Credit Union management teams what sets their Credit Union apart most of them will tell you, "It's our people. We have the best service in the market".

If you have the best service in town then why is it such a bad thing to let people know about it?

If your CU penetration looks like most, your wonderful service and caring, special staff are one of the best kept secrets in town. Selling is the process of letting prospects know what they're missing. Effectively selling a Credit Union is not a task you can tack onto job descriptions for Branch Manager or assign to part-time employees. Business development people are basically another media form, they should be as targeted to decision makers as your ads are targeted to prospective members.

Public Relations: Public Relations efforts demonstrate that the Credit Union's people are serious about being good neighbors who work to make the community better. PR done right is making sure people know about it when you do good things. As an example, it's great to sponsor a sport's team, but only if that team has your Credit Union's name clearly printed on their uniforms. PR coverage in print and on radio and TV helps increase awareness of your Credit Union, resulting in valuable credibility.

Successful promotion of your Credit Union is the result of effective marketing and advertising, sales and business development and PR. They may be championed by different managers, especially if your CU is large enough to have a separate business development staff. Ultimately these efforts combine to create the CU's Brand identity in the market.

Paul J. Lucas can be reached at paul<at>pauljlucas.com, or visit www.pauljlucas.com.