Stop Thinking About Yesterday; Nine Ways To Open Doors Tomorrow

Although the number of credit unions today continues to shrink like hot Saran Wrap, their financial performances are growing at a healthy clip-some in record numbers. Just look at the recent industry news from NCUA's Q4 data: $8.5 billion in earnings (the highest figure ever for the industry), two-million more members in 2012 Q4 compared to 2011 Q4, overall assets exceeded $1 trillion (highest figure ever for the industry), industry net worth ratio exceeded 10%, lending grew 4.6%, etc.

It's no wonder most attendees at CUNA's most recent GAC were grinning from ear to ear.

But lets not get too comfortable and complacent in our lush, leather success. As we all know, life can turn on a dime. Remember our corporates calamity a few years ago? Just when credit unions had the bankers by the tail as the economy was spiraling out of control, the bottom almost fell from beneath us, too.

That said, it's smart business to keep our trade in perspective and continue to think differently, opening doors and keeping those doors open. Apple's Steve Jobs once said, "Don't think about how great things were yesterday." In other words, don't wallow in recent successes and get complacent. Keep pushing. What can you do to keep being proactive in your businesses practices?

Here are nine ways to open new doors for your credit union this year and keep them open for new opportunities:


1. Offer a partnership, not products and services. During appointments, products and services are never mentioned. Talk about how you can be a partner for their company. Offer to be a partner to SEGs and companies in the community, not just the credit union: community partner, resource partner, educational partner, fundraiser partner, etc.


2. Turn SEGs and community businesses into "Partners for Life." Include them in exciting events and be a part of their events offering them your time, money, support and giveaways for their events. As the old saying goes: "Many times you have to give to receive."


3. Add value by offering a unique program that no other financial institution offers, such as a Credit Score Management Seminar. All financial institutions offer seminars on "managing your budget," "identifying theft," etc. Not every financial institution, however, offers a Credit Score Management Seminar that shows people how they can raise their credit score, or a seminar entitled: "How to Protect Yourself Against Predatory Lending," which is a hot topic in the industry right now. The Credit Score Management Seminar, for instance, has been one of the biggest door-openers for several credit unions I have worked with in the past.


4. Tell your story using the 3 Cs. Your message can be more powerful when it is clear, concise, and compelling. For example, "We help people save hundreds of thousands of dollars during their lifetime. How? If we can help you raise your credit score from 600 to 700, we could save you an average of $10,000 in interest on a $25,000 auto loan for 60 months. We can save you money and eliminate high-interest rate credit card debt by transferring your credit card debt into the equity of your car or home or installment loan. We can offer a secured credit card to help you establish credit and/or improve your credit score."


5. Remove barriers to get accounts and loans. Offer a complimentary savings account with $5, $25, etc., to cover the share account ownership value. Advertise "No money required to open account."


6. Ask therightquestions. Ask questions such as "How would you like to lower your monthly auto payment" and "How would you like to raise your credit score to get even lower payments and lower interest rates?"


7. Offer free credit score analysis (CSA). A one-on-one consultation to review a member's credit report to help them raise their credit score, lower their payments, and eliminate balances on high-interest rate credit cards can bring in plenty of new business-all while helping the member save some precious cash.


8. Use a mini-application for loans and CSA authorizations.


9. Focus on the right goals. Loans, loans and more loans will turn your business development department into a revenue-generating machine.


Based on these strategies, one credit union, for example, managed to amass 103 mini-applications signed at a recent benefit fair. Out of approximately 45 cold calls, 95% turned into appointments at the CU's Credit Score Management Seminars and FUN Friday Kick Off events-which gave the credit union face-to-face access with employees.

It is exciting to see these results, as there is no one thing that will make business development successful-but the culmination of many innovative strategies. These strategies, if consistently executed, can keep our record-breaking growth on the rise for many more quarters to come.

What strategies and success stories do you have that led to great results for your credit union?

Celeste Cook is founder and President/CEO of cuStrategies, LLC, Montgomery, Ala. Ms. Cooke can be reached at cccook@cu-strategies.com.