Grow Show Wealth of Growth Ideas

Reporters' notebooks (or, more likely, laptops) are usually pretty reliable bellwethers for the value of any credit union get-together. If the pages are filled with what are typically indecipherable scribbles or that hurriedly typed Word doc looks like a squirrel was dancing on the keyboard, it's likely because discussion worth reporting is taking place.

When you've got an empty notebook or a Word doc that begins and ends with a dateline, well, you know there's not much worth reporting at that meeting and your best hope is to try to find a squirrel.

Credit Union Journal'sjust-completed Grow Show didn't need any squirrels. There was plenty of excellent discussion and idea sharing, and my notebook was full. Below are some more highlights from the meeting:


* Few of the speakers at Grow Show prompted more raised hands and interest than did Chad Burney, SVP-Virtual Banking and CIO with GTE Financial, who shared details of his CU's "Techs On Tour" program, which lets members bring their PCs and laptops to select branches for a diagnostic and free repair. Not surprisingly, this innovative idea has been popular.

One point made by Burney was that the program isn't just about members; it's a way to get IT staff typically segregated away in the back office to interact with members.

"IT is the Oompa Loompas of the organization," he observed somewhat tongue in cheek of how IT staff are seen. "We come out a night. If you see us, there's a problem. No one ever calls to say 'My computer is running great!' "


* Plenty of credit unions talk the "People Helping People" talk. Few have walked it like WestStar CU in Las Vegas, which has staged six popular job fairs for the unemployed. Those fairs have resulted in more than 2,000 people getting jobs, according to VP-Member Development Mona Joseph.



Kids All Grown Up

* Credit unions have long talked about reaching the youth market, such as Gen Y. But perhaps they've been talking about it for too long. As CUNA Mutual's Stephanie Christensen observed, some members of this generation are now 34 years old.


* Sue Malo, AVP-business development with Great Lakes CU, made it clear why GLCU hosted a "Chicks, Cars & Cupcakes" event aimed at women. "Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, 92% of new homes, 65% of new cars and 89% of bank accounts," she said. But 74% of women also feel misunderstood by auto marketers and say they are "treated poorly in the auto-buying process." (I don't have any stats, but I don't think too many men walk away from the car lot thinking, "Well, that seemed respectful and fair.")

Malo added that Great Lakes has partnered with AskPatty.com (a site offering auto-related advice to women) to become the first certified "Female Friendly" credit union for auto loans in the U.S.


* Bo McDonald, president of South Carolina-based YOUR Marketing Co., shared numerous low-budget ideas to drive high awareness. What was most striking to me was the amount of time some people will spend in line to get $20 in free gas. At several stations where the gas was available to the first 100 people who showed up, McDonald said that when he arrived at 5:30 a.m. people were already in line. And the giveaway wouldn't start for several hours.

Those lines created "mad chaos," he said, and the chaos got lots of media attention-an estimated $270,000 worth of free attention.



A Short Lifespan

* When it comes to social media, according to Joseariel Gomez, CEO of Shastic, "Credit unions are driving a Ferrari in first gear, going at 10 mph. But it's not as simple as you think to go into high gear. And that's because it requires a completely different approach." Facebook, said Gomez, "is an entirely different channel from traditional marketing channels. It is based on many ongoing engagements with a very short lifespan. You cannot depend on one, single post."


* It's Old School. It's often basic. And one more thing: it works. As Eileen Cherry-Clark of Baxter CU asked, "It's common sense stuff. But is it common practice?"

In this case the "it" is what back in the day was called SEG Marketing, back before most CUs abandoned SEGs along with passbooks in the rush to community charters, even though SEGs offer some inherent advantages.

Baxter has grown to $1.87 billion in assets by serving the sponsor of the same name and then numerous SEGs. Cherry-Clark, BCU's corporate relationship manager, emphasized the middle word in that title in remarks to Grow Show, and the advice is applicable for any meeting or sales call, not just for meeting with SEGs. (When Cherry-Clark polled her audience for how many CUs had relationship managers, just three did. I would like to think that everyone at a credit union is a relationship manager.)

Cherry-Clark urged having an agenda and sticking to it, using people's names, responding to wants and needs as well as being problem solvers. The differences between men and women, which was something of a theme across various speakers at Grow Show, are apparent in client meetings, Cherry-Clark suggested, saying men often get stuck talking about sports or small talk in meetings, while women are better at creating a common bond on a personal level. (Or at least I think that's what she said; I might have been thinking about the NBA playoffs.)

Some of Cherry-Clark's other points:

* "When you're in that meeting, when they say yes, find out the next action steps and a confirm a contact person."

* "Talking is good, listening is even better. It needs to be beneficial to both parties."

* "Think of the worst thing that could happen, and then don't let it."

Grow Show closed on the same day NCUA was announcing that 800,000 people had joined credit unions in the first quarter, so it was appropriate the meeting sent attendees home with advice on onboarding, i.e., making those new members good members.

Harland Financial Solutions' Tom Berdan cited a definition of the word from Forrester, that onboarding is "activation, usage and cross-sell," and then reminded, "Onboarding is critical in the first 90 days, and you will have attrition in those first three months if you're not engaging."

Berdan shared five strategies he said are key for effective onboarding, including:

1. Acquire the right member with the right targeting, such as during life-stage events

2. Provide relevant communication early and often; gather info during origination.

3. Use the right message and right channel at the right time. "The lift is as much as 30% when using dual channels."

4. Know your member. He pointed to a JD Power finding that "Collecting insights assists with sales, but also increases customer satisfaction."

5. Get those sticky products in hands, such as direct deposit and ACH debits.



Right Out The Back Door

Berdan was joined in his presentation by Andy Reed, manager of business development at American Airlines FCU, which has grown to 245,000 members. But Reed confessed that while his CU had grown to 4% growth from 1%, it "also noticed as quickly as people coming in the front door they were going out the back." Appropriately enough, an airline industry CU responded by improving how it gets people on board. As Credit Union Journal has reported elsewhere, AAFCU now contacts members with direct mail at 30, 60 and 90 days. It even follows up with those who leave. Its retention rate is north of 90%.

"If you are not addressing acquisition, onboarding and engaging as one single strategic plan, your growth plans are going to be adversely affected," said Reed. "If not, you are running a revolving door."

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.