FORT WORTH, Texas-Forth Worth Community CU emerged from the recent recession saying it has been reminded of one important lesson: the importance of a diversified marketing strategy.

With the rising cost of postage and declining response rates, FWCCU cut back on its direct mail, while increasing its focus on e-mail marketing, online ads, iPhone and android apps, and other less expensive e-media. "Anything we could get to the consumer immediately and at a cheaper expense, that was the lesson we put together," said Rochelle Drake, VP of marketing at the 67,000-member, $777-million credit union FWCCU.

One benefit of that shift was that it has forced Fort Worth Community to get more creative, which led to the creation of FWCCU's virtual spokesperson "Gabby," which helped boost membership and loans. Those efforts recently netted the credit union a Best Practice Award from CUNA's Marketing & Business Development Council.

During the last two years, "we've had one of our highest increases in loan volumes and also the largest increase in membership that we've ever had," said Drake. "Do we attribute that 100% to Gabby? No, no no. Can we attribute it to better, faster, cheaper ways to market? Absolutely."

Change In Lending Strategies

Another lesson learned was that a change in lending strategies was needed. Lending has risen as the result of the creation of an internal indirect-lending department, which has not only increased relations with area dealers, but works into the evenings, on weekends and other times when the CU is normally closed. Between March 2009 and March 2012, the CU's total outstandings on indirect loans nearly doubled, from $149 million to $285 million. Indirect loans at point-of-sale more than tripled (from 3,662 to 13,706), while indirect loans made via an outsourced relationship have dropped by approximately 90%.

"We did away with the middle man, so to speak, and that has just gained tremendous growth with very little delinquency-less than 1%," said Drake.

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