SEATTLE-No credit union's 2013 strategic planning session should be considered complete without a plan to reach consumers who want to leave their bank, but might not know a better option exists.

That is the message from Mark Weber, president and CEO of Weber Marketing Group. Weber told Credit Union Journal as 2013 begins to draw near, the "opportunity window" to capitalize on consumers' big-bank frustration and broken trust may be closing.

"The time to strike is now to reach those remaining bank customers still ready to switch, but unclear what a credit union is or where to find one," he asserted.

According to Weber, only a handful of the nation's 7,000-plus CUs have fully seized the opportunity to raise market awareness of their distinctive brand. Even fewer, he said, have "lit a fire under their staff" to rally together behind a shared goal of positive market growth with a clear and unique value proposition to drive a higher level of passionate brand experiences-and resulting high net member growth.

"We call that transformational moment of internal and external change 're-defining a credit union's brand catalyst.' We have learned it does not just happen because a credit union is friendlier than big banks, its fees are lower, or it still has free checking-quite the opposite."

The Moment of Change

Instead, Weber continued, a moment of change happens the day management decides to take on a single focal point to rally and set the CU apart in the minds, hearts and emotions of every one of its stakeholders.

"It requires stellar planning, but far more importantly, an incredible level of focus and execution to deliver on that brand promise," he said. "It is not easy to pull off. If it was, the credit union industry overall would be growing by leaps and bounds."

According to Weber, making meaningful change requires a collaborative, well-integrated process. He said it demands a healthy assessment of a CU's current brand challenges, while the staff needs to feel ownership of that process, not top-down pressure.

The payoff, he said, is a CU uncovering the "gold nugget" of its brand essence and then bringing it to life.

"This has given many of our clients a literal compass that drives future decision making, innovative new products, bold, fresh branch designs, and smarter technologies that align with the credit union's brand vision," he said. "A well-focused brand drives frustrated bank customers into a credit union's doors and gives employees a reason to get excited about their work."

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