NASHVILLE, Tenn.-As members of a credit union audience, as one person did here, to raise their hands if they offer "above average service," and you will get exactly the response expected: every hand goes up.

"Guess what? You're all above average," noted Steve Richman. "And what does that make you?"

"Average," said his audience in unison."

"Wrong!," responded Richman. "It makes you liars."

Richman's observation came during a fast-paced presentation at NAFCU's annual meeting on "Credit Union Member Data: Marketing To Reach Your Members."

The point of the exchange above was that marketing "great service" simply isn't an effective differentiator. Neither is advertising great rates or great products or how long the credit union has been in business, said Richman, a sales trainer with Genworth Mortgage Insurance.

"Everyone says, 'Hey, we have great rates.' Hey, no you don't. Everybody has great rates," said Richman. "Rates are not a sustainable marketplace advantage. Others say, "We have great products.' Everybody has great products. If someone has a great product, others will duplicate it. Others say 'We've been in business for X number of years. That's why you should do business with me.' I have no idea when U.S. Air started, but guess what? They still lose my luggage. Just because you've been around for a while, doesn't mean I want to business with you. I don't care that you knew how to business in 1974.

"People say 'Under-promise and over-deliver.' But if you under-promise, you'll never get the chance to over-deliver."

What every credit union needs to know in all lines of business is itself, its environment and the government, according to Richman.

"If you don't understand yourself, how are you going to understand where you are going? Richman asked. "In marketing, you need to know what you sell. Why should I do business with you? Why should I do business with your company?

"When everybody says the same thing-great customer service, great rates-you're saying you're like everyone else. And people want something different," Richman offered. "You have to PROVE great customer service. I expect good customer service and if I don't get it I will leave."

 

Knowing More About Mortgages

Speaking to mortgages specifically, Richman noted that recent surveys show mortgage professionals currently rank lower in credibility and professionalism than car dealers (as an aside he noted the two hottest sales category in the U.S. right now are automobiles and electronics).

Among some statistics Richman urged credit unions to give some attention:

* The average person will own four homes in their lifetime.

* 39% of all purchases in the U.S. today are first-time homebuyers.

* 98% of all first time homebuyers needs a mortgage.

* People move, on average, 12 miles. "That means they are moving within our sphere of influence," said Richman. "f you give bad customer service on deal number one, good luck giving any service on deal number two and deal number three."

 

The Environment

When it comes to the environment in which CUs operate, Richman noted ignorance of what is happening is a sure-fire strategy for losing business. One consumer trend he urged his audience to pay attention to is the fact that in general, when a statement is made, many people don't believe it, and they are often reassured by outside validation.

"When you go to market, you can use a third party to support your message. When you say 'This is what someone else says,' they say, 'Then I believe you.'"

Richman urged credit unions to find that third-party validation in a number of online resources, including FHFA.gov, which provides quarterly updates on home values.

"Some people are still waiting to buy. You can run ads saying, 'Waiting for Rock Bottom? According to FHFA.gov, home values went up 0.5% last quarter. You should have bought yesterday."

Using those third parties, said Richman, says "you're knowledgeabe. You're sending a message, 'Time to buy.' When people say 'I want to know how great your rates are! Send them to bankrate.com. If you say you have great rates, this is your chance to prove it using a third party, objective source. "

Richman also cited Realtor.org as a terrific resource in the mortgage space.

For "fence-sitters," those members who can't make a decision, Richman urged credit unions to tell those members to "Google the CFPB." Once they do, he said, they will see how much mortgage underwriting may change. "You can say 'This is what I can do for you today, but I'm not sure what's going to happen in the future. It's time to get off the fence."

He reminded credit unions that "to get approved for a mortgage today you will need to be doing some type of mortgage insurance. Most people don't know this, but you as a credit union have better guidelines for MI than other lenders around the country."

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