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Thought Leadership

The Road Less Travelled to Membership Growth

Posted by Scott Butterfield on September 11, 2017 at 7:40 PM

It’s strategic planning season for many of us; a time for reassessing our environment and revisiting our strategic themes to ensure we are heading down the right road.


The competition is fierce. Most of us prefer an uncontested market space, but the reality is that many of us operate in hyper-competitive markets, fighting for dominance. But the payday for those credit unions that take the right road and find their niche is deeper consumer demand, greater organic growth, and shrinking competitive relevance.


Are your current strategies enough to reach your goal?


If your organization has a growth strategy, I encourage you to consider this strategic question: will your strategy help you locate the road less traveled to target the right consumer with the right product offer at the right time? If you can confidently answer “yes,” carry on. But if you operate in tough markets, with dozens or more local or remote organizations competing for the same potential members, I challenge you to revisit your strategy and consider other options. In a market filled with equally skilled and resourced competitors, can your organization afford to have the second-best strategy for matching the right person with the right product at the right time? It’s great if you find the right person, but what if you don’t get to them in time? What if your offer is wrong?


The road less traveled


In my strategic planning travels, I’m exposed to hundreds of potential credit-union growth strategies. As excited as some leadership teams are about their growth strategies, I have to say most are very similar. It’s tough to dominate a market or gain measurable market share when similar competitors are slugging it out using the same old strategies.


One reason we see so many of the same strategies is that credit unions tend to 1) follow what has worked for others, and 2) select the best strategies they perceive they can afford. If any of this reflects how you determined your strategy, I hope you will revisit your strategy with the following considerations:


If you’re following strategies that have worked for others, what can you do to give your strategy an edge over the competition?


If your strategy is limited by what you think you can afford, consider what happens if you invest less than what’s needed to make sure you get to the right person with the right product at the right time. Invest too little and you might be better off making no investment at all. Why throw good money after the probability of poor results?


Case in point


Most credit unions, especially large ones, use customized consumer target lists to find and reach new potential members. These strategies have been around for a long time. Success is mixed, and I believe that one reason is because so many credit unions and banks located in the same markets use similar lists, targeting the same people at the same time.


There is a road less traveled for target marketers. Today, we have access to data that can be used to help us realize deeper segmentation to find consumers that may be overlooked by the competition, and give a credit union the edge at getting to the right person first. But to realize this deeper level of segmentation, one must be committed to spending the time with their internal and external data managers to look deeper and further for those consumers. Here are a few examples:


Thin-file borrowers. On the surface these thin-file consumers look less attractive. However, alternative risk scores can help target these specific populations that will likely drive growth for years to come.

Relationship preferences. What if you could identify those potential consumers who are more likely to work with a credit union over a bank, and what if you could invest more of your marketing dollars attracting this group?

In the market consumers. Most consumers are not in the market at a given point in time. Leveraging propensity models can help identify those who are, and significantly increase response rates and campaign ROI.


The road less traveled is so much more than a custom data dump with saturated data points. This strategic road looks deeper and wider to find overlooked, high-quality new members.


“It can seem counter-intuitive at first, but making a move toward a more focused marketing effort can actually lead a credit union to a broader audience, a larger membership, and improve their member service capabilities,” said Jason Dietrich, an Experian consultant. “When I work with credit unions to design more targeted campaigns, the increased efficiency and ROI allows the credit union to invest in new areas they otherwise couldn’t – like digital- and mobile-friendly channels, and overall member services.” 


Why it matters


Your relevance and long-term sustainability rely on your team’s ability to out-compete your competitors. If you want to win, make sure that you have the right strategies. Find a way to be clearly different and better. You can do this by targeting the right consumer with the right product at the right time. This is possible with an all-in commitment, smart thinking and wise use of data.

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