Credit Union Industry Experts: What’s in Store for 2013

Originally posted on CUInsight.com

I like to say that one of a visionary leader’s most important functions is seeing over the horizon and recognizing opportunities and threats before anyone else does, and then shaping the strategy and tactics of the organization accordingly.

So for our year-end blog post I asked our Preferred Partners to tell us what they see coming over the horizon, from their perspective, that credit union executives need to be focused on and/or prepared for as we head into 2013. Looking back a year, I see some common themes—revenue issues, economic uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty, and political uncertainty. From that perspective, not much has changed as we look forward to 2013. Here is what a few of them said:

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The Case for Social Media: Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore It Anymore

Guest post written by Sundeep Kapur, Director Strategic Marketing – Ecommerce, NCR Corporation

“I don’t have time to blog!” (SVP of Marketing at a mid-sized credit union)

When I heard this from my friend “MC” I quickly thought about three recent events, and what his perspective implied about how his credit union engages with their members. The world of social media allows us to invite our members into our lobby or us to join our members in their homes. Staying in touch with them through social media allows us to keep them informed, and also market to meet their needs. We can make social media even more powerful by integrating it into our traditional communications and marketing strategies.

Despite three disparate topics, each of these three stories has a common thread—there is a credit union story inside each of them that is dying to be told to members, and not in a way that requires a TV commercial, print ad, or direct mail.

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Help Your Fellow Credit Unions Find Great Calculators for Their Website

One of the standouts for NAFCU Annual Conference is the tremendous volume of sharing of best practices that occurs. Some of that is spontaneous, and occurs around the proverbial watering hole, but there are also some structured opportunities.  NAFCU has a CEOs Forum, a Senior Management  Forum, Chairs Caucus, Directors and Supervisory Committee Forum, a defense credit union summit, a women’s leadership summit, and a small credit union roundtable, just to name a few.

It was hard to turn a corner without seeing credit union executives from different credit unions exchanging ideas about what works and what doesn’t work. One of our differentiators versus banks is this level of cooperation, and it creates a great atmosphere for credit unions to learn from each other.

There is no limit to the sorts of best practices that get shared at events like this. Perhaps the credit union executive you sit across from at breakfast will have a great idea on how to motivate employees. Maybe a credit union down the road will have a really effective advertisement that gives you inspiration to jazz up your own credit union’s ad campaign. Or maybe you’re about to go through a core processor conversion and want some tips on how to minimize disruption to members.

Don’t forget; you get what you give! The best way for you to open up the door for credit unions to share with you is to share your best practices as well.

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The Importance of Consistency in Marketing for Credit Unions

The importance of consistency in marketing is often overlooked as a way to strengthen your credit union branding and to make a great first impression with potential members. We always remember to keep the big things in our marketing consistent, such as making sure the website and advertising have a uniform look and messaging, but it is all-too easy to forget that the little things matter too.

In Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide (which, by the way, is a great read), John Jantsch writes, “Any time that a client or a potential client comes into contact with your firm, they are experiencing your firm’s brand or style. If you accept that definition, then you quickly see that any list of elements must also include: stationary, forms, telephone manner, delivery vehicles, printed materials, office facility, smells, business cards, invoices, customer service, salespeople, signage, employee attitudes, sounds, attire, fax cover, advertising, email format, website, vendors and tastes.”

While obviously a lot of those elements are not relevant to credit unions, the takeaway here is that every type of contact or interaction you have with your members and potential members, no matter how small, helps develop the overall impression of your brand.

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Help members calculate their savings for America Saves Week and year-round

Three years ago NAFCU Services decided to offer a solution to credit unions that would a.) help their members manage their personal finance goals; b.) help credit unions engage members and provide value; c.) reinforce the value proposition of credit unions; and d.) attract prospective credit union members to our credit union locator site, CULookup.com, to learn about credit unions and find one they can join. That solution is financial calculators for both credit union websites and for CULookup.com.

I’m happy to say the financial calculators we developed on CULookup.com have been successful on all four counts – but perhaps one of the most important benefits the calculators can have is their influence on member saving. With America Saves Week just around the corner (Feb. 19-26), I took a look at my own personal savings goals in the past year and how important setting and achieving those goals has been – and you can see how online calculators have helped every step of the way.

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