50 Ways To Lose Your Members

First things first, Paul Simon is a musical genius.  Now that we have a common understanding, I will proceed.

Recently, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover graced my ears.  I did not actively seek out this tune, but the precocity of iTunes shuffle prevailed once again.  Because I’m always thinking about credit unions (seriously, it’s an illness), I thought, “If Paul and Art think it’s easy to lose a lover, it’s probably even easier to lose a credit union member.”

I (think I) know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is a stretch.  Either way, member retention is something that a lot of credit unions don’t focus on.  It’s not to say that we are lazy as an industry, but let’s face it, we’ve all got a lot going on and many of us are lucky to keep our heads erect due to the sheer weight of the multiple “hats” we’re wearing.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of tuning in to a Google Hangout with Tom Glatt and a few others  and he echoed the importance of member growth.  Remember, you can’t have growth if you’re CU is hemorrhaging members.  So, here it is: 5 (not 50) Ways to Lose Your Members (not lover):

 

1. Don’t make a new plan, Stan

“We always run this loan special in the Spring…”  Times, they are a changing.  Your credit union needs to change with them.  So much is said about “thinking outside of the box”.  I say this, “There IS NO box!”  Let’s stop talking about cardboard and get down to brass tacks.  Be unconventional, question traditions and don’t just do what you’ve been doing for years “just because”.  Credit union members have a lot of choices.  Online banking is taking off and banks are working to become less, well, “bankish” every day.

Banks and credit unions sell the same widgets.  Package them differently.

 

2. DON’T keep doing what you’re doing

Your credit union is unique, no doubt.  Is your membership aware of your CU’s uniqueness?  It is totally necessary to be innovative with marketing and branding strategies, but other things are better left as is.  Member service (I will only address this topic once) is important.  If you’ve got a member-centric mindset and your credit union lives it every day (every day), please skip to #3.  If not, please proceed.

I’m sure many of you have experienced the member that only conducts their business with a certain Member Service Representative (insert your CU’s title).  Why do members do this?  They do this because at one point, that employee went above and beyond what was asked of them for that member.

In my opinion, if we all went above and beyond, this phenomenon would fade away.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, but one member’s preference to work with only a specific employee implies that they may have had a less than stellar experience while interacting with a different employee.  We need to strive to provide the best service, we don’t necessarily need to talk about how awesome we are at it, though.  Not sure if you’re employees are making the grade?  Why not employ a mystery shop program?  We need to stay honest with ourselves, outside parties are great at doing this.  No one likes holding their own feet to the fire (if that’s even physically possible.)

 

3. Hop on the bus, Gus

Get out of the office and get into the community!  Already doing three community activities?  Why not make it six?  If people don’t see you out in the communities that you serve, how will they get to know more about you?  Other than what you post on billboards and run on the radio or TV, how are your members and prospective members learning about you?  Community events, when done correctly are the best marketing your credit union can do.  Let your members see you living the credit union lifestyle.  Start conversations with them outside of the branch.  Ask how your credit union is meeting or falling short of meeting their needs.  Show them that you care (actually caring helps as well) and use their feedback to address issues that need to be dealt with.

Let me be clear here, I am NOT talking about throwing sponsorship dollars around.  I am NOT talking about hanging a banner somewhere with your logo on it and expecting people to see it, actually process it and then make a “buying decision”.  No one does this, no one.  We need to get our brands out there in traditional ways, but if you can get your brand out there and have employees there to talk about making people’s lives easier, your credit union’s success at retaining and attracting new members will skyrocket.  What I AM talking about (Willis?)

 

4. You don’t need to discuss much?

You may not need to discuss much about “leaving your lover”, but you do need to spend time talking strategy.  Ideally, the amount of time you spend should shake out like this (from least amount of time to most): 1. Talking (everyone loves meeting right?) 2. Planning (“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”) 3. Executing (Not that sort of executing.)

We’re busy, but no one is too busy to do their due diligence.  Plans should always come first!  You may want to be the first credit union on Pinterest (trivial right?), but once you get on the website, what the heck are you going to post?  How are you going to use it to provide value to your membership?  How are you going to avoid being a salesperson?  You can apply this to budgeting, loan growth, marketing, membership growth, you name it.  I’m not casting stones here, but it has become apparent to me that there is a lot of doing, but little thought behind the action.  Lay your plans first, carry them out and then assess what can be done better.

 

5. Don’t let your meaning be lost or misconstrued

Don’t embrace social (new) media.  There’s no ROI, right?  I’m calling BS on this argument.  You want statistics?  Well, go find them for yourself.  I am more concerned with results.  I’ve been a part of managing social media campaigns for credit unions for three years (impressive right? lol).  There is an ROI and it CANNOT be measured traditionally.  You don’t measure water and square footage the same way, how can you expect to measure two completely different tactics the same way?

I expect, no, I welcome disagreement.  Discourse is good.  Results are better.  What are the results of a properly run social media campaign?  At the credit union I worked at prior to my current venture, we decreased the average age of our membership by 3.5 years in twelve months time.  Furthermore, 86% of net new members were under the age of 46.  Need more?  Here, 60% of that same net new membership was under 31 years old.  Read this white paper for more.  Pick your metrics, work your plan and reap the rewards.

Social media is the easiest way to get your message out of your branches and in front of more people.  It is a relationship builder.  Stronger relationships generally lead to higher member retention.  If you’re lucky enough, you might get people talking about you.  When this happens, sit back and enjoy the show.  I’m not saying Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and whatever other platform you prefer should be your primary focus.  What I am saying is that they provide value to your members and when you have the right person running your campaign, it’s cost effective and high impact.

 

What are some other ways to lose your lover (err… members?)  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Without wax,

Bryce

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Credit Union Shark Week

Shark Week on Animal Planet is a pretty big deal to a lot of people.  Not so much for me.  I’m the guy that goes on vacation to Florida and sticks his foot into the ocean and calls it a day (I’ve “been in the ocean” three times. So, I’ve got that going for me…Which is nice.)  I know sharks don’t lurk in 2 inches of water, but jellyfish are another story.  Anyhow, I think there are some lessons that credit unions can learn from sharks.  I’m not talking about feasting on sea lions or instilling fear in people like myself.  Instead, I’m talking about the inherent characteristics that make sharks, well, sharks.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

 Sharks can’t stop swimming?

You’ve probably heard that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die.  This is true of most species, but there are some exceptions.  Nonetheless, credit unions cannot afford to stop “swimming”.

As an industry we need to continue to make a concentrated effort to further what I will forever refer to as the “Credit Union Revolution.”  Every decision we make (I think about marketing and advertising mostly) should be about raising the bar, pushing the envelope and separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters in the banking industry.  I am not talking about bank bashing, but poking a little fun here and there has proven to be a tried and true method of getting people to understand that we are different by design.

Be cartilaginous!

Sharks are cartilaginous.  (Personally I just love this word.)  An animal that is cartilaginous is defined as one who’s skeleton is made up completely of cartilage.  This means that the animal is more flexible by nature.

We need to be flexible.  This rings true in the things that we already do.  A prime example of this is working with our members to understand their situation when they come to us for a loan that they can’t get anywhere else.  It goes much further than this though.  We should be flexible in the fact that we are one of the “best kept secrets” in the finance industry.  Being rigid and sticking to traditional ways of spreading the word about the value of credit union membership simply will not fly.  Our world has been rapidly changing for years and we need to be flexible and change with it.  Our marketing and advertising efforts need to be different, standout, maybe they need to be a bit outlandish (James Robert Lay has great insights on this. Here is just one of his most recent blogs for CUinsight.)  Generally speaking, the smaller size of our respective institutions are the perfect atmosphere for being flexible.  We need to enable our employees to tap into the resources we read and rely on for fresh new ideas.  Instead of only some of us hearing about the exciting things other credit union people are doing, we need our entire staff to understand that there are a lot of people doing awesome things in the name of “The Credit Union Revolution”.

I don’t know about you, but when I read an awesome blog post or hear about an exciting campaign someone in the industry is spearheading, I get amped.  Imagine if you could ignite your entire staff with that same amount of passion…

 Sharks are so misunderstood.

I’m a prime example of this.  I think sharks exist to hunt humans.  In reality, the number of shark attacks on an annual basis is relatively low.  Sharks are most definitely opportunistic.  I think the “we” the the torch bearers of “The Credit Union Revolution” could be much more opportunistic.  There is no better time than right now (Van Halen reference.)  While many of us are wearing many hats at our credit unions, we need to think outside of the branch (thought I was going to say box didn’t you?)  How can we carry on the conversations we have everyday in our branches to a wider audience?  How can we get the attention of others who have no knowledge or understanding of credit unions?  I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of countless community outreach events and each time, I’ve been able to spark conversations about credit unions.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is the credit union that I work at.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for everyone to join my credit union, but if the person doesn’t qualify, I’m Quick Draw McGraw with my iPhone to tell them about a credit union that can serve them.

We are a cooperative.  We are unique.  We are not sharks, but we should be fierce with passion about our industry.  People helping people sounds great, but we are much more than that.  We are people helping a population that is mostly unaware of what we can do for them.  To me this is the biggest tragedy.

Be cartilaginous, don’t stop swimming and make sure we are never misunderstood.

I look forward to your thoughts…

Without wax,

Bryce