Credit union employees are often asked to wear many different hats. Depending on the resources available to the credit union, staff may be individually or jointly tasked with my favorite area: marketing. These marketing tasks range from social media management and graphic design to being responsible for various advertising channels. Marketing is a unique business role because, in some capacity, we can all market without any training necessary. Everyone can design, everyone can write, everyone can be creative, and everyone can post on social media.
At the beginning of each year, it is easy to list out our objectives and assign each of the tasks to our staff. The goals never seem too lofty or unobtainable, but then we quickly move through springtime, and before we know it, summer vacation is in full effect. Unsurprisingly, we begin to miss our goals. Those same employees who said they can write, design, or post on social media no longer have the excitement and the spark to complete the task. Or maybe those marketing tasks are no longer a priority as the work from their primary responsibilities builds up and takes precedent.
Should marketing be a bigger priority at your credit union?
It’s easy to see why our primary day-to-day tasks take priority. After all, if an advertisement does not get designed by the end of the day your credit union will not shut down. But that banner matters. I’m sure there are hundreds of valid reasons you have heard for why a project isn’t completed, but I’m here to advocate for you to follow through on your credit union’s marketing projects! These projects matter to you and your credit union’s members. Your marketing improves your credit union’s brand, informs and educates your members, and helps increase your bottom line.
Too often marketing is seen as non-critical to the credit union’s operations. But while missing a marketing task won’t doom your credit union in the short term, repeatedly missing them may hurt you in the long term. When we push new marketing materials out into our community in a timely manner, we get responses. These responses are how we gauge the success or failure of our marketing work. However, if we do not practice and continuously refine our work we cannot learn from our mistakes, we cannot flex and strengthen our creativity, we cannot find new and better ways of doing things, and we absolutely will not be better at marketing when we look back at the past year’s progress.
So how do we fix the problem? Do not allow yourself or your staff to make excuses. Stick to the plan and finish the job! Here’s my five step process for creating and executing your annual marketing plan.
1. Create a plan with measurable and attainable goals
The first and most important step in this process is to create a plan with a goal that is within reach and measurable. Do not make it harder than it needs to be. If you have struggled to execute your marketing plan in the past, then you should plan to do less this year (but you should also plan to do it well!)
Your marketing efforts also need to be measurable. However, I am not implying that you need advanced analytics; simply choose straight forward campaigns that increase basic metrics like accounts, loans, membership, etc. With the tools available to you today, you should be able to track your progress and measure your results.
2. Decide on the number of marketing campaigns to run
The next step is to decide how many different marketing campaigns you want to run in a year. What are the messages you want to share with your community? What products or services are you planning to promote? I suggest you have six to eight campaigns a year. This will allow your members and your community to fully digest your messages and allow you time to evaluate the success or failure of your efforts. And by not overloading yourself with an unnecessarily complex campaign road map, you give yourself a better chance at following through.
3. Pick a marketing channel to prioritize
The third step is to choose the most important marketing channel to your credit union’s audience. It might be social media, your website homepage, your mobile app, or maybe some other type of local advertisement. No matter what you select, you should plan to push your marketing messages the strongest through this channel.
That does not mean you should avoid all other channels, but merely give more attention to the method you have identified as having the highest probability of success. Unless your credit union has a large dedicated marketing team, you and your staff should not try to promote your message through every marketing channel possible. You will be able to market your chosen method with excellence and you will be able to definitively evaluate the effectiveness of your decision.
4. Stick with it!
The fourth step is simple in principle, but difficult in practice: keep going. I suggest that every month you schedule a meeting and review your progress. This will hold you and your staff accountable. Review, discuss, adjust, and simply keep doing it! It is much more difficult to let thing slide if you are meeting with your team and everyone understands their responsibilities.
5. Mistakes will happen, roll with them
The final step is to be ready to make mistakes and to be open and excited to learn from them. There will be snags, there will be less than exciting results. Don’t get discouraged! Practice will make you more effective in time. If you follow these steps, you are going to learn about your community, and you are going to learn to be better marketers. You will be amazed at the way consistent and planned marketing can invigorate your credit union and give your staff momentum in all aspects of their roles.
As a marketing professional, I know firsthand the feeling that others view marketing as something anyone can do – and those people are right, everyone can do it! You cannot expect every person to have a high level of passion and a self-driven attitude for marketing, but by sticking to your plan you and your staff will develop a sense of pride and accomplishment. Have you ever seen marketing done well by a credit union, big or small? It stands out to everyone, including the members and the community, so follow in their stead! You will not be disappointed with the reward.