Four Reasons Your Credit Union Marketing Isn’t Working

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This article was originally published on YourMarketing.Co

Marketing is difficult to do well, but credit unions that want to grow know it’s 100% necessary. You realize things could be (and should be) better and through trial and error admit marketing isn’t in your wheelhouse. You’re a great credit union leader, but either your background isn’t in marketing or you’re just too close to your credit union brand to objectively make decisions.

You’ve hired internally, but it just hasn’t panned out. You’ve hired a local agency and they don’t understand the uniqueness of credit unions and your value proposition, or it’s a national firm and they don’t understand the uniqueness of your community. Or you’ve been paralyzed by the options and just not made a decision at all.

No matter which of the buckets you fall into, one of the strengths of our team is our close working relationship with hundreds of credit unions over nearly two decades. We’ve seen a lot, and it’s allowed us to map out patterns, ultimately helping you to learn from and avoid others’ mistakes, and learn the solutions to help your credit union get unstuck from the obstacles in the way of your credit union marketing success.

Here are four common mistakes we’ve seen over the years:

1. You’ve become paralyzed with fear

One of the hardest and most intimidating reasons you’ve struggled to effectively market your credit union is you’re unsure what to do exactly. What works? How long should it take to work? How much should you spend on a monthly or annual basis? Can’t you just outsource this?

When there are this many questions, it’s hard for you to be confident in where to start, what direction to take, and how long you give it to determine whether it’s successful or a flop. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s hard to make the tough decision to commit energy, hours, and dollars to something that isn’t all that fun anyway. Between the level of confusion and all of the other tasks on your plate, many credit union leaders put off the decisions again and again.

The truth is most credit unions in this situation don’t address their marketing at all until a full-on emergency blows up. Until the NCUA or someone internally declares that it’s time to “grow or merge,” getting serious about marketing usually isn’t a priority. I believe it’s never too late, but the approaches taken are very different depending on just how much of a 911 marketing-for-growth is for your credit union.

2. Believing marketing is the silver bullet

False. There are plenty of carnival-style marketing vendors out there who will pull a bottle of snake oil out of their wagon for a big price and make big promises. These silver-bullet promises sour more credit unions on the idea of marketing firms more than any other factor. The silver bullet didn’t work, not really because the marketing firm failed, but because the silver bullet was never going to work in the first place.

Marketing is hard. It’s complicated. It takes time, money, energy and focus—all for a prolonged period of time. Forever, specifically. I like to use the analogy of a diet pill versus hiring a personal trainer. Sure, a personal trainer is a big investment and a lot of hard work compared to popping a diet pill, but you also get a knowledgeable partner who knows how to help you accomplish your goals and will hold you accountable with the results you truly want for the long term.

3. You don’t “mind the gap”

The “gap” is the amount of time between your decision to truly invest in marketing and the time it takes to start seeing results. Almost all credit union marketing initiatives die in this space. Committing to marketing is tough, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Sticking with it is just as tough. There’s pressure for the marketing to perform and deliver an ROI.

I recall one client who would blow up the marketing plan every week or two when the results weren’t coming in fast enough. “Change creative, change the offer, change everything!” Needless to say, that client never saw results. They only kept confusing their members and potential members.

If the plan is the right one, and you can stay disciplined and stick with it, it will work. Credit unions who employ the right combination of positioning, content, contact strategy, and an effective website see real, astonishing results in the first 9 – 15 months.

4. Fear drives you

That same client I just mentioned was so fearful of doing the wrong thing that they hired an attorney to run all of their marketing ideas through. “We can’t afford to get in trouble.” True, you don’t want to get tangled up in a legal mess, but that same attorney was able to take every marketing idea and find something wrong with it to the point that we couldn’t get anything at all launched.

Of course, this is a worst-case scenario, but I often see credit union marketing initiatives fail due to staying too safe. I don’t suggest a Howard Stern-style “shock value” marketing plan, but how will you stand out in your members’ minds if you don’t look different from your competitors?

You can do this

Reading a list of reasons why you and your peers have historically struggled with your credit union marketing efforts can be a bit deflating, right? The good news is that, like any industry, there are patterns that will determine whether or not your marketing will work.

There are lots of ways to fail, but there are just as many to win. We’ve witnessed dozens of credit unions transform from stuck and confused to confident, successful, growing credit unions, and you can too!

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