Monday, January 12, 2009

Is your Board Bored?

In the age of social networking, dynamic web interactions, and transparent business practices credit unions have one thing that can lift them above the rest. Something that should be just as dynamic as the credit union's interaction with its members, and just as important.

What is it?

It's board of directors.

The purpose of the board of directors is to represent the membership's interests. The board is (ideally) made up of people from within the credit union's membership, voted in by the membership, and that represent that membership's needs and wants.

Unfortunately, many credit unions have let the importance of a representative board of directors slide into apathy.

Today, board leadership and its role in the operation of a credit union need to be more apparent and clear to our membership than ever before. Members need to know who is on their board, what they stand for, and they need to be aware that they can apply to be on, and vote on who is on, the board.

What better way to differentiate yourself from the profit driven, stockholder-pleasing banks than to make your members aware of, and encourage their participation with, your board of directors.

How are you getting the word out and encouraging your members to be involved with your board?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Dynamic Discussion

This was written as a guest post over at Check them out if you haven't already. Trust me, they rock.

Since the advent of advertising (whenever that was), marketers have gone about the task by creating products and accompanying ads that they hope resonate with their target audience and by pushing those ads out hoping people will see them. Sure, if you’re a good marketer and do your research you can create something that gets the attention of some of the people in your target, but in my opinion there is a better way.

No longer can you push out marketing. You have to have a dynamic connection to your membership. You have to have a relationship with your current membership and pull the ideas from them. No longer is marketing an internal, hierarchal process, but one that includes all levels of staff and direct input from membership.

So what am I saying?

You and your staff need to speak directly with the people in your target. Let them tell you what they want and how they want it. Then you can create something that is truly made for your target market from the bottom up.

How do you go about doing this?

Open up dialogue with your current members. If you are going for word of mouth marketing, they are the ones you want to please. Why try and target a group you don’t know/understand when you have a collection of people who you can ask what they want, please them, and have them pass on the good word to their friends and relatives?

You have to find out what the people you currently serve want and provide them with it in a way that gets them talking. Do something so uniquely tailored to that group that they tell others.

You might ask “well we’re trying to capture the youth demographic and Gen Y. We don’t have many of them, how are we going to attract them if we only do things for our current members?”

There is a big difference between “what” and “how”. In talking to your current membership you can find out the “what”. What are they like, what do they want, and what do they need? You can then take those things and deliver them in a way that is tailored to an age, or channel preference. You have to develop a recognizable culture, and then deliver it in a channel that reaches the people that match that culture.

This culture, or brand, should guide everything you do. Remember that you can’t possibly be all things to all people without becoming a faceless, commoditized institution. Keep in mind that you are looking to target a type of person. You are trying to attract people with similar interests, personalities, or common philosophical views. Only when you have established what type of people you are looking to attract should you break it down to something like age.

If you want real word of mouth growth you need to be the best at serving a specific type of person. It’s nearly impossible to compete on the level of “best rate” or “best service”, especially for smaller institutions. Why not compete on the level of “the best place for ______ type of person” and fill in that blank by knowing who you are serving right now.

Start the dialogue, know your members, know what they want, deliver it in the relevant channels, and get your current members talking.