A Strategy To Make Marketing Pack A More Powerful Punch

Randolph-Brooks FCU adopted an agency model for its marketing department more than a decade ago and has lessons to share for credit unions of all sizes.

 
 

CU QUICK FACTS

Randolph-Brooks FCU
Data as of 09.30.19

HQ: Universal City, TX
ASSETS: $9.6B
MEMBERS: 860,157
BRANCHES: 63
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.4%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 0.3%
ROA: 1.16%

Achieving efficiency and continuity were two of the key drivers behind a new structure in Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union’s ($9.6B, Live Oak, TX) marketing department, which was modeled after well-known advertising agency best practices. “When I joined the credit union, the marketing officer’s role was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ with time split between products and branches instead of working with departments as a whole,” says Blake Lyons, vice president of marketing and business development for Randolph-Brooks. While this approach may have aided in cross-training, it did not proactively address internal client (aka department) needs on a consistent basis. The marketing team began its transformation from a traditional departmental structure to an internal agency in 2007. The benefits of the cooperative’s agency model include a faster time to market, streamlined approvals, and increased efficiency. It also encourages a “billable hours” mindset that ensures the department can properly allocate resources.

“Our 2020 focus is all about process improvement…How can we identify opportunities to improve efficiency and evolve our project workflow?” Lyons asks.

Here, Lyons talks about why his credit union made the move to an agency model, what it took to pull off such a transformation, and how other credit unions might benefit from a performance-driven structure.

Blake Lyons, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Randolph-Brooks FCU

When did you join RBFCU? How was the marketing team structured at that time?

Blake Lyons: I began my love affair with Randolph-Brooks FCU, and the credit union movement, on Valentine’s Day 2007. I joined as a marketing officer, bringing my background in a boutique agency with me.

At that time, the marketing department consisted of four officers and two in-house graphic designers. There was also a marketing analyst who managed our marketing customer information (MCIF) system, which allowed us to target members and present the next best offer from the credit union.

Tell me more about your career path at the credit union.

BL: In 2009, I was promoted to Director of Marketing, followed by the position of Assistant Vice President in 2010 and Vice President the following year. The Vice President role added additional responsibilities to include our Business Development team.

In my previous marketing roles, we worked very closely with Business Development to increase field of membership opportunities, grow membership and work with community leaders and businesses to share the value of credit union membership in our service areas. Based on the relationships I had built in Business Development, taking on those challenges as I was promoted to the Vice President position made logical sense for synergy and efficiency.

How has the marketing team changed during your tenure?

BL: My predecessor had started restructuring the department and wanted to implement more agency processes. From proofing workflows to pitch meetings, we thought acting as an internal agency would allow us to be more forward-looking and proactive in identifying solutions. I served as an account manager at the agency in my previous life, and the new processes really started to take hold as I ingrained myself into the credit union culture.

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The structure of the department has also changed significantly. Today, we have a marketing team that consists of eight marketing officers and five graphic designers. Plus, we have a separate corporate communications team that handles PR, social media content, internal communications, and more.

The marketing analysis team has grown as well — from one individual to three. It manages the MCIF and business intelligence behind the campaigns we implement.

What else can you tell me about the transition period? Did the team stop doing anything?

BL: The journey toward an internal agency model was already underway prior to me joining the team, with the addition of two graphic designers joining the team shortly before I accepted the position. We discontinued the use of an external graphic design firm and all design jobs were done internally.

I think as we matured into our role as an internal agency, we have taken on more accountability for things. We understand the nuances of media buying, advertising media specifications for design, and logistics for printing and mail fulfilment. This allows the team to not just be expert marketers in the financial services realm, but really empowers them to have the capacity to transition into marketing in any industry and be successful.

What role do the marketing officers play in this structure?

BL: Marketing officers may also be described as project managers or account executives, and they are critical to the entire structure. They focus on growing the credit union by adding new members as well as deepening relationships with existing members. They feed the pipeline at the front-end and present final output on the back.

This role is the primary liaison between our service teams (Graphic Design, Marketing Analysis, PR, etc.) and our clients (credit union departments). They serve as project managers to identify opportunities with clients to meet their goals.

Some clients, such as consumer lending, might require weekly meetings to stay on target. Others might meet less frequently. The marketing officers also schedule in-depth meetings quarterly to share the results of specific marketing campaigns and fine-tune future ones.

To be in the game today, content must be authentic, useful, and quickly available. The internal agency model helps us achieve this and auditable workflow software helps us keep it organized and moving forward.

Blake Lyons, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Randolph-Brooks FCU

What does the marketing team produce in-house?

BL: Our agency deliverables include just about everything — TV, radio, print, outdoor, online, and more.

Video is one area that has really grown. Back in 2008, we wanted to highlight member stories, so we purchased a video camera to record them. While trying to find little corners on our campus to film, we discovered it was difficult to identify an ideal location and control the environment.

Social media has created more demand for video content, and leadership at RBFCU saw the value in what the team was producing. So, they added a full studio environment to our campus. We now have a dedicated studio space with a green screen and separate recording booth so we can quickly do voiceover work. This has enabled us to generate relevant and timely content.

Want to watch a video produced by the RBFCU marketing team? Head on over to YouTube and browse the selection posted on the credit union’s YouTube channel.

What challenges have you faced with transitioning to this internal agency structure?

BL: Prior to our new structure, we couldn’t streamline projects and obtain internal approval before committing marketing resources. We can now. Of course, there will always be some requests that sneak through without proper approvals, but there are now fewer of them.

Also, marketers must develop thick skins and have honest conversations to address unnecessary rounds of changes that are not substantive. To be in the game today, content must be authentic, useful, and quickly available. The internal agency model helps us achieve this and auditable workflow software helps us keep it organized and moving forward.

How can smaller credit unions, that might not have the resources for an internal team, get the most from their agency partners?

BL: Whether you work with external or internal partners, share as much information as possible as early as possible. Educate external agencies on what a credit union is and continually emphasize that difference.

You can also maximize value by providing details about a challenge or promotion — including who, what, when, where, why, and how.

What are your future plans for the RBFCU marketing team?

BL: Our 2020 focus is all about process improvement. We have a process improvement team that will work collaboratively with us and bring a fresh set of eyes to our project workflow and project management, pushing us to ask: How can we identify opportunities to improve efficiency and evolve our project workflow?

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