Get People Talking ... And Joining

To drive membership, positive word-of-mouth is what you need. Here’s how to get it.


Trust is everything in financial services. For that reason, how you serve members is THE determinant of your long-term success. With excellent service, you can convert members into not only loyal participants in your cooperative but also passionate champions of it.

These new champions can affect the decisions of those in their sphere of influence. Prospective members trust few things more than a referral from a person they respect. The Financial Brand reported on a recent study that broke down how people choose financial services and what drives decisions. What jumps out is the age-specific data.

The study reported on the varying weight given to different types of experiences when making a decision. The findings were sorted by age group. Take a look.

18-29 29% 47% 26%
30-44 31% 25% 12%
45-64 36% 25% 7%
65+ 37% 14% 5%

What's intriguing here is what each age group finds important. Predictably, younger folks value online word of mouth more than older people. But the 18-29 group also values face-to-face interactions more than any other group. So you can't afford to slack any time you interact with a member in any capacity. There are a few credit unions that are doing their best to generate positive buzz around their brands.

Oregonians Credit Union ($280.2M, Portland, OR) is touring around the community to meet business partners, and the term “business partner” is loosely defined. Since December 21, 2010, the OCU team has visited 70 businesses and people in the community. After each visit, the staff writes up what they learned. They have a section of the OCU website devoted to the trip (click the screenshot below to go there).

Here, OCU combines in-person exposure with online exposure to great effect. Now, community members can stumble upon the credit union in multiple ways. All of the stops on the road trip will get area businesspeople talking about the credit union in a positive way, and people who hear about the trip can catch up and learn more online. The plan has the potential to lead to not only more business relationships but also more personal relationships. It's a smart, simple strategy.

Don’t discount the more traditional routes to generate member referrals though. Peoples Credit Union ($14.2M, Cudahy, WI) offers a $50 incentive for a member who gets a friend to apply for a loan. Granite State Credit Union ($289M, Manchester, NH) encourages members to refer friends and family in the so the referrer and referee can earn up to $75 each.

In theory, all of these efforts will lead to membership growth by getting people talking. But the first step your cooperative must take is establishing a standard of excellent member service. With a couple good ideas to spur interest in the cooperative, the rest will unfold as it should.