How To Build An Award-Winning Marketing Team

Wyoming’s Meridian Trust FCU offers best practices and lessons learned on the promotional side of the industry’s operations.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • In 2020, Meridian Trust FCU has won nine marketing awards for various campaigns.
  • The Wyoming credit union’s lessons learned setting up its three-person team offer insight for credit unions looking to build their own in-house marketing.

CU QUICK FACTS

Meridian Trust FCU
Data as of 06.30.20

HQ: Cheyenne, WY
ASSETS: $479.5M
MEMBERS: 30,794
BRANCHES: 8
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 18.2%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.5%
ROA: 1.00%

The marketing team at Meridian Trust Federal Credit Union ($479.5M, Cheyenne, WY) is small but mighty, and they have the hardware to prove it. 

The three-person team is overseen by Ed Beckmann, the credit union’s chief experience officer, and includes assistant marketing manager Shannon Helmuth, who oversees promotional planning, and graphics designer Yinan Wang.

“Between the three of us, it all clicks,” Beckmann says.

In June 2020, CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council presented Meridian Trust, remotely, with five Diamond Awards; then, in July 2020, the Marketing Association of Credit Unions announced that Meridian Trust had won four more marketing awards. 

“When we win these awards, we get energized,” Beckmann says. “The awards represent positive feedback and reinforcement that our strategy, creativity, design, and results are among the best. We’re humbled and honored, and we feel good about playing our role in helping our credit union achieve its organizational objectives.”

So, what is marketing’s role in Meridian Trust’s organization? And how does its team operate so successfully in that role? 

How To Put Together A Team

For Beckmann, marketing as a department works to help the organization achieve its goals.

The Envelope, Please

Meridian Trust’s marketing department has been busy racking up the awards in 2020. Here’s what the credit union has won:

CUNA

Marketing Association of Credit Unions

“We’re fully aware that members and potential members have a multitude of choices out there. We want them to choose us,” he says.

To do that, Meridian Trust starts by understanding the various geographic areas it serves across three states, whether rural and remote or densely populated tourist centers, and orients its promotions to resonate with those different populations. From there, marketing has to match the long- and short-term needs of the institution, whether they be financial or operational — such as the credit union’s first quarter merger with Yellowstone Federal Credit Union.

“We’ve got financial targets, so how can we help achieve our asset or loan goals with product promotions?” Beckmann says. “With the merger, how can we promote our services to new members or branches in new locations?”

The credit union runs all its marketing efforts in-house — from email to TV commercials and everything in between — which allows it to take a more active role in its messaging and branding and has helped the team develop subject matter expertise that informs its work. 

Beckmann is a two-decade industry veteran who sits on the credit union’s senior management team, giving marketing a seat at the decision-making table and an opportunity to set and view strategic direction. In addition to management responsibilities, Beckmann’s work includes targeting and segmenting email lists, as well as writing and other content production. But it’s the jack-of-all-trades skills of Helmuth and Wang that keeps the marketing sharp and effective. 

Helmuth contributes through her design work, promotional execution, and vendor management. She also oversees the credit union’s social media posts. Wang’s main focus is design, though she shares overlapping skills with her marketing co-workers that make her contributions even more valuable.



“They both have top-notch design skills, as well as the ability to do research and campaign development across all marketing channels,” Beckmann says. “To build out a successful marketing team you need a variety of skills. There is some overlap in most of the work we perform, so we always have someone who can handle things when another is unavailable or working on separate projects.”

Table stakes are the ability to design, write, communicate, execute, and analyze, Beckmann says. And while not every individual needs to have those exact skills, collectively for the team to succeed all those skills must be present.

From there, Beckmann looks for those who are fluent in every marketing channel — they understand the cost benefits of each and know where a given message might most resonate — and have the ability to persuade others to take action. That’s to say nothing of keeping them engaged once they’re onboard. 

“Can you convince someone to get a mortgage at your credit union? How about a car loan? A certificate? Attend an event?” Beckmann asks. “Good marketing departments and good marketing people are able to do this.”

Pair understanding, persuading, and engaging, mix in an element of consistency, and there’s a marketing team with potential.

“If you can make all those things happen as seamlessly and joyfully as possible, repeatedly and consistently over time, then you’ll be successful at marketing,” Beckmann says. 

Marketing During Change

In the past several months, marketing has grown more complicated due to the coronavirus pandemic. What should be said to whom and with what tone has become a question many marketers are asking, including Meridian Trust.

Ed Beckmann, Chief Experience Officer, Meridian Trust FCU

Historically, the credit union tends to keep its marketing copy short and straightforward, with sentences that average six words in total. And though the tone was never business speak, Beckmann railed against words or phrases that made things too flippant, fun, or casual. 

“You see some businesses who try to stand out in that way, but we don’t go that far,” he says.

So, while changing tone wasn’t an issue, the team is spending extra time and attention on words and imagery to ensure its messages are appropriate for the time.

“You have to be sensitive to the fact that your audience may have changed,” he says. “It’s not business as usual.”

The same can be said of its idea generation. The marketing team tends to have brainstorming sessions at the onset of any project, where everyone brings ideas to the table and the best win out, though there may be polishing and refining along the way. When ideas are pitched, however, Beckmann likes to sit with them for several days to ensure they have staying power. The best place to do that? At home, where Beckmann can unplug and find valuable time to think.

“Without the distractions of email, Zoom meetings, phone calls, and the usual array of interruptions and demands one faces, just sitting back and thinking is a precious gift of time we don’t always have,” he says. “I highly recommend taking time for this. Being busy and getting things done is good. Being alone with your thoughts can take you to the next level.”

BEST PRACTICE

Ed Beckmann, Meridian Trust’s chief experience officer, offers several lessons in marketing: “Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts. Rise to meet the challenges placed before you. And most importantly, be kind to others. You do all that, you put the odds in your favor.”

Meridian Trust’s geographic footprint includes folks who work service jobs supporting tourism, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration, which Beckmann describes as “bigger than Christmas” for its economic impact on the area, was cancelled for the first time in its 123-year history in 2020. In addition, general travel to natural sites like Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have slowed, too.

Wyoming is also a large producer of oil, natural gas, and trona, and less travel has affected energy prices, as well as the Wyomingites who hold those jobs. 

“As marketers, we have to recognize that there are members and non-members out there who are out of work or have experienced illness as a result of the pandemic,” Beckmann says. “There’s a sensitivity required.”

Beyond the coronavirus, the past several months of protests stemming from the death of George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police, has highlighted the need for diversity within marketing teams and marketing materials. Beckmann believes the credit union has always done well in this area and acknowledges the need for marketing to change with the times to resonate long term.

“In marketing, we’re putting out messages that represent our organization,” he says. “You have to be aware of what’s happening outside your doors. That’s an important responsibility that we take seriously.”

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