Message To The Masses

Electronic delivery channels have expanded credit unions’ reach, but effectively marketing through those services takes its own strategy.

 
 

Credit unions have discovered the impact the Internet can have not just in how members handle their financial tractions but also in how they access information from the credit union.

As the industry standards shift toward mobile technologies, credit unions are discovering the benefits don’t end at efficiency and cost savings. Mobile marketing can allow co-ops unprecedented access to members, but first they need a foundation and a game plan that speaks to the technology’s strengths.

According to the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, 66% of students and 58% of employees say mobile devices are the “most important” technology in their lives, making it a priority for credit unions that want to be where the members are. Making mobile a touch point for more than just transactions unlocks the true potential of a captive audience.

Small Screens, Big Potential
There are a variety of location-based applications such as Foursquare that encourage users to engage with the credit union using their mobile device. These promotions can provide a solid contact point to generate new visits to a branch or community event.

One downside, however, is that unless the member is actually at or near the specified location, they’re not likely to access that channel for other purposes throughout the day.

Another popular route, SMS text alerts reach out to members at any location, any time. But credit unions that use SMS marketing run the risk of annoying members to the point where they unsubscribe if messages are not helpful or informative.

Many credit unions that take the SMS route invest in customer relationship management tools to make sure each message, which must fit into a limited space, is relevant and targeted to specific recipients.

Another mobile route targeted to members on the go are QR codes and Microsoft Tags, icons that when scanned link users to websites, videos, and other sources of information. Follow the lead of O Bee Credit Union's ($136.2M, Tumwater, WA) “Capture the Tag” promotion, and use the codes for treasure hunt type competiton. Free content is another avenue to generate brand interest and foster financial education.

“Each tag is branded with the O Bee name,” says Lee Wojnar, vice president of marketing, in regards to the credit union’s tag scanning competition. “It’s guerilla marketing 101, creating interest and foot traffic but also building brand awareness.”

The only downside to holding these contests solely from a marketing perspective is they tend to be limited to a certain time frame. Too heavy a sales touch with QR codes or Tags can ruin the environment of fun the technology is designed to create.

A fourth option that allows credit unions to be on members’ minds all the time is to create mobile apps that work as a community hub outside of a credit union's website, complete with marketing materials.

Mix Business With Pleasure
CoastHills Federal Credit Union ($618M, Lompoc, CA) uses a downloadable marketing application as a shell for a variety of informative services, as a controlled mobile access point for their online banking suite (though it can also be accessed through a browser), and as a stepping stone towards a yet to be released full fledged mobile banking suite.

Roughly 600 members have downloaded the application on iPhone, iPad and Droid devices, getting access to fresh marketing messages, daily news, and other priorities of membership on the move. But people don’t watch television for the ads. There needs to be actionable, value-add components to mobile marketing as well.

“Marketing was the priority, so we could highlight the promotions and community events we were doing,” said Scott Coe, senior vice president of marketing for CoastHills.  “But in terms of functionality, we incorporated ATM and branch locators, and a link to online banking.”

Right now, the app is considered a work in progress for the credit union, with additional features and functionality likely to follow in the future. But it has already garnered multiple industry awards for its ingenuity. 

“It’s somewhat limited in its current state, but once the mobile banking piece is in place in the second or third quarter of next year, it will add even more followers,” Coe says.

This first step may indicate the potential for an integration of marketing hubs and mobile banking processes to provide on-the-go opportunities for cross-sell and business generation. But the capabilities will have to evolve with consumer preferences and technology.

“There are so many apps today that are so dynamic and do so many incredible things,” Coe says. “Looking back, it would be best to have the mobile banking portion of this process in place first and then use these features as an enhancement to that product.”

This alleviates the need to drum up attention for the application’s marketing side because you would have already had a captive audience, he says.

 

 

 

Oct. 17, 2011


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