Old Standby Promotions are Toast as Credit Unions Get Strategic in Enhancing Existing Customer Relationships, Wooing New Ones

For years, Americans opened checking and savings accounts to collect this prized appliance. But today's credit unions are taking customer promotions to a new level - beyond door prizes to more strategic, substantive programs designed to not only attract new customers but keep existing customers for life.


''Receive a free toaster when you open an account.''

For years, Americans opened checking and savings accounts to collect this prized appliance. But today's credit unions are taking customer promotions to a new level - beyond ''door prizes'' to more strategic, substantive programs designed to not only attract new customers but keep existing customers ''for life.''

Creativity, innovation and business savvy are the keys to developing programs and promotions that value members … and that members will value. Following are a few suggestions to get your marketing team brainstorming:

  • Classes and Seminars: Most credit unions offer an introductory course for first-time credit union members. However, opportunities exist to educate members beyond the basics. As a financial institution, credit unions have experts with knowledge that can enhance members' lives, from investing to financial literacy to credit and checking account maintenance. Complimentary classes in these areas can be great value-adds for customers. So, too, are classes in fields connected to credit union services. For example, consider enlisting the assistance of a local real estate agent to offer a seminar on first-time home buying, including tips on mortgages, inspections, types of homes, closing costs and the loan process. The discussion would logically end with the agent referring members back to the credit union to begin the prequalification process for a home loan.

  • Partnerships: In a quest to offer members the highest quality service, credit unions are looking beyond their own organization and into the local business community. Partnering with other credit unions enables you to enhance options available to members, drawing on the strength of either an enlarged member base or the individual strengths of each credit union. Business partners allow credit unions to combine an already existing service with complimentary business strengths. For example, more and more credit unions, including several of the nation's largest, are partnering with Enterprise Car Sales, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the largest rental car company in North America. Enterprise enhances credit unions' vehicle loan portfolios by developing comprehensive used car programs that guarantee credit unions handle all financing on Enterprise vehicles purchased by members, creating a win-win for credit unions and members. Enterprise provides customers both direct and Internet access to more than 120 makes and models of quality late-model certified used vehicles priced below Kelly Blue Book or NADA retail value.

  • Events: Events allow credit unions to demonstrate gratitude toward their members by taking customer service one step further. Many credit unions hold annual member appreciation days. These events can include free food/barbeques, dances, games, prizes, or more practical promotions such as reduced-rate loans for current members. These allow employees to continue to build relationships with members in a fun environment.
    Eye up future customers, many credit unions in conjunction with children savings accounts hold children-centered events. From monthly kids clubs to annual day-long festivals, starting a credit union relationship at an early age is becoming reality.

  • Giveaways and Scholarships: As noted earlier, credit union giveaways are as old as credit unions themselves. Today, however, prizes have increased in size and strategic position. Originally used to encourage initial membership, giveaways have broadened to include increased or new usage of services such as:

  • A chance to win an exotic vacation each time a member uses their ATM card
  • Free gas for six months with an auto loan
  • Home cleaning kits for members opening a new line of home equity
  • Palm pilot drawing for members using e-statements

While giveaways can unexpectedly enhance members' lives, scholarships give credit unions the opportunity to fulfill members' ambitions. From hundreds to thousand of dollars, the educational benefits of a scholarship can help a member achieve success and potentially become a more profitable long-term member.



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Sept. 22, 2003


  • To actually enhance existing member relationships, why not simply ask the member what they want? I'm surprised one of the suggestions isn't a Mystery Shopping Program where the credit union creates a listening post to understand membership's needs. More specifically measuring the level of service in the front-line delivery method. In a time where competition is fierce, Service drives Loyalty. "What gets measured Get's Improved." Andrea Huffman Support Financial Resources, a Mystery Shopping partner for Credit Unions. 800.444.5465 x115 ahuffman@ServiceExperiences.com
  • Some good ideas here, but more is needed to make our member-owners "lifers!"
  • FI Marketing professionals understand the impact of the economy...over the past 18 months, the US economy has been struggling. Next year ('04) the reports from the Federal Reserve indicate a more stable, growing economy. Consumers are more willing to make a switch in banking providers when times are tough as opposed to making a switch when times are good. FI Marketing, especially Credit Union Marketing, will need to be much more creative and hit the consumer in a more sophisticated informative way...the old ways of Marketing are gone! Jerri Schmidt, Lake Michigan Credit Union
  • I thought that I would have found new ideas. All the suggestions have been around for a long time!
  • Credit Unions must use Foresight if they are to survive in the coming years.
  • Most items noted would seem to be traditional however!