Security Service Federal Credit Union operates in several markets stretching from Central Texas to El Paso and along Colorado’s Interstate-25 corridor. Despite its expanding footprint, the credit union stands behind a single brand.
“Your brand is defined by your members,” says Greg Stroud, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our brand is our service. We try to bring that to life in everything we do from the experience the member has at the service center to our marketing and our call center.”
In San Antonio, where the $6 billion institution is based, promoting its brand isn’t a major challenge. The credit union has had a presence in the community since the 1950s, and it has a significant brick-and-mortar footprint (the credit union has 25 service centers in the Greater San Antonio area).
In markets where the credit union doesn’t have such a stronghold it forges partnerships with community players. The credit union took a page from its San Antonio playbook – where it has a relationship with the city’s Minor League Baseball club, the Missions – when it moved into Colorado and aligned itself with Colorado Springs’ minor league club, the Sky Sox. There, the credit union even has the naming rights to the stadium, Security Service Field.
Talk about brand awareness.
“It’s the largest venue in that marketplace,” Stroud says. “The team plays there, the news is there. When they’re reporting that night’s highlights, they’re at Security Service Field.”
The draw of Security Service Field extends beyond the people who attend a single baseball game. Events such as 5K runs and military appreciation activities take place at the stadium. Of course, corresponding news coverage also takes place at the stadium, setting up the credit union for some well-placed earned media.
The challenge for Security Service is stretching its single budget across multiple markets. The budget must cover annual research (such as branch satisfaction surveys for the entire network and an attitude survey in San Antonio) as well as onboarding initiatives (the credit union uses direct mail and outbound calling to correspond with every new indirect lending member within the first 90 days).
“The hardest part in the dual market is supporting markets at the appropriate level,” Stroud says. “The advertising, marketing, and promotion.”
Different markets are different sizes; therefore, the cost to advertise, market, and promote in them likewise varies. For example, purchasing media in Denver is more expensive than in San Antonio, which is more expensive than in Colorado Springs.
For credit unions that do not have the budget or resources to buy traditional media in different markets, take note.
“Effective marketing doesn’t just mean buying TV or radio or print ads,” Stroud says. “A whole host of activities can help you establish the brand in a new market.”
Security Service’s strategy includes interacting with local groups such as the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, school districts, and the military. Its staff hits the street and introduces the credit union’s name and brand through one-on-one, personal contact.
In addition to formal onboarding and positive PR, the credit union augments its sales efforts with a feature it implemented into its teller system approximately 18 months ago. Now, when a teller is helping a member with a transaction, the teller’s computer displays personalized messaging that details the member’s products. The marketing department uses that sales wrapper feature to introduce product messaging, suggest other products in which the member might be interested, and make transactions more personal. Armed with that breadth of information, the front-line staff is more at ease.
“Credit unions are a service-based industry,” Stroud says. “Someone who is good at service might not be comfortable selling a product. But by integrating sales into our service model, we can provide better service to our members.”
Although the credit union offers sales assistance aids such as the wrapper, it is also changing the way it hires and trains staff. It’s a work in progress that eventually will help the staff effectively cross-sell products the member really needs and help the credit union develop better products.
So how does the credit union identify the needs of its members and position a product or service to meet that need?
“It’s marketing 101,” Stroud says. “People in San Antonio have the same type of problems as people in Denver. There are similarities. The difference is in terms of how you go about reaching them based on your capabilities in those markets and the cost to advertise and reach those markets.”