Retention as a Marketing Strategy


Word of mouth marketing is a remarkably powerful strategy for attracting new members. Not only do your current members do much of the work for you, but they know how to articulate certain advantages of your credit union based to a prospective member in a way that you cannot. In order to generate the appropriate buzz using your existing members, you must first identify why members use and promote your credit union, and what messages are most resonant with your potential membership.

Callahan's Internet Strategy Consortium surveyed over 11,000 members on issues surrounding satisfaction and loyalty. While tracking the reasons that members cited as to why they would be more likely to recommend the credit union to their friends and family, the consortium discovered the responses fell into the following categories:

  • Better than a bank/not for profit
  • Quality of online Services/transaction capabilities
  • Met my needs/products that meet my needs
  • Good problem resolution
  • Friendly/personal service
  • Overall customer service/long term relationship
  • Trust/security
  • Advice/financial information/counseling
  • Good rates/low fees

The difference between the non-highlighted and highlighted items will be key to leveraging your existing relationships to attract new members. The non-highlighted items are more easily verified by non-members; the potential member can see upfront whether the rates and product offerings meet their needs, whether the credit union offers counseling and the credentials of those offering advice, and even learn more about the advantages of the credit union charter.

Conversely, the highlighted items require the member to have firsthand experience interacting with the credit union. As you go about leveraging your current membership, focus on these five themes. It is one thing for a credit union, or any financial institution for that matter, to claim they offer great service, it is another to have a member make the same claim.
Here are some ways that you can update your marketing plan to make the best use of your most loyal and satisfied members:

1. Add member testimonials. Include pictures or video of actual members if possible. For example, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union launched an entire microsite ( featuring videos of members describing why they are members. Some credit unions host video contents to accomplish a similar goal; others put up billboards with a member's picture and a short quote.

2. Have referral incentives in place. These can either take the form of a campaign or ongoing strategy. To start a campaign, or remind members that incentives currently exist, start with members that have several relationships with the credit union or that have been with the credit union longer; in the absence of any wallet share data, these two metrics likely point to members who are finding the most value in banking with the credit union.

3. Do nothing. Part of the beauty of WOM is that it does happen by itself. However, what it requires your credit union to devote special attending to member retention and loyalty. You may consider reallocating funds from new member marketing to cross-selling to existing members to help solidify and strengthen relationships, and give existing members as much reason as possible to brag about your credit union to their friends and family.