Tips for Credit Union Marketers Navigating the COVID Landscape

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Everyone has been touched by COVID, and (for the most part) credit unions have done a good job pivoting to make sure their members have the information and resources they need to make it through. In some respects, this has been an opportunity for credit unions to shine, demonstrating how their focus on community ties and member value set them apart when the going gets tough. However, as we begin to emerge from 2020-pocolypse, credit union marketers are shifting from what feels like survival mode to the desire to strategize, plan, and measure their programs (ah, the good ‘ole days!).

While the U.S. is still battling the devastating human and economic effects of the pandemic, the desire to return to “normal” is well, normal. However, some member behaviors and expectations have shifted forever, and we’re not quite out of the woods yet as it relates to managing the virus. So, what’s a marketer to do? Here are some helpful tips for credit union marketers who miss their marketing plans (SPOILER ALERT: Your plan is going to look a little different this year!).

Tip #1: You may no longer know what your members want or need.

For years, we’ve been able to track and predict member behavior. For the most part, it skated along predictable trend lines, allowing us to correlate our services and products to their needs. COVID-19 shifted norms and people responded unpredictably (just reference the great toilet paper shortage of 2020). As you plan your calendar, assume you DON’T know what your members want. Invest some time in learning and listening. Have your tellers ask questions, send surveys, engage with them on social media. Find out, directly from members, what matters most to them in this moment. The data may or may not surprise you, but the process will build confidence into your plans. Plus, as a bonus, members love the opportunity to be asked what they think and want.

Tip #2: Think Digital

There probably won’t be a bigger push for members to learn, use, and fully embrace your digital banking services than the one we experienced last year. Opportunities to offer and help members adopt more digital and online banking (or remote banking experiences like virtual tellers and personal teller machines) abound. However, digital isn’t just for member experience – it should also play prominently in your marketing plan. Digital advertising is unique combination to deliver highly targeted, extremely analytical, and valuable insight to inform your other strategies. Just as digital is a bigger part of your member services, so too should it be a bigger part of how you communicate and market to them.

Tip #3: Do Less

If you’re anything like most of our financial services clients, you’ve reined in on some of your promotions. While we never recommend going dark, we do advocate for honing in on the top-performing products, especially when conservatively planning resources. This is a great opportunity to ditch those underperformers, freeing up time and resources to invest in growth or stable products. While management might have been reluctant before, capitalize now on their openness to streamlining.

Tip #4: Make the Bricks, But Don’t Build the Wall

We’re still living through a period of uncertainty, and our planning should reflect that in its ability to pivot and adapt. As you think through campaigns and promotions, put together enough of the building blocks – audience targets, basic strategy, creative and message briefs – so that you can execute quickly. However, avoid investing the time and energy to build out entire campaigns before you’re ready to launch. If the tides shift, you may have wasted a lot of resources on something that no longer has an appropriate tone for the times. So, make the bricks, but don’t build the wall.

Tip #5: Think in Shorter Timeframes

Robust annual plans were difficult pre-COVID, and now they’re almost irrelevant. Your plan should tackle shorter timeframes because, quite frankly, we don’t know exactly how or when this chapter of our history will end. Sure, frame out your long-term general branding, but don’t get too invested in scoping product promotion 6-, 8-, or 12-months out. Keep your planning quarter-to-quarter and media buying month-to-month, at least for now. That way, you won’t find yourself locked into something that no longer works for your credit union’s situation.

One of the greatest parts about working for a credit union is the mission-based focus on the members –giving them great service, solid advice, and competitive products. You’re a vital part of a community, and that has never been more valuable than it is today. Your marketing plans may look a little different this year, but your potential impact has never been greater.

If Chartwell Agency can help assist your credit union, we’re happy to help. Visit our financial services page to learn more!