By Ben Klepzig
Financial institutions clearly see how important digital marketing channels have become (see sidebar) as more consumers shop for loans online, especially on smartphones and tablet computers.
Traditional marketing, however, is still crucial to driving loan growth. The key is to integrate your marketing strategies across all channels. This is especially important to credit unions because our industry’s brand is a commitment to personal service, which you may believe is diluted by remote lending channels.
That doesn’t have to happen. You can actually extend the reach of your personal interactions with members—and improve their lending experience—by using your traditional and remote marketing channels to reinforce one another.
Capture smartphone/tablet users with a mobile-friendly website
If your traditional media lending product ads refer people to your website, smartphone/tablet users should be able to read the content and navigate the loan process relatively easily.
Web designers call this “usability,” and it’s becoming more critical for mobile device users every day. According to CUNA Mutual Group statistics, the 550 credit unions using the company’s online lending platform, loanliner.com, receive $2.4 million in loan requests per day from mobile devices.
Providing a customized lending experience for mobile users appears to improve the online application completion rate. In the first year after CUNA Mutual Group added Smartphone Loans—which customizes loanliner.com for mobile devices—the average overall completion rate for loanliner.com applications grew nearly 10%.
Consider improving mobile users’ lending experience by implementing “responsive Web design,” a method of coding your website so it adapts to whatever device is being used. Be sure to coordinate any responsive Web design coding with your loan operating system provider.
Take Advantage of Mobile Device Capabilities
Smartphones and tablets do more than display Web pages. Look for ways to take advantage of two other attributes: mobility and cameras.
If members have access to your credit union while they’re on an auto dealer’s lot, for example, you could deliver significantly better loan terms and payment protection values than they’re likely to get from the dealer’s in-house finance rep. Offer members an app that helps them shop and compare cars by using their phones to scan VINs. And use traditional media campaigns to publicize this mobile capability.
You can also use mobile device cameras’ ability to read QR codes. For example, a traditional direct mail piece could include a QR code that opens a loan application for the product you’re promoting. It’s convenient, and you can clearly track how often members use the channel.
Feed Social Media Followers a Regular, Varied Diet
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find a credit union Facebook, Twitter, or other social network account that hasn’t been updated in months or years. If you look at the posts on these accounts, you’re likely to see something akin to traditional ad campaigns and little else.
Your social media followers may value news about loan promotions and other products or services. But you must also provide relevant, useful, entertaining, and engaging content regularly—daily in most cases—and you must be ready to respond immediately when people post questions, concerns, or comments.
In addition to assigning staff with the ability and authority to post and respond quickly, it’s best to have several weeks of lending campaign content planned, written, and reviewed by a compliance expert in advance. This allows you to coordinate your traditional ad campaigns with Facebook posts, tweets, Pinterest images, etc.
The ‘Cash Mob’: Marrying Social and Traditional Media
A great example of marketing channel integration is the “cash mob.”
Credit unions seeking to increase their business lending portfolios have augmented traditional ads with social media campaigns that direct followers to a local business on a certain day, when the credit union provides gift certificates to a limited number of customers.
It’s a good public relations tool for the credit union, as local media may pick up the story and social media followers will disperse the message virally. It also supports small businesses and the community while building goodwill among folks who get something free courtesy of the credit union. All that, and the credit union accomplishes its main marketing goal: increasing awareness of its business lending program.
Campaigns such as the cash mob demonstrate that social media networks work best when you integrate their culture of interactivity, creativity, and spontaneity.
Expand the ‘People Helping People’ Paradigm
For a credit union, the word “social” in “social media” should mean more than multiple, virtual connections and immediate two-way communication. It should also mean that members learn more about your employees: what they’re like; how they can help; why they set your credit union apart from your competitors.
For example, use social media to conduct webinars and promote face-to-face presentations in branches, schools, community centers, local service organization meetings, etc.
Offer credit counseling, home buyer/seller seminars, youth financial literacy programs—whatever your community needs most.
And here’s the important part: Let the personality of your employees shine through. Use candid photos and videos—have fun. Also, help employees develop their presentation and writing skills so they’re more effective ambassadors in person and on social media.
For your employees to communicate a consistent message through whichever channels they use to interact with members, your credit union must keep them up to date on your key marketing strategies and tactics.
Ben Klepzig is a Senior Marketing Manager for CUNA Mutual Group. Reach him at email@example.com.