3 Lessons For Credit Union Marketing From A World-Class Fisherman

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orange fish on a line with teal water drops

“The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad!” – A.K. Best

On a recent beach trip, I saw charter fishing boats move almost in unison from one spot to another. It was obvious why they were doing this. With their high-tech gadgets and vantage points, they were following a school of fish while ensuring their paying customers a guaranteed successful outing.

It got me thinking, with all the beautiful ocean, how much more successful would they have been if they ventured off on their own without the chaos and fish deterrents of the other boats around? Surely more schools of fish were swimming around within just a few miles.

Parallels between fishing and problems we face in the credit union community came to mind. With so many lenders, banks, and fintechs competing with credit unions, we can sometimes feel like those charter boats, trying to land the same people and scaring or annoying many people off in the process. After all, from the bottom looking up it would probably appear that each boater (financial institution) is the same. We even dangle the same bait in front of them in this line tangling contest.

How can credit union marketing and business improve? For that, I look to my father and his advice on fishing. No, he’s not a world-class business leader or credit union savant, but he is a world-class angler and has fished with (and beat) the best. Years ago, he shared with me his knowledge of what makes someone a professional and how to best compete in a tournament. Here are my three key takeaways:

  1. Data – His tournament started months or years before the day it began. Every lake, every single day fishing, every spot fished on the water, the time of year, every lure, watercolor, water temperature, weather conditions, I could go on and on. He documented the variables and, equally as important, the results. When the tournament began, he eliminated chance and used strategy. Why use a lure that failed under similar conditions before? He would prepare to use the ones that proved to be most successful.
  2. Preparation – In business, time is money. For a fisherman, time is fish. Would you rather use it casting and replacing lures or other work you could have prepped ahead of time? He used his data to gain insights and set up a number of rods and reels with the most strategic lures. His goal was to maximize his time with a line in the water and not in the boat.
  3. Distance – Unlike those sea charters wrangling for the same school of fish, he would make a point to do the opposite of his competitors. At the start of a tournament, all his competitors would accelerate and push to the farthest ends of the lake. He recognized the wasted time and the disadvantage of fishing with competitors around his boat. Instead, he took a moment to relax and wait. Once his competition was all headed in another direction, he would pull the boat to the bank and start casting. He figured he could land a nice-sized bass or two before they even started fishing so he would start the tournament in the lead. Give your credit union some space by finding your niche.

If you’re wondering why you aren’t growing members or loans even though you have a great team and products, it’s time to review your data, prepare a new strategy, and distance yourself from your competition. After all, it doesn’t matter if the fishing (your credit union marketing) is great if the catching is not.

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Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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