Credit Union Marketing Strategies to Master the Art of Member Growth

Multibillion-dollar credit unions have the luxury of playing the numbers game and not having to hyperfocus on an ideal member. Those credit unions have the scale and the resources to truly serve as a community financial institution.

What about smaller credit unions with less than $500 million? The farther you get from that $500-million mark, the smaller your assets are, and the more your credit union marketing strategies must hyperfocus on a niche to survive, which means having a highly specific ideal member in mind and serve them well.

With few exceptions, the more specific you can be about your credit unions ideal member, the more growth opportunities you have. And your existing numbers will show that. Need proof?

Palmetto First Federal Credit Union ($62 million) and Maple Federal Credit Union ($63 million) are both outperforming their peers in almost every category, including membership growth. While their peers are averaging 0.02% membership growth over a 12-month period, Palmetto First are experiencing 1.3% growth and Maple’s membership grew 3.67%. These are not flukes nor anomalies. These numbers are consistent.

How have they accomplished such great success as so many other credit unions of similar size are stagnant or even declining?

They have a very specific ideal member and are focused on serving them well.

Here are a few credit union marketing strategies Your Marketing Co. has used with those two credit unions to find and serve their ideal member well:

  1. Ask yourself, “Where is the opportunity?” In both credit unions, we have identified niche markets that were not being served by other banks and credit unions in their community, and the credit unions filled that gap. Generally speaking, both have a lot of competition from banks and other credit unions, but none of those other financial institutions want to serve their niches, leaving a very large piece of the pie for both Palmetto First and Maple to serve their members very well.
  2. Once you’ve identified that ideal member, you need to develop a positioning statement that isn’t very interchangeable – it must be unique. Good rates and good service aren’t going to cut it. In Maple’s niche example of serving those of modest means (lower income, poor credit), the credit union has positioned itself as “the perfect place for imperfect people.” There is no slimy “bad credit, come here” predatory lending words. It’s focused on the human element of when life happens and refraining from judgment on a person’s situation.
  3. Offer an introductory product or service targeting that ideal member to begin the member-relationship dance. This offers their credit unions the opportunity to earn more share of wallet after earning hero status by doing what no other financial institution was willing to do: uniquely serve their ideal member.

Of course, many other elements go into achieving success as a niche credit union – too many to include in this one blog post, but considerations such as staff training, policy changes and appropriate branding, for example. It’s an audacious step, and one we’ve helped many credit unions successfully navigate. After all, our goal is to help credit unions avoid unnecessary mergers by empowering credit unions to survive and thrive by engaging, educating and retaining their next generation of members. How can I help you?

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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