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Your Credit Union’s Cinderella Story

Your Credit Union’s Cinderella Story

I play in a tennis league where last season I went 4-1, and this season I’ve started out 2-0. I got a backhanded compliment once (no pun intended) that I was the “largest gazelle” they had ever played. Well… I am a man of “larger carriage” and I can cover the court pretty well. More recently, my two wins came against extremely lean, fit, athletic guys in their 20s. But I promise, I’m no “baller.” Maybe it’s the shoes. I do love my YMC Blue Diadoras. Nope. The reason I keep winning, and they keep struggling, is the same reasons credit unions win or lose at strategic marketing. Let me explain.

They only see what they want to see

We’ve encountered many credit unions that work hard for a low-income designation, but when it comes time to serve the underserve, they freeze. The worst judgement you can make is a “pre” judgement, and too many credit unions miss out on who should be their ideal member. It’s also important to note that great marketing can get good prospects in the door, but a dishearten frontline can destroy those efforts. And lest we forget, our members are more than a credit score! In tennis, my opponent sees an older overweight guy in a stained cotton t-shirt with a hideous knee brace held on by duct tape. Yeah, I’ve had the same knee brace for two decades, and one of my knee cushions is now made out of my wife’s makeup remover pads. But I couldn’t possibly be a threat, right?

Their game is one dimensional

In working with credit unions across the country, we encounter those who believe there’s nothing remarkable about what they do. They can’t identify their competitive advantage, and “cross-selling” is a dirty word. But what is truly unremarkable is their effort. What if we doubled down on listening to our members? Some of our best credit unions offer Sit ’n Saves, where they’ll challenge themselves and pay the member a reward if they can’t find a way to help them save. If you’ve ever encountered a “going nowhere” customer service situation, then you’ll understand what I see on the tennis court. My opponents try to overpower me, and when I return their play, all they know is to hit even harder, which results in hard hits out of bounds and into the net. What they think is in control, is actually out of control. How many credit unions are in the same rut?

They lack self-control

Inside a credit union, there are a lot of moving parts. Too often folks don’t pause before they react. They don’t listen to members. They don’t listen to management. They don’t listen to their coworkers. The frontlines are bombarded with “I want,” and they don’t have the self-control to pause and listen. My tennis opponents do the same. They grow frustrated and become angry at themselves, and when this happens, strategy gets tossed out the window. Over the years, I’ve learned how to read my opponents, adapt my approach, and play in the “now” – never looking too far ahead in my matches. Poor customer service can lead to a revolving door of frontline staff. If the internal culture is broken, the staff will seek kindness and compassion with another employer. Self-discipline is key to great communication among members, staff and management. Let’s be clear: I’m not the best tennis player in the world (hey, I have lost one match in the past 10 weeks). But I have a strategy. Likewise, many of the best credit unions are not the biggest. The greatest credit unions often have an awesome brand story tell, they market to their ideal member, and they hold themselves accountable to bend and flex to serve their membership. If you can do these things well, soon you’ll be calling out, “match point.”

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