In early 2020, we were all planning on an exciting and profitable year. Credit unions were coming out of one of the most successful periods they had ever experienced. Then, out of nowhere, came COVID-19! So, what’s next? More importantly, what should your marketing look like now?
The last thing members need to hear from you right now is silence. During this pandemic, we have often heard the catch phrase, “We’re In This Together.” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. We can agree that in one way or another, the virus has disrupted our lives. However, not all of us are experiencing the same amount of hardship. While we may not be able go about our lives as usual, for many their financial picture is intact. For others that have experienced a loss of job, or even worse, a loss of health, this time is pushing them to the brink of despair.
For many members this has been, and will continue to be, one of the most difficult times they have ever experienced. Many experts disagree on what the timetable for recovery will look like. Will people that lost jobs get them back quickly, or will companies make decisions to restructure and transform their business and make changes to whom they employ? It is becoming increasingly clear that business as usual may never be the same as it was in the past.
Because of this disruption, the borrowing needs of your members and communities you serve have changed. It’s obvious that many of your best members will experience changes in their credit scores and ability to pay. This means the pools of people we can lend to may have shrunk. With most financial institutions increasing their provision for loan losses for 2020, many lenders will consider taking a more conservative approach to their lending for the balance of 2021.
Here are four practical suggestions that will allow you to get your share of qualified borrowers:
- Use Educational Content to Engage Prospects. When you provide value and insights, people are much more likely to want to talk with you. Instead of selling, use content to get attention. This content must be delivered in a variety of ways across a mix of channels.
- Target More Effectively. Understanding who represents your best targets will be more important than ever before. Since there will be large numbers of people that need loans, you must be cautious not to encourage applications from unqualified borrowers that you will need to turn down. This can really hurt your brand and reputation. You want quality applications. Your current members are most likely your best, and most secure prospects.
- Create Multi-Element Campaigns. With all the new noise out there, you will need to use a variety of elements as part of your marketing mix. More than ever, frequency is going to be required to break through and get people’s attention. Statistics show that while email is very effective, people are also getting tons of emails now. A balanced use of digital marketing can create some opportunities—and don’t forget about old reliable direct mail.
- Your Most Important Branch. With the massive increase in the use of digital banking and consumption of digital media, it should come as no surprise that your website may now be your most important branch. Members that are looking for information will start here. Be sure that your online image represents who you are, your brand values, products and services, and has the tools needed to create easy conversions such as joining, opening new products and services, and submitting loan applications.
The good news is that most credit unions came into COVID with a solid foundational and excellent capitol. This will allow many to be able to lend to more people that really need money, but also present some additional risk. Managing risk moving forward will be essential. Credit unions have a huge advantage since they know their members, communities and workplace partners. This will allow them to lend to people that are struggling right now who have proven to be solid members in the past.
One thing is for sure: credit union have been there in the past to serve people and will be here in the future to do what is right for members. Exactly what this looks like long-term, and for your specific credit union, none of us really know. We do know that people need us right now and when members are asking for help we need to do everything in our power to serve. People Helping People has never been truer than now.
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