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May 30, 2012

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Four Good Ideas for Getting Locally Known


by Ron Daly 


[image via the Muppet Wiki]

It's time for you to take down that big, scary, Lex Luthor-esque map of the world you have in your office. You know, the one with all the big push-pins in it showing how you're going to take over the world?

If you're reading this, you're a credit union person. Global domination should be off your agenda. Why?

  1. It's a tad bit frightening and we're not necessarily a terrifying bunch.
  2. It's impractical
  3. It's improbable

I've seen credit unions with extra-inclusive fields of membership. I've seen credit unions that have branches in far-flung corners of the globe. But let's be realistic - where are you?

Where Are You? 

It's a big question. For years, we were trying to puff ourselves up to seem big and impressive. Now, we need to recognize that "local" isn't a bad thing - it might be our saving grace. 

Many CUs are repositioning at this moment, trying to remind locals that they have alternatives to their community banks and the big banks. "If you live, work, or worship..." covers a lot of ground, so get out there and show people what you're doing in, and for, that area. 

How? Here are four "good start" ideas: 

Idea 1: The Cash Mob

Flash Mobs are so eighteen months ago (maybe more). Go for a Cash Mob instead. You get a group of people together, you go to a local business, and everyone going in buys a certain amount of merchandise. It boosts the local business and introduces a group of your members (and, sure employees, too) to a shop they may have overlooked in the past. Increased foot traffic, some word of mouth, and hey, finally some content for your blog or Facebook page! 

Resources for Cash Mobs

Idea 2: Local Contest

People love contests. People love voting. People love the idea of "the little guy" succeeding. So, why not make it happen on a local level? Tools and websites abound that will allow you to gather user information and share it with the world - why not get a local competition started? It doesn't have to be exclusive to members, but it should boost the community. Consider a user-powered "Best Restaurant" competition that encourages people to try out different community eateries over the course of a month, the winner receiving an upgraded kitchen or new signage. Maybe it's sponsoring an existing contest and adding a little extra zing to the coverage - lawn and garden contest, maybe? Find what makes sense and make it happen. 

Resources for Local Contests

Idea 3:  The Farmer and the CU Should Be Friends

All across America, farmer's markets are pitching the idea of locally grown, locally owned produce. Most farmers are there, week after week, selling their goods to folks eager to pay a little more for food that didn't grow in a jar. 

Are farmer's markets and credit unions singing the same tune? Maybe they should be. There's synergy to be had when one organization and another are pitching the idea of keeping things local, supporting small businesses and independent business persons, and getting people healthy - physically and financially. 

One thing farmer's markets need? ATMs on-site. Most farmers at these markets want to deal in cash and avoid the fees and hassle of cards. But I'm sure there are a few enterprising CUs that wouldn't mind hooking up a farmer or two with a swipe system? I'd be interested to see that. Plus, most "market masters" are open to the idea of letting people set up booths - maybe you have a membership booth with an ATM and free popcorn, or free bottled water. Many farmer's markets ban dogs from the floor of the market (for health reasons), so maybe you set up the "doggie daycare" station where folks can wait with their dogs and get a drink of water and some doggie treats. All it takes is a week or two of scoping out the market, making friends, and getting involved. Start this weekend. Now, because tomatoes will be in season soon (or so I'm told by Jimmy, whose father-in-law-to-be is a farmer's market guy). 

Resources for Farmer's Markets

Idea 4: Knowing is Half the Battle

What demographic information do you have about potential members? How many other CUs in the area are "in your soup"? How about community banks? If you're losing a lot of members, start asking the hard question - "why?" How many members do you have that understand the value of what you're offering? How many do you have that even know what a credit union is? 

Gather information. Know what you need to know moving forward. Where's our next branch going? Which branch gets the most foot traffic and why? When people are searching for banks/CUs in their area on Google,who's the top hit? How informed are members? 

These are all important questions. You might be able to solve a problem or take a little territory back from the competition if you answer them correctly.Educating yourself on the competition and the territory is vital, but educating members on how to push out useful word-of-mouth is, dare I say, mission critical.

With all that said, there are still some folks who will screw up their face at the idea of putting their money somewhere close to home, fearing they'll lose the convenience they get from one of the "big dogs". That's when you give them your "ah, you'd think so..." speech about how you can access your money from a network of free ATMs, shared branches, and top-of-the-line online banking with bill pay.

I mean, you do have all those things...don't you? 


Have other "going local" ideas? We'd love to hear them in the comments section. 


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