It’s that time of year – fall brings lots of planning for credit unions and community banks. As your marketing budget gets finalized, you’re likely looking at numbers and line items wondering what marketing efforts have been effective this year and where to put the money next year. 

Take full advantage of this planning time to consider where exactly to put those dollars. Sure every financial institution needs to grow, but is focusing on auto loans going to bring the most bang for the buck – short-term AND long-term gains? Pull back to view the big picture, then determine what will bring the most impact to your credit union.

Let’s take a look at the various activities related to creating and promoting your message, why they matter, and if you need to allocate more/less funds to those areas.


What is it?

Your credit union’s culture and personality reflected in specific visuals and tone of voice which more effectively reach your target audience.

Some branding tactics:

  • Target audience research and persona development
  • Data analytics
  • Name and logo
  • Visual style (colors, fonts, design elements)
  • Copywriting style (tone of voice, grammar style)

Why it matters

Without a clear, consistent, focused brand (including what audience is best for your organization), people get confused and skeptical of who you are and what you’re offering.

Do you need it now?

Are you finding it harder to attract new members? You might need to refine and/or refresh your brand. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need a new name and/or logo. It could just mean you take a step back to define who your credit union REALLY is, who are your BEST members (historical and future ones), to get very focused and clear on your message, visuals, and voice. This is best accomplished using consultants – it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.


What is it?

Strategies and tactics used to attract ideal customers & spread your message. Think of pulling potential customers into your message, whereas advertising is pushing your message out to potential members.

Some marketing tactics:

  • Using data analytics to inform products & services
  • Email/Direct mail
  • Collateral (brochures, web pages, branch posters, promotional items, etc.)
  • Social media channels (when used to promote products and services)

Why it matters

Using data analytics to inform your product features will create a more desirable product, making it easier to ‘sell’. Does your target audience value better personalized service, points instead of cashback, lower mortgage rates or no closing fees? Data analytics can show which way to go.

As far as collateral? Your potential and current members are likely learning about your credit union and available products/services through many different channels. Consumers love to educate themselves (some more than others) so provide them lots of information which reflects your brand and their lifestyle, and you’ll be building trust.

Do you need more of it?

Do you find your members are asking a lot of questions about products & services? Does your front line staff spend a lot of time having to explain products and services? Then you might need to spend more time and efforts in creating collateral and/or data-driven products. Videos, brochures, web pages and so on can provide educational information alongside the promotional and positioning value they bring.


What is it?

Using earned media to spread your message

Some public relation tactics:

  • Press & media activities (including influential bloggers/social/etc)
  • Community events
  • Social media channels (when used to control corporate message and promote events, partnerships, charitable efforts, etc)

Why it matters

Being positively viewed in the community and in the industry is another building block of establishing, then maintaining, trust. Press releases touting important milestones, donations as well as events such as ribbon cuttings, shred days, and such are fantastic examples of key public relations activities. 

Do you need more of it?

Are you noticing your local competition in the news or on social media a lot more than your credit union? It might be time to ramp up your public relation efforts with events, press releases, partnerships with non-profits and so much more!


What is it?

Using paid media (someone else’s platform) to spread your message

Some advertising tactics: 

  • Buying advertising space in magazines, television, digital spaces, billboards
  • Creating the content for those ads (commercials/videos, advertisements, etc.)

Why it matters

Paying for exposure is a often a necessary tactic to increase awareness and reach. But with decisions based on data, your advertising dollars can have real impact!

Do you need more of it?

Maybe you’ve reached a certain saturation level with your current members’ share of wallet? It’s likely time to ramp up your paid advertising efforts. Advertising is also a great way to stay top-of-mind within your membership area – for instance, if you’re a community-based credit union running regular ads in local publications will keep your name in front of your potential members, making it easier for them to remember you when it comes time to get a new mortgage or credit card.

So Now What?

If you have specific product goals to meet, you’ll likely need a combination of all of these efforts to promote special rates, product benefits and reach your desired audience.

With these tactics more defined, you can be more confident in why you are allocating certain funds to certain activities in your credit union’s marketing budget, moving in to the new year with clarity and focus.

Interested to see how other credit unions stack up with their marketing budgets? Check out this study on .

I hope this helps you make more informed decisions for allocating your marketing dollars this coming year! If you need a sounding board, or additional tips and ideas, please give me a call or send over an email. I’d love to help!