Target Practice

In all my years of consulting the hardest thing for me to explain (mainly to board members) is the need to target an audience. 

Here’s the typical scenario. The credit union has been allowed to expand their charter to anyone that “lives, works, workshops” in a multi-county area. The board is giddy, they see stars in their eyes as their potential membership balloons from the few to the vast many.  At this point many credit unions decide they should re-brand to be more relevant which often includes a name change. 

After all, there will be confusion in this new space if we are still tied to our original sponsor - also known as your founders, your creators, the loyal group of hard-working individuals who throughout the years remained loyal to the credit union.  Right?

So let’s break it down to simple truths:

  1. Every single credit union in existence today began with a very distinct target audience. Whether it was school teachers, state employees, machinists, church goers or military. They proudly served this group, and they were successful because there was a common bond, a sense of exclusivity. Because it was “their club” members marketed for the credit union through word-of-mouth.
  2. The name of the credit union was usually branded to reflect that common bond. Sure, some of the names were a bit much, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 Federal Credit Union comes to mind. There’s an opportunity to shorten that up, make it fun but still relevant. 
  3. The territory that the credit union has now acquired is likely familiar with the industry or “club” that founded the financial co-op. Boeing Employees Credit Union is a great example. If you live, work or worship in the state of Washington you likely are related to someone that has worked for Boeing. 
  4. Nine times out of ten there is not a negative connotation associated with the founders and their brand name. Enron Credit Union had to change their name.  Anytime I see educators or teachers obliterated and replaced with a pharmaceutical name a bit of my soul dies.
  5. By simply changing the name, the confusion is not lessened. It’s not a Field of Dreams. You cannot simply build it and they will come. Re-branding (name changes) causes confusion and often implies some kind of wrong-doing, a merger, a financial fall-out. Especially after the recent recession that will always be the blame of banking. 

What should you do if you want, and many of you do need, to get the word out that your credit union is open to everyone?

  1. Do not say “Now everyone can join!” It’s weird, confusing and a bit off-putting. First of all it implies that the masses know that they couldn’t join before and have been waiting at the gates to come on in. Not likely. 
  2. Do not use politically correct shiny happy people stock art in your marketing to try and illustrate inclusion. It’s not real, it appeals to no one, and because so many credit unions take this approach you will look the same rather than different. 
  3. Continue to tell your story. One of the first things I do when I go to a credit union website is click “About Us.” This is the most important page on your website. Tell me your story. I don’t want to read “We are a financial cooperative founded in 1936 with over 150,000 members and $2 billion in assets.” Who cares? 
  4. Do take the time to declare a target audience. And here’s where it gets hard.

Name a company that targets everyone?

I always get these three answers:

The fact is, they do not target everyone, but they all target families. One of the many many reasons I won’t shop at Wal-mart is because I don’t have kids and things tend to be packaged in bulk. I don’t need 7 chicken breasts, I need two. Wal-Mart’s targeted demographic includes families and individuals with modest income. 

Disneyland on the other hand….it now costs almost $400 to get a family of four into the park for one day. That doesn’t include food, beverage and merchandise. They clearly do not target large families with modest income. 

McDonald’s targets parents with young children. These parents are busy, some a bit lazy, and most hope they don’t get caught handing over Happy Meals as dinner in the drive-up. 

A well-defined target audience is the first element to a marketing strategy. It is much easier to determine where and how to market the credit union when you’ve segmented your territory. Targeting an audience does not mean you exclude. Wal-Mart, Disneyland and McDonald’s don’t target me, but I’ve given all three of them my money over the years. Targeting an audience helps you prioritize your activities, create value, and most importantly differentiates you from your competition. 

If you’re ready for some target practice, complete the information below and you'll receive some fun worksheets to take to your next senior management and/or board meeting. 

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