‘Next Top Exec’ Amanda Brenneman Hopes to Give ‘Buy Local’ a Whole New Meaning with Mobile App, Nationwide Network

Amanda Brenneman’s enhancements to the Buy Local program at Maps Credit Union earned her the CUES 2013 Next Top Credit Union Exec award. Now, armed with a new mobile app, she’s looking to expand the program across the country.

Amanda Brenneman knows that credit union members like to “buy local.”

She’s seen it firsthand at Maps Credit Union in Salem, where her Buy Local program has generated hundreds of visits to area restaurants, retailers, entertainment venues and more. She’s witnessed the reaction of other credit unions to her presentation at a recent CUES conference in San Diego, where she was named the 2013 Next Top Credit Union Exec.

And she’s pretty sure it’s true whether members are at home or on the road, because a mobile app developed by Maps could help to redefine “community” and make it easy to support a network of locally owned businesses all across the country.

“I envision a network of credit unions that have adapted Buy Local to fit their needs and use our customizable app for their geographic location,” Brenneman says. “This network, linked by the app, would then honor credit union members from all over the country in their pursuit of shopping local wherever they find themselves.”

It’s an ambitious goal for a program that got its start in reaction to business closings.

In 2010, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measures 66 and 67, which increased taxes on businesses and individuals. “By the middle of 2010, we started seeing our favorite local businesses closing up shop at a much faster rate,” Brenneman says. “We wanted to do something about that.”

Jamie Young, Brenneman’s predecessor at Maps, developed the idea for a Buy Local program that would support locally owned businesses by keeping members’ dollars in the community. The program was launched on Jan. 1, 2011; Brenneman, Maps’ business development officer, took it over in late 2012.

“I wanted to grow the program on several fronts,” she says. “The program needed more attention, and that attention would come with more partners and even better offers for our community. Ultimately, I wanted to build a program that I would use and enjoy myself.”

Brenneman’s Next Top Exec presentation, which included several blog and video updates, chronicled her progress toward that goal. “The presentation focused more on why we have Buy Local, what it’s done for our community and what it can do for other credit unions,” she says.

But it also talked about the mobile app. And that, Brenneman says, is the key to her plans.

Maps, which is a member of the Multiple Engineering Co-op Program, brought in student developers to help design a free app that was released Nov. 1 for Android and Apple devices. It includes geo-locating, push notifications and social media features, with updates in the works for geo-fencing and tracking capabilities for ongoing and featured offers.

Amanda Brenneman on Maps Credit Union’s Buy Local program: “Ultimately, I wanted to build a program that I would use and enjoy myself.”

Also in the planning stages: a Buy Local rewards credit card, which will encourage and reward members who shop locally with more incentives than a regular rewards card.

“Now my goal is to expand the program nationally,” Brenneman says. “I so believe in the program and what it has done for our community. I want other communities around the country to implement it and to join us as we build a nationwide network.”

That should be an easy sell, if reaction from members and businesses in the Salem area is any indication. Brenneman says one featured offer brought in more than 500 customers to a local business in just two weeks.

At Luis’ Taqueria in Woodburn, a featured Buy Local promotion generated more than $800 in added revenue from customers who had never tried the restaurant before. Marco Polo’s Global Restaurant no longer advertises with the local newspaper because its free partnership with Buy Local is generating more foot traffic than its paid advertisements.

And Bryan Jobe, who’s Fifty-1 Fifty-3 Tactical sells survival gear and firearms in Monmouth, says his Buy Local promotion generated 18 customers. “People were very excited to see the store. Many had no idea we were even here,” he says. “It was definitely a huge success.”

Here’s how the program works: Buy Local provides free advertising for local businesses and exclusive discounts for Maps members who pay with their debit or credit cards. Every two weeks, the credit union highlights a specific Buy Local partner, who offers a freebie to anyone who visits the Maps website and downloads the featured coupon, picks up a coupon in a Maps branch or redeems a coupon via the mobile app. Maps then reimburses the business for every coupon redeemed.

In addition to the website, Maps uses social media posts, statement flyers and branch displays to promote the program and its featured offers. Brenneman estimates the cost of the program at “just under $9,000 year-to-date. That includes reimbursements, ordering coupons, etc.”

“For managing the program for just over a year, I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished,” she says, “and I look forward to what the future holds.”

So do the folks at CUES, who honored Brenneman and her Buy Local idea with a $20,000 educational prize package that includes registration, accommodations and airfare to any two CUES CEO Institutes—one in 2014 and one in 2015—and two remote coaching sessions from DDJ Myers Ltd.

“The prize package will fuel my passion for helping businesses reach their full potential, so that they can go forth and make a positive difference in the world,” Brenneman says. “It’s a dream come true.”

 

For more information about Maps Credit Union’s Buy Local program, contact Amanda Brenneman by e-mail or on the phone at 503.588.0181 ext. 3558.

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, [email protected].