Five Tips for Credit Union Marketing on a Budget

By Derek Gillette

I recently spoke at the NWCUA’s annual Marketer’s Conference in Portland on the topic of branding without a budget. The topic seemed to be well received, and so we wanted to follow up with five practical tips to market your credit union without breaking the bank (so the speak).

#1: The One Page Business Plan

The idea of a one page business plan is something found in a book called, “The Advantage,” by Patrick Lencioni.  I actually gave a copy of this away during my session at this last Marketer’s Conference for NWCUA. Click here to download an example of a completed one-page business plan that I did with a non-profit café. Notice how focused each category ended up and how it really clarified what they wanted to be known for, how they would get there, and who would do what.

As an exercise for you to start with, try to describe your credit union in 10 words or less.  Then have multiple members of your team do the same thing. Are you in harmony? Are you going after the same thing? And does your 10-word description sound unique or just like everyone else’s?

#2: Sit in the Lobby

As marketers we all understand that knowing our customers is goal number one. However, how we go about getting that understanding can be a major challenge, especially with budget limitations.

Here’s my idea: one day a month, sit in the lobby of your credit union. Put a sign on a desk that invites people to come over, and create opportunity for candid conversation.

Perhaps you want feedback on a new ad campaign or messaging.  Have a few examples out on the table for them to choose from. Maybe you just want to know why they chose to do their banking at your credit union in the first place. This is a great chance to ask them directly.

Then, you can begin to incorporate real-life sentiments into your marketing, which has the added bonus of getting the buy-in of the members who helped you put it all together.

I believe that’s what they call a win-win.

#3: Get to Know Your Local Newspaper

Content marketing is all the rage these days, and many of us probably act this out in the form of a blog, email marketing, or just social media.  But don’t forsake the audience of your local newspapers.

Many of the local papers I’ve known deliver directly to many of the residents of their towns.  This is direct mail that you can have access to at no cost if you play your cards right.

Do not email the editor and ask if you can write a story.  Instead, write your story first, perhaps all about the four safety precautions everyone should take when withdrawing money from an ATM.  Keep it to 500 words, and have someone edit it so that it is ready to publish.

Then, package the story, along with a headshot and a bio in an email, ready to send.  Before you send, pick up the phone and call the editor and tell them you have a story in the can that you think their readers would find a lot of value in and that you’ll send it over as soon as you get off the phone. 

This process saves the editor time, shows respect, and gives you the best chance of success.

#4: Focus on the First 100 Days

Marketer Joey Coleman gets credit for translating a phrase best known for the first 100 days of a President’s term into a way to create raving fans. He teaches a full course on the subject if you’re interested.

This idea represents huge untapped potential in terms of creating immediate and lasting brand loyalty. What are the strategic and well-thought-out steps that your credit union takes when someone first becomes a member?  What do those first 100 days look like?  Do they get a personal call from your CEO/President?  What about a handwritten letter in the mail? Do you extend gifts or special offers?  How do you deepen the relationship?

I recently joined a new credit union because of a used car loan. I’m about 30 days in and so far my only interaction with them has been a lengthy form that was mailed to me and a big packet of information to read over. I’m still waiting with fingers crossed to receive my first personal interaction. 

#5: Find Something to Steal

I just finished writing another article on this topic.  Here’s a quick quote, “I’m an avid fan of stealing other people’s content and making it my own. This is how great artists make their living.  Find something amazing, get inspired, and then repurpose the work and make it your own.”

As a credit union you may not have the giant research, branding, or marketing budget of a national bank, but what you do have is all the information that they make public.  Rest assured that every national bank commercial, ad placement, messaging has been well thought out and tested using their wealth of resources.  Studying these campaigns is akin to having a research team of your own. 

What messaging ideas can you steal? What images do they think resonate best? Do they use long or short form copy in their emails? Where do they place ads?

Collect as much information as you can, then repurpose it and make it your own. 

For more tips on how to market without a budget, I put together a short ebook, “Branding without a Budget,” which you can click here to download.

Derek Gillette is a millennial helping brands better understand how to craft purpose into their marketing and communication strategy.  Reach out to him on Twitter or through his LinkedIn profile.  

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

Posted in Marketing & Communications.