Alexis Maybank and Dr. Neil Goldman were joined on stage by Dr. Michael Steinberger, Dean of the Western CUNA school, Dennis Gabel, Chief Finance and  Strategy Officer Filene Research Institute,  and Bill Cheney, President/CEO CUNA, to discuss how credit unions can become cult brands.

Do we need to rethink how we engage with members and prospects?

It’s not the products and services that matter to people, it’s the emotional connection to a brand. Credit Unions need to segment their services and products, focusing on specific customer desires: Some want lazy services, some want high-touch services – you need to find out where the most profitable prospects are and deliver products/services based on their needs. Gilt Groupe’s self-imposed barrier is the email address customers have to provide before they can access the deal, get value. What value can credit unions provide in exchange for data?

Can we extend the Bank Transfer Day trigger?

Prospects still don’t know if they are able to join a credit union. Bank Transfer Day was a major trigger point for customers to change their financial  institution. Still, the movement needs more triggers to grow the movement. Make credit unions more human, less an institution. Use real, authentic imagery to connect with the emotional side of prospects. The panelists agreed that credit unions don’t have the assets to deliver a massive paid media campaign but there should be ways to create a national, earned media campaign.

What’s the elevator pitch for credit unions?

– The pitch depends on the customer: Customize it

– People care about being part of communities, they want to be part of something: Credit Unions are part of something they believe in.

– Credit Unions are owned by you and they empower you take charge of your financial future.

– People are for people, not for profit. Credit Unions use money to help people, banks use people to make money.

Alexis Maybank, as a non-member urged credit unions to make financial services more approachable and easier to understand. The community part of the credit union is interesting but it has to be communicated better.

Do we need to rethink incentives?

There are many ways to rethink incentives: softer rewards are often more effective, use the social graph and family to reward new members, tap into the greater good: for each new member a credit union will donate to a local charity. Use life-changing events as triggers and incentivize behavior change. Use data to delight people but don’t go too far. (See Target as an example for a company that might have gone too far.)

Are credit unions too passive/too polite?

Credit Unions should be more aggressive with prospects, share their story. You can influence people by building trust. Credit Unions will never be able to match the marketing budget of Wall Street banks. However, new social channels allow credit unions to tap into the growing power of networked communities and relationships.

What are credit unions missing?

The community aspect of credit unions is hugely appealing to prospects. The more you create a sense of community with your credit union, the more people will be attracted to your products and services. 1/6 Americans are hispanic, what are you going to do about it? How are you dealing with more and more baby boomers retiring in the next few years?