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Locally Owned Putting You First

Staff and volunteers get it, and so do many long-time members. But an understanding of the basic structure of credit unions and the advantages they offer over other financial institutions continues to elude most nonmembers. So how can we better explain the credit union difference? Read on and see what MCUA learned from nonmembers. 

Last spring, the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) sponsored a survey of nonmembers to gauge their familiarity with credit unions and the advantages they offer over banks. The results were interesting to say the least and were covered in three special editions of Missouri Courier Magazine. In the spirit of cooperation and consumer awareness, MCUA is republishing its fascinating findings. Highlights from the second edition, Locally Owned Putting You First, include:

A strong percentage of nonmembers said they didn't know or didn't believe that credit unions offered these basic financial services:

  • 25%  Checking Accounts
  • 27%  Auto Loans
  • 41%  Credit Cards
  • 47%  Mortgages
  • 48%  Online Banking
  • 50%  Small Business Loans 

How Credit Unions Stack Up Against the Competition

  • Half of all nonmembers surveyed said they knew very little or nothing about credit unions
  • Credit unions were seen as doing "significantly better" on placing their customers' interests above profits, on providing the best savings and loan rates and on charging low service fees. 
  • Credit unions were rated consistently "not as good as banks" in perceptions of convenience, branch locations and hours, ATM access and online services

Reactions to our Vocabulary
(percent of nonmembers who find the financial institution more appealing when associated with the following words)

Locally Owned 66%
Home Grown 61%
Controlled by Members Not Stockholders 56%
Community Bank 56%
Member-owned Bank 56%
Not for Profit 46%
Describes Account Holders as Customers 38%
National Bank 36%
Describes Account Holders as Members 35%
Cooperative 34%
Directed by Volunteers 24%
Credit Union 22%

A Perspective on Messaging
Ron Shevlin is a senior analyst with the Boston-based Aite Group and author of the book Everything They've Told You About Marketing is Wrong. Shevlin believes the shelf-life has run out on the following credit union messages (1) credit unions steered clear of the financial mess that swept many banks to and over the economic brink, and (2) our industry didn't need or take bailout funds. "That's so 2009," says Shevlin. "American consumers have a short memory about those kinds of things - they don't even hate BP anymore. We tend to focus on the evil wrongdoer of the day, of the moment, and then we move on."

Shevlin continues on to argue that consumers don't pick a provider, they pick a product. "You don't choose toothpaste because it's made by Proctor & Gamble; you choose it because you like it," says Shevlin. If you want to widen as well as deepen your membership base, he suggests taking a cue from the marketing approach of big banks, which pursue niche groups with specific campaigns designed to match up with their demographics, values and product delivery channel preferences.    

Click here to continue reading Locally Owned Putting You First. 

Click here for Getting Nonmembers to Make the Switch, the first edition in the series exploring nonmembers survey results.