What Banks And Credit Unions Can Learn From One Another: Content Marketing

In this exclusive series, BlueSpire Marketing looks at what bank and credit union marketers can learn from each other. In this segment, content marketing is explored from both perspectives.

The Credit Union Perspective:
First and Foremost, Content Marketing Should Be Helpful

jim_larranaga_cuThe business world is abuzz over “content marketing” …as if it were some new form of marketing. However credit unions have been using financial education content to help members since the dawn of the movement.

Credit unions adopt a healthy member-first perspective. When other financial institutions hurriedly cross-sell customers anything and everything, credit unions are known for taking the time to teach people how to be more savvy financial consumers. The only thing that’s really changed is how the teaching channels have evolved over the years  — from print publications and statement inserts, to websites and emails, and now modern-day tools like YouTube and Facebook.

Educational content shows consumers how to improve their lives using appropriate services from their credit union. The content strategy deployed by credit unions doesn’t hard-sell consumers on products or services they don’t really need. It’s an educational service.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 — caused by lax lending standards and consumers lured to mortgages bigger than they could afford — a financial literacy for consumers was sorely needed. That’s where credit unions have excelled. Now other financial institutions are teaching consumers how to manage their money, debt and even invest long-term for retirement.

YouTube, for instance, offers examples of good (and some not-so-good) content strategies. Go to YouTube and search for “Financial Literacy.” You’ll find more that 10,000 videos! But don’t be surprised if a big name financial institution is running ads at the top of your search results. For example, Ameriprise doesn’t have content on financial literacy and instead shows clips of all their TV commercials. That’s not a credit union style content strategy, that’s just big bank style selling.

The credit union approach to content strategy is centered on educating members about how to be better with money; that’s their goal first and foremost. Everything they do — from videos and seminars to email, newsletters and blogs — is about helping members above all else.

The Bank Perspective:
Content Should Be Helpful *AND* Sell

By Jen Joly, Marketing & Communications Director for Bluespire Strategic Marketing

jen_joly_bankIt’s clear that banks were hit hard by bad publicity around the recession. In the aftermath, the promise of helping consumers become better educated about financial products and services is a great strategy banks can learn from their colleagues in credit unions.

It’s clear that consumers need help in financial education. According to Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF and a former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, “only four states mandate that students take a personal finance class in high school.”

It’s also clear banks have a role to play that could have far-reaching effects on Americans. Mortgage originations for credit unions at the end of the third quarter 2012 were up significantly, totaling about $89 billion nationwide and beating all of 2011 by $7 billion. With large banks continuing to dominate though (Wells Fargo wrote $131.9 billion in new loans in the second quarter of 2012 alone), it’s apparent that there would be an opportunity to affect more consumers overall if banks more heartily embraced educational content marketing.

When organizations do a great job educating their customers, they are in a better position to seize opportunities for cross-selling in ways that can help customers choose the right products and services that improve their lives. Plus, it can have a positive impact inside the organization.

In addition, research from Forrester found that 41% of U.S. adults are interested or very interested in consolidating all of their financial products and accounts with a single firm. Why is this relevant? According to Forrester, customers who feel their financial provider is an advocate (“doing what’s best for me vs. the bank’s bottom line”) are far more likely to consider that provider for additional product and services. Credit unions and similarly positioned banks can use content marketing to foster positive relationships that can then be leveraged to their full advantage — educate first, build your credibility and trust… then sell.

While banks and credit unions are different, both share goals related to retention, acquisition, deposit growth and other key performance metrics. Financial marketers know it costs less to retain a current customer (or member) than it does to find a new one.

About the Authors

Jim Larranaga is the Executive Vice President for BlueSpire Strategic Marketing in Minneapolis, a marketing firm focused on the industries of health and wealth. Larranaga has assisted banks and credit unions across the nation with strategic marketing for 25 years.

Jen Joly is the Marketing and Communications Director for BlueSpire Strategic Marketing in Minneapolis. Before Joly joined BlueSpire, she spent five years in bank marketing following her start in the gaming industry (she adds these are “very similar industries, believe it or not!”).


Capital One sees value in offering financial education content on its website.



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