How Banks Can Pump Up Loan Volumes

How one small credit union reversed its course and is experiencing an impressive number of new loans.

With focused advertising, the number of auto loans Salem Seaport Credit Union closed in 2012 increased 85%, bringing in 110% more in new loan volume than they saw in 2010. And when compared to 2011, Salem Seaport’s 2012 new mortgage loans increased by a tremendous 114%.

Let’s paint the picture. Salem Seaport Credit Union sits on a highly visible, busy street corner across from an active university. It has been at that location for 26 years. Still, their membership was aging and numbers were declining. They knew they needed to reverse the downward course they were on.

Enter Raoust+Partners

Specializing in credit union marketing for more than 20 years, Raoust+Partners is led by Olivier Raoust, President and Chief Creative Director. He is unabashedly passionate about credit unions and their marketing and communication efforts. He says, “As marketers, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What are people thinking about when it comes to their daily lives, to managing their money?’ Forget checking accounts, forget credit cards, forget loans. What is it that they’re really trying to accomplish? And then we need to place ourselves as much as we can in their lives, in their environment, not with products, but with solutions that will enable people to make the right financial decisions.”

“This goes directly to the brand position that a credit union should have,” Raoust continues, “and whether it sets itself up to be relevant to their membership and to their community. So, in other words, it goes to being authentic.”

What’s at Your Core?

“Be true to your core value,” says Raoust. “But don’t shy away from taking a stand. Let people clearly understand what you as an institution stand for. And communicate that repeatedly. If your mission is to be really supportive of the community, then let that be the framework by which you promote your products and services. If your brand mission is to be there for your members who are constantly on the move, then let it be known that you are adaptive, that you are willing to experiment. Let that become the fabric of your brand position. If you can align your core beliefs to that of your community, or maybe vice versa, than I think you’re really on to something.”

With the credit union’s commitment and the agency’s perspective, the partnership between Raoust+Partners and Salem Seaport breathed new life into the credit union, not only refining their name by adding “Salem,” but clearly defining their brand by embracing who they are: a small, but mighty credit union in a vibrant seaside neighborhood.

Today, they have stopped the flow of members leaving the credit union, turning a several-year trend of net negative growth strongly into the black with substantial gains. The percentage change from negative to positive numbers is so large that it doesn’t seem real.

But it is.

With focused advertising, the number of new auto loans in 2012 increased 85%, bringing in 110% more in loan volume than they saw in 2010. And when compared to 2011, Salem Seaport’s 2012 new mortgage loans increased by a tremendous 114%.

The Foundation Beneath the Success

What created such success? The working relationship between Salem Seaport and Raoust+Partners, and a commitment to building their foundation. Raoust+Partners orchestrated a transformation of Salem Seaport’s branch, embedding the brand in every member touch point, and sending the message that it’s a thriving, modern and upscale place to conduct business. This in itself has spawned a great number of positive word-of-mouth references and referrals, and now, since the exterior is so much more visible and inviting, the credit union has had walk-in traffic from residents who have driven by the branch for years and never noticed it before.

Raoust advises credit unions to “work with a partner like Raoust+Partners who truly understands the value of authentic ‘storytelling’ and is willing to champion it.” He goes on, saying, “Your marketing partner should be willing to explore your story from all sides so they can bring to the surface what is going to be relevant and compelling, and not simply take the easy path and rely on promotional gimmicks in hopes that you will cast a net big enough to attract people.”

Research & Follow-Through Are Key

But the key to successful numbers for this “small, but mighty” credit union with only one branch in a fiercely competitive environment is really about the research, clearly and aggressively defining potential audiences, then picking battles wisely and with great discipline—because one credit union cannot be all things to all people. With Salem Seaport, Raoust+Partners has focused the credit union on becoming the upscale gem in their neighborhood.

Every year, Raoust+Partners has used the credit union’s comparatively small budget to precisely and carefully place the exact right pieces of their marketing plan “jigsaw puzzle” together. Then, with passion and determination, they ensure that everyone is focused on keeping the deliverables plan on track, on schedule, on budget and on message. This long-term outlook is a tremendously important part of the complete partnership Raoust+Partners offers.

Getting Stronger and Stronger

All in all, Raoust+Partners helped Salem Seaport reverse a long stretch of declining market share and, in fact, are just as thrilled as the credit union as they continue to see aggressively strong numbers of new loans coming in to the credit union, as well as net positive member growth.

While their rebrand happened in 2010, Salem Seaport’s vibrancy and the relevancy of their messaging are stronger now than ever, and as Raoust+Partners continues to mine what is special and authentic about this credit union, the results just get better and more successful.

Pat Warren, President and CEO of Salem Seaport, says of Raoust+Partners, “They are unique in their field, and Salem Seaport is a prime example of that.”

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