How To Locally Out-Market The National Banks On A Shoestring Budget

Admit it, the odds are stacked against you: as a credit union or community bank, you're competing with national banks on a local level. That means your limited resources and budget are going head-to-head with their million-dollar national marketing campaign, legions of locations and employees, and their well-established brand name. So how can you win?

Admit it, you feel like the odds are stacked against you. 

As a credit union or community bank, you’re competing with national banks on a local level. That means your limited resources and budget are going head-to-head with their million-dollar national marketing campaign, legions of locations and employees, and their well-established brand name. 

So how can you win? 

The secret the big banks do not want you to know is that it’s easier than you think! 

The keys are:

  • Focusing on the channels where you actually get new members/customers
  • Dedicating your time and resources to the areas where you can actually beat them
  • Connecting the two activities above and tracking your progress as you go

If you can do these 3 things, your financial institution will be out-marketing the big banks within 6 months! Keep reading to find out exactly how you can start out-marketing national banks on a shoestring budget.

The Problem

After considerable experience with credit unions (and winning numerous national credit union marketing awards), we’ve watched too many credit unions and small banks fail to gain market share of new members. Why? They seem to all have one fatal flaw: they mirror the marketing tactics of big banks, yet with a much smaller budget.

So we wanted to share our credit union/community bank marketing approach to empower your financial institution to out-market the big banks without having to match their budget!

Anatomy Of Top Credit Union Marketing Campaigns

An effective marketing campaign with an attainable budget contains just 5 components: 

  1. Get more business from current members
  2. Beat big banks at their own game
  3. Resonate with your community
  4. Use attribution to connect every data point 
  5. Incentivize current members to invite new members

1. Get More Business From Current Members

According to the Credit Union National Association, 86% of credit union members are also customers of large banks. 

That means most of your members get their home, auto, and personal loans from various sources, not just your financial institution. 

A great way to maximize your marketing budget is by focusing on expanding your business with current members instead of only focusing on acquiring new members. 

Current members already know you and trust you, so it’s smart to build on that and entice them to use more of the great products you offer. 

Education about your products is a significant piece of building repeat business with existing customers. 

For our client Valley Strong Credit Union (Formerly Kern Schools Credit Union), we helped them digitally wrap their arms around their existing members by creating a Facebook fan acquisition campaign. Over four years, the number of fans increased by 1800%!

Then we targeted their fans with auto loans and other credit union-related offers. We also utilized the data those fans had in common to create look-alike audiences, and we served them similar ads. Lastly, we targeted the friends of these two targeted datasets. 

The results have been staggering with a 500x increase in loan and member acquisition!

2. Beat Big Banks At Their Own Game

It’s not as difficult as you think to outcompete the big banks on a local level. 

The marketing campaigns for most national banks are run from either the corporate office or a regional location, so while their tactics may be solid, they lack the resources to continually optimize the performance of every local campaign.

How do we know this? Because within 6 months, our locally-optimized digital ads are always the top-performing campaigns in the region. 

A great strategy is to geofence targeted ads that only appear to people in a specified region. You can also optimize your ad keywords for local neighborhoods and cities. This kind of granularity isn’t feasible for large banks, so it’s a great place for you to put your budget and “out-local” them. 

3. Resonate With Your Community

Another way for your credit union to outperform a national bank is by talking about your community history on your website, in video ads, and in traditional advertising like TV, radio, and billboards. 

For example, Nettra redesigned Kern Schools Federal Credit Union (KSFCU) website to show how integral they are to the fabric of their community. 

We pulled this off using photos and videos of members, staff, community, and prominent landmarks. 

We also repurposed some of the videos for a series of TV commercials and video ads to help brand the credit union as the region’s best banking option. 

As a result, members and potential members had a much easier time finding the services they were looking for. The Web Marketing Association also designated the KSFCU website as the “Best Credit Union Website” of 2017!

Unfortunately, most credit unions get caught up in marketing like a big bank by talking about interest rates. Remember that you have so much more to offer your members than a low interest rate!

4. Use Attribution To Connect Every Data Point 

Attribution is a credit union and community bank’s secret weapon to locally out-market the national banks, yet 98% of local financial institutions haven’t set it up. Even the majority of big banks haven’t set up an attribution process!

So what does attribution look like for a small bank or credit union?

In short, attribution allows you to assign a value to every part of your marketing campaign. This is important because if you’re running Google and Facebook ad campaigns and someone clicks on a Google Ad, applies for a loan, then becomes a member, in most cases that Google Ad would get the credit for the new member. 

However, with a detailed attribution process, you might find out that this new member clicked on two Facebook Ads over the last couple of months before finally clicking on the Google Ad.

This kind of insight is very important because it indicates how people interact with your ads, the sales cycle of an average member, and the sequence of marketing channels that are the most effective and cost-efficient. 

What makes attribution more difficult to pull off for a bank or credit union is connecting their marketing to their loan applicants and new members within their online banking portal. Since every financial institution uses an online banking portal to allow members to apply for a loan, it’s crucial that the connections between both data sets are made.

While this last issue is what prevents the majority of financial institutions from creating an attribution process, this is where Nettra’s expertise really separates us from every other credit union marketing agency. We love giving credit unions and small banks the advantage over the big banks!

5. Incentivize Current Members To Invite New Members

Marketing only accounts for up to 30% of a credit union’s new members. The majority of your new members actually come from word-of-mouth referrals from current members. 

With this in mind, it always surprises us that for every dollar a credit union or small bank spends on marketing, they spend under $0.05 on referral campaigns. 

For many of our clients, the referral campaigns we launch are responsible for an additional 20-30% of new clients. 

Yet, ours are no ordinary referral programs. 

On the email marketing side, we work with your team to create segmented email lists (for example, new members, new auto, home, personal loans, banking-only members, past members, etc.) so that we can send very targeted, time-sensitive messages to them. 

We’ll also collaborate to create landing pages with offers that are only available to the recipients. 

In addition to email marketing, we target them with Google and Facebook ads that promote our offers. Strategic, targeted referral campaigns like these enable your community bank or credit union to consistently grab market share from the big banks in your region.

6. Bonus Tip: Rinse & Repeat

After going through the steps above, you’ve created a lot more new members and underwritten new loans for current members. Now it’s time to repeat the entire process by earning repeat business from those new members! 

When you simplify our strategies above, they focus on two things: increasing the lifetime value of your current members and decreasing the cost of acquiring new members. By utilizing these strategies, we’ve produced some of the top credit union marketing campaigns in the United States. 

If you’d like to implement these effective, budget-wise strategies at your credit union, get in touch with our team today. We’d love to help you dig into your data and make the most of your marketing budget. 

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