Article

Lift Tickets

By Michelle Hillenbrand

5 minutes

Fall can sometimes feel like one long sprint after Labor Day, with back-to-school activities, holiday celebrations and smiling through visits with long-lost relatives. Factor in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and is it any wonder that we find ourselves looking forward to pushing the reset button on another year?

Fall into Marketing Opportunities

But looked at from your CU’s perspective, that whirlwind of holiday events can translate into opportunities to create memorable marketing campaigns that make a real difference in the financial lives of your members — while building their loyalty in the process.

When it comes to themed and seasonal promotions, there’s simply no better time to dig in than the fall, when every milestone is special to your members but their spending power may be stretched to the limit.

What’s more, fall is the lead in to another important time period—fourth quarter—and it’s never cause for celebration when CUs contemplate falling short of their annual growth and profit goals.

Exceed Your Annual Growth Goals

That’s why my colleagues here at Advisors Plus and I want to show you how to develop a successful fall marketing calendar that will have your credit union not just meeting but exceeding those growth goals.

In this article, we present five campaign ideas that your CU can plug in and personalize right now—today. Campaigns like these will give your members the gift of financial security while giving your CU a measurable year-end lift, generating cross-sell opportunities and providing a great head start on growth for 2017. 

Crafting Your Calendar

Let’s quickly review the strategic underpinnings of what makes an effective fall marketing calendar:

Target your campaign(s) to your current membership: The early fall and pre-holiday seasons are two of the hardest times of the year to get the attention of prospective members, but they are among the best times to focus on your members and their card usage. The key is to position your card at the top of wallet for holiday purchases by creating relevant offers throughout the fall.

Play up seasonal themes and needs: Fall is a time of coming together after the summer to renew connections with family and friends and prepare for the holiday get-togethers ahead. That makes fall the perfect time of year for CUs to reach out to their members with credit line increases that anticipate spending needs or usage offers that help members leverage their purchasing power with cash back or rewards.

Remind your cardholders of their outstanding card benefits: Cardholder loyalty is built on many of the great benefits your credit card products provide, so use your campaigns as an opportunity to remind your members of exactly what those are. Use your offers to highlight low rates, rewards and cash back—and don’t forget to mention features like roadside assistance, purchase protection and concierge services.

Draw your inactive cardholders out of hiding: Seasonally themed cash-back and points rewards tied to usage; campaigns that include participation enrollment via website; or offers that use detachable letter coupons with cash back are great ways to tempt your inactive card members into making your card their top-of-wallet choice for holiday spending.

Let your branches and call centers in on the fun: Tie your campaigns into seasonal activities your branches may have planned—or would like to. What better way to reinforce your credit union’s role as a community hub than with seasonal decorating, activities such as a Halloween costume contest, or “giving back” through a food drive or secret Santa program?

Personalize These Campaigns

As you can see, the recipe for great fall marketing campaigns is to empathize with your members’ financial needs and provide timely, fun solutions to meeting them. Here are five proven themes that have worked year after year for our clients:

Back-to-school spending: Typically run during September, this can be structured as either a cash-back/rewards points offering or a balance transfer campaign and credit line increase. It is aimed at helping members start the holiday season with plenty of spending power. Depending on your state’s sales tax rates and laws, this campaign can also be timed to take advantage of a “tax forgiveness” period.

Black Friday usage: Now that Black Friday shopping has become part of the Thanksgiving season and shopping has become a national pastime, a Black Friday campaign can be just the thing to attract your cardholders’ attention. This campaign can be structured in multiple ways to include double rewards points or cash back on holiday kickoff spending.

Keep this campaign to a short duration to increase the excitement by offering it only over Thanksgiving weekend, since limiting the promotion’s timing will focus your cardholders on starting the holiday season with your card in mind.

Credit card activation packaged with checking: Tying credit card account activation with a purchase minimum of $100 to a checking deposit of $10 is a great incentive for inactive cardholders, deepens loyalty and promotes cross-sales.

Holiday usage contest: A fun campaign that many of our clients have tailored to select cardholders revolves around rewarding usage in such spending categories as travel and dining. Because many cardholders visit and entertain friends and relatives during the holidays, travel and dining can be especially fruitful areas of potential purchase activity that often involve larger ticket sales.

Post-holiday balance transfer and convenience checks: Giving your members the chance to greet the New Year with low-APR convenience checks, possibly tied to credit line increases, is a tried-and-true campaign that is often gratefully received. It both cements short-term member loyalty and sets the stage for your winter and spring growth programs.

When short, fun promotions become a way of life at your credit union, you may decide to feature them year-round. Why, just think: The Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and the spring home improvement season are right around the corner.

Michelle Hillenbrand is the vice president of the Advisors Plus Marketing Services group. CUES Supplier member Advisors Plus, St. Petersburg, Fla., was established in 2004 as an independent consulting unit of CUES Supplier member PSCU to help credit unions meet their financial and business challenges and grow.

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