Inside Marketing: Connecting With Members Online

graphic comparing PPC pay per click advertising with SEO search engine optimization
By Ben Mizes

5 minutes

Mastering the rules of content marketing, SEO and PPC advertising can help credit unions reach a moving target.

In 2019, credit unions face the same fundamental question that nearly every other business does: Members are out there, but how do you reach them?

Gone are the simpler days when marketing meant leasing a couple billboards next to the freeway and taking out ads in the local newspaper. Today, reaching potential members means connecting with them online. 

Online marketing can seem puzzling, a vaguely anarchic field of viral (i.e., accidental) successes, where the principles of traditional brick-and-mortar marketing fall flat or even repel. But if you master its rules, you can flourish.

How Do You Reach Potential Customers Online?

At Clever, we’ve had great success using a combination of content marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. Let’s tackle content marketing first.

What is content marketing? According to the Content Marketing Institute

“Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Think of it as an oblique approach to sales. Instead of hitting customers with the hard sell right off the bat, we establish value and rapport by engaging them with content they enjoy and can use. Once that trust relationship is established, it’s only natural that a sales relationship would follow. When you combine quality content with targeted keyword research, it’s a one-two punch for online marketing success. 

Let’s walk through an example. After looking into what terms our audience (homebuyers and sellers) might search for using Google, we determined “alternatives to flat fee MLS listings” was a great keyword to write about.

We wrote this article that explains the user’s alternatives to flat fee MLS listings, while also explaining the advantages of working with a company like Clever. It’s important to add value here without selling yourself too hard. Focus on truly answering the user’s question; websites that answer user questions are exactly what Google wants to rank.

We use calls to action throughout the content page (headers, sidebars, even click-through links in the text itself) to convert visitors to customers. The upshot is that we see individual blog posts leading to real revenue.

Applying These Principles at Credit Unions

So how can credit unions use this approach to attract members? The first step is to make sure you’re visible to the people who are looking for you. That means anticipating the needs and questions of your potential members and meeting those needs and questions with engaging, quality content. 

Some of the most common credit union-related questions that users search for, according to keyword research tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer or Google Keyword Planner, are “credit unions vs banks” and “credit union low interest loans.” Take these queries and craft quality website content addressing these questions. Make sure it’s substantial, engaging and conversational. 

Once you establish a body of authoritative content, you can start to monitor your website traffic in software like Google Analytics to track results. Over time, your traffic will start to grow as you create content around the questions your audience is searching for online.

Simple, right? Well, not as simple as it sounds. The internet is full of content, but how much of it is actually engaging? Striking that right tone isn’t easy, and meeting the desires of an increasingly fickle online audience can be a moving target. So to supplement your long-term, organic SEO, you’ll want to consider using pay-per-click advertising. 

SEO Versus PPC Advertising

Think of it like this: SEO—optimizing your website’s structure and content to increase search rankings—brings in free traffic, but it takes a while to build up. PPC lets you rent immediate traffic.

The first step to using pay-per-click ads is to bid on your individual keywords through a service like Google AdWords. 

Two of the most popular credit union-related keywords are “credit union near me” and “community credit union.” (Aside from the keywords themselves, consider the values implied in those searches.) In AdWords, you can focus on audiences in your specific geographic area, along with a host of other targeting options. Bidding on these keywords will make sure that your ads reach the people who are looking for you.
To reinforce that connection, use those keywords in your ad copy and on your landing pages. This will boost your Quality Score, which is essentially a measure of relevance, and will lead to your ads being shown more often and at a lower cost.

Capturing Millennial Clicks and Eyeballs

So aside from the obvious, what keywords and content subjects should credit unions be targeting? According to Clever’s millennial homebuyer study, millennials are a prime demographic for credit unions.

The conventional wisdom is that millennials are mistrustful of banks, and this is generally true; millennials prefer credit unions over banks by a significant margin. There’s another piece of conventional wisdom that millennials are—well—broke, but this is not true. 

The Great Recession didn’t permanently exclude millennials from the economy; it only delayed their entry. In fact, this generation already makes up the largest share of homebuyers (36%), and as a group, their economic clout is growing rapidly.

We’ve found that 84% of millennials still believe in the American Dream, and home buying is one of their top priorities. However, their largest obstacle to getting that first home is the down payment, so offering lower down payments to qualified applicants would be a great way to capture millennial eyeballs and clicks. Keep in mind that 63% of millennials use mobile as their primary research tool, so target those ads wisely.

This is just a start, but the bottom line is clear: With a smart content marketing strategy backed by strong SEO/PPC, you can reach more members than you ever thought possible.

Ben Mizes is co-founder/CEO of Clever Real Estate, St. Louis, a free online service that connects homebuyers and sellers with full-service real estate agents at a discount rate. He is also an active real estate investor with 22 units in St. Louis and a licensed real estate agent in the state of Missouri.

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