Inside Marketing: Using Automation to Grow Member Relationships

digital illustration of robot arms placing email envelope and advertising image on a computer monitor
By Chris Leone

5 minutes

Technology enhances the ability to attract, onboard and retain members at credit unions of any size.

Marketing automation has become a mainstay in the digital marketer’s toolbox. Unlike specific tactics, which come and go over time, marketing automation technology exists to improve efficiency and results, regardless of which tactic is being used.

To compete and survive against new, disruptive online-only banking models, credit unions need to increase their adoption of new marketing technologies that boost customer experience, campaign success and marketing ROI. Implementing marketing automation is one of the best ways to do that.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation software is often cloud-based and is capable of automating such key marketing activities as personalized emails, nurturing leads, online chat and digital advertising management. Not only can these tools save you time, they can execute marketing activities at a scale and speed not otherwise possible.

Much of the marketing you experience as a consumer today, especially from large brands, has been automated in some part.

Why is marketing automation important for credit unions?

Marketing automation tends to perform best for organizations with lengthy sales cycles and opportunities for increasing lifetime value, making it a perfect fit for credit unions. Yet, in a survey WebStrategies conducted in late 2018, only 27% of credit unions reported using marketing automation, compared to 51% for companies across all industries.

There are endless ways a credit union can implement marketing automation to help attract new members and improve retention. Here are some ways we’ve seen it deployed successfully.

Using Marketing Automation To Attract New Members

Marketing automation can be a great tool for improving the rate at which you acquire new members. It can increase the chance they fill out (and submit) an online application and improve the odds that applicants convert to actual members. Here’s how you can implement marketing automation to win new members:

  • Customize and personalize website content based on how the user arrived on your website.
  • Automate a series of emails to prospective members who have completed a loan application but not yet become a member. Customize the emails depending on what product they applied for.
  • Create automated emails to prospective new members as their lead status changes in your customer relationship management system.
  • Create automated alerts for your loan officers or sales team when prospective new members revisit your website.
  • Trigger emails to prospective members when they revisit the website.
  • Send data from your chatbot, pop-ups or customized web forms to your CRM, then trigger follow-up tasks, reminders, alerts or emails.

Using Marketing Automation for Member Retention and Increasing Share of Wallet

Financial institutions experience a 20-25% attrition rate within the first year of gaining a new customer or member, half of which occurs in the first 90 days. This emphasizes the importance of creating a strong, consistent onboarding experience early in the member journey. Here are some ways you can implement marketing automation to help improve the onboarding and overall membership experience:

  • Create an onboarding email sequence for new members that sets clear expectations on next steps and proactively addresses common issues or questions.
  • Offer incentives to refer new members with an automated email triggered after a new member provides positive feedback.
  • Thank existing members for being a member on key anniversaries.
  • Offer targeted promotions based on segmentation. For example, create automated emails that offer members with an auto loan an offer for a credit card, equity loan or mortgage.
  • Automate requests for reviews based on membership status, time as a member or after a positive survey response.
  • Automatically create email lists segmented by product use, then run cross-promotional digital banner ads against those email lists on Facebook.

Credit Union Marketing Automation Best Practices

Whether you are using marketing automation to win new or retain existing members, there are several important best practices you should follow:

  • Segment your customer lists by personas and products owned or recommended.
  • Always test your email subject line to achieve higher open rates. (Most marketing automation tools have A/B test capabilities.)
  • Keep your email content short with strong calls to action.
  • Use custom landing pages on your website to get the user to convert from your email or ad campaigns.
  • Interact with prospects (through automation or manually) within 24 hours of when they take action. (If interacting manually, try to do so within 1 hour.)
  • Score your leads based on engagement and other attributes for better segmentation and prioritization. The more they interact, the better candidate they may be.
  • Connect your lead generation system to your marketing automation platform so new prospects can automatically be tracked and entered into new workflows. (This may require a developer and a system with API capabilities).

Marketing Automation Platforms for Credit Unions

The marketing automation category has broadened to include email, CRM, chatbots, digital advertising and more. There is no single tool to accomplish all these tasks, but generally speaking, the more you’re willing to pay, the more features you’ll get under one roof.

Popular tools in the marketing automation space include Hubspot, Marketo, Active Campaign and SharpSpring, among others.

Getting Started

Like any software investment, the value you’ll receive is predicated by how well you adopt it into your daily operations.

Before making an investment in any tool, set clear expectations around what problems you’re trying to solve or outcomes you’re trying to improve. Be clear about who will manage it internally, who the internal stakeholders are, and what outside help you may need to implement it. Then, work backwards to the platform.

When implemented as part of a clear plan, marketing automation will become an indispensable piece of your marketing toolbox. It will allow you to match the personalized experiences offered by much larger financial institutions while saving your marketing team time and providing valuable insight to other internal team members.

Chris Leone is president of WebStrategies Inc.Midlothian, Virginia, a 25-person digital marketing agency that specializes in credit union digital marketing, marketing reporting and marketing automation. Leone is a regular speaker at credit union industry events and leagues throughout the country.

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