Strategic Cross-Selling the USAA Way

dollar sign next to words do you want fries with that
Jeff Rendel, CSP Photo
Rising Above Enterprises

3 minutes

Three guidelines for expanding wallet share with members, both new and existing.


If you spend any time at a credit union conference where member service and member loyalty are examined, a handful of companies come up for discussion as models to follow—AARP and USAA to name a couple. These companies—and many more—reliably earn the highest loyalty scores from their members. Why? How? They value their member relationships and strategically utilize members’ data to cross-sell, up-sell and up-serve.

Industry data indicates that membership in credit unions is growing. But what about credit union wallet share? New members, often via a lending relationship, immediately add to the revenue stream, but loans pay off and members can be unpredictable. A new or existing member might never branch out in credit union product use unless the organization adopts a strategic cross-selling business model. Such a model should aim to grow wallet share with existing members (get higher marketing response rates) and new members (do measurably effective outbound and digital marketing).

Here are three guidelines for expanding wallet share with new and existing members that will help your CU create the kind of continued and increased loyalty we champion.

  1. Define and design a profitable member model. What does a profitable member look like at your credit union? For many CUs, it’s a combination of economics and member experience. Often, a model member uses your institution for checking, two loans, e-services and fee-producing products. Developing your model may take some time, but doing so will allow you to focus on the pockets of greatest opportunity and shared value. It also allows you to determine your economic value vs. the competition. And, it enables you to target market your messages toward well-defined areas of essential growth in member relationships.
  2. Aim for a full balance sheet relationship, but front load loans. Many of us recall the days where a checking account was the entry point to a financial relationship. The loans came later. Today, the process has reversed. Well-priced loans often establish a relationship, giving us access to a member’s data and the opportunity to create a multi-year view of member value. When a credit union understands the prospects to add immediate value to a member’s financial well-being, its cross-selling efforts move beyond product lines and sales targets toward the long-term value of relationships. When members win first, we have more latitude to cross-market and -sell. As our commitment to a lifelong relationship with members is evidenced, we can continue to build the member’s balance sheet relationship (including that elusive checking account).
  3. Begin now, and invest over time. “Fortune favors the bold,” says the Latin proverb. Strategic cross-selling can be an intimidating idea involving data, computing, profiles, sets of members, product use, product migration, behavior and more. With so many options, decision-making can slow or cease. Just begin. Unite around internal data, including new members, single product members, multiple product members, e-service regulars, e-service avoiders, ZIP codes, age ranges and more. Learn how different sets of members respond to unique marketing channels, messages and methods. And, continue to reach out to members on a regular basis. Recent research revealed that member satisfaction was highest when a CU communicated with the member about four times a year, so a quarterly, targeted marketing message is a good start. Where was member satisfaction the lowest? When the credit union did not reach out at all. Members want to know how they can win. Tell them. Regularly.

A well-known world-wide consulting firm recently evaluated cross-selling opportunities in several industries, including financial services. The firm discovered that about 60 percent of U.S. consumers divide their retail product and services purchases among competing providers. The firm further realized that convincing 10 percent of those using multiple providers to change to one provider would noticeably increase incremental revenue to the provider of bundled services. Strategic cross-selling would lead the way, utilizing customer data and a mission of expanding wallet share.

Our members aren’t much different. They, too, divide their financial services among providers. What if we intentionally followed the model of the leaders-in-loyalty companies referenced earlier? What if we expanded our commitment to member service to include the deliberate use of data to strategically cross sell and increase members’ value from their credit unions? Generally, wallet share would grow and market share would follow. And, perhaps, coffee-station talk at the AARP and USAA conferences would include “how those credit unions build such great loyalty with their members.”

Jeff Rendel, CSP, is president of Rising Above Enterprises. Rendel works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners. Reach him at 951.340.3770.

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