If You Want to Win, You Have to Show up

Marketing always has a sense of quality over quantity. This concept is especially true when it comes time to determine what individuals we want to communicate with. This leads to marketers spending a lot of time determining who should fit in this mold.

I get it though, you don’t want to bombard your members with so much communication they just stop listening to you all together. Along the same line of thinking, there is only so much of the budget set aside for marketing, therefore you need to reach out to just the members you think fit the perfect mold. I get it, I’ve heard all these road blocks before, but still I can’t help but wonder if the old sales motto: ‘the more, the better’ should be followed.

So, when it comes to determining what members should be marketed to, what is more important; quality or quantity? Many credit unions are concerned that over communicating with members will lead to high unresponsive levels. While this is a valid concern, the member will stop paying attention until they don’t.

I receive several emails a day from various companies telling me to upgrade my internet plan, take advantage of new phone options, and even reminding me it is time to order more dog food. All this constant communication has made it the new norm. But with all this constant communication, why are credit unions afraid of over communicating with members?

In fact, I receive roughly 2 credit card offers a week from various financial institutions. Granted, most don’t even get opened. But recently, I decided to actually open one and sure enough, on that particular day I decided to take action. The issue is, how do you expect to win the game of getting a new credit card loan if you don’t even show up? I had no previous business with the company that won me over. If my FI would have had a credit card promotion in my inbox that day, I probably would have gone with them, but they didn’t even show up to play. The large companies are not afraid to send out lots of communication, because they know in order to win the game, you have to at least show up.

The argument can be made that these large companies have the funds to communicate so much, and that their marketing budget is much larger than the average credit union. This is true, but is communication really as expensive as we make it out to be?

To explain, let’s look at some numbers for a hypothetical marketing campaign for auto loans. In our example, we will take an average size credit union with 7,000 members. The fixed cost of the marketing material will not change, such as how much labor it takes to create the email. Once you have these items created, the only thing the target audience has effect on is the variable cost of the marketing campaign. In this example, we will also use the variable cost of $0.02 per email.

Example 1

Target audience: 1,000 members

Email Cost: $20.00

Total Variable Cost: $20.00

This is great, because we were able to email 1,000 members and it only cost $20.00. But what about the other 6,000 members that never received any communication about the auto loans? How confident are you that none of these 6,000 members have no interest in an auto loan? If only one member out of that 6,000 actually took action, their first month of interest would cover the additional cost. In example 2 we can see that for $120.00 more, we are able to communicate with the entire membership, and not wonder if any of the people originally left out would have taken action.


Example 2

Target audience: 7,000 members

Email Cost: $140.00

Total Variable Cost: $140.00


Now I get it, emails are cheap. What about other marketing channels such as physical letters? At $1.00 per letter, the difference between the two target audience sizes would be $6,000.00. At this point were actually getting into some real cost associated with the target audience. But again, how many loans out of that group would it take to make up for the additional cost?

The point is, quantity is important when it comes to cheap communication. Credit unions should be emailing every member they have for every single marketing campaign they are running. The additional cost is very miniscule, and it only takes one additional loan to cover the cost. As the variable cost increases due to marketing channels, start utilizing data driven methods to determine effective target groups.

Every member should receive some sort of communication about the auto loan promotion. Then, build tiers to reach out to members that fit your ‘mold’.

Example 3

Membership Size: 7,000

  • Email Target Group
    • Members targeted: 7,000
  • Letter Target Group:
    • Members targeted: 2,000
  • Phone Target Group
    • Members targeted: 200

In 2018, the reasons for not constantly communicating with members are starting to become invalid. Marketers need to focus on quality, but not when it comes to deciding who gets communicated with. Don’t be scared to constantly make contact, everyone is doing it. Don’t be scared of the budget restraints, communicate so much that the sales driven from it will cover the additional cost. And if you want to win, make sure you at least show up.


  1. I really love this mindset. The conventional idea that you can scare members with too much contact really is obsolete in the digital age. I get anywhere between 10-20 advertisement based emails per day and I just delete them, but occasionally I do follow up on them. I would assume that most members operate in a similar fashion. I think calling members could possibly annoy them, but with email the annoyance factor is removed as deleting emails takes almost no effort. The more often you contact members, even when they delete them, at least puts your credit union in their mind as being there for them. They may see one of the many emails blasts you send to them and eventually follow up on it. If you had never sent those emails, they may not have even considered you.

    We are having a big push at DACU for contacting new and existing members with as much information as possible and it has been really beneficial in generating new loans and an increase of our products/services being used.

  2. Great article Brandon, all valid points made. I truly believe that for small credit unions to stay competitive with the large FI’s quantity over quality is an attitude that must be adopted by marketers. Small credit unions should look for every advantage they can to gain the edge on keeping all of its members business in house. We have recently started to focus on call campaigns in the past year, and have seen an increase in numbers from this. That is where I think small credit unions should use this to their advantage. The staff at our credit union has really gotten on board with our call campaigns to master their techniques with them. Having a staff that is confident in their abilities to speak to members over the phone and convey to them that the credit union is looking out for their best interest has really made all of our front line staff become more comfortable with all our members. With us putting call campaigns into effect and not solely relying on emails and snail mail anymore, it has definitely given us more freedom in our marketing budget. We are able to be more selective on who we are emailing, and what we are emailing. We still send the entire applicable field of membership emails on occasion, but focusing on the other channels of communication has made us stronger in other areas. Realizing that the interest made on one sold loan can cover the cost of multiple emails is truly the best way to look at it though. I think that is when the quality of the message that you are putting out to your members is more important than the quantity. Gaining a reputation with your members of relaying important information to them that they can benefit from through email and snail mail is a must. If members feel that you are constantly sending them “junk”….there is a great chance your email will go unopened or end up in the garbage.

  3. I think it is a good point to discuss, but would lean towards a more tempered approach than your all-out one, Brandon. It is quite valid that if you don’t try nothing will happen. But I don’t think always for everyone is quite right. Some of the difference might be age, and I think that is a variable that needs considered for your membership. I’m in my mid-50s. If I started receiving regular email from my CU about things I have no interest in I would eventually opt out of all emails. I think the quality of what we do is an important part of playing against the big FIs, and a little data discernment goes a long way for this. Quality will hopefully build loyalty which is the best outcome.

  4. This is more the approach we have taken….trying to get a touch point with every member across several different mediums–trying to have a consistent message delivered in different ways for each campaign. There is no way to really prevent some members getting multiple hits but we are working on it! But, over and over I am asked HOW DO WE MEASURE IT? I can show how many letters, emails, and phone calls we made but does that really equate to how many members took action?? Data in Marketing still feels like I am herding cats!

  5. This article was a great read. I think that we tend to back off as to not overwhelm members, but Brandon is right that then we are not even showing up. At the same time, I agree with Dan, sometimes you need to focus on your specific membership. I think there can be a middle approach used, especially with the tiered approach Brandon talked about. For example, I would send out an email to my entire membership on an auto loan promo, then use Where Your Members Shop Tool in CU*BASE to call those members who have an auto loan. Another thought is that each branch can run their own email campaign based on their specific area in case there is a specific need in one area vs. another. Using Trackers and Reason Codes in CU*BASE can help with tracking success.

  6. Very interesting insight on this, and great points! This one really got me thinking. I agree that we need to communicate with members more, but there still has to be quality to what is being said. I know if I am getting the same offers in the mail or email, I will eventually opt out of that option to keep receiving or just get frustrated and call. I think something that separates credit unions from large FI’s are that attention to detail and quality of service. Would you rather have two broken down cars that don’t run, or one car that runs and drives like new?

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