BY BILL PRICHARD
Ever wonder what it takes for a credit union to attain best-in-class card program status? Well, wonder no more. This set of Top 10 strategies will take your mix of credit and debit card products from lackluster to blockbuster in no time flat.
As any financial institution will attest, a lot of time, energy and resources goes into developing a best-in-class card program – and for good reason. Offering just the right mix of credit and debit card products is one of the most valuable services you can provide to members.
To help you generate all the member engagement and excitement your card program deserves, comprehensive marketing and communications support is imperative. Here are 10 strategies for success from CO-OP Financial Services (www.co-opfs.org):
- Know your membership. This means leveraging advanced technologies that deliver data access and analysis reporting. Understanding member spend patterns, behaviors and preferences is critical to determining new product direction, targeted marketing segments, and the promotions and offers to execute to reach your portfolio’s maximum potential.
- Send the right offer at the right time. Once you have established which members are the best candidates for each card product, show them a relevant offer at every touchpoint – in the branch, online and within your mobile apps. Keep your messages consistent to get the best results.
- Reward cardholders. And do it as often as possible. Give loyalty points for opening an account, making a transaction, increasing card usage and signing up for mobile banking. Consider a merchant-funded program that can help you offset costs while giving members a customized offering with lots of local cache. Make the rewards flexible, with options for travel, merchandise and cash back. And send loyalty updates. Congratulate members by text whenever they earn triple points at CVS or a free pizza at Domino’s.
- Tie debit and credit products together. Rewards are a great vehicle for achieving this tie-in. If a member has one of your debit cards – but not your credit card – promote the benefits of earning rewards on two cards. Frequently, one family member is more apt to use debit, while another relies on credit, so householding points can lead to better returns for the entire family. And make sure both credit and debit accounts are integrated into your online and mobile banking platforms. Members prefer – and expect – to access a holistic view of their finances, and tighter integration between accounts makes for a tighter relationship with the member.
- Launch a direct mail campaign. What is old is new again. All the major card issuers have gone right back to direct mail because it works. CO-OP recommends employing a strategy that is extremely targeted at first because of the expense involved. Working with small groups of members will ensure that you can apply the time and resources needed to effectively follow up on campaigns. And remember that this is not necessarily a “one and done” proposition. Repetition is powerful, so plan to send members a second round of mailers to drive your message home.
- Talk up the security of your cards. To members, security equals peace of mind and inspires confidence in your brand. So make sure members are well informed on all the measures you take to safeguard their information – including any mobile apps you offer for card controls and alerts. These innovative tools empower members in the fight against fraud, allowing them to set exacting restrictions on how, when and where their cards can be used.
- Make applying easy. Provide online account opening – membership, DDA and credit accounts. Carry this access throughout your digital channels. When online account opening isn’t available, place a banner ad that links to your application right on your home page and within your online and mobile banking portals. The easier it is for members to access and complete an application, the more likely it is that they will follow through with the process. And always have applications on hand at ATMs and in the branch, in addition to the prime real estate afforded them across all your digital channels. Be sure to keep clicks to a minimum.
- Cross-sell at account and loan openings. Any time you are already pulling a credit report is the right time to offer a credit card. Your loan and account officers should know how to read the report and determine the other credit accounts the member has. Discuss balance transfers and any special offers you have for new cardholders.
- Encourage signature debit. Your debit cardholders receive additional consumer protection when they sign for debit, and they should be aware of this fact. This practice also benefits your credit union by reducing transaction fees overall.
- Recognize the critical role marketing plays. If you create the best card program in the industry and members don’t know about it, it will simply be a cost. So include the marketing team in your management committee. Construct strategies that put cards in front of members at every turn. The fact is that marketing is more important than just about anything else you do to support your card program. And expanding your cardholder base is vitally important to your future growth and success.