Beyond the Postcard

Call it revision, adaptation, pivoting — whatever terminology you choose. The last year and a half has required all of it on multiple levels. Even prior to the pandemic, credit unions were no strangers to the need for ingenuity in communicating with staff, members and potential members. The question has always been, “Are we relevant?”

How do we rise above the everyday dim to incite action? We are all marketers whether we intend to be, from the t-shirts we wear to the apps we use. At SECNY, we strive to promote financial responsibility through education and weave this mission throughout our efforts including:

Engaging Members On “Their Time”

“Their time” means being present not only at point of sale, but at point of attention.

How could we reach busy parents? By arranging activities for the Scout meeting. Volunteering for the local playground cleanup. Attending locker nights at school. Partnering with locally-rooted businesses or organizations to combine efforts.

What about students? Getting them directly involved in credit union activities is a priority. SECNY’s young adult account programs were created as the result of a chamber of commerce high school internship guided by SECNY employees. Quality focus groups and curriculum collaboration led to successful launches of our Save2Learn and Save2Earn accounts offering structure and rewards designed exclusively for and by students.

Making it a Habit to be Social

When life slowed to a crawl last year, canceled events and reduction in branch traffic presented unforeseen challenges. Social media became even more essential to find that human connection we so craved.

Aiming for custom content, marketing teamed up with branch staff to create a weekly segment called “Pro-Tip Tuesdays” in which a select credit union service or feature is highlighted and either presented via video or a custom graphic is created. Reviews are consistent: Members, non-members and staff alike look forward to the show and those few minutes of expertise each week!

Being All About Our People

Employees are your most valuable marketers and training is a necessary part of any marketing plan. Custom learning tracks within the SECNY University program are staff-curated, blending policy and procedure with creative development tools. SECNY hosts graduation ceremonies (cap and diploma included!), provides rewards and maintains a Wall of Fame in its Career Center for recognition. Graduates are then encouraged to take those skills outside of the branch and start growing relationships!

Striving to be SMART (Service-Driven, Mobile, Agile, Responsive, Team-Oriented)

Service-Driven: SECNY has invested numerous hours and resources in promoting financial literacy in our schools and communities. As Aerik Radley, our Director of Education Marketing says, “If we teach about it, our products and services should allow members to practice what they’ve learned.”

When members can learn to make responsible decisions, they stay connected and develop a deeper trust in their financial relationship. Creating partnerships with local libraries along with opening two student-run high school branches in the last two years has reinforced SECNY’s mission and reputation as a community-focused institution and reliable place to obtain service. Student branches have also offered the opportunity to impart not only financial skills, but also real-world job skills. Each produces managers, member service representatives and a marketing representative and all are trained by SECNY employees and school staff.

Mobile: Continuity for student branches presented an additional challenge during a pandemic year. Opening the branch in the traditional sense (inside the school) was not possible due to COVID restrictions. Our team shifted gears with both to establish remote digital projects instead, including developing official student branch landing pages and financial playlists for SECNY’s YouTube channel.

Agile: Prior to COVID, opening a SECNY account occurred either in person or via online lending. In the absence of a core-integrated application, the immediate need meant adjusting and demanded a personalized approach quickly. A custom platform was created by marketing/member services, branch staff and web developers.

Affectionately called CIAO (Contactless Initial Account Opening), the web form allowed people to start the account opening process online and finish via video conference from the comfort of their couch, kitchen counter or office chair.

Responsive: As we monitored youth programming for further development, it became apparent there was often uncertainty about how to establish credit. This led to a lending/marketing match-up and introduction of Credit Kickstart — uniquely built to help those with no credit history begin on the right path responsibly with the credit union as their guide.

Team-Oriented: Allowing staff to actively participate in something as simple and fun as a lobby display contest sparks team spirit. SECNY offers a “Creative Genius” award and challenges each branch to a themed decorating contest (centering on an event, product or service) at select times throughout the year. Community members are enlisted as voters and the branch that wins receives the coveted “CG” trophy to display.

Credit unions by nature are helpers as we all navigate life and identify ways to be there for each other. True marketing goes beyond the postcard. Successful plans involve proactive research, sharing time and talent within communities, fostering a sense of staff pride and continuous positive reinforcement.


Courtney Fulmer is chief experience officer for SECNY Federal Credit Union in Syracuse, N.Y.

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