The latest numbers bear this out — according to Callahan, credit unions hold 6.6% of assets and 8.7% of deposits nationally. That’s a niche group if I ever saw one.
Logically, a whole lot of people — the majority of consumers, really — could benefit from switching to a credit union. If you look at it one way, this is an exasperating failure. A huge mountain we’ve failed to climb. Why, oh why, do all those people insist on throwing their money away with banks?
You hear the exact same lament from those who appreciate fine ales — why, oh why, is terrible pale fake beer so overwhelmingly, stupendously popular when there are so many delicious alternatives?
But I prefer to look at it another way — CUs appeal to an elite, exclusive group of people. Overall, I’d say it’s a group of people who are paying attention. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge difference. I’ve seen stats indicating that CU members on average are a little healthier, wealthier, and even better drivers than the average. CU members seem to make slightly better decisions in life.
You can narrow your CU’s niche down even further — instead of “Everyone in Podunk, Squeehawk, and Gribling Counties”, what if you refined your marketing to appeal to “People in the technical trades”, or “People who drive hybrid cars, recycle, and frequent farm markets”? Suddenly, you have a much better understanding of the psychology involved, and can design your messages to have a specific appeal. It’s basic target marketing — the more you focus, the better it gets.
Leave the mass marketing to the mass brands. Let go of the lowest common denominator. Be proud of the fact that your CU is more like a fine, locally produced organic white wine than the gallon jug on the bottom shelf. You’re not bigger, you’re better. There are lots of people who don’t care about the difference and never will. Your job as a CU marketer is to target the few who do care and make sure they understand.