Market Fast, Analyze Faster

How a growing credit union is increasing community awareness and ramping up relevance through responsive, daily marketing.
Drew Grossman

When Bank of America announced it was ceasing operations in Roanoke, VA, another well-known financial institution in that market the $665 million Member One Federal Credit Union responded with a well-timed message. It posted We’re From Here And We’re Staying Here on a billboard along Interstate 581, the city’s main throughway.

This billboard was not the result of an annual strategic planning session and the board of directors didn’t fuss over it. Instead, Member One’s marketing team started brainstorming the day after the Bank of America announcement and created it on the fly.


MEMBER ONE Credit Union
data as of 12.31.14

  • HQ: Roanoke, VA
  • ASSETS: $665M
  • EMPLOYEES: 205
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.7%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 19.1%
  • ROA: 1.18%

We want to be in the moment, so we’re messaging on a daily basis, says Daniel Bliley, the credit union’s director of marketing and segmentation. Plans change, initiatives change, the voice of the media changes. Rather than put all our resources into a campaign that requires a month or two of planning, we constantly engage with our target audience.

This approach is known as agile marketing, Bliley says, and the idea is to learn and adapt through a series of small, lower-cost marketing experiments.

To date, some of the credit union’s most successful agile marketing efforts include using social media as a primary form of communication, hiring new personnel to collect and analyze market data, and creating new relationship development strategies that will grow with the organization.

How To Talk To Members In The 21st Century

Like many credit unions, Member One is trying to grow younger and in recent years, it has actually achieved significant progress in that regard.

According to Raddon, in early 2012, the average age of a member at this organization was 45. Now, roughly three years later, that number is 43. The difference might not sound like much, but for an institution with nearly 81,000 members, it’s a meaningful transition.

Part of the reason for our success is we’re trying to get a little younger and fresher in the way we approach marketing, Bliley explains.


According to, these seven tenets can help credit unions break free of the bindings of traditional marketing.

  1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions.
  2. Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy.
  3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over big-bang campaigns.
  4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction.
  5. Flexible versus rigid planning.
  6. Responding to change over following a plan.
  7. Many small experiments over a few large bets.

What does that mean? For one, the six-person marketing team is creating an ongoing conversation with members and potential members rather than focusing on a quarterly return on investment. The department still has financial goals to hit, but the way it is pursuing those goals is changing.

Instead of formal quarterly game plans, it is shifting toward weekly micro-planning sessions where employees review and evaluate marketing ideas and pitch content for the credit union’s blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and email newsletters. According to Bliley, the get-togethers are meant to function like pitch meetings in a newsroom. Is this on message? Will it reach the target audience? Is it interesting?

And instead of just hoping local news organizations will pick up a press release, the credit union is using social media to become its own publisher.

With the explosion of content online, it’s important to stay flexible, stay in real time, and develop content quickly, Bliley says.

Social has become Member One’s new go-to tool, and the credit union can point to two major successes using these channels in the past year alone.

We want to be in the moment, so we’re messaging on a daily basis.

One, its Best Spent Moments contest, ran from March 2014 to August of 2014 and asked social media users to submit a form explaining what they would do with an extra $500.

You don’t always think about the money you spend so much as the things that spending it allows you to do, Bliley says. So whether that was day-to-day things they needed, time at the zoo with their kids, or doing something crazy like entering the International Hot Dog Eating Contest, we told our members we wanted to hear about it.

The campaign stuck a chord, and Member One received nearly 3,000 entries, which a committee narrowed down to three final winners.

One of the winners was a veteran who had loved to fish but was going blind and his wife wanted help to take him on a fishing expedition, Bliley says. Another was a young girl who had been through multiple surgeries all her life, so she had never been able to go to the beach and her family wanted the funds to finally go do that.

Another social success is Member One’s Save This, Buy That microsite where the credit union posts money-saving tips as well as content on general lifestyle topics like recipes, health, and fitness.

The idea for the microsite came after the credit union surveyed its members and discovered they were interested in budgeting and saving money but they also wanted a deeper relationship with the credit union.


Member One explains how it gauges the effectiveness of its social media investments.

One of the easiest ways for a credit union to measure campaign returns is to identify peaks and valleys in engagement and match those with balance sheet metrics like loan growth and membership growth, says Daniel Bliley, Member One Federal Credit Union’s director of marketing and segmentation. But the credit union also tracks CPM, which stands for cost per 1,000 impressions.

Member One created its own social media distribution channel and, in doing so, has reduced its CPM to as little as $2. This is compared to the $10 to $14 cost for traditional digital campaigns such as running a banner ad on a website.

In response, Member One launched financial education classes supported by marketing, staff, and other resources, but only a handful of people showed up.

I thought, Is this just a Member One problem?’ Bliley says. But I talked to a few other credit unions and found out getting these classes filled is a problem across the board.

Realizing that people’s hectic personal lives combined with possible embarrassment about publicly attending a financial education class might have been to blame, Member One swapped out its in-person outreach for anonymous, engaging virtual discussions, many of which carry over to the credit union’s other touch points.

For example, since starting Save This, Buy That in 2013, Member One has increased its Twitter followers from approximately 200 to more than 1,400 while its Facebook presence has grown from 2,000 followers to nearly 6,000. Instagram also brings in 500 to 600 visits a day. Member One even has 300 followers on Pinterest and gets pinned 30 to 40 times a day.

Dig Data For Big Opportunities

According to the credit union’s chief operating officer Jean Hopstetter, Member One does not believe in the Field of Dreams build it and they will come philosophy. Before the credit union moves into an area or markets to a population, it develops a thorough knowledge of who they are and what they like. This approach is consistent with the agile marketing idea of customer discovery.

In late 2012, Member One’s marketing department hired a market research analyst who pulls data on everything from age demographics to communication preferences and can even find out the types of cars members drive. This information helps guide where the credit union invests its marketing dollars and helps ensure the brand stays relevant with members.

The credit union also combs through data looking for opportunities in untapped markets, analyzing geographic areas projected for growth and examining economic indicators like increases or decreases in average income and housing units sold.

We’re doing a lot of forecasting from a demographic perspective to see where we can best use our dollars to grow over the next two to five years, Bliley says.

The credit union also uses a market data collection company to further support its efforts. The company studies these areas and even knocks on doors to ask residents if they’d be interested in a credit union’s services, which helps gauge the viability of Member One gaining market share there.

And once the credit union completes the core conversion currently underway in May 2015, it will have access to even more analytic resources.

I want to get us through that conversion and understand what it will provide us before we make a big investment, Bliley says. But once we have our core, we’ll be weighing the value of some more complex capabilities like data visualization.

A Message That Grows With The Organization

Through concerted efforts, Member One has been able to create an identifiable brand, reach new members, deepen existing relationships, and engage with the community in real time every day.

As of third quarter 2014, the credit union’s average member share balance, average loan balance, and average relationship were still below comparable asset-based peers, state peers, and all credit unions nationally, which signals some ongoing opportunity for improvement.

Yet Member One is growing. It has achieved an annual membership uptick of nearly 11% as of 3Q 2014, and the organization has big plans for the years ahead.

It wants to not only gain new members but also encourage more business from existing ones and save them money in the process. Chief risk officer Tim Rowe estimates the current membership has more than $1 billion in outstanding loans the credit union can recapture.

We will have to continue to meet the demands of our growth, but whether we’re $200 million or $2 billion, we’re always going to continue to deliver on the promises we made in the 1940s to our first members, Bliley says. The only thing that changes over time is our ability to meet those promises in even more effective ways.

January 22, 2015

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