Referred With A K.I.S.S.

First Financial revamps its tell-a-friend program to Keep It Simple (and Successful).

First Financial Federal Credit Union ($182.0M, Wall, NJ) has put a cash bounty on rounding up new business.

It launched its Tell a Friend program in 2012, and existing members helped bring in 77 new accounts in 11 months last year.

Each year, First Financial refines the program to ensure the credit union stands out in its hyper-competitive metro market on the Jersey Shore just south of New York City.

Jessica Revoir, AVP of Marketing, First Financial FCU

We have a financial institution on almost every corner within a small area, and there are two other credit unions that share the same charter and advertising space as First Financial, says Jessica Revoir, assistant vice president of marketing at First Financial. In order to not get thrown into the mix, it’s crucial our message is consistent, frequent, and reflective of our brand. None of our direct credit union competitors have a referral program like our Tell a Friend.

Tell a Friend has helped the credit union improve its year-over-year quarterly membership growth metrics from minus 7% in December 2011 to minus 0.68% in December 2015. In this QA, Revoir, who has been with the credit union for seven years, shares what the credit union has learned along the way.

How does the Tell a Friend program work?

Jessica Revoir: We launched in 2012 by paying $25 for each new referral who opened a checking account. In 2014 and 2015 we increased the referral bonus and made it easier to acquire by automatically depositing the bonus to the base savings account within 30 days of account opening.


first financial fcu
Data as of 12.31.15

  • HQ: Wall, NJ
  • ASSETS: $182.0M
  • MEMBERS: 18,751
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -1.35%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 1.15%
  • ROA: 0.02%

Now, any new member who opens a membership plus any other account or loan approval gets $25. The referring member gets $25 for the first referral, $35 for the second, and $60 for the third. The referring member’s deposit is automatic upon new account opening of the referred member.

We would have increased after the third referral, but no one refers more than two people during the year.

How did you market and promote Tell a Friend?

JR: We place marketing collateral in each branch on TV screens for members to view while standing in line to wait for a teller, in poster frames around the branch, and via teller handouts distributed in drive-thru tubes and at the teller line. We also advertise in our electronic statements and online banking as well as on the printed statements as a banner at the top.

For 2015, Your Marketing Co. re-vamped all of our collateral and updated some of the pieces according to our brand.

Find your next marketing partner in Callahan’s online Buyer’s Guide

How do you manage the campaign?

JR: Marketing provides the email, social media, and direct marketing pieces while the branch staff tells members who have positive experiences with us to refer their friends and family and get paid for it. We worked a lot with the branch managers to make sure the branch staff consistently talks up the campaign. The branches track the referrals via printed coupons and send them back to the marketing department.

Left: First Financial uses a print flyer as part of its Tell a Friend referral program. Right: To track of referrals, First Financial branch staff fills out referral coupons and sends them to marketing.

How much did you spend on the campaign in 2015? What were the results?

JR: We spent approximately $4,000 in 2015.

For First Financial Credit Union | Data as of 11.30.15
Callahan Associates |

Month # Of Leads/Referrals # Of Accounts Opened Dollars Spent
January 6 6 $300
February 6 3 $155
March 7 7 $350
April 6 6 $300
May 5 5 $275
June 9 9 $450
July 5 5 $250
August 15 14 $725
September 8 8 $400
October 9 9 $450
November 5 5 $250
TOTAL 81 77 $3,905

<p’>Source: First Financial Credit Union

What are your future plans for this campaign, and for others?

JR: We’re waiting for final numbers for December so we can calculate our return on investment, but at first glance, we think the 2015 campaign was too cumbersome, so we’ve already made some changes to simplify it for this year.

For instance, tracking was difficult and the campaign was a little too complex for the branch staff. We’ve changed it to the same across the board for all for this year referrers get $50 with each referral, new members who open their membership plus any other account or loan approval also get $50. It’ll be easier for everyone and provides a higher incentive.

If the campaign is too complex and there are too many steps, it won’t matter whether the referrer is getting $5, $25, or $50.

What lessons have you learned from this campaign?

JR: Keep it simple. It’s not always about the amount of money received. If the campaign is too complex and there are too many steps, it won’t matter whether the referrer is getting $5, $25, or $50.

Also, in years past we invested a lot of marketing dollars in personalized URLs for this campaign. We stopped that because we spent hundreds on PURLs and barely 2% of the targeted mail group used their PURL, even when there was a prize drawing for filling it out. There also was a login for the branches to redeem the offer from the PURL. It was too many steps and took too much time for the tellers, so they were bypassing the system altogether.

A simple coupon and info on our website and in an email plus word of mouth by branch staff does the trick for us.

As told to Marc Rapport

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