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Online marketing is crucial to credit union growth

Social media and other online marketing options are a necessity in the modern era.

The community-focused nature of credit unions may seem antithetical to extensive online marketing campaigns, but credit union executives who ignore the marketing opportunities presented by the Web limit their organization's growth. The last few years have brought the Internet into peoples's lives in unprecedented ways, and online services and marketing campaigns are no longer a luxury option for credit unions. Instead, they are a necessary part of any plan to raise awareness and build membership. 

Slipping out of the public eye
Credit unions offer many benefits that traditional banks can't match, including excellent customer service and generally lower interest rates for loans. Despite these advantages, the number of people who don't know what credit unions are has increased during the past three years. By 2014, 52 percent of the population said they were "not at all familiar" with credit unions, and another 14 percent said they were "not very familiar," according to data from the Credit Union National Association.

Those numbers are undoubtedly frightening to credit union executives who know the benefits offered by their businesses. It's clear that the quality of the credit union experience cannot singlehandedly build the awareness required for strong growth. To build the membership pool, credit unions will need to improve outreach to nonmembers and that will likely require beefing up their digital presence, which is lacking for many organizations.

Potential members will research your organization online. Increasing your credit union's online presence can build membership.

Using technology to get noticed
The Web allows people to research financial services completely before making decisions about money management. Writing for The Financial Brand, Rob Rubin, the managing director of Novantas Data Services, reported on changing consumer behavior, and noted that in the past, people selected a financial institution without evaluating the products offered by their choice. Today's consumer approaches the process differently, and this shift requires a response from credit unions.

Now, consumers pick a product and use the Internet to find a provider that offers the best version of that service. This puts financial organizations that do not properly advertise their products online at a serious disadvantage. In many cases, credit unions'  products are more immediately appealing than the offerings from competing banks. It's often easier for less qualified borrowers to obtain a loan at a credit union and the interest rates on those loans are generally friendlier. Credit unions need to advertise their products online and need to focus their efforts on the areas that will yield the most awareness.

Learn what people want to leverage social media
Many people mistakenly believe that social media and other forms of online marketing require a minimal amount of effort to be successful. That's simply not the case, according to the National Credit Union Administration. An effective social media strategy acts as an extension of the credit union and expands the organization's offerings while offering education to people who need to learn about what a credit union offers.

"Social media enhances customer service."

With that in mind, credit union executives should consider the power of a Twitter account that expands their ability to quickly respond to customer service requests, or a Facebook page that is regularly updated with promotions and events. While these interactive options enhance credit unions' historically strong customer service experience, it's also important to use Web tools to learn what customers expect from their financial organization.

With technologies like Google Analytics and Alerts, credit union executives can discover what people who are searching for financial services want, and cater both their offerings and online information about those offerings to match customer expectation. While the Internet makes it easier than ever to learn what potential members want, but credit unions need to utilize online services to raise awareness.