Survey: Ignorance, Lack Of Sales Culture Haunt CUs

Credit Union Journal  |  Monday, May 3, 2010 | By Michael Bartlett

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-Credit unions' reluctance to embrace "sales" has also caused many consumers to remain unaware CUs are a better deal than banks.

Data from a survey conducted by CU 24 before and during CUNA's Government Affairs Conference earlier this year found 77% of credit union leaders cited consumer misunderstanding of credit union benefits over banks as the greatest challenge in attracting new members. Last year, that figure was 67%.

"I've been around credit unions for a long time and it [consumer misunderstanding of CUs] has always been a challenge," said Jim Gowan, EVP and chief operating officer. "As they expand their charters, they are discovering the importance of marketing and advertising. Unfortunately, in this economic environment, marketing budgets have been cut."

Growing awareness will grow marketshare, noted Gowan. Gowan blamed a lack of a sales culture at many credit unions for this continuing issue, with many still uncomfortable with the word "sales."

"But I say if a credit union doesn't educate its members what is available, it is doing its members a disservice. If it does a good job of educating members, members will see the value."

Weak branding efforts and/or the name of a credit union sometimes can imply to a potential member they cannot join, Gowan said. While some CUs address that gap via their website, but they still have to drive the members to the site, he noted.