How Do You Become a Smarter Marketer?

In this article, we are going to explore what it means to effectively understand and apply timely and personalized data to build a marketing blueprint that will drive results and cultivate member engagement. We will share key marketing tools that will help guide you through ever-evolving technology and industry trends and keep your credit union focused on what you need to grow your member base.

You will learn:

  • Foundational tools to ensure your marketing efforts are timely, relevant, and engaging.
  • How to harness and ethically use your data.
  • How to understand the marketing significance of taking the time to know and learn about your customers and how to go about that process.

What is Smarter Marketing?

Product-of-the-month marketing lacks relevance and often is out of alignment with the credit union’s mission of community and member engagement. There’s no intimacy, no personal touch, and it doesn’t inspire the feeling that “my credit union knows me.” We all have a tendency to revert back to product marketing, but the short and simple is –don’t do it. If you find it in your organization, stop it and encourage the team to continue to move to a smarter approach.

72% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.

51% of consumers expect that by 2020 companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact.

The Data Key

The key to defining a smarter marketing strategy is data. Credit unions already have a considerable amount of data on each of their members. That information can be crucial in understanding members, their needs, and what motivates them. Utilizing that data to drive a smarter approach to marketing is the key to helping your members feel connected and engaged by building a personalized strategy that connects them with relevant products and solutions.

How to Use Data: 3 Primary Sources for Your Blueprint

Credit Union Data:

  • CRM system
  • Web & Mobile Sites
  • Your People
  • Transaction history & data
  • Core system

3rd Party Data:

  • Callahans
  • Credit Bureaus
  • 3rd party data providers

Public Data Sources

  • Census Data
  • gov
  • NCUA
  • Google Analytics

How to Use Data: 3 Primary Sources for Your Blueprint Explained

CU Data –the richest and often most overlooked source. Here are some examples:

  • Your CRM system holds on to great data. For example, it can answer questions like –- – When is the last time you talked to that member? What was it about? How do they like to talk to you (email, phone, branch)? Connect as many data sources as you can in and out of your CRM platform.
  • Your phone and branch employees are also great sources. Their experience can shed light on what your members are asking about, complaining about, and just generally what is at the top of mind.
  • Transaction history also provides a wealth of information. What are the last 10 purchases the member made? By considering a general overview, you can understand what companies/categories are important to this person based on their spending.

3rd party data is more readily accessible than ever and a tremendous source to augment and validate your own data. Many of you know these resources, but one to highlight are your third party product and service providers. In working alongside your credit union, they often capture and append data that you can ask for them to share back and it will feed your CRM system as well as your marketing data sources.

Public data sources or census data is rich for population trends and data by specific communities and markets. is the government’s site to provide back to the public the reams and reams of data that they have captured over time. Another example is Google analytics, because they have rich data on how/when members are searching you and can pair that alongside what other keywords and topics they’re engaging.

Harnessing Your Data

Now you have all the data, it’s time to dig in.

Bring the multiple data sources together with a data warehouse or self serve tools.

If your credit union has a data warehouse solution, excellent! Spend time with your data scientist team and look to the next steps. If you do not have one of those solutions, you have access to resources as well. For example, offers many self-serve tools at a relatively reasonable cost that allow you to bring together multiple sources from raw data. We can dive into that topic in further pieces.

Select two primary data categories and sort the data to this criteria.

Start small and work your way in –select 2 primary data categories you want to bring together. I’m going to show you some examples coming up. Start thinking about members/people and behavior vs products.

Spend time with the data categories

The last point is one of the most important and it is about understanding and knowing who is the most valuable to your organization and who has the potential to be valuable. Often the most “active” members aren’t your most profitable and it’s easy to get distracted in marketing by trying to serve your largest segments or most active members.

Building a Blueprint for Smarter Marketing

If smarter marketing is built on data, then you’ve got the advantage. So, it should be simple to put it all together in a blueprint and start getting your marketing yields quickly, right? Not always so easy. In fact, it can actually feel pretty daunting. First, because data is everywhere and it’s hard to organize and know what data matters. Second, because technology changes by the time you buy it and install it and it’s difficult to keep up. And the most daunting part –when I have all of the parts, how do I put them together for the right message at the right time?

Build your blueprint. Let’s talk about that.

Building a Blueprint for Smarter Marketing Steps

  1. Start with the foundational items, such as what are my credit union’s mission and values and what are the strategic goals? As with any good blueprint, you have to know the end vision to build the right plan. In particular in mission and values –put a lot of thinking in to what promises you’ve made to your members in terms of the data you’re collecting and how/when you will use that data. Read your privacy policy and ensure it still matches the goals of your organization. Smarter marketing should always live within the foundation of the promises you’ve made to your members and your organization.
  2. Before you sketch your first line on the blueprint, immerse yourself in the data in your environment. Data drives decisions not the other way around. If you find yourself trying to start with your sketch of the building but you haven’t reviewed the data, research, and talked to your members –stop! The full context of data, research, and member feedback is the foundation for driving a truly successful marketing strategy.
  3. Member needs and wants are everything but they can often be the hardest to get to –we’ll talk further about that.
  4. Messages and notes to your members should always be personalized to them. You have too much data available and trust built up not to do this.

Implementing each of these 4 steps puts you well on your way to building a blueprint and delivering marketing ROI.

Data + Member Needs + Personalized Message = Marketing ROI

Building Effective Member Personas

  1. Take all your data and bring it to life with 2-3 member personas.
  2. Member personas can be the foundation for marketing, servicing, and loyalty initiatives.
  3. Make them fun and simple. The key here is that everyone in your credit union should be able to quickly understand.
  4. Permeate the personas across your credit union.

Building Effective Member Personas Example

Allen, 46

Who is he?

  • Airline executive
  • Age 46
  • Frequent business and personal traveler
  • Uses his cell phone for everything
  • Reads WSJ
  • Sports fan
  • Gets his news from CNN
  • Local charity board

How he finds us?

  • Referral from his employer
  • Interacts with us primarily through his online account and text
  • Recently responded to our Auto loan direct mail

What he wants to know?

  • Community Events
  • College Savings
  • Protecting his family and assets

What he buys from us?

  • We support his community where he is actively involved
  • His employer offers unique benefits to him by using our CU

Pain Points

  • Desires more online servicing capability as he’s always on the road
  • Rewards and perks for his travel
  • He wants experienced representatives that will proactively recommend him solutions

What he doesn’t want?

  • To have to call us
  • Fees from services that don’t provide him value
  • To have to shop services he needs, he wants to trust his FI source

Using Member Personas & Data

  • You have immersed yourself in the data and research (foundation), you know who’s going to inhabit the space and what they care about (member persona), now how do you actually sketch the blueprint? Here are some key points to keep in mind.
  • Look at your top members that drove your persona and your most profitable members –what offers are they in need of? Rule of thumb: your most engaged and profitable members seek the highest level of customized marketing.
  • Digital marketing allows for data driven marketing that is easily adaptable. It is the quickest way to scale your customized marketing and still capture and measure the right data you need.
  • Resist the temptation to conduct mass email campaigns. You can quickly saturate and frustrate your member base with this approach, making your more targeted marketing events less effective.

Considering the Persona Example

Considering a member persona in the smarter marketing strategy means that you are looking for what the member needs or wants, not what you want to sell. Back to Allen: In Allen’s situation he wants to learn more and do a better job of saving for his kids college education. He’d appreciate a targeted and customized plan to him of a 529 approach and different saving and investment options he may have to do this. He also is on the go and wants ease in his life, how can you improve his online and mobile app experience so he’ll visit you more frequently. When he comes to the online site, what offers should you present him? Probably not a checking account. However, a marketing ad for your upcoming community or charity event would peak his interest though.

Constructing Personalized Messaging

Customize your message to each member with small data items:

  • Transactional patterns of your target member segment
  • Interaction or engagement with your website/emails/stores
  • Servicing preferences given to you
  • Primary decision maker in the household
  • Other companies they do business with
  • How members spend their rewards

The bar is high for customization so start small and build your way out. It’s ok if your first campaign is only to 5,000 members or even 500 members. Testing and learn is the way to go.

Beyond the Marketing

One final point to make on the member personas is that it’s important to not only customize their marketing message and needs, but also their experience once they respond to the marketing event. Follow your member journey beyond the marketing event itself.

In Conclusion

The smarter marketing journey can be a rewarding one, not only in driving ROI and marketing results, but in furthering the mission and vision of your credit union by engaging and meeting the needs of your members.


  1. Layout your blueprint.
  2. Immerse yourself in the data –big and small.
  3. Build your base member personas and expand from there.
  4. Stay focused on your mission to build customized and data driven marketing campaigns.
  5. Start small and build upon your successes.
  6. Have fun with your team along the way!