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Friday, November 30, 2012

​The Director’s Role in Marketing

Rob Kimmett, Sr. VP Marketing, New England Credit Union Services, LLC

One of the variables that every credit union marketing professional has to consider is that they work in one of those areas in which everyone has an opinion and few are shy about expressing it.  Sometimes the advice will come from fellow staff members and other times it will come from the Board of Directors.

Other staffers don’t tend to get as much advice.  For example, when the Information Technology experts go on about DPS, servers and T3 lines the room stays quiet and people nod or doodle.  On the other hand, after the marketer winds up his presentation everyone is fired up and is ready to chime in on the color scheme, copy or media schedule. 

Properly managed this feedback will only lead to a stronger marketing and communications program for a credit union.  However, too much of the wrong kind of input can lead to a fragmented, ineffective and thoroughly dysfunctional marketing effort.  Knowing where to draw the line, what sort of contribution is valuable, how to communicate ideas and opinions and most importantly when to step back is the key to achieving synergy. 

The flow of information between the Board and the marketing department (or marketing person) should be governed by the credit union’s policies on staff/board communications.  In general, the role of the board is to set policy and the staff manages and executes that policy.  In some credit unions there are committees of the board that take a more direct role in building strategy or even implementation but the scope of those activities should be carefully spelled out.

That said there are some very useful things that directors can do to further the credit unions marketing efforts.  The director’s role in credit union marketing can be seen in three distinct parts:  Scout, Sage, and Advocate.  Not every director will be equally adept at each one of these functions but it is likely that each can bring something to the party in at least one of them.

As a Scout the director can gather information from the credit union members that she represents.   When the director moves about her daily life she is bound to come into contact with other credit union members.  As a result of those chance encounters she will have many conversations about the credit union and financial services.  So she will learn what members know about credit union products.  She’ll find out where they are doing business or what products and services they would like to see the credit union offer.  This information when brought back to the board room can be distilled and used as marketing intelligence.  That said, it doesn’t mean that the credit union should put up a branch on every street corner that every member suggests.  The insight that they provide is just that and it should be analyzed and become part of the decision making process.

The Sage is called on to filter information, put it to use balancing competing interests and ultimately make policy decisions.  The credit unions resources are finite.  Spending them in one direction will often preclude investment in another.  Similarly the board has to balance business opportunities and promotional ideas with the credit union’s philosophy.  By setting policy and helping to allocate resources the credit union director is helping to ensure that the credit union is on the right track.

Some credit union directors embrace their role as Advocate more readily than others.  However this element is every bit as vital as the others.  Members expect credit union directors to be big proponents of the credit union.  In fact it seems a little odd when they are not.  If those that are most knowledgeable about the credit union aren’t excited about what it has to offer and don’t talk it up; what does that say?  

The volunteer board of directors has always been a tremendous source of wisdom and strength for credit unions.  Careful consideration how a credit union’s volunteers can add value to the organization’s marketing efforts will yield tremendous dividends. 

Posted by Rob •
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