I've talked and worked with many people in the credit union industry, and there is a lot of interest in reaching out to women consumers. In many ways credit unions are offering the kind of financial experience so many women are looking for.
And yet, there seems to be some hesitation, especially at the top,and often from men. In my conversation with credit union board members, here are some of the concerns they have voiced:
- If we focus on women, will we turn off men?
- Will our efforts simply drive more women to us? Will we end up with almost all women customers?
- Will we have to change everything we do?
The answer to all of the above is "No."
- When you do it right and meet the higher expectations of women, men benefit as well
- When you attract more women, along with the women comes the business of their spouses and familiy members
- You don't have to change things that are working for you. Simple, specific changes to your customer service, sales process and marketing can have a BIG effect.
Why aren't more men getting on board with focusing on women?
For another look at why men may or may not be getting on board with marketing credit unions to women, here's a really interesting article from Roger Conent – Marketing to Women Requires Cultural Change.
Even though there’s a solid business case for it, there are a lot of easier opportunities for credit unions to pursue than targeting women. Unless the right men in an organization’s leadership and board get on-board, the marketing to women opportunity is a mammoth task.
This challenge was dramatically described in a Credit Union Times On-Air program a year ago about marketing to women. The program featured Shari Storm, senior vice president at Verity Credit Union, and creator of Verity Mom. Verity Mom is not a one-time campaign. It’s an on-going program that’s dedicated to connecting with moms. But Verity is one of only two credit unions who have committed to a continual marketing program that specifically engages women.
When asked if her program could be easily replicated at other credit unions, Storm said, “I think the hardest part is to have the fortitude to carry this through.”
So the disconnect by men in reference to this opportunity is not the only reason why these initiatives fail to get off the ground. Many women leaders lack the fortitude to take on this challenge.
Focusing on women does require having fortitude. It can't be a one-off effort. That's a mistake other financial institutions make. They create a brochure, or a micro-site or have a seminar for women and think that will suffice. If there's a disconnect between the experience you talk about in your micro-site and the experience she has in your branches, you have a problem. It has to be a company-wide initiative.
But it's worth it. As I said, it does not require changing everything you do. Simple changes can have a huge impact. But the key to success, as Roger mentioned, is making sure you have the right culture.
Unless the right men in an organization’s leadership and board get on-board, the marketing to women opportunity is a mammoth task.
So is this a hopeless situation? It better not be, because the power of women in the marketplace and workplace is increasing every year. And eventually, women will occupy more C-suite positions in all businesses.
Women will continue to increase their presence and power, no matter what leadership does. And credit unions, and indeed every business to consumer organization, will eventually have to deal with this reality.
But why wait? Credit unions have a chance to make this a competitive advantage right now.
Roger Conant is marketing manager for CUponDeals.
So what specific changes can you make to attract women to your credit union (and their spouses and families)? If you're a credit union, and you really want to know, leave a message in the comment section and we'll talk.
In the meantime, read Marketing Credit Unions to Women.
Also check out interesting findings about what financial marketing images appeal to women from my Women and Finance Study.