Marketing Credit Unions to Women

Woman checkbook 

In your family, who is setting up the checking accounts, balancing the checkbooks, going to the bank to make deposits, balancing the household budget?  

In many families, that person is a woman.   Women make 89 percent of the banking decisions for their families.   This is  just one of the reasons why credit unions should be actively marketing to women. 

Another reason why credit unions should market to women is to attract women business owners.  Women are starting their own businesses at a record pace.  Women business owners are valuable customers looking for financing options and merchant services.   And women-owned businesses are a good financial bet.  Women-owned businesses are as financially sound and creditworthy as the typical firm in the U.S. economy, and are more likely to remain in business than the average U.S. firm.

Finally, women want what credit unions have to offer.  Women are very community oriented and like the personal touch that credit unions bring to the customer experience.

Credit unions looking for a financial edge should take a closer look at connecting with women. Let's look at specific things you can do to attract and retain women customers, including a real-life example of a credit union doing just that.

How to market your credit union to women


Shari Storm is the Chief Marketing Officer at Verity Credit Union.  When Shari came on board, the credit union wanted to focus on families.  Shari made an even more strategic decision to focus on mothers. 

I had a great conversation with Shari Storm about the succesful changes/programs she implemented.  Here's a highlight of her work as well as other tips on how to market credit unions to women.

  1. Make her feel smart.  Have authentic conversations with your female clients about their financial lives. Don't just talk about goals, talk about what's keeping her up at night. Women are starving for financial education and valuable advice.  How can you help her save money?  Do you have strategies for getting out of debt?  How can you help her grow her business?  Women want a trusted financial partner.    Provide seminars as well as individual advice.  Make her feel smart and she will reward you with her loyalty. 
  2. Use female friendly language in your marketing materials.  Shari re-named their checking account, changing it from "Velocity" to "Cartwheel Checking."  That was a stretch for the largely male board, but was ultimately well received by the public.  Because the name was so different, it stood out, and women noticed. 
  3. Create kid friendly branches.  I always say, a great way to make mothers happy is to make their kids happy.  Shari was involved in some positive changes in the design of the  branches.  She pushed for no drive-up windows (which sounds counter-intuitive), but she did it because she wants people and their kids to come into the branch to have a more personal experience and connection.  Kids get stickers and piggy banks and other goodies.   The credit union has coloring contest.  Tellers call kids by their names (listed on the screen).  There's even a kids play area.  Bottom line, when moms are running errands, kids are saying, "I want to go to the credit union." This is even more important when you know moms hold the most influence over where their children will eventually do their banking.
  4. Let your community do your marketing.  A lot of credit unions talk about supporting their community, but don't include the community as a full partner.  Shari and her team created the Verity Mom campaign where a local woman was chosen to be the company spokesperson.   Women interested in the position submitted videos and the public voted on the three finalists.  Verity Mom was chosen and she now blogs and promotes the credit union, talking in an authentic voice to other women about what matters to women.  (More on this campaign next)
  5. Support her causes.    Women have causes they feel passionately about.  Simply slapping a ribbon on your door and saying "we support X cause" isn't enough.  Verity Mom is currently promoting a contest, "Cartwheel for a Cause" where women can send in videos of why they should win the $6,000 prize – $5,000 to go to their charity, $1,000 to spend on their family.  Help her be a hero to her favorite cause and her family.  Be a partner by supporting what she supports.
  6. Make focusing on women a company-wide initiative and stick with it.  Shari Storm talks about the discipline it takes to keep women front and center in all decisions.   Verity Credit Union doesn't just do a one-time campaign.  (a big reason why so many marketing to women efforts fail.) As we saw above, they make women feel valuable throughout the entire customer experience.

Will marketing credit unions to women turn off men?

This is a question I get often.  With my clients, I've found that men barely even notice the changes, while women notice them big time and love it. 

I asked Shari Storm about the feedback from male customers on the cartwheel checking initiative.  Here's her response:

We did have men complain about our debit plastic that had two kids running on a grassy hillside. We’ve changed that image to our Cartwheel for a Cause image. The plastics launch next week and our front line staff is very happy about it. I guess men don’t mind having a checking account called Cartwheel, but they don’t want to pull out a debit card that has anything but their own kids on it. I can see that.

This brings up a super important point.  The debit card is something he will be pulling out constantly, and which others will see. It is a personal reflection of him.  So this is a point on which you need to make sure you aren't actively turning off either gender.   Here's the Cartwheel for a Cause image:

Cartwheel for a cause 
You can see that the image of the two kids has been replaced by this artistic rendering which I imagine would be more palatable to some guys. 

Bottom line - any changes you make with fall into three categories

  1. Changes both men and women appreciate – the majority of the changes initiated by focusing on moms are appreciated by men as well – more personalized service, supporting his and her causes and community, better communication and transparency, etc.
  2. Changes women appreciate and men don't even notice – some of the changes are more subtle, like female friendly verbiage and images in ads, more kid-friendly locations (though dads appreciate this as well), names of products, etc.
  3. Changes that women appreciate, but turn off men – you have to know what men care about the  most, and make sure you don't make changes that negatively affect those things, like debit cards which he uses on a daily basis.  Debit and credit cards are self-identity markers for men.   They can't be out of alignment with his self-identity.

More on the Verity Mom campaign

I love this campaign for so many reasons, but I actually think a guy sums it up best.  Here's Ron Shevlin on Verity Mom:

There were three things I took away that I think differentiate the initiative from a lot of other social media/WOM efforts:

1) It’s grounded in strategy. It’s no big secret that women manage the finances in a majority of households in the US. Yet, how many financial institutions have really overhauled their efforts to not just market to women, but design products and customer-facing processes to appeal to women?

Who are moms these days? Most likely they’re in the their late 20s (at the youngest end) to the early 40s (at the upper end). In other words, mostly Gen Xers. Not Gen Yers. Gen Xers who are hitting the prime of their earning years, and the prime of their financial needs. While the rest of the financial world drools over 25 year-olds who don’t have two nickels to rub together, Verity Mom is part of a strategy to attract a segment of customers who represent a good chunk of the demand for financial products.

2) It’s integrated into the core of the business. So many social media efforts that I hear about appear to be one-off experiments that are designed to “test the waters of social media” or let the firm check off the “we’re attempting to innovate” box.

Not at Verity. The Verity Mom initiative has led to the renaming of the CU’s checking account and the redesign of its branches. In addition, Verity Mom blog posts end up on the CU’s home page, not buried somewhere deep in the site, as it often is at other FIs.

3) It oozes with authenticity. Plenty of financial institutions have run ad campaigns over the years that purport to show “real people” who share their “stories” about the bank or CU and how great it is. In the end, I guess we could argue whether or not these attempts are successful at influencing perception, but I’ll tell you right now I’ll be arguing that they don’t. Authenticity is something that takes time to achieve. You can’t do it in a single shot, with a single ad campaign.

Over time, through consistent and persistent blogging and messaging, Verity demonstrates that it’s authentically concerned with meeting the financial needs of moms.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it over and over: You cannot advertise your way to trust. It has to be experienced. Verity Mom gives moms the opportunity to experience Verity, and that builds trust and authenticity.

"You cannot advertise your way to trust" – well said Ron!  Many studies show women trust women like themselves over all other sources, like the recent iVillage "Women Like Me" study

For more great insights, listen to Shair Storm's Blog Talk Radio interview to learn more about the Verity Mom campaign. 

Learn more about selling financial services to women




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6 Responses to Marketing Credit Unions to Women

  1. Roger Conant says:

    Great info, Holly! Shari Storm was the first to launch a blog for a financial institution, but I’ll bet she had to give her very best effort to convince her board to do Verity MOM. I’ve been chasing this “segmenting to women” for a while now. As President Bush said, “it’s hard work”, but I’ve always known we had time (and the stats) on our side. (Hope I just live long enough!):-)

  2. This is great, Holly. I am meeting with an insurance broker president looking to get his message out to my audience, which is decidedly female. I believe much of this information can be translated for his business as well. Thank you very much.

  3. Great effort to describe an unseen stuff between a man and a woman. One can change his attitude in much positive way after reading this article.

  4. norman says:

    Truly agree Holy with all the points you have mentioned in above article specially changes appreciation.

  5. Pippa says:

    Beautiful Wedding Amazing Photo’s (like the Detail Shot of the ring)every shot rlelay adds to the story you rlelay did a nice job giving them memory for a life time .

  6. Kholoud says:

    Dr. Shari was my mentor in the world of hetalh and nutritional medicine. I was fortunate to have her as my professor at the University of Bridgeport. She was a rare, bright shining light of inspiration and courage in the field of natural hetalh and life in general. She was a dynamic instructor the best teacher imaginable. Brilliant, courageous, fun, inspiring, supportive, encouraging!! I feel the world is a lonelier place without her unbridled, galvanizing spirit amongst us. As practitioners, as friends, we have a responsibility to carry forth her teachings and spirit that’s the best way to honor her and thank her for making us and the world a better place to live in. It’s painful knowing I won’t be seeing her again. But I will always see her smile and always hear her voice. Shari, I’m so grateful and honored to have known you. Thank you. Patrick Moore

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