By Mike Smith, CUBG VP/Senior Business Services Officer

In today’s challenging economic climate, credit unions are actively seeking new ways to achieve growth and profitability. For many this means taking a fresh look at promoting their business services program, with an eye toward building long-term relationships versus generating individual loan transactions.

At CU Business Group’s 2016 National Business Services Conference in Reston, VA, CUBG led a session aimed at helping credit unions develop a comprehensive marketing plan to target businesses right in their communities. Patrick Farrington, vice president of business services at Hiway Federal Credit Union ($1.1 billion, St. Paul, MN) attended the class.

“Each of the credit unions here seem to have similar issues,” Farrington said. “Whether it’s how to develop business or how to market their business, regardless of size everyone seems to be in the same boat.”

Here are some key steps to help get your credit union’s business services marketing strategy airborne:

Step 1: Establish a high-octane cross-selling program

Your existing membership base is a treasure trove. Most do their business banking at another institution, which means you have a great opportunity to gain member wallet share by offering specific, customized product and service recommendations.

“One thing to remember is that banks are concerned with competition from credit unions because they don’t want to give up a share of the business,” Farrington says. “There’s a goldmine of business and we just need to go after it.”

Key elements of a successful cross-selling system include defining your market, developing the right product mix, and providing your team with the tools they need.

Step 2: Communicate regularly with your members

According to a recent survey of business clients at the top 100 banks in the U.S., between 25 and 40% of business customers leave their bank within the first year, at an average cost to the institution of $400. A rigorous, consistent onboarding system can mean the difference between becoming your members’ primary financial institution and losing them to the competition.

CUBG recommends a multiple-step onboarding process, starting within three days of new account opening, simply to check in and make sure your member’s account is set up correctly. At one week following signup, have a senior executive, such as the vice president of lending, contact the new member. After six weeks, have another senior-level individual, perhaps even your CEO make a call.

At ninety days, it’s time for a face-to-face visit to your member’s business. This is a great opportunity to bring along a representative from another department such as wealth management or commercial lending, to demonstrate your credit union’s ability to meet all of the member’s financial needs. Make sure to celebrate your member’s one-year anniversary with a simple, handwritten card or a small gift.

Step 3: Engage with your community

In the business services arena, involvement in the local community is critically important. But don’t take a shotgun approach. Get involved in organizations and programs that are meaningful to your prospects.

For instance, if your strategy is focused on offering commercial real estate loans and deposit services to larger, more established businesses, it makes little sense to connect with the local Small Business Development Center, which primarily serves startups. Getting involved with organizations like the Commercial Brokers Association may pay greater dividends.

Step 4: Connect through social media and your website

In today’s business climate, engaging in social media is critical to reaching your target audience. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, prospects who research their buying decisions through social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter show a 17.6% greater chance of making the purchase than those who don’t.

In developing a social media program, focus on efficiency, authenticity, and consistency. Fewer than 20% of your posts should sell your credit union’s products and services. Instead, gain your audience’s trust by posting informational and educational articles. For efficiency, use services such as Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance and across multiple social platforms.

Even with the incredible growth of social media over the past few years, your website still serves as your credit union’s primary marketing and informational hub. Transform the business services page to a place where members can link to outside resources and additional services, then sit back and watch as it becomes a go-to destination for businesses in your community.

Step 5: Unleash your branch sales team

Lastly, don’t forget that your credit union already has a built-in, yet often underutilized sales machine: your branches! But in order to start generating referrals from the branches, you must establish clear goals, provide ample training and product information, and hold your branch team and management accountable. Just 20 minutes a day of consistent focus can result in immediate, quantifiable growth in qualified referrals from your branch network.

Follow the above action steps, and your business services program will reach cruising altitude in record time!