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Building long-term loyalty

Maintaining membership calls for a fierce allegiance to your brand

C1_ENT_SEPT_2015_Marketing MattersBombarded by extravagant advertising claims and self-serving online newsletters, we tend to walk through life feeling jaded.

We only sit up and take notice when trusted friends and family express genuine love for a brand. That admiration indicates true loyalty — and loyalty is gold. Earned media — unsolicited online and word-of-mouth recommendations from members — has a domino effect and is far more powerful than any manufactured claims.

Be authentic

Frugina Ball, region head of member experience, Greater Toronto Area for Alterna Savings (103,000 members, $2.6 billion in assets), recognizes the value of “keeping it real.” Sure, you develop your brand using analytical models — identifying your target audience, then positioning your company accordingly. But to be successful, says Ball, remember that member loyalty is a product of authenticity.

“When we engage with our members on social media, we’re not ‘selling’ anything,” she explains. “We talk about practical things important to their day-to-day lives,” such as offering tips on how to save for a home renovation or by moderating an interactive discussion on TFSA rules.

“When we engage with our members on social media, we’re not ‘selling’ anything. We talk about practical things important to their day-to-day lives”
—Frugina Ball, Alterna Savings 

A recent success? Alterna’s Fresh! member newsletter. “We keep the voice approachable so members have an incentive to read it for tips,” says Adrienne Finlay, manager, corporate communications. “We incorporate charts, quizzes and calculators alongside stories to make them interactive. And we solicit feedback to allow members to comment or tell us how to be even better.”

Build on community

Credit union members often sign on because they appreciate a credit union’s community focus. In 2014, Alterna was involved in 236 community events that allowed staff to act as ambassadors for the brand. Giving back is an authentic act — one members appreciate, says Ball. Alterna posts stories and pictures that showcase its role in these activities. Because this involvement is genuine, members become brand ambassadors who see Alterna as much more than just a place to park their paycheques.

Encourage the “share”

In a social media world that dwells on celebrity break-ups and political scandals, day-to-day banking isn’t usually top of mind when members share. So credit unions must always cook up ways to get their messages out. Last spring, Alterna created a challenge that highlighted “10,000 reasons to love your TFSA at Alterna.” The campaign combined targeted social media, radio ads and grassroots videos in which Alterna employees shared their TFSA experiences. “It was very real and very us,” says Finlay. “Because of this, it received a lot of online shares and word-of-mouth buzz.”

The takeaways

If content is engaging, it can transcend the background noise. But to be most effective, credit unions must actively leverage, monitor and respond to online discussions, while also cementing member loyalty through each branch’s visible involvement in its community. Success can be measured in concrete ways. Last year, Alterna saw net positive growth, signing up 5,900 new members and retaining its existing base. ◊