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Digital Target

Community First Credit Union proves that successful marketing is about taking a targeted approach that launches off digital platforms.

Know your audience — it’s vital to the success of any business. Kirstin Dias, the marketing manager at Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based Community First Credit Union (14,000 members, $500 million in assets) has taken this adage one step further. Understanding members, Dias says, is an obvious starting point. This includes knowing what type of marketing campaigns will resonate with them and how to reach them. “We need to connect with our members where they’re spending their time and that means online,” Dias says. “We know our members are spending more and more time online, so should we be allocating more budget and planning into digital marketing? The answer is obvious!”

Last year, Dias belonged to a marketing team of three that crafted more than a dozen campaigns for Community First. The marketing team grew to five with a merger in April 2016 that saw the credit union become a division of Kitchener, Ont.-based Your Neighbourhood Credit Union (52,000 members; $1.5 billion in assets). What has remained constant in the wake of the merger is the team’s commitment to harnessing the power of digital marketing. Such innovation drew the admiration of the credit union marketing community last year, with Community First receiving 11 Association of Integrated Marketers (AIM) nods and four Achievement in Marketing Excellence (AIME) awards from MACU, the Marketing Association for Credit Unions.

Dias broke down the keys to Community First’s success. “Digital marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact, it’s a really cost-effective medium if you keep almost everything in-house.” By designing and executing most of the campaigns, the team kept budgets in check. They found success on Facebook as well as through advertising on the hugely popular local online news site “This news site has a crazy-big readership and it has been great for spreading the word. It’s an example of knowing your market.”

“People are so interested in local right now: local foods and locally made products. Why not do your banking locally, as well?” – Kirstin Dias

Play to your strengths

As a result, Community First won a 2016 AIM award in the digital marketing category (Division 1) for a video campaign with the deceptively simple title “Credit Unions Aren’t Like Banks.” It ran as a promoted video on, through the credit union’s Facebook site and was also shown on branch video screens. The ad’s placement was well targeted, as was the message. “Community banking is a wonderful thing, so play to that,” says Dias. “People are so interested in local right now: local foods and locally made products. Why not do your banking locally, as well?” The video embraced this movement, giving starring roles to business members and credit union employees. The YouTube upload alone received close to 40,000 hits.

Statistical analysis through tracking

You don’t need a PhD in statistics to monitor the impact of your digital marketing. Facebook and Google offer tracking and analytics data, which is easy to understand and use. Dias monitors each campaign to see what has traction on which platforms. “It tells me what strikes a chord with the public.”

Dias stresses that “low-tech” tracking is just as crucial to measuring success. She gives front-line staff at the branches a set of marketing questions to ask clients: questions that tell her where clients heard or if they saw the various campaigns and what compelled them to act. “We really want to know if the dollars we’re investing are being used effectively.”

Look to the future

The digital marketing sphere is changing so rapidly that Dias laughs when asked what the future holds. “I don’t even know what might happen next year in this field.” With that in mind, her mantra is “adapt and adopt” as technologies change. What Dias never forgets is that at the root of all she does is the objective of promoting her credit union’s goals. “I’m here to have fun and educate and promote the credit union movement. I want to get us noticed — digital marketing just happens to be one of the top ways to do that.” ◊