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Rocking it Old School

CONEXUS CREDIT UNION

Canada’s sixth largest credit union is finding that, when it comes to making new friends and influencing people, nothing beats pounding the pavement.

Several years ago, when Saskatchewan’s Conexus Credit Union (126,000 members, $8 billion in assets), opened a new branch in Saskatoon, rather than stuff pamphlets into the post box, staff knocked on doors and talked to residents. “People find it intrusive if you come up to their door and put something in the mailbox,” says Mary Weimer, chief member experience officer at Conexus. “So we knocked on doors and asked people, ‘Heh, can I tell you what we’re doing?’ We’d have 30-minute conversations.” Not unexpectedly, some people declined to chat, saying they weren’t interested. Nonetheless the endeavour, while perhaps “a bit old school,” was appreciated by those who opened their doors, Weimer says.

Conexus continued such grassroots outreach with its successful #MONEYTALK marketing campaign, attending local outdoor summer events as jazz festivals. Armed with iPads, employees quizzed people with 10 questions about financial literacy in the “How Fin-Lit Are You?” challenge. It was targeted to connect with younger families, something that has manifested in hard numbers. But the objective was never to sell, Weimer say. Instead, staff promoted “financial wellbeing, as opposed to product.”

Facilitating financial acumen and literacy is a key marketing driver for Conexus and a powerful, long-term objective that has even become integrated into the provincial education curriculum, adding depth and credibility to the credit union’s role as a creator of wealth. For the past few years, Conexus has collaborated with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education to develop a financial literacy curriculum, unrolled earlier this year, that can be adapted for both elementary and high schools. Out of this initiative grew the ongoing marketing campaign, #MONEYTALK, a microsite on the Conexus website that is also found on Instagram and Facebook. It provides advice on life’s milestones as well as general inquiries about budgeting, saving for retirement and home ownership.

“How Fin-Lit Are You?” also sparked engagement with Conexus. So far, 1,200 people have partaken in the challenge in person and another 8,000 visited the 39-branch credit union’s online site. “If we can contribute to people improving their financial wellbeing — teach them things that maybe they didn’t know — that is good for them, good for the community and therefore good for Conexus.” And it works not just for potential new members but existing ones, too. “It’s just part of the value add: getting good advice,” Weimer says.

Another influential marketing blitz was the FreeStyle Campaign, launched in 2014 with the help of an ad agency. The credit union noticed that net new membership in its free chequing account had dropped. Obviously the message needed refreshing. But the messaging itself remained the same: save $185 annually, which translates into $925 over five years in saved bank fees. The credit union embraced a myriad of platforms to communicate this: not only traditional promotions via in-branch materials and staff communications but radio, digital scratch-and-win initiatives and — once again — old-school door knocking.

As a result, Conexus experienced a five percent growth in members aged 26 to 35. Today, says Weimer, the average age of a new member is 31.7 years, as opposed to the average age for the credit union industry of 47. Conexus is also tallying a 2.74 percent year-over-year member growth rate, better than the national YOY average of one to two percent, she adds.

While improved numbers and statistics are great markers for assessing a marketing campaign’s success, there are

more subjective factors to consider, Weimer says. Conexus’s latest marketing campaign, launched this past May, promotes managing debt and building good credit behaviours. “How do we measure success? It’s the financial health of our members.” ◊


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