It’s no secret that I am a fan of creative marketing ideas and approaches.  I’m also a fan of doing the unexpected and seeing if it produces results.

In light of that, my experience this morning at a local deli/coffee shop merits sharing in the hope that it will stimulate some ideas for marketing your credit union.

Here’s the story.

On my way to a meeting with a coaching client this morning I stopped by my favorite deli for a cup of iced tea (as you’ll learn in a moment, I am not a coffee drinker).

Walking in the door expecting to see the usual suspects (i.e., the staff who know why I am there before the door even closes), I was caught a bit off guard when greeted by a new face.

The smiling woman extended a pleasant “good morning,” and offered me “a free small cup of coffee” (it comes with unlimited refills, so the size really wasn’t important–though I personally would have dropped that part of the pitch as it seemed to somehow devalue the gesture).

It was immediately clear that this person wasn’t a new edition to the staff, reinforced by her name tag from a local financial institution (a bank, not a credit union).

Not being a coffee drinker I passed on her offer.  Her response was to politely suggested that I might consider taking one to a friend or a colleague.  I declined, but while waiting for my iced tea I carefully observed her interactions with other patrons.

The interesting thing was that not once in her interactions with about 15 people did she mention the bank she worked for or do any of the things one might expect–providing an explanation for her free coffee offer, asking the recipients to stop by the bank, or mentioning the products and services the bank offered.

She simply provided a coupon for a free cup of coffee that was redeemable at the register, then moved on to the next person.

It was, to some degree, the epitome of being a servant–giving freely with no expectation of anything in return, and no idle chatter to distract from the act of service.

And therein lies the lesson:  If you are serious about service and you really mean it, then there are times when you simply need to serve.

Granted there is room to ask whether this activity will actually produce any results for the bank in terms of new customers, more account penetration, or even more recognition within the community.  But one thing is certain.  A large number of people were served by this bank today in a way that they didn’t expect.  And that is a message that is congruent with their brand and it was achieved by investing a couple of hours and paying for a few dozen cups of coffee.

ACTION ADVICE: Consider ways that you could emulate this process in your community or perhaps on-site at your SEGs.  It’s easy to do.  Just select a time and place, show up, say hello, and offer a cup of coffee (or whatever makes sense to you).  Show your shirts (i.e., logo and/or nametags) and be friendly, but don’t tell and don’t sell–just serve and see what develops.  Chances are people will talk about your credit union in a positive light and you will gain the kind of reputation you want among prospects and members, and it won’t cost you much other than your time and a few dollars.