Credit union leaders looking for ways to grow their credit union should take a serious look at their current SEG Development Program, ask some difficult questions, and define an action plan for revitalizing their efforts.  Note that the word current is used to suggest a focus on developing existing SEGs, not attracting new ones.

Here are three reasons why this is important:

  • For SEGs brought into the credit union more than a couple of years ago, chances are penetration has leveled off or declined.  The folks who opened the door and established the relationship may no longer be with the organization, or they may be in a different position where they no longer have any influence in promoting the credit union.
  • For more recently added SEGs, the excitement and newness that accompanied the initial connection has faded, and efforts on the part of the organization to share the credit union opportunity with their people have likely trailed off.  The early adopters may be on-board, but the next wave still needs to hear the message and be guided to take action to join the credit union.
  • For all of your SEGs, the reality is that most employees and members of the group are probably clueless about your credit union, what it offers, why it is something they should consider, or even how they would go about making a connection.

If we cut through all the reasons, excuses, and explanations that can be offered for why it is not possible to increase penetration within existing SEGs, there is an important and fundamental business reality that needs to be remembered:  It is always easier to sell services to current customers who have an existing affiliation with your business.

For credit unions with SEGs, this means that focusing energy on increasing penetration of your existing SEGs will be easier and more productive than recruiting new SEGs.  But doing so requires a focus on developing and implementing a marketing and sales effort targeted to the people affiliated with the SEG, and it requires finding ways to leverage the insights and experiences of your current members who are part of the SEG.

That means delivering tailored messages that demonstrate the value of your credit union.  That means joining the conversation and sharing stories about how the credit union has helped others in the SEG.  That means going beyond occasional visits to familiar faces and making connections that add value and help prospective members learn about the credit union.

One word of caution: Developing current SEGs requires a recognition that those in the group who have not get joined the credit union have a reason for not having done so–either they already have a financial institution, they are not aware of what the credit union offers, or they are not convinced that it is worth the time and effort to make the switch.  Your efforts will succeed to the extent that you can learn their questions and answer them in a way that reveals why they need to make the investment of time and effort required to make your credit union their PFI.

ACTION ADVICE: Here’s an action plan you can use to improve your current SEG Development Program:

  1. Start by analyzing your SEG demographics. Let the data reveal how many employees are in each SEG, how many of them are members, how many of their family members are members, and what products and services they are using.
  2. Hold some focus groups within your larger SEGs where you bring credit union members within the SEG together to discuss how you can better serve them, and to gain insight into what they think would work in bringing other members of the SEG into the credit union.
  3. Develop and implement a niche marketing program focused on the individual SEGs with the most opportunity–the ones who can bring you the most members who fit your ideal member profile.
  4. Launch a pilot initiative with 2-3 of your larger SEGs to sort out the process, then expand the effort to others.
  5. Track your results, tweak your efforts, and work to expand your impact by making this a key part of your overall marketing and sales effort.