Recently I had the pleasure of reading a new book written by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame.  Jantsch is a master at providing practical advice that can be easily implemented to grow a business; and most of his advice can be readily translated to growing your credit union.

In The Referral Engine, Jantsch outlines a strategy for engaging your customers (members) in marketing your business (credit union) by getting them to refer their family, friends, and colleagues to your business (credit union).

The essence of Jantsch’s message is that when you make referrals a core growth strategy, you think differently and adopt behaviors that lead folks to help you promote your credit union to others who might benefit.

Two of the challenges of making this strategy work are: (1) making it easy for members to refer your credit union,  and (2) providing incentives that will lead them to do so. Jantsch shares several ideas for doing this in the book, but none are more powerful than the one he discussed in his recent blog post about Southwest Airlines.

It’s worth taking a look at and considering how you could adapt their approach to engage your members in bringing more referrals into your credit union.  When you do you will note three key elements of the program that make it work:

1. The offer is specific and direct…the recipient is asked to refer four people and given an easy way to do it that requires almost no effort.

2. The instructions are clear…there is a clear step-by-step instruction sheet included that shows the person how to make a referral.

3. There is an incentive to participate…the person who refers receives a benefit as a thank you for referring others.

Note that the uses of this approach are not limited to a credit card offer like the one shown in the example.  The offer could be a package of basic member services, an auto loan promotion, an online banking special, or anything.  The process is the lesson…asking for referrals and enlisting members in helping you secure new members.

The question for your credit union is: Do you have a referral program in place that regularly asks members to refer others to your credit union, gives them easy to use tools to facilitate the referral process, and provides them with an incentive for making referrals?


1. Review your current marketing efforts and examine the role you are asking your current members to play in helping to recruit new members:

  • Are you regularly asking for referrals?
  • Do you have any information or tools that members can use to help someone they refer get connected with your credit union?
  • What could you do to launch a referral campaign that would bring your more members who already have trust in you because they were referred by someone whom they know has their interests at heart.

2. Buy a copy of The Referral Engine, read it, discuss it, and use the action ideas Jantsch provides to put your growth on autopilot by building a powerful ongoing referral campaign!

It’s Your Turn…Got any ideas on how this might work for your credit union?  How about an example of something you have already done?  Or share your thoughts on why you don’t think this will work…Post a comment and let us know your thoughts.