There’s an old adage in sales that says “To sell Jane Smith what Jane Smith buys, you have to see Jane Smith through Jane Smith’s eyes.”

Truer words have never been spoken (and they are equally relevant for John Smith).

For today’s credit unions, this statement is something that should be top of mind in every thing that you do.  Serving multiple generations with increasingly diverse perspectives is a challenge, and it is one that must be overcome if you are to achieve long term success.

It starts with asking the question:  How well do we understand the real needs of our members across each generation that we serve?

Next, depending upon your answers to the previous question, take action to learn more about what your member want and need.  Find out where they are getting the things they need that you don’t offer.  Learn what it would take for them to switch to your credit union for those services, and why they haven’t already done so.

Finally, as you move forward and look to grow your credit union by attracting new members, figure out how you can leverage the relationships you have with current members who have similar demographic characteristics.  Strive to learn what Jane Smith sees and figure out how to deliver the products and services she wants to buy from her credit union.

ACTION ADVICE: Use your member customer information files to identify members who represent the key demographics you credit union serves, then invest some time talking with members from each segment to learn more about their needs.  You can use formal focus groups, or informal lunch-n-learn type sessions.  Remember to ask the questions and listen to the responses, not to defend, justify, or explain.  The way to learn what Jane Smith buys is to ask her and then listen carefully to what she says.

What do you think? What has your credit union done to learn more about the needs and wants of your members?  Do you have any suggestions for other credit unions regarding how to better understand and serve the different generations within your membership?  Please post a comment and share your insights.