One of the often overlooked realities about credit unions is that they are small businesses.

Think about it.

Most employee less than 200 people, serve a relatively targeted market area, and have only a few locations. The day-to-day business operations and the associated challenges closely mirror those faced by entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Recognition of this parallel opens up a world of options to credit union leaders for advice, insight, and ideas on improving credit union success. There is wealth of information available that is designed to support the growth of small businesses, and much of it has direct applicability to credit unions.

Conquer the Chaos is example. The subtitle of the book is “How to Grow a Successful Small Business without Going Crazy.” And the book’s authors speak from experience, having built the software company Infusionsoft which is a leading provider of e-mail marketing software for small businesses.

The authors (Clate Mask and Scott Martineau) do a masterful job in painting the picture of just how chaotic it can be to grow a business, and chances are a credit union leader reading the book would fid themselves nodding in agreement frequently.

But the real value of the book for credit union leaders lies it two key lessons:

1. Use systems to automate every business process you can. Though this is not a new concept, reading the book reveals the power of automating everything that you can–something that credit unions seeking to increase their efficiency and lower their costs need to consider at every juncture. Reviewing every process and looking for ways to automate it and make it routine can yield a high pay-off as the authors demonstrate through the case examples they share.

2. Implement sequences of messages to move customers through your sales funnel. Credit union members, like customers of any small business, move through a series of product and service interactions (i.e., along the customer funnel) as their relationship with the credit union evolves. Creating sequences of messages that lead them to the next product or service that they need serves them better and makes the sales process far less daunting and much more effective.

While both of these lessons have value to credit union leaders, the second is probably the move valuable of the two because it addresses something that is missing in the industry–focused, targeted marketing efforts that leverage the existing relationship with the member by anticipating their needs and automatically extending them an offer for the product or service that meets those needs.

It is worth noting that managing this process is what the company founded by the book’s authors (Infusionsoft) does. Thus as you read Conquer the Chaos, you gain a great deal of insight into the way such systems work and quickly see they can change the way you connect with and serve your members.

While this post is not intended as an advertisement or endorsement for their product, there is a great deal of merit in learning why the approach works and finding a way to utilize it within your credit union. Not recognizing this and acting upon it would be short-sighted.

Start by mapping out your credit union’s customer funnel, i.e., the sequence of interactions with product and services that members need over time. From there you can begin to define the series of communications that you will use to inform members of the value of the next product or service they need as they move through the funnel. Then you can develop and implement the message delivery and tracking system and start producing results.

Remember…it takes 7-10 exposures to an idea or concept before most people take action. If you are not telling your members about each product and service you offer at least that many times, they are not doing to use them. Period.

ACTION ADVICE: Even if you don’t read Conquer the Chaos, take some time to think about the two lessons noted above. Look for ways to automate and systematize every activity your team does every day to improve your efficiency. Think seriously about the messages that your members need to receive to guide them to the next product or service they need, then develop and deliver those messages to better serve your members and to boost your sales!

What are you reading? Read any good books lately that you would like to recommend to your credit union colleagues? Please post a comment and tell us a bit about them.