It’s one of the most challenging questions you will ever consider, but it is perhaps the most important one: What makes your credit union different?

Since the key to long-term success in any business rests on the ability to create and exploit a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace, this question should be at the core of your credit union’s strategic planning process. Defining a true marketable difference that meets the needs of your current and future members is a must do item.

ACTION ADVICE:

1. Take a serious look at the data from your MCIF system and learn how your members are using your products and services. Identify the product/service bundles that your most profitable members using and calculate the contribution that these products are making to your bottom line return on assets. Look for the common thread that connects these members and these profitable bundles of products and services, then consider how you can leverage this connection to create a definable difference for your credit union.

2. Consider conducting focus groups with your members to learn why they use your credit union and what products and services they like the most, what products and services they want that they are not getting, and what they would like to see the credit union do in the future to serve them better. Use the information gleaned from this process to focus your marketing and sales efforts so that you create a difference that meets the needs of your members, then communicate that difference in everything you do.

3. Carefully examine your market and see what is missing that you are providing. Often your difference exists, it just hasn’t been clearly identified and a communicated to all of your current and potential members, and it is not being used to brand your credit union in the minds of those who are eligible for membership.

One caveat...don’t rush to judgement about what makes you different and don’t oversimplify (or over-complicate) the process. The goal is to create a clear and distinct difference that leverages the things you have in place and allows you to deepen relationships with current and potential members. You’ll do this best best by focusing on doing what you do better than others, not by trying to imitate what others in different markets with different membership bases do.