FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/8/08)--"We're not in the product business. We are in the financial education and dream fulfillment business," author Barbara Sanfilippo told attendees Thursday at the Texas Credit Union League Leadership Conference & Visionary Expo in San Antonio. Before members will become advocates for credit unions, credit unions must take their focus off selling products and on making an emotional connection with their members, said Sanfilippo, the conference opening speaker (LoneStar Leaguer
Sept. 5). Sanfilippo noted a "huge societal problem," with personal debt up and savings down. Credit unions can help elevate members' lives, she said, but many members are "disengaged and disconnected because they don't view their credit union as a key partner who is genuinely interested in their future well-being." Members are focused on their family, their personal vulnerabilities and their aspirations. "That's where our focus should also be," she said. She outlined three emotional drivers of the member relationship most highly correlated with advocacy:
* "My credit union understands my financial goals"; * "Employees provide advice to improve my financial well-being"; and * "My credit union values my business."
Often employees are present physically but have checked out of the job mentally, she said, adding, "Employees should be a walking billboard for your organization." To engage staff, she suggested the credit union:
*Integrate staff into the credit union's brand; * Train them on how to sell to members' dreams and aspirations; * Offer a basic financial literacy class for all staff to help them embrace and practice financial fitness; and * Instill a successful mindset by teaching staff how to dream bigger, create wealth and be better stewards of their money.
"If your employees feel the credit union has played a role in improving their lives, then they will in turn be more inclined to sing your praises," she concluded.