Credit Union Business | By Laura Enock
Momprenuers. Mommy bloggers. Deal sites for moms. What is it about moms that have turned them into the hottest demographic for marketers?
“Credit unions don’t like to exclude anyone, and so our target markets have become so broad,” says Shari Storm, SVP at Verity Credit Union and author of “Motherhood is the New MBA.”
“It’s in our nature not to exclude one group over another.”
So why would the credit union single out moms? Is it working? And how do other, non-mom members (think: men) feel about it?
Verity Credit Union chose moms as a group to focus on after its leaders read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy,” a book on marketing, which advises organizations to find the most attractive demographic for what they’re offering, focus on them, and ignore everyone else. While searching for ways to implement these ideas in 2008, the credit union considered focusing on “family” as that segment of focus.
But family was too broad. So they asked a key question: “Who in the family is making the decisions and influencing where kids start their banking relationships?”
Storm noted that when you’re looking at a target market, you want three things:
- Strong affiliation
Not only was it clear that “moms” was the dominant answer to the key question above, it was also clear that moms have all three of these components.
- Strong affiliation: individuals in this demographic affiliate strongly with that role. For example, many of us are employees, consumers, homeowners, moviegoers. But how strongly do we affiliate with that role? Now think of motherhood. It’s not something I just happen to be; it’s a central part of my identity.
- Homogony: members of the group are alike in many ways. While all groups have a “common bond of membership,” if that’s the only thing they have in common, it isn’t much. For moms, there’s a lot that the majority of moms will find they have in common, as diverse as they may be. They’re caregivers, protectors, and advocates for the world. Additionally, put any two moms together over coffee and they’ll find out they share the same or similar views on many things. For example, most women think they’re husbands don’t do enough around the house. That’s homogony, and it’s alive and well among moms.
- Influence:While every human being has some degree of influence over others, moms have the most influence when it comes to their family, friends, the businesses they own, schools, and their communities. Research shows that mothers are the most influential when it comes to where their kids will do their banking.
Another factor that makes moms an attractive group to focus on is that they’re not expensive to communicate with. After college students, the first groups to embrace blogging and Facebook were moms.
Having decided to focus marketing efforts on moms in 2008, Verity rolled out VerityMom.com, a blog for moms and by moms, with a specific spokesperson, in August 2009. “We’d been watching Young and Free (YoungFreeHQ.com), and thought it was fantastic,” Storm says. “Our Verity Mom is Young and Free for moms.”
Verity Mom isn’t the whole program, of course. It’s just one component of the credit union’s overall strategy. Other components of that strategy include retraining the credit union staff so they celebrate kids when they come into the branch, including moms in the credit union’s creative, and redesigning the branches to make them kid-friendly. Verity also runs focus groups with moms, to find out how they’ll respond to marketing initiatives that the credit union is planning.
Another advantage to focusing on moms is that you know where they are and can easily spot the opportunities. For example, Verity CU set up a table at a local summer camp expo where various day care options for the summer were presented to interested parents––likely to be mostly an audience of moms. While it’s not a typical outlet for a financial institution, with a focus on moms, Storm knew they wanted to be there.
While Verity CU hasn’t sliced moms into other segments, they focus mostly on moms of young children.
And yet, there are challenges. “Anyone not in that target market won’t immediately ‘get it’,” Storm concedes. “You don’t understand how tightknit and powerful we are if you’re not part of it. Intuitively, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Overcoming the obstacle of convincing the (primarily male) board was a matter of going back to the numbers. For example, at Verity CU, one of the goals was to lower the average age of members. The credit union is now doing that successfully, by targeting moms and bringing in the whole family. “We’ve done it, we’re showing results, we’ve established that ahead of the campaign,” Storm says.
New checking accounts was the other goal, one the credit union is successfully achieving.
For credit unions looking to target moms, Storm is encouraging. “You have to be the champion for it,” she says. That means continually reminding people and asking the question, ‘is this good for moms?’”
Targeting moms works, but what about the rest of the membership? Verity is successfully targeting women, without alienating anyone else. Here’s how:
“We’re not pro-mothers to the extent of excluding men,” Storm explains. For example, the credit union had a debit card with an image of two kids frolicking in the grass. The women liked it, but the men didn’t. While they had no problem carrying photos of their own children in their wallets, most men aren’t comfortable with photos of someone else’s kids. So, the credit union changed the image.
Another example: the credit union placed garden gnomes outside the branches. While the women love them and comment on them, men don’t notice them at all. In general, the credit union’s marketing efforts are designed in a way that women benefit, while men don’t lose out.
With more women currently in the workforce than men, it’s becoming more acceptable to market to women. It’s hard to argue the statistics. And while Verity CU is a community credit union, Storm is quick to point out that EVERY credit union can focus on moms. Many companies have work-life balance groups; they’re singling out that demographic. If you’re a credit union with a SEG, you can integrate yourself with the companies your members work for by offering workshops and other resources for moms.
“Make sure the people driving the initiative are women,” Storm says. “They don’t have to be doing all the work, but they should be making most of the decisions.”
While not every credit union has moms represented strongly in their membership, if your credit union has a typical mix of members, consider focusing at least some of your marketing on moms. Find a way to do it without alienating men, and then look at the numbers. If the strong affiliation, homogony, and influence or moms in your membership are making a difference in your bottom line, you have all the proof you need to take it further.