A response to my post last week on Marketing: A Critical Credit Union Advantage promoted a broader view of the situation.
Leo Sammallahti, Marketing Manager for the Coop Exchange in Finland suggested a different framework. Specifically he believes coops serve individuals who would have a natural interest in knowing about other cooperatively owned business. Here is his idea.
I’m not familiar enough about credit union marketing in the US, but have some thoughts more generally about marketing within coops.
I recently talked with a friend who helps run a food co-op. He mentioned that they have 2000 people on their email list. A while later, another friend told me about a retrofitting (housing) coop that is raising money through an equity crowdfunding campaign. The UK has a special financial instrument called “community shares” tailored for coops to raise capital through crowdfunding.
I believe there is an opportunity for a simple website with a directory of coops (in communities or a state) that want to promote other coops through their email lists. I sent a survey to 10 small and medium sized (SME) coops asking if they would like to promote other coops in their email list. Every single one of them said yes.
This interest caused me to realize this is an advantage coops have in marketing – coops (at least small and medium sized coops) want to promote each other.
Had I sent a survey to traditional publicly owned stock owned firms asking if they would like to promote other businesses because those businesses have stockholders, they would have found the question absurd, “Why would I do that?”
My suggestion is that the platform allow co-ops to make different type of arrangements to promote each other in their email lists. They can set up cross-promotions (I promote you if you promote me) and “cross promotional circles”–I promote another co-op every month in my email list and my co-op gets promoted in another co-ops email list every month. In addition, they can require the coop to put out a coupon code or some similar special offer for them to promote.
What’s the relevance to credit unions in the US? Not sure, yet. But if we create an ecosystem of many coops promoting each other, that can be powerful for credit unions as well. The US credit union movement has over 100 million members. Credit unions communicate via newsletter or social media regularly.
If they would systematically promote other coops in their messaging, and other coops would systematically promote credit unions, this could a create virtuous cycle.
From the point of view of a customer, when they become a customer of one coop and receive their communications, those would include promotions of other coops. As a result, they learn about other coop possibilities and could become patrons.
This effort could be more even more practical if regulations that limit investing in coops and promoting such investment opportunities were more encouraging.
Once the market for coop financial funding in an area reaches a critical mass, it could possibly lead to common funds that enable ordinary people to make recurring, low-cost, passive, diversified investments across small and medium sized coops.
This community investment evolution is being developed in the UK and could be a model for the US. Here is a recent report: Understanding a maturing community shares market – new report | Co-operatives UK