“Nobody cares about your products… people care about their problems. People do not want a relationship with your credit union, they want the benefits a relationship can offer them.”

Not my words, and I wish I could remember whose they were, but I believe they accurately sum up the divide between what credit union members want – and what our existing members and consumers in general need & expect. As long as we insist on telling them things they don’t care about, you can bet that any measure of success will be difficult to achieve. My opinion…we need to tell them more stories. And by that, I mean true member stories about how we’ve helped someone with their life, or the life of their family. Wow…what a concept. Telling someone a story about people helping people – not about products helping people.

Let’s face it – unless you have a member who is a true advocate of your credit union, or credit unions in general – there is little difference between financial institutions in the eyes of the consumer. Credit unions and banks both provide retail banking services, right? We both tell everyone we’re caring, responsive and personal, right? We do love “differentiating” ourselves by talking aboutour differences as they relate to membership, being a cooperative and ownership. But is this message resonating with the average person? Clearly…success in terms of market share has eluded us.

I know…it’s not quantity of members…it’s quality of members. And if that translates into larger wallet share and profitability for the credit union so we can keep serving those quality members needs, I’m all for it! My question then would be, “Can we survive on those members?”

And then there’s the millennial market that will someday save our credit unions with their wealth, knowledge and technology. Do we honestly believe that banking is anywhere near the top of the priority list when you’re 17,19, 21? I would challenge you to think back to when you were that age. What were yourpriorities? Did they have anything to do with joining a member-owned financial cooperative? I’m not saying ignore them. What I would challenge you to do is to think of them as part of a broader picture…to talk to them and find out what they hold near and dear to their heart (besides their iPhone). I’m talking values, ethical standards, vision for the future – and see how any part of your brand aligns. If it doesn’t, believe me you’re going to have a hard time attracting their attention and little chance of keeping it long enough to tell them or show them why your credit union is any better than the community bank down the street.

So back to my original question. Are we helping people solve their problems – or are we so busy solving our own that we’ve lost focus?