Internet Banking Usage – A Guide to Inexpensive Marketing for Credit Unions

10 Easy and Inexpensive Suggestions


Author Jason Snyder spacer
oasys_robustAre members using your internet banking tools? Whether you jumped on the digital bandwagon years ago or you’re just getting ready to release an electronic service for the first time, subscribership is key.

It seems unnecessary to discuss the benefits of online banking. The technology has been around for decades but it’s been growing by leaps and bounds during the past several years.  Many financial institutions are reaping the reward for added efficiency and satisfaction. In spite of the benefits, many smaller institutions find themselves challenged by the prospect of setting it up. That said, with so many third party options available, it’s getting easier for smaller institutions to provide members with access to their accounts online. One common hurdle that many credit unions still grapple with:

“I don’t know how to get my members to use it.”

I’m here to tell you, they will use it. No matter what the demographic, your members will come around to your way of thinking once they’ve experienced the ease of use, convenience and added security of a quality online banking platform. Like all services, however, you can’t expect your members to use it if they don’t know it’s there.

What organization wants to spend money on a service that nobody uses? I assume that if you’re reading this, you’re already sold on the benefits of online banking and now you’re just trying to figure out how to make it work for your credit union. Let’s say you’re the CEO of a small or medium sized credit union and you’ve convinced your board to allocate funds in the budget for a third party online banking platform. It’s now your job not only to implement the product, but to get as many members to use it as possible.

Marketing is the key to getting this done, but unless you work for a large credit union with its own marketing division, the responsibility sits squarely on your shoulders. Let’s also assume that approval to purchase this slick new online tool did not come with an advertising budget. How are you going to drive your members online while expending a minimum of time and money?

It’s not that hard. That doesn’t mean you won’t have some work to do. Here are some inexpensive options that will help you bolster your internet or mobile banking subscribership. While some of them will take some planning and a little extra effort, you should see results in a relatively short period of time. Read through them and see if you think you can pull it off.

1. Know Your Membership

Okay, that’s a silly statement. Of course you know your members. The beauty of the credit union model is that you’re able to have a human connection with your membership. Many tellers are on a first name basis with the folks who walk through those doors to deposit a paycheck or transfer funds. What I mean by ‘Know Your Membership’ is maybe better said, ‘Understand Your Membership’. Understanding what is important to them is critical to marketing your shiny new internet banking tools. Do you know the answers to these questions?

  • How many members transfer funds between share accounts and loans on a monthly basis?
  • How many members would benefit from being able to pay their bills online?
  • How many members live too far away from a credit union branch to easily come in and handle their business?
  • How important to your members is security and the ability receive transaction notices or frequently check their balances?

These questions address some of the most common benefits of internet banking. Knowing your members priority on these issues will help you find keywords and phrases that draw interest in the product.

Don’t be shy about asking your members. Print out a short survey and have your tellers ask members to participate. Or if you happen to be chatting with a member in the lobby, work those questions into your conversation.

Now, it’s important to remember that many people are members of a credit union specifically because of the strong human element. It’s reassuring to be part of an organization where you can speak to an actual person if you want to. If you’re concerned about the perception that some members may have about reducing that human interaction, you can help diffuse that by stressing certain points:

  • Security – Being able to check the status of an account anytime, anywhere.
  • Bill Payment – If this is a service that you provide through your internet banking, it enables members to set automatic payments up, something that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do by coming into the credit union.

Always remind these concerned members that the presence of internet banking does not mean they can’t get on the phone with a teller or come in personally. Internet Banking should enhance their credit union experience, not undermine it.

2. Hang Signs in the Lobby

A QR Code on your signs and advertisements can help lead people to your electronic banking site.

A QR Code on your signs and advertisements can help lead people to your electronic banking site.

This one may seem obvious, but its importance cannot be overstated. You have to get that marketing collateral up on the walls. It doesn’t have to be printed on the finest parchment. Your color inkjet will do just fine. Some cheap poster prints from the local FedEx Store will do even better. Find yourself a fun image and write some concise copy. Get the word out and your members will see it.

Another helpful ingredient is to get a free QR code and print it on the sign. is just one site that offers free QR codes. This will enable anyone with a smartphone and a barcode app to take a picture of your sign and go straight to your mobile or internet banking site.

3. Internet Marketing Done Right

While it’s getting easier than ever to promote a product or service on the internet, it should probably be a relatively small part of your promotion. That’s not to say you shouldn’t promote your electronic services on your website, but think twice about spending money on actual advertising. It’s probably safe to assume that those who find your ads online are already the most inclined to start using your internet or mobile banking service. It wouldn’t hurt, but will it really help you reach your end goal?

Instead, focus on getting the news online where more of your membership is likely to see it. If you live in a town with any community newspapers, give them a call and let them know. Your credit union is an important fixture in the community so they may be willing to write it up. Since most newspapers now have at least as large a presence online as they do in printed paper, this will give you all the online press you need. You’ll be in the paper too, so that’s two promotions for the price of one; that price ideally being FREE.

4. Provide a Cheat Sheet for Your Mobile or Internet Banking

Write a very simple, bulleted guide to each of your internet banking products, instructing members on accessing the site or mobile app, logging in, and finding balances. Make it as easy as possible on your less technically inclined members. It doesn’t have to be fancy because you’re not looking to provide an instruction manual. Think short and sweet. The wordier it is, the more likely someone is to get confused and throw their hands up in frustration.

If you’ve got some money in the budget, you could have it printed in full color on nice paper, but that isn’t critical. What’s important is that you get it into your members’ hands. If all you can do is provide black and white prints, DO THAT. It will help. And keep plenty of copies around. If someone asks for a copy, your teller should be able to grab one from under the counter.

Stay ahead of the curb, too. If your internet banking tool is new to the membership, provide a copy of the cheat sheet with each receipt, at least for the first week. This will help in two ways, by marketing the product and teaching the process

Internet Banking Tutorial

A short video tutorial can help educate members on the many features in your internet or mobile banking.

5. Create a Short Video Tutorial for Your Internet Banking

Similar to Step 4, creating a simple video tutorial that members can access online or on a credit union TV marketing loop will go a long way towards familiarizing your members with the tool. Many of us are visually and aurally oriented people. From personal experience, I know I learn more quickly when I see a program demonstrated.

You don’t need to hire an expensive multimedia firm to create this for you, though you certainly can if you want it to look polished. Honestly, you can do this yourself. CamStudio is a free, open source screen capture program that works on PC or Mac. All you need is a cheap microphone and a clear voice. If you’re not confident in your delivery, ask one of your most outgoing tellers to provide the narration. You don’t need to go overboard with the production. Just sound friendly and demonstrate the basic functions of your internet banking tools. When you’re done, upload it to a free credit union Youtube account and share it with your members.

REMEMBER: I know this is probably obvious to you, but it should be said: Don’t record your demonstration using an actual member’s account! Use a test account that doesn’t have any real personal information on the screen.

6. Use Those Teller Relationships

As I already mentioned, your tellers play an important part in the spirit of the credit union. Just ask the member who waits in line a little longer just so she can deposit her check with her favorite teller. Your tellers are your marketing frontline and they’re the most likely to make that connection with a reluctant member. Help the tellers out by giving them a short bulleted list of points to make, but they don’t need to sound like they’re reading a script. People can see through a sales pitch, especially if it sounds like a sales pitch. Your tellers shouldn’t sound like they’re selling anything here. They’re providing the member a helpful tip.

7. Add it to Your Statements and Mailings

If you have the ability to add a marketing message to your paper or electronic statements, take advantage of that! Adding just a little text, like “Check your balance anytime, anywhere! Ask your credit union representative about our mobile banking application!” can help educate members who don’t come into the credit union very often. It also acts as a reminder to those of us to have short memories. (What was I saying?)

8. Host An Event or Go To An Event

Who doesn’t love free food? For the price of a couple deli trays and maybe some home baked cookies, people will come out to the credit union for anything. Start the event at 5:30 so you can grab those folks heading home from work. It’ll give them an excuse not to sit in rush hour traffic. Not only will it give you a chance to chat with your members about general credit union business, you’ll have an easy way to demonstrate your online banking products. Set up laptops in the lobby and have a couple friendly tellers demonstrate it for your members. Of if you’re using a mobile banking application, have a couple floating demonstrators carry smart phones and demo it. Keep it casual. A classroom environment isn’t what we’re after here. Just testify to the benefits, answer questions and show them how easy it is to use.

If you’re an employee credit union, you could consider going on-site to demonstrate the products. Arrange it with the company in advance then set up in the lunchroom or lobby during high traffic times.

REMEMBER: If you don’t publicize your event, nobody will know to stop by. Have your tellers remind people about it and post signs. Consider giving it a month’s notice so word of mouth can aide your cause.

9. Package it with other products

Okay, maybe you offer internet or mobile banking to all of your membership by default. You can still tell them that it’s ‘included’ when they apply for a loan or open a new share account. Many people think that you don’t get something for nothing. They may have ignored the very existence of your online banking tools because they thought they’d have to pay a premium to access it. By ‘packaging’ your online teller with other new products, you can catch them unaware.

Part of this process may require that you keep a quick reference list of those who have and have not signed up with internet banking, if it’s not automatically flagged in your teller system.

10. Have a Contest

Run a promotion for one week where you enter each of your members who sign up for internet banking into a sweepstakes. This may not seem like a ‘cheap’ option and therefore might go in conflict with the title of this article, but it doesn’t have to be so. Sure, you could offer up some expensive gadget or a pocket full of spending cash, but if you’re creative you can find an inexpensive alternative. The prize doesn’t have to be monetary or particularly expensive. You could offer a discounted rate on a loan, the only cost being the discounted interest, amortized over the life of the loan. Likewise, you could offer an extra special rate on a certificate.

The important thing is to make the contest fun. If you can get people interested, they’ll sign up. Once there, they’ll see how easy and practical internet banking is, and they’ll stick with it.


These are just a few ways for you to get your membership up to speed on internet banking. There are numerous other ways to go about it. If you’re stuck, pull your staff together and brainstorm it. Make sure they are using the products too! The more familiar the tellers are, the easier it’ll be for them to convince your members.

You know how great it will be for your membership to make use of internet or mobile banking. Now you just need to take all the enthusiasm you feel and spread it to everyone else. In the end, it’ll make for a stronger credit union, and a happier membership.

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