How Credit Union Specialists Use Competitive Analyses

From regional and national banks to alternative financial institutions, credit unions face heavy competitions from several directions. When it comes to developing an efficient and ultimately successful marketing plan, considering your competitors should be one of the primary steps in your strategizing process. A competitive analysis is an integral part of any comprehensive marketing plan, and is the sword and shield of any decent credit union specialist.  It is used to research competing brands to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as ways through which your credit union can differentiate itself from challengers. Credit unions making use of a detailed competitive analysis within their marketing plan can discover new ways to reach their primary audience, capitalize on the shortcomings of the competition and develop a major competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Identification and Documentation

Logically, the first step to crafting a well-researched analysis is to identify and record exactly who your competitors are. Think about the products services your credit union makes available to members and try to find comparable features within the offerings of others in your market. Don’t forget to take price points and special rates into consideration, as they might play a large role in a potential member’s selection process. Are other credit unions in your market offering free checking, pre-owned vehicle financing specials or low mortgage rates? By having a clear definition of who your opposition is and exactly what they are posing to your potential and even existing members, your credit union’s marketing plan can pre-emptively address any opportunities to help your institution stand out from the pack.

Demographics and Strategy

Once you know what you are up against, it’s time to take an in-depth look at your competitors’ marketing approaches and strategies. Identify who their primary target market is, how they’re trying to reach them and how successful they are in doing so. Are they launching full-scale media buys to cast a wide net? Are they utilizing clever guerrilla marketing tactics in order establish buzz and gain interest from a niche market, such as multi-cultural or college-aged segments? Are they active on social media? All of these components ultimately hinge on the product being promoted and the demographic the company is hoping to capture.

Facebook is a valuable research tool that shouldn’t be overlooked during the demographic research phase. It serves as a looking glass into the personal connection the brand has with its consumers. Your competitor’s timeline showcases the brand’s personality and how responsive their audience is to it. If the brand has a loyal following of fans that actively engage with the brand’s content, you may want to note their communication style. However, if you notice the opposite, record that data in your competitive analysis and identify where the communication breakdown lies so as to not make the same errors.

Performance and Evaluation

Armed with an in-depth understanding of your competitor’s identity, audience, and strategies, the next step most credit union specialists take is to evaluate their competitor’s performance. Did they see year-over-year gains, or did a disconnect form between the company and their consumers? According to research conducted by industry experts, the “fall of big banks” has caused many Americans to switch their finances to credit unions. CUNA also reports that a large number of big mortgage lenders are cutting back on nontraditional loans, once again driving new members to credit unions. By learning from the competitor’s actions, it is then possible to emulate the successes and modify the failures to reduce the amount risk in your own planning.

Implementation and On-Going Exploration

A well-written, comprehensive plan can be used in a variety of situations. When trying to pitch an idea to or educate those who are new to the project, including a competitive analysis widens the landscape and provides a frame of reference for any conversation about your own brand. Over a period of time, the competitive analysis can be also be used to monitor your competitors.

Though externally focused, a competitive analysis can also be utilized to examine your credit union’s internal strengths and weaknesses. If the competition is executing a specific marketing strategy and seeing successful results, it may be time to look inward and decide if that same tactic could work for your company.

Overlooking this section of the plan forces your organization to forfeit the advantage of knowing your competitor’s hand of cards, shortchanging your own business and missing out on new opportunities to reach out to your members. Research the competition, document your data and use this information to strategically draft a plan that will surpass the competition.

Does your marketing plan include a competitor analysis? Share your strategies to crafting the most comprehensive analyses or engage with me directly in the comments.