It’s that time of year in the world of credit unions: planning for your 2019 annual marketing budget.

When creating yearly marketing plans and budgets, what is your approach? Do you mimic last year’s plan? Try to follow what the competition is doing? Do you start from scratch or make wholesale changes to last year’s plan?

The most successful credit unions do a little bit of all of the above. From a strictly marketing standpoint, a thorough audit paves a clear path for the actions you should be taking in the year ahead.

Internal Audit

Every good plan starts by leveraging known assets—the data you have on hand. Begin with a complete look at how 2018 played out. What was your plan for 2018 and how closely did you adhere to it? What changed over the course of the year and why? For example, you may have shifted money away from social media advertising and toward content marketing because of real-time results, as this was common practice for many credit unions this year.

Assessing last year’s plan will help massively as you start to outline your strategy for 2019. On a year to year basis, most marketing plans will resemble the previous year’s in some capacity.

Strategy Audit

This is usually dedicated to the marketing teams, whether you have a substantial team in-house or you outsource to an agency. This audit should examine all marketing avenues including SEO/SEM, social media strategy and spending, paid search, content marketing, email campaigns and print collateral/campaigns.

Auditing online avenues including paid search, SEO and social media practices should entail:

  • Are keywords and paid search terms still relevant and high margin? Examine search volumes for top searches and assess the competition to determine where resources should go in 2019.
  • Which social media channels and practices performed the best for you? Consolidate resources in places that proved effective in 2018. Remember that social media is just as much about brand building and maintenance as it is about marketing your credit union.
  • Do you have a content marketing strategy? If so, how do you track results and success? Do what you can to get ahead of this trend, which is already hot and keeps heating up.
  • How did email campaigns perform compared to past years? At the very least, assess open and click rates to measure success. Benchmarking success with email campaigns depends largely on where email fits into your overall strategy.

As for the print side…

  • Are you prepared to ramp up print? Assess your yearly print spends and determine if you can funnel resources back into print as it continues to gain popularity in the industry. (Hint: Postcards and direct mail are making the biggest comeback heading into 2019)
  • How does a higher volume of print fit your brand moving forward? The best modern brands out there right now are the ones exhibiting authenticity and that position a credit union as a company that truly cares. Greeting cards are an easy, cost-effective piece to create some good will in your brand.
Industry Audit

This is when you look at yourself and where you fit in the current credit union landscape. Is your marketing relevant to members of your audience and their consumer behavior? Moreover, do you have an up-to-date profile of your target audience and how to effectively reach them? The profile(s) of your target audience should be at the heart of all your marketing, so your assessment of them must be current!

Annual planning is also a great time to explore new marketing tech and whether it fits your credit union and the resources at hand. Things to explore include marketing automation software and testing/analytics tools to name a few.

Lastly, conduct a broad competition audit. Who are your competitors and what are they doing? How are they performing? How you should respond to the competition and their performance varies greatly by market—so being aware is the first and most important step of this particular part of the audit.

Once you’ve taken full stock of your strategy from previous years, assessed the industry/competition and the credit union’s successes/failures from 2018, you’ll have a much clearer idea of which path to take when forming your 2019 plan.