By Ray Birch
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.—Running a business is serious business. But appealing to business owners doesn’t have to be—especially if a credit union wants its message to be noticed, according to one CU here, which is having “a little fun” and being “cheeky.”
That’s the thinking behind South Carolina Federal’s new “DOMOTO” campaign, which is promoting its business services.
Maggie Nichols, PR and emerging media coordinator, said that simply using an interesting and “fun” campaign slogan is a lot more effective than advertising “a boring checking account.”
“We wanted to do something light and fun,” said Nichols, who added the CU worked with Agency 51 on the program. “One of the TV ads begins with the question, ‘What is DOMOTO. Is it a penguin…is it a new dance craze...?’ It’s nice to pique people’s interest. We wanted to be a little fun and cheeky with our advertising to get attention.”
DOMOTO (pronounced due-MO-too) stands for “doing more together.”
“It’s the thinking that business members can do more of what they want when they're working with the right financial partner,” said Nichols. “It’s about the partnership of businesses in Columbia and the specialists at South Carolina Federal Credit Union.”
Fin Lit for Business Owners
Nichols said South Carolina Federal understands the unique needs of business owners and their desire for convenient, personalized banking solutions.
“The credit union not only offers a full range of financial products and services for businesses, but also provides financial literacy programs to help owners and their employees achieve financial wellness,” she said.
South Carolina Federal is heavily utilizing social media channels for the DOMOTO promotion, which uses the theme “Business Banking That Gives More Than It Takes,” and in a December interview with CUToday.info said it plans to run the ads through the end of 2019.
“They could go longer based on results,” Nichols added.
The Next Step
When the DOMOTO promotion is successful enough to drive a business owner to engage with South Carolina Federal, the next step is to explain that a smaller financial institution can offer the same business services as a larger credit union, explained John Stanford, VP of lending.
“I think a lot of businesses here are not aware of what we offer, that we offer the same financial products, the same tools, the same financial education and counseling that the larger FIs offer to small businesses,” Stanford said.
Stanford noted South Carolina Federal is known for its business services in the Charleston, S.C., area, but not in Columbia, S.C., a newer market for the credit union.
“Anyone can come in with a special rate on a car loan or credit card and be a one-hit wonder with a small business. But we feel that our business relationships are some of the more lasting relationships and lead to business on the personal side as well,” said Stanford about the CU’s full line of business services.
The $1.7-billion credit union’s business portfolio includes 671 loans for $43 million, and total built since it launched business services in 2006.
“We have had steady growth with business lending and business services, but have been growing that side of our business more rapidly recently,” said Stanford, who believes business services can help set a credit union apart from other CUs. “Not all credit unions offer this.”
But to excel with small business, the credit union must offer a complete line of services.
“Sure, we will handle their loan requests and handle their initial needs,” said Stanford. “But we go beyond that—we can assist businesses with their payroll, 401K, health and commercial insurance, dental program, and cash management services needs (through the CU’s SCF Solutions CUSO). The loan officer handles their initial needs and then there is a warm handoff to another area of the credit union for their other needs. We don’t just want to hear, ‘I need a term loan for $50,000 for this piece of equipment.’ We have our staff trained to look deeper into the request and to find out other needs of the business.”
Not a ‘One-Off’
Stanford said the CU believes that with businesses it cannot be a “one-off solution.”
“We want to make sure that if you are not happy with where you are or if you have a need that is not being met that you can come to South Carolina Federal and get all you need in one place,” said Stanford. “We have all the skills in house.”
He said the credit union has “staffed up considerably” in the Columbia area to serve small businesses.
“We have also delivered extensive training to some of our staff in the financial centers in the Columba area so business members can come and get answers to their questions quickly,” Stanford said.
South Carolina Federal also provides financial counseling to small businesses, either one-on-one at the credit union or at the business itself.
“We have a dedicated staff member who handles this,” Stanford said.
The Real Goal
Nichols said the new advertising campaign will bring new business members to the credit union, but it will be the high level of service and deep offerings that will keep them there.
“Our goal is to add new business clients to our portfolio,” said Nichols. “But the real goal is the long-term relationship. We get you in and then earn your trust.”