Marketing MRI: Finding and Bridging Value Gaps
in League Initiatives
By: David Frankil, NJCUL President/CEO

I recently sent a note to the entire membership with a preview of some of our 2017 initiatives, noting that they were developed from conversations with over 60 CEOs, and were part of our philosophy of market-led growth.

The process is actually more strategic than just having a good chat with a CEO. The question we’re answering is how to ensure that the value you’re providing actually matches up with what the market needs.

Let me use a case study with a gaping value gap from a consulting engagement I finished just before joining NJCUL to illustrate the approach we’ve taken with the League.

The client was a midsize general contractor (~$10M in revenue) offering integrated architectural design and construction services, focused primarily on office buildings, warehouses, and distribution centers. They wanted to know why they weren’t growing faster, especially when they saw new competitors winning jobs they thought should be theirs.

They thought the problem was a bad salesperson – but the engagement quickly evolved into a more extensive assessment of their fundamental value drivers.

We used an active listening process I call a “Marketing MRI,” and it has two components – internal and external. The first step is to interview employees at all levels of the company to understand their perception of key value drivers and what they see as the issues impeding growth.

Do this enough and you hear the same value drivers over and over again, like superb service, quality products or services, great employees, lower fees, and so on. And I’ve yet to meet a struggling sales rep who didn’t blame too-high prices, bad marketing, inadequate administrative support, or poor client service for lack of success.

Part two of the Marketing MRI comes next, with an external focus on the entire value chain both upstream and downstream of the company. It involves gathering direct input from target market segments about the company and its solutions, talking to clients, former clients, and anyone that should be a client. This also includes parts of the value chain that represent potential deal referral sources or influencers – in this particular case, architects, commercial real estate brokers, bankers, regional economic development authorities, insurers, and developers.

One of the true benefits of a Marketing MRI is in having someone look at an organization with a fresh set of eyes, without any biases, pre-conceived notions, sacred cows, or other assumptions. It is not unusual to see organizations that don’t evolve their understanding of market needs over time, leading to a gradual erosion of competitiveness that is all but imperceptible from the inside – except for dwindling sales, a symptom of the underlying problem.

Marketing and sales were issues, but we found a more fundamental strategic problem in their reliance on an outdated value driver – providing architectural design services in-house as a package deal. Bundling design and build services had great value twenty years ago, when there was a relative paucity of architectural design firms in Charlotte focused on office buildings, warehouses, and distribution centers – but there are many firms offering design services today, who are critical deal referral sources to construction companies. Not only does it make the architects see them as competitors – the last firm they would ever refer a deal to – but developers now like to manage and control the design part of the process independently, often before putting a project out to bid.

To summarize: an activity that management thought was meeting market needs – and which was also very expensive to maintain, with staff and other costs – was not just missing the mark, but doing active damage, creating a value gap.

The NJCUL Marketing MRI process of the last nine weeks has highlighted our value gaps. We have a great team working very hard – but over time what the League was offering gradually diverged from what our members need. From my experience, this is not at all unusual – easy to get focused on what is in front of you, as the bigger and more market-focused picture gradually fades into the background.  

A good strategic planning process  re-calibrates values and bridges any gaps, and that’s exactly what we’ve done in preparation for 2017 and beyond.

Our 2017 action agenda truly aligns our core strengths and value drivers with what our members need. That translates into:

  • More meaningful educational events, like one-day workshops focused on operational challenges and growth opportunities, like core processing, mortgages and FOM expansion – hands-on sessions designed to deliver actionable strategies and practical knowledge
  • Providing opportunities with new programs intended to deliver strategies to grow loan volume, whether direct in the form of opportunities or indirect with participations, providing potential income to even the smallest of our members
  • Reducing expenses with new cost-effective compliance solutions from our in-house team, as well as monthly member-only call-ins on general issues and hot topics
  • Creating more brand awareness with a revitalized Banking You Can Trust campaign, leveraging the power of story-telling to effectively communicate the credit union advantage
  • Creating professional development opportunities with a grant opportunity we’re pursuing jointly with Rutgers University to provide management training at no cost to members – worth up to $25k per credit union

And much, much more, to be unveiled at the Annual Conference in a few weeks. If you can’t join us in Atlantic City, keep an eye out for more details a week or so after we wrap up.

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David Frankil is the President & CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League. He brings a market-focused, growth-oriented approach to delivering solutions that drive value and are directly relevant to member challenges. Connect with David at dfrankil@njcul.org, 800 792-8861 ext. 106, and/or on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidfrankil.