Burdened by the recession, Point West Credit Union nearly abandoned an invaluable marketing tool: its annual membership survey. “Typically, we mailed a paper survey in the third quarter, the results of which informed our marketing plan for the following year,” explains Amy Nelson, Portland, Ore.-based Point West’s COO. “But costs associated with manually compiling and managing survey responses, as well as the mailing itself, were prohibitive last year.”
Then, in October 2009, Point West ($91 million in assets) received a cold call from interactive online survey provider Fuse Insight Labs. “They wanted to enter the banking market and needed a Beta test site,” Nelson recalls. “For us, the key to participating was getting assistance with online survey design. We didn’t have the time or the resources to figure out best practices for a new medium, and Fuse agreed to show us right out of the gate.”
In return, Fuse, also headquartered in Portland, asked Point West to commit to flexibility. “Fuse warned that moving to an online, interactive feedback format would likely yield surprising results,” says Nelson. “To benefit, we’d need to be prepared to completely change direction. So as a management team, we made the commitment even though our marketing plan was already written.”
Whereas the paper questionnaires were mailed to all 12,000 members, Point West limited its first electronic survey to its savviest online members — the 2,000 individuals who opted to receive the institution’s e-mail marketing. An e-mail blast went out in mid-November 2009 with a link to the Point West-branded survey, which was hosted by Fuse. A link to the survey also was provided on the Point West website.
While paper responses typically netted about a 7 percent response, according to Nelson, the Fuse response rate was 68 percent. And instead of taking months to receive, compile and analyze the data, results were immediate. “We had higher quality data starting within 24 hours,” reports Nelson. “Plus, as Fuse had predicted, after 48 hours the statistics remained substantively unchanged for the survey’s duration.”
The results proved transformative. For example, although Point West was poised to start a blog, survey respondents resoundingly rejected it in favor of face-to-face education on long-term wealth generation and preservation topics. “We had to completely revise our 2010 marketing plan. We went from providing four seminars in 2009 to 24 for this year,” acknowledges Nelson, adding, “Many members who hadn’t been offered the online survey wanted to ensure they could participate in the next one.”
Point West credits those seminars with significantly boosting retirement instrument sales. “Our assets under management increased by 50 percent in the first half of the year, which is a pretty clear indicator that the seminars are working,” Nelson asserts.
To top it off, Point West recaptured several thousand dollars in staff time previously dedicated to managing paper surveys. “Online survey conversations can quickly, simply and cost-effectively initiate positive change,” Nelson says. “We’ll definitely be working with Fuse again.”
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio