The challenge to attract new members is tougher than ever as local loyalties are weakening in some areas, and the desire to come into a branch tends to sit with the older (though very important) membership segment. Younger prospects are less guided by family traditions, and more likely to use an intermediary or an aggregator.
Many people don’t understand the value and importance of mutuality, and are more likely to be interested in just the name at the top of any given comparison list. And at a time when the ‘what’s in it for me?’ drive is stronger than ever, and when we are conditioned to compare and to switch as often as possible, it is increasingly hard for BSA members to fight for attention – especially when the marketing ‘pockets’ of some of the banks seem so deep.
No business can (or even should) stay top of the rate lists for long, which creates its own pressures. But with the continued cost of living pressures, many people have more urgency than ever to hunt around for whatever looks like the best possible rate. LV’s latest Wealth & Wellness report, quoted by the AFM in October, highlights that 40% of adults are struggling financially. The cost-of-living crisis is encouraging potential customers to get eagled-eyed, in the search for any possible margin of difference. Yet in a relatively low interest environment, there may not actually be a huge difference between the rates being offered in the marketplace.
So how to stand out? And how to demand attention, even when you’re not right at the top?
There is undoubtedly much to celebrate in terms of what mutuality brings, and the whole ethos of serving ALL stakeholders. But it may not always be possible to secure attention long enough to share the message– especially for those younger generations who must be brought in and nurtured, to turn into the vital older segment that holds so many of the financial reserves. Generally speaking, mortgage customers are likely to belong to this younger demographic too. And these people are fully equipped to compare and switch, and often conditioned to look for what they perceive as the best rate right now, even if their definition of ‘best’ may be quite narrow.
I recently enjoyed reading Woodhurst’s paper ‘The Modern Mutual: What’s Your Strategy?’ Within it, I was struck by a comment from John Penberthy-Smith of The Saffron, describing the focus as acknowledging that ‘being a mutual is not an end in itself, but a means to serve its stakeholders better’. Mutual firms have it in their DNA to want to serve their stakeholders as best they can. And there is a commercial imperative too, now more than ever.
Developing the value proposition is one way to approach this challenge. Adding tangible value to members and their families, in everyday ways. Helping their money go further, and supporting their physical and mental wellbeing. This could mean savings off a weekly shop, or holidays, or buying a car. It could be eating out, keeping fit, or family trips out. It could be useful helplines (legal, counselling, IT). It could be discounts at the cinema, or 24/7 access to a GP. Savings at English Heritage, or savings for those running businesses – there’s plenty of options.
Such ideas could be aligned with member ‘personas’, and with engaging interactive tools like savings calculators; members will be able to see how to save £100s every year – in simple ways. This can make the difference between going with one option over another – and then staying with them. Benefits can be used to offer market differentiation. They can be used online alongside (for example) mortgage calculators and other marketing tools. They can be used in conversation with those who do come into the branch network. And they can make it even more worth opening an account for the minimum amount (still sometimes as low as £1).
Helping members make their money go further (at no extra cost to themselves) feels very much like a ‘mutual’ solution – and it aligns well with some of the principles of The Consumer Duty.
Prospective customers may need more than one reason to join a society, and more than one reason to stay over time – and the balance may shift between them. The list could include:
This is an easy fix, and a very timely one – given what’s going on out there for so many members and their families.
To find out more about the value-add available for your members through Parliament Hill, contact:
Andrew Holden, Managing Director, Parliament Hill Ltd
020 7710 9494