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Guest blog: How a month-long celebration made mutuality more tangible for members

Saffron Building Society’s first-ever Members’ Month in June 2023 provided a platform to talk about mutuality to members outside of the AGM, and demonstrate the mutual difference in lots of small but meaningful ways.

Marcus Buck, Saffron Building SocietyArticle first published in Society Matters magazine.

At Saffron we’re on a journey to evolve our mutual proposition to ensure we continue to be relevant to our key stakeholders. It’s called the ‘For Years To Come’ plan, and a key pillar is to improve how we demonstrate the benefits of mutuality to our 100,000+ members across the country. 

Of course, all mutuals care about their members and want to engage them in mutuality. The problem is, it’s a slightly obscure concept to the average  consumer and very hard to communicate it in a way that really interests them. That’s why, since joining Saffron 18 months ago, I’ve focused on using consumer research to break through the barrier and make mutuality feel fresh and exciting. We’ve put in place new tools to help us get closer to what they think and feel, set up a ‘Members’ Room’ online feedback community, ran in-depth researxh groups and mined our customer data to sharpen our segmentation.

Some of the most interesting insights that emerged were around the sort of brands our members  really love. Our older and slightly more affluent membership have high affinity with organisations  that represent ‘modern British’ values like sustainability, responsibility and heritage: brands like John Lewis, M&S, the National Trust and English Heritage. Crucially, all these brands are not just about making a profit and they all run schemes that make their customers feel part of something special.  for example, M&S has their Sparks loyalty scheme that gives members personalised offers and the occasional free treat in their foodhalls, whilst English Heritage run a Members’ Week offering exclusive access to talks and events.

Once we started thinking about Saffron in comparison with other brands outside of financial services, we opened up a whole new set of ideas on how to engage and reward them for being part  of a mutual. So, inspired by the various membership schemes out there, we created our own ‘Members’ Month’ in June of this year. It was Saffron’s biggest marketing campaign to date and something completely new for us.

The month centred around the theme ‘going BIG on the little  things’, as this felt like an appropriate way to celebrate during the cost of living crisis. It also allowed us to bring together a lot of smaller acts of thanks and rewards, which added up to a bigger positive experience for our members. 

So throughout June, we offered members:

  • 9% on regular savings with our Small Saver account – the only account to beat inflation at the time
  • Free wills via our will writing partners at the Co-op
  • A daily prize draw to win £100 - with the good news delivered personally by our contact centre staff
  • Surprise & delight free chocolates to regular branch customers, sourced from a local premium   chocolatier in our home town of Saffron Walden 
  • A vote on which regional charity to support with a special donation 
  • Branch roadshows attended by our Senior Managers and Non-Executive Directors so members could ask questions outside of the usual AGM format 

Martin Bayfield at the Big Tea PartyHowever the flagship event for the entire month was the ‘BIG Members’ Tea Party’ – an exclusive invitation to afternoon tea at Down Hall in Essex (home of Great British Bakeoff). Members were treated to a completely free event with rugby legend Martin Bayfield as an entertaining guest speaker. There were no boring corporate talks, no sales pitches – just a lovely day out for our  members to enjoy. We were blown away by the response and had to host a second event to cater  for everyone who wanted to come! The feedback from members was very positive: 

“Thank you for doing this – a really lovely touch that deepens our connection to the Society.” BIG Tea Party attendee 

“Thank you for inviting us. It has made us have a warm family feeling about  Saffron Building Society.” BIG Tea Party attendee

Altogether, it was a lot of hard work that involved everyone at Saffron. But the results – and what it  represented – were outstanding. By focusing lots of events in one month, united by one theme, it  created a bigger impact than spreading everything throughout the year. It gave members the opportunity to pick and mix what they got involved with, ensuring there was something for everyone  to enjoy. It allowed us to talk about mutuality in a distinctive and engaging way. And crucially, it did not feel boring or corporate: it was focused on building warm human connections and had high production values.

Highlights include: 

  • 3.6 x more Members’ Month Loyalty Savers opened compared to similar accounts in previous years 
  • Huge uptick in website visits throughout the month of June – nearly double the highest viewed page from May
  • £3,000 given away to members
  • 75% of tea party attendees said the event exceeded their expectations and would make them  recommend Saffron to a friend or family member
  • 1,007 new members in June (up 59% on the previous month. 78.9% were national compared to local)

And perhaps most importantly, our colleagues loved the campaign; they said it made them feel  closer to members and more engaged with their work. The simple joy of calling a member to tell  them they’d won £100 or sitting next to them at the tea party for chat really helped demonstrate why working for a mutual feels different to a bank. In conclusion, we’re delighted with how our first Members’ Month went: it gave us a platform to talk about mutuality to all our members outside of the AGM, and demonstrate the mutual difference in lots of small but meaningful ways. The comments we received from members really supported this: many of them said it really stood out for them as something different compared to other financial services providers. All of this came from  thinking about other brands our members love, and taking inspiration from other sectors to create  our own celebration of mutuality.

And yes - we’re already planning Members’ Month 2024 and have lots more surprises in store for members old and new!

Find out more: Visit saffronbs.co.uk or contact Marcus Buck, Head of Marketing Product & Insight.
 

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