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A Technologist with a Weird Marketing Baby? Kirk Drake from Credit Union 2.0 Explains

This post is part of the Expert Interview series, which showcases some of the smartest thinking in the financial services industry on issues that matter most to advisors. If you would like to suggest a speaker or topic, please email your ideas to:

Kirk DrakeKirk Drake is the author of Credit Union 2.0 (CU 2.0) and founder of a company of the same name. In 2000, the NIH Federal Credit Union hired Kirk as an IT manager; he was eventually promoted to CTO. While there, Kirk created CUCTO, a networking group for local CTOs. Kirk worked with several CUCTO members to create a Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO). In 2006, with a $1 million investment from 7 credit unions, the CUSO was formed as Ongoing Operations, LLC. Today, Ongoing Operations, LLC supports hundreds of credit unions though its disaster recovery, telecom, cyber security, and community cloud platform. Kirk also helped launch CU Wallet, a mobile wallet venture, in 2013. Simultaneously, he began to harness the power of inbound marketing to educate customers, build trust, and create leads.

In 2016, Kirk wrote Credit Union 2.0, a book designed to help credit unions compete in the digital age, which became the foundation for his company. Greg Vigrass, president of Folio Institutional, recently interviewed Kirk about CU 2.0, and how technology and marketing intersect for credit unions.

Vigrass: Kirk, let's get started by talking about your present venture, Credit Union 2.0 or CU 2.0. What does CU 2.0 do, and why did you start it?
Drake: It was really an accident. I had a vision for a book about PayPal and other FinTechs and the very material impact they were having on credit unions. The book’s goal was to get credit union management teams, boards, and CEOs to talk about how FinTechs were targeting parts of their business, and to educate them on how to tackle that from a digital experience perspective. I began doing a lot of speaking engagements, and people were asking me for help, so I started my company, CU 2.0.

CU 2.0 offers three distinct services. First, we do a lot of speaking, workshops, grassroots education, and board planning sessions. Second, we help credit unions with their inbound marketing strategies and tools, focused on creating a killer new member experience. We create member retention strategies, tools, and techniques. Everything we do is automated, repeatable, and measurable in a continuous improvement cycle and not dependent on any one human, in a process that mimics the way FinTechs think. The third bucket is working with FinTechs to connect the dots between them and credit unions, so that they understand how to partner with each other and innovate.

Vigrass: You have a very specific technology process. Can you tell us more about what that entails?
Drake: We start with a methodology that embodies what is a challenge on both the FinTech side and the credit union side: figuring out who the ideal customers are, and how to connect with them through social media and the Internet. It's a traditional inbound marketing problem, but in most cases, especially with FinTechs, it's a B-to-B problem as opposed to a B-to-C problem; most traditional inbound marketing does not consider the B-to-B world.

Our methodology starts with understanding the potential customers and the topics which interest them, in order to educate them and build trust. If you build trust and properly qualify for your pipeline, then you build sales. We use search engine optimization to figure out what content people want. Then, we record the videos from FinTechs and credit unions, use that content as blogs optimized for search engine optimization (SEO), and employ marketing automation software. We've also developed some analytics software that allows us to take individual landing pages and content pieces, track the keywords that we were targeting, and then correlate them to the leads that are being generated from that specific content. It gives you a much more robust idea of what impact content marketing is having on your organization, but also where to focus your energy and efforts to continue to optimize and improve that whole process.

Vigrass: You said that you are a technologist with a weird marketing baby. Tell me what that means.
Drake: I wrote what I thought was a technology book and people said, "This is the best marketing book I've ever read." We're in this shift to a full-blown information age where modern marketers need to understand the analytics and insights gained from digital platforms. Most of your marketing and branding efforts really occur in a social media, email marketing, or web marketing world. You can't pull off a campaign without having a certain degree of technological sophistication to correlate individual customer actions and marketing. Hyper-personalization has led to a connection between the IT and marketing worlds. Often, marketers are still trying to solve problems with traditional marketing methods and the IT department ignores the fact that marketing demands these technology components.
Vigrass: Along those lines, how do credit union technology, digital marketing, and FinTech intersect?
Drake: A lot of credit union technology is based on legacy systems that have not evolved and have very structured data. FinTechs are on the opposite end of the spectrum, where every firm is using some form of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, or Natural Language Processing (NLP). As consumer expectations evolve and FinTechs are meeting those expectations, legacy technology and functions have to move equally as fast or companies risk being left behind.
Vigrass: What trends should the audience be aware of?
Drake: One big trend is consolidation in banking and credit unions. When I started my career, we had 12,000 or 13,000 credit unions. Now we’re down to about 5,800, and my guess is that in ten years, we’ll have about 3,000 bigger organizations. A similar thing has happened in banking. At the same time, the number of FinTechs has increased significantly. We’re seeing the democratization of banking through technology.

The second trend is AI. In fact, I'm working on a book about how credit unions and banks can be ready for that shift. AI is based on new, unstructured pockets of data or insights, but banks and credit unions just have large amounts of structured data. There’s an opportunity to leverage that structured data in conjunction with AI, which will improve efficiency and service.

Want to hear more from Kirk Drake? Listen to the full interview.

Expert Interview