Earlier this month I wrote about my experience (and privilege) of serving as one of the lead instructors at the CUES School of Strategic Marketing in Seattle a few weeks ago. I shared our experience as a class in touring the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and credit union branding lessons learned there.

Our class took another field trip to the Pike Brewing Company, a microbrewery and local food destination in downtown Seattle. Our tour guide was an entertaining and informative brand ambassador and did a terrific job learning about the credit union industry beforehand so she could make compelling comparisons between the two.

Credit unions and microbreweries? They share more in common than you may think, as I learned.

Of many similarities between credit unions and microbreweries shared by our tour guide, one in particular rises to the top-of-mind. In explaining the philosophy behind microbreweries and their competition (hopefully you’re thinking “big banks” at this point), our tour guide said (paraphrasing) “We realize as a microbrewery we’re not the right beer for everyone but we work hard at what we make to ensure we are the right beer for the right people.”

That should send a truth bolt right through the hearts and minds of everyone reading.

Often when partnering with credit unions on strategic planning, branding and member engagement training, we share a similar line, something like “your credit union can’t be all things to all people.” Our microbrewery tour guide hit the nail on the head with her words relating to the beer industry. She realized that they couldn’t and shouldn’t try to be a “big beer” like Coors or Michelob. The best bet for the microbrewery (and your credit union) is to work on a terrific combination of products/services and brand/member experience for the right people, not everyone.

This does run contrary to long-held beliefs of many tenured credit union professionals. However, we now live and work in an age where targeted, niche marketing works far better than the widely-cast net of mass advertising.

Credit unions are, in a sense, a microbrewery for financial products and services, serving certain demographic niches of people in certain areas. They can learn a lot from the microbrewery described above in not worrying so much about fighting the “big banks” and focusing more on being the very best experience they can for specifically-targeted groups of people within their greater field of membership.