Harnessing The Power Of Email: 3 Strategies For Bank Marketers

[Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a series from the financial industry’s leading e-marketing experts on how banks and credit unions can maximize the email channel. You can read the first article, “Why I Never Got Your Email,” here.]

By Margie Church at Pinpoint Direct Marketing

While financial intuitions have rushed into the digital world building new apps and launching mobile websites, many have overlooked a fundamental tool in their marketing mix: email. If your financial institution still promises “we will never send you email,” it’s time to stop. All the familiar concerns — spam filters, privacy laws, phishing scams, etc. — can be tackled. Email is simply too powerful and too effective to ignore.

Email has emerged as one of the most powerful tools in the financial marketer’s arsenal, a vital component of any cross-channel marketing strategy. Here are three strategies to help you find success and confidence with email marketing.

1. Create a Solid Plan

Start every campaign with a good understanding of the offer, the target market, and the mix of channels to be used. Define how hot, warm, and cold leads will be addressed. And don’t forget to Involve client services early to avoid confusion once the promotion is launched.

Studies have shown a consumer must be exposed to a relevant message at least three times over a seven-day period in order for the message to stick. Email is one of the most cost-efficient ways to increase message frequency and reach.

Use MCIF or similar data information systems to target your message. Choose data points that identify consumers most likely to respond to targeted and timely offers. Depending on the campaign’s goals, filter your email list according to credit scores, customers with/without a particular product, those nearing the end of their term, age, marital status, or those who’ve never tried a similar service at your financial institution.

Data allows you to tailor the message and make it more personal. Here are a few examples illustrating how to personalize your emails, depending on the campaign:

  • Use the recipient’s first name in the salutation, and whenever you can in the body copy wherever it makes sense.
  • Present pre-qualified or pre-approved offers stating the amount or rate they’re personally being offered based on their credit score.
  • Show a payment example based on their actual, unique offer.
  • Provide a personalized URL (PURL) to accept the offer immediately.
  • Include a real employee’s contact name, direct-dial phone number, and branch location.
  • Use images that speak uniquely to the targeted market segment and product being promoted.
  • Tailor the copy to appeal to a particular lifestyle or circumstance. Just be cautious with this. You don’t want to overdo it, or come off as a phony.

Irritating customers with unwanted email is always a potential concern. However, as long as the bank or credit union exercises good judgment about frequency and relevance of emails, consumers’ underlying concerns should be eliminated.

2. Craft a High-Quality Message

If the email campaign is part of a wider marketing initiative, it should always match the look, feel and tone of your other materials, and reflect your financial institution’s branding guidelines. Repetition in execution aids consumer recall.

As a stand-alone communication, keep the message short and clear. Provide enough information to get the job done, and resist the desire to throw in anything that might steer the reader away from your desired response.

Above all, don’t forget the call to action. One of the biggest advantages of email marketing is having consumers affixed to either a computer or smartphone where they can take immediate action.

Whenever possible, use hyperlinks to a personalized URL (PURL) for customer responses.

How does a PURL help? A PURL is a landing page personalized with the recipient’s name and relevant information (a “Personalized URL,” or PURL). The goal of a PURL is to make it easy and seamless for recipients to say “yes” to whatever offer is being extended. The landing page seals the deal, moving warm leads (those who simply visited a web page) to hot leads (those who click the Submit/Apply button). With your online forms, keep the amount of new information you ask for to an absolute minimum. Otherwise, respondents will roll their eyes while wondering why they need to repeat things you already know (e.g., their name).

Once the Submit/Apply button is pressed, a respondent should immediately be queued with a loan officer, call center, or other service representative for follow-up.

The financial institution can access real-time reports on the number of reads on the email, submissions on the PURL, and who visited the PURL but didn’t submit. Think of these people as online shoppers who had items in their cart (they took the time to visit the PURL) but for whatever reason, didn’t press submit (buy). Deciding in advance how best to handle these warm leads can make a huge impact on converting some of them to hot leads. Prep the customer service staff with adequate information about the campaign, and instructions on how to handle every lead.

By creating relevant, timely, and personal communications, clients will recognize that your emails aren’t a waste of time, read rates will increase, and their relationship with your financial institution will strengthen.

3. Master the Mechanics

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting, and you only have a few more hurdles left to clear.

Avoiding Spam Traps. Now you have to scan your entire email to make sure you’re not using spammy language. Look at the everything including the subject line to spot words, phrases, and characters that can cause problems. “Free,” “cheap,” “pre-approved,” “sale,” “apply now,” “apply online,” and “cash” are common triggers for spam filters.

The subject line should include the bank or credit union’s name and salient topic cues. State your business. Don’t be cute. And don’t try disguising troublesome words with funky symbols or intentional misspellings — like “ca$h.” Those are big red flags for spam filters.

Over time, as your financial institution’s email IP address becomes more and more trustworthy, you’ll have to worry less and less about how potentially spammy words are used in your emails.

Images. Make the headline visible as text so the offer can be read whether graphics are downloaded or not. Unless a customer adds your financial institution’s email address to their safe sender list, images aren’t going to automatically load.

Timing. When to send the emails should be based on the offer and the target audience’s profile. Consider what time of day they’re likely to be able to respond, and give them adequate time to take action. Track and monitor response rates over time to identify day/time patterns and sleuth out what works.

Punctuation. Remember that many punctuation symbols may not be readable by all email programs. Here’s a good list from SalesNexus and another one from WordPress you can use to check your subject lines and body copy. If you want to be ultra-cautious, just stick with the basics: periods, commas, colons, quotes and apostrophes — the kind of punctuation seen in regular correspondence between two people.

Volume. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will choke your emails off if you try sending a bunch of bulk messages from a new IP address, or one that hasn’t been used often. If the recipient’s ISP doesn’t recognize your sending IP as trustworthy, a lot of the email campaign is likely to end up snagged as spam.

To address this issue, you need to break large lists into smaller batches. This will help “warm up” recipients’ ISPs to your bulk sender IP address. Email campaigns are more likely to fly under an ISP’s radar if batches are limited to under 10,000 addresses each. You can send a batch every hour or so until the list is complete. A good rule of thumb is to practice a lower send rate for at least 30 days, and then ramp up. Doing this gives receiving ISPs ample time to determine how a sending IP address is behaving.

Vendor vs. In-house. Most financial institutions choose between a full-service bulk email service provider and purchasing their own in-house platform. Those new to email marketing should definitely look for a service provider that can help in the areas specifically outlined in this article. Before contracting a service provider, be certain they’re on the recommended lists (often called white listed) for the top email providers, such as Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, etc.

Pinpoint Direct Marketing creates data-driven, electronic and print marketing campaigns for the financial industry. Its customized campaigns achieve excellent results without premium costs. Learn more about Pinpoint Direct Marketing at www.PDMKT.com.

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