10 Key Elements of a High-Octane Email Program for Banks

Email is an essential marketing channel for banks and credit unions. The benefits? High ROI, customer retention, cost savings on customer communications, immediacy. But getting the most of this high-performance marketing medium requires the right mix of strategy and tactics to get — and keep — your program up to speed. So how do you fuel a “high performance” email program? Here are 10 tips.
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1. Think email first. With its short lead time and flexible messaging options, email should be part of all your marketing and customer communications. While email will likely never reach 100% of your customers, it’s likely to reach a critical portion of any target audience. Reach the rest with other channels (direct mail, in-branch, call centers, in-app messaging), but count on email to lead the way to effective customer contact.

2. Segmentation. Using “batch and blast” continuously will lead to list fatigue and diminishing results. Segmentation can be achieved on a number of levels and with some readily available data attributes: product usage, business vs. consumer, high-value customer, and demographics, etc. Segmentation can help you deliver more relevant and engaging campaigns, while helping to retain your digital customer connection.

3. Automation. Deploying multiple campaigns every month can be taxing for any marketing team. Between list uploads, versioning, QC and analyzing results (for appropriate follow-up), email can consume a lot of time and effort. Automating certain processes (list feeds and updates, reporting, list hygiene, sales alerts, etc.) will leave you more time for developing strategy, identifying opportunities and understanding your email ROI.

4. Integration. This is the flip side of automation. By integrating processes around email, your entire marketing program becomes more agile and responsive to market opportunities. Onboarding is a perfect example: by integrating your new customer process with email, you can welcome, educate, survey and cross-sell your new customers with a simple (or complex) series of messages. Integration allows you to grow your program without adding complexity.

5. List hygiene / email connectivity. We know that 96% of internet users rely on email. It’s the “business class” protocol for digital identity, social media, e-commerce, billing, etc. With more financial customers using online banking products, email is a mission-critical data point for nearly every customer. And it’s worth the effort to make sure you have reliable email addresses on hand. Being to validate and recover email addresses is now a “must-have” process.

6. Analytics / Feedback. What should you say to whom and when? Answering those questions requires analytics at both ends of your marketing campaigns. Identifying best and likely prospects for a product or upsell (or any relevant message) requires sifting through data. Use your MCIF or data core data extracts to mine the gold in your customer base. Then, when you complete a campaign, be sure you can identify conversions and other results.

7. Reach / Engagement. What’s the sound of one hand clapping? Right. That’s why actually connecting with your audience is so important. Start with email reach: if you don’t have at least 50% of your customers’ email addresses, you need to focus on collecting and maintaining email addresses. If you’re not sending messages with engaging calls-to-action, you’re just one hand clapping. Measure your email engagement using views/opens, clicks, forwards and opt-outs.

8. Message sophistication. Monthly newsletters are great. But to truly leverage your email connection, you need to mix it up with relevant offers and informative, subscriber-specific content. Use profile data to create messages that resonate with your recipients. This can include branch details, demographic-appropriate imagery, and specific offers around product gaps, loyalty and life events. And, by all means, don’t send a product cross-sell to existing product users.

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9. Get Real (Time). Event – or triggered – messages deliver some of the best response and ROI metrics – 58% higher open rates and 127% higher click rates, according to Epsilon. Since they’re usually deployed in response to a customer action or a well-defined marketing opportunity, these messages not only deliver solid ROI, but they also tend to address operational or customer service issues that reflect being responsive to customer needs.

10. Strategy and Management. With all that email can do for you, it’s clearly a channel that needs to be properly managed for maximum effectiveness. It starts with integrating email into just about every aspect of your customer communication and marketing plan. If your team or marketing partners aren’t completely fluent in high performance email production and maximizing customer data, consider adding the right expertise to your marketing pit crew.


Ray Parenteau is president and founder of ClickRSVP, Inc. – email strategic partner to more than 100 financial institutions since 2001. Ray is a frequent contributor and speaker on financial email marketing.

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