Email Marketing Success Lessons From The Pandemic


By Mark Gibson

Ethe courier quickly became an unsung hero during the pandemic. Branch office availability and security protocols have changed almost daily. The rules for the government’s stimulus package have changed every week. No way of customer communication was as fast or cost effective as email. But how did bank marketers manage to deploy email, and what lasting lessons can we learn from it? Finally, for those revisiting which messaging system to use, what can they learn from their peers in terms of must-have features and pitfalls to avoid?

Most successful uses

Bank marketers have an eternal debate about sales versus service. This debate is about the optimal use of email communication. Community banks often fall on the service side, points out Jamie Conaghan, CFMP, vice president of marketing, Main Street Bank in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

“We’re a relationship bank, so our email is relationship-based,” says Conaghan. “We use it to build trust and add value to our customers. We provide useful information that they can use and benefit from. Jamie went on to say, whether it’s fraud education, notification of vacation hours, or an invitation to a virtual HR recruiting seminar, email is a very popular and effective medium.

Other community banks and larger institutions are siding with sales, such as Chad Murray, vice president of marketing at Think Mutual Bank. “Email is our second most important connection point with customers, after personal interaction,” says Murray.

“Of course, we use it for service ads, but we’ve found it to compete with direct mail for the effectiveness of offers targeted to our current customers.” He adds that the bank mixes traditional product offerings with more educational approaches such as “Five things to consider when financing your next car,” with an apply button at the bottom. Murray notes that email allows for much smaller quantities and more specific and relevant messages than any other medium, which helps build relevance and engagement with customers.

Murray also relayed an important example of service. “When we introduced our new online banking platform, email was essential,” he says. to discover. Email is so much more flexible and targeted, and its readership is comparable to direct mail.

Large banks are often fortunate to have greater internal resources to invest in service and sales programs.

“We look at every opportunity to interact with our customers, and email is a great tool for that,” says Michael Wallach, senior vice president and head of marketing and performance analysis at Atlantic Union Bank in Richmond. , Virginia.

“Whether it’s educating them about our digital options or reminding them of our full capabilities, this is an awareness maintenance game. You want to be in front of them periodically so that they think of you when they need it. He adds that the bank has found customer onboarding to be a great application for email, as you can set up campaigns to tailor processing to each person’s specific situation.

“For example, if someone signed up for mobile banking, but didn’t activate their debit card, you can personalize the message that is both more relevant and more effective.

Traps to avoid

Each of these marketers is unanimous in supporting email as an important tool, but they offered three big tips:

Contact management– The three bankers raised this as the biggest item. “You have to be careful not to clutter the inbox,” adds Murray. “Try to find the right balance between what’s most relevant to talking with your customers and the right frequency so that you don’t increase your churn rate. “

Wallach agrees and proposes the RRF principle.

“Pay attention to recency, relevance and frequency,” he says. “You want a system that can handle them so that you don’t cause customers to ignore your message or, worse yet, refuse to receive them. Wallach adds that you should try to spin the creations, take time off, and use the data to try to be as relevant as possible. “Ideally, the customer should decide on the frequency and content of your message. “

Data integrity– This is a challenge for most banks. “What is the data, is it accurate, up to date, and where is it and how do we get it into the system? Conaghan asks. “You have to have a process in place. We pull from our kernel and import into ClickRSVP and they rub it against all the previous opt out options, but we still have to deal with it.

Wallach adds, “Whatever system you use, your team is responsible for the quality of the data. “Garbage in, garbage out” is no more true than with email marketing. “

CAN-SPAM management—As with any e-mail, you want to fully understand and manage your programs to comply with CAN-SPAM. Violations can be serious and costly. This is one of the reasons why the three institutions interviewed limit their programs to customers or prospects who have chosen to receive information.

Choose the right system

The group agreed that there are three “groups” of messaging systems or service providers: low-cost software platforms, dedicated messaging service providers, and marketing automation platforms (MAPs). ). Two of our bankers used service providers and one used marketing automation.

One of the bankers used a bank specific email service provider (ClickRSVP), while another used an outsourced model (Syntropy). The advantages of this approach were: the ability to manage with a small internal staff, the ability to obtain comprehensive reports and the assurance of having a compliant solution. “We have the ability to personalize and personalize the message, and we can see who viewed and clicked,” says Conaghan.

Murray adds, “We also outsource almost all of our data, targeting, segmentation and execution work because it’s more commoditized and can be difficult to build in-house skills for the job. We focus our internal resources on brand management and creative development, where we believe the differentiation is.

When considering MAP systems, three of the best choices are Marketo, Pardot, and Hubspot. Wallach at Atlantic Union deployed Hubspot about a year ago. Its choice was guided by the simple drag-and-drop user interface, solid analytics, and the default preference center functionality. Wallach also shared that while these systems can be used by a small team, “you need to have your data house in order with a decent view of customer, product and transaction data points. And, to be successful, you need a team member who is a quantitative marketer with a straightforward response mindset.

Put it all together

Whatever type of system you use, some common lessons have emerged:

Commitment– There is no better tool (apart from in-person banking contact) to stay in touch with your customers, so be sure to invest the time and resources necessary to build an ongoing relationship and an education program.

Contact management—Make sure you have controls in place for how often you contact your customers and the relevance of the message. Otherwise, you could end up ruining a good thing, upsetting your best customers, and forcing them out.

To concentrate—A common theme of our bankers was to focus on a few specific programs or applications that were working rather than dispersing resources too thinly. Whether it’s Jamie’s education and seminars program, Chad’s predictive cross-selling program, or Mike’s “first and foremost” program, focus on what works and test selectively.

Data management– Whatever type of system you use or the size of your team, make sure that names and email addresses are correct, that preferences and unsubscribes are managed effectively, and that metrics and reports are carried out. You just can’t outsource a lot of this and need to have the knowledge and skills to do it in-house.

‘Know thyself’—When selecting a system, be realistic about your team’s capabilities and bandwidth, as well as what you really want the system to do. Otherwise, you might end up with a “Ferrari parked in the garage”.

Mark Gibson is a senior consultant atCapital performance group, a strategic consulting firm providing consulting, planning, analysis and project management services to the financial services industry. He can also be reached onLinkedIn.


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