By Ray Parenteau
Email is not a standalone channel. Far from it, it touches nearly every aspect of a bank’s operation and interactions with customers and prospects. In this article, we will discuss three types of integration: operational, channel and strategic. We will also outline the different benefits realized from using an integrated approach when planning your email program.
Imagine trying to run a bank today without email? Sure, it could be done, but it would leave the bank at a severe competitive disadvantage. E-statement notifications, fraud alerts, system updates and more would run at a snail’s pace. Postal and call center costs would soar. And digital marketing would be nearly impossible.
Until recently, email in banking operations has been a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. How do you manage the email “system-of-record?” What types of messages are subject to CAN-SPAM and which are exempt? How are email addresses shared by multiple accounts handled? How do we get our important messages through without looking like phishing scams?
These are challenging questions that require vision, support and tenacity. But once the hurdles are behind, the benefits are significant. Lower costs, timely communications, and digital integration with other systems produce significant return-on-investment. One client was able to save well over $300,000 by using email rather than postal mail to deliver privacy notices. That starts adding up to real money.
Effective bank marketing requires a unified, cohesive and coordinated use of various channels. Without getting into the details of multichannel versus omnichannel, it’s clear that email plays a key role in both approaches. Multiple studies show that email is the consumer’s channel of preference for marketing communications from their financial institutions. (Actual numbers vary, but the results are similar.)
This doesn’t mean you have to lead with email all the time. In fact, we see that the most potent channel combination is direct mail plus email. Interestingly, one client learned that adding phone contact to the mix actually reduced campaign effectiveness.
Want to automate your sales process? Put together a targeted campaign—email, direct mail or search/banner advertising—and drive your prospects to a landing page that asks for an email address. Or, better yet, pre-populate the landing page with the information you already have. You probably know this as a PURL (personalized URL).
Once you have your “inbound” prospect, deliver the information needed to continue the sales process with a drip campaign. At the same time, send a prospect notification to your CRM, sales team or branch manager for follow-up. One bank did this with various website capture forms and generated 133 loan applications in 22 weeks just from that “silent salesperson.”
Email is best used for customer retention and cross-selling. One bank sent a single targeted mail to home equity prospects and generated $1.5 million in new loan volume attributable to the campaign. (No other channel was used in this case.) The key here was the targeting. If you email the wrong offer to the wrong audience at the wrong time, you will lose your recipients’ trust that you know them and that your email adds value to your relationship.
Too often, email is an afterthought of a campaign or a product strategy. As noted above, email works great with direct mail, targeted offers, search campaigns, onboarding /re-boarding and even product awareness. Your cost-per-impression is dependable and is reduced to pennies. It’s also an effective channel to communicate brand strategy and showcase community contributions and involvement.
The key to success in using email for these different strategic efforts is to have a multi-faceted program based on audience segmentation and preferences. If you try to achieve all these goals with a basic monthly newsletter, you will gain only limited traction. But you risk losing impact with “one-message-fits-all” approach.
When you start your annual marketing plan and fill in the various initiatives, ask yourself: “Can I get email with that?” We recently completed a 13-month study of email frequency and found that financial institutions that contacted their customers more than once per month had cumulative reach and engagement rates of up to three times those that mailed only monthly.
Once you have (1) a critical mass of customer email addresses, (2) repeatable, reliable processes for identifying target segments, (3) the ability to translate marketing efforts to the email spectrum, you gain a formidable tool that delivers consistent and significant return-on-investment.
This is a great time of the year to add or expand email in your marketing program. Put in the plan now, and it will quickly become your favorite channel.
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