The Letter Clinic

By George Wachtel

Direct mail campaigns are a staple for many banks’ marketing programs. So we asked financial services marketing expert George Wachtel to examine the health of some of the letters that come through. Here’s what he had to say about this one.

 Checking With a Catch

It is now a basic bank marketing principle to offer a bonus to open a new checking account, but it usually comes with some strings attached. Webster Bank (Connecticut) has a good $300 “cash bonus” offer but it may get negative responses if the client doesn’t read the fine print on the back of the letter.Webster letter

  1. Johnson’s Box – When readers open up the envelope and take out this letter, their eyes will focus on the headline in the upper right. The $300 is prominently displayed in a nice triangular design element.
  2. Graphic – Their market research must have targeted the younger generation for this product, since they use a smiling young man in the picture. (I wonder if they were sophisticated enough to vary the picture based on the gender of the recipient.)
  3. Prospect Name – Rather than just dumping the whole Name Field in the salutation, it would have been much more professional to either address it to “Dear Charles” or “Dear Mr. Gross.”
  4. Opening Paragraph – This is where you must grab the reader’s attention by answering the question “What’s in it for me?” But instead, the bank focuses on their being local (which is a good point to bring up later) and how they can “get to know you better”—not one of my top priorities.
  5. The Offer – Here’s where they get into trouble. In order for the prospect to receive the $300, they must complete one or more fairly complicated banking steps, which are explained in the small print on the back of the letter. Instead of the small asterisk, which doesn’t appear to reference anything, they should have said something like, “Complete one of your choice of banking relationship-building steps to earn your $300 bonus (see the reverse side of this letter for your options).”
  6. Call to Action – Assuming the letter has convinced the prospect to take a next step, they only offer the option of calling or coming into the branch. Why not give the prospect an email address (which is in the signature block) to use and make it more personal with a “contact me” option as well?
  7. Signer – Here, they do something right. The bank uses a variable look up table to plug in the signature, name and contact information for the local branch manager.
  8. P.S. – The traditional use of a P.S. is to add a sense of urgency. They do so here by giving an expiration date for “this limited time offer.”

Overall, this mailing piece does a good job of explaining the benefits of the checking program, but falls short on the details of the $300 bonus offer.

George Wachtel is Chairman of WordCom, Inc., a target marketing company specializing in the financial industry. Have a proposed direct mail letter you would like The Letter Clinic to evaluate? Send to [email protected].