Launching an E-Newsletter

By Kate Young

How many times have you heard that “content is king”? If you’re like us, you’ve lost count. But there’s a reason why you keep hearing that drumbeat. Consumers—bombarded by information, all day every day—have learned to ignore messaging that isn’t instantly recognizable as genuinely useful or compelling. As a result, marketers have been asking whether content might replace advertising. And many banks, particularly smaller institutions, are asking how they can shore up scarce resources and do a better job playing the content game.

Chances are, your executive management has also seen the memo, and is eager to pursue a content marketing strategy. As long as it doesn’t cost too much. Or take up too much time. Or distract you from your other duties. Within that context, starting an e-newsletter might make a lot of sense.

Now for the hard reality: bank marketers who’ve been down that road agree that maintaining an e-newsletter can be very time-consuming. And costly. And distracting. To succeed, you’ll need to kick off the effort with some clear-eyed planning and careful business case analysis.

James Gibbons, president of Gibbons-Peck Marketing Communication, suggests starting with the following questions:

  • Will the target audience be prospects, new customers, business customers, high-net-worth customers, or some other group?
  • What do you want to achieve with the publication? Cross selling? Relationship building? Brand building? New customer acquisition?
  • If you are planning to use this outside of your customer base, where are you going to get the database and how are you going to qualify it?

Keep in mind that e-newsletters are not known for driving quick conversions. They’re more about building long-term relationships and making the brand a trusted source of information. But “once you’ve answered those questions,” Gibbons said, “it becomes easier to decide tactical issues, like how big, how often, and where to source content.”

Then what? Here’s some real world advice from the marketing trenches.

Identify sources of content.

Lorenda Smith, AVP of Pelham Banking Company in Pelham, Georgia notes that information about community events is a good way to engage local readers. “Just like social media, it needs a face,” she added. “I start with a letter from the president.”

For retail customers, brief and simple is better. A periodic tip or promotion, along with a curated article from a trusted source such as ABA or your state bankers association, or a contributed piece from a local business, such as a financial advisor or tax expert, is often enough.

Kristin Sundin Brandt, CFMP, of Sundin Associates in Natick, Massachusetts recommends against creating new content exclusively for newsletters. Instead, she looks at newsletters as a way to push existing content from your other marketing channels, such as website content, alerts, announcements, product launches, press releases, and event information.

If you’re short on resources, call in the cavalry.

To avoid a chronic urgency for producing fresh content, some banks enlist the help of content vendors. Even so, many banks will customize their newsletters by supplementing purchased content with bank-specific news and product information.

Just as there are many providers of paid content, there are also numerous email marketing platforms. The one you use to send out your e-newsletter may also offer a content library, so it’s worth checking on that.

Brian Reilly, a digital marketing consultant from PrintMail Solutions in Newtown, Pennsylvania adds that before selecting an email software, you should double check how it will integrate with any CRM or analytics platforms you rely on.

Don’t forget compliance.

Yes, it’s a newsletter. But it’s also an email. And even if you’re sending your e-newsletter only to existing customers, you still have to follow the rules. The CAN-SPAM Act applies to any email messages that promote a commercial product or service. The rules aren’t that complicated, and they cover basic items like including your postal address, and giving recipients an easy and efficient way to opt out of future emails. But before hitting the “send” button, make sure that someone who understands all of the requirements has reviewed the e-newsletter and found it compliant. The regulation calls for penalties up to $16,000 for each email that’s in violation. Yikes.

Send the right content to the right people.

You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you take care to send the most relevant information possible to the recipients on your mailing list. You may achieve that by segmenting your customers and customizing the messages according to their needs.

Stephanie Sullivan, marketing manager at ACCESSbank in Omaha, Nebraska notes that members of their commercial team each send out their own email, which goes to their own customers and prospects. While the bulk of the content in each newsletter is the same for everyone, the opening paragraph is written by the commercial team member and the newsletter comes from that member’s email address. “We’re big on personal relationships with our customers,” Sullivan explained. “We find that we have higher open rates because it’s coming from their commercial banker, who they trust.”

As for open rates, you’ll want to set expectations. According to May 2016 data from MailChimp, the average open rate for the business and finance industry is 21.31%.

For Brian Reilly, relevance is the most important consideration. “Sending out emails just for the sake of sending out emails,” he said, “is a great way to lose valuable subscribers in a hurry.”


Kate Young is the content editor of Email: [email protected]

A benefit to individual membership in the ABA Bank Marketing Network is the ability to converse through the ABA Bank Marketing Network Groupsite–a members-only discussion group. The thoughts expressed in this article reflect the collective wisdom of Groupsite responses to the question, “One of the things on my list is to start an eNewsletter. Could anyone give me some insight?” Join in the discussion today.