The Letter Clinic

By George Wachtel

Direct mail campaigns are a key element of 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.

Borrowing Made Easy

A staple of bank marketing is promoting the home equity line of credit as a means to help consumers get the cash they need by using their home as the source. Citizens Bank does a good job of laying out the need and next steps in this oversized personalized letter.


  1. Logo Design – They use a nice little graphic technique of the slanted logo block to both create some nice white space and draw the reader’s eye to the key message.
  2. Key Message – A stronger message to be repeated at the top of the letter would be “You’re pre-qualified to get the cash you need,” rather than “for a home equity line of credit.”
  3. Tangible Device – The key information for the consumer is condensed in this yellow box, which the prospect is encouraged to save as a “reminder.”
  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 falls into the trap of saying, “This is a great time to get to know Citizens Bank.” No, it is a great time to get the cash they need.
  5. Circle Gold – While this checking upsell will make the product people feel good, it really gets in the way of the sales flow for the equity line.       Better to have buried down at the end.
  6. The Offer – Here, they do an excellent job of succinctly stating the prime benefits of the equity line product and the “other great benefits.”
  7. Call To Action – They fall into the “we” trap in this subhead. Rather, they should create parallel construction with the one above and say something like, “Get the help you need from professionals.” And down below, they provide all the action choices the consumer could want.

Overall, this mailing piece does a good job of explaining the benefits of the equity line product and how the prospect can take advantage of their 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 online?  Send to [email protected].