Why Having An Email Marketing Strategy is Important For Community Banks

By Jackie Fedeli

With the increase in popularity of social media and text messaging, some may believe that email marketing is dead. But it’s not. In fact, far from it.

According to Not Another State of Marketing, 2020, 78 percent of marketers saw an increase in email engagement last year. And according to Hubspot, 73 percent of millennials, the generation that came of age using social media, say they prefer to get emails from businesses. If your bank does not have an email marketing strategy in place, you may be losing out on strengthening the relationship and lifetime value of your customers.

The purpose of sending an email is to inform and engage your customers. You want to provide them with useful information and humanize your bank. One easy way to accomplish this is through simple welcome and happy birthday emails. Marketing automation can simplify this process. You can even turn your welcome email into an onboarding series of informative emails with minimal effort.

What kind of emails should a bank send?

An onboarding series is an excellent opportunity to introduce your brand to your customers and build trust. After the initial welcome email, send your clients useful information regarding your other products and services, your blog and other ways that they can connect with you, such as social media.

In addition to an onboarding series, your financial institution might benefit from a newsletter.

This doesn’t necessarily mean your traditional newsletter should include who was elected to the board and bank promotions. A newsletter could be a quarterly compilation of your bank’s latest blog posts, a combination of blog posts and relevant news stories or related content from across the web that your customers would find helpful to their financial situations. Remember: The purpose of your communications should be to educate readers. James Robert Lay, in Banking on Digital Growth, advises financial digital marketers that their job is: “Help first, sell second.”

Don’t rule out promotional emails. Sale Cycle reported that 59 percent of respondents believe marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. If your CD rates have changed, or you are running a special promotion for a certain type of account, your existing customers should be the first to know. In fact, mention that they are getting the first opportunity to take advantage of the new promotion, giving them a feeling of exclusivity.

Personalize your emails to better inform and engage your customers

Opponents of email marketing may argue that social media is the best medium to share and promote content, but there is still many consumers who do not regularly use social media. As SEO guru Neil Patel points out: “Email has nearly three times as many user accounts as Facebook and Twitter combined.” So when your financial institution is communicating a change in operating hours, or a new blog post or press release, you’re missing out on a good portion of your customers. What’s more, Facebook’s algorithm may not show your posts to all of your followers. My best advice is to communicate via email, then amplify on social media.

During a recent SharpSpring webinar, business speaker Ann Handley said that “email is the only place where people and not algorithms decide what they see.” When we think of email personalization, the first thing we think of is the customer’s name in the subject line or body of the email. But email personalization is so much more. Customers value content more when they feel that their bank knows them or understands them. Handley suggests that email marketing should be “personal and personable.” Customers feel more engaged by relevant, rather than generic, content.

In the past year, most banks have seen online banking enrollments increase sharply. The temporary closure of branch offices due to the pandemic was a perfect opportunity to send out an email encouraging customers to sign up for online and mobile banking. Rather than send a generic email to every client, come up with a more personalized plan. Send an informative email to account holders not currently enrolled in online banking.

Explain the benefits and provide instructions on how to get started. Once customers enroll in online banking, invite them to enroll in mobile banking and provide instructions on how to download the mobile app. For customers who are enrolled, but who still receive paper statements, send them information about signing up for e-statements. You may find yourself creating more content, but to your customers, the content will be more meaningful and can lead to higher engagement rates.

Personalized email is great for relevant cross-product selling. If a customer only has a checking account, send them information about the benefits of opening a savings account, and how to get started. Consider sending CD and money market promotions to customers who only have a checking and/or basic savings account. Citizens Bank is a great example of a bank that cross-sells to clients based upon their individual status. When a checking account balance reaches a certain threshold, bankers contact account holders about savings and wealth management services. When a mortgage is close to being paid off, a banker contacts the account holder about opening a personal line of credit. Let your customers know that you are there for them even as their financial situation changes.

Maximize e-statements

Even though you may not have an email marketing strategy in place yet, your financial institution may have an existing opportunity to leverage. E-statements are the perfect opportunity to cross-promote other products and services. You’re not sending out an unsolicited promotional email but adding a promotion to a necessary communication that your customer is already expecting.

PrintMail Solutions, known for processing paper and e-statements for community banks and credit unions, has redesigned e-statements to include promotional graphics for various financial products within the e-statement. These typically appear below the customer block, below the date, on the left side, top, or bottom of the statement. As with email personalization, the images can be targeted towards the individual consumer to promote a product they may be interested in. In my experience, emails that customers are expecting to receive tend to have higher open rates than unsolicited emails. Banks should absolutely consider using their statements as a cross-selling option.

Don’t forget your commercial banking customers

In case you are wondering, email marketing strategies are not only for your personal banking customers. According to Content Marketing Institute, 81 percent of B2B marketers said email newsletters are their most used form of content marketing, while 31 percent said newsletters are the best way to nurture leads. Follow the same practices of being informative and human as you do in your emails to personal banking customers. Remember to tailor your content for that audience (commercial vs. personal products).

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digital communications.

A corner branch that customers can just walk into and ask questions is not the preferred method of communication. They won’t see the sign about your current mortgage rates or your new rewards debit card. But they don’t have to miss out on the promotions. Though the exact effects remain uncertain, the banking industry will experience a unique kind of change as a result of the coronavirus. It’s important that your financial institution stay up to date with current digital trends, especially when it comes to marketing and communications. Now, more than ever.

Jackie Fedeli is a digital strategist at BankBound, a marketing agency focused exclusively on growing local financial institutions.