Personalized Marketing? Not Without Email

By Melanie Coleman 

What if I were to tell you that email marketing is more than newsletters? What if it is, in fact your way to step into personalized marketing?

Cue the record scratch. I get it. I can feel the doubt and confusion. For those of us who have been in marketing for a few years, we have seen the rise and fall of email marketing. It used to be the hot thing as emails became more ubiquitous and consumers freely shared them with businesses of all sizes.

Then, as consumers wised-up following the rise of spam, email marketing took a bit of a hit as open and click rates dropped and unsubscribes increased. The overall experience generally made marketers relegate email as a “check box” rather than an evolving strategic tool.

Rethinking the newsletter

I’m going to be bold and say that most bank newsletters are probably written by and for your internal audience. This means that various internal stakeholders (think of your department heads or c-suite) have topics they want highlighted in a newsletter because it’s important to them. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this approach.

However, if you want email marketing to be successful in 2021, you need to understand what your external audience wants. This means that instead of asking your department heads what should be included in the next monthly newsletter, you need to review your data and understand what interests that external audience. Then take it a step further.

Consumers want a personalized experience. There is a way to do this with email marketing beyond personalization tokens, such as an introduction line that reads, “Hey Melanie!” It’s no secret that generations Y and Z have much different financial goals and are at different life stages than previous generations, so why not start there? Your internal teams likely have access to the information that would allow you to segment your emails by generation or next best product (and by a whole host of other criteria), so why not leverage that and start building personalized newsletters based on customer segments that are impactful to your bank?

The benefit to this is end-users who feel heard and understood are more likely to open, click, and convert–meaning deeper share of wallet and stickier customers.


When we talk email marketing in 2021, customer onboarding is the first place we go, or at least it should be. Most institutions struggle to implement an onboarding program that is consistent, maintainable, and effective. There are so many factors at play, including bandwidth issues and lack of understanding of the importance of onboarding to forging relationships with new customers, but another one is retail and lending teams failing to capture emails. With the death of third-party cookies this year, and the increasing consumer awareness around privacy, there has never been a more imperative time to capture customer emails. It is critical to onboarding effectively, ongoing customer communications, and a safeguard to ensure marketing flexibility as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

Let’s talk tech

Yes, it is no surprise that there needs to be some system in place to send hundreds (or thousands) of emails in a secure and compliant manner. However, no two systems are exactly the same, and all come with different functionality and features. Choosing the system right for you isn’t about finding the one that is ok for right now, but rather one that sets you up for the next few years of growth. That being said, it is important to be honest with yourself as to where you are as an institution–if you don’t have anything in place, focus on manageable growth, rather than getting the latest and greatest software just to say you have it.

Ultimately, if you don’t have a centralized location for key members of every department to see your customer list and what accounts they have, it’s time to do so.

Let’s look at the breakdown of what the main categories are. These examples are not exhaustive, nor are they an endorsement, but simply a sampling of platforms to give everyone a starting place for their own research:

Email marketing software. This is exactly as it sounds and is very straightforward. These systems allow you to securely upload your email lists, segment and send as needed, usually with an easy email design tool and some standard reporting. This is perfect if you are just getting started, or if you are between systems. Examples are ConstantContact, MailChimp and Act On.

Customer relationship management. This is a platform that allows for customer, prospect and lead information to be housed and administered by users from an institution. Essentially, the ability for customer information to be securely stored and accessed. For sales teams, there is usually also the ability to do some lead scoring, add notes and activity, and generally track a prospect relationship through to conversion. Examples are Salesforce, Hubspot and Active Campaign

Marketing customer information file. Similar to a CRM, however built specifically for banks and financial institutions. Example: Onovative.

Marketing automation platform. Always used in conjunction with a CRM or MCIF, these allow for automated workflows to build out full onboarding strategies and regular newsletter segmentation. This is the most robust of the options, and one that most institutions should at least start understanding, if not actively considering. Examples are Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Marketo and Kentico

It’s easy to get excited (read: overwhelmed) by all the options and possibilities. And I did not even mention the CRMs that are also a CMS with marketing automation functionality where you can really bring everything full circle. But that’s a conversation for another day. For now, consider the following questions before embarking on finding the right system for your institution:

1. Do we have a plan for what we want to do with our email marketing campaigns and/or onboarding program?

2. Do we have the internal bandwidth–or a partner relationship–to keep up with content creation and maintenance of a new system?

3. Is the institution as a whole on the same page with our approach to email marketing?

If the answer is a resounding YES to all of these questions, then it’s time to dive in and find the right system for you! If it’s a no to any of these questions, work to align marketing goals with the goals of other departments to help get the buy-in which will be imperative to your future email success.

Melanie Coleman is the senior manager of strategy at Pannos Marketing, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, an award-winning, full-service communications firm specializing in strategic marketing, public relations, social media, e-commerce and website solutions for financial institutions. Email [email protected].