E-mail marketing is fast becoming an integral component in the overall delivery channel mix for credit union marketers. So what’s all this buzz about, anyway? E-mail marketing is cheaper and faster …. but is it better? With the average consumer getting 110 junk e-mails per week (Source: Forrester Research 2003), the spam plague threatens to derail one of the most cost-effective means to build relationships and maximize ROI (Return-on-Investment) with your members. E-mail marketing is not just about saying you deliver text or html e-mails. Rather, it’s about opening an electronic conversation with your membership. An effective e-mail marketing strategy delivers relevant e-mail communication based on consumer needs and preferences, with a focus on expanding, retaining and maximizing member relationships. Credit union marketers who commit to building solid e-mail marketing foundations are on the way to unbridled online success. Foundations in Permission Marketing At the heart of e-mail marketing success is providing member control and permission marketing. It’s no secret that members are more likely to delete e-mail communication they aren’t expecting. So, to increase the perceived value go one step further and provide your members with a content delivery dashboard. Here’s how: Center your e-mail marketing strategy around building and delivering member value with content they pick and choose. Deliver the ultimate value proposition – member choice of content. A message announcing low auto loan rates delivered to a member who selects a content preference to receive an e-mail when auto loan rates reach 5.0% resonates a higher value than if the same message is delivered announcing rates of 6%. Member dashboard preferences could include content topics, e-mail frequency, preferred delivery time and type of e-mail preferred (text or graphic laden). Extend member control to the unsubscribe process and mirror the ease in sign-up. Every e-mail conversation should include a visible opt-out mechanism, as should your Web site. Other program foundations include: Promote e-mail list sign-up prominently on your Web site as well as across other member touch points (e.g. teller display, lobby POS, etc) Provide an online feedback mechanism and listen to the voice of your members. Ensure a quality member e-mail address list by placing a “confirm e-mail address” at all collection points. Collect more that one e-mail address. Ensure your database contains primary e-mail address and provides alternative delivery address(es) when primary address is “undeliverable” or “bounces”. Identify your credit union name in the sender address line. Members are more likely to open a message from their “trusted advisor.” Personalize your messages to your members and include the member’s name in salutation. Establish Marketing Strategy Objectives As is paramount in any successful marketing program, planning the strategy and identifying objectives with e-mail marketing is no different and critical for success. Understand Your Audience. Based on your research and what is already known about your target market, imagine a group of your best members sitting right in front of you. Create a member profile telling you key facts about your target group: age, income, where they live, work and play, presence of children, homeowners. The more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to craft the customized message that tells your target audience – they know me. Identify Goals. What does a successful e-mail marketing initiative look like? Will the primary program driver be to educate members on new products and services? Or, will the goal be an increase in online first mortgage applications? Clearly defined goals allow credit union marketers to engage credit union staff on program values and merits of e-mail marketing. Establish Metrics. Parallel to identifying program goals, establish the key metrics you’ll use to validate e-mail marketing success and ROI. Is success defined by total number of click-throughs? Completed loan applications? Closed loans? Site visits? Benchmark your member conversations and begin to monitor member responsiveness over time. Introduce Electronic Conversation to Member Open your electronic conversation with your member at the earliest opportunity and embrace the electronic conversation strategy within your entire e-mail marketing program. This conversation with your member begins after e-mail sign-up with delivery of your newsletter, customized with member selected content and welcoming the member to communicate in this forum. Extend the dialogue further with sequenced and customized messages based on member actions, member preferences or target criteria. Deliver this content timely and in a consistent tone that reinforces your credit union’s brand image. An integral component in your e-mail marketing strategy is member engagement. Clearly communicate the benefit to the member for opening the message. Develop clear and enticing subject lines to avoid spam filters while giving members a clear reason to open the e-mail. Balance brevity with clarity and provide members with compelling offers, encouraging curiosity to open. Copy within e-mail body should be short, scannable and stimulating – as images speak a thousand words – incorporate as your members’ dashboard preferences allow. Ultimate Testing Medium Part of the appeal of e-mail marketing is the ability to measure and track results instantaneously. E-mail provides the ultimate environment to test different offers, incentives, creative messages and subject lines – low cost, easily modified and ability to quickly analyze results. Testing a subject line to five target cells, selecting the cell winner, then rolling out the cell winner to target audience can be done in hours not days. Credit union marketers should maximize this environment and never stop testing, always incorporating what’s successful back into the overall marketing strategy. Embrace your e-mail strategy across your overall marketing strategy as well as across your entire organization. Begin building your e-mail database and educate your staff to ask for your members e-mail address at every member communication point, whether at new member assimilation, loan closing or transactions with tellers. Conversing with your members electronically is both economical, and opens many additional doors in expanding your one-on-one member relationships. Overall, effective e-mail marketing is all about establishing an electronic conversation with your members. And when these conversations are based on trust and value driven by member needs and preferences, you’ll be rewarded with loyal members who are maximizing their relationship with you.