Can The Spam: How To Make Use Of E-Mail Marketing

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E-mail marketing has great potential for marketing to both sponsor groups and members, but credit union efforts are little better than Spam, according to one expert.

Speaking to The Credit Union Journal's SEG & Business Development Conference, Tony Rizzo, president of Pinpoint Direct Marketing in Minnesota shared "Four keys to Winning Business Development-Including E-Marketing."

Rizzo, who is also chairman of Anoka Hennepin Credit Union, said that when credit union e-mail marketing efforts fail it is because there are "too many e-mails, not enough content. There is no synergy from the business development angle."

The first step to building an account-based communications program using e-mail is to identify the key audiences, noted Rizzo. The key drivers: SEGs, community, dealer networks, small businesses and internal staff. Under each he recommended identifying some key points regarding what each wants. In the case of SEGs, for instance, it's keeping staff.

In the community, it's keeping informed. Dealer networks want to make money. Internally, people want to keep jobs, and small businesses want to keep growing.

Once a credit union has identified what the small business owner or the HR rep wants, it must be linked with what the credit union can provide, said Rizzo. By sharing that information within the credit union with all departments it becomes much more powerful, he said.

As an example, he said SEGs that want to retain their best and brightest employees can be provided education and on-site orientation. The credit union can even offer to do strategic planning at the HR level to help that business grow.

"With small business, what can you bring to the table that helps the owner?" asked Rizzo. "It could be information about wealth management, the retention of wealth, the transfer of wealth. They're interested in that, and then they transfer that interest in the credit union to others within the company."

With the dealer network, Rizzo suggested profiling the top-performers and highlighting that information for all.

"You have to appeal to that end-user about what their needs are," he suggested.

In assembling content, Rizzo recommended preparing copy from each market's point of view and keeping a file segmented by audience that is filled up between isssues, rather than waiting one week out and scrambling for content. Soliciting information from all parties not only lightens the load, it spreads the appeal of participating, he said.

But why e-mail? It's highly targeted, pointed out Rizzo. It's interactive, it's template creative, and "most important, it's the best channel to easily track and measure activity.

By the way, Rizzo said, the "from line" in an e-mail is the most compelling factor in opening a message.

Rizzo offered the following trends in e-mail; the open rate is 41%; the click-through rate is l6.9%; Tuesdays are the best day to send e-mail; the bounce rate is 19%, and messages sent in HTM have a response rate 40% higher than just text.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in e-mail marketing is getting the e-mail address, pointed out Rizzo. "It has to be an ongoing process. My preference is to ask as you go. Another way is to take two days and have a campaign phone blitz."

Rizzo said another option is to solicit e-mails, which he said he doesn't prefer because it isn't effective. Another mistake, he said, is to wait until a "critical mass" of e-mail addresses is assembled, as many e-mail addresses will have gone bad by then.

Permission Mechanics

When it comes to sending e-mails, Rizzo recommended letting the various audiences know what will be sent and how often, and to remind them why they're receiving ig.

"Give them the ability to edit," he said. "Let them change the e-mail address or even unsubscribe." He reminded that e-mail marketing pieces should include a link to the corporate privacy policy, a list of contact information, and that all "unsubscribes" should be handled within 72 hours.

Rizzo said that unsubscribe rates should be less than one-half of 1%. "If it's higher, the credit union needs to ask itself if the information is really relevant," he said.

But how does a credit union ensure the message is relevant?

"You need to be interesting," he reminded. "Use surveys to find out the relevance of your content, frequency and distribution."

Rizzo said he recommends a credit union send e-mails on a monthly basis. Anything more frequent is viewed as annoying or being Spam, he said.

Copy should be kept short in most cases, said Rizzo. The text should be read by a skeptic who asks "so what" so that you have to prove value.

He also recommended using white space. "You should have very few images," said Rizzo.

The e-mail should be interactive, and it must leverage the credit union's brand, he added.

"Your e-mail should contain the ability to interact with your branch. E-mail, call me, refer a co-worker" are some examples he provided.

"You should also have auto-responders that reply and close that communications channel," said Rizzo, adding that there should also be a link to corporate content.

E-Mail Marketing Tips

First, a message that informs the recipient that if they're having trouble seeing the message, click here. The subject line should create a sense of urgency.

The key, he said, is to be consistent in the appearance with the credit union's logo, publication title, etc. Other consistent elements are an events contact, media coverage, etc.

"You might have thought this was going to be really complicated or complex, but here's what you have to do," said Rizzo, who showed his audience examples. "It's a one-page newsletter that's very simple and very direct and appeals directly to the audience."

"Before you launch, you have to define your workflow," said Rizzo. "If you are sending out an e-mail to an editor and you list a contact person, you've got to make sure the contact person knows about it. No one wants to look stupid."

He called for checking all links, and testing the message first on different platforms (such as a Macintosh).

He urged it be distributed first internally in order to get feedback before launching.

Check responses in three days and one week, he said (80% of responses are in three days), "You'll find these have shelf-life. You'll find people gong back into the publication months later if you've targeted right."

Follow up on non-responders and unsubscribes. "If you send it out three, four or five times and Tom never reads it, you need to call Tom."

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