Why It's A Mistake Not To Use E-Mail Marketing

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Today's credit unions have a critical choice to make about their futures. The choice is simply whether to be profitable, competitive and focused on the future or to be a dinosaur in this dynamic industry.

Surprisingly, many are setting themselves up for extinction for one reason: they choose not to embrace a 21st century approach to marketing themselves.

Truth is most credit unions fall far short of reaping the potential of a purely integrated marketing plan simply because they don't know how. Old ideas and outdated methodology keep them stuck in a rut. Too many credit unions are failing to consistently reach the right members with the right offers, are failing to maximize their investments and are failing to embrace new technology to better serve their members.

One of the biggest mistakes is to ignore the power and presence of e-mail marketing. Instead of welcoming this promising new marketing tool as an essential component of an aggressive, up-to-date marketing plan, many reject it. They stick to the same ol' plan that was created in different times, for different customers or members. That decision is destined to failure. While you can't re-create the wheel, you can certainly direct where it takes you.

What if you want to follow up on a mailed offer? Invite select members to a special event? Or seek referrals? Using traditional letters or phone calls aren't always the most cost efficient or practical methods. E-mail marketing is an incredibly effective and efficient resource for reaching purposeful marketing objectives.

The trouble is that too often there is an incomplete perception of marketing. Components of a marketing plan are frequently seen as if there are "channel silos" where channels are isolated from each other rather than being distinct members of a whole.

Credit unions need to take a step back to Marketing 101 to remember that all channels must be harmoniously integrated in order to maximize efforts. Each and every channel reinforces the other. Direct marketing isn't an island separate from public relations, inserts shouldn't be separated from point-of-sale. And e-mail shouldn't be isolated or ignored all together. All phases of a marketing plan should be designed to work in concert in order to achieve maximum growth. Adding e-mail to your mix is simply a way to help you do that.

The challenge credit unions face is not unique to the credit union movement. All businesses must retool in order to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world where people are saturated with messages from mail, newspapers, billboards, TV and radio. Successful credit unions must discover how to speak the language of a new generation and how to stand out in the crowd.

Today's consumers are smarter, more mobile and more discriminating when it comes to filtering marketing messages. So this new breed of customer needs a different approach. They need to be wooed with powerful and pertinent offers that speak directly to their needs. E-mail marketing is a sharp arrow in the quiver of today's strategic marketer. It shoots straight through the clutter to reach the heart of a new generation. It helps define your message and add the consistency and frequency necessary to generate a greater return on your marketing dollar.

E-mail isn't meant to be the single solution in your marketing plan or as a means to stretch your budget further, though those could be welcome benefits. Rather, e-mail marketing is a way to increase overall exposure to your message and to turn a prospective user/member of a product or service into a buyer. It's an opportunity for you to reach your members with more targeted offers, to build a stronger brand and to position your business for growth.

Still many resist accepting e-mail marketing, believing that it won't work, that members won't read it, that it's just a fad or that your board just doesn't understand it. Anyone who thinks that should prepare to be eaten alive by the competition. E-mail marketing is here to stay. And it's here for those who are absolutely committed to driving their business into the 21st century with greater profits, improved service and a more comprehensive, more focused marketing plan.

Remember the beating e-mail marketing took in the press over the past year? Keep in mind that those charges were directed at abusive practices. That doesn't dilute the importance and pervasiveness of this powerful communication tool.

But it does signal a word of caution: Credit unions that want to experience the phenomenal income-generating potential of e-mail marketing need to be careful. There are a lot of so called "computer geniuses" out there who can create sharp-looking interactive communications. And they can code HTML and can provide usage reports that outline click-through, bounce summaries and unsubscribe reports. But what most do not do is put best-practice revenue generating strategies in place for credit unions. That simply means: If you can't measure revenue generated via the channel, stop using it.

Integrating e-mail marketing into your marketing plan delivers a number of powerful benefits, including:

* Pre-communicating special offers before they arrive in the mail.

* Following up on mailed offers.

Alerting key targets to a special before the general membership.

* Previewing a PR event before it happens.

* Soliciting opinions based on actions the member is taking as part of an overall sales strategy

* Inviting select members to an event.

* Announcing business benchmarks that are meaningful to the member in instilling confidence.

* Seeking referrals from outstanding members.

* Alerting local media outlets of a new service or activity that will impact our local residence acquire or retain wealth

By now I hope you understand that e-mail marketing is the perfect complement to a comprehensive marketing plan for reaching a greater cross section of today's audience. It's here to stay and it's critical for your survival.

But if you're still one of the dinosaurs who think that e-mail marketing is just a flash in the pan, well, there's a museum that wants to talk to you.

Tony Rizzo is the president of Pinpoint Direct Marketing. He can be reached at 3017 82nd LN NE, Minneapolis, Minn. 55449, or at 866-784-7555.

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