7 Email Marketing Best Practices to Live by in 2021

Email marketing is here to stay

The very first email marketing campaign was sent to 400 people by Digital Equipment Corp in 1978, according to Forbes. Today, there are over 3.8 billion email users – that’s over half the world’s population. Although many different channels (digital, social media, and mobile) have emerged as new ways to reach customers, email has remained a popular and powerful way to market.

If you’re not already utilizing email marketing, we urge you to get started! If you have been struggling to see results or are stuck in a vicious data dilemma, this article is for you.

Consumers are bombarded by emails every day with every brand vying for your customer’s attention making it easy for your message to be lost in an inbox. Just like with direct mail, standing out gets consumers to read your message. It’s becoming clear that these brands – including financial institutions – can no longer send non-targeted or impersonal emails to just anyone they have an address for. To find success in email marketing, financial institutions must follow best practices laid out by years and years of email progression.

Benefits of email marketing

With its low cost, quick reach, and efficiency, email continues to be a go-to marketing channel. Those are just a few of the many benefits to email marketing that should encourage you not to give up on it, even if you might be hitting some roadblocks.

With email marketing you get the opportunity to reach people who want to hear from you. Everyone is privacy conscious, so the last thing you want to do is blast your customers with generic messages that will ultimately disconnect you. If you build quality content and encourage email opt-in, customers will be more trusting of the messages you send them. Opted-in contacts want to hear from you, so you can even throw a little self-promotion into your communications.

Barriers to better email marketing

Financial institutions usually use the email data stored in their core system for marketing campaigns, and customer’s email addresses are rarely updated in the core after they first open an account.

The lack of correct customer email addresses is a huge obstacle and hinders email marketing efforts for financial institutions. One of our studies revealed that an average financial institution has only 45% of their customer’s email addresses on file in their core system. 12% of these addresses were undeliverable, which left valid email addresses of around 33%. Additionally, 20% of people in the US change their email addresses every year, so even the 33% valid email addresses need to be verified and updated frequently.

Spamming and sender reputation is another barrier that makes email marketing complicated. If you blast generic emails to everyone you have an address for, you’ll be marked as a spammer and your message won’t make it to many inboxes.

Your sender reputation score is more important than ever – the higher your score, the more emails will be successfully delivered to an inbox and not a spam folder. Your sender score is determined by the quality of your contacts, how they engage, and the quality of content inside your emails. Email networks and service providers assign these scores by checking how frequently people unsubscribe from your list or if you have been reported as spam

With such crucial data problems, financial institutions end up wasting a lot of resources on a practice everyone knows is valuable, but without seeing many positive results. Email is a valuable channel – don’t give up on it because of your data problems.

These 7crucial email marketing best practices help financial institutions produce dynamic email campaigns, save resources, and see a greater return. Successful email marketing is possible for community financial institutions if these best practices are kept in mind:

    1. Find the best email addresses

While email addresses exist in core systems, they are often outdated. Even if a customer uses digital services, the associated email address may not be in the core. You need to be able to leverage them from multiple systems like core, mobile, and bill pay. You’ll need to look at when each email address was added to determine the one to use. Be sure to check with your compliance team before using email addresses from digital applications.

2. Verify email addresses

Managing your email list on a continual basis is essential to email marketing – one of the best ways to achieve this is by email validation. Older approaches to this attempted to validate email addresses by connecting them to mailbox providers until receiving a response, and then breaking that connection. Providers have gotten much smarter about this, and now this approach doesn’t detect spam traps.

Modern email validation uses advanced technologies like machine learning to reduce your bounce rate and perform better with mailbox providers. Always validate email addresses before sending out email marketing campaigns.

Tip: Make sure to check with your compliance department to see what privacy regulations you must follow with email addresses, opt-ins, and unsubscribes.

    1. Don’t email to a purchased list

Do not make the mistake of buying email lists to market to. You can’t buy an email list and blast emails to those contacts – it’s against privacy laws. Don’t waste your money on lists of people that never signed up for your emails, or you will be blocked, reported, and that will negatively affect your sender reputation. Luckily, you can earn trust organically through traditional methods of marketing and harvest email addresses through customer interest.

    1. Target your campaigns

It’s time to go beyond list segmentation. Targeting uses your customer data to analyze which of your customers need certain products and services so your campaigns can be catered to individual needs. The goal is to make your email lists as fine-grained as possible, so your message is as relevant as possible. For example, targeting can assign a score reflecting which customers are most likely to accept a debit card offer or use mobile banking.

Targeting helps you gain trust. It’s not the typical cross-sell because you are offering guidance for something they would actually use. When providing this value, customers will appreciate that you understand their needs.

    1. Personalize your message

Personalized emails perform better, especially when coupled with targeted offers. Luckily, you can use your customer data to make the message more personal. A message relevant to the customer is essential to keeping them engaged and maintaining their trust. It also adds value to communications and is less annoying than traditional mass marketing. Always make sure your email serves a purpose, like relaying need-to-know information, valuable content, or incentives.

    1. Use a compelling offer

In marketing, a call to action (or CTA) tells the customer the action you want them to take and how they can take it. But it is important to give them some incentive to take that action – this is where your offer comes in. Even the best copy and creative can’t fix bad offers, so the offer needs to be competitive and compelling if you want them to take action. If you use targeting effectively, you can offer something your data tells you the customer would use. Then, the customer is much more likely to take action and accept the offer.

    1. Demonstrate empathy and authenticity

Everyone has heard a lot in 2020 about practicing authenticity and empathy in your marketing communications. While this may be hard to achieve, it is true and effective to build your message accordingly.

The financial industry has seen firsthand how crisis affects people’s financial lives. Finances are stressful, and customers need to know their bank understands what they are going through. Genuine concern and care for your customers in times like these will go a long way. They won’t forget how you did your best to help them overcome 2020’s obstacles.

How do you know if your email activity generated the desired result?

While it is easy to measure email opens and clicks, it’s much harder to attribute real results to your email campaign. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who opened your email – what you really need to know is who took the desired action you promoted.

For example, you can create an email campaign with the goal of promoting debit card usage, but you need to know whether or not that actually happened. Most email engines can show you that an email was opened, or a link was clicked, but can’t tell you if a customer started to use their debit card more frequently. You need to connect data from transactional systems to the list of people that opened or clicked the email.

How can you increase your email reach among customers?

Remember that statistic about only having 33% of your customer’s valid email address? There are ways to increase the number of valid addresses so you can broaden your reach within your customer base:

Tip 1: Promote services that require an email address and encourage email use. Things like E-statements, online banking, bill pay, and mobile help to gather email addresses from the start. To promote these, you need to be able to reach these customers through other channels like direct mail or calls from bankers.

Tip 2: Generate tasks for bankers or back-office staff to harvest email addresses. Just a quick check-in call can help you gather or update current email addresses. You can focus on customers that have invalid email addresses to fill in the gaps.

It’s time for better email marketing

It’s time to stop letting the data dilemma keep you from success and put your email address list to use. By following these best practices, your financial institution is on its way to efficient, inexpensive, and dynamic email marketing that shows your customers that you understand their needs.

Ready for better email marketing?

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