A Banker’s Guide To Improve Email Marketing

Grow Financial Institution Through Email Marketing
(Last Updated On: September 16, 2023)

You have 5 seconds to think up the best medium for engaging your prospective audience. And…go!

So, what ideas came out? Bicycle courier. Ok, that’s good, if a bit limited in scale. Messenger pigeon. A brilliant idea if they weren’t extinct. Telepathic ads. I sincerely hope that’s never a thing. Text messaging. I like it! Though length is limited.

Anything else?

Email. Hey, great suggestion! I bet inboxes are quiet places just waiting for your outreach. Let’s check if others use that medium for marketing.

Oh, seems like everyone does. In fact, between personal, business, and list-type messages, the average office worker sees their inbox badge light up over 120 times a day.

A portion of those are from senders just like you, eager to earn a piece of the user’s valuable (and limited) attention.

How many messages do you receive? Does each get read? Be honest. So it seems like we’ve got some challenges to overcome. Good thing this is a Banker’s Guide to Improving Email Marketing! (Yes, that includes our Credit Union-ers as well!)

Is Email Marketing Worth It?

Thinking back to your own inbox experience, it may feel like a futile effort. Messages get forgotten, deleted, or, at best, skimmed while waiting for an “important” reply. And there’s just so many emails traveling around at any one time. In fact:

Statistic: Number of sent and received e-mails per day worldwide from 2017 to 2023 (in billions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Well that didn’t help! How will you ever convince people to open, read, and engage with your emails?

By working at it.

Email is still the best ROI by channel. With an average Return on Investment of 4400%, that’s a payback of $44 for every $1 spent.

Do I have your attention again?

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Since you’re already reading about Marketing strategies, this goes right with it. Tired of e-mails getting ignored? We put together 5 tested tips to get your e-mails read.
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Email Success Comes From Doing It Right

Just keep climbing.

That heading bears repeating: Your financial institution will find success in email marketing when you do it right.

Remember, there are a lot of businesses (including those in our own industry) which are really bad at email. You know the ones. In fact, you’ve likely unsubscribed from a list or two. Those who market effectively will find engagement while building recognition. That should be you.

Email & Inbound

Perhaps you already have an inbound marketing strategy. Email is a crucial component in that effort. The prospects you create are ready for email nurturing. And offering “gated” content from your blog lets you build that list with an interested audience. 

Plus, you can use your data, both from their site engagement and internal information, to tailor messaging for them. This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned using data to better sell, market, and operate your financial institution. It won’t be the last.

As a digital marketing solution, email is a crucial component in distinguishing yourself from the competition and maximizing visibility to account holders.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

If you’ve made it here, it’s fair to assume you already have a plan that includes, well, email. It’s ok if that plan is vague or already in motion in some way; our goal with this article is to help you get the basic tools and strategies to start or refocus your effort.

Since we brought it up, let’s take a look at that content plan!

Content Plan

Sketch of Computer and Social Media Icons

First, get our tips for building out a content strategy. You can’t send quality emails if you don’t have content to include. These can grow together. As you produce new content, share it out via your email efforts. Though to be focused, what are your goals?

Do you want your emails to educate or persuade? Drive new leads for products and services or nurture existing members and customers? Perhaps a bit of everything?

Build an email action plan, just like you did for your content, outlining your goals, audiences, and desired outcomes (ie. Someone opens an account or books a loan with your institution).

Remember, your content plan can evolve over time as you begin to see results (both in data and activity).

Sharing that content through email is more than just a weekly newsletter. There are a range of message types to keep them feeling fresh and engaging. Good thing we have an article dedicated to them!

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Email Templates and Branding Guidelines

In email metrics, looks matter. Clean, focused, and recognizable as your brand all contribute to better engagement. So does message appearance on a range of devices. That means higher open rates, CTR (click-through rate), and fewer unsubscribes.

Did you know that this can also affect deliverability? Yeah, the message may not even make it to your recipients (or just wind up in the Spam folder) due to a low “sender reputation”. And message legibility can have an effect on this important value.

Laptop Email Marketing

But how? A poorly-crafted message that is hard to read on a phone will see higher rates of unsubscribes and filing as spam. Plus, your CTRs will suffer if the people you send messages to can’t see what to click (or tap).

So make the messages look beautiful on any device by using the resources your email service offers (see next section). These are a few of the things most platforms provide:

  • Offer a library of templates for turnkey message creation
  • Ensure emails are responsive whether you use their designs or make your own
  • Provide previews for a range of device sizes and even based on email clients

Add your branding (colors, fonts, decorative elements, etc.) and make sure every message is recognizably yours in all the right ways.

Too few staff members wearing too many hats? You can always offload this work to a financial marketing agency, or, for individual tasks, find a freelancer on Upwork or Fiverr. (Disclosure: We’ve used both and had successes and failures. It’s all about finding the right person!)

Want to see some gorgeous emails? Subscribe to the Learning Library! We have some of the finest. Oh, you meant examples from a range of companies. In that case, check out Really Good Emails. Then submit your own masterpieces!

Inspired? Perfect. Now it’s time to find the service to power all this email greatness.

Email Marketing Platform

Floating Laptop with Data Coming Off Screen

You’ve put together all the types of messaging. Your team put together the copy, with marketing creating compelling and consistent graphics, subject lines, and landing pages. Branding is clear and unified. What’s next? Choose how you’ll send these messages.

No, “Outlook” isn’t an option.

You need an email service. Check with your core and LOS providers, as they may include this functionality. However, most institutions we work with just choose a dedicated provider. They do the backend work so you can focus on connecting with account holders.

Why not do it in-house? It’s a possibility, though you may find yourself pouring resources into what becomes a custom (and inferior) version of one of the providers below.

Your corporate email servers may not have the right setup or capability to match their services. Besides, your ISP (or IT team) may blacklist your IP range for spam-like behavior. From templates to design to deliverability, why reinvent the wheel?

There are a lot of commercial email providers. They’re all good. Thankfully, this will be one of the lowest costs in your COVID-accelerated digital transformation spending.

Email Service Providers

Laptop with Email Letters Flying Out
It’s their business. Literally.

Every one of these companies supports API connections to a range of services. This lets you automate to your heart’s content. From linking to your existing CRM and core to integrating website actions, there are almost countless possibilities.

For example, look at what Mailchimp’s API can offer. If you have a data analytics person or team, this is the stuff of their dreams. Even without specialized expertise, many capabilities are easy to configure.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform

A growing industry is combining these email services with a full-featured CRM. Depending on which you choose, these can manage your website (especially a blog), process automations, or connect to your sales team. Or everything in one!

CRM Phone

Consider these providers to start (or finish) your search:

This isn’t an exhaustive list, though it will help you get a feel for what’s available. I’m thinking it’s a due diligence journey starter!

Chances are, you already have a CRM at your financial institution. If not, now is the time to start looking. Consider your budget, email volume (today and projected), as well as technical needs (Biggest challenges tend to come from developing APIs to connect various systems).

A CRM that’s easy-to-use for your entire team will help you build and manage a database of contacts for email engagement. Ideally, email efforts can display alongside other account indicators, with lots of juicy analytics to measure engagement and tweak for improvement.

Our Advice

For improving your email marketing, especially if you already have a good CRM, your best path is to subscribe to an email service. Many are adding CRM functionality, so organizing and connecting data sources will only continue to get easier.

Do You Need a Custom Subdomain?

Domain Suffixes
These end a domain. We’re talking the other end.

First, let’s explain what a subdomain even is. Then, we’ll help you decide if using them makes sense for your institution. A subdomain is the part of your URL before the primary name: https://subdomain.yourcreditunion.org.

As you learned above, your email marketing effort is partially dependent on building a strong sender reputation. Some of that comes from the originating domain of your messages. In other words, the address in the From: field (or the actual domain if that’s different).

Sidenote: The world of email headers, From:, Reply-To:, On Behalf Of:, and authentication of each is a deep and dark rabbit hole. You’re welcome to journey into it. Expect to discover things like SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and, yes, custom subdomains. We won’t do that now.

Do you need a custom subdomain for sending email? Maybe. If your monthly send volume is low, or you don’t have a highly active email marketing effort, it’s not for you. We don’t do it at our company.

Benefits of Sending from Subdomain

Email sending best practices encourage using custom subdomains for your varied messaging efforts. Why? Here’s an example: If you’re sending messages to someone, which is more essential it arrives in their inbox? The promotional series or account notices?

Envelope with Pencil - Subdomains

By using custom subdomains, account emails may arrive from [email protected], marketing pieces use [email protected], and security-focused messages use [email protected].

This way, issues with deliverability or sender reputation affecting your promotional subdomain has no impact on your account security notices. In other words, the most important stuff gets to where it needs to.

Your email platform can send messages from that subdomain instead of your parent domain. Once you decide to go down this path, create separate subdomains for each category of message. Here are some ideas:

  • “Offers”: Promotional emails to existing and prospective account holders
  • “Info”: Institution updates, newsletters, and educational content
  • “Security”: Account-specific messages such as password resets, login verifications, or even details on (all-too-common) retail data breaches

The setup for this is through your web hosting company or IT team. There is some mail server and DNS work necessary to get it all working. Talk to these groups to decide if the benefits of custom subdomains are worth the time and energy required to configure it.

Along the same lines as subdomains is the account name. Sure, info is fine, but if it fits your institution, I’m all about adding some character. My favorite is a national wine store which sends all their order confirmations from “[email protected]”.

Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, among other things.

Email Isn’t Going Anywhere. Share What People Want to Read.

Woman Sitting on Floor with Laptop and Coffee

We all get a whole lot of email. A lot of it we’d rather not. Yet we continue to peek at our inboxes every time our watch, phone, or computer dings. Sometimes, there’s real value to reward our Pavlovian response. Let’s make sure your content falls into that category.

In this article, we discussed a few ways bankers like you can improve their email marketing efforts. You began with viewing some insane stats about emails, open rates, and more. Then, we connected email marketing to your inbound strategy.

From there, a content plan came into being. You understood the value of using quality email templates for branding, clarity, appearance across devices, and even deliverability.

Making that easier, you got a chance to discover some of the top email marketing and CRM services. Finally, you got the information necessary to decide (or pass along) whether to configure custom subdomains.

Whew! That’s a lot! You should feel good about what you learned. And also recognize there’s even more! We share a host of marketing guidance here on the Learning Library, and you can also browse to the wide range of resources within these articles.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I just received a new email.

Image credits: Paper charts by Lukas. Laptop on green table by karina zhukovskaya. Woman sitting by Vlada Karpovich. All from Pexels. Mountaineering by Pfüderi. Computer sketch & flying envelopes by Gerd Altmann. Floating laptop by Tayeb Mezahdia. Domains by Tumisu. Envelope by Monfocus. All from Pixabay.

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Futurist. Part-time Jedi.

Dedicated to helping your credit union, large or small, deliver mission-focused financial empowerment to your members. And make a positive impact on your community while you’re at it.