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Silly Marketers – Tricks are for Kids

trixrabbit1Sometimes marketing pieces catch my attention and create thought. I look at the message, call to action, and design elements of the marketing. I consider the effectiveness of the piece in my life and think about how it might be received by others as well.  In an effective marketer’s toolbox of tricks is the ability to create a perceived need for their products and services. But can we take back the prize from the rabbit or will we fall to seduction of the message?

Is data driven marketing like the creeper?

People like messages that are relevant to them. Someone once said to me, “If it can help my life then good, otherwise don’t waste my time.”  But is it a little creepy to think about how much the marketer knows about us? My wife and daughter comment all the time about online ads that show products they searched for a couple of days ago. They call it big brother. I call it big cookie.

A couple of examples of marketing in my life this week:

#1 – Acura Vehicle Buy Back

I received a letter via postal mail from the “Acura Vehicle Acquisition Department” this week. They’ve been after me for several years because they want me to trade-in my 2004 Acura for a newer model at a local dealership. What they know about me is that I purchased a 2004 model Acura from them as a pre-owned vehicle in 2007. I suspect, but I’m not sure, that they know I still own the car. (probably by-way of some public data record source on the vehicle VIN)  The letter uses variable elements of my name, the year/model of the car, thee closest Acura dealer to my home, and the sales manager’s name at the dealer.

This form of marketing at least takes an educated guess that I may be in the market for another car since the one I have is ten years old. But it ends there. The call-to-action and marketing offer say they’ll keep my payments the same on a newer vehicle on their lot. That of course would be a neat trick since I’ve owned the car for years.  Can they match $0 monthly payment?

I should also mention that I love the car. It’s been such a good fit for me that even at 10 years old and 145K miles I still love it! There’s a teenager in my life that will need a car soon. What should I do?? 🙂

#2 – Dollar Shave Club

A few weeks ago I wrote about subscribing to the Dollar Shave Club. It’s time for my first monthly supply order and I received an email from the company this week with notification. I was thoroughly impressed with the email. They informed me the date of my shipment, the contents of the shipment, and offered to put additional related products in the package if I notified them before it shipped.

Dollar Shave Club Reminder

That email is a great case study in both marketing and customer service. I like the cross sell for additional products with both product photo and price. The call-to-action is very clear with the big button for purchase. How easy could it be?

Certainly I’m aware that the company’s “shaving butter” is higher priced than my existing shaving creme. But the product does work differently from the creme and maybe I would pay a little extra not to have to pick it up at the store.

Thinking about the marketer behind this email I see several advantages they have. They use my  customer profile to establish the base of the message. (What I’ve ordered in the past and when the next supply ships.) But now, they are also starting to collect more data on my usage and interests. They know I opened the email. They know when I opened the email. They’ll track to see if I order any of the complementary shaving products and could use that for future offers.

Should we help the marketers?

The upside to helping the marketers is that gives them opportunity to craft more personal and relevant messages for us. The downside is that it requires sharing what many consider private information. So who wins the trick?

Email delivery isn’t guaranteed

A recent service incident with email provided a reminder to me that email delivery is not guaranteed for message delivery. In the incident, the sender was using email to deliver a specific 1-to-1 message. It was not a marketing campaign. Since the distribution list was large, they chose to send the emails in batch through a provider. The problem was that some of the recipients never received the email message even though the ESP stats showed 100% delivery rate.

Photo credit: Dimitrios Kaisaris

Photo credit: Dimitrios Kaisaris

There are multiple factors that affect email delivery and some of them are out of the control of the sender. The sender can control attributes such as subject and message content but they can’t completely control what happens after the email is handed to an ESP on behalf of the recipient. From that point there are spam/bulk mail rules at the ESP as well as personalized mailbox rules for the recipient that affect the message delivery.

By chance, I was registering for Peachtree Road Race (10K) which requires a lottery for registration. I noticed the following statement on their explanation of how runners would be notified of the lottery results.

All individuals within the “Group” will be informed of their selection into the 2013 Peachtree by March 25 via email or through the searchable results on peachtreeroadrace.org and ajc.com/peachtree.

Email is efficient, fast, and low cost. But email delivery is not guaranteed. So when we use email to deliver specific B2C or B2B messages that require some type of acknowledgement, it’s a good idea to augment the message with another form of message delivery such as a postal mail piece or electronic posting on a web site.

Guest Blog Series: SubscriberMail – Email Marketing Caveats

This is the third of three guest posts from the team at SubscriberMail on the topic of financial institutions using email to reach account holders.

Part 3 – Email Marketing Caveats

Be aware of compliance concerns

The “CAN SPAM Act” governs commercial email, exempting emails that are transactional.  When is an email not considered a “commercial” email?  You could apply the old “if it looks, sounds, walks like a duck” rule here.  If your recipients think it’s a commercial message (to them)-it’s a commercial message. Think of it this way: a truly transactional message should facilitate/complete/confirm a transaction, provide warranty, product recall, safety or security information, or notify recipients concerning a subscription, membership, or account.
Financial institutions (FIs) engaged in permission-only email marketing while using best practices don’t have to worry.  You (and your ESP) will review your layout, copy, graphics and subject line with an objective eye before ever deploying a campaign.  Would a recipient “reasonably” interpret the subject line as commercial (i.e. trying to sell something)?  Does the body of the email have more commercial than transactional copy/images?  Is the transactional message positioned after the commercial material?

Focus on segmentation not “blasting”

The best thing an FI can do when managing an email program is to structure the emails around the recipients.  Abandon the notion of sending “blasts” (common in direct mail and email) as much as possible.  Instead, you should be sending targeted, segmented and personalized marketing messages that will yield more profitable results. MarketingSherpa notes that open rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are as much as 20% higher on average for the first 30 days of a campaign.
FIs should work with their ESP to develop a “preference center” on a landing page to allow subscribers to tell you their interests.  When you are segmenting based on known behavioral data (such as clicks, opens, non-clicks, non-opens, and recency and frequency of actions), and sending relative content personalized to the recipient (at their preferred frequency), you will see improved core metrics across the board.  Financial institutions have some of the greatest opportunities for segmentation already in their databases:  geographic data (based on ZIP Code), demographic data such as age, gender, income level, responsiveness, etc. and, best of all, habitual behavioral data.

Risks of mismanaging email efforts

Email is also about managing your risks.  Email marketing done haphazardly or incorrectly can lead to blacklisting, angry customers and prospects, poor delivery, brand/reputation damage and decreased revenues.  Your ESP should work with you to ensure your email is delivered and should help you manage all of the risks from start to finish.  If they’re not, find one who will.


Email marketing is here to stay and will provide financial institutions with invaluable metrics and efficient incremental revenue gains.  Work with an ESP like SubscriberMail (a Harland Clarke company) to discuss how best to get started today!
Disclosure and legal obligation: I am currently employed by Harland Clarke, the parent company of SubscriberMail. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Guest Blog Series: SubscriberMail – Email Marketing Benefits

This is the second of three guest posts from the team at SubscriberMail on the topic of financial institutions using email to reach account holders.

Part 2 – Email Marketing Benefits

It’s one of the most cost-effective marketing methods

According to the DMA, email ROI in 2009 was $43.62 for every dollar spent.  So whether you’re sending customers new promotions, providing them with information to enhance the relationship or cross selling/up selling, email is highly efficient and has a distinct advantage over other marketing efforts.  For comparison, Internet search marketing is second to email with a $21.85 return for every dollar spent, non-catalog direct marketing $15.22, and catalogs $7.32.

You’ll have real-time, in-depth metrics for each campaign

Looking beyond the revenue benefits, email also provides some of the best measurable metrics for any marketing effort including delivery, opens, clicks, conversions (when tied to web analytics data), bounces and unsubscribe requests.  Best of all, your ESP will be able to provide these as they are occurring!  You’ll instantly see (and can adapt) to the actions of your individual recipients.  But email by no means has to operate in a vacuum (and it shouldn’t).

It’s compatible with and complements your DM, TM and Social Media Marketing

Your ESP will work with you to integrate email with your other marketing efforts as part of an ongoing conversation with your database.  With the growth of social media, email has become a launch pad for a deeper conversation. Used strategically, email marketing works in tandem with your existing telemarketing, direct mail, social media, and mobile marketing efforts.  A topic in an email can create a secondary reaction in the social atmosphere, complementing the initial results well beyond your email.  An email follow up to your DM effort can extend the life of your DM offer, provide the lift in response you hoped to achieve and easily help cost justify its use.
The rise of social media has led many to ask “Is email dead?”  The short answer is no.  Email is the original opt-in tactic; social and mobile are newcomers.  Email, in tandem with other marketing tactics, increases engagement, delivers relevant content, helps build your contact databases and delivers incremental results at a lower cost than you otherwise would have realized.

Part of your green initiative

If you are looking to pursue a “green” image, email contributes to your environmental compliance and profile.  Some consumers may be more interested in working with companies that pay attention to the things that are important to them such as being “green.”  Accommodating these consumers with email may enhance their perception of you while also allowing you to engage them in a relevant dialogue.
Disclosure and legal obligation: I am currently employed by Harland Clarke, the parent company of SubscriberMail. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Guest Blog Series: SubscriberMail – Email Marketing – Why now?

I’m delighted to have the team at SubscriberMail provide three guest blog posts on the topic of financial institution email recommendations. SubscriberMail is an email marketing service provider with a toolbox that includes a patented multi-channel email platform, strategic consulting services, email template design, and a fully managed service offering. These guys are experts in email marketing and distribution. Simply put, it’s what they do.

Identity theft, fraud, security violations, phishing, etc. are commons terms used by the media and security advocate organizations. So how does a financial institution use email to legitimately and safely communicate with account holders and subscribers? That’s what I asked the experts SubscriberMail.


Part 1 – Email Marketing – Why now?

Financial Institutions are starting to embrace email marketing. Many FIs have been “email gun shy” and focused on telemarketing and direct mail as their main marketing channels. The “unknowns” of email and the fear of being filtered due to “phishing” concerns, has kept many FIs out of this arena. However, there’s never been a better time to jump in and get going. The continued high usage of email by customers (in particular on smart-phones) combined with the support of a reputable Email Service Provider will enable an FI to realize strong ROI for their email marketing efforts.

It’s important to remember that email marketing isn’t just about sending an email. Email marketing is a complex set of strategies, tactics and technology that drives communication, buzz and revenue. It allows you to connect with your customers and have the opportunity to communicate with them on a 1-to-1 level. It’s also important to note that your other marketing efforts have different rules and what works (and doesn’t) for them may not apply directly to email campaigns.

When you engage your recipients (and don’t just talk at them) you move the dialogue from a one-way communication model to a real conversation. Email creates the opportunity to build and grow your relationships with your clients, and should be mutually beneficial for both parties. For a marketer, email provides the opportunity to expand your relationship by cross-selling or up-selling existing customers (for example: people who have recently signed up for a checking account, are good candidates for an additional checking account, savings account, credit card, loan, CD, etc.).

For the customer, email provides a familiar, reliable way to receive the FI’s information. If emails are sent at the start of the relationship, it provides a sense of inclusion to the customer. Each email provides the opportunity for learning something new (FAQs and tips/tricks) and taking advantage of new opportunities and deals. Including key links in emails to website pages provides easy access to commonly used services and information. This helps foster customers knowledge and familiarity with their options and makes navigation as easy as a click.

What to ask before you begin

Email marketing comes down to asking some key questions:

  • Do I even have any email addresses?
  • How do I go about growing the database?
  • Am I in compliance with regulatory statutes, CAN SPAM compliance and branding?
  • Am I in compliance with email best practices?
  • What am I going to communicate?
  • How do I know if my messages are being delivered?

Your dedicated Email Service Provider (ESP) will work with you to go through each of these (and more) during the initial discussions about your program. This is a critical phase in the process that ensures everyone involved fully understands the starting situation and keeps the partnership focused.


Disclosure and legal obligation: I am currently employed by Harland Clarke, the parent company of SubscriberMail. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.