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Email Best Practices for Financial Services, from Litmus Email Design Conference

Every year, email technology company Litmus hosts its Email Design Conference (#LitmusLive) where hundreds of product and marketing folks from any industry that uses email marketing (which is more than you’d think, we found out!) gather to talk everything email.
With the recent launch of Hearsay Advisor Cloud, which enables financial advisors to engage with customers and build relationships through personalized emails, we thought it would be important to learn from some of the greatest minds in email marketing. Here are three takeaways that we found particularly insightful from the Boston event:

1. Build relationships first; sell second

Email is one of the most used mediums of communication. Have you thought about all the emails a company can (and does) send? Confirmation emails, welcome emails, email newsletters, account updates and renewal emails, even those beloved “forgot password” emails … Each becomes a customer touchpoint that communicates intent, which you can use at face value, or you can treat as an opportunity to build trust, to create and deepen a customer relationship, to invite your emails to a customer’s primary inbox, and to ultimately lead to conversions.
A presenter at the conference told the story of two companies that sold the same product. Company A sent generic emails that focused on selling its product and why she had to buy it. Company B sent emails that were more thoughtful and informative, focusing on ways to help her enhance her life and wellbeing. Its product may have been better, equal or worse, but she chose to buy from Company B because it was more personalized. This is one example of using email to build customer relationships.

2. Go beyond email open and click-through rates

Vicky Ge, Amazon product manager, talks about implicit and explicit customer signals
Vicky Ge, Product Manager, talks about implicit and explicit customer signals

One of the greatest benefits of email is the ability to capture engagement metrics. As email senders, you want to know how your emails performed and whether they contributed directly to more sales. As one presenter said, as customers, we signify we are happy by opening, clicking, retweeting and ultimately buying.
There are certain baseline metrics that every email marketing tool (including Hearsay Advisor Cloud) will help you track – whether emails were delivered, opened, link clicked, bounced or classified as spam. However, optimizing email metrics without broader customer context can be akin to missing the forest for the trees.
Instead of focusing solely on email marketing metrics, one presenter suggested taking a more customer-centric approach, as well as using data from more channels. If you’ve used email marketing tools, most dashboards are set up to tell you how “successful” an email campaign was, but doesn’t tell you who your customers are, what their engagement with your campaign actually means, and what you should do next. Customers are human, and humans are complex. Adding customer engagement data not just from more channels, but also with more context and dimensions, can lead to better insights.
One very successful retailer, Company C, redesigned its dashboards to focus more on understanding its customer by doing three things:

  • Segmenting customers – demographics, roles, interests, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value), a combination of the above
  • Understanding motivations and intents – What value does this add for a customer? What problem does this solve for the customer? What are they trying to accomplish with this purchase?
  • Identifying signals and patterns (not just from email but ALL channels) – positive versus negative engagement (e.g., opened and clicked versus opened and unsubscribed), explicit versus implicit signals (e.g., filled out a form on a website and clicked on the follow-up email versus filled out form and never opened the email)

3. What this means for financial services

In the financial services industry, financial advisors and agents rely on this concept of “relationship selling,” where a sale is the result of numerous personalized touchpoints and a deep understanding of a customer’s unique needs.
Before, an advisor can accomplish this more easily because the primary method of communication was face-to-face or over the phone, where an advisor can pick up on subtle visual and verbal cues. But these days, customers increasingly prefer to interact digitally. These cues have been replaced by digital cues expressed through the way they interact with email, social, a website and more.
The firms that will succeed must achieve what Company B did, and then to measure and repeat like Company C.
For more, read Litmus’ own recap of its Boston Email Design Conference.

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