While email has been around long enough that it has achieved relative maturity as a marketing channel, with proven best practices and countless technologies and tools that allow marketers to build and test every aspect of email marketing campaigns, it’s time to rethink our approach.
As marketers are becoming better and better at the “best practices” of email marketing, consumers are becoming smarter, too.
That’s why as a financial advisor and relationship manager, you have a choice for your approach to email: You can spend countless hours and dollars trying to get your emails to stand out from the hundreds of high-quality, marketing-driven emails your clients receive daily, or you can take another approach.
How many emails does your personal inbox receive a day? Many of us get 100-plus emails daily. According to Email Marketing Reports, there are an estimated 247 billion emails sent every day. According to MarketingSherpa, 72% of American adults indicate a preference for companies to communicate with them via email – but we need to do it better.
Here are six tips for changing the way you use email in order to get through to consumers and truly strengthen client relationships.
1. Make It Personal
The first thing you have to rethink in order to effectively use email to build stronger relationships is newsletters. As email technology became more accessible, most advisors and agents were advised to build email newsletter programs, much like the direct-mailers of yesteryear. (In fact, it’s even cheaper than traditional mail, because it often costs nothing to add another email address to the distribution list.)
In contrast, emails that truly strengthen relationships feel more like handwritten cards than newsletters. Personalization starts with a name – always address the recipient – but really hinges on content. The most effective emails mention something personal, such as “nice to see you last week” or “this reminded me of your daughter,” and include relevant content to the recipient.
One way to think about it: Would you send the same email to a friend? If not, think twice.
Personalization isn’t just about fitting the content to the recipient; your recipient also wants to know that they’re receiving emails from a person. Sending emails from an individual’s email address – firstname.lastname@example.org, for example – instead of from a generic company account is the first step. Email signatures are another great opportunity to make a note feel personal, so be sure to include a signature with your contact information.
2. Use Email to Leverage Content
Does your company have a blog or publish articles that promote your products and services? Sure, your clients may be seeing those through social media or other online channels, but you can get even more mileage from your content by leveraging it through email as well.
An effective email program expands the visibility and, therefore, effectiveness of the content you already have at your fingertips. They key is using your relationship and client knowledge to get the right content, to the right person, at the right time. For example, if you ran into a client at the grocery store and he mentioned how expensive food prices are becoming, you might want to use email to pass along an article on tips for saving money on everyday grocery essentials.
3. Use Offline Intel to Inform Timing
Most corporate-driven email marketing programs don’t take into account everything advisors know about their clients. But, with a more targeted, personal approach to email, you can use your client knowledge to inform timing and content of emails. Effective emails should communicate value based on what is going on in your client’s life and factor in your business relationship as well.
Is your client’s insurance policy up for renewal? Better to reach out now rather than wait until the day before. Did you hear that your client recently had a new baby? This would be a good opportunity to reach out with college-savings related content – maybe just wait a few weeks for the dust to settle to ensure they’ll have time to read it and reply.
Frequency is also an essential part of a successful email program. It’s important to balance enough touch points to stay top-of-mind, but limit the number of emails so that it doesn’t start to feel like spam.
4. Include a Clear Call to Action
A call to action (CTA) is imperative in any email marketing campaign and is an important part of your relationship-building email strategy as well. Since the goal of your emails are to engage with clients and deepen relationships, the CTA may not be as explicit as a marketing email that says “sign up here.” Think of the CTA as your goal action for the email recipient. Do you want them to read an article? To reply with their thoughts? Set up an appointment to discuss? The clearer your goals, the more likely the recipient will take action.
We often skim an email or just read the first paragraph, so if you want the reader to take an action, make it easy for them to find by including it in the first few lines. Sometimes, you can even include the CTA in the subject line. For example, if you’re sharing recent market news, your subject might be, “Let me know if you want to talk about this recent market change” or “Watch this video to understand my thoughts on the market change.”
Even if you’re doing all the right things to personalize and control the frequency of your emails, you are still sending emails for business purposes – which means you must follow regulations and provide recipients the option to unsubscribe (opt out).
Standard advertising rules by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) apply to all email marketing activities and it is important to have clear and honest messaging in your emails. Utilizing intriguing subject lines may be an easy way to get people to open your email, but they should not misrepresent the content. Make sure that subject lines accurately reflect the content of the message. This also means including your real name and address in all emails. Failing to do this can make you look like a scammer. Finally, always include an unsubscribe option, which can be as simple as an automated link to unsubscribe or to directions on how to unsubscribe.
6. Track Results
Tracking, analyzing and learning from your activities are key to a successful relationship-building email program. Each advisor and each client base is different. As you test out different content, email frequencies, calls to action and email approaches, you will start to find patterns of what works and be able to further refine your activities. The ability to track and analyze these activities is imperative.
The more you engage with your clients, the more you learn about them. Keeping a record of what you learn about them – both through their email activity and other types of engagement – will help you better connect with them in the future. Consider different ways that you can start to keep contact records and segment contact lists, so that you can easily pull who might be interested in what content when you have something new you want to leverage.
As with any communication channel, email is only as effective as the communicator. You will have a greater chance at deepening relationships via email if you focus on the relationship, not the channel. Email doesn’t have to be spam; if used right it can be today’s version of sending a handwritten card in the mail. Take a step back, think about what types of “cards” you like to receive and what was written in them, and give it a try!