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Lender viewpoint

Ramesh Sharma

June 1, 2004

e-mail marketing is fast, effective and measurable. Over the last year we have been steadily improving our e-mail communications and from this experience we can see that more and more intermediaries want to receive information via this medium. But does it mean the end of product guides and direct mail?

There is no doubt most of us prefer to read newspapers and books on paper, and I still believe the vast majority of brokers want to keep copies of key product material in the traditional format.

The web is fantastic if you quickly need to check something but to read anything in-depth then having the information to hand is often easiest. I’ve commonly witnessed this when visiting brokers’ offices and find that many choose to keep lender product literature in folders for quick and easy reference. However, there is no doubt e-mail marketing from lenders is now proving to be highly-effective. Although from our experience there are some clear guidelines as to what works and what doesn’t.

Keeping up appearances

Firstly, appearance counts. An e-mail should be sent in HTML – this is when it is formatted using web page layout as opposed to plain text e-mails. With many intermediaries now using broadband, the vast majority of intended recipients are now happy to receive HTML. Though for those that can only receive text-based messages, all is not lost as the majority of HTML e-mails sent will automatically convert into text and so can still be viewed.

Secondly, e-mail promotion is fantastic as it is one of the very few areas within marketing that can be accurately measured. Information such as the ‘DoubleClick E-mail Trend Report for the Financial Services Industry’ enables providers to benchmark their communications against industry standards.

Next, the subject line of each e-mail is vitally important – if it doesn’t grab the attention immediately, it won’t be opened and so all the useful material contained within won’t be read.

Content

Of course, good content is critical. Any company that sends out frivolous e-mails will only succeed in annoying their audience. No one likes receiving ‘spam’, which are unsolicited and unwanted e-mails. However, a properly targeted campaign giving useful business information is not junk e-mail.

There is a view that an e-mail sent out to thousands must somehow be anonymous. But this is not the case. For example, we ensure all e-mails are personalised to come from the intermediary’s business development manager. The fact the recipient recognises the name of the sender is a further spur to improving response rates.

Our recent experience of e-mail bulletins is they have been opened by over 50 per cent of recipients. Compare this to a typical direct mail campaign which is far harder to track and where a hit rate of as little as 5 per cent can be viewed as successful.

More than selling

Let’s remember too that an e-mail may not be just about selling. Not too many years ago, fax machines in brokers’ offices groaned with the amount of messages being sent by lenders regarding product information.

How many times did you miss an important communication because it was impossible to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’?

Because it is received almost instantly by an individual, e-mails are extremely useful in terms of informing brokers about a rate change or if a product has been withdrawn.

It is also important to remind intermediaries to visit the firm’s website if more in-depth information and full product material can be downloaded and printed out. Our experience shows well-targeted e-mail communications increase the use of websites immediately following their issue.

Brochures and product guides are not going to disappear since this is the way most of us prefer to study more detailed material. But there is no doubt that intermediaries now expect lenders to use e-mail communications to keep them regularly informed. The reign of the product guide is not over but there is no doubt that combined marketing campaigns using e-mail communications are more effective in the long-run.

Paul Hunt is head of marketing at Platform


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