Summary: Email may not have the cutting edge, high-tech appeal of some of the other marketing tactics. However, when done right, email marketing for financial advisors can be remarkably effective. In order to build a productive email campaign, advisors should begin by examining the needs of their audience. A broad-based “spray and pray” approach is the quickest way to burn through your hard-earned email list. On the other hand, highly targeted value-add communications will help you build trust, drive referrals, and stay connected to your prospects and clients. Read on for best practices (by email type) and some common email marketing mistakes to avoid.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in a lively discussion with a thought leadership group comprised of forwarding thinking, young marketers. The topic eventually turned to the effectiveness of email marketing for financial advisors. Although opinions differed greatly on the types of campaigns financial advisors should leverage, there was one thing we could all agree on: Email marketing, when done correctly, is widely effective.
Email has certainly become a standard mode of communicating with clients and prospects, but it is overused? Do people care about the emails they get from a financial advisor? Isn’t newsletter marketing dead? And, most importantly, should you make it easy on yourself and sign up for one of those services that will generate and send marketing emails for you?
As with many things marketing, getting hard numbers and data can make the difference between a great strategic decision and a dead-end money pit. So, let’s look at some numbers.
So, the data would suggest that the optimal combination for successful financial advisor email marketing should look like this: Ask for permission, send regular emails, make your messaging relevant for the recipient.
Which sounds like common sense.
As always, the devil’s in the detail. And so, I wanted to share with you some common questions and specific best practices for financial advisor email marketing campaigns. These are the types of campaigns that a firm of any size can use with success. Campaigns can be super-simple, or you could go all out and have them professionally designed to suit your style. So, don’t feel that email marketing isn’t for you unless you have a big budget.
Most advisors I know would prefer to do things in the most efficient way possible. From that perspective, one might imagine that buying a list of (ideally) pre-screened prospects from a data company would be faster and better than building your own list through a sign-up form on your website.
The reality is a bit more complicated.
First off, the CAN SPAM Act of 2003 requires anyone who purchases an email list with a commercial purpose to abide by certain rules. While those rules do not include obtaining explicit permission from the individuals on the list, they do require accurate transmission information (i.e. who the email is from), non-deceptive subject headings, a clear identification that the message is an advertisement, and an opt-out provision that gives the recipient a choice about whether they wish to receive future emails from you. If you are interested in a deeper dive into this subject, this FAQ article has good information. In summary, though, as long as you follow those requirements, you can send emails until the recipient opts out — at least in theory.
In practice, buying a list of emails exposes you to additional risks. There’s a risk that the list was assembled through shady or outright illegal means (such as address harvesting or dictionary attacks). Plus, there’s an (admittedly small) chance that someone on the list has already opted out of receiving emails from you before you purchased the list. Either one of those risks can expose you to fines under the CAM SPAM Act.
What exactly is permission in this context? It could be implicit permission in the case of email recipients who already have a relationship with you (through doing business together, being acquainted socially, or being a part of the same charity or club). Or, it could be explicit permission, like when a prospect types in an email address to download a whitepaper or a checklist.
There is another practice in the industry that’s known as “renting a list”. When you “rent” someone’s email list, they email their list of contacts on your behalf. You don’t get to see any of the email addresses. Think of it as buying an ad that someone will share with their list for a fee.
Is “renting” a list better than “buying” a list? Not necessarily. It’s true that the risks are different. For one, even if you are merely renting a list, the recipients did not give you permission. The reader is not expecting an email from you, so they may feel annoyed and sold to — not the mindset you need to convert skeptics into clients.
And then there is the elephant in the room.
At the end of the day, the provider of the list (whether they sell it or rent it) is in the business of selling or renting lists. It’s in their best interest to sell/rent a list as much as they can to maximize their profit. That leads to the people on the list getting spammed with a high volume of unexpected and unsolicited offers. Your offer can get lost among them. You may also experience a high degree of unsubscribes, bounces, and spam complaints. All of that adds up to a low ROI.
Bottom line: Buying or renting an email list may seem like an inexpensive shortcut to reaching more prospects. In reality, doing this can negatively affect the deliverability of the emails you send to legitimate prospects, spoil your reputation, and result in a poor ROI.
The names on any list you might buy or rent are likely to be “burned out” by too much spam. Think about it… If you spent years building a solid list of people who had opted into getting messages from you, would you sell it for just cents per email address? So, if a list is available for sale, it’s probably not the high-quality goldmine that the list company would have you believe.
What should you do instead?
Build your own list by having people opt into getting emails from you. Yes, a home-grown email list takes time to develop and nurture. However, doing this will keep you on the right side of the anti-spam rules — and it will be much more effective in terms of ROI and long-term practice growth potential. Give your audience plenty of opportunities to subscribe to your emails by adding a form to several locations on your website. Limit the volume of data you collect up front (first name and email address are usually enough to get started). In other words, make it very easy for them to say “yes” and join the list.
So, you’ve developed a list of emails from prospects or clients. How can you build an email marketing campaign that will nurture those relationships?
Here are some ideas that can work well for financial advisors.
1) The financial advisor newsletter is alive!
Believe it or not, the tried-and-true newsletter format is still an effective way of establishing an ongoing communication cadence with your clients and prospects. Most financial advice firms have transitioned the newsletter from the traditional hard-copy/printed format to digital. A digital newsletter is inexpensive and relatively simple to pull together. Even if you choose to invest in a professional layout template, you get to reuse it multiple times, which can lead to a solid ROI.
If you are considering adding a newsletter (or if you have one and are wondering if you set it up the right way), here are 5 best practices that can make it or break a financial advisor newsletter.
2) Drip sequences can work, too.
After a prospect has signed up for a lead magnet (such as a report, a white paper, or a checklist), some advisors follow up the initial delivery with a short series of emails (something known as a drip sequence). The purpose of a drip email sequence is to build trust, deliver value, and give the prospect an opportunity to take the next step in the relationship if he or she is ready.
Here are some best practices for financial advisor email drip sequences.
3) Use email to pre-announce events
Are you planning to attend or host a local event? Email is an excellent tool to inform prospects and clients about it. If you are going to a local event and it’s open to the public, let your readers know and invite them to join you. A targeted email blast can allow you to begin networking at an event before it ever starts.
Before promoting your own event, keep these best practices in mind.
To close this take on the subject of financial advisor email marketing, here are some common mistakes I have seen — and ways to avoid them.
What has worked well for you in the land of financial advisor email marketing? Share in the comments. Also, if you would like for me to share templates for anything covered in this article, sound off below. If there’s sufficient interest, we can create/share templates on this blog.