Inside Marketing: The Secrets of Successful Email Campaigns

digital illustration of computer displaying open email envelope next to smartphone displaying an address field to send message
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring Photo
Contributing Writer
Fab Prose & Professional Writing

4 minutes

Pairing personalized and engaging email communications with other marketing channels can turn this low-cost tool into an acquisition powerhouse.

Email is one of the most effective marketing communication channels. It can be especially successful when coupled with consistent messaging through other digital channels, including social media, push notifications, and online and mobile banking, says Megan Pannier, VP/marketing digital payment solutions for CUES Supplier member Fiserv, Brookfield, Wisconsin.

“Like everything digital, email marketing is becoming more dynamic, personalized and engaging,” Pannier adds. “With embedded media, compelling visuals and animation becoming the norm along with AI to improve targeting, content and delivery timeliness, it is time to better leverage this versatile marketing tool.”

Mark Ryan, co-founder and chief analyst officer at, San Mateo, California, notes that for most credit unions, email marketing is the fourth or fifth largest source of product applications from prospects and members—and is typically the lowest cost of acquisition.

“Unfortunately, most email marketing happens in a silo, and the credit union’s website is the most frequent touchpoint between prospects or members and the main place where conversions happen,” says Ryan. “If an email campaign offers personalized content and drives a visitor to the website, but that website is static, the power of the message is lost. The email platform and website must be personalized from similar data sources for consistency and a stronger message.”

Email is still the gold standard for digital marketing, says James Robert Lay, president of Digital Growth Institute, Houston, Texas. “Capture member emails along with their mobile numbers. Use this data to send an email using an editorial (educational) perspective and serve offers to prospective members.” Also, match your member’s email with their email on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. “This enables you to serve ads via email data, not cookie data.”

Add Engaging Content

Pannier advises leveraging a fully featured email service provider and/or marketing automation platform that will allow your credit union to send personalized content based on member segmentation without much manual intervention. Such solutions typically include tools to determine effectiveness based on click-thru rates and other metrics.

“These platforms offer capabilities like predictive analytics and lead scoring to enable ongoing testing of subject lines, visuals and CTAs (calls to action),” she says. They may also support automated trigger campaigns that help reach members with the right content at the right time.

Pannier has also found that adding dynamic content like a banner carousel, short explanatory demo videos and animations embedded into an email plus compelling CTAs create more engagement and action with the intended recipient.

“Before an individual engages with your email content, it’s important to target the member based on a recent behavior or interest in a message relevant to them,” she explains. “The subject line is key and needs to effectively convey the topic of the email and grab their attention. Continual subject line testing is essential to refine, optimize and increase open rates.”

Take a Data-Driven Approach

“Every audience is different, and success is built on how people are responding to your messaging,” notes Chris Spicer, senior marketing manager at Jack Henry Digital, Monett, Missouri. “Study the results of different send dates and times, try various subject line styles, analyze the heat-maps of your body message area, switch CTA link locations or try variations of tone and voice.

“To determine what works, study the audiences’ reactions when these types of adjustments are made,” Spicer continues. “This, in combination with A/B testing, can drive ideal consumer behavior.”

Avoid Long and Complex Messages  

Many members, if not most, check their email on mobile devices today. That makes it critical to keep messages short and to the point. Spicer suggests three best practices to keep your emails mobile-friendly:

  • Don’t repeat subject lines in the body of the message.
  • Give users a reason to click through to the promotion within the first two lines of the email.
  • Move the longer message, campaign details and disclaimers to a landing page.

Emails should be crafted with a mobile-first mindset, adds Pannier—not for desktop clients.

Sally Dickter, SVP/marketing for Franklin Madison, Stamford, Connecticut, stresses that credit unions should keep the member in control with a cohesive flow, whether the member clicks quickly or scrolls around. “Show just a few ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ selling points with succinct copy, supporting visuals and enlightened redundancy. (Reiterate critical points in different ways to appeal to diverse members.)

“Finally,” she says, “provide risk relief that drives action with multiple buttons and links like ‘Learn More,’ ‘Show Me,’ or ‘Get Free Quote,’ before seeking a commitment to ‘Sign Me Up’ or ‘Buy Now.’”

Understand Data Privacy Changes

Like other digital channels, email is not immune to the impacts of recent data privacy changes.

“Challenges like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature will make reporting on key metrics hard—even impossible for email addresses—and open rates will be unreliable for Apple Mail users,” says Laurie Busby, managing partner at James & Matthew, Shirley, Massachusetts. “A/B testing will also be challenging due to visibility issues into Apple Mail performance, and segmentation and automation based on email opens may need to be reconfigured.

“These changes may sound bleak, but not all is lost,” Busby continues. “Apple Mail makes up only a small percentage of email opens, and Statista reports that Gmail accounted for 36.5% of email opens, the highest share recorded.”

Lastly, don’t forget the purpose of your email messaging. “Remember why you’re doing this in the first place,” advises Lay. “No one cares about your auto loan, but they do want you to transform their wallet and their relationship with money. Put people over the commodity, transaction or product. Use digital to reconnect and reaffirm the human element.”

Owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, Stephanie Schwenn Sebring assists credit unions, industry suppliers, and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter @fabprose.

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