Neil St. Clair, Vestorly’s Chief Growth Officer, recently answered the question: what should financial professionals put in email newsletters? Watch the webinar recording here, or read below for his insight.
Before implementing or refining an email newsletter strategy, name the goal you seek to achieve. Determine what success looks like for you and your business so you know if you’ve reached it. Do you want to stay in touch with clients? Is that because you want to uncover more wallet share? Or ti you remain top of mind so clients refer you more often and you generate more leads? Do you want to nurture more prospects to convert to clients? Your goal has a big impact on the content you will share, the audience you target, and the messaging you include.
Whatever the goal you set for email newsletters, they all come back to the need to generate intrigue and interest among your audience. When your emails intrigue someone enough to click through, learn more, engage with you, and share your content, you begin to achieve goals like staying top of mind and generating referrals.
An intriguing email starts with the content. Done right, newsletters that share content turn financial advisors into trusted sources of information, build brands, increase visibility, and ultimately intrigue audiences enough to learn more beyond just the shared content.
A study from the Direct Marketing Association found that email marketing can deliver a 4,300% return on investment. If that sounds completely outrageous, ask yourself – could I get just one client from email marketing? Could I reach one person through email, who is intrigued enough to learn more and ultimately become a client? If yes, then you can achieve tremendous ROI through well-crafted emails.
To deliver the content your audience wants, think about what you want: what is it you like about email? You might like when a friend, who knows you’re a basketball nut, sends you an article about top draft picks for 2017. Maybe you like when your university sends you an email about prominent alumni and exclusive opportunities to meet them. You might look forward to a daily digest of top news stories from your favorite trusted news source.
Simply put: you enjoy receiving, reading, and sharing relevant and interesting articles in your inbox. So do your clients, prospects, and other relationships. Your need as a marketer is to get the most relevant content for each audience member into their inbox on a regular reliable basis. Many marketers though compile the information they want their audience to read without regard to how readable it is. They send email just for the sake of it because they’ve heard it’s necessary, but there’s nothing of value in the email.
Your email marketing should fit seamlessly into the consumer experience to engage the most people. This is an important point to remember, but in truth, it’s still a little subjective.
Let’s consider what people want more objectively.
Thousands of advisors use Vestorly to share content everyday with their audiences – millions of investors in aggregate. Over the last few years, we’ve tracked billions of data points from their usage and interactions to find out what they really want. We’ve looked at top performing emails, what they have in common, and what makes them perform well. We’ve discovered 5 components are most important to high engagement:
33% of readers decide whether to open an email based on subject line, so this part is important. We’ve found the best subject lines have fewer than 50 characters, refer to news or events that are timely or local, and are intriguing.
An intriguing subject line walks a fine line. It should compel a click without falling into the trap of clickbait, which sacrifices quality and brand to catch attention. A good intriguing subject line would be: “How the Fed’s decision this week impacted your portfolio.” The readers wants this information but is not being manipulated with a falsely intriguing headline.
Lastly, though not exactly about the subject line, consider the sender of your emails too. Emails sent from a recognized name receive higher open rates than from a generic email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. If your firm has multiple advisors, every client should receive emails from the advisors they know best or work with most closely. This turns email marketing into a personal touchpoint that contributes to a larger relationships.
To paraphrase Blaise Pascale, “if I had more time I would have written you a shorter letter.” No one wants to read a long email, so focus on what is necessary. Include your reason for emailing so readers know what to expect: “I’m inviting you to an event.” “I’m sharing an article I thought you’d enjoy or might answer a question.” “I’m informing you of a change to your portfolio allocation.” By doing so, you remind your audience of the value you provide, whether that value is monetary, or something added like knowledge or events.
Before you send any email, take one last look to remove all superfluous words, including lines like like “Hope all is well.” Use your economy of words to be authentic and sincere, so remove these generic lines that have become meaningless and insincere. Consider it professionalized austerity.
Imagery is a standard part of design in 2017 and contributes to professionalism. Too many images though detract from your message and risk setting off spam filters. A 30/70 ratio of imagery to text is an agreed upon standard for most effective emails. Never add images for the sake of adding images. Poor quality images, bad stock photos, or irrelevant images are worse than none. Take care that your images reflect well on your brand.
A CTA is a prompt to your audience to take an immediate action. Add CTAs like “Sign Up for Our Newsletter,” “Download Whitepaper,” or “View Our Blog” to your emails. By encouraging visitors to take action with CTAs, you’ll increase engagement and expand your network. To make CTAs most effective, choose one for your email, keep it short, and set it apart as a button or just by highlighting the font.
We’ve seen the most impactful CTA to be “Share with a Friend.” People forward emails everyday and sometimes a reminder is all that’s needed to compel them. When your audience forwards and invites others to read, those are new readers who can be added to your list. This is almost a gentle reminder to refer you without feeling like a request at all.
The content you share is comprised of links directing to articles, videos, blogs, and other digital narratives. The content can be from third-parties like newspapers and blogs or can be your own custom created content. Recall the consumer experience of email: they enjoy receiving and sharing content they want. This is your opportunity to fit seamlessly into that consumer experience and be the trusted recommender or articles.
Our data shows the most engaging content is real-time news from premium trusted sources like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. They are more likely to click on posts featuring high quality imagery and will remain to read articles in a modern reading experience. They do not want to jump through hoops to access content you share and they want to read articles on well-designed sites. They don’t want to read old news, articles that aren’t timely or relevant to the day’s, week’s, or month’s events. They don’t want to read canned content, which are white-labeled articles written generically by someone else it, and they won’t click on posts featuring poor images. If your articles take them through a “Web 1.0” experience – imagine the web back as you knew it in 1999 – they will click elsewhere.
All of this can be summed up in one question: would I want to read this? If you’re considering sharing an article that is not something you would click on if you received it, then why would your audience?
This first example would not pass that simple test. It begins generically, “Hi Everyone” and features articles with generic stock photos that don’t link to recognizable sources and aren’t related to timely news. An article titled “New 401K Plan Disclosure Rules” is not what consumers want to read. They may say “I know I should read this…. maybe later.” The email is designed more like a piece of mail and doesn’t take advantage of best practices of web design to engage readers.
You’d be more likely to engage with this example. Sent on Election Day, the email is timely and relevant and answers questions everybody has. While not directly about your services as a financial advisor, it connects the timely news to your services and reminds readers of your value in the form of interesting relevant content. The major difference is these are the articles people want to read. There’s no need to manipulate someone to click with a clickbait title because readers truly want the information.
After analyzing data from Vestorly’s users, we’ve found many insights about the content people want, the most important being: there are no hard rules. Every audience is different. There is no magic wand you can wave for the perfect mix of articles. In lieu of a specific topic mix, we’ve identified certain types of content that resonate best in emails.
Investors want to know what’s happening in the markets and the economy and how it affects them, their investments, their future, their children. The particular financial topics and market movements they want to know about will vary. This is different from articles like “RIA vs. Roth IRA” or “Tax Law Changes in 2017.” These are interesting timely articles with a perspective and relevancy to your audience’s particular location, needs, and interests.
Less expected are the topics that fall under what you might call lifestyle, like sports, travel, golf, health, fitness, cooking, family, or education. This encompasses much variation but what’s important to recognize is that people do want to read articles that are not just related to money. They want to read about all kinds of topics, and this is your opportunity to bring it to them. Oftentimes, these articles do indeed connect back to your services. An article on the saving and investment strategies NBA players use will likely receive high engagement, because many will click on anything about their favorite team or star, especially when it comes to their vast wealth. The connection to your services and planning for individual futures is here, and it’s shared through a very clickable article.
Users are more likely to click on premium sources they recognize like The Economist and they’re more likely to trust editorial or opinion pieces from respected journals. Local and regional news sources are just as respected as national, but all will perform better than unheard of blogs or clickbait from shoddy sources.
Timeliness is the most important factor. The most relevant article from the best source doesn’t matter if it’s old. Readers click on articles relevant to what’s happening right now. Today wouldn’t be a good day to post about the Brexit – it’s big news and important, but we’ve all been reading about that for months. But it’s a good day to talk about the Fed raising interest rates.
This may raise concerns about sharing something you didn’t write with clients and prospects. Yes, your clients do want your personal perspective, but it’s not necessarily what they are likely to click on. Articles from premium sources like The Wall Street Journal are internationally recognized because of the quality, timeliness, imagery, and access to experts. Your audience is more likely to engage initially with third party content than your original thoughts. The content you share is the hook that brings your relationships in for a real conversation.
Here’s how one Vestorly user did just that after the Brexit vote. They quickly compiled the best articles using Vestorly’s data-based recommendations, added a short comment, and sent out immediately.
A regular schedule of content production or an article written immediately in response to every event is unrealistic. A Morningstar study found 67% of clients want emails from their advisors at least weekly or monthly. That would require more content then you have time to create. Set a realistic content production schedule for yourself of once a month or quarter even, and supplement your activity in the meantime with trusted third party sources.
We spoke about this with one of our users, a large advisory firm, who found the content they write themselves actually gets less intrigue and interest than content shared from a premium third-party source. The firm uses this to their advantage. If, for example, they want to initiate a conversation about estate planning, they won’t write and share an article called “What You Need to Know about Estate Planning.” Instead, they’ll share an article from The Wall Street Journal like “US Aims to Clamp Down on Tactic to Avoid Estate Tax.” It’s from highly recognized and trusted source, and related to timely news. It may be less to the point, but the message is the same: talk to your financial advisor about estate planning.
Unfortunately, the perfect email isn’t perfect for everybody. Your audience members are unique with their own interests, and each person needs to receive different content in their emails for maximum impact. A global study found that targeting your emails by audience segment can increase open rates 14% and increase clicks by 94%. When we spoke to one of our users who segments his emails precisely with Vestorly, he told us he sees an average 44% open rate, which is double the industry average.
We’ve identified several top audience segments to guide your targeted communication.
We asked Reich Asset Management about the results they saw after implementing a content strategy like we’ve described using Vestorly.
Previously, they used a popular email newsletter tool for financial advisors to send pre-approved articles. They sent these emails monthly and supplemented with their own firm written content occasionally. They didn’t get any feedback from their audience sending these emails linking to the pre-written content. Now though, they send weekly emails featuring a mix of articles on topics like markets, finance, college planning, retirement, and lifestyle. Using Vestorly’s segmenting technology, they send the right articles to the right groups, so their audience members who don’t have children, wouldn’t receive college planning news for instance.
Doing so, Reich has increased readership, delighted their audience, offered more touchpoints to clients and prospects, and increased the flow of information back and forth. By sharing so frequently, they get a better idea of the articles resonating with their base, which allows them to continue sharing even more relevant articles. They uncover the interests of readers and provide exactly what readers want. They report that in all their time sending their former emails, they got no feedback. By using data to know what people want, and sharing it with them frequently, they’re adding value to relationships, which they know this because their audience tells them and because they see their network growing.
Our suggestions for this article are based on data we’ve collected. You, too, must use your own personally generated data to optimize and iterate your email marketing. We’ve identified two types of data most important to your strategy. The first we call Vanity Metrics and comprises information like open rates and click-through rates. These rates help you understand which subject lines work better and which topics or sources compel more clicks, but it doesn’t directly translates to new business. However, you can use this data to improve your emails to become more engaging to ultimately generate what we call Actionable Data, like names, emails, contact information of your readers, and every article they’ve been reading and their continued click paths.
This is the data you can act directly on to form a new relationship and grow your business. If the results page of your email tool indicates that your client forwarded an email to someone you don’t recognize, who then opened the email, and clicked to read about estate planning, and continued clicking to read more articles about estate planning, then you’ve gained valuable information. This person has all the makings of a strong referral. You can add him or her to future email newsletters and continue a digital relationship. Nurture this person through email marketing and other touchpoints, and ultimately take the relationships offline.
A well thought out and implemented email strategy is easier said than done. If you’re a wealth manager, email marketing is not your main business. Realistically, you have more important things to do than finding articles to share and reviewing your data. Thousands of tools exist to create and execute your email strategy. Two types of these tools helpful in implementing the strategy discussed here are for curating content and creating and sending emails.
There is no shortage of excellent email creation tools, but for the financial industry, curation tools are limited. These tools have faced challenges due to compliance departments requiring approval on all articles shared. For that reason, most content curators for financial firms are dry canned articles, and can’t be shared in response to real-time news.
All hope is not lost though. Vestorly is a software that automates a data-based email strategy. It curates content from the best sources for your audience, and automatically creates intelligently designed email newsletters, as well as social posts and website updates. Vestorly is based on artificial intelligence that examines your audience and what they’re most likely to read, and then suggests the content most engaging for them so your strategy is personalized.
The data we’ve used to make recommendations about the content people want comes from what we’ve seen all of our users and their audiences doing. This data is available in your Vestorly accounts too, so you can examine what’s most impactful, what people like best, enabling you can iterate and improve in the future (or take the suggestions from our intelligent engine).
Since Vestorly was built for financial professionals, we work closely with large enterprises like Pershing and TD Ameritrade and with large independent RIA firms to solve the compliant content problem. Our technology directly integrates into your compliance workflows so you can get quick approval on third-party articles, allowing you to stay timely and relevant. We also track the articles that compliance departments are most likely to approve, so we can further customize our suggested content for sharing.
Your ultimate goal when developing an email strategy is to share the content that engages readers to intrigue them enough to bring them back to you and your company. Vestorly helps you live and tell stories in digital space through the gift of content. With a more intriguing and interesting digital presence, you’ll draw more people in and initiate more conversations. Get in touch with us to learn more or to speak with Neil directly about email strategy.