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February 26th, 2014


Soon this blog will have a new home and a new look with even more great content. Your links will still work, and we invite you to continue to follow us. We have a lot of great things in store!

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A Twist on an Attention-Generating Marketing Technique

February 26th, 2014

I’ve written about many of the techniques direct mail marketers use to encourage prospects to open the envelope and examine its contents. Here’s a newer version of a decades-old technique.

In 1955, Reader’s Digest first used real U.S. coins that showed through the envelope’s window. Since then, marketers, especially those promoting charitable organizations, have repeatedly and successfully used the coin technique.

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A Headline Evolves Into a Product

February 24th, 2014

When you find a good marketing idea, use it for all it’s worth.

In a mid-2013 post, I showed a newspaper ad from a credit union that focused on one of the most important words used in marketing. A recent ad by the same financial institution shows how its marketing team expanded on a good idea to squeeze more value from it.

First, here’s the 2013 ad.

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11 Spam Words to Avoid in Your Subject Line

February 20th, 2014

An ever-popular question we get is “What words should I avoid in an email to ensure inbox delivery?” If only there was a straightforward answer to that question! As with many things email marketing related, the answer is: it depends. Sure, you know not to use pharmaceuticals like Cialis or Viagra in your subject line or email, but what about the word Free? Before I give you a list of words to avoid there are some things to keep in mind when writing your email. First, always have someone proofread your email! A typo in a benign word can suddenly create a delivery nightmare when it transforms into the hottest new spam word. If a word in your subject line gets truncated or broken it could go to a spam folder, or even worse, cause unsubscribes.

An example I saw was the phrase “Buttons and Bows” in a long subject line. Because the subject was too long the word Button was broken in the middle and caused delivery and unsubcribe problems. In addition, a subject line is not the place to use the short words for texting, like 4U, U or even #1 . Sometimes unsavory types want to use known spam words and try to get around delivery issues by breaking them up with spaces or disguising them. Spam filters know these tricks, so C r e d i t, C*r*e*d*i*t or CREDIT can still put your email in a spam folder. Using all caps for a word or a whole subject line can flag the email as being spam. Plus, all caps in the internet world means you’re yelling, and you don’t want to do that to your readers.And now the list you were looking for: Read more…

Now That’s Responsive Customer Care!

February 19th, 2014

When your financial institution opens a new account, do you make contact with your new customer or member? How soon?

If a consumer has a problem or question, how quickly do you respond? Does your branch or back office staff follow up to see that the problem is solved or the question answered to the satisfaction of the consumer?

Compare your customer service response to an experience I had recently. On Sunday, I was in Omaha and shopped at one of the Omaha Steaks retail outlets. While the clerk waited on another customer, I filled out an entry form for a drawing held by the retailer. One of the blanks asked for my email address. Since I trust Omaha Steaks and welcome their sales and special offers, I didn’t mind giving them my email address.

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The Question of Branches Isn’t Going Away

February 17th, 2014

What does the future hold for branch offices?

Banking executives are faced with one of those no-win situations. It’s expensive to keep branches open and consumers are using them less and less with the surge of optional banking channels like online and mobile. But closing branches leads to another set of problems.

We’ve addressed the question of the branch office’s future and raised possible answers many times on this blog. I’ve come back to the topic today because of an excellent blog post I read on Bank Marketing Strategy, the blog written by financial services marketing veteran Jim Marous.

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Thanks to Our Loyal Readers…

February 13th, 2014

Fifth-AnniversaryThe first post on ACTON Marketing’s Financial Marketing Insights blog appeared in May 2009. Over the years, we’ve offered readers well over 1,100 posts filled with information, critiques, and ideas all related to financial services marketing.

ACTON Marketing is now part of Deluxe Corp., a name you should recognize as prominent in the banking industry.

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Another Competitor for Financial Institutions?

February 12th, 2014

“The Postal Service is well positioned to provide non-bank financial services to those whose needs are not being met by the traditional financial sector.”

That’s a sentence in the introduction to a white paper report coming from the Office of Inspector General, United States Postal Service. The paper is titled, “Providing Non-Bank Financial Services for the Underserved.”

What types of banking services does the Postal Service suggest it will offer? The services go beyond reloadable debit cards like Walmart offers through its American Express Bluebird card.

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Don’t Misuse the P.S.

February 10th, 2014

If you take a cue from the headline, you realize I plan to describe the importance of the P.S. used in a marketing letter.

“What? Why that unimportant thing?” you might think.

Well, because it’s not unimportant. It has a vital role when it comes to a prospect choosing to explore your marketing materials or tossing them into the dark void of the circular file.

If you know about the three distinct parts of a DM letter, then you know why the P.S. is so important.

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Secrets of a Successful Email Newsletter

February 4th, 2014

Have you heard? Less is more especially when it comes to your email marketing newsletter. If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your existing newsletter (or start one from scratch) then look no further. Here are some quick tips to make your email newsletters stand out in the busy inbox and get your subscribers talking (and buying).

#1 – Manage Expectations

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Would Your Marketing Campaign Make This Promise?

February 3rd, 2014

“…we’ll never ask for another donation again.”

Quite a bold statement. Of course, your bank or credit union campaigns aren’t aimed at gathering donations, but would you promise prospects you’ll never mail to them again…if they open a new account now?

Because that’s the second half of the mailer’s promise…if you donate now.

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This Statistic is Both Good & Bad for Financial Institutions

January 29th, 2014

Survey results released in October show 51% of consumers switched service providers due to poor service the previous 12 months.

During that time, retail financial institutions was one of three categories of companies that experienced the most customer switching.

What does that mean for financial institutions? Three opportunities to improve business.

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Some Bankers Miss the Point When It Comes to Checking Accounts

January 27th, 2014

And to expand that long headline, so do many financial marketing professionals.

A few days ago, I read an online article produced by a company that advises financial institutions. It’s undated, but seems it was written during the news-making time when mega-banks eliminated free checking. (And why it was featured now in one of the marketing e-newsletters is a mystery.)

Maybe not so surprising, the point raised by the article is still valid. Last week, a bank marketer asked us how his bank’s elimination of free checking would affect attrition and future acquisition.

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The Dinner Table As Marketing Research Opportunity

January 26th, 2014

Marketers spend a lot of time determining the best ways to conduct research. We hear talk about think tanks, online polls, traditional paper questionnaires, focus groups and social media outreach. Often this talk carries a hefty price tag.

Market research is the lifeblood of successful product and service origination and implementation. While marketers should continue looking for the latest and greatest in research opportunities, it’s also possible that many overlook a terrific source for market information that’s right under their noses: the kitchen tables.

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Customer Care Greetings Can Start Early

January 23rd, 2014

It was only January 8, but when I sorted through the day’s mail I found my first (and probably only) Valentine’s Day card of the year.

What does this have to do with financial services marketing? It’s all about customer care.

You’ve heard the old saying that it’s easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to recruit a new one. You can help keep customers or members longer by regular contact that engages or encourages them, by making it seem your financial institution is their best option, and through customer service.

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Is Your Advertising Copy Passive or Active, Present or Future?

January 22nd, 2014

A client sent a letter it used with earlier marketing campaigns and asked us to recreate it. At first glance, I thought the copy needed some tweaks, so I made them.

A week later, the proof came back and I saw the client wanted the copy changed back to the original version.

I’m not complaining. I simply think the individual doesn’t understand some of the techniques that go into good direct marketing copy. So let’s discuss two important points.

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Target’s Data Breach Will Hurt Your Marketing Campaigns

January 15th, 2014

It’s almost guaranteed that one of the hottest topics of the year, especially for marketers, will be security of personal consumer information.

Thank Target Corp. for that. First, Target announced, days after it was realized, that the debit and credit card numbers of some 40 million shoppers had been stolen by hackers who breached Target’s data system from November 27 to December 15.

Then about a week later, Target added that the PIN and security code numbers were also stolen.

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Get Permission Before Use

January 13th, 2014

Do you need permission to use someone else’s information or materials with your marketing campaign? Read this and then answer the question.

At the insurance company where I once worked, one of our products was included in a list of recommended policies within the pages of Consumer Reports magazine. An executive from the policy’s sales department was excited by the news and wanted to use the recommendation as the center of a marketing campaign.

He asked our creative department to have our printing shop reproduce the magazine article so it could be inserted with a letter and mailed to prospects.

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Show This Ad to Your Compliance Department

January 8th, 2014

A multi-step rewards checking account is the most difficult checking account to promote because of the lengthy disclaimer copy that comes with it. Or, is all that disclaimer unnecessary?

It’s a dilemma financial services marketers face. How do you promote a checking account that requires multiple steps to trigger the monthly interest plateau, ATM rebates, or other rewards?

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Can This Advertisement be Both Effective and Ineffective?

January 6th, 2014

The answer to the question above is, “Yes.” I’ll explain why.

First, I’ll describe the ad, or rather ads, so you understand what I mean. You likely recognize the name Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian who had a network TV series named after him. His show took a minor, everyday event and made it the quirky focus of the episode.

His humor still uses that style, including the comedy in his current show that runs on the web.

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