The pandemic has caused advisors and marketers to take a deeper look at business practices in order to not only survive, but thrive in this new environment. From leveraging new technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and On24 video conferencing software to new client-facing portals and increased mobile messaging apps to communicate with clients, we are experimenting with new tools to enhance client service and the overall experience.

In a recent survey by InvestmentNews on “What Advisors Learned from 2020,1” unsurprisingly, client service and communication were the top two areas where advisors have revised their approach as a result of the pandemic. Just as new technologies have emerged to increase investor engagement, traditional channels like email have also accelerated in importance. Email remains one of the most efficient ways to promote your business and stay connected with clients and prospects.

As more of a traditional marketer, I have relied on email marketing as a core component in our outreach efforts for decades. Email marketing has rapidly evolved over time and especially in the last few years.  I recently had a reverse mentoring discussion with a younger Lezynski, my 29-year-old son Steve Lezynski, a Client Experience Manager at a marketing technology company called Movable Ink, on how email marketing is evolving and how today’s best practices have changed.  

He recognized the continued importance of many traditional aspects of email such as email subject lines, content, deliverability, etc. (Or it could be that he was just humoring me!) He also enlightened me with new email tactics used to complement traditional ones. These tactics can not only drive open rates, but they also increase engagement and are used to help attract new clients and move prospects more quickly down the funnel. Many of these techniques can be easily adopted to today’s email marketing efforts. 

Five key areas to optimize the email experience for your clients and prospects

From a millennial marketer’s perspective.

1. Data and Segmentation
Email marketing was originally designed to distribute one message out to many individuals at one time. Sending an email blast to your full distribution list does work from time to time. The priority was always to get the email out as quickly as possible to the widest audience. If any audience segmentation was performed, historically the information was captured via an Excel spreadsheet. Times have changed.

Steve’s take: When it comes to data, Jeff Weiner, Executive Chairman at LinkedIn, says it best: “Data really powers everything that we do.” Translating that wisdom to email, it’s not always getting the information out the door that is important – it’s getting the right information to the right audiences that leads to engagement and credibility. The way to ensure we are getting the right information out is by consulting the data we have gathered about our clients. The key to hitting the right audiences is through segmentation. Both of these go hand-in-hand.

Data is a broad topic that can be intimidating to explore, leaving you to question: Where do I start? It’s important to ask yourself a few questions as a starting point:

  • What data do I have on my clients? Where does this data live?
  • What data do I want to know about my clients? How can I get this data if I don’t have it?
  • How can I action off of this data?

It’s okay to start small – as long as you start somewhere. Risk tolerance, current assets, financial goals, portfolio names, demographic info such as age, hobbies and interests are just a few key data points that you can gather to begin communicating relevant information targeted to the right audiences – make sure that these data points are in an easily accessible place, like your CRM. If you don’t have the right data at your disposal today, think about launching a live poll or a survey to collect this information to use in your marketing in future campaigns. Plus, if you’re not currently sending out polls or surveys, it’s an added layer of engagement that you can use in your emails to enhance the experience. The more granular that you can get with your data, the better.

2. Personalization
Seventy-four percent of marketers recognize that email personalization increases customer engagement, according to Michal Leszczynski.2 Many advisors have already discovered the benefits of including client names in email subject lines and throughout the body of the email. But that’s really the beginning. Today, personalization goes well beyond just a simple mention of a client name in an email.  

Steve’s take: This is a very interesting time of year for email marketing – especially in the e-commerce space, as there are many end-of-season clearance sales, year-in-review emails and exclusive loyalty promotions. 

You may be thinking, that’s great and all, but how is that relevant to advisors? When it comes to email and personalization, it’s important to think outside of your industry and consider what type of content in these emails is most interesting to you. For me, I love to see how much money I’ve saved throughout the year as a credit card holder — it makes that $95 annual credit card fee worth it. 

With all of the market commentary out there, it’s always a priority to ensure that you are providing your clients with market performance and yearly outlooks. While including market averages is useful, wouldn’t it be more impactful to show a comparison of your clients’ returns relative to the market — or better yet actual progress to their goals? You may already send out a generic market outlook for 2021.  Next time, consider personalizing the message and making it more relevant to your clients based on their risk tolerance. Adding little personalized touches like these to your father sonalready existing emails will go a long way and lead to higher engagement.

3. Visual Experience
We all know that visuals make a difference when it comes to increasing click-through rates and the time spent on email content. SEI has found that including pictures, e-books, videos and infographics makes a difference in engagement. Optimizing the visual experience so that it can be read via mobile and tablets is equally important — especially since we all are viewing the majority of our messages by phone these days.   

Steve’s take: We’re often told that adding a statistic or quote in an email adds to engagement and credibility. What we should be asking ourselves is, “how can we more visually display these important elements in emails so that they stick out to our clients?” If we have supporting video commentary and are trying to get our clients to click through and watch, add elements like GIFs and lifestyle imagery to enhance the visual experience for your clients. Instead of simply including a table with your clients’ performance returns statements, try adding colorful graphs and charts to make the experience more visually appealing.

Always take a “test and learn” approach to identify the types of visual functionalities that resonate most with your clients. Utilizing the data and segments that you have is a great place to start. Showing lifestyle imagery of a family with young children is more likely to resonate with your clients in that stage of life, as opposed to a retired couple enjoying their winters in Florida. Think of adding your social media posts and incorporating current events and everyday topics of conversation into your emails, such as a weather forecast, the time of day, a schedule of community events in your client’s current location, etc.

4. Automation and Efficiency
The use of professional email automation tools like Marketo, Constant Contact, Eloqua and others have made it easy to preschedule emails with personalized messages to your target segments at different times. These technologies also collect valuable data even beyond email open rate, including who is clicking through and reading your content (or not), etc.

Steve’s take: You may be thinking, “How am I supposed to send out personalized emails to the 20+ audience segments that I’ve identified based on the data I’ve captured?” The answer is not to add it to your to-do list — especially during this pandemic when many of us are spending more time inside than we ever have. There are numerous cost-effective ways to implement some of these ideas efficiently.  Yes, Dad, you are right — email automation tools help make this happen. 

Here are a few other recommendations that can lead to greater efficiencies and ultimately yield the best results: 

Surround yourself with an ecosystem of partners who are experts in their respective fields — there are companies that specialize in subject line testing, user generated content, data integration, predictive analytics, and more. Explore these companies to see if they are a fit for your business.

  • Ensure all of your data is in one place for easy accessibility — your CRM
  • Explore setting up email journeys and triggers so that not all emails are ad hoc.  This is one of the valuable features of today’s email automation tools

5. Audit and Metrics
Marketers are adopting more of a “test and learn” approach to email marketing today than ever before to enhance overall marketing efforts.  Slowly, but surely, this inspires action among our target segments. At SEI, we often debate what the best metrics to review are and realize it’s more than just open and click-through rates.   

Steve’s take: Open and click-through rates are still important in today’s email marketing environment, but you’ll need to take it a step further to provide a truly engaging and personalized experience for your clients. Much of the information that you can capture through metrics can strengthen your segments. Look at attention metrics to see how long your clients are engaging with the content. View a heatmap to see where your clients and email segments are clicking. Send follow-up emails as part of a sales/client relationship journey and retarget accordingly. For example, if a client clicked on an article included in a recent email about the timely GameStop saga, they are likely to be interested in the value you provide as an advisor to make the right investment decisions for the long term. Make sure that engagement metrics are tracked in your CRM so that you can reuse this valuable information in the future when marketing different topics to your segments. 

In closing, it’s no wonder why email marketing continues to be one of the most powerful client service and communication tools for advisors (and marketers) today, even in a pandemic. Thanks to my son Steve for sharing fresh ideas that complement traditional email marketing techniques (and are easy to test and implement).  I am truly appreciative and proud of the talented marketer and young man he has become. 

Steve’s take: When I first entered the workforce, I remember hearing many marketers talk about how the email channel was on its way out. Look where we are today — email is still one of the most effective means of communication to engage with your clients and has become increasingly important throughout this pandemic. Across generations, my father and I both agree getting smart with your data is key to staying relevant in the ever-changing email environment. As Carly Fiorina, former President and Chair at Hewlett Packard says, keep in mind that “the goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”


Legal Note

1 InvestmentNews Content Strategy Studio, InvestmentNews, January 25, 2021
2 Michal Leszczynski, 25 Email Marketing Best Practices That Drive ROI (2021)
Steve Lezynski and Movable Ink are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.Opinions and views expressed herein are those of Steve Lezynski. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy.
All firms mentioned herein are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

Information provided by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, a strategic business unit of SEI Investments Company. The content is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide investment advice or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. While SEI welcomes comments, SEI is not responsible for, and does not endorse, the opinions, advice, or recommendations posted by third parties. The opinions expressed in comments are the view(s) of the commenter(s), and do not represent the views of SEI or its affiliates. SEI reserves the right to remove any content posted by users of this site in its sole discretion.

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