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The Future Is Now For Many Financial Institutions

Posted by Stephen Nikitas on April 24th, 2014


Banks and credit unions are some times a bit hesitant to implement initiatives aimed at attracting younger account holders. In particular, many resist efforts to reach out to Gen Y… that segment of the population born between 1977 and 2000.

If you are dragging your feet about prospecting to this demographic segment, you may want to reconsider for a couple of very basic reasons.

First, consider income.

Sure… Gen Y does not have a whole lot of money behind them. Many banks and credit unions struggle with the concept of spending precious marketing dollars to attract a population that for the next several years likely will have little if any reason to have anything more than a checking account with their financial provider. Certainly, there is a lot of credence to that concern. As the U.S. economy continues its slow recovery, Gen Y is among the population’s segment most impacted by higher than normal unemployment levels.

However, things are going to change and change quickly. By 2015, Gen Y’s income will surpass that of Baby Boomers. By 2020, Gen Y will see its overall income exceed Gen X. No matter how you look at, that’s a car loan away. It is definitely not too soon to start those acquisition efforts.

Second, look at the channels through which Gen Y will access their accounts. A recent study found that transaction costs diminish dramatically as account holders gravitate toward digital channels. Check out these numbers from a Javelin Strategy and Research study:


Channel Average Transaction
In person at branch $4.25
Call into contact center $1.29
ATM $1.25
Online Banking $0.19
Mobile Banking $0.10


To no one’s surprise, Gen Y is by far the fastest adopter of mobile banking. As the demographic segment establishes relationships with your bank or credit union, opportunities abound for you to encourage a channel behavior that Gen Y prefers and you desire. While Gen Y may come into a branch office to open its first account, after that, you will be hard pressed ever to see them again. They will access their accounts on the go and consider a trip to the branch nothing but a nuisance.

On top of all this comes the advantage of dealing with a segment of the population that is reaching those life stages when the need for financial products and services is pronounced. The demand for credit and the need for savings assistance is just around the corner from a group that numbers better than 70 million strong, rivaling the Baby Boomer generation in pure numbers and dwarfing Gen X.

As you consider acquisition campaigns for 2014 and beyond, make sure your marketing dollars are focused on Gen Y. While you may not reap the benefits today, in a short period of time your investment will reap dividends in more ways than one.


Strategies to Generate Positive Results at Trade Shows

Posted by Mallory Green on April 22nd, 2014


Event sponsorship and trade show appearances require companies to use a portion of their marketing budget.  In many cases, it is hard for marketing managers to justify that spending any amount of money to attend and sponsor events is worth it. But, with the right strategies in place, event sponsorships can be beneficial to any brand.

A few important factors to consider when deciding which event/trade show you should attend or sponsor:

  • Define your target audience. This group can be more than just the types of people you are currently selling to. It could be a target segment you should be engaging with or even a segment with whom you want to better communicate.
  • Think about the objectives you are setting out to accomplish. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Are you looking to engage with customers face-to-face to speak about a product? Are you looking to gain credibility through a large-scale knowledge transfer such as a seminar?
  • Find events that have the same goals as you and bring in the right audience for your brand.
  • Research the event thoroughly. Are you a small fish in a big pond – meaning, are there several brands in attendance that provide the same product and service as you do? On the flipside, are you the only brand at an event that offers a particular product or service? Does this mean you either won’t be noticed or you’re not actually surrounded with potential clients? Will attending or not attending an event cost more than it’s worth, or more importantly, will it have a negative impact on your brand?
  • There are a variety of ways your brand can be represented at trade shows, which allows you to be as flexible with your budget as you want to be.
  1. Sponsoring an event can provide your brand with a lot of exposure and there are usually multiple levels of sponsorship.  This is a chance for your logo to be placed on-site, digitally and in any direct marketing material. Or, maybe you can offer a premium to be put in guest or thank you bags. The opportunity for exposure differs with each event. Make this a part of your initial research.
  2. Trade show booths give your brand a chance for face-to-face interaction with highly qualified leads that could lead to successful relationships. You can directly sell your product or service without the hassle of the internet or telephone. Exhibiting at trade shows can be the most costly option depending on the size booth you build as well as the extra costs from transportation, set up and sales collateral. Be sure to choose to exhibit at shows that really fit into your marketing objectives to get the best return on investment.
  3. A speaking engagement might be the better choice at some events, especially in situations where you can be perceived as an expert and thought leader. Often times, the price of speaking at a trade show is by far the most cost-efficient since you won’t be allocating any marketing dollars to sponsorship or a booth. Speaking engagements are also a great opportunity to get the exposure you want from the right group of people and point attendees in the direction of your booth if you are also exhibiting.

Some of the most important benefits your brand can receive from picking the right event are:

  • Meeting potential customers and obtaining their contact information.
  • Building brand awareness and an impressive reputation.
  • Communicating with who can already be considered qualified leads since you are attending an industry-driven show that you chose based on the target market you want to engage with.
  • Opportunity to create content for social media channels, learn about the competition and conduct research by having attendees complete on-site surveys.

It is important to view events and trade shows as an opportunity to increase sales and boost brand recognition within your industry. So, make sure to choose the right situation that you can benefit the most from in a variety of ways. In turn, this will ultimately provide you with the results you are looking for.


Email Design Best Practices

Posted by Shannon Gomez on April 15th, 2014


I’m sure your inbox is like mine, full of sales and discounts, newsletters, and customer communications of all shapes and sizes. So what makes you read one, and trash another? Sometimes the reason is that you like the sender. But many times, you engage with an email because it’s been designed to catch your attention, and make you want to read more.

There are some best practices you can follow to help you catch your recipient’s attention, and entice them to read more. These are the general guidelines I follow when designing email.

Keep it simple with both message and design:

  • Subject line less than 50 characters (28-39 words best)
  • Most valuable space is top 300 pixels. Use it well.
  • Deliver fresh and relevant content
  • Whitespace is a holiday for the eye
  • Use only websafe fonts

Pay attention to details:

  • “From” should say who you are
  • Include contact details & make sure all your links work!
  • Don’t forget alt text for images

Aim for consistency across devices & keep mobile top of mind.

I do my best to keep my subject line short and sweet. Just like print design, I make sure to lead off with the most important information, and make the top of the message eye-catching, just in case that’s the only part that gets seen. I try to make sure that the email I’m sending is an email that I would want to receive. For me that means making sure the content is a good fit for the audience.

Whitespace is important in print design because it gives the eye a rest when reading large amounts of text. It’s the same when designing on-screen, and even more important, it makes clicking links and buttons easier.

Websafe fonts are those that are found on most computers across platforms. Using websafe fonts is the best way to control the look of fonts in your email. Visit to learn more.

Even though it seems obvious, it’s easy to get busy or rushed and forget to proofread your email and check that the links work. I always send a test message to someone else for proofreading before I deploy my campaign.

Don’t forget your Alt text. This provides alternative information for an image if a recipient can’t view it. Sometimes images don’t show up due to a slow connection, an error in the code, or if the recipient uses a screen reader. If your images don’t appear it’s much better for them to be replaced with text that reads, “account holder writing check” than img45678.jpg.

Aim for consistency across devices. I say aim, because sometimes you just can’t make things perfect. Most of us don’t have a team of designers and coders who can make sure every email is responsive for every different device. To me this means, know your audience, and pay attention to where they view their email.

Which brings us to keeping mobile top of mind. Recent studies show that Americans, now own an average of four digital devices. They spend 60 hours a week consuming content on those devices.  87% of all US adults own a mobile phone, and 45% of those are smartphones. Another report, says 79% of smartphone owners use their device for email, and they’re more likely to use their device for email than for making phone calls.

When I say, keep mobile top of mind, what I really mean, is expect that some or all of your recipients will view the email on a mobile device. So here are some general guidelines for mobile email design.

  • Think vertical vs. horizontal
  • Increase font sizes: Minimum 14px body/22px titles
  • Adult fingers=37-53 pix wide. Buttons at least 44px
  • Extra white space around links & buttons
  • Increase line spacing divisions between sections
  • JPG or GIF for images

Think vertical means portrait vs. landscape. Design for a limited width and vertical scrolling. Generally, you should keep your email width to 600 pixels or less, and if you’re designing specifically for mobile, your design should be closer to 450 pixels wide.

Increase your font sizes so that when your email is viewed on a mobile device, it is comfortable to read. It doesn’t have to be drastic, just increase your body text to at least 14 pixels, or larger if your design will allow. Set your headlines to at least 22 pixels, or more. Then no turning or pinching is required.

It turns out the average adult finger is about 44 pixels wide. Make your buttons big enough to be clicked with an index finger, and allow some extra spacing around those links and buttons for larger fingers. You can get away with a smaller sized button if you allow some extra space around it. Buttons on the iPhone are designed in 44 pixel blocks, meaning even if the button itself isn’t 44 x 44, the tap area around it, is at least 44 pixels wide and high.

Be aware that some email clients discriminate against certain image formats. For example, lotus notes will not display png images. To avoid any trouble, stick to jpg or gif.

I hope these guidelines help you to create emails that your recipients will engage with every time.


Creating a Multifaceted Financial Web Presence

Posted by Dave McCue on April 11th, 2014


As more financial institutions utilize digital channels to generate leads and drive account holder interaction, an increasing level of importance is being placed on providing the best website experience possible. Whether making a first impression, or reinforcing a relationship, banks and credit unions recognize the positive and negative impact their website can have when it comes to the perception of their brand. It might not happen overnight, but by assuming a customer-centric vantage point and asking the right questions, financial institutions can create an effective, multifaceted web presence that resonates with account holders in the digital age.

Asking the Right Questions

There are aspects of the financial industry requiring specific website elements behind that user experience would translate well to a banking website. The questions to be asked and answered, then, should ultimately determine what makes a great website for today’s account holder. It is not as complicated as one would believe.

Is the Site Usable?

The web and its users are constantly evolving, which greatly accelerates the aging process for many websites and results in a number of websites that simply don’t provide a good user experience anymore. The rising use of mobile devices is one prime example of this evolution and the impact it can have on a site’s effectiveness. For instance, plenty of Apple® iPad® users can recount the frustration of visiting a website designed to work with Adobe® Flash®, which is not supported on the iPad and ended up making the site unfriendly at best, or entirely unusable at worst. With smartphones making up the majority of mobile phones in the US (52% of all devices according to a 2013 study by Pew Internet Research), the concept of responsive design is becoming more and more important to accommodate the increasing number of mobile web users. Whereas in years past the trend was toward “.mobi” sites — stripped-down versions that played nicely with smartphones — the rise of responsive design has allowed websites to retain much of the unique experience offered to desktop visitors even when viewed on smaller screens. A website made with responsive design will adapt to the size of the screen through which it is being viewed, with styles changing and content shifting accordingly to provide the best experience for the visitor.

The above excerpt is taken from “Creating a Multifaceted Financial Web Presence,” the latest white paper from Harland Clarke Digital. Download your free copy here


Data-Driven Strategies to Power Targeted Messaging

Posted by Deanna Cruzan on April 10th, 2014


Email campaigns are a great way to reach your client base in order to promote products, provide information, and/or offer news. But in order to take your email program beyond the basics, it is necessary to incorporate a data-driven strategy to understand what motivates customer action and deliver the appropriate follow-up/nurture messaging.

Since not every database is created the same, and useful information therefore might not be readily available, some marketers struggle with creating relevant and valuable messages. An email marketing system such as SubscriberMail can be a useful complement to already existing databases, allowing you to collect information related to email recipient behaviors — such as message clicks/opens or information supplied on web forms or online surveys — and store that data within the platform. This way, even if there isn’t a place in your own database for all of that information, it will be retained in a marketing system where it can be used to drive targeted messaging.

For instance, if a link is provided within your message and your customer clicks it, you can use that demonstrated interest to determine the content of the next message sent to that individual (“you might also be interested in…”). This ongoing and relevant line of communication is an effective way to cultivate customer relationships.

You can also consider pre-created messages that are triggered when certain actions are taken, such as sending refer-a-friend messages to customers who indicate a high level of satisfaction on a survey. These messages are a great way to provide timely feedback and prompt further action. By tracking activity within your email messages and beyond, you now have the data you need to provide your clients with products, services, news, and/or helpful information.

By using data to ensure the quality of messages, the common concerns about frequency become less of an issue. Provide value in every message sent, and you’ll be rewarded with increased engagement, and the resulting data that adds to a strong email marketing foundation.