As Seen on ABA Marketing.

com

Automating your marketing program is a dream come true.
Set up the messaging content, schedules and reporting then let it rip and watch
the business flow in. The recent proliferation and popularity of online marketing
automation services makes the process sound compelling and simple.

“Simple” works great for lead generation and nurturing. But for banks, the opportunities and ROI
potential for automation goes much deeper, and result in major (positive) impact on marketing,
operations, and general customer experience.
Despite the dramatic shift to digital, banks are still driven by calendar cycles and repeated processes
that occur as part of transactions. What has changed with digital banking is the customer
expectation of the response cycle. The phrase “This will be on your next statement which you’ll
receive on or about the 25th of the month…” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Customers expect realtime or near real-time notifications and confirmations. They also expect to be sold or told about
new services in a timely, relevant, and personalized manner.
Fortunately, email is your customer’s favorite communication channel by a wide margin. With a
well-planned email automation program, you can simplify and repeat tasks that used to take days
of manual or process-based communications.

Here are some of the tasks that can be automated
with email:
• Targeted email campaigns (from your core or other
business intelligence system)
• New customer “Welcome” and onboarding programs
• New service follow-ups (activation, instructions, FAQs)
• Surveys (customer experience, Net Promoter Score,
branch visit follow-up, service assessment)
• Customer birthday and anniversary greetings
• Alerts and notices (such as e-statement notifications,
balance alerts, payment receipts)
• Transactional messages (e-receipts, confirmation
emails)
• Operational notification (privacy notices, CD rollovers)
And, like those marketing automation platforms, you can
automatically respond to web visitors and inquiries (lead
generation / nurturing). Add automatic notifications to
your sales team and you have a formula for success.
What’s not to like?
Implementing and sustaining these types of programs
does require some planning and effort. But the payoff
and positive impact is nothing short of astounding. Some
typical benefits include reducing time cycles; eliminating
error-prone manual tasks, delivering a better customer
experience, and reducing expensive paper and postal
costs.
As an example, one bank converted from paper-based
branch experience surveys to an automated email survey
invitation. Tracking just the response, survey completions
jumped nearly 10-fold by using more timely (and easier
to complete) email invitations. Eliminating postal, print,
and manual processing also resulted in thousands of
dollars saved each month.

How Does Email Automation Work?
Understanding the mechanics of email
automation can help you get creative, while
being realistic about what you can achieve. There
are two basic methods available: trigger or
event-based (sometimes called auto-responders)
and sequenced programs. Very often, a triggered
event will set a sequenced program in motion.
An example is a Welcome Series, in which a new
customer is sent a sequence of emails with
various information and calls-to-action (visit
product page, complete a survey, etc.) This is
typically accomplished by having specific lists and
messages / templates already set up with your
email program (you do have an email program,
right?). You then add “subscribers” the specific
list (the “trigger”,) which starts the sequence
associated with that list.
Sequenced programs are typically driven by a
pre-determined workflow. Some workflows can
be simple – send a series of messages at intervals
of 10, 30 and 60 days. Others can be more complex and actually include subsets of triggers or
events. For example, the 10-, 30-, 60-day cycle
above can include sub-sequences that launch
based on the recipient’s actions. If the recipient
clicks on a specific link in one of the messages,
this triggers yet another response or sequence
that is specific to that links. Other functions such
as delays, conditional logic and dynamic content
can increase the targeting and timing precision to
improve campaign performance.

Implementation
Adding customers to a list is a common way to launch
and an automation process, and can usually be done
manually, programmatically, or via batch automation.
Manually: In this scenario, an automated sequence can
be triggered by manually entering one or more records
into an existing automated process. This is acceptable for
infrequent updates (monthly or even weekly), but is
typically not sustainable for more frequent update cycles,
or programs with short sequence intervals.
Programmatically: This involves using an API (Application
Programming Interface). This is one of the most
misunderstood acronyms in use today. Non-technical
users often use the term to describe any automated
process that takes place after a web form is completed
and triggers an auto-responder and/or sequence. While
this often does involve an API in the background, APIs on
the market today typically connect applications together.
So, if you want your loan application to initiate a welcome series, or insert the information into your CRM
system, an API “call” from the loan application would
serve either of those functions.
APIs are often used when real-time communications are
required. The confirmation emails you receive when you
complete an online order are typically driven by an API
that passes along information about your purchase into
the email message. While APIs are great tools,
implementation typically requires some technical
expertise. Also, most APIs tend to be function-specific
and may require multiple interactions to achieve a
complete set of communications.
Batch Automation: Most bank systems are already
geared up for batch type of processing, so the road to
automation can be shorter and less bumpy with
scheduled batch transfers.

In addition, batch file transfers can offer more
flexibility on record-processing – more data can
be passed, and once received, automated routines can do additional processing such as
aggregating multiple records or converting codes
to actual variables to insert into messages.
Scheduling batch transfers is relatively simple,
and can be effected at any interval – hourly to
monthly.
Any method used must work bi-directionally.
This ensures that record errors and other types
of reporting gets back to the source. For
instance, if an email is undeliverable, that event
and information should be sent back to the originating source automatically so that the record
can be updated or flagged.
Assessing which approach is best for your
automation project involves answering some
basic questions. In many cases, multiple methods
are used to support various tasks. In that case,
making sure that your messages have a consistent appearance and sender identity is important
to ensure maximum delivery and customer
engagement.
In any scenario, making sure that you can
produce consistent data records on a reliable
basis is the key to success. Involving your IT team
early and testing records from various sources to
ensure data standardization is vital, and will avoid
unpleasant surprises down the road.
Email automation is a catalyst to getting more out
of your marketing and customer communications.
Going deep requires some planning, guidance
and a bit of effort, but it can generate significant
impact once it’s running. This gives you more
time to work on that endless to-do list.

Ray Parenteau is founder and president of ClickRSVP, a full service email communications
provider specializing in financial institutions for more than 15 years.
He may be reached at ray1@clickrsvp.com.