While you won’t hear the all-too-familiar “You’ve Got Mail!” when you open your inbox nowadays, email is far from vanishing from the world. Active email accounts are expected to number 5.6 billion in 2019 – a number big enough to make businesses and email marketers giddy. On top of the sheer number of users, our consistent use of and reliance on email is remarkable – over 50 percent of Americans check their personal email more than 10 times a day, and 59 percent say email marketing influences their purchase decisions.
The feeling is mutual on the sender side. Over 59 percent of marketers say email provides their biggest and most reliable ROI. Email marketing is so pivotal to business, the catchphrase for email senders might as well be “You’ve Got Customers!” As a financial advisor, the emails you send won’t promote flash sales or BOGO offers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of email marketing. More than likely, your approach will center around a few one-off emails and one consistent staple of the advisory profession: the digital newsletter – which we’ll focus on today. But before you open up a Word Document and start whittling away at the blank page with stories of your family vacation (pro tip: don’t do that), you’ll want to map out your strategy. Sending out a newsletter requires more than typing for a while and hitting “send.”
So let’s begin at the beginning. First, you’ll want to figure out what content you’ll share in your emails. As we mentioned, our focus will be on the digital newsletter – but first let’s look at the types of email marketing advisors typically use.
What Types of Emails Will You Send?
- Event invites
- Webinars, in-office events, dinners, client appreciation events
- Individual client communications, security updates
- Market reviews
- These can be pretty time-consuming, which is why a lot of advisors whitelabel their market updates (e.g., our whitelabeled market update for Carson Coaching members).
- Performance reports
- We’ll spend the most time here because this is typically the centerpiece of most advisors’ email marketing efforts.
Establish Your Newsletter’s Value
Every advisor knows (or should know) their firm’s value proposition by heart, but what about your newsletter’s value prop? Why should your clients and prospects give you access to their inboxes? Knowing your value proposition will help you determine the content to include and who your target audience is. What value will you provide to clients or prospects?
Do you want to be the thought leader or go-to expert on a specific topic like taxes or retirement planning? Does your firm have resources like blogs or whitepapers you can share? Could you provide a newsletter on everything business owners need to know about their finances? Your newsletter shouldn’t be a life or firm update that reads like a Christmas letter. Don’t get me wrong – people love hearing personal stories. But more than that, they want to know how they can improve their own situation. Your newsletter’s value proposition should explain what your readers will get out of it, not what you’ll get from them. Make sure your email lands in inboxes with intent. Some examples of great value props are:
- “Become smarter in just 5 minutes. Join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley.” The Morning Brew – we’ll talk about them more later – is a daily newsletter that promises to inform their audience on relevant financial news.
- -“Your Daily Dose of Financial News. The 3-minute daily newsletter with fresh takes on the financial news you need to start your day.” Robinhood Snacks – you’ll read this name later on too – makes a similar, albeit shorter, promise.
The major difference between the two? Robinhood Snacks specifically mentioned they are a daily newsletter – Morning Brew did not. The Morning Brew did define their content sharper than Robinhood who just broadly used the phrase “financial news.” A value proposition serves a dual purpose as a promise you make to your clients and the hook that attracts them. Great value propositions are simple and condense and offer something unique and worthwhile. Once you have you it down, you can start thinking about the technicalities a newsletter requires.
Related Content: How to Offer Unique Marketing to Your Clients
Make a List (and check it twice for GDPR Compliance)
You want your newsletter to reach as many people as possible, right? Not quite. You want it to reach as many people as possible who are in your target audience. These people are more likely to interact and engage with your newsletter than some random contact – meaning they’re more likely to turn from a lead into a client than some random contact. Where do you find these magic lists of promising prospects? Technically you can buy or rent lists from a list provider, but it’s a pretty terrible idea. While this may seem the quickest and easiest route to email marketing success, it’s not very effective and can have some pretty negative side effects. Because contacts on these lists didn’t opt-in to receive emails from you, they might find you annoying. They can mark you as spam, harming your IP reputation, open rates and future as an email marketer. Most email marketing software solutions (more on this later) have safeguards in place to prevent you from sending to purchased lists as excessive complaints can reflect poorly on them, too. On top of those crushing truths about buying lists is the final blow – you’ll violate the rules of consent under the GDPR, otherwise known as the General Data Protection Regulation. While this set of laws protects consumer data in the Europeon Union, California passed a digital privacy law set to go into effect in 2020, and the rest of the country won’t be too far behind.
We dive deeper into GDPR in another blog, but what it means for email marketers is you have to receive consent from people before they’re placed on your “opted-in” email list. So how do you build an email contact list that’s GDPR compliant and CAN-SPAM compliant? Start with lead magnets and subscribe boxes placed strategically throughout your site. Set up landing pages on your website that encourage prospects or clients to download a resource like a whitepaper or to sign up for a webinar. Include a checkbox on these landing pages for people to also sign up to receive your newsletter.
In GDPR-compliant fashion, the checkbox to sign up on lead magnet forms can’t automatically be checked. Someone has to check the box, giving their consent. Place these opt-in boxes on other pages on your site, too. You can also segment your lists by content type – allowing clients to opt in for any number of emails. Related Content: The 10 Best Lead Magnets for Advisors, Ranked
Set A Schedule
Setting a schedule for when you will send your emails will help you prevent something called “list exhaustion” – marketing-speak for “Stop sending me all these emails!” – that can result in a lot of unsubscribes and spam reports. How often will you send your newsletter? It’s smart to factor in your team’s capacity and ability to produce new content. Because a bit like the chicken versus the egg argument is the frequency versus content argument. What do you decide first? Deciding how often you want to hit send affects the amount and type of content. A daily or even a weekly newsletter will require a lot more fresh content than a monthly newsletter. But if you want to provide content that’s more industry news-heavy and recent, a monthly newsletter won’t be timely.
If you want to send a weekly newsletter, find someone on your team who can be in charge of putting it together. It might not seem like a time-consuming process, but putting out an engaging, well-designed, error-free newsletter can easily take a full day depending on how in-depth you’re going with it.
Daily newsletters aren’t typically something the average advisor can swing. Sure, there are some great daily finance emails out there (see “examples” below), but those come from large companies with a full staff solely dedicated to putting them together. Create a content calendar in advance so you know you’ll have enough content for each email, and have a set time to send your newsletter. The frequency and content will be determined by who is running point.
Aside from how often you’ll send, the other time aspect you have to consider with your newsletter is when you’ll send. The best days to send emails are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday according to 14 studies. Those same studies listed the best times of day to send emails as well – 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. If you think about your phone habits, those times won’t come as a surprise to you. The first thing many people – 46 percent of Americans – do when they wake up is use their smartphone. Most people check their social media or email first. The 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. time slots make sense because people have been at work a couple hours after first arriving or lunch and are looking for a break or distraction. The later evening time slot is when many people check their email before going to bed.
The suggested days and times are a good baseline to start at, but you can personalize send times even more by applying personas. If your firm doesn’t have personas set up, be sure to read our four-part series on 11 common persona types for financial advisors. Personas drive your messaging and marketing efforts. If your firm already uses personas – great! Applying them to your email marketing is simple.
Your personas are likely divided into groups like retirees, business owners, married vs. unmarried, etc. To find out what times each group is most likely to open email we have to work backwards. Think about their day. When would they go into work? Retirees don’t have to report to work and tend to start their day later. Business owners might be on the clock 24/7 and attentive to their phone. What are their obligations after work or during the day (i.e. kids, spouse, family, etc.)? If they’re married or have kids they might put the phone away for the evening – at least until the kids are asleep. Think about what time each group is awake, has free time or looking for a distraction – that’s when to schedule your email.
We send out a weekly newsletter – the Trend Line – to advisors on Friday mornings around 8. We know advisors are just getting into their office and booting their computers up. Fridays carry a more relaxed vibe than other weekdays, so advisors are more likely to take the time to read an email newsletter. One thing to keep in mind if your clients span across the country: time zones. Eight a.m. central time is not at the same time as eight a.m. mountain time. An email software service can help you with this feat. It allows you to schedule emails to send in the future and to optimize send times according to time zones.
Pick the Right Email Software
An email software solution has more capabilities than just marketing automation. Many offer analytics, integration into other apps your firm already uses (like Salesforce) and easy-to-use templates. Choosing the right software comes down to cost and usability. List sizes often determine pricing structures for software. Figure out how many people you’d like to or expect to send your email to. Don’t jump at the cheapest package tier, though. If your firm grows, the size of your email list will likely grow too, bumping you up to higher tiers. Look at what the higher tiers offer before settling for a software’s basic level.
Usability is the other factor you’ll want to consider when selecting an email software solution. Simple, easy-to-use newsletter templates and interfaces will cut down the time you will spend per email. Take into account how tech-savvy the person is who’ll be in charge of the emails.
Related content: Which Email Marketing Solution is Right for Your Advisory Firm?
Automation is something we didn’t initially mention as a factor. It affects other marketing efforts, not newsletters. With a newsletter you send the email you just created to a set list of individuals all at once. Automation sends pre-developed email to individuals when they perform a certain action (downloaded a whitepaper on your website for example.) Automation capabilities are something to keep in mind if you wish to expand your firm’s marketing efforts down the road. These five email software solutions are some of the best available and a great place to start your search. You can read more about the pros and cons of each and what kind of firm should use them here.
1. MailChimp MailChimp is listed first for a reason. They are inexpensive and even offer a free plan which allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers. Another feature is their easy integration of other applications your firm might already use. Downsides? The interface is a tad clunky and automation options are basic.
2. HubSpot Hubspot’s email marketing solution is just one tool in their marketing toolbox. It’s user-friendly, customizable and features automation. It can be expensive if you select a higher tier, so this solution is best for a firm who wants to use Hubspot for more than just email marketing – as a CRM or to build landing pages for example.
3. Constant Contact The grandpa/grandma of email marketing software isn’t as flashy as its relatives. Basic features like automation and A/B testing aren’t available in the first of two pricing levels. That being said, Constant Contact offer exclusive features – event management tool, the ability to conduct surveys – other software solutions don’t.
4. Pardot Pardot is a great solution if your firm uses Salesforce, it’s an expensive one if not. The priciest solution of this bunch, Pardot is owned by Salesforce so integration is seamless. But customization isn’t as robust as other solutions.
5. Campaign Monitor Campaign Monitor has it all – it’s easy to use and boasts good-looking templates and automation. But every rose has its thorns – some features like its analytic tools, customization and customer support don’t compare to competitors. Many email and marketing software solutions offer free trials. Test out different programs to find out the best fit for your firm right now and in the future.
Find Some Great Advisor Newsletter Examples
By now, you should have an idea of what it takes to send out an email newsletter – curating lists, scheduling times and selecting an email software solution. What about the actual components that make up a newsletter?
The content you want to include in the newsletter is up to you and your target personas. Ultimately you want to inform your reader and position your firm to be the go-to on specific topics. How exactly you go about that in the email is up to you – just make sure the language and voice you use is authentic.
Two of my favorite email newsletters in the financial world are Robinhood Snacks and The Morning Brew. While both come out on a daily basis and are the products of a team of writers solely dedicated to the newsletter, you could still learn a lot for your weekly or monthly newsletter. Anna’s Weekly Fintech Roundup is a weekly newsletter summarizing a dozen or so articles on financial industry news. The short, conversational paragraphs about each article allow people who don’t have that much time to get the just of each article. And by linking to the full article, it allows people who do have the time to read more. Another solid weekly newsletter example is Chris Skinner’s The Finanser. He takes a similar approach in summarizing the top headlines of the week in the financial industry. His summaries are shorter and even more conversational.
Your firm might not have the humorous personality of Robinhood or The Morning Brew or the conversational tone of Anna or Chris, and that’s ok. Stay true to your firm’s voice and consistent with the language you use in other marketing collateral.
Email marketing is one piece of the marketing puzzle – a piece that will only fit if handled correctly. Take the time to select the right software, build lists and curate content. We focused on the digital newsletter, but remember there are other email communications you can send to clients. Email marketing is a big ROI source as it’s used to cultivate leads – turning prospects into clients. You don’t want to miss out on reaching existing and potential clients where they already live – email. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to the Trend Line, our weekly newsletter where we send out all the latest morsels of advisor wisdom.