In an effort to refocus digital engagement strategies, credit unions are deploying adaptive email marketing automation campaigns that are increasing new balances, spiking auto loan applications and converting anonymous website visitors to being “known.”

One CU offering up its success story is Interior Federal Credit Union.

“We were looking to get everything that we were currently doing into this automation platform and to see how it could free us from a lot of the manual tasks,” explained VP of Human Resources and Marketing Kimberly McCallum.

Manual tasks, she explained, included sending out new account and closed account surveys to members via Constant Contact. The CU’s onboarding process, she noted, which took place during a member’s first six months with the credit union, was also “very labor intensive.”

After vetting different vendors, McCallum said the CU implemented the Act-On Software platform. The process took roughly 60 days and, since implementation, the $187 million-asset credit union, which supports 15,000 members, 38 employees and two branch locations, has rolled numerous “matrix” campaigns, including onboarding for new members and student loans, and an auto loan recapture program.

McCallum said the CU has reached out to 3,700 households and had a 2.79 percent direct response, resulting in more than $1.2 million in new balances, as well as a 20.32 percent indirect response (opening other products) resulting in more than $6.6 million in new balances.

“Act-On tracks how many of your website visitors who were anonymous who became known, which is their conversion statistic,” noted McCallum. “So, out of our 34,202 website visitors, 96 percent were anonymous, but 618 converted/became known.”

Maximizing credit card applications

Adam Mertz, VP of marketing and strategy at Act-On
Adam Mertz, VP of marketing and strategy at Act-On

Act-On VP of Marketing and Strategy Adam Mertz noted that the Portland, Ore., company has several hundred financial services clients. On average, he said, most credit unions will take roughly a month and a half to get up and running. While the company touts a speedy start-up process, what does take time, said Mertz, is aligning technologies, aggregating content and developing campaign strategies, he added.

The $766 million-asset Truity Credit Union, which serves more than 68,000 members, has been an Act-On client for four years.

Prior to rolling out Act-On’s platform, Truity’s email campaigns had an 18 to 25 percent open rate on its credit card email marketing campaigns. Today, the open rate averages approximately 36 percent and sometimes reaches 54 percent. The click-through rate is 10 percent.

“We did pretty well with those in the past, but now they’re sensational,” said Kyle Dahlgren, the credit union’s AVP of e-commerce. “Our numbers have skyrocketed compared to previous years, and it’s mainly because of our Act-On drip campaigns. The first week we went live, we were flooded with hundreds of new credit card applications.”

Auto loan success

Marc Wilensky, VP of communications and brand marketing at Tower Federal Credit Union
Marc Wilensky, VP of communications and brand marketing at Tower Federal Credit Union

After eight months of searching for email marketing providers, Tower Federal Credit Union VP of Communications and Brand Marketing Marc Wilensky said he signed on with Act-On in October of 2017.

“We had been looking for a while for an automated email marketing system,” said Wilensky.

While the $3 billion-asset CU didn’t conduct a traditional beta testing, the first few email campaigns were small in size to “make sure we could manage” them, Wilensky noted.

To better educate its clients, Act-On offers training at its Act-On University. On a weekly basis, Wilensky’s team, including his web designer and programmer, worked with the university to ensure the campaigns would be executed as designed.

In late November 2017, the CU’s first auto lending campaign was launched. Part of Act-On’s platform includes a “scoring system” that allows credit unions to see what the intended user is doing with the email. For example, one point might be given for opening the email, three points given if the member clicked on a provided link and five points assigned if the member visited one of the CU’s auto pages.

Wilensky explained that these targeted members were then assigned top of funnel, middle of funnel or bottom of funnel. Wilensky’s team then developed content for each tunnel tier with calls to action, such as applying for the auto loan.

“The following week another email was sent depending on where we thought they were in the buying cycle,” he said. “The follow-up email had over a 50 percent open rate. I have been doing email marketing for 17 years and I never did a campaign that went to that many people that had that high of an open rate.”

The aforementioned rate, he said, was twice as high as prior email marketing auto lending campaigns. He added that the campaign was sent to more than half of the CU’s 169,000 members that had emails addresses on file.

“We saw a better-than-typical auto lending rate for December,” said Wilensky.