Score Big on Your Website Traffic. Step Up Your Email Game.

Credit unions are getting better at driving traffic to ever-improving websites. Take these best practices into consideration when developing your next email campaign.


Your website looks great. It’s easy to navigate and loaded with information, product offers, and special promotions. So, how do you drive member traffic to it? Use a robust email marketing program. It’s fast, efficient, and easy on the budget. But before launching an email marketing campaign, step back and review your game plan. To increase website traffic, make sure your messages are relevant and make sure your messages are delivered. If you are unsure about the success of your efforts, use other credit unions as a benchmark against which to compare your strategy.

Design a game plan
Email marketing is inexpensive, fast, convenient, and offers better ROI than traditional marketing channels; however, you still need to make your message relevant. Here are a few ways to deepen member relationships and grow your business:

  • Customize messages to fit members’ needs. Sending messages a member doesn’t want could irritate them and damage your relationship.
  • Target the subject line and clearly indicate that the email is from the credit union. Just like you, most members determine whether to open an email based on the subject line and on who it’s from.
  • Use autoresponders for follow-up and cross-sell opportunities. Instead of sending one long-shot marketing email to an entire list, keep products in front of members by using autoresponders to send one-to-one email messages at timed intervals.
  • Use triggers for seamless follow-up. Initiated by members’ market behavior, these “next step” emails engage members who click through links in your emails.
  • Use variable custom field insertion to personalize email messages to each member using a single template and customer data.
  • Take advantage of split testing. Today’s software can automatically test two subject lines with a sampling of email addresses, and then use the stronger option for the remaining addresses.  This ensures better open rates and greater visibility for your messages.
  • Include hyperlinks in your emails to drive traffic back to your website. Members don’t type or cut and paste links.
  • Follow the “Three Click Rule.” Link to landing pages in your email so members can get from product or service information to acquisition in three clicks or less. Don’t drive members to your home page and then make them look for information.

Sidestep the Defender
Email offers many opportunities. According to the Pew Institute and American Life Project, 74% of Americans used the Internet in 2009. Eighty-nine percent of those people sent and read email. A well-designed and well-executed email marketing campaign will drive members to your website ... if your emails reach them. 

In-house DIY email systems face challenges in sending mass emails. The sender’s reputation plays a key dynamic in Internet Service Provider (ISP) clearance; who is sending your email has become just as important as what’s in your message. Choosing a certified email service provider improves your chances of reaching members’ inboxes. Look for an email marketing company that uses certified systems and analyzes outbound emails for deliverability.

If you plan to do-it-yourself (DIY), note that most in-house email marketing doesn’t compete with today’s sophisticated anti-spam systems. According to a January 2010 PC World report on Symantec Brightmail, approximately 67% of all email is spam; that is tens of millions of emails every day. Because of spam growth, major ISPs have installed measurements to screen spam. Items that trigger spam screens include:

  • Requests are not processed promptly.
  • Feedback loops are not in place and issues are not processed quickly.
  • The sender does not have a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record in place.
  • The sender blasts large volumes at once at ISP email addresses.
  • Bad email addresses are continuously used and not removed from the list after notification.

Even if you’ve scrubbed your email list to ensure accuracy, avoid spam trigger words such as “free.” When email marketing gets an organization blacklisted, all outbound email fails to deliver for a period of time.

Benchmark against the pros
In any strategy review, it’s important to observe what other professionals have done to improve their game. NARFE Premier FCU, Belvoir FCU, and Northwest FCU are three credit unions that increased website traffic through email marketing. 

Autoresponders drive traffic and growth
NARFE Premier FCU serves a dispersed membership of active and retired federal employees. Luckily, the credit union has an excellent email-collection system, and more than a quarter of its membership prefers to receive messages via email. 

Jessica Dederer, marketing director, says her credit union knew it would benefit from an automatic email marketing program that provides customized messages to targeted members based on their individual profiles. The credit union just needed assistance.

“From the first step, Autoresponders made it simple, from importing data from our MCIF software, to reviewing our e-mail list, to creating a delivery schedule,” Dederer says. “We anticipated good results, and Autoresponders exceeded our expectations." 

The credit union used the Automatic Relationship Builder to sync its data and automatically deliver personalized emails at selected intervals based on each member’s usage profile. Over three months, NARFE Premier FCU sent 282 new members a series of seven distinct emails every two weeks, each focusing on a different key benefit or service. By the end of the campaign, 52 members had added at least one new product or service. Loans grew 190%, deposit accounts rose by 24%, and balances increased more than $425,000.

Variable Field Insertion provides relevancy with available HELOC balance
Belvoir FCU serves a widespread military membership, as well as residents and employees from Ft. Belvoir. In 2009, the credit union incorporated email marketing into its overall communication strategy and created a targeted, customized email campaign to promote its HELOC. Working with a variable field insertion template, the credit union developed three different offers and personalized them with each member’s first name and the amount of money the member could borrow against their HELOC. The credit union then delivered the offer via the Automatic Relationship Builder. The ARB automatically switched the image and content in the email based on the available credit provided so members saw images of high-ticket items in their available price range. 

Keeping Score (a.k.a., you can’t manage what you don’t measure)
Northwest FCU concentrated on its growing Internet channel and queued up a “special offers” email alert. The credit union carefully crafted the email, ran the template through an email spam checker to give it the best shot at reaching the member, and then sent it via DigitalMailer’s warranted email system to 32,000 email addresses. During the first four days, almost 8,000 members opened the email and read the credit union's offer. Slightly less than 2,000 members clicked-through one of the four links in the message to learn more about an offer on the NWFCU website.

“Then something good happened,” says Gerrianne Burks, president/CEO of NWFCU. “The email promotion did exactly what it was supposed to do: raise awareness and bring members to our website. It also resulted in $1.4 million dollars in new loans in less than a week and was definitely worth the effort.”