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A community bank is, as its name implies, rooted in relationships. Community bankers know the names and faces of their neighbors. Community banks help locals open checking accounts, finance a new home and get businesses up and running. The work of building strong relationships is even more crucial as more day-to-day banking shifts online.

How does a community bank stay top-of-mind?

This is where investing in an email newsletter makes sense. Granted, we here at rasa.io are super into email newsletters, and work hard to make them smarter and better. But, done thoughtfully, newsletters are a great fit for community banks and other industries where keeping touch with customers is a priority despite its challenges. Hear us out.

Why does my community bank need an email newsletter?

The world is increasingly digital and mobile, which means that old-school print advertising and direct mail just doesn’t pack as much of a punch as it used to. Having an online presence is vital. Most businesses start with social media because it’s easy to set up, but it’s tough to rise above the noise and connect with people in a direct way on those platforms. At the end of the day, your followers belong to Facebook, Instagram or whatever platform you happen to be using, not your brand.

Email newsletters offer an affordable way to strengthen your bank’s content marketing. Most everyone has an email address these days (just over 4 billion of us worldwide, if you’re counting). After all, you need an email to log into a social media account, not the other way around. In addition, your email list belongs to you. You built it. It’s yours.

Another plus: Email is easy to check on-the-go, using a mobile device. As of 2019, mobile devices accounted for nearly half of all website views, according to Statista. Likewise, mobile banking is on the rise. Roughly three-quarters of Americans used a mobile device the last time they checked their banking account. It’s important to meet customers where they’re at, and that’s on their phones.

But why invest in an email newsletter? Isn’t email more 2000 than 2020? Yes, email has been around for a while, but it continues to grow as content marketing becomes a growing priority for community banks and other industries. Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and sharing information that’s valuable to your audience. Email newsletters are designed to deliver useful information directly to your audience. Content marketing and email newsletters are a match made in marketing heaven for a community bank.

Surveys show consumers still prefer that brands contact them via email. In a 2017 Campaign Monitor survey , 66% of respondents ranked email as their preferred method of communication from retail brands, followed by direct mail at a distant 26%.

Email newsletters, in particular, are evolving. That’s because technology, ranging from simple GIFs to artificial intelligence (like what we do here at rasa.io), is making it easier to build smarter, more personalized email newsletters. More personalized means more meaningful.

If the goal is to maintain a direct conversation with your audience online and across devices, email newsletters are one of the more effective tools out there.

How does my community bank start an email newsletter?

If you already have an email list of customers, congrats! You have a built-in audience who wouldn’t mind hearing from you. If you don’t, getting started is as simple as asking. Ask new and existing customers if you could email them a weekly newsletter with useful information related to personal finance, savings and community info. Not sales pitches or promos, but articles, videos and other content that you think they would find useful.

That last part is key. Community banks work hard to connect customers to the specific products and services they need. It’s in your DNA. But your email newsletter shouldn’t be about landing new or expanded accounts. An email newsletter should be about building a relationship with people, people who may eventually need to get a home loan, start a college savings fund or scale their business.

We don’t have to tell you that investing in maintaining relationships, whether in-person or through an email newsletter, is key to unlocking long-term success. That’s what relationship banking is all about. Those folks who open a checking account today? They could be tomorrow’s borrower. You want your bank (or perhaps a link to your bank’s email newsletter) to come up when a customer or someone they know is thinking about getting a loan or opening a line of credit.

To that end, grow your email list by asking your existing subscribers to share the newsletter with friends and family if they find it useful. Send out surveys asking subscribers what topics they want to know more about. Also, add a newsletter signup feature on your website and bring along a tablet and encourage newsletter signups at community gathering and other in-person events where your bank has a presence.

What should we talk about in our email newsletter?

Don’t underestimate the treasure trove of knowledge you bring to the table as a community bank. Whether a credit union, small bank or mid-size regional bank, a big part of banking at the community level is keeping tabs on economic trends at the national, state and local levels. Your audience wants to know about some of those trends as well. Make it a point to share insider information, without going too far into the weeds.

Take a breath. That doesn’t mean that you need to sit down and start typing out dozens of blog posts explaining tough topics. Much of the content you’re looking for is already online, but your audience may not be seeing it. It’s up to you to share it with them, and an email newsletter is an effective way to do that.

In your reading and research, look out for articles, videos and other content that do a good job at explaining big-picture trends or key personal finance topics as you’re doing your regular industry reading. (This process, by the way, is called curation and it’s crucial. Check out our content curation guide to help you get started curating quality content the right way.)

Many financial institutions already send promotional emails highlighting specific products or special offers, for example, a cash back offer on new checking accounts. Your email newsletter is an opportunity to do something a little different. Focus on sharing information about the news and topics people care about when thinking about their finances. For example, details on retirement planning or saving for college. Or, for businesses, explainers on tax strategy and growing your credit relationship with your bank.

Here are some topics to consider as you think about building out your email newsletter. We split these topics up into two categories—individuals or businesses—depending on your target audience.

Newsletter topics for individual customers

  • Personal finance. As a bank, you already have an established level of trust and expertise on finance in the community. Leverage that to share more information on personal finance matters that are relevant to your customers. Share articles that outline best practices for financial planning for individuals and families, as well as a retirement and college savings how-tos.
  • Mortgage basics. Roughly 63% of American homeowners have a mortgage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but lending requirements and what they entail remain a mystery for many individuals. That knowledge gap has real consequences; people receive the wrong loan product or some—including young adults—may opt out of homeownership altogether. (Only 37.3% of homeowners were under age 35 to start 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) A newsletter is a great place to share articles about loans and financing, as well as any tips or guides your loan officers have developed.
  • Home improvement. After buying a home, loans for home renovations, additions and upgrades are among the most common reasons for individuals to borrow. Use your newsletter to share information on when to upgrade kitchens, roofs and other home features, as well as best practices and checklists for hiring a contractor or budgeting a project.
  • Community events. Community banks have a pulse on the community, including activities and events happening in the town, city or region they serve. Newsletters are a good place to share links to family-friendly events and activities—think festivals, fun runs, recitals and block parties—your customers would be interested in.
  • Community features. Think about all the awesome local businesses and nonprofits your bank works with. Wouldn’t it be cool to share some of those names, faces and ideas with your audience? Consider a section of your blog and newsletter that profiles locals folks and the work that they’re doing. To be clear, this type of content shouldn’t read or watch like a testimonial or an advertisement. The goal should be to raise awareness about the local business or nonprofit, and the people who run it. It should not be pitching products and services.
  • Health and wellness. Behind housing, healthcare (and managing expenses related to it) is among the largest expenses for families. Look for articles and other content that talk about the intersection of wellness and finance, for example, what to look for when shopping for health insurance or a listicle with tips on how to save money on medicines.

Newsletter topics for business customers

A newsletter is a useful tool for building relationships with local businesses in addition to individuals. Consider a specialized newsletter for small business customers that shares advice, how-tos and guides for topics relevant to small business owners.

 

  • Building credit. Use your newsletter to share articles, tips and guides for how-to grow your credit relationship with your bank, establish lines of credit and generate working capital.
  • Tax strategy. Most businesses spend a lot of time thinking about how to reduce their tax burden. That’s especially the case for small business owners, who are often squeezed for time and resources. Offer a helping hand by sharing articles, guides and video tutorials with details on tax planning and filing strategies.
  • Best practices. A newsletter is good place to share best practices in areas that your bank has special insight on. For example, what to look for when hiring a chief financial officer. Or key steps to take when buying or selling a business.
  • Raising capital. Share info on money-related topics that don’t link directly to banking services. That includes raising capital from investors, the basics of crowdfunding or how to manage a business during a downturn.
  • Culture and leadership. Keep an eye out for content related to culture or leadership that your small business customers may find useful. That includes articles with tips on leading groups, best practices in culture building, and how-tos for getting the most out of your workday.

Where can I find info for an email newsletter?

The best email newsletters offer a mix of original content and external content. The latter is known as “curated content” in the online marketing world. A good guideline? For every 10 pieces of content shared (i.e. articles, videos, social media posts, etc.), shoot for five curated pieces, three original pieces and two pieces that share something personal about your business.

Where can you find curated content? First, think of the places where your customers are most likely to read about how banking trends affect their day-to-day lives. That can include sources like:

  • National news websites;
  • Newsletters and forums that serve specific industries; and
  • Social media posts.
Next, think about sources that specialize in offering news and information on the non-industry topics you want to cover. Those can include:

Where can I learn more about crafting email newsletters?

With a thoughtful approach, email newsletters are an effective way to connect with your clients on a regular basis outside the context of a sale. It’s about holding a conversation.

Want to learn more about how to craft successful email newsletters? Our Pushing Send blog has a whole section on email newsletters for you to peruse. Also, read more about how rasa.io works for community banks.

Looking for email inspiration? The Really Good Emails database includes examples of hundreds of examples of well-done emails, including email newsletters.

Last, for a deeper dive into the fundamentals of curating content, check out our free guide on content curation.

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