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Data-driven marketing without breaking the bank

Marketing firm launches low-cost platform for smaller financial institutions

Known mainly in the automotive business and among a few large banks, ChannelNet recently launched a marketing platform for community banks offering personalized messaging, relevant offers, and informational content on a personal microsite. Known mainly in the automotive business and among a few large banks, ChannelNet recently launched a marketing platform for community banks offering personalized messaging, relevant offers, and informational content on a personal microsite.

Thirty years ago, the late Daniel Yankelovich, market researcher, said that technology would radically change the marketing landscape. One glance at the targeted, contextual marketing that appears on a typical web page or mobile screen tells you he was very prescient.

Paula Tompkins, founder and CEO of a marketing company, referenced Yankelovich’s prediction in an interview with Banking Exchange. Over several decades she has built the business on the basis of that trend, primarily focused for many years on the automotive marketplace. More recently the company, ChannelNet, has worked with larger financial institutions, and just last month it launched a marketing platform for smaller institutions under the name OneClick Financial.

Tompkins was a pioneer in the use of the personal computer as a marketing communications tool—first via diskettes, CD/ROMs, then the internet. Her company now uses data analytics to help banks create onboarding and other messaging that drive sales in a personalized, informational way.

Marketing’s “table stakes”

With its auto industry roots, it’s not surprising that ChannelNet counts Ally Bank as a customer. The relationship with the branchless bank is at the “Custom” level, with many features individually tailored to the bank’s needs. However, many of the same features have been included in the modestly priced “Advanced” and “Basic” versions of the OneClick platform. These, says Tompkins, are specifically designed to benefit community banks and credit unions with limited budgets but the same needs for data-driven marketing.

Right now, says Tompkins, many small and mid-size banks struggle to keep their websites up to date. They still largely rely on direct mail. Even older consumers don’t open direct mail like they used to, she maintains, and they don’t go into branches nearly as much.

“It’s a huge transformation,” says Tompkins. The “big guys” can afford to make the shift, she says, but even they struggle.

Smaller financial institutions have to be clear about how to hang onto their customers, says Tompkins. “They’ve got to engage that customer beyond direct mail and the branch.”

In today’s marketing, “‘relevance’ is table stakes,” says Tompkins. ChannelNet provides personalized digital communications through a combination of email and personal websites created for client customers.

The communication usually begins with an email upon opening an account, taking out a loan, buying a CD, etc. The platform sends a welcome email to the customer which contains a link to the personal web page, which is hosted by ChannelNet. There, a variety of messages, information, offers, and tools are presented, based on data provided by the bank. (A recent partnership with MEA Financial allows ChannelNet to also communicate via text messages.)

Tompkins says ChannelNet doesn’t track customer transactions, but it does closely track what customers do on their personal website, and then suggests adjustments as necessary. She calls this “data driven content automation.”

How a typical setup works

In a demo, Tompkins showed a hypothetical new loan customer, “Michelle,” who receives an email shortly after obtaining a new-car loan.

The email message is “Thank you, Michelle, for taking out an XYZ Bank auto loan for the purchase of your Chevrolet Cruze.”

An invitation to view details and get information on managing loan payments and other information links to a bank-branded personal webpage. There, the page might contain information regarding how to make payments, a message from the auto dealer, a cross-sell for a savings account, all based on the bank’s instructions and customer data.

Other messages would be sent at various anniversary dates or on a regular schedule during the term of the loan.

At the end of the loan, an email might say “You’re in the final stretch to no more car payments,” and the personal webpage might provide a valuation of the car at that point. Another section might be “Know your options.” All such options and cross-sell messages would contain direct links deep into the bank’s website to the appropriate page, or, in some cases to an external site, such as a client car dealer.

“It’s not just a bunch of sales messages,” says Tompkins. With a CD customer, messages could reinforce the purchase, suggest “going paperless,” provide a retirement calculator, etc.

Other options include “click to call” buttons and an appointment scheduler to connect them with specialists within the bank. “We’re a traffic cop for customer information and connections,” as Tompkins put it, “all automated in the background.”

Some financial institutions love social media, says Tompkins, and have asked to have the institution’s Google Plus and Yelp ratings shown on the customer’s webpage, along with an invitation to rate the bank. They also ask the customer for referrals and offer a means to make charitable contributions.

Asked how much time customers typically spend on the microsite, Tompkins said it varies, but three to five minutes is not unusual. She also says email opt-outs are minimal because the emails are not general promotional blasts but contain relevant information.

Package price points

Many of the above capabilities described by Tompkins are from the customized work her firm has done with Ally and other large financial institutions. She says the company took the concept and repackaged it as the two standard products mentioned earlier, but at a much lower cost.

While she did not disclose pricing parameters for the custom level, she says the pricing for the two standardized packages is as follows:

Basic $2,500 setup charge, $1,000/month; Advanced $5,000 setup charge, $3,000 per month.

Tompkins says these packages use the same platform as the custom product, but without certain features.

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