Financial Services Trails Other Industries' Click-through Rates

Digital marketers at financial services companies, including mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies, spend a healthy chunk of their time working on outbound emails. So, how are you doing?

Above-average on three out of four counts, according to the Harte-Hanks Postfuture Index™ released yesterday. More financial services emails are successfully delivered and opened than emails sent by other industries. This is based on Harte-Hanks's analysis of about 3 billion email messages sent across nearly 100 companies in nine industries in 2009 and 2010. (The company also studied unsubscribe rates and on this dimension financial services scores a thin advantage. Over all industries, the unsubscribe rate was 0.16% versus 0.08% for financial services.)

But it’s the email click-through rate (CTR), arguably the critical measure, where financial services trails. What's worse, the reported number is a blend. In a follow-up email from Harte-Hanks, I learned that financial services CTRs tumbled from 3.3% in 2009 to 1.7% in 2010. Although, "to date, we are seeing an upturn," the PR contact tagged on to her note.

So much energy is involved in the writing, designing, reviewing, coding and tracking of emails—and at best just two out of 100 recipients are opening them? On the bright side, if your emails are drawing better than 2% click-throughs, you're doing better than the industry standard. Better than 3% and you're above average.

I’m always skeptical when I hear about “email programs” because I worry about the disproportionate effort invested in them and the implication that the communicating is done once the emails are sent.

There is a sense of satisfaction when a “blast email” finally makes it out the door. But let’s be realistic about exactly what that mass communication is going to accomplish. A 2%-3% response in the form of a click-through is not sufficient to sustain interest let alone grow interest in your business.

What other forms of communicating are you planning and testing for greater impact?