Why Nobody Is Reading Your RIA’s Newsletter

“We don’t want the Harvard Business Review here, something more in the USA Today camp.”

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

It’s late in the night and you’ve labored for hours writing articles, crafting headlines, resizing images, and testing links. With a final flourish, you exhale and click send, blasting out your latest email newsletter.

Is anyone reading it?

For wealth managers and financial advisors, this may be uncomfortable, time-consuming territory. After all, digital marketing is not exactly in your job description. However, as RIAs maneuver to retain clients and attract new business, it is more important than ever to connect with consumers across any and all digital platforms. Email newsletters might feel a little old-fashioned, but, as economic and political news roils the markets almost daily, clients and consumers find it comforting to hear their trusted advisors’ take on trends and forecasting. That one-on-one connection is powerful.

Generally speaking, if an email newsletter produces a 15% to 25% open rate, meaning users actually click on it and read it, that’s good. If those users click on a link within your email, also called a click through rate, that’s even more valuable. Those links usually send readers to a firm’s website, where they can explore research and blogs, and contact advisors. That’s digital marketing gold. But click-through rate tends to be far lower, averaging between 2% and 3%.

Among email marketers, financial services firms tend to perform fairly well. In 2018, the average open rates for financial services was 18.2%, while click through rates averaged 2.7%, according to email services provider Campaign Monitor, which analyzed billions of email messages.

Among industries that perform well, agriculture and forestry companies averaged 20.1% open rates and 3.7% click through rates, while non-profits averaged 20.4% open rates and 2.7% click through rates. On the low end, consumer packaged goods companies averaged a 14.5% open rates and a 1.8% click through rate.

Advisors should also closely watch unsubscribe rates. Most email platforms, including popular tools like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, provide detailed analytics, including success rates, open rates, and click through stats. They can also prune their distribution lists to weed out recipients that never open or engage with the content, which can help improve their success rates.

In the financial services industry, several advisors told RIA Intel said they aim for well-curated lists of 500 to 600 clients, industry professionals, and potential customers. If a list gets too big, there’s a risk that people won’t open it, dragging down your stats. To reach more specific audiences and engage them, firms can create subsets, such as young families or retirees.

Kyle Hart, founder of RIA Coastal Wealth Planners, regularly sends out emails to about 525 subscribers and plans to create smaller niche groups. An active blogger, Hart sends a brief email to his list whenever he publishes a new blog entry. About once a month, he sends a meatier electronic newsletter weighing in on industry trends, news, and finance tips. The updates on his blog posts help drive traffic to his website and improve SEO, while the longer e mail newsletter spotlights his firm’s expertise, he said.

If an email produces a 20% to 25% open rate, Hart considers it a success. The most successful emails, he said, which include a personal tone, strong art, and multimedia like video, can produce open rates as high as 50%.

While financial services involve a lot of technical terms, statistics, and jargon, striking an informal, personal tone can help engage readers. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Dennis Stearns, CFP, ChFC, and founder of Stearns Financial Group, has been sending emails to clients, industry professionals and firm associates. He strives for a tone that is both authoritative yet friendly, and opted for folksy names for his newsletter, Poolside Chat in the summer months and Fireside Chat in colder seasons.

“The feedback from clients has been, ‘We don’t want the Harvard Business Review here, something more in the USA Today camp,’” Stearns said.

To make the emails easily scannable, the body of Stearns’ “Chats” includes a handful of short article intros and a Frequently Asked Question section with links to click through to longer versions. He said the FAQ section often has the highest click through rates and sometimes dedicates entire emails to answering inquiries.

Also, while the articles command the majority of your time, don’t neglect your subject line and headlines. The subject line is your introduction, and a catchy one can entice readers to open your message. Similarly, within the body of the email, include clever headlines.

About half of email marketing messages are viewed on mobile devices, according to email software provider Litmus, while other estimates put the figure closer to 70%. That means your email needs to look as good on a four-inch screen as a large desktop monitor. According to Adestra, if an email isn’t optimized for mobile, 15% of recipients will unsubscribe, while 70% of users will delete it within three seconds. Most email programs allow senders to preview their message for mobile and desktops, so make sure your text and photos look good for small screens. Look for broken links and, if you embed video or audio, ensure the player is mobile optimized.

In research, A/B testing offers two versions of a product to different groups to see which one produces higher responses. The same notion is easily applied here. To ascertain what content resonates with users, senders can create two different recipient lists and craft messages with different styles of text, art and length. At Coastal Wealth Planners, Hart plans to divide his list and add audio and video to boost engagement. “These are things you can consume on the go instead of sitting to read 400 to 1,000 words,” he said. “I’d expect it will get a higher click-through rate.”

RIAs can also tinker with their distribution strategy. The best day for financial services companies to send out emails is Saturdays, according to Campaign Monitor, while Sundays and Mondays produce the lowest engagement. Also, if the email comes from a financial advisor or firm president, rather than a generic address, it gives off a personal touch and users will be more inclined to open it.

Ultimately, email marketing offers RIAs the opportunity to stay top-of-mind and flex their expertise. Like any form of marketing, it needs to be well-conceived and smartly executed. For RIAs, that means learning some new tricks, including writing, editing, and marketing know-how. According to Jason Ball, founding principal of RIA Ball Comprehensive Planning, that takes patience and commitment. Said Ball: “To succeed in the digital environment, you have to learn new skills as you go. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error.”