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How highly regulated organizations can add agility and speed to their email marketing

Implementing agile workflows can be difficult in a highly regulated industry, but with the right mix of technology, processes and people, email marketing teams for financial service organizations can keep pace with the quickly changing market.

Email creation and marketing operations teams running large scale email marketing programs for financial institutions face a unique set of challenges. Because they are part of a highly regulated industry, it is especially difficult to implement agile workflows and speed up marketing processes. The industry moves quickly. Add in requirements around ADA compliance issues like live text and contrast ratios — along with having to store assets for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulations — and things gets even more complicated

In a recent webinar, I outlined the difficulties email marketing teams in the highly regulated financial services industry face and offered insights on how these teams can establish agile email creation processes without putting their email programs at risk of breaching industry regulations. During the webinar, I discussed how disruptors like Robinhood Financial, a trading platform for investors, are enabling agile systems that allow them to move with speed and react to the quickly changing industry.

There’s no question, especially after the events of 2020, that the pace of change is only accelerating. To thrive, it is imperative that larger financial services organizations adopt the same agile principles as the disruptors entering the market.

But how does a legacy financial institution that is exponentially larger than the financial startups breaking into the market create agile systems?

The solution: Process, technology and people

For many of these organizations, changing course and adopting new agile workflows is akin to an ocean liner trying to maneuver a three-point turn.  So what’s the solution for the email marketing teams that support large scale financial service organizations? It starts with three primary components: Processes, technology and people.

The Process

Studies show that for every $1 you invest in your email marketing program, $43 is returned. That’s a high ROI for any size organization whether they’re in regulated industries or not. Knowing what there is to gain, it’s worth taking the time to elevate your email marketing processes so that you can optimize your efforts and open the door to increased revenue.

When it comes to email creation processes, most financial service companies are early in their email creation maturity level. Creating a single email often involves building the email from scratch, creating a PDF file of the email and then sending that file around to stakeholders for reviews and approvals. After the email is approved, it moves to the coding phase for production, and this is all before it makes it to the ESP for deployment.

Because financial services email marketing programs are regulatory-centric, the review and approval process is overly time-consuming, and often, the customer-centric tone of the email is lost by the time the team gets to a finished version. It is a tedious, painful model that leaves little room for collaboration or creativity.

One way to solve this challenge and reduce the time it takes to create an email is by using an email builder that leverages email modules. Email modules are like Lego building blocks that can be easily moved around while certain elements of your email are locked down to meet regulatory and compliance standards. Implementing email modules is an effective way to adopt a more agile email creation process that frees up a lot of the constraints and challenges financial services marketing teams face. By migrating to an email module design system, even marketing organizations in regulated industries can quickly advance their email marketing maturity level.

The Technology

From a technology perspective, many financial services marketing teams are creating emails using a variety of tools and solutions, each group on its own platform. Developers are in Dreamweaver, designers in Photoshop, Figma or Sketch. Copywriters are working in a Word doc or Google Doc, with the creative brief and workflow process being managed via a spreadsheet, or sometimes even a PowerPoint presentation! Everyone is working in a different platform and none of the tools being used integrate with each other. The lack of a collaborative work environment causes innumerable bottlenecks throughout the email creation phase.

A primary goal of your email marketing stack should be collaboration. How great would it be if you could take all the single-player tools being used and combine them into one platform? A solution that not only enables a collaborative work environment, but also has guardrails in place to keep regulatory and compliance issues in check.

This is what an email creation platform offers— it provides a sophisticated level of technology that comes with a comprehensive set of administrative and end user features to power agile workflows for even the most regulated industries. Its collaborative work environment allows for easy and auditable review and approval processes, moving your team one step beyond the benefits of modular email design.

Everyone working and commenting within the same platform — designers, copywriters, the business teams that requested the email and the regulatory team as well — not only enables a collaborative environment, it drastically speeds up the review and approval process.

The People

The people who make up your marketing organization are your most important asset, but without the right processes and technology in place, their jobs are exponentially more difficult. Our research shows the average marketing email at a financial services company can take 21 days to move from idea to completion, with five to ten full-time employees investing countless hours simply to produce one email.  That’s a lot of people and time invested in just ONE email!

Instead of focusing on creation and execution, imagine what those team members could create if they had more time to devote to high-value activities. Instead of managing the review and approval process, they could focus on testing initiatives, customer experience strategies, and ways to improve overall marketing performance.

By enabling agile processes and implementing technology to support it, you empower your people to perform at a higher level and create greater opportunities to achieve measurable business outcomes.

With more disruptors like Robinhood Financial, Betterment, Stash and Acorns entering the market, large financial services organizations must adopt agile workflows to compete. If we take a step back, we can easily see how processes, technology, and people are the ultimate solution to enable agile email creation for financial services and really any other regulated industry.

The takeaway: create optimal, agile processes that allow your team to respond quickly and efficiently. Support your agile processes with technology that provides a collaborative work environment and comes equipped with guardrails to keep regulatory issues in check. Once the process and technology are in place, your people will be able to spend more time on the things that matter and focus on company goals.

Stensul has helped a number of large scale financial services organizations elevate their email marketing maturity level. Schedule a call to see how our email creation platform can help you enable more agile workflows, while maintaining strict regulatory guidelines across your email marketing campaigns.

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