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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Embold CU Vastly Improves Email Marketing Returns with Prisma Campaigns Solution

Updated: Jan 31

By W.B. King

Until 2021, Embold Credit Union’s email marketing strategy was akin to “taking shots in the dark,” explained Hilary Kissell, director of marketing and community development.

“This was due to months-old data that lacked the detailed information needed for targeted campaigns. The personalization we were used to was limited to using the member’s first name,” she told Finopotamus. “In order to improve our outreach to better serve our members, our goal was to become more data-driven.”

The $650 million, Clackamas, Ore.-based Embold CU’s search and discovery process was detailed as Kissell noted that her team had a specific strategy. This included using demographics, behavior and lifecycle data to identify which products to offer to each member and which milestones would make members more receptive to specific offers, she noted, adding that the credit union wanted to move from “single, one-off emails to member journeys.” This would require longer-term campaigns and sequences of emails and increasing the number of campaigns running at the same time to 25 to 30, so that they can be more targeted and timely.

With more than 35,000 members, Kissell said her team also needed the ability to personalize emails to match the audience —15 onboarding journeys, each with seven different personalizations to appeal to different member subgroups.

“We wanted to measure direct and indirect impact of all campaigns, increasing open rate as well as number of loans generated per campaign and wanted to implement communication rules to prevent members from being overwhelmed by emails — smart enough to adapt to changing priorities and contemplate exceptions,” she said. “Automating data processes so that audiences are dynamic, meaning they get immediately and automatically refreshed every day.”

Open Architecture Marketing 

The credit union’s due diligence led to a partnership with the Miami, Fla.-based Prisma Campaigns. Among reasons for the selection were the company’s "open architecture and out-of-the-box integrations," noted Kissell.

“In our case, they integrated with Strum Platform, our data warehouse and analytics solution, making it really easy to create segments in Strum and use them in Prisma,” she said. “Now that we have been working together for two years, I can add that their support for training and implementation is really great.”

With over 60 financial institution clients, 80% of which are credit unions, Prisma Campaigns Business Development Lead Camilo Alvarez said the primary reason credit unions seek their solution is to improve member engagement.

“Particularly with indirect members and driving higher product utilization — these concerns manifest differently across organizational levels,” he told Finopotamus. “If we are talking to executive teams who are looking at the broader picture of member engagement, they see a gap in effectively reaching and resonating with their member base, which directly impacts their strategic goals.”

Alvarez noted that many clients get “trapped in a spray and pray approach” and thus “struggle to tailor communications effectively to member needs and preferences, leading to suboptimal engagement and growth.”

With four tech-facing employees, Kissell said the credit union’s programmer only needed to be involved in the rollout, which took nearly five months. “He worked mostly with our data platform. Prisma and our data partner took care of everything else.”

Camilo Alvarez

From a technological standpoint, Alvarez said Prisma’s approach is straightforward, but stressed that “data source integration” is critical because it requires collaboration of data analysts alongside marketing specialists.

“The evolving landscape of marketing now requires these teams to work hand in hand. And because our open architecture allows a credit union to integrate Prisma with other systems, getting IT teams onboard will enable credit unions to make the most of their investments,” he said.

“For Embold Credit Union, the process was even more streamlined due to our partnership with Strum Platform, their external data partner,” he continued. “Our pre-integration with Strum meant a smoother implementation, as we had preemptively resolved potential integration challenges.”

While Embold CU had an existing vendor contract that was due to expire, the tiered rollout process was seamless. The first iteration was completed in a few weeks and the full implementation was realized in five months.

“The fine-tuning process of course will take longer, depending on the credit union's readiness and goals. In the case of Embold, because their previous contract was expiring, they had an extra layer of motivation to implement the system quickly," he said. “This urgency, combined with their clear focus and prepared resources, led to a particularly smooth and efficient implementation process.”

Creating Better Marketing Messages

When Finopotamus asked about success stories, Kissell pointed to a recent home equity campaign. Over the course of five months, emails had a 61% open rate. The industry average, she noted, is 23%.

“This resulted in 162 new HELOCs open (representing an increase of six times), with a combined balance of almost $3.5 million and an average individual balance of $21,421,” she continued. “The conversion rate was 0.75%, a five times increase compared to what we had without marketing automation.”

She added that within six months, members who opened targeted emails also opened 486 new deposit accounts with balances of more than $3.4 million and 589 new loan accounts with balances of more than $12 million.

“Using time savings from marketing automation and other tools to create better marketing messages,” she said of the positive results. “Now that we have the right partner, the quality of our campaigns is better because we spend more time looking at images, writing copy, thinking about it, and planning it out.”

Technology That Deepens Relationships

In order to effectively roll out the solution, Alvarez said credit unions need to assemble a cross-collaborative team. “This includes IT, data specialists and key internal stakeholders like lending officers, compliance, member experience, and operations staff," he continued. "Their first task is to identify specific pain points and align your strategy with your goals.”

Hilary Kissell

Kissell added that when a good partner is selected, implementation and adoption is an easier process, but not without issues.

“Evaluate your data readiness. On one side, you need to have enough information to create targets. On the other hand, it needs to be automated so that updates are daily. If your September campaigns are based on August 1st data, you must work on that first,” she said.

“I encourage everyone to get their team as involved as they can. This has allowed some of our team members to discover that they like this kind of work and are interested in the data aspect,” she continued. “Challenges and roadblocks are to be expected. Each system is different and you have to figure out what is the best way to do what you want on this platform.”

Most importantly, Kissell said the solution has improved Embold CU’s ability to meaningfully connect with members and offer relevant services in a personalized message. “This is a very tangible and concrete example of how you can use technology to deepen relationships.”


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