Storytelling

5 Insights From The Best Email Newsletters in Financial Services

A popular email newsletter is the holy grail for content marketers. When you send content straight to your reader’s inbox, you bypass Google’s search algorithm and the changing whims of social media platforms. It’s the most direct connection you can have with your audience, short of showing up at work and slapping a PDF onto their sad desk lunch.

Email newsletters are a particularly useful tool for financial services companies, especially if you’re writing about personal finance. Many forms of content marketing from banks take on an advisory role, educating readers on touchy topics like debt and investments. Because of email’s inherent intimacy—it’s just you, your subscriber, and a secret list of every other BCC’d subscriber—financial services content marketing can really shine.

But building an engaged email audience takes a great deal of time. You can promote newsletter subscriptions with pop-up on your website, advertise on social, and incentivize followers with a referral campaign. Most importantly, though, you have to make sure what’s in the newsletter is worth it for a reader to hand over an email address. If the content is good enough over time, people will come back for more.

We surveyed the best financial email newsletters, drawing inspiration from many of them. Below are the insights we were able to glean from finance content’s top contenders, from mainstays like NerdWallet down to independent bloggers who have amassed large followings of their own.

Try a new audience with a new offering

For nearly five decades, Money was a glossy finance magazine published by Meredith Corporation. Historically, reporters covered issues of great interest to America’s most wealthy: investing, the stock market, estates. When the publication shuttered its print version and went completely digital in 2019, editors and strategists were given an opportunity to reach into new markets.

That’s where Money email newsletters like Dollar Scholar come in. Written by Julia Glum, this personal finance newsletter covers topics that might have seemed too pedestrian to Money editors in the ’70s and ’80s. A self-professed financial newbie, Glum explores a different tricky finance topic in each issue, and her candid explorations have attracted a younger, less experienced audience to Money.

dollar scholar money magazine newsletter

Executive editor Mike Ayers told me Dollar Scholar was his attempt at expanding the magazine’s target audience, and it seems to have worked. “Starting email newsletters was a growth move for us,” Ayers said. “It’s great to target each newsletter at a different subset of people, and we didn’t have current offerings for young people newer to finance.”

Not only has Dollar Scholar grown since its inception, Glum also receives a ton of reader replies from folks who want certain topics covered. Overall, it has increased engagement in a very particular target demo that Money wasn’t serving before.

Curate your content into segments for specific audiences

One of the great things about financial content marketing is that many topics are up for grabs. As long as you can link it back to money, you can explore lifestyle content, celebrity interviews, personal essays, and explainers. With all this diverse content, any bank’s website can start to blend with other types of publications in an organic way.

finimize daily finance news digest

Finimize, a financial advisory company, curates content in several different email newsletters. There’s a global version, an American version, and a European version. You can also subscribe solely to news stories—in which Finimize writers break down the top three financial updates of the day. If readers find those quick summations interesting, they’re more likely to head to the company’s homepage.

Don’t just publish a digest

It can be a seductive idea to treat your brand’s social channels and email newsletters like an RSS feed. But you can’t just dump all your published content on your readers and expect them to engage.

Take Nerdwallet’s investing newsletter as an example. The brand publishes stories on a wide berth of financial-related topics, from budgeting to credit cards, but their email newsletter is hyper-specific to investing. This makes the call to action more enticing, because Nerdwallet isn’t just asking readers to opt into their entire publishing output each week. People respond well to CTAs if they’re specific because we all want our content to feel tailored to us.

Be honest

Financial content marketing is tough to create for many reasons. One prime challenge for writers is striking a balance between aspirational optimism and realistic skepticism. Content creators working at banks or financial institutions ultimately want readers to trust them, which can be a tricky thing to work toward if you’re also selling products in a sensitive market.

To maintain that balance, I’d encourage any financial content marketer to read writers who aren’t big fans of banks and large financial institutions. When reporter Elena Botella wrote this fascinating story about manipulative messaging and hypocrisy at Capital One, she shifted her professional focus from branded content to investigative journalism. Her email newsletter, a New Money Order, offers nuanced and informed looks at the financial industry, from a woman who used to work in it.

Yes, your readers are coming to you for sound financial advice, but they also don’t want to be swindled. It’s okay to point out the ethical flaws in, say, subprime lending programs, while writing honestly about the helpful products your bank offers.

Keep topics personal and relatable

If you ever feel overwhelmed with the financial industry and all the topics it encompasses, bring yourself back down to earth by focusing on the stories of customers and individuals. Refinery29’s runaway hit series Money Diaries is a perfect distillation of what can happen when a brand focuses on folks’ unique relationships with money.

The conceit is simple: An anonymous woman reveals her annual salary and expenses, and she takes readers through a typical day in her life, explaining her reasoning each time she spends money. Sometimes the prices in other cities provide shock value, and sometimes it’s just the fact that a 21-year-old woman still enjoys a monthly $1100 allowance from her family.

millennials weekly spending breakdown

What are the problems your customers face, and what about money makes them feel guilty, anxious, or fearful? You can actually assuage some of these unpleasant emotions by writing about them in your newsletters. At the end of the day, covering a topic confirms that it’s a normal and worthwhile thing to explore. You can give your readers a sense of normalcy by approaching their worries with great content. And that kind of connection builds trust over time.

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