Young People Use Email!

Originally appeared in CUES Credit Union Management

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Survey of 15- to 25-year-olds shows that 70 percent check their inboxes at least hourly.

With all of the hype and attention given to social media, it may be surprising to learn that good old-fashioned email is still alive and well and is an effective way to communicate with young credit union members and potential members. At Currency Marketing, we surveyed more than 350 young adult consumers, aged 15 to 25, from across the United States and Canada. At the beginning of the survey, we asked numerous questions about online service usage. Here are the questions and answers from the survey:

How often do you access online services?

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As you can see, young adults are spending a lot of time online! 

While we fully expected to see heavy usage of Facebook, YouTube and other social media, we were pleasantly surprised to see how much attention young people are giving to their email. 

All of the respondents indicated that they use it, with 29 percent saying they do so daily and almost 70 percent reporting hourly usage! The second-highest platform in the hourly category was Facebook at 24 percent. That’s a whole lot of email usage.

To clarify, we did not differentiate between personal and work usage of any of these services, nor did we ask if these services were being accessed on mobile devices or computers. However, more and more, the lines between personal and work are blurring, when employees check work email at home on a mobile device or make a quick Facebook update at work.

It Takes a Layered Approach

At Currency, we have long advocated for credit unions to take a layered approach to marketing by integrating all marketing channels available, including traditional media, digital marketing, events, public relations, social media and more. 

We think email marketing and communications should be part of this mix, and these survey results validate this approach. When a shiny new platform (like Instagram or Snapchat) or technique (like content marketing or marketing automation) comes along, take it in stride, experiment with it and add it to your credit union’s young adult marketing mix if it makes sense for your situation.

Email Is the Ultimate Form of Permission Marketing

Seth Godin wrote Permission Marketing nearly 20 years ago and outlined how products and services would be sold in the future. Godin explains the concept like this, “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.” 

The key to this approach is getting members and prospective members to explicitly agree in advance to receive marketing information. 

Email is a delicate long game. Beyond illegally spamming vast swaths of the population, there’s no easy way to game or fast-track email marketing—you need to diligently work on growing an opt-in email list over time. 

An email list allows your credit union to maintain a connection with your members and potential members in a way that’s hard to do otherwise. 

When you periodically send emails to readers, you: 

  • remind them that your CU exists; 
  • can provide useful and educational information; 
  • can update them on your latest posts, events and offers; and
  • can invite questions and replies to start one-on-one interactions. 

We recommend using a third-party email platform to both build your email list and to send email communications. Two of our favorites are MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. In addition to great email design and delivery options, each software platform allows you to create custom opt-in forms and embed them on your website—a key to list building.

How to Grow Your List

A major goal for credit union clients using Currency’s Young & Free Marketing Program is to engage young adults on an ongoing basis. Email marketing plays an important role in helping us achieve this goal. Since 2011, $816 million Michigan First Credit Union, Lathrup Village, Mich., has leveraged Young & Free to successfully grow and nurture an email list of over 27,000 local young adult subscribers. It’s taken six years of consistent work and clever list-building techniques to grow this massive list. Make it very easy to subscribe. There are subscribe buttons and sign-up forms in multiple places on the Young & Free Michigan website and the program Facebook page. 

In addition, every time the CU runs a contest that includes a public voting form, it always adds an “opt-in to our e-updates” field and connects that field to the email platform. This particular tactic has been a great success. 

For example, Michigan First CU runs an annual Young & Free Michigan Scholarship program through which high school and college students submit video and essay entries and compete for more than $85,000 in scholarships. 

A part of the selection process includes a public vote. With more than 80 scholarship applicants driving traffic to a voting page through their social media channels, thousands of people visit the website during the voting period and submit a ballot. A significant percentage of this group opts in to the CU’s mailing list, giving Michigan First CU explicit permission to communicate by email in the future. 

Send consistent, relevant and helpful emails. Michigan First CU only emails people who have opted in. And it provides an opportunity to unsubscribe. 

The CU does not take this permission for granted and makes sure that the emails are well written and contain useful educational information about personal finance and links to compelling video content. 

Two e-updates are sent every month to the full list and Michigan First CU pushes product offers only occasionally. These emails drive consistent traffic to the website and have had a hand in steady young adult member growth for the CU. 

Content Matters

Another credit union client, $1.3 billion Fox Communities Credit Union, Appleton, Wis., has grown a large opt-in member email list. 

When the CU started to incorporate the It’s a Money Thing financial education content into its member emails, it saw a significant lift in opens and clicks. “We built an email featuring It’s a Money Thing content and sent it to 31,000 of our members and we got amazing results! Way more than we get with our normal emails we send,” says Fox Communities CU’s Marketing Communications Specialist Amanda Brown. “We achieved a 26 percent open rate and 6 percent total click-through. We are thrilled... shocked, actually!” What you put in your emails is incredibly important. Always remember that you have been granted permission to communicate and that permission is easily revoked. Be thoughtful with your email content and tread lightly with sales messages. 

Email Is Worth It

If you’re spending a significant amount of time, energy and money putting a young adult marketing and education program in place at your credit union, don’t forgot about email. It may not be the newest and shiniest marketing technique, but it can be very effective. Start collecting email addresses and getting permission from your young adult members and prospective members today. Soon, you’ll soon be seeing results.


Tim McAlpine is president and creative director of Currency, Chilliwack, British Columbia. He is a credit union advocate best known for developing CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec and the Young & Free and It’s a Money Thing programs that credit unions from around North America are using to connect with young adult members. Make sure to subscribe to his blog at currencymarketing.ca and to follow him on Twitter @CurrencyTim!