Cover Story: Taking It Personal
When Charter Bank launched a retention program for its residential mortgage customers nearly three years ago, little did it know how significant this initiative would be in positioning the firm to weather one of the worst housing markets since the Great Depression.
“The housing market four years ago was different,” says Susan Millspaugh, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Albuquerque, N.M.-based financial institution, which offers banking and insurance products in addition to residential and commercial mortgages to customers in New Mexico, Colorado and Idaho. “People generally were staying in their homes on a national average of about three years.” So Charter would remain top of mind with mortgage customers throughout this time frame, Millspaugh created a three-year messaging program for this audience that incorporated regular data touchpoints to feed the company’s overall marketing efforts.
“My thought process was that we gave great service, we gave competitive pricing and we serviced our own loans. I wanted to keep the Charter name in front of existing clients and new customers, as well as help them think about things like leveraging their homes for help with unexpected problems or [regular needs like funding a child’s college tuition] … really tying the cycle of family life into Charter Mortgage.”
But now that the housing market bubble has burst with such disastrous consequences, Millspaugh’s data-driven strategy offers Charter even more insight and opportunity to meet customers’ ongoing financial needs.
Laying the Foundation
Working with Trekk Cross-Media, a full-services marketing communications agency in Rockford, Ill., Millspaugh developed a communication plan for mortgage customers that included 18 campaigns—one envelope package and 17 postcards—the timing of which is based on the loan close date, explains Laura Terry, Trekk’s president and CEO. For example, exactly one month after the loan closes, new customers receive a welcome kit; this is the envelope package, containing a letter, information related to the mortgage account and several pieces of collateral to cross-sell Charter’s banking and insurance products. Several months later, the first postcard drops with a message encouraging customers to fill out an online survey regarding their satisfaction with the loan process. And the series goes on from there, reaching out to this audience with a new postcard about every other month and gathering data along the way.