Jul 27, 2001
SUMMARY: On June 29th, when BankOne folded Wingspan Bank, MediaLifeMagazine pundits said (and we quote), "Wingspan's demise signifies the virtual impossibility of starting Internet pure-play banks, especially when those banks are new brands." We immediately thought, "Now wait a minute, what about NetBank?" Yes, they are alive and well. Here's the new Case Study...(BTW: Guess what? NetBank's marketer reveals 50% of her new
customers come from banner ads!)
Eve McDowell, Netbank Director of Marketing, has never had millions of investor dollars to play with. "NetBank is independent," she explains. "We don't have any flow of money from a parent organization so we watch the bottom line very carefully. "We've grown at a very rapid pace over the past four years, but we want to grow without sacrificing profitability."
Although initially McDowell tested radio and print ads, now she sinks 100% of her marketing investment into online media.
Unlike other marketers who have foresworn banners completely, McDowell still invests in them. She says, "In the beginning we put our banner ads on probably 100 different sites. Now we've narrowed what works for us down to around 25 sites that we're consistently on."
For the past two years, NetBank's been marketing via broadcast email fairly aggressively. McDowell has bought placement on opt- in lists through L90, MyPoints and e-Rewards. She notes, "You always have to follow the campaign to make sure clicks are not just signing up for the program in hope of getting their points. We've had some people sign up to get their reward."
McDowell also sponsors email newsletters on personal finance topics. She says, "We'll typically run a little summary of why you should try Internet banking with a high interest/no fee checking account with a bonus attached."
All of these online campaigns click through to McDowell's specially designed landing pages. NetBank's developed an in- house system that makes it easy for McDowell to whip up a new landing page whenever a new campaign goes out. (We know quite a few marketers who would be jealous of this!) Landing pages are deliberately very simply designed for ease of use, and do not distract visitors with the regular navigation bars for NetBank's main site.
NetBank's primary home page and site are designed quite simply. In fact visitors rarely have to scroll to see important information, and most copy is presented in bullet-point format rather than blocks of text. McDowell says, "We try to keep the paragraphs very short. We know people prefer to scan bullet points. They don't like to scroll a lot."
To that end she's made site navigation super-simple from a usability standpoint. For example, after learning that visitors weren't quite sure which site section to look for CDs or credit cards in, McDowell added them to the menu in every section of the site that one might expect to find them in. The site also includes an "Ask the CEO" section to encourage visitor interaction.
In June 2000 NetBank completed its 12th consecutive quarter of profitability. Today it's the largest FDIC-insured US Federal savings bank operating exclusively online.
McDowell not only measures click through, she also measures the percent of visitors who open accounts, and the percent who actually bother to fund the accounts they've opened, plus the accounts which then end up purchasing other financial services from NetBank.
Here are some notes on McDowell's results:
- Banners: Disparage banners all you want, however banners on about 10 sites still represent about 50% of NetBank's "purchasing traffic." McDowell has learned that banners with highly specific benefits messages work the best. For example, "We offer free online banking rather than just, 'hey try online banking.'" McDowell was surprised to learn one of her best performing creatives was a button ad. She says, "It just had outstanding placement I guess." However she warns other marketers to examine their sales reports carefully -- one of Netbank's most popular banners had a 44% click through rate but almost zero conversions to funded accounts.
- 'Ask the CEO' has proven more popular than anyone anticipated. More than 500 NetBank visitors and customers pose questions for the CEO every month. It's a great interactive marketing device.