E-Mail Effort Proves Good Investment for Online Brokerage

An e-mail campaign targeting members of a sweepstakes site interested in financial services paid major dividends for ShareBuilder, an online brokerage operated by Netstock Corp. The company signed more than 400 brokerage accounts in the first three weeks of the campaign, which had a 4.6 percent click-through rate.

Working with Ascendant Media, a company that offers promotions and sweepstakes online, Bellevue, WA-based Netstock sent 2 million e-mails to members of Ascendant Media's EZSweeps Web site. Ascendant, Nashville, TN, said it has almost 5 million members.

Curt Hahn, president/CEO of Ascendant Media, said the company sent five different e-mails over two weeks in May on behalf of ShareBuilder to test the copy and the approach. Many recipients saw the same offer more than once, he said.

“The conversion rate surprised all of us,” he said. “The biggest challenge to opening an account is the fact that it's a complex procedure.”

A number of screens must be filled out to open a ShareBuilder account. The site also requires that an investment plan be set up and funded.

Andrew Tempest, director of partner marketing for Netstock, credited Ascendant Media's highly targeted list for the campaign's success.

“Their list ended up being very, very targeted and worked well for us,” he said. “The high click-through rate shows that their list was the right one for us.”

ShareBuilder signed 52,000 new accounts in the first quarter alone, Tempest said. At the end of the first quarter, the brokerage had 185,000 customers.

Hahn said Ascendant Media profiles members by the sweepstakes they enter. The e-mail campaign for ShareBuilder targeted members who previously expressed interest in financial services and entered contests to win prizes such as a free brokerage account.

“We track every entry from all of our members,” he said. “We build up profiles by tracking the history of which sweepstakes they enter and don't enter.”

Because of the campaign's success, Tempest said, Netstock considers Ascendant Media a marketing partner and plans to use them for future campaigns. He also said ShareBuilder will scale down recruitment for the summer because the season tends to be quiet for the brokerage business. He plans to gear up for new campaigns in the fall, possibly with a back-to-school campaign aimed at people with college-age children.

“We tend to spend a lot less money in July and August because the conversion rates tend to be lower,” Tempest said. “You spend the same or a lot more money for a lot less return.”

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