By Pat McGrew May 30, 2006 -- Customer-facing communication in the financial services segment has traditionally been conservatively designed with emphasis on short descriptions of the financial transactions and generic communication of market trends. Despite the high value of the relationships involved, this type of customer communication has not been personalized or customized to closely match the needs of the recipients. That "one size fits all" approach is changing as TransPromo customer communication programs move beyond retail credit card and loyalty statements and on to one of the most conservative segments in financial services â€“ wealth management. Statement redesign should go beyond making documents look pretty: it is an opportunity to transform these compliance mailings into powerful marketing tools. Tamara Sargeant , vice president of Design Services at Toronto-based Prinova makes the point that these companies should take the time to consider redesign. "Statement redesign should go beyond making documents look pretty: it is an opportunity to transform these compliance mailings into powerful marketing tools. This transformation can be achieved by not only making the information more accessible and understandable, but also by finding ways to personalize the documents to increase their relevance. Leveraging the document as a key touchpoint allows companies to strengthen their brand and foster customer loyalty." TransPromo is the technique that makes it happen. TransPromo takes what we know about our customers and what we can learn about them from available demographics, combining it with information design and appropriate color to create customer communication that builds a closer relationship. Based on many industry studies like those from Romano and Broudy (2001) and the Electronic Document Systems Foundation, we know that personalizing and adding static color to customer communication increases response by more than forty percent over the baseline. The improvement in response is even more dramatic when you apply data analytics and synthesize those results into the communication program. Imagine unlocking the ability to improve response rates to offers by as much as 500 percent! (Editor's Note: The increase noted in the Romano/Broudy study was 500 percent, but the base response rate upon which this increase is based was well below 1 percent. The increase is in the rate of response, not a total response rate.) Once we increase the response rates we have the power to increase customer business, and the results are significant. Jack Schmid and Alan Weber writing in Desktop Database Marketing say that a 5 percent increase in current-customer business can translate into as much as a 50 percent increase in the bottom-line profits from those customers. The challenge for financial services providers is taking the lead in creating packages of customer-facing financial services material that demonstrate the best features of TransPromo communication while still meeting the requirements of conservative financial institutions. A quick review of the competitive landscape in the financial services industry indicates this segment is becoming more competitive and that customers are finding it harder to differentiate between their many financial services providers. Financial services companies have to rethink the whole range of their customer communications, beginning with the solicitations. To differentiate, financial services companies have to rethink their approach to the whole range of their customer communications, beginning with the solicitations, but not stopping there. The requirement is to pull all of the customer communication into the same design template, establishing branding characteristics for everything the customer receives. That includes confirmations, statements, notices, and new offers. All of these communications should use the knowledge of the customer to create information packages that differentiate, distinguish, and develop the customer relationship. Taking the time to redesign is critical, but so is understanding the technologies available and how they can be applied in a comprehensive customer communication campaign. The requirements for welcome packages and enrollment kits are usually different from those for monthly statements, confirmations, notifications or letters. Working with the design team--which should include representatives from marketing and creative as well as information designers and graphic designers--the goal is to review all of the print that's part of the customer-facing campaign and review each piece for the job it is supposed to do, what it actually does today, and the identifying gaps. For example, assume you need a solicitation letter, a welcome kit, a statement, and some regulatory notices such as a confirmation. These are all common in financial services. How can you make the best of each of these documents in terms of differentiating the offerings and demonstrating to the customer that they are valued and respected? The goal is to build a closer relationship with the customer. Personalized, color statements alone will not build that relationship, but they can form the foundation that can be leveraged. The first step is to understand who your customers are by identifying some basic segments, then developing designs and communication strategies that speak to each of those segments. The needs of older customers are different from those of young professionals. Not only are their product needs different, but there is also an opportunity to make it easier for older customers by altering type sizes and judicious use of color. For young professionals the opportunity may be for designs that are more modern and more colorful. In both cases there's opportunity to expand the purpose of every customer communication with cross-selling offers from internal or external marketing partners. Does this sound too proactive for a conservative financial services company? It may, but there are companies already doing this today. Look at your own mailbox and review your bank statements, credit card statements and other financial mail. You will probably see there is digital color and personalization in what comes to you. Look carefully. Is that offer on your 401K statement generic or could it have been developed just for you? What about the images that just happen to reflect your lifestyle? Remember, the goal is to build a closer relationship with the customer. Personalized, color statements alone will not build that relationship, but they can form the foundation that can be leveraged. Take some time and get to know your customer, then use that knowledge to build a more effective communication program that differentiates your company in your market segment.