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Kristi Nelson
Kristi Nelson
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50% Targets Niche Through Affinity Marketing is targeting "self-directed individuals"- those who have relationships with a mutual fund company or discount broker and like to control their own financial destiny. has received numerous kudos since its official launch into the online bank marketplace last January. It's been named "Best of the Web"by Forbes magazine, the Online Banking Report, and Time Digital. It was also the first new bank to debut in Gomez Advisors' list of top ten online banks, which also ranked it number two for customer confidence in its Spring 2000 online bank survey.

A joint initiative of Wilmington Savings Fund Society and CustomerOne Financial Network, St. Louis-based everbank now has more than 10,000 customers and $150 million in deposits.

The key to the bank's success is targeted marketing, according to Robert Foregger, executive vice president and director of strategic planning. "everbank is not striving to be a mass market bank, unlike some of our competitors that have tried to own the space and have failed miserably from an acquisition/cost perspective."

Instead, the bank is targeting what it calls the self-directed individual. Usually a busy professional, members of this niche group often have relationships with a mutual fund company or discount broker and like to control their own financial destiny.

"Our focus is to surround our target market with affiliate-based partnerships and leverage our direct marketing expertise to maximize the relationships we have with our partners," said Foregger.

A perfect example of that strategy is a recent agreement that makes everbank the exclusive online banking provider at, a highly regarded financial news and information Web site.

Forregger declined to disclose details of the arrangement, but said it's just one of many relationships the bank is pursuing with professional associations and other non-bank entities. "Our distribution strategy is not just through the Internet, but also physical space partnerships," he said. "The real opportunity with online banks is the market that it opens up. And it's not just people advertising on Yahoo. It's focusing on geographically dispersed communities that have like needs, demographics, affinities, or interests."

The bank recognized early on that high-quality customer care capabilities were essential to building a successful branchless banking operation. "Our belief from the very beginning has been that the customer care center was the critical focal point," said Foregger. "Our goal is not to marginalize customer interaction to the point of zero. It's really to make sure that we have a great self-service capability on our Internet site, but that customer care is just a phone call away, anytime they want it."

To motivate its target market, everbank offers an array of banking, real estate, financial, loan, and insurance services, as well as some innovative incentives. A satisfaction guarantee offers $50 back to unsatisfied customers who close their account in the first 90 days. Other consumer-friendly innovations include a Web safety guarantee, instant mortgage loan decisions, ATM surcharge rebates of up to $6 a month, and a pledge to keep deposit rates in the top 5% of all banks in the country.

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