Health crisis. Financial crisis. Societal crisis. Mental health crisis. 

The perfect storm of crises hitting people all at once combining together to create exponential chaos and confusion. 

First, we have the health crisis itself. This pandemic is not going away anytime soon. From the very beginning of this event, in March, I started looking back in history and studying different trends from previous pandemics. My prediction that COVID-19 will continue to play out over the next 18-24 months has now become part of the national and global narrative. 

Directly entwined with the health crisis, we have seen a financial health crisis due to the lockdowns happening throughout the world. And while some states and countries began to ease restrictions, we are also seeing an uptick in state and local regulations in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The damage to economies has already been done.

Bank of America does not expect the unemployment rate to hit pre-crisis levels until 2022. And the CEO at JP Morgan Asset Management paints a bleaker picture as he predicts it will take 10-plus years to return to February’s 50-year low unemployment rate of roughly 3.5%.

What does all this mean? Back in early March I predicted the financial crisis, which is a direct result of the health crisis, would spark a societal crisis, which includes the potential for upheaval and unrest. And we’ve seen that play out now as well.

As people are already struggling financially, they're also struggling at scale to adapt and cope to the new normal. It's human nature to want to go back to the way things were before. 

How will banking change in a post-COVID-19 world?

However, what we are seeing at the macro-level, and even the micro-level, are new human behaviors and habits being formed through the forcing function of COVID-19. Brett King and I discussed in detail how banks will adjust to life after COVID-19

The health crisis, financial crisis, and societal crisis have resulted in a mental health crisis. Anxiety, depression, alcoholism, abuse, and even suicide are all on the rise. The negative feelings and emotions derived from environmental events are being amplified through the isolation of lockdowns, which once again, will continue for possibly the next 18 to 24 months.

All of this rapid change is a lot for anyone to process and handle. The number of people screened by the Mental Health America Institute for anxiety has increased by more than 70% from January to April. The number screened for depression has increased by 64%. 

The vast majority of consumers have had their world rocked personally, emotionally, mentally. They've been shaken to the core because of the colliding crises resulting from COVID-19.

There is Opportunity Ahead

Even during this dark period of time there is hope. There is an opportunity for your financial brand to do good for your account holders and both the people and businesses in the communities that you serve like never before.

The way you will do this is by meeting people where they are with empathy by offering them two things:

  1. Help
  2. Hope

And more often than not, hope often has to come before help can even be received. 

Using an empathetic model that we call the “Digital Growth Transformation Journey,” you can meet people where they are, in their own unique journey, to guide them forward with courage and confidence. The model is a modern-day mashup of the Ross Kubler grief cycle, of John Kotter's change model, and of Dan Sullivan's four C's. 

We've mashed together these different models up and overlaid our own perspective and insight. The Digital Growth Transformation Journey was originally created to help guide financial brand marketing teams, sales teams, leadership teams, as they move forward and make progress along their digital growth journey.

However, since watching the COVID-19 crisis unfold, it has become really increasingly clear that financial brands can use the same exact model to guide consumers on a transformational journey beyond the stress, frustration, and anxiety they're feeling right here.

In the Digital Growth Transformation Journey, we look at the level of courage and confidence that someone is feeling or someone is experiencing as they navigate through four different states of mind. 

  1. The State of Status Quo or the present reality
  2. The State of Disruption of the status quo, which we've all experienced now with COVID)
  3. The State of Exploration, where one begins to look for ways to adapt, to evolve their thinking
  4. The State of Transformation, where we begin to develop new habits and behaviors, ultimately resulting in the creation of a new reality and hopefully, a bigger, brighter future than we had before

In the State of Status Quo, someone might have a medium to a high level of courage and confidence by default because they feel good about the present reality. 

But then something happens.

Some type of surprise, shock, challenge, or threat is experienced when the person is confronted by an exponentially changing environment. In this case, confusion and shock are the result of COVID-19.

From there, it's natural for a person to deny the reality is shifting. Ironically, an increase in courage and confidence is experienced. However, this is nothing more than pseudo-confidence rooted deep within denial and disbelief about the changing environment. It's typical for one to doubt any action is required on their part, as they fight to stay in the comfort of the status quo. 

Following a period of denial, which varies from days to years based on the unexpected surprise and shock of one's present reality, a person will begin to travel to a new state of disruption. It is here frustration is felt as they recognize some type of transformation must happen.

But they’re held back.

The Wall of Fear.

Before someone can move forward and transform, they must break through the “wall of fear.” As I wrote about in Banking on Digital Growth, the wall of fear consists of four primary fears: 

  1. The fear of the unknown
  2. The fear of change
  3. The fear of failure 
  4. The fear of success. 

The reason these fears exist typically, is because there is no clear path for people to continue to move forward along their journey of transformation. They still are trapped in the State of Disruption and the feeling of frustration becomes so overwhelming that their levels of courage and confidence bottom out. 

Some call this hitting rock bottom. 

Some people do get trapped in this cycle of confusion and frustration and are never able to escape it. They become trapped in what I call “the Circle of Chaos.

However, this is exactly where I see there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for you and for your financial brand to enter the narrative. 

This is your opportunity to offer them help.

But, first and foremost, you must provide them with hope.

Two Ways to Offer Help and Hope Through the Digital Marketing Experience 

1. Empathy

At this time there are many people who are stuck in the Circle of Chaos, feeling confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. They're exploring and looking for a way out. 

They are looking for someone they can trust to help them, for someone to guide them. 

And the harder that one struggles, the more they become stuck. 

It's like quicksand.

You must empower someone with the knowledge and tools they need to escape the Circle of Chaos.

1. Empowerment

The very first thing your financial brand must do is meet people where they are and empower them to break free. Provide them with clarity into what their future state could look like.

During this post-COVID world, the future for someone might be nothing more than providing them with the hope that they can achieve some type of financial peace or security. Simply giving someone hope that even during these dark times, your financial brand will guide them and walk with them every step of the way on their journey, gives an emotional connection that is so much deeper than promoting the same commoditized, look-alike lists of product features.

People are going to remember how you treat them and made them feel during this time of their greatest need. Even if someone might not have an account with you right now, they're watching. They are listening. And people will talk about how you treated them during this time. 

Three Ways to Apply the Digital Growth Transformation Model

1. Lead Generation

Provide clarity into what a person's future could look like by deploying a lead generation form on your website's home page with a headline (Ex. “Quick Savings Quiz”) to find out how much money your financial brand might be able to help them stop losing and start saving in less than 60 seconds. In fact, there's no better time than now to kill your rotating banner on your homepage that is creating absolutely zero value. 

The quiz goes on to guide a person through five to seven different questions, taking an audit into their financial situation around what loans and accounts that they currently already have. Depending upon their response, the quick savings quiz will then calculate the potential amount your financial brand might be able to help them stop losing. Not only do you get a lead, but you also get a lead with data and insight into their financial situation. You're now meeting them where they are on their own journey. But now is not the time to call them to action to apply for a loan or to open an account just yet.

2. Meet people where they are

Marketing and sales must work together to build back up this person's courage and commitment. Remember, they have bottomed out. One way you can help someone build courage and commitment is to set up an inbound lead nurturing program that includes email automation workflows, delivering helpful content with context. Once again, another key content with context is actually framed around their quick savings quiz results, their data, meeting them where they are on their own journey.

It is through these emails, you can also include calls to action to schedule a one-on-one judgment-free financial review. 

3. Judgment-free financial review

There is a lot of shame tied up around the subject of money and financial matters. A financial coach from your financial brand can provide clarity and guidance. You can't get a better lead or a prospect from someone who is raising their hands saying, "I do need some help."

One of the best ways to increase the pull-through rate for coaching sessions is to provide some type of nudge-based incentive. For example, a $50 gift card if your financial coaching team is not able to find a way to help a prospect to stop losing and start saving more money.

I can't stress enough, the goal of this session is not to sell products and services directly, but once again, guide this person in their need through a greater conversation and discovery. Ask good questions framed around their unique situation. Then, your financial brand can provide a plan for them to commit to move forward with courage.

As you guide someone towards the State of Transformation by providing them with coaching, along with a plan of action to commit them to move forward with courage, what you've done is not only have you given them a plan, but you’ve included very specific recommendations and solutions that you can offer framed around their specific pain points. 

The best way to think about this is like a doctor that has assessed and diagnosed a patient that doesn't feel well.

Once the doctor has a good understanding of the patient's situation, they can write the prescription or provide a treatment plan to cure that person's pain. 

When you provide someone with a clear path forward, along with the prescription to cure their pain, you will see their level of confidence continue to elevate as they have both the help and hope they need to move forward and create their bigger, better, brighter future.