In the financial industry, marketing departments often see and understand the value of digital growth, but the culture of our sales teams is so heavily entrenched in what happens at individual branches. 

How can we begin to bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams?

Here at the Digital Growth Institute, we're seeing a troubling trend in our digital growth diagnostic studies. In fact, this troubling trend is a hard truth for a lot of marketers to accept. But it’s not a secret because I hear complaints from marketing teams as they lament over this fact every day. 

To put it bluntly, the CEOs at many financial brands simply do not trust financial brand marketers and marketing teams. 

This finding is not just isolated to our primary research. In one study conducted by the Fournaise Marketing Group, researchers found that four out of five CEOs don't trust marketers. However, they also discovered that 91% of CEOs trust Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). Why? According to the study, it’s because both CIOs and CFOs are 100% ROI-focused. 

So how do we get our marketing and sales teams to work in tandem?

Marketing Versus Sales: The Problem at Hand

Let’s be real —

Historically speaking, financial marketers have been internally pigeonholed into one of two categories:

  1. Marketing teams are viewed as glorified in-house Kinko's or on-demand print centers where they're there to serve the last-minute demands and needs of others who are in search of some type of rushed promotion that they have to get out tomorrow to start driving more loans and deposits. 
  2. Marketing teams feel that they're viewed by others as simply kids that play with paint and crayons.

Does this sound harsh?

These are direct quotes that I've heard at multiple institutions.

Statements like these are the reason that I continue our mission to simplify and align digital marketing and sales strategies to empower financial brands to generate ten times more loans and deposits, to help them grow from good to great, and to elevate them beyond promoting commoditized products. Most importantly, this work is designed to guide people in the communities that your financial brand serves beyond their financial stress towards a bigger, better, brighter future. 

What’s happening on the sales side of things? CEOs have a lack of trust in marketing. Why? Because it's been nearly impossible for legacy marketing systems to demonstrate any measurable value marketing creates. 

A Brand New Role: Chief Growth Officers

Since for so long marketing couldn't prove its value, CEOs and CFOs have continually viewed marketing teams as nothing more than cost centers. 

But this thinking needs to shift. 

It’s imperative for CEOs and CFOs to view marketing as a growth center in a post-COVID-19 world. 

Thanks in part to digital technology and digital distribution channels, marketing is destined to become a growth and profit center that can deliver quantifiable, bottom-line value. Predictions about the financial industry from three, four, and five years ago? They are now becoming a reality because of COVID-19. 

One of these predictions that are slowly starting to come to fruition is that CMOs — chief marketing officers — are transforming and shifting their role into an even more strategic one. This role is what’s now known as the chief growth officer

Sure, it feels like there's a new C-suite title popping up every other week, but historically speaking, there's been a lack of representation from marketing at the C-suite, executive team level for many banks and credit unions. This demonstrates two things:

  1. There's a lack of respect for the marketing role in the first place.
  2. This lack of respect is deeply rooted in a lack of understanding surrounding the value that marketing can — and will — create for a financial brand.

The value of a financial brand’s marketing team goes far beyond printing swag and brochures for branches and placing promotions and ads in the newspapers and billboards and TV and radio. 

In the past, all strategic planning may have been centered around the CEO. However, these legacy structures are crumbling. Why? Because they're no longer applicable in today's rapidly-changing, COVID-19-affected world. 

Today, CEOs are looking to other executive team members for strategic support and guidance. Marketing must be included in these discussions regarding the future growth of a financial brand. 

Why am I sharing this? We continue to discover that this is just not the case for many banks and credit unions. Even looking at some outside research, Steven McConnell, who is in the recruiting industry, shared a similar perspective when he wrote:

"For CFOs, gone are the days of number crunching to get ahead. The majority of CEOs want CFOs that are true company strategists, and the same is true for CMOs." 

Following our digital diagnostic studies, we often help banks and credit unions restructure their marketing teams around new roles like the chief growth officer. This restructuring often leads to a bigger conversation about the structure of the organization as a whole. 

The best way to think about this transformation is to flip the entire organizational chart upside down

Stay with me here. 

This recommendation often makes boards of directors, executives, and leadership teams feel a little bit uncomfortable at first. After all, they’re used to having all the power!

All About Growth_ Bridging the Gap Between Marketing and Sales Teams copy

However, when we transform and flip the organizational chart at a financial brand, the leadership team isn’t actually sitting at the bottom of the organizational pyramid. What they're actually doing is supporting the rest of the organization

This provides an opportunity to add two other key stakeholders to the top of this inverted pyramid — two stakeholders who are often missing from traditional org charts.

  • The community a financial brand serves, made up of potential account holders
  • The account holders themselves, who are supported by a brand’s marketing, sales, and service teams.

The Impact of a Chief Growth Officer

This brings us back to the role of the CMO. Traditionally, a CMO created value through things like branding. But let's be honest. It's very hard to measure the impact of real, meaningful, bottom-line outcomes through vanity metrics: Reach, shares, likes, clicks, views, and other metrics that might not always give us the full picture. 

As Thomas Barta, the co-author of The Twelve Powers of a Marketing Leader, shared: 

"As long as marketers continue to position themselves as experts in advertising, brand positioning, millennials, and the latest digital fads instead of being growth drivers, we'll see more CMO positions disappear." 

According to, the average CMO only lasts 18 months at an organization. Perhaps the reason for this short tenure can be further found with insights shared by the Fournaise Group, who in their study reported that 71% of marketers measure their effectiveness with key performance indicators (KPI) that include these vanity metrics. 

To make matters worse, 86% of marketers mistake engagement for conversion

So, the big question is, “What should marketers be measuring and reporting then?” 

Let's just focus on four quantifiable, bottom-line metrics important to CEOs to CFOs.

  1. Leads
  2. Leads that turn into loans
  3. Leads that turn into deposits 
  4. Leads that turn into new accounts, which turn into loans and deposits

Who is responsible for assisting the marketing department to achieve these goals and increase leads, loans, deposits, and new accounts? In the traditional executive structure, it’s not exactly clear. The fragmented departmental structures that exist today in many financial brands create a challenge. We must let go of pre-existing responsibilities and duties in the past, especially when it comes to rooting growth in broadcast marketing and branch sales. 

Sales, Marketing, and the Chief Growth Officer 

How do marketing, sales, and growth work together? Let’s examine the sales cycle.

In its most simplistic form, marketing teams have two roles: Control the brand and the experience across all channels and generate leads. Then, as leads come in through these different channels, the sales teams take the reins. They must take ownership of these leads and drive conversions. 

This is where the opportunity for a chief growth officer comes into play. It is the chief growth officer who can provide strategic guidance and direction for both the sales and marketing teams to create quantifiable, bottom-line value centered around the digital consumer journey. 

Working across the entire organization, the chief growth officer can alleviate some of these preconceived notions surrounding marketing and sales teams to transform everyone’s way of thinking, break down internal biases, and ultimately align marketing, sales, and even service teams — who are then further supported by operations and IT forces. 

The chief growth officer is the single individual appointed to oversee this hand-off of leads from marketing to sales. Marketing controls the brand message, experience, communication, and lead generation, and then the sales teams take over to nurture and convert leads. This is why when we look at this idea of not just the chief growth officer, but of really building a whole new team, what we would call the growth team or the digital growth team, there has to be an understanding and a partnership between marketing and sales. 

Now, the job description of a chief growth officer doesn't stop at breaking down internal barriers and improving internal processes to create a positive external experience. 

The chief growth officer provides focus. They provide clarity by continuously addressing the questions, concerns, hopes, and dreams of the people their financial brand serves. 

I want to take this line of thinking even further:

A chief growth officer also leads the strategic initiative to elevate their financial brand beyond positioning and promoting commoditized products, great rates, and amazing services that every other financial brand promotes. That’s not what makes your financial institution unique. Chief growth officers help frame the entire digital consumer journey. 

Finally, Bridging the Gap

So, how can we begin to bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams? 

We have an opportunity to elevate marketing's strategic status within the organization. Marketing can be more than just a cost center — it can become the profit and growth center it’s destined to be. 

With digital marketing and digital sales for banks and credit unions, marketers can help CEOs and CFOs understand that every dollar that they invest in marketing comes back and creates two, three, four, five, and even ten extra dollars. 

This is exactly where a chief growth officer comes in to move these strategic initiatives forward. 

A growth officer is focused on one thing — the future growth of the financial brand. 

This is done by unifying marketing and sales around a common purpose. To be clear, the chief growth officer is not meant to replace the marketing function as a whole but instead to act as a liaison, meant to maximize a financial brand's future growth potential through the focus on additional strategies, which includes marketing and sales alignment — to expand beyond traditional advertising both offline or online.

As you continue to move along your own digital growth journey, focus on the future.