“Everyone's goals are different. What everyone does with their money is different. But at the end of the day, we want to be able to give you confidence and security in what you want to do.” - Kara Yaquinta

Kara Yaquinta, content strategist at Tropical Financial Credit Union has participated in the Digital Growth Institute’s program for a little over three years and has a lot to share about how she’s taken the things she’s learned and made them her own. 

Kara handles all the content, social media, and search engine optimization for Tropical Financial. But truthfully, she doesn’t just “handle” it — she’s using this content to innovate, connect, and create something unique and special for consumers. 

The underlying strategy to all of her work? Stepping out of the “cave of complacency” that traps organizations and prevents them from reaching their fullest potential.

Making an Impact in a Digital-First World

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been a trying time worldwide with much loss and limitless challenges. One thing that organizations have had to do is rely on digital communication more than any other time, and this digital-first approach will likely continue to expand and evolve.

Technologically speaking, the financial world has witnessed about five years of progress since March of 2020, but this has not been without roadblocks for even the most flexible and innovative financial institutions. When asked what her biggest challenge was during this period of technological growth, Kara shared that there’s always something new to contend with. 

“You really have to do your best on keeping a steady mind and keeping up with the industry because if you're not, one day you could be doing something, and then the next it's totally irrelevant.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life, but without an eye toward how technology is growing and evolving, organizations can get left behind. 

Looking at the journey of digital growth, individuals, teams, and whole organizations need to keep up or face getting stuck in “the cave of complacency.” Part of stepping outside of these trappings for Kara is understanding where she is most effective and where she isn’t. She is constantly finding ways to maximize her time and her impact. 

One of the biggest ways she accomplished this is by capitalizing and maximizing digital personalization and ensuring that Tropical Financial is putting the right information in front of the right people. In her quest to make their digital content marketing more purposeful, Kara implemented artificial intelligence (AI) technology to curate content for specific people. 

The Right Message at the Right Time

When creating content, financial institutions need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Does this content provide value?
  • Can that value be proven?
  • How can you demonstrate or quantify this value?

One of the victories Kara and her team won was discovering that, through the technologies they implemented, they were able to retarget and remarket to consumers who had started an application or taken some kind of behavior with Tropical Financial. 

This wasn’t a massive change. But it led to massive results. Why? They were sending the right messaging at the right time. 

Kara admitted that she was hesitant to implement this retargeting strategy for a while. She was stuck in her comfort zone until she realized this was a prime way to capitalize on certain opportunities. The key to success with this strategy? They weren’t just generally retargeting their efforts towards people who interacted with their brand. Kara and her colleagues saw how they were interacting and helping to fill a void or solve a problem for these consumers using the tools and technology they implemented. All because they stepped outside what was comfortable and familiar to them. 

This is where the idea of digital consumer journey mapping comes into play. 

One of the key elements of successful digital consumer journey mapping is content and the context of different content presented to consumers throughout their buying journey. Kara was able to achieve success with this campaign because she didn’t shy away from AI and consumer personas. This enabled her to be more purposeful with her content, which made all the difference. 

Purpose: The Key to Digital Growth

What Kara discovered when she began to use this new technology to better customize content wasn’t any big secret. She discovered a sense of purpose. 

Purpose is the foundation for any financial brand’s future digital growth to maximize its digital growth potential. Purpose provides guidance, direction, and even inspiration for internal and external stakeholders. 

Thanks to the data that Tropical Financial collected, Kara identified a sense of purpose: creating a peaceful and successful financial future for all

This shows up in the work that Kara and her team are doing through the concept of financial empowerment and financial wellbeing. In fact, they run an entire program around that idea called “Get Beyond Money,” which is about helping her customers accomplish their unique financial goals.

As Kara explained, “Whatever it is that you want to do, we want to help you get there. And we want to help you get beyond stress — we want to help you get beyond whatever it is that's keeping you from getting there and help you achieve your goals.”

She continued, “Everyone's goals are different. What everyone does with their money is different. But at the end of the day, we want to be able to give you confidence and security in what you want to do.”

Kara learned this lesson for herself the hard way. Through hard-earned life experience. At the start of her career, she suddenly found herself with disposable income for the first time in her life. But she wasn’t making wise decisions with it. 

In her words, “It got me into a little bit of a sticky situation — not a bad one — but it got to a point where I identified there was a clear problem… And I myself went through our Get Beyond Money program. And my behavioral changes came in the form of reorganization. It was looking at things differently and seeing where I could shift, not even my spending but what I'm doing with my money.”

Consumers sometimes want instant gratification. What Kara and her team are doing is teaching them to think about the long road ahead, looking 10, 20, and even 30 years into the future, and showing them how to make simple behavioral changes to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. 

Kara explained, “We want to make the community aware that there are things that you can do that could probably save you upwards to, I don't know, a few hundred dollars — almost a thousand, maybe — a month.”

This program and this sense of purpose aren’t for one specific person or one group of people, either. As Kara shared, “Whether you are making a minimal amount of money or whether you're a millionaire, they all come with their set of problems. We all do, that's life...But wherever you're at, it doesn't matter. Our goal is to just make you feel more comfortable.”

Kara has created a judgment-free space where community members can come together and discuss their finances. They’ve used this concept to implement round-table discussions, webinars, and listening sessions to make discussing finances with like-minded people accessible, stress-free, and without stigma. 

Developing Internal Digital Growth

One of the greatest untapped opportunities for digital growth is to look inwardly at employees, who are a financial institution’s biggest brand ambassadors, not only in the real world but also in the digital world.

When it comes to working in this digital world, it’s easy for work to pull focus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But part of a healthy, vibrant company culture that supports growth is taking time to stop, pause, and disconnect. When it comes to digital leadership, this is just as important as implementing new technology and new purpose-driven concepts. 

What is this really about? Acknowledging that employees are humans first. As Kara explained, “[If] you still expect somebody to be ‘on’ 24/7 and not expect them to be working from home and have a baby crying in the back or have to take two minutes off because their family's talking to them, you are crazy, and you are expecting way too much of people, and you yourself then don't understand humans.”

She summed it up simply, “How can you be a leader of a digital-first community when you don't understand the first thing about humans?”

The legacy mentality of working at a desk between the hours of 9 and 5 is gone, and while working from home isn’t necessarily always conducive to a productive environment on a long-term scale, working from anywhere will become a much more human, digitally-driven priority for employees, consumers, and organizations alike.

Fostering this kind of work-life balance and holistic awareness of employees can lead to growth and impactful work. Society has moved beyond the commoditized product economy, and the rapid adoption of digital transformation in the age of COVID-19 sped this process up. 

More importantly, the time spent away from work and screens can be restorative. After all, humans need connection with other people, in a digital community, yes, but also the community in the real world. Through this community, like-minded innovators will find collaborative opportunities to elevate each other. 

And as Kara shared, there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from a screen, “Even in a digital world, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of pen and paper.”

After all, sometimes that’s when something magical happens — when we leave complacency behind.