There are a lot of things about the future that are uncertain. 

The days of promoting and pushing commoditized products are dead.

But, at the Digital Growth Institute, there are things that we are certain about. 

And there is only one way to succeed in sales and marketing in today’s new normal (and beyond). 

Four words: Help first. Sell second. 

It's not the right time to push and promote commoditized products and services.

In fact, it has never been the right time to push products down people's throats. 

This mindset is stemmed from the days of high-pressure branch sales when front lines were driven by quotas and insane goals. This type of sales environment leads to a very negative internal culture. Not to mention it doesn’t create value for account holders, leads, or prospects.

Let’s look at Wells Fargo. The once-thriving, financial brand faced a multitude of consequences following a nationwide scandal. Employees felt the immense pressure to cross-sell products to increase sales and revenue. 

This case alone is enough to show that a hard-driving, high-pressure marketing and sales strategy in today's digital world simply does not pay.

The consequences:

  • Former CEO John Stumpf, who presided over the whole bank's cross-selling scandal, was barred from ever working at a bank again
  • More than 5,300 staff members were fired 
  • Roughly $185 million in fines for unethical sales practices
  • A class-action lawsuit was settled for $110 million

Unfortunately, this legacy mindset is still very active in today's digital-first, post-COVID world. Many financial brands still believe “pushing products” is the ticket to maximize their future growth potential. 

But these leaders are wrong and more times than not it is the blind the leading the blind.

We’re going to do more harm than good if we continue to go back to the way things were pre-COVID.

Now is the time for financial brands to transform the way they think about marketing and sales strategies. 

So, what can your financial brand do about this to break free from this legacy thinking and mindset that holds so many leaders back? 

Marketing culture: help first, sell second

Simplified, you must commit to develop a culture framed around two key beliefs, a mantra, of helping first and selling second.

It's going to take time for these four simple words to transform an entire culture, especially one that is deeply rooted in the legacy mindset of sales and marketing.

It’s also going to require training and education to provide clarity into the growth opportunities available in this new type of post-COVID world.

And when you commit to helping first and selling second throughout your entire organization from top to bottom, from bottom to top, you begin to center all of your thinking and doing around the people, and not on your own financial brand's needs.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive 

Take a positive and proactive stance in peoples’ lives instead of waiting for people to raise their hand and say, “I need a loan,” or, “I want to open an account.”

Offer hope. 

Offer help.

Hope, more often than not, has to come long before someone is open to receive the help that you're offering to them in the first place. Commit to guiding people beyond their biggest questions and their greatest concerns. Empower them to break free from financial stress and shame that is holding them captive. 

As a result, you're going to lead them to a bigger, better, and brighter future.

5-Step Digital Communication Strategy

As you commit to help first and sell second, you can apply the following digital communication strategy we've used to guide financial brands over the past few months since COVID-19 entered the scene.

This has helped banks and credit unions communicate courage and confidence. 

Step #1: Search the Data

Quickly identify account holders who are going to be the most vulnerable to an economic downturn. This is an opportunity for you to begin to use data to find those that have been impacted by all of the shutdowns. And yes, things are starting to open back up, but it'll be interesting to see what happens in the months to come as many schools reopen.

When looking at data, identify people that own or work at restaurants, bars, retail, fitness centers, salons, spas, or anywhere in the “service business.” Look at those that work in travel or in the hotel industry. Look at those working in non-essential health care, like dental and eyecare, for example. 

Search for small business owners who might already have accounts at your financial institution. As a bonus, have your business development team reached out to business owners personally to check in with them via phone, email, text. As a bonus resource, educate and empower your your sales and business development teams with this podcast: Face-to-Face Communication in a Socially-Distant Age.

Just this past week, I got an email from my financial brand where I keep my business accounts inviting me to a webinar offering advice and help moving forward. I was encouraged with that.  But not only did I receive that message, I actually got a call from my banker asking if I received the invite. 

They were connecting the digital experience with the human experience. Even if you or your business development team or loan offers have already reached out, have them do it again. Make it a habit to do a monthly, bimonthly, or at least a quarterly check-in for the next 18 to 24 months until we're hopefully free from the economic impact that this pandemic has caused.

Just simply giving someone an ear to talk to can provide them with clarity and calm in a time of chaos, confusion, and crisis. 

Step #2: Drill Down

This is where you'll begin to drill down to trends for each person or business within the different segments for some additional insights. It's here you can determine how the businesses or account holders have changed deposit frequencies over a specific period of time. 

When you're doing this, some other questions to think about and consider as you comb through these data trends for patterns are things like, "What have those deposit changes looked like? What is the relationship with each person or business with your financial brand or to the total savings that they have? What's the total debt they have? What's the debt to savings ratio for each person or business?"

Step #3: ID Patterns

When you're looking to identify these trends and patterns, you can begin to prioritize and rank each key segment trend. We're looking for segment trends at a high, macro level as you determine the total number of people or businesses within each one of the segments. 

You might also look for each segment's average or total savings, as well as the average or total outstanding loans. It's important to consider the potential level of risk for default for each one of the segments that you've identified based upon projected environmental trends to come within the coming months and years. 

Whenever you're ranking these different market segments through the data that you're pulling, rank these on a scale of one to five, with one being the lowest level of risk, while five represents the highest level of potential default on a loan. 

Step #4: Develop Custom Cures

Once you have rankings noted for these segments at a macro level, you can begin to develop prescriptions and cures to the biggest pain points for the top segments most at risk for an economic downturn. Instead of jumping in and developing a product offering, I recommend you hit the pause button and go ALL in.




A great example to merge the human experience (HX) with the digital experience (DX) is through a weekly, biweekly, or monthly intake form to create open communication giving those you are helping a channel to ask their biggest questions.

If you have not run some type of survey with your account holders since COVID has hit, there is no better time to do that than now. 

Hint: Don't be afraid to reframe old products around a new problem. Sometimes it's just a matter of reframing, repositioning, or repackaging  to move the needle, because now you have cures and solutions to people's biggest pain points.

Step #5: Communicate Courage and Confidence

Finally, now that you've created the cures (whether through repackaged products, or solutions) you can confidently communicate your commitment to educate and empower the key market segments that you identified in step number one. 

It's here you'll share personalized messages that offer those two things we talked about before, the help and the hope, by empathizing with those specific pain points you've identified for the key market segments that are framed around the different stages of the digital consumer journey.

Commit to Take Action

1. There is no better time than now to begin to transform the way we think about marketing and sales at our financial brands. Are we doing more harm than good by going back to the legacy marketing and sales systems in a post-COVID world? And what happens if more businesses get shut down in your city or your state? How do you respond to that? Have a plan. Be proactive.

2. Remember and repeat this simple mantra, "Help first. Sell second." It is important to give your financial brand space and time to transform the internal culture around this mantra. In some cases, I've seen it take three years to transform this cultural thinking. The most important thing to remember here is that with any big cultural transformation, it's all about progress, not perfection.

3. Share this message internally. Bookmark the article to quickly reference the five steps to develop a digital communication strategy in the future. Proactively identify and reach out to those who might be most at risk for an economic downturn.