“Digital growth is not a journey that you travel alone. It's one that you travel with a team.” -Jonathan Clay

Jonathan Clay, the digital marketing specialist at Louisiana Federal Credit Union,  has consistently elevated his digital marketing capabilities and his knowledge year after year since he first attended one of James Robert’s digital growth training programs in Houston about five years ago.

Since that time, Jonathan and his team have made tremendous progress and value along their digital growth journey.

An “Empathetic Experience Engineer”

One of the things that made Jonathan so successful over the past few years has been his focus on helping members and customers at Louisiana FCU.

His current project? How to make budgeting make sense to the everyday person.

His team is working on a budgeting lending page that partners with a savings challenge to encourage members and customers to take practical steps to save for their goals and practice good savings habits.

It may sound simple, but Jonathan shared how enjoyable it has been to do.

“It's really fun just kind of to give them a ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ It's a guiding force of our institution.”

Jonathan has transcended the idea of what it means to be a digital marketer into something greater. James Robert gave him a new moniker to fit this role— an “Empathetic Experience Engineer.”

All of Jonathan's doing is really focused around one thing.

And that's people.

“Everyone has their own story. Everyone's on their own journey,” Jonathan shared. “If I don't feel like I'm contributing to a greater purpose or a greater good, then I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels doing nothing.”

But one of the best things about finding this greater purpose and building a digital experience around that idea? Jonathan has created a website that sells.

Jonathan’s purpose extends beyond finding out why people look at certain loans and certain times of the year. He understands that a person may come to their website looking for a loan, but that's not really what he’s selling to them— he’s actually selling them the idea of financial peace of mind.

Focusing on People

About a year or two ago, Jonathan and his senior leadership got together to unify their staff around a single goal: Serving people.

They asked everyone to start with their why.

They asked their organization to focus on people first. “You're not just a teller, you're not an MSR, you're not a marketer, you're not a director... you are a person who is here to help people so that they can focus on life first.”

This became their guiding force.

And today? Every staff member on Jonathan’s team is asked to share their “why story,” a moment to take a step away from the day-to-day duties of their job to share how they helped someone internally or externally. These “why stories” have become a fun way for the entire team to search for opportunities to help others.

Jonathan and his team have now created a sense of unity internally. They get together and share stories of how tellers, CEOs, and everyone in between are all making a real difference.

Their focus on being present with each other and with customers has completely transformed the culture of their organization for the better.

Review and Refinement

The truth is, Jonathan has been very successful because he is always looking for ways to improve; he’s great at challenging, re-examining, and improving the status quo. As he stated, “It's an ongoing conversation and you don't stop with one time.”

Some financial brands get stuck in their digital growth journey; they don't take time to stop, pause, learn about what they've been working on, and then apply those learnings across their work. They’re missing the critical step of review and refinement.

Jonathan was able to review and make changes with the addition of an internal step that made all the difference.

About two and a half years ago, Jonathan and his team rolled out a new internal process they titled, “The pre-app process,” which simply asks consumers for high-level lead generation information at the start of their application, with the goal of helping a person finish an application after they start it.

This process can be likened to the online shopping cart mindset. People put stuff in their online shopping cart on Amazon but they're not entirely ready to commit. By collecting their information at the onset, Jonathan’s team can provide the answers and the service they need to complete their application.

Jonathan and his team piloted their pre-app process to meet these people where they are. It gave the team the information they needed to guide leads through the application process. Through this one small shift, Jonathan and his colleagues captured 74 additional loans that they would not have otherwise captured.

Jonathan reflected on this idea.

“As things grow and evolve, new ways of doing things come up and you’ve got to be flexible and adjustable.”

But not everyone was on board immediately. It took a while to ensure everyone that this change was necessary. And it took Jonathan walking through it all for some higher-ups on a whiteboard to demonstrate the power of this new process.

By deploying this pre-app and then optimizing it—and working hard to ensure the entire team understood the purpose—Jonathan created exponential value for his financial brand. But he had to be an empathetic experience engineer for the prospect and internal team members to make it happen.

Piloting New Processes

It can be a challenge to get everyone on board with new processes. Piloting something before it becomes the new status quo helps everyone see the benefit of change.

For Jonathan, this pre-app process has served as a framework for all their new programs. He refers to it as his “cheat code.”

How does he make it work?

Of a new process, Jonathan explained, “You pilot it with a smaller project or a smaller team, get them to see the benefit of it, and then you create them as your internal advocates for why something works. You roll it out.”

He continued, “At that point, your work is creating your argument for you.”

And they don’t look for perfection in the first round. They might find 80 percent success with a new program before rolling it out, then they make improvements as they go. They take large, lofty goals and break them down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. When looking to work towards a new goal Jonathan suggests taking it in steps. Why not start with 90 days instead of a whole year? It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And it takes teamwork.

As Jonathan stated, “Digital growth is not a journey that you travel alone. It's one that you travel with a team.”

Be Ready to Embrace Change

If there’s one thing banks and financial institutions have learned over the past year, it’s that nothing will ever stay the same.

As banks gain new knowledge, it’s crucial to share that knowledge and let it impact and change the way they work. Jonathan’s mantra around this topic is, “Don't get married to your work.”

Financial institutions have to be willing to give something up—the “good enough”—to take something else on—the “great.” It’s essential to continually examine processes and understand what processes can be improved, what new processes can be implemented, and what legacy processes can be retired to ride off into the sunset.

At the core of all this change—what is let go and what is taken on—is how it will help people.

As James Robert succinctly put it, “What must I stop doing so that I can take on something new?” This gives banks the space and time to start creating new behaviors, developing new capabilities.

A credit union can’t keep the old and try to add the new without adding unnecessary levels of complexity and challenge. It will become an overwhelming cycle—and it won’t change the lives of customers for the better.

As Jonathan shared, “If you don't know why you do what you do, you can't continue to do what you do in excellence and you can't elevate from there.”

Reaching new levels of excellence is achievable if only we find our purpose, and work from there.