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[00:00:00] The Story of Lisa: Lessons from a CMO's Journey of Growth


[00:00:00] James Robert Lay: Have you ever heard the story about Lisa? She's a financial brand CMO who was tasked to build a new website by her CEO, and I look forward to sharing with you on today's episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast so you can learn from Lisa's experience and avoid the pain and the frustration that she felt along her own journey of growth. Greetings and hello. My name is James Robert Lay, and I'd like to welcome you to another episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast. Today's episode is part of the Practical Perspective series, where I provide you with practical insights to guide you forward on your own journey of growth at your bank, at your credit union, or at your fintech. And today I want to share you a story, a story about Lisa so that you can take away some lessons about Lisa's own experience when her CEO texts her one day, saying that her financial brand needed to build a new website. But first, I'd like to invite you to hit the subscribe button if you're watching this podcast on YouTube, or if you're tuned in listening on one of the many podcast players this podcast streams on throughout the world. Because when you hit that subscribe button, you instantly become part of an ever growing community of financial brand leaders of marketers who are all committed to transforming how they think about growth to guide people in the communities that you serve beyond financial stress towards an even bigger, better, and brighter future.


[00:02:05] The Challenges of Building a Website for Your Financial Brand: Lisa's Tale


[00:02:05] James Robert Lay: Now back to Lisa's story. Who is the CMO for a financial brand? A financial brand that has had a wonderful history of doing very good things for the people in the communities that they serve. But there's a problem. Lisa's stressed. She's overwhelmed. She already has a full plate managing and running last minute marketing campaigns for others throughout the financial brand that many from the different business lines. Unfortunately, they want to push the same commoditized rates and promotions and service that every other financial brand is promoting through their marketing. And one morning, Lisa wakes up, she looks at her phone, and she sees a text message from her CEO that says, we need a new website. Lisa's almost at a breaking point. She rolls her eyes, she bites her tongue, and then she goes to work in her mind, trying to figure out how she can just fit that one more thing into her overbooked scheduled. Lisa's determined, though. She's determined to make this happen because she knows that, yes, indeed, her financial brand does need a new website because the current one was developed about four or five years ago. And that was even before she got there. And since that time, there's really not been any major work done on the site. Of course rates have been updated, some content has been updated, some new products has been added, some promos, but no major work. So Lisa and her team, they start this journey by looking at other bank websites, what other bank websites have, what other credit union websites have, but they're falling into a pattern of R D, and it's not research and development. They're falling into a pattern of rip off and duplicate because what they do is they end up making a laundry list of what they like and what they don't like. The problem is, though, there's some other people internally, other business line leaders that have some ideas of their own. And some of these business line leaders, they have very loud voices and they're starting to drive the internal conversation about what they, these business line leaders want to see on their new website. Lisa's just not real sure if what she's hearing from these other business line leaders, does it even matter or is it just noise? She's starting to wonder, how am I ever going to make anyone happy? How am I going to make everyone happy or am I just going to get stuck? So Lisa continues to think. She helps to try to distill signal from noise, understanding what everyone wants on this new website internally. And she goes to talk to her CFO to get a budget. The problem is, the CFO, he just sets the budget for this new website by simply going back to the budget from the website that was built four or five years ago and just adds 20% to that budget. Lisa's not even real sure if the budget is correct to begin with in the first place. But she gets what she gets. She doesn't throw a fit. And so Lisa sets out with an RFP and she gets four different paths forward, four different organizations. So Lisa weighs these options, her budget, and she picks a vendor to start designing her financial brands new website. Things get started off on the right foot. She is happy, she's feeling positive, she's feeling good about the process and all the progress that's being made. But then something happens. Lisa brings back some early design concepts to her team and to some of these other internal stakeholders. And all of a sudden, everyone, literally everyone has become a design expert overnight. And the strong opinions that they had before, well, they're not nothing compared to the strong opinions that they have now about what the design should look like. So what happens? Things get delayed and delayed and delayed some more. And what was supposed to have been a six to eight month process, it ends up dragging on for 18 months. Fatigue sets in, leaves. And her team, they just want to launch this site. They want to move on. They don't want to touch this website for another four to five years. Finally, to the relief of Lisa and her team, launch day arrives. Everyone holds their collective breath. The DNS servers, they get updated, pointing to the new website, pointing to the new web server, hoping that there are no major issues, that the old site doesn't go down while the new site is coming up. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The new site launches. No major problems. Then things get busy for Lisa. Things get busy for her team. And while they were able to pause the majority of those last minute marketing requests that were coming in from the other business lines so that they could focus on this new website, getting it launched, well, that ship has sailed. And they are back to where they were before, operating just like they were before. So Lisa's stressed. She's once again, she's overwhelmed. And she is so frustrated because she wants so badly to break free from this vicious cycle. Time passes. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months, months into quarter. Quarters become years. Marketing has grown so busy reacting to the request, but others that this new website, that shiny object for just a moment in time, what happens? It's put on the back burner and yeah, sure, just like before, the rates, they were updated. The promos, they were updated. Some news was added, but there were no real optimizations being made, studied, observed of how to increase conversion rates by observing and studying human behavior, human interaction with this new website. So one day, one morning, Lisa wakes up again. She looks at her phone and she sees another text message from her CEO that says, we need a new website because my kid said that they just opened up an account at a fintech. And I looked at that website and it is way better than know. I recently shared Lisa's story in a community cohort workshop that was framed around how to build and optimize a website that sells. And I paused a couple of times when sharing the story of Lisa because I saw some of the cohort members, they were nodding and smiling, and I asked, what's so funny? And when I paused, they said, that's me. I'm Lisa. I can experience and I am experienced. I know the pains that Lisa is experiencing, the frustrations that Lisa feels, because I feel the same things. And then as I continue to facilitate the workshop, from the conversations that I had in both the breakout sessions as well as some of the large group discussions, I was identifying patterns with the members attending that they pretty. Much match some of the industry level research that we have done over the years around building a website that sells as part of a larger digital growth engine. And that was one of the key lessons that I was sharing with this cohort in this workshop about building a website that sells that. And it's a bit of a paradox when you're thinking about building a website that sells not a glorified online brochure, which so many financial brands have today, you really have to think that you're not building a website. A website is just one of four gears within a larger digital growth engine. The website is one of the center gears that connects to the marketing automation gear. And in fact, out of this particular cohort, around 80% of the members who had joined either did not have a marketing automation platform or they were not effectively integrating it into their website. And truth be told, I would say 100% of the cohort members who joined this workshop and we did not really get to do deep level diagnostic work, but from the discussions and just doing some quick observations on their current website, 100% their websites were just a glorified online brochure. And that's not an insult, that's the truth, that's the reality. That was the reason that they were there at this workshop.


[00:11:48] Building a New Website: The Role of Key Internal Stakeholders and their Perspectives


[00:11:48] James Robert Lay: But a couple of other points came from some of the conversations that I was having with these members in these small group discussions and these large breakout discussions. One of the members, they were an SVP of digital at their financial brand, and he shared that he's currently in the process of building a new website. And their web development firm gave their marketing team an assessment to share with all of the key leaders from the different business lines, checking mortgage, credit card, SMBs, et cetera. And the SVP would go on to share with me that through this exercise, they really were not all that interested in what the business line leaders had to say. And I asked, well, why is that? He said, well, because our marketing team and our web dev firm, we're the experts when it comes to building a new website. And I agreed with this SVP, but I also disagreed as well. And I agreed that yes indeed, that he, his marketing team, his web dev firm, they were and are the experts in building a new website. And that's of course because these business line leaders, they're not experts in UI, UX, web dev, et cetera. I also was questioning, though, the expertise of this particular web dev firm, which I do not know who they were, but I was questioning the expertise of the web dev firm because their methodology of research was only focused on gaining perspective of internal key stakeholders, which of course are the experts these internal key stakeholders, they are the experts of their own business lines. And yes indeed, their insight should be taken into consideration when building a new website.


[00:13:42] The Importance of Considering External Stakeholders While Building A New Website


[00:13:42] James Robert Lay: The problem though, I discovered through a series of questions with this SVP in conversation, was in fact, there was no consideration being made to external stakeholders when it came to building this new website. It wasn't even in his sense of awareness, there were no external interviews with current account holders or even prospective account holders. There had been no foundational digital secret shopping studies that were conducted on their current website to objectively identify gaps that they could bridge when building this new website to then increase conversions for loans and deposits. But he wasn't the only one. There was another member who had recently launched a new website about eight or nine months ago. And when I asked if they had done any type of digital secret shopping study either before or after launching the new site, she said, yes. And my eyes perked up, and I said, well, that's fantastic. Can you explain the methodology that you used? And so she shared that her financial brand, their internal team, they had a task force across the organization from different business lines, different departments, and this internal team, this task force, simply clicked through the website before launching to make sure that everything was working as expected, that there were no broken links. And I smiled at her, and I shared the hard truth that they had not done any secret shopping on their website. And she said, well, what do you mean? And I said, well, you had your key internal stakeholders in this task force. They clicked through the website, but there's a problem with that. They have insider knowledge. They have insider information about your financial brand, about your product offering. They even speak banker knees. Put another way, this team, this cohort, this task force, they have the curse of knowledge. And the curse of knowledge creates a blind spot when it comes to crafting and applying and optimizing digital secret shopping or digital shopping experiences, because the way people shop and buy financial products is vastly different from how we, as financial brands, communicate about those products. And the way we communicate those products will directly influence how we position those products on our website. This is why one of the key methodologies to not just building, but also optimizing a website that sells is to conduct quarterly digital secret shopping studies with real people from your ICP or your ideal consumer persona. The problem, though, is that at a macro level, 94% of financial brands have never conducted any type of qualitative digital secret shopping study, let alone conduct these studies on a quarterly basis, to then continuously gain new objective insights into the unseen gaps and into the blind spots that are costing them literally millions. Tens of millions, if not even hundreds of millions of dollars, depending upon their asset size. This is symptomatic of the way that we think about growth as a financial brand. If we think about growth historically, if our perspective historically has been framed from growth being that of which comes from the branch, that of which comes from the physical world, when we think about digital growth, we're probably operating with the same type of a mental model.


[00:17:49] The Importance of Website Design in Digital Marketing


[00:17:49] James Robert Lay: And I was talking about this with the cohort. I said, I want you to write down all of the steps that you would go through when building a new website. And so everyone started to list out all of these steps. And you do research, site assessment, traffic analysis. And I said, well, once you do all of that, do you start designing? Said, no. Then what? Then you go through architect and layout, and you just don't build this thing. You really put a lot of intention. So my follow up question was, okay, you do all of this work to build a physical branch. How much work are you doing ahead of time to build your most important digital asset, your public facing website? Now, I know some people would argue this point with me. That's not our most important digital asset. Our most important digital asset is our online banking and our mobile banking platforms. And I disagree with that, because your online banking and your mobile banking platforms mean nothing if your public facing website is losing the potential to convert leads for new accounts, to convert leads for loans and deposits. This is why digital secret shopping is so critically important, because it can objectively help identify gaps and blind spots.


[00:19:19] Challenges in Building Growth for Physical and Digital Worlds in Financial Brands


[00:19:19] James Robert Lay: And that's the other challenge here when we're thinking about building growth for the physical world compared to that of building growth for the digital world. Because once you go through this branch building process, what happens? You open the branch up, you check it off the list, and then you move on. And the same exact pattern happens, at least historically, when it comes to building new financial brand websites. You launch a website, you check it off the list, you move on. The difference, though, between building a website, your most important digital asset, a key gear of the digital growth engine, and that of building a branch. 


[00:20:47] The Cost of Ignoring Human Behavior in Building Websites for Financial Institutions


[00:20:47] James Robert Lay: The difference between building a physical branch and that of building a website is once you build that physical branch, you check it off the list, you move on. And that type of mindset has informed building websites. You build a website, you launch it, you check it off the list, you move on. However, the opportunity here is to come back and optimize what we have done with the website based upon studying human behavior, because it's not like you can easily go back in and optimize a physical branch, but we're now dealing in the intangible world. This, to me, is one of the greatest opportunities for every single financial brand today, is to just simply create space and time to study human behavior, how people are interacting with your public facing website first, because if we are losing opportunity there, those people may never even see your online banking or your mobile banking platforms. So if you feel like Lisa and you're either thinking about building a new website, or perhaps you've already built and launched one, but you've never gained this external perspective through digital secret shopping studies showing where you have gaps, where you have blind spots, I have good news for you. You don't have to feel like Lisa any longer. You truly can begin to write a new story today, a story that transforms the pain and the frustration that marketing leaders like Lisa feels into courage. The courage for you to commit, to increase your confidence. And you increase your confidence how? By gaining clarity. How do you gain clarity through quarterly digital secret shopping studies? Because that's where you gain objective insights into two key data points. Number one, what people are doing on your website at a macro level through big data, and that's through things like heat maps and click maps and scroll maps. And then number two, perhaps even more importantly, why people are doing what they're doing on your website and why they feel frustrated, why they feel confused, why they feel annoyed. And this is what we call thick data or qualitative data. And you can learn more how to facilitate quarterly digital secret shopping studies when you go back and tune into episode 303, because that's when Audrey and I audrey is our obsolete here at the Digital Growth institute. She sits down with me and she joins me for a conversation and walks through some of the models and methodologies that we have used to facilitate over 1200 digital secret shopping studies for financial brands, to show them the exact gaps, the exact blind spots that are costing them millions in loans and deposits.


[00:24:02] Transforming Pain and Frustration into Action and Growth


[00:24:02] James Robert Lay: But you can do this, too. You can transform the pain and the frustration that Lisa has experienced, the lessons that you have learned through Lisa's story. You can now apply this knowledge, take action against this knowledge going forward in your own journey of growth. If you found this practical perspective helpful today, then I invite you to share it with someone you know to help guide them forward on their own journey of growth, because this is how we all get even better together. Until next time, and as always, be well, do good, and be the lighter Saul beans.

Brief Summary of Episode #327

Lisa, a CMO for a financial brand, got a surprise text from her CEO: "We need a new website." Sounds familiar, right? On this episode of Banking on Digital Growth Podcast, I'll share Lisa's story, the challenges she faced, and the lessons learned. 

Lisa's been doing great things for her community, but the challenge of updating a website amidst internal opinions and constrained budgets is... overwhelming.

Fast forward, 18 months later, the website is launched but the cycle repeats.

During a recent workshop, I realized Lisa's story resonates with many.


Because many face the same problems, the same gaps in understanding the user experience, and the same reactive marketing approach.

The key?

We need to look outside. To understand consumer behavior, we need studies like digital secret shopping which most financial brands aren't doing.

If Lisa's story strikes a chord or you've been through a similar path, there's a brighter side. You can rewrite your narrative, by understanding both the quantitative (big data) and qualitative (thick data) insights from your site.


Key Insights and Takeaways

  • The challenges of building a website for your financial brand: Lisa's tale (2:05)
  • The role of key internal stakeholders and their perspectives (11:48)
  • The cost of ignoring human behavior in building websites (20:47)