Sell, Sell, Sell?

Up-selling and cross-selling are extremely popular activities to boost profit margins. In my many years of consulting with financial services organizations, I have seen various shades of getting customers to buy up and buy into an assortment of product lines because a multi-product customer is vastly more profitable than one who subscribes to a single product. There is even a cottage industry of analytical methodologies to identify the next best product for a given customer.

Few practice, let alone have heard of, down-sellling. This is where you actively dissuade a customer from owning one of your products that you think does not serve them well. You place customer above short-term profit, recognizing that a relationship is a long game. If you secure loyalty by doing the right thing, that counts for a lot more in the long run. In the financial services category, which looks like a sea of brand equity sameness, one brand stands out as a shining star. And this one brand is an avid purveyor of down-selling.

The Financial Services Shining Star.

In every complexion of brand equity data that I have seen in my career, USAA is leagues ahead of other financial services providers. The brand dominates the four financial services categories where it is represented in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index. Over 70% of its customer believe that USAA serves them rather than its own bottom line. This is powerful stuff and highlights the first of three emotional territories that wining brands conquer.

Three Emotional Territories.

In our extensive research on emotional drivers of brand energy in retail and financial services, we identified a set of common emotional territories that brands with the highest energy occupy:

  • The first territory encompasses a commitment to work in the best interests of the customer, to be an ally, to be on their side
  • The second requires this commitment be brought to life with service that is not merely efficient but also warm and empathetic
  • The third mobilizes the first two, along with product and service attributes, to bring to market an offering that is unlike the others – what marketers know as differentiation, but with the added texture of emotional activation

How To Get It Done.

Honestly addressing these three territories can go a long way in understanding how your brand is positioned: Do you work in the interest of your consumers? Are you at their service? Have you proved yourself to be different? Ask these questions of your customers. Better yet, bake them into your regular brand measurement and tracking program. Ask these questions internally — not just of leaders but especially of those who are on the frontline and are customer facing. If you do this with sincerity and a tolerance for shortcomings, you will quickly identify glaring issues and be set on the right path to building a winning brand.


Forrester clients, you can read the full report and dive into all three territories and examples here: Conquer Three Emotional Territories To Power Your Brand Experience