In our last two blog posts about branding we discussed the raw ingredients of the Holvi brand identity as well as our findings on general marketing assumptions that don’t apply to fintech. Today we would like to share the 7 principles we apply for creating awareness and acquiring customers. If you’re one of those with short attention span (as most of us working in startup marketing!) we can summarise our learnings in three words: engage, share and listen.
1. PR, PR and PR
Being a PR manager at a startup is probably one of the most stressful positions there is. Most of the time you’re trying to get coverage on all big media just on the basis of your company’s mere existence. For a well structured and hard working PR manager getting your story published is the point you can’t control and there’s no way to anticipate what happens. Frustrating, isn’t it? Don’t be discouraged, for a startup PR can be a tremendous leverage but success can take time. When you get it right once, it’s an incredible boost for your startup. We’ve been lucky to have been covered in great publications like Forbes, WIRED, TechCrunch and The Next Web among others. For some we worked hard and some we have no idea how it happened. Our major learning is probably the oldest of them all: PR is not about sending your shiny pretyped media releases but about human relations. Journalists are human beings as well! So treat them accordingly.
Second, do not assume that a journalist is automatically an expert in what you do. Be clear and concise what problems you are solving, what makes you special and how you intend to attract customers. A, B, C. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And how to get a hold of those journalist contact details? Twitter is one, your connections in other startups and investors can help too and there are multiple services out there scrapping this data from the internet (Meltwater is only one of them.) Last but not least, don’t send mass emails. You wouldn’t want to be treated like that either! And also, avoid PDF’s and other attachments.
2. Demand first – product second
As a startup, your product will always have points of improvement. That is exactly why you are out there: to substantially improve and challenge the status quo. So how do you take care of the initial interest? By making sure that you are using a proper waiting list. In this blog post we won’t go into details of perfectly converting landing pages, as there are thousands of excellent blogs out there (Optimizely.com is a good spot to start). Nevertheless, get informed and get it done. Make sure that the gap between waiting list, sign up, catch up and registration to the product is timed precisely.
If you are still in private beta or making your product only available for selected markets, don’t waste any precious marketing time by waiting for your product to be ready. Engage with those who wait; tell them your story, what you are currently developing, share your recent industry insights and keep them entertained. Your potential customers won’t mind the waiting as long as an exciting story is being shared. After all, you are in this together.
3. Co-operate – you are not existing in a vacuum
Don’t build networks, build relationships. Find credible partners who share your values and validate your idea. What has worked the best for us? Referral by our trusted partners who share the excitement of changing a traditional industry. Don’t put your focus on paying someone to share your thoughts. The best things in life are for free – remember? Well, actually not quite. Just make sure there is mutual benefit – you would be surprised how many customer segments overlap. Once you establish a trustful co-operation, seriously work together, share presentations, keynotes and even PR – it works! And remember, if you are convinced that you have to pay someone to tell your story, it’s not exciting enough and probably your messaging is just not there yet.
4. When entering new markets: dig, find, promote and engage!
When we are entering a new market the first thing we do is to invite early access customers from our waiting list and trusted networks. The aim here is to make sure that needed localisation is in place as well as receiving first hand any other critical feedback that might be market specific. With trusted networks we mean digging into relevant micro verticals and segments to help us identify the Makers and Doers of the region. Together with our early access customers we elaborate the use cases and improve the product before releasing it for general availability. The foundation of our successful market entry is built with these customers so the most important component and focus is to provide a first class customer support and engagement experience. We take huge pride on the fact that our customer support is praised for its positive and solution oriented approach and even the toughest situations are always handled with care and human touch. Our first customers in every new market are treated with a personal banker – approach. They know who they are talking to and can count on continuity to support them along the way. Do we think this approach is sustainable? Probably not. But when you’re a startup entering a new market, without the track record of a large enterprise, you want to know your customers and you want them to know you. That’s how you built relationships. And let’s face it, nobody will ever trust their money with a faceless internet company and for a reason!
5. Know how!
Once you have your kick-ass customer engagement team established, the next step is to invest a substantial amount of time, effort and energy in your own expertise. Yes, you heard it! You are building fintech and probably manifesting that you are either saving time, money or effort for your customers. So you better be able to stand behind those catchy marketing phrases. Start by keeping up with the industry and familiarise yourself with the problems and challenges your target group has. There’s no shortcut to this. You can’t change something you don’t understand. We do this by dedicating a substantial amount of time to read industry insights, reports and small business news. It’s also a daily digest to go through reactions to the content we produce across channels and measure our own performance. Tools we’ve used along the way to stay on top across media: Meltwater, Falcon Social, Hootsuite and the oldest of them all; Google Alerts.
6. Keep in touch – do not spam!
With spam we mean everything worthless and not related to what you’re doing. Keep your customers and waiting list informed about your journey. Inform them about recent product development, additions to the team and show them where you’re going. Build the momentum for the people who are on your waiting list and inform them about your development. We reach out to our customers via weekly newsletters to share the most requested help centre article of the week (indicated by support tickets) and describe our product and service in more depth. What has worked best so far for us is our feature update – an overview of upcoming new product features and releases. We keep on being surprised how excited our customers are about the technical components of Holvi. Although in all honesty we have to admit: we are too! For managing our customer communications we lean towards a certain banana stealing animal aka Mailchimp. (And yes, here’s a public declaration of our love for those monkey high fives!)
7. Know your battlefield
As shocking as this news might be – nobody really cares about the concept of your brand as such. It doesn’t really matter if you illustrate it with a fancy powerpoint or use hours to come up with elaborated mission statements. Everyday actions are all that matter. Social media is where the continuous battle happens. We recommend you to focus on one to three channels and become outstanding at those. There’s no point having a presence everywhere if you don’t have the means, interest and skills to produce good content on all of them. We’ve chosen Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as ours. We use them all for different purposes; Facebook for general customer engagement and news sharing, Instagram for sharing our daily life and Twitter for live coverage, industry insights and active conversation. Of all these channels, we recommend you to shut up and tweet! In 2014 Twitter had over 100 million daily active users. It’s your biggest potential for reaching out to as large audience without using any money. It’s time to get your story straight and preferably accompanied with an engaging picture. Your future networks are just staring at the screen and waiting to hear from you, so you better get out there!
And don’t forget to tweet us back your thoughts at @holvi.