How customer insight and content are helping this Aussie fintech startup to flourish

Prospa's first CMO talks about how he's tackling strategic marketing off the back of the online SMB lending business' data approach

Knowing your customers better through data in order to communicate more successfully with them is a no-brainer for most marketers. Making the leap from ideal to action, however, is a different story.

It’s the challenge and journey facing head of marketing for Australian fintech startup, Prospa, Luke Targett, who joined the group eight months as its first strategic marketing chief. And thanks to the combination of analytics smarts, detailed customer insights, content and automation, he believes he’s well on his way to a comprehensive digital and customer-led marketing approach.

Prospa is a four-year old small business lender in the emerging online financial marketplace. The business has gone from zero loan originations to $150 million, and grown its employee base from two to 90 staff, triggering six office relocations to date.

With SMBs both time poor and struggling to find access to capital, Prospa’s propensity-based online platform allows organisations to lodge requests within one hour and have access to up to $250,000 on the same day.

Targett joined the organisation as head of marketing after building a career in B2B marketing, with stints in financial services companies such as OzForex, as well as IT and telecommunications firms including Samsung, Vodafone and Compaq/HP.

According to Targett, the key differentiator for Prospa is its assessment criteria, which taps more than 400 individual data sets to determine the health of a customer’s business before assessing their credit position. As well as the more traditional credit score, data used ranges from a customer’s social media profile, cashflow and ability to service a loan, to industry perspective and segment profile.

Targett noted one of Prospa’s first 10 employees was a data scientist, and that the company now has three full-time data scientists on staff servicing business-wide customer insight needs.

“That allowed us to build that level of infrastructure and foundation to understand our customer and make decisions for them quickly and accurately,” he said.

While it’s obvious how this helps with product development and sales, it also benefits marketing by delivering granular insights and analytical capability that can be used to better craft the marketing strategy and approach taken by Targett and his team.

“For us, this team is focused on building out predictive modelling for customers, addressing customer journeys and assisting marketing from a targeting, segmentation and lead nurture perspective,” he said.

Leading with insight

According to Targett, data is specifically being tapped to understand what a customer really looks like, what verticals and segments are applying to Prospa for funds, what timeframes go over that, and any behavioural trends that can be used to market more effectively to those areas.

“We spent a lot of time understanding our customers, then overlaid that with marketing strategies and channels we know we want to speak to them through at the right time –PR, brand and direct – so we have the right level of communication and volumes. We had to fragment our media down to this particular cohort by months or even weeks,” Targett said.

Diving into vertical or industry behavioural trends help build a more cyclical approach and timeline of when customers are applying for funding. This is vital for coming up with relevant offers to deliver to the right audience at the right time, Targett said.

“Then the rest of the year, we can nurture them with content to ensure they’re still engaged with the brand and we’re top of mind when it comes to that buying cycle,” he said.

An example of a targeted campaign activity for Prospa is around BAS statements, which need to be filed on a quarterly basis by small businesses. “We find we have a high propensity across certain verticals that need to pay their BAS statement off prior to that period, and we see an increase in demand,” Targett said.

“We have built marketing programs to get the message that there was an alternative to going to their bank for as many of those customers as possible , using that attribute to prospect customers.

“We also then looked at our existing customer base, as we’re starting to get critical mass and maturity in terms of post-customer base, to put those same messages and offers to them via contact centre and also through marketing automation.”

Prospa rolled out Salesforce as its core CRM platform, and implemented Marketo’s marketing automation platform over the top. Targett is now focused on automating the way Prospa communicates with customers in order to reduce the marketing team’s workload.

All of this is useless without investing in relevant content, however. While there’s plenty of content out there for SMBs providing social media or marketing tips, Targett said it was vital Prospa create information specific to the types of products and services it delivers. This includes financial tips to determine the state of an SMB’s business, to what happens if you have late payers.

“It’s about relevant content, not just being a content provider to small business,” Targett commented.

This of all needs to come together in a multi-channel program way, he continued. In the trade vertical, for example, Prospa has identified key points of the year where there is a higher propensity to need funding.

“First we looked at how to get message across to these people from a PR point of view through case studies and solution-based articles in trade media,” Targett said. “Then there was broad brush media awareness, so linking and building both our brand and the category as an alternative model to banks. We partnered with Triple M as it has the highest reach to tradespeople and that’s been very successful.

“Digital was about having the catching gloves on. When people came searching for our product, whether it was brand terms or other keywords around small business lending, we made sure we were front and centre. With our landing page and content, we then ensure all of that is geared towards that vertical at that point in time. Once they identify themselves, automation kicks in and we can speak to them as per their vertical.”

Alongside this, building strategic partnerships with brokers on-selling financial products to SMBs is vital. Targett said his team has built an online portal and is working to create thought leadership and marketing tools that help brokers better pitch the product more accurately, as well as raise awareness of online lending as an alternative source of funding.

A further way Prospa is building out its brand is by raising credibility of alternative financing as a whole. Targett said industry awards have been a major focus, and noted Prospa has been a finalist in Telstra’s Business Awards, listed by Deloitte as one of its fastest growing business in its Tech Fast 50, and was finalist in BRW’s Fast Starters.

“All of this enables us to have a credibility platform to broadcast,” Targett said. “We’re recognised by industry peers and experts to say we’re a great, growing business.”

The question of attribution

Ensuring marketing’s credibility within the organisation is another ongoing focus for Targett. When it comes to linking marketing to strategic growth, he said attribution of campaign investment is something that keeps most marketers up at night.

Next on the agenda is building propensity models that will inform a lead score against existing customers to gauge if they likely to re-sign or not well before the time they are due to.

“We’ve just recently implemented that, so we’re in a watch and learn phase to understand what these behavioural traits reflect from a marketing response perspective,” Targett said. “Is it the right measure or segmentation we should be putting over that customer from a content perspective? Once we learn enough out of that cohort, we’ll make the next assumption and test off the back of that.”

This interplay of short-term and long-term thinking is ultimately the core attribute for any CMO of a startup, Targett said.

“You need to be multi-skilled,” he said. “You need to look 3-6 months ahead and strategically, but also know how to set your budget from a PPC perspective. You have to understand both areas of the business to assist your team so they can make the decisions they need to make, but you’re also required to roll up your sleeves.”

Whatever industry or company size a CMO sits in, knowing the customer is key to marketing success, Targett added.

“We’re working very closely with our analysts and product development team to understand the customer insight and behaviour,” he concluded. “That’s been key to our success and growth over the last six months and will continue to be vital to our success.”

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