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CMO50 2016 #6: Craig Davis, Sendle

  • Name Craig Davis
  • Title Co-founder and CMO
  • Company Sendle
  • Commenced role March 2015
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 5 staff
  • Twitter @craigdavis888
  • Industry Sector Logistics
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    Dubbo country boy turned city sophisticate, Craig Davis, packed in his jet-setting, high flying global advertising career of 25 years to venture back to Australia.

    After five years on the board of Conscious Capitalism Australia and a thirst to “get back to basics” and develop a business in a more meaningful and sustainable manner, he hatched a purpose-driven technology company. And while there’s been a few false starts and “major business failures” along the way, the co-founder and CMO of Sendle, a digitally driven parcel logistics company that has become a fast growing challenger to Australia Post, is proud of helping to successfully build a more sustainable business.

    Davis, who’s also an inspirational speaker and adjunct professor and university lecturer, says Sendle is a digital software company that’s unlocking the power of big business delivery networks for small business and make sending a parcel as easy as sending a text.

    “I got to a point where I was interested in building a more creative company, and not just in creating creative campaigns,” he tells CMO.

    Since launching the small business dashboard in July 2015, the company has grown at an average 20 per cent month-on-month, acquired thousands of active SME customers, passed 100 million kilometres of parcel delivery, won a Telstra Business award for new business, and announced a $5m Series A capital fundraising round.

    “The high growth story has been driven by a focus on product/market fit, empathetic design and three key marketing channels,” Davis says, explaining the business is now facilitating over $100m in commerce for small businesses across Australia.

    Another major achievement has been striking marketing partnerships with NRMA, Virgin’s Velocity frequent flyer program, IAG and Etsy, as well as integrating with Xero. Sendle has also developed a preferential pricing tier that its partners market to their customers on its behalf.

    “Twelve months ago, no one had ever heard of Sendle. We had a brand new product, a handful of beta users, and a fledgling brand with no awareness,” Davis continues. “As a digital challenger to a long-established incumbent, Australia Post, we needed an efficient model to help us build both visibility and trust. We decided that partnering with well-known and much loved brands would help our startup generate both awareness and credibility.”

    And no doubt timing has been everything, he says, noting a growing acceptance for businesses to put “purpose and meaning” front and centre of the organisation and to demonstrate a higher level of accountability by way of governance, transparency, environmental and social impact.

    Sendle is Australia's first certified technology B Corp, an emerging group of companies that are using the power of business to create a positive impact on the world and generate a shared and durable prosperity for all. It’s also the first 100 per cent carbon neutral delivery service.

    Modern marketing

    Davis sees the primary challenges for modern marketing teams as dealing with distraction and remaining open and curious in the face of constant change. Differentiation is another real concern.

    “Most of the differentiation now, particularly for younger audiences and younger customers, has got to be around making meaning, and putting purpose at the core of the organisation - and genuinely wanting to make a worthwhile contribution to the wider world,” he says. “Businesses that just continue to want to go-to-market and stay in a product and service and focus purely on a short-term commercial agenda are going to find that increasingly difficult.”

    Certainly, the fast growing startup space is having a dream run, in part because of innovation but also its commitment to service, Davis says. Asked what he’s doing to ensure the business takes a more customer-led approach to its go-to-market strategy, Davis says Sendle has been devoted to customer centricity from the beginning, bringing a software mindset into the logistics industry.

    “What we know as Sendle was initially developed as a delivery mechanism to serve TuShare, a marketplace that needed a simple, reliable, door-to-door, low cost and 100 per cent carbon neutral delivery service to get second hand goods from person to person,” he says.

    “The service we needed didn’t exist, and so having identified 13 pain points, we made a decision which could only come from boundless optimism, endearing naivety and sheer frustration with lining up at the post office - we decided to build it ourselves. To our amazement, it worked. Having spotted a very real appetite for the now functioning delivery service, we launched it as a separate service.”

    In making the customer front and centre at each and every turn, Davis says the company combines multiple sources to build empathy and understanding.

    “We analyse detailed customer usage data, customer support tickets, social media commentary, partner feedback, review sites, our own review and Net Promoter Scores data, and customer surveys, and use them to directly inform our product and service pipeline,” he explains. “The hundreds of feature releases we’ve made in the past 12 months have been directly informed - and demanded - by this nuanced customer understanding.”

    Additionally, every digital touchpoint is an opportunity for conversion. “Sendle optimises every product feature, marketing touchpoint, and customer service interaction to create new customers and brand promoters,” Davis says.

    Eyeing the importance of a data and technology driven approach, Sendle operates a three-part marketing model focused on driving traffic to the application, converting traffic into active users, and retaining customers while minimising churn.

    “Our business relies heavily on data to make decisions,” Davis says, explaining the company marries its analytic approach in marketing with soft skills in account management in order to reduce churn and continue to delight customers.

    But he warns against the perils of being obsessed with data for data’s sake. “We’ve got data coming out the wazoo - and we try not to get overwhelmed by that or fooled by that,” he says. “Data is only valuable if you can make very good decisions with it. We are big fans of digital marketing, but that’s not the same thing as saying, ‘we gravitate to everything new and shiny and we need to be there’. Because we don’t need to be there. We are a small business. We really need to prioritise ruthlessly around our plans and strategy.”

    More importantly, Sendle works in a constant cycle of innovation, with more than one hundred releases in the last 12 months. For Davis, innovation is a process, rather than a thing, involving ongoing observation, analysis and insight generation.

    “It is very hard to build engagement around a product and service that isn’t very good,” Davis continues. “Our view is you have to always start from the inside out. If you want to build engagement, the product, the service, the brand, the people in the company, then our view is all of that stuff radiates out in a good way. And that’s the beginning of where engagement comes from.

    “We are in parcel logistics, but we try to be very human in everything that we do. We try to make it personal and we try to bring personality into the way we connect with and communicate with customers.”

    Now sitting in his third digital startup since returning to Australia, Davis says he feels privileged to be a modern CMO.

    “The first two startups were failures, but very phenomenal learning experiences, and I am honoured to now be into this industry and in this role,” he says. “A lot of what I learnt in advertising is highly relevant, but there are many new things to learn, partly because it’s a new industry and because it's an entirely new role that I’m performing in the company - and partly because things change so quickly.”

    Asked the key attributes he believes modern CMO need, Davis highlights his experience both professionally and personally dictates the importance of being mindful, sympathetic and to have an understanding ear.

    “I am very empathetic and very compassionate. It has taken me quite a long time to arrive at that sort of answer. That wouldn’t have been my answer 20 years ago,” he comments.

    “I would have said passionate, competitive and restless. I am still really passionate, competitive and I am a little restless, but I am much more self-aware. I am much more in tune with the people around me and I’m deeply interested in the people that we are here to serve.”

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