How an integrated CRM and marketing automation play is helping Valiant Finance

Head of platforms at small business loans marketplace talks about the impact of sales and marketing automation integration on customer engagement and conversion

Closing the loop between offline and online customer acquisition and conversion has become reality for the team at Australia-based Valiant Finance after deploying an integrated sales and marketing automation stack.

The startup marketplace is designed to help small businesses make more informed product decisions on financing solutions and is driven by data intelligence. According to Valiant head of platforms, Ritchie Cotton, financing for small businesses isn’t regulated in the same way as the consumer lending space, leading to confused, complicated and less-than-scrupulous solutions.

Spying an opportunity to provide a solution, the company debuted two years ago, initially building its marketplace on Salesforce’s Heroku development platform. Valiant offers 100 loan products from 60 lenders and has 15 employees.

“The decision to use Heroku was driven by two things: The first was flexibility – we could use the language and frameworks we wanted. It was a deployment platform that could handle all of that,” Cotton explained.  

As a small company with very limited resources, the platform also gives Valiant Finance the ability to scale up and down tech resources as required, allowing the group to deploy almost new features and code changes 1.5 times per day on average, he said.

It was this decision that led Valiant to deploy SalesforceIQ, the vendor’s small business CRM solution. However, the team quickly realised the platform wasn’t scalable enough to serve either the diversity of customers coming to Valiant, or complexity of referral relationships with partners.

“What we underestimated at that time was how many channels people would come to us,” Cotton said. “We get a lot of our business via referral partners including residential mortgage brokers, accountants, business advisers and lawyers. Given their expertise and product offering, they come to us because they often can’t service small business financing needs.

“In addition, people are coming to us online directly, and also calling the 1300 number. We needed a ‘people powered’ element to make the technology shine, then use technology to empower the people power, and to scale up and serve our customers.”

As a result, Valiant deployed Sales Cloud 12 months ago. Because the marketplace is based on Heroku, data being collected online could quickly be fitted with the Sales Cloud data model. It was then just a matter of tweaking the underlying platform to “match the nuances and workflows of Salesforce”, Cotton said.

“We were able to build out an omni-channel view of the customer – no matter where they came from the way we tagged them and the way the Heroku platform is used internally and externally, to surface recommendations and the product intelligence piece,” he continued.  

Sales Cloud is now being used to track customer interactions, calls, emails and platform activity.

“Financing is a product people shop around for – they’ll search online, and might call a mortgage broker to explain the need and find out how they can gain help,” Cotton said. “What we found, based on duplication management rules and other things, is that one customer can be coming to us through three different channels. Now, at any one of those touchpoints, we can see the full view of that customer.”

This allows the credit solutions team to have one customer view immediately, Cotton said.

As proof of the improvement to customer engagement, Cotton said settlements achieved by Valiant’s team have risen from 1.3 on average to 1.7.

“It’s a great measure of how well we are servicing and the value we’re offering,” he said. “If people are coming back to us, then we’re adding enough value to the process for them to remember us as giving them a great deal and are comfortable with our advice.”  

What Valiant then needed to address was the loop between offline and online customer interactions.

“An offline acquisition often results in an online conversion,” Cotton said. “That’s because it’s often with a lending partner, or our solutions agent has picked it up and takes the client through an application process. We had a lot of trouble connecting the two dots. In moving to the news system, we didn’t think it through enough.”

Because of the bigger cost of moving to Sales Cloud, Valiant also didn’t initially invest in Marketing Cloud. But realising there was a problem connecting the dots and closing the loop for customers and how they were coming to the marketplace, Valiant added Pardot into its technology stack.

What the marketing automation platform has done is allow Valiant to have omni-channel, scalable and personalised interactions with customers at all stages of the sales funnel.

“That allowed us to look at the way in which we engaged across channel,” Cotton said. “Ultimately, if someone comes to us via a referral or partner they’ll have an email, a mobile phone. It’s proven to be quite an engagement strategy for us to unite those things.”

Via an engagement plan, Valiant’s team can tap back into how things are tracking with a prospect, how else to assist them, and take automated steps that encourage them to complete the application process and convert.

“It relieves some burden off our credit solutions team in terms of follow ups and chasing,” Cotton said. “Yet those communications are still delivered in a personalised way, so when someone reads it, it could have come from an agent. That’s where having the two systems talking so well together is so important.

“We knew we needed to create a new data model, import things somehow and sync interactions together. With this, it’s one click to see all our prospects.”  

Cotton’s next priorities are to make internal processes and workflow smarter, particularly on the marketing side, in order to maximise returns on the tech capabilities. News that Salesforce is integrating its marketing platform with Google Analytics will be a real winner for Valiant, he said.

“With the integration with Google Analytics and what we now have, we’re looking at deploying Marketing Cloud because it makes sense for us to take that next step around how we form journeys beyond just email automation and the online capture piece,” he added.  

“The forward focus for us is smarts and efficiency so we can unlock more capability across the team we have.”

Read more of CMO's case studies on how companies are taking advantage of marketing technology:

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