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‘We were ordering food just to be able to talk to delivery people’: How young companies are reaching users during the pandemic

  • Young financial companies have had to be extra creative in how to reach potential users.
  • From ordering food to optimizing SEO, here are some of their methods.
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‘We were ordering food just to be able to talk to delivery people’: How young companies are reaching users during the pandemic

On Feb 16 and 18, Tearsheet will host the Acquire Conference, an exploration of what top financial brands, like Marcus by Goldman, Square, PayPal, Shopify and many more, are doing in marketing, customer acquisition, branding, and customer journeys. Register here.

With a global pandemic mutating routines and limiting contact, financial companies trying to reach new users are facing their fair share of challenges.

And for the new companies that don’t have a reputation to rely on, it’s been extra tricky.   

For some, it’s actually just been a matter of being at the right place at the right time. 

Stavvy, a software company that facilitates the mortgage lending process, was just in the midst of going live with its first customers when the lockdown began. 

But the sudden limitation in contact turned out to be a lucky opportunity for the new company. Rather than slowing things down, it helped speed things up. 

With loan volume increasing and face-to-face interactions decreasing, lenders were struggling notarizing documents. Stavvy was able to step in as a solution.

“It was really a lucky opportunity,” said Josh Feinblum, co-founder of Stavvy. “Because of the pandemic, we were able to pivot pretty quickly and build and deliver technology that allowed people who lived in the northeast of the US to remotely notarize documents without having to go see people in person.”

Because this ability was so needed at that exact moment, finding users just became an issue of knocking on the right door. In Stavvy’s case, the doors belonged to lenders.

“We were able to quickly get approved, because what we were doing was a lot safer than what was actually happening in terms of these agencies using FaceTime or Zoom or other technology that wasn't really complying with the law at the time,” said Feinblum. “And so it was through regional media and those title insurance companies approving us and promoting us that we were able to onboard our first customer.”

But sometimes it’s about finding the right place and the right time by yourself. 

Launched 2020, Arnie is a digital wealth management platform that evaluates how well a user’s current investments align with their sustainability values.

The company is aimed at Millennials, so one of the things co-founder Eliza Arnold did was go to the places she was most likely to find the right audience.

“I'm on sustainability Reddit chains and subreddits. And so something that’s not very scalable, but something that I've done that really works well is just posting about this and being like, ‘hey, if anyone's interested, take a look,’ And people will be and then all of a sudden, this is what people are talking about,” said Arnold.

Then there are financial companies that have relied on networking and building strong relationships to get more users. Synctera, a matchmaking solution for community banks and digital startups that launched in December, is one of them.

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“What's interesting about the community banking network is it's very viral word of mouth. So if you get an in with one, then they will talk to each other,” said Peter Hazlehurst, co-founder and CEO of the company. 

Hazelhurst is the former head of Uber Money and CPO at Yodlee, and served as a senior director of product management at Google. His experience has helped him build a reputation in the field and reach relevant contacts.

“What's happening is we're maintaining a pretty good cadence of speaking at big events, and just helping folks describe the industry in general. And that's it,” said Hazlehurst. 

This approach has led to potential users approaching Synctera, rather than the other way around.

“We launched a Contact Us page on our website, thinking, who's ever going to push that button,” said Hazelhurst. “But so far, we've had 10 banks hit that button, and about 50 to 60 fintechs. So that's more than enough, and keeps us really busy.”

Moves, a financial management platform for independent workers that launched April 2020, has also relied on creating meaningful relationships with potential users to create more traction.

“We just started talking to gig workers,” said Matt Spoke, CEO and founder of the company. “And we got to know a few specifically who became very eager to become our first users.” 

Consistently talking to gig workers was key for the company. And because the pandemic limited interaction, their ways of doing this became pretty creative.

“We were ordering food just to be able to talk to delivery people,” said Spoke. “We’d have conversations in the back of Ubers all the time.”

When these types of contact became a challenge, the startup began relying on Zoom more.

“We had postings on Craigslist and other places to get Uber drivers to agree to do Zoom interviews with us so that we could talk to them about their work and their lifestyles,” said Spoke. 

Then there’s the wait-for them-to-come-to you approach. This method has been particularly successful for companies within a hyper niche.

Founded December 2019, Eagle Finance is a financial advice firm specifically aimed at people with growing families and who consider themselves to be Christian.

Charles Thomas is the founder of the firm. He’s been using financial marketing as a way to appeal to his audience. And while he doesn’t get a lot of traffic, the traffic he does get is almost always relevant to his business.

“For the folks I work with, if their question is ‘I have two children who are four and five, I'm trying to figure out how I can use benefits at work to take care of preschool for those children, and I'm also curious if there's any helpful wisdom from the Old Testament that helps me,’ these are my people, and they’re the ones who I write stuff for. No one else does that,” said Thomas.

Qube Money also serves a hyper niche, but in a different light. Launched at the end of last month, Qube Money is a money management app that’s modelled after cash-envelope budgeting. And it’s designed to appeal to people who regularly use this method of budgeting. 

“Even in our digital society, there are so many that do paper-cash-envelope budgeting,” said Ryan Clark, founder and CEO at Qube Money. “And so when we came up with a digital version of this, it was very interesting to them.”

To get more users, it was just a matter of finding relevant communities and pinpointing the relevant audiences. One of these communities was FinCon, which brings together personal finance content creators

“Through that community, we were able to network and find a bunch of like-minded people,” said Clark.

With the continued challenges ahead, financial firms of all sizes can use some more marketing ingenuity.

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