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The Acquire Podcast Ep. 2: Buying coffee with Ether — Marqeta’s bringing crypto to point of sale

  • Marqeta’s VP of Marketing Jeff Otto joins the Acquire podcast to talk about powering crypto in everyday transactions.
  • The key to a successful go-to-market, he says, is securing early buy-in, building a compelling case, and staying consistently focused.

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The Acquire Podcast Ep. 2: Buying coffee with Ether — Marqeta’s bringing crypto to point of sale

Welcome to Acquire, Tearsheet’s Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca Alma Cohen, Head of Tearsheet Studios.

This is our second episode, following up from our inaugural episode last week where I explained all about the podcast and spoke to Envestnet’s CMO Mary Ellen Dugan about the company’s first rebrand campaign in 20 years. 

I promised a new episode every two weeks, but the launch was so successful that I ended up with some great marketing campaigns and stories in my inbox -- so I decided to ramp it up, and put out a new episode every single week. To never miss an episode, head over to the Tearsheet website and subscribe to our marketing newsletter.

The Acquire Podcast is an extension of Tearsheet’s marketing conference, Acquire, which we held just last month in February. Our next event, the Bankchain Conference, is coming up in May. Bankchain is, as you might imagine from the name, all about the convergence of blockchain and traditional banking -- all the ways FIs are rising to meet the day and make friends with decentralized finance. 

We’ll be talking to the leading blockchain firms working with FIs to do just that, like Paxos, Zeo Hash, Coinbase, Anchorage Digital, and more -- leading me to today’s topic.

On today’s episode I’m speaking with Jeff Otto, VP of Marketing at Marqeta. Marqeta is a card issuance and payments solution provider, and without a doubt a major player in the space. Jeff is here to talk to me about their new campaign that launched at the end of last year, bringing crypto to point of sale.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

An untold story

I joined Marqeta last July, and one of the things that we noticed, right out of the gate, was a trend. A cohort of our customers were crypto innovators, and they were using the power of our modern card issuing platform to basically do the last mile and bring crypto to point of sale. 

We inspected that and said, ‘Alright, what's going on with these customers -- Coinbase, Bakkt, Shakepay, Fold?’ We realized that this was a story that wasn't being told in the marketplace, and that we had an opportunity to build an integrated campaign, with multiple market moments throughout it in the latter half of last year, that would tell this story and help uncover their success while also helping us build relationships with other members of that category.

Embed the unconventional

We all move money every day, and there are various degrees of friction when it comes to that. But the trend that's been consistent for the last ten years is that everything is going towards a more embedded, and more invisible, seamless experience that is all about convenience -- something you don't have to think about. And that's what our customers like Coinbase asked us for. 

How it works

Let's say you have your Coinbase Visa debit card, and you're buying your favorite latte at your local coffee shop. What you would experience is the same thing you would with any normal payment card, be that physical, virtual, a tokenized card that you can use with Apple Pay or Google Pay -- you get the same exact experience. But under the hood, what's happening is Coinbase and Marqeta technology are integrated, so we send details of that transaction to Coinbase, and Coinbase on their site can check and say, ‘Alright, Rebecca has enough Ether or Bitcoin in her account to allow us to authorize this transaction so she can enjoy her latte.’ They will then handle the FX currency exchange and change that cryptocurrency to fiat currency. We provide them all the controls: the web hooks, the data, and the transaction to allow that to be a seamless experience for you.

To each their own 

There was a nice piece done by a periodical that showed that 60% of crypto holders want to use their crypto to transact. And in fact, 27% are already doing so, according to a Gemini study last year. And so we're seeing that continuous growth in terms of the consumer saying, ‘I want to use crypto to transact on a daily basis.’ So that's the first part. 

Secondly, Marqeta’s value proposition is really about getting close to the metal on the payment rails and providing rich open API's so that a Coinbase, Bakkt, Shakepay, or Fold can leverage those API's to then make it a seamless experience. What we don't do is worry about the volatility of cryptocurrencies -- it’s actually the exchanges that are going to be dealing with that.

Say it simpler for the people in the back

Sometimes people entering the website are already very targeted and very informed as to what we're doing, so one of the things that the digital and creative teams that work for me did was make sure that if we have somebody that gets it, and gets the value proposition, we can right away engage them and get started; so right at the top of the page, there’s a CTA so they can jump right into a conversation with us.

For the folks that are still learning and still understanding capability, I always am a big fan of starting with customer success. So you can see on the solution page that we're leading with those four customer success stories right at the top of the page. 

The third element you see in the page is around, ‘Alright, let's keep it simple’. Three major things that we are unlocking value for: earning crypto, spending crypto, being able to leverage crypto. 

Now, I mentioned some of the stats earlier in terms of consumer adoption of this. And we, of course, want to reinforce that and make sure that folks that are visiting our website understand that this is a growing trend, and perhaps a business opportunity for new players who want to enter the space. 

A shining example

Coinbase is obviously an incredible customer, we're very proud of their success and very proud to have them as a partner. And so they agreed to work with us on a detailed case study, and got into the specifics of their program. Then lower down on the page, one of the things I love that our creative team put together is just keeping it really simple: ‘How does this work?’ The use cases from the crypto app, to the mechanic platform, to the retailer, down to the networks --  just showing visually how all of this works to make it very clear.

Spreading the word

There's a lot of careful thought when you think about go-to-market and building an integrated campaign journey. And that journey starts with broad awareness and activating the earned media channels that we have. To do that we landed ten PR placements when we launched this, we did a social media search and saw some phenomenal results. On Twitter, we had 220,000 impressions throughout the week; this was 3x of what we usually get -- very positive sentiment as well. And that drove a lot of traffic to the website. Not only that, but also engagement time. We were seeing that the over 1000 visitors that came to the site in the week of the launch were spending three minutes and nine seconds on the page.

All roads lead to Money20/20

We lined this up so it was right before Q3 earnings; that allowed our CEO Jason Gardner and our executive team to reinforce it with the market and analysts doing media broadcasts and interviews. And then we also reinforced it with our developer community, which is incredibly important to us -- the grassroots of innovation of many of our customers. Turning the mic over to our customers, like Shakepay and Bakkt, and letting them tell their stories.

Then strategically, we're kind of thinking about this in terms of the analogy ‘All roads lead to Rome’, but in fintech, all roads lead to Money 2020 -- the largest fintech conferences held in Las Vegas every year. It has a very targeted audience of innovators and builders that want to talk to us who are a great fit in terms of our go-to-market. And so we wanted to drive these conversations through our digital channels, and through the funnel, but pointing that to Money 2020, so we can have deeper engagement in person. So we did some thought leadership at Money 2020, held a panel interview that was wildly successful with a couple of our customers with Coinbase and Visa on the panel, and then you know, 100+ meetings with prospects and customers throughout the week to engage and help them understand in depth what we did. 

The end result was a really healthy sales pipeline with many of these leading crypto innovators that we weren't already working with.

Crypto in Marqeta’s universe 

One of the things that I loved about Marqeta when I joined last summer was that it's really in Marqeta’s DNA to adapt and serve these emerging innovative markets. And bringing crypto to the point of sale is just one example in a string of examples that this company has been able to execute before I joined. 

For example, the company's heritage was in on-demand delivery services, DoorDash, UberEATS, GrubHub -- the experiences you have when you seamlessly order food and it shows up at your door. We power some of the payment experiences under the hood and we make it an elegant experience. Buy Now Pay Later, Affirm, Klarna, Afterpay -- these are also Marqeta customers, and we help them do installment loans, expense management, and other forms of payment. 

So bringing crypto to point of sale is really a continuation of our expansion of the category of modern card issuing that we created, and continue to expand.

Leading with the big picture

I'd say that the hard thing that any marketing leader, or even a go-to-market leader, has to think about is how to you focus the energy of all of your resources -- channel owners, sellers, etc. -- around a particular cohort audience that has a good product market fit, and then go after that for a period of time. Because the gravitational pull is to try to do everything, or try to be responsive all the time to a diverse set of signals that you're getting from the marketplace. 

But when you find something that's working, the key is to get that buy-in early, and make sure you've built a compelling case to bring all of the collected energy together and go after it for a period of time. Often, a good integrated campaign needs half a year, and then you do a long tail after it. That's the biggest piece of advice that I could give to any innovator that's looking to open up in the market.

Unexpected challenges along the way 

First, we wanted to be really clear about what we were doing, what our value proposition was, and what we were not doing. And that goes back to your earlier question about how it is our customers that handle the currency exchange and the balance sheet of the cryptocurrencies. That's not us -- we're really powering the modern card issuing aspect. That was something that we wanted to continuously reinforce, because that clarity, I think, is really important. 

The second thing, I'd say one of the challenges is that I love leading with the customer's success, and always wanting to go a little bit deeper with the customer. Like, for example, if I could wave my magic wand, I'd have a film with every one of these crypto customers; I'd have an in-depth total cost of ownership ROI case study with each of them. So you kind of aim for lofty goals around how much customer success marketing you can do, but then you do as best a job as you can to shine a light on their brand and make their success really apparent to the marketplace. And there are trade offs with that.

Measuring success 

I can't talk about the specific numbers, but I can talk you through how we think about measurement and how we think about outcomes. To go back to our earlier conversation around the top of the funnel: What is our share of voice in modern card issuing? What's our share of voice when it comes to conversations around crypto innovators and bringing crypto to point of sale? What kind of placements are we getting from wonderful periodicals like Tearsheet? Then, of course, what are we doing to drive audience awareness across our social channels to create conversations? 

We then bring in all that intent data we're getting into the funnel, so that we can utilize it to then drive inbound lead funnel, and then drive how we're handling outbound outreach to targeted accounts that are qualified and showing intent they want to engage us. 

What’s next for Marqeta

Well, you're going to read about more success, that's for sure. We're really excited about some of the deep pipeline follow up conversations that we're talking to leading crypto innovators about. And then what you'll see more broadly is a continuation of what Marqeta is, which is a B2B payments infrastructure business that makes money move. 

We're in the business of powering developers' ability to unlock those differentiated experiences for the folks that are driving the new frontier of payments. We want them to come to us, we want to help them create new categories like what we saw with bringing crypto to point of sale.

Do what you love, love what you do

I've been in financial services technology either as a technologist or as a marketer for about 18 years now. I deviated away from it once or twice for a year or two, and then came back to it because I just find it fascinating how global money movement works. At my prior company, Salesforce, I had been working with an amazing team and we were constantly talking about embedded finance; every single year at our big conference, Dreamforce, we would be doing keynotes around that. And I finally said, ‘You know what, I need to put my money where my mouth is, and join one of the leaders in embedded finance,’ and that's Marqeta. 

And so for me, it's a culmination of being in a space that I really love, doing function marketing that I really love, and getting to work with a phenomenal team that constantly surpasses expectations in their creativity and their ability to execute. I really love this gig.

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