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The Acquire Podcast Ep. 3: Give a little, get a lot – Ocrolus’ try and buy campaign

  • Ocrolus’ SVP of Product John Forrester joins the Acquire podcast to talk about the planning, challenges, and successes of launching a free trial that stands out.
  • His advice to marketers: Over experiment and lead with data.

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The Acquire Podcast Ep. 3: Give a little, get a lot – Ocrolus’ try and buy campaign

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

On today’s episode I’m speaking with John Forrester, SVP of Product at Ocrolus. Ocrolus is a document automation platform that powers the digital lending ecosystem. John is here to talk to me about Ocrolus’ “try and buy” offering launched last year, allowing any size lender – and non-lenders – to upload their financial documents for free. 

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.


I’m a Silicon Valley B2B veteran. I’ve founded companies, helped scale them up, and taken them public. I've seen some pretty crazy hyper growth and scaling, even past IPO. Now I’m at Ocrolus as SVP of product, and also run marketing. 

When I was interviewing to join Ocrolus, they had just launched their free trial so I had an opportunity to see what the free trial was like and experience the product myself. I even uploaded some of my own bank statements to the product and saw how they were able to classify them and capture all the data extracted, and also perform a number of financial calculations. 

I was seriously impressed as a candidate considering joining a company, because in the world of document processing that's a rarity. Not too many companies out there are confident enough to put their technology out for anyone to just do a free trial, upload some documents, and see the success of that. I was pretty blown away and it got me very interested in understanding the technology. 

Standing out from the crowd 

When I was doing my due diligence and comparing to some of the other players out in the document processing space, I saw a lot of ‘contact sales’ or a ‘schedule a demo’, but I didn't see any really free trials out there.

It's how we've been able to really accelerate adoption and usage out to a wide variety of industries that initially, we never really anticipated would have such strong interest. So it's great to see that folks who found us on the internet, through SEO, or maybe through some of our paid campaigns, are able to try out the technology and use it for their own use case. 

Meeting a new customer base 

Number one, what we found is that our core technology was applicable to a number of new markets. For instance the field of law enforcement, for folks who are investigating financial crimes; we found that they were very interested in our technology. We weren't actively acquiring or going after that market. When we opened up the free trial, we were able to see that our core technology was very useful for folks that were manually going through to compare and add up information from bank statements from different information that were supplied as part of their background investigation. Our technology is very useful for them to just be able to conduct those. 

In addition, we also found some new markets such as equipment, leasing, auto lending and other markets that we hadn't also been actively targeting or pursuing. It just expanded our horizon in new markets so we could be able to target and attract new customers. 

Rolling out 

When I first started, I was looking at a number of different channels where we could acquire customers and unlock growth in this new free trial.

First, we started looking at paid search. So we launched a number of new campaigns using Google and Bing, and continued to scale both channels with new campaigns in the months that followed. That was around either months ago when we started ramping up  the measurements and instrumentation around it, and making sure that our customer acquisition costs compared to lifetime value is really efficient. 

In addition, we really ramped up a lot of the work that we were doing on the SEO side, and making sure that our non-branded keywords were continuously strong. That was in parallel to a lot of the work that we did on content marketing scale up, which included a number of content development. We started working with Contently, to make sure that we could scale up the content creation and also measure that back to efficiencies in terms of customer acquisition costs. 

I was looking at a number of comparison sites, such as G2 Crowds and Capterra. We noticed that there were a number of potential interested buyers in our solution from a variety of industries and markets, where Ocrolus didn't have a presence historically, so we made sure that we had a presence. We also noticed a number of different inbound requests coming from that site as well. We wanted to make sure that we were just getting broad coverage. 

We also did paid social – we scaled up a lot of the work that we're doing on LinkedIn, and coverage in the conversation on Twitter. Finally, we scaled up a lot of the work on the PR and the influencer marketing side of things and just made sure that Ocrolus is top of mind when it came to any topics related to that. 

So that broad spectrum approach with leveraging all the data attribution metrics that we've put in place really helped us to significantly ramp up our free trial traffic volume and the deals that were coming through. 

Reimagining the brand

The whole positioning of Ocrolus and how we connect with potential prospects and customers was completely overhauled last summer, and we completely redesigned our website. We expanded the whole design system and expanded everything we were doing on the funnel and the flow of the free trial as well. 

We wanted to make sure to optimize that for customer experience, and we deployed a number of tools that can help us to measure and make sure that customer experience was fantastic in terms of abandonment or any confusion. We did a number of usability tests with customers as well, just to make sure their experience was good.

All in all, we were making sure the messaging and visuals in the campaigns and the website was crisp and clean. From a customer experience perspective, we deployed chat on the website, which really helped people who had questions before they were willing to actually register for a free trial and to make sure that the experience was good along the way. 

Anytime you're trying a new product, you want to make sure that that customer experience is fantastic. And so for us, it was really important to set the tone for the customer right away: that Ocrolus is there to support them through it, and make sure their needs were met.

Mapping the customer journey

So when I look at customer journeys, I tend to broaden my view to think about how the customer journey might have been or could have been in previous experiences in a particular field. 

We conducted a lot of user research with our customers in the lending industry –  small business lending, auto lending, the mortgage space – and found that there were a number of really bad experiences with automation out there. 

The big issue is the build, deploy, test, making sure it gets live – that whole process has taken anywhere from six to 18 months historically for other automation projects that these customers out there have had. At Ocrolus, we wanted to really flatten that experience, that journey, to make sure that from the moment that they're talking with us, that experience is fast, focused, and is really accessible for them. 

We wanted to make sure that we can shorten that cycle, flatten it out, crisp up the experience, and make sure that it leads to the results that they're expecting. 

In terms of language, we wanted them to think about things like accuracy, quality of outputs, or net result. It's very important for us to use the same language that the customer has to ensure that the journey from start to finish is a really good one. 

Key word: Accuracy

Accuracy has always been a metric that's very important to financial services institutions, because of the perspective of compliance, legal, and risk assessment. When giving out a loan or mortgage, it's really critical to make sure that that accuracy is high and intense and meets the needs of the business. 

Another metric and language that speaks well to our customers is the ability to turn around the information from the time they submit to the time it takes our technology and people to extract and classify the information. We publish turnaround times for customers, and we exceed that turnaround time by an order of magnitude.

Rising above the competition 

A big differentiating point is that we focused on financial services right from the start. It’s different from the other horizontal solutions out there, which are more of a toolkit solution with which folks can attempt to build something, versus someone who has deep expertise in lending and finance and really knows these documents very well and how to process them. 

We process many millions of documents every single month, and that leads to a big advantage in us working at scale with our partners. 

We did a tremendous amount of scale. During the COVID, and PPP, where we had customers who were scaling up, and we processed over 30% of all the PPP loans that went through. And we were able to provide that scale to a number of our partners that were looking for that speed and turnaround time to provide the best experience for small businesses looking to get access to government funding through the PPP program.

Niching onto the small business

It's a personal passion of mine. I was previously at Azlo, where we did small business banking, and we had spun up a number of programs to get our small business customers because we wanted to make sure that our small business customers who were suffering get access to PPP funding. There was so much confusion out of the market. 

We had a number of folks that we were helping to educate, we had two webinars we launched with Fundera, and we were making sure that small businesses get access to capital. 

Challenges along the way

There definitely were challenges in making sure that we could measure the funnel accurately. Initially, the funnel was measured using Google Analytics, and there were gaps in it. So I set out to understand: What does this funnel look like? Is this accurate? Is this really tracking the events that we need? 

And what we found was that the analytics weren't right, so we quickly went about to deploy technology called Heap, and we're using that across the board now just to make sure that we could accurately measure all the events from beginning to the end of the funnel, and then continuously make improvements in that customer experience by finding out where the gaps are, where they're falling out, and what they're having difficulties with. 

Bots vs. humans

I used to work for a chatbot company who did natural language processing, and personally, I have to say that I'm less of a fan of a chat bot. I think it's really important that if you implement a chatbot, that you have an escape button in any language of ‘I want to talk to a human’ or ‘get me out’.

We actually implemented Salesforce chat, and did a very light chatbot implementation to provide some basic company overview, but we had a very clear button to get to one of our live customer support agents. And we found, of course, that people actually wanted to have meaningful conversations with a human. We tended not to over engineer it here at Ocrolus, and have a really great SDR team that’s very accessible. 

We found that it's a wonderful channel for us to answer questions and get into increasing the customer experience that folks are having in their first touch point on our website. So yeah, light in the chatbot and more on human authenticity.

The ideal impression

I want them to be saying to themselves that this will help our company make better lending decisions. This is providing more value and insights from an analytics perspective than I ever expected. And this can be incredibly meaningful to our business. I want them to walk away with, ‘Wow, this is deeper than what I thought.’

Word of advice

Make sure to do a lot of experimentation. Every product, every company, every market is different. Never go in with preconceived ideas. It's really important to remember experimentation, to make sure you can lead with data. For any results that you're hoping for and expecting to get out of a program, make sure to try lots of different tactics, fire all bullets from the cannon, and then you'll get to the right results as a marketer.

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