William Mills’ Scott Mills: ‘We have to think about how technology is consumed’
- Now the largest independent agency in finance, the William Mills Agency was founded in Atlanta 40 years ago.
- CEO Scott Mills joins us to talk about what successful firms are doing to generate more press.
Scott Mills has fintech PR in his blood. Along with his dad and his brother, Mills has built William Mills into the largest independent PR and marketing firm in the financial industry. The 40-year old firm is based in Atlanta and has found a niche for itself by helping companies sell technology into banks.
On this edition of the Tearsheet podcast, we talked about how this class of fintech companies is different, primarily because today’s financial technology is ending up in the hands of the end consumer. In other words, Mills has seen fintech move from business-to-business — where financial technology ended up on inside a bank — to business-to-business-to-customer and that’s created unique challenges for young firms to elevate their visibility and acquire new customers.
Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.
The evolving market for fintech
“When I use the term ‘fintech’, it can refer to those companies who provide technology to financial institutions, like FIS, Jack Henry, or Sunguard. Or, it can mean, like the media tends to use it, young innovative companies that want to peel business away from financial institutions with marketplace lending or small business, small dollar lending.
What I find interesting is for traditional fintech companies, they’ve been around for a long time helping financial institutions automate something or do something better, like decreasing fraud or increasing cross-sell. What’s happened is that we’re having to think through this technology because it’s now ending up in the hands of the customer. Where fintech for a lot of us was the B2B industry, it’s now more B2B2C. We have to think about how the technology is consumed.”
How marketing and PR has had to change
“Traditional fintech firms have had to go out and get talent from places like Google and Amazon. Our clients have elevated what they talk about internally and with their customers, with more of an appreciation on user design and customer experience. It’s an arms race in terms of being able to make your stuff easier to use.
Firms need to make sure they’re addressing the different audiences that will influence their success. It could be bank consultants that are often involved in technology buying decisions. It might be ensuring that a firm has enough talent coming in. Do I need to do something local so people know we have a great place to work? Is it industry analysts, like Mercator or IDC, who have influence? Should I work with state banking associations or national ones? All these things are part of the fintech company’s marketing toolbox.”
Defining success with PR
“It’s really up to a specific company and where they’re up to in their lifecycle. Views are easy to measure, but aren’t the most important thing. For example, I can get an article in a really nice publication that few target clients read. I can deliver on a number but not on the impact. Some clients use scorecards, but few do.
Generally, we want our clients to get famous for something. It will happen in a PR program that publishes news that shows we’re consistently making progress as a corporation.
The second area we focus on is thought leadership. Most people in fintech are successful because they sell what’s in between their ears. We want our clients to get known for solving problems or addressing bigger issues than just the features of their product.
Lastly, you want to capture customer success stories. There’s nothing more important to a fintech than being able to demonstrate how you’ve helped a bank, credit union, or mortgage company do something really well.”