Allison Netzer and Andrew Martin on how to market a fintech brand

19 Sep 2019

Allison Netzer. Image: Kony

Following a partnership that helped lead to a $559m acquisition, Allison Netzer and Andrew Martin spoke to about the importance of marketing for fintech companies.

Earlier this month, Swiss banking software company Temenos acquired American fintech company Kony for $559m and an earn-out of $21m.

Following this deal, spoke to Allison Netzer, senior vice-president of strategy and marketing at Kony DBX, to find out more about branding, marketing and some of the mistakes that companies make along the way.

Netzer was joined by Andrew Martin, CEO of global marketing agency Metia. According to Netzer, Metia played an instrumental role in Kony’s marketing strategy in the run up to the massive acquisition.

Kony had partnered with Metia as part of a conscious decision to create a separate brand and a separate business unit for banking and financial services, Netzer explained.

“We landed with Metia – one of the main reasons is because, in the evaluation process, they challenged our thinking and actually gave us some pushback on a couple of pieces that I was pretty much sold on,” she said.

Creating a good brand

Martin explained: “If you think about marketing from a tech perspective, it’s really just an extension of the customer experience. That’s critical. Our approach is to ask, how do we understand the customer or the audience that our client is trying to market to?”

Naturally, data goes a long way in answering that question.

Metia has developed a number of tools and processes to harness that data for clients. One of these tools, entitled Strategy Quick Start, enables Metia to take a data-smart approach and capture customer insight for the benefit of clients, such as Kony DBX.

Netzer said: “That benefit is something that we have been able to pass on to banks and credit unions that are in our own client set, and very specifically for helping them to understand that in financial institutions, good brands are very valuable. Regardless of what sector they serve. Having that emotional connection as a technology is critically important.”

A man in a grey fleece and a blue shirt stands in front of a red wall. He has blonde hair.

Andrew Martin. Image: Metia

One thing that the Kony SVP pointed out was that many people don’t think that creating an emotional connection between a bank and a customer (whether that’s B2C or B2B) is very important.

“Because our job as a technology vendor is to drive customer and member relationships, we actually have a very unique opportunity and challenge,” Netzer said. “The bank and credit union has to see it as a vendor to them, but they also have to see it as a vendor to their end-user.”

From her experiences to date, making the effort to create an emotional connection does pay off because it drives revenue.

When’s the right time to shift a focus to marketing?

In the early days of a business, there’s limited time, resources and people to put behind anything other than the basics. Plenty of companies are primarily concerned with their product and generating income, so quite often marketing can take a backseat. Is this the right strategy to take?

There’s arguments to be made for and against this approach. Netzer and Martin agreed that marketing should be a concern from very early on. They believe it should be baked into your business.

‘Marketing isn’t a list of things that you do, it has to be part of the overall strategy’

“As I said earlier, it’s just part of the customer experience,” Martin noted. “That’s everything from how you talk to your target audience to how you sell to them. How do you provide them support after they have become a paying customer?”

Netzer completely agreed on this point, adding: “I think the days are – or at least, should be – gone where marketing and branding is considered a last-mile activity or an activation activity. It’s part of the fabric of whatever the business is from the beginning, and that’s where strategy comes in. Marketing isn’t a list of things that you do, it has to be part of the overall strategy.”

Another way that start-ups can begin a marketing campaign in those early days is through their employees.

“The employees within a fintech company are your first audience. That’s how – whether it’s with fintech brands, or in any other industry – some companies just seem to come out of nowhere,” Netzer said.

“It’s because they have an internal conviction that they can change the world or change the landscape, and branding is actually a really big part of that. It’s not just the colours and the name.”

Mistakes to avoid – or to learn from

Netzer noted that in the past she, like many other marketers, has fallen victim to forgetting to focus on what the customer wants.

“It’s very hard to not think of yourself as the target customer. What you personally like or what you personally think … It’s really hard to not go into that thinking. We use a lot of automated tools to make sure that we’re not convincing ourselves of something when the data shows otherwise,” she explained.

Martin agreed: “It’s not about what you want. It’s about what’s delivering in the market.”

The Metia CEO said that he prefers to view mistakes as hypotheses that he’s testing on a continual basis, using the feedback, information and data he gathers from this to optimise campaigns and programmes that he runs for clients.

Another mistake that fintech and financial services companies can make when it comes to marketing is thinking like a bank, rather than a brand. Along with one of Martin’s colleagues, Liz High, Netzer recently wrote a blogpost on this topic.

Some of the guidelines High and Netzer outlined were to obsess over customers, embrace tension and remember that product isn’t what it used to be.

High wrote: “Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles, they sell rebellion. WeWork don’t sell office space, they don’t even sell new co-working formats. They sell community and a belief in a connected society.”

From Netzer’s experience, there are plenty of benefits to reap when you think of a fintech product primarily as a brand. She said that Kony DBX has experienced sustained growth in the tripled digits. After analysing this growth, the company attributes roughly half of that progress to the brand and not just to the product.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic