Crue and Destination ENV are now Envisionit

Escape the fintech “sea of sameness” & move towards predictable revenue growth

As an integrated strategist, I work with our clients to understand where they’re at across the spectrum, frame a fuller picture of their infrastructure and feedback loops, and ultimately, align teams on the prioritization of marketing efforts to reach tangible business goals. Essentially, outlining, “How are we going to get there?”

Before I begin the real work, I like to start by asking one fundamental question to product, sales, and marketing: “What outcomes do your platform enable that would make a customer consider you?” What I’m really asking is, “Why would they invest in you?” If this question isn’t answered consistently and succinctly at the highest level, I know we’ve got some work to do to align stakeholders internally. Why is this alignment important out of the gate? There’s two reasons: 1. If you can’t nail down the answer to this question internally, how can you nail it for your prospects? 2. When you don’t take the time to answer this question, you’re going to drop yourself right into the middle of the “sea of sameness” you should be avoiding.

Omni-channel, frictionless, end-to-end, all-in-one, full commerce enablement. Sound familiar? 

The fintech “sea of sameness” is a real challenge

In the last year, I’ve been asking myself why the “sea of sameness” in fintech has gotten so much bigger compared to when I began my niche focus ten years ago. As more players have entered the space, brands don’t always have the luxury of first-mover advantage and are commonly enhancing their technology (whether directly or through acquisition) to better communicate the “why” to their prospects. Beyond the innovation process (we’ll get there in a minute), I see a larger problem at play. Established and emerging fintech players can offer the same, similar, or wholly different use cases, but guess what? Their value propositions all sound the same. I’ve called out some of the buzzwords above and they’re not inherently bad, but when used as the tip of the spear, they don’t actually sell a product. At least not at scale. Perhaps a segment of your audience doesn’t need “full commerce enablement” but instead, a very specific solution to solve their problems today. They could still be incredibly profitable. “Frictionless” can sound nice to internal stakeholders, but it can be anxiety-inducing to prospects because they feel this means they have to rip and replace to get there. Or maybe they just don’t understand what “omnichannel” actually means for them.

Buzzwords can also dilute the real utility of a technology and its solutions as an organization’s internal language is often used by product, sales, and marketing to put a bow on a more nuanced form of value for prospects, depending on the job they’re trying to get done.

Create differentiation in fintech marketing by mapping your prospects’ unmet needs.

About a year ago, I ran across a post on LinkedIn about Anthony Ulwick’s Jobs to Be Done Theory. It’s not a new theory and it was intended to be an innovation framework based on the idea that people buy products and services to get a job done. I was intrigued by the story behind its development because it was inspired by failure. I highly recommend giving the book a read, but in a nutshell, Ulwick was part of IBM’s PCjr development team who, to put it bluntly, royally biffed on a $1B product launch. The day after the launch, he woke up to a Wall Street Journal headline that read, “PCjr is a Flop.” Over the next several months, he realized the WSJ was right.

Why did it fail? Ulwick’s team didn’t isolate the key metrics for a successful launch that were rooted in how the end user would ascribe value to the product.

A couple of decades and many milestones later, Jobs to Be Done and specifically, the Outcome-Driven-Innovation Framework (ODI) has been utilized by enterprise organizations globally. Am I saying you need to drink the ODI Kool-aid to be better at fintech innovation and marketing? No. As a marketer, what I appreciate is that this feels like uncommon-common logic, and there are immediate steps that can be taken by fintechs to get themselves out of this “sea of sameness” and chart a different course that is rooted in real customer needs instead of subjective ideas and internal bias.

How you approach product innovation influences how you market your technology.

I’d like to present three drivers behind product innovation that I’ve most frequently encountered with clients. Why? Because the impetus behind product innovation (what you’re delivering and why) will impact how you market your product. I’m not going to weigh in on which of these drivers are “right.” There’s a lot that goes into decisions around innovation, not to mention a lot of stakeholders’ opinions. I will say this — if your solutions are largely the same as your competitors’, the best way to successfully differentiate your brand is by identifying the problems your customers are looking to solve and articulating how your technology solves them better than your competitors do.

When you look at marketing through this lens, you’re positioned to re-evaluate your ideal customer profiles, the industries and verticals you’re going after, and the needs you meet (or should be meeting). From a GTM perspective, this informs your targeting and the messaging you’ll pressure test in the market.

3 common drivers of product innovation

  1. Revenue-led: Focused on financial growth as a catalyst for innovation, promotion, and incentives.
  2. Product-led: Focused on product differentiation, excellence, and unique competitive advantages.
  3. Outcome-led: A customer-centric approach that is rooted in specific outcomes that need to be met.

Every fintech I’ve worked with wants to drive their bottom line revenue, but how they plan to get there is often very different. Let’s just acknowledge this and the potential implications of your innovation process when weighed against your team’s alignment on what you’re offering, why, and how this influences your marketing strategy and objectives.

Gaining cross-team alignment through an outcome-based mindset.

In his book, Ulwick outlines a series of questions to be answered by existing customers and net new prospects that he believes are key to an effective innovation process. Here’s what I like about this list — whether you use the entire ODI framework or not, leveraging quick-turn qualitative and/or quantitative methods to gain this feedback can levelset a fintech organization’s understanding of what they think their prospects want versus what they actually want. 

  • What job is the customer trying to get done?
  • What are the customer’s desired outcomes?
  • How do they measure value?
  • Do segments of customers have different unmet outcomes?
  • What unmet outcomes exist in each customer segment?
  • What segments and umet outcomes do we target for growth?
  • How should we define our value proposition?
  • How do we position our existing & pipeline products?
  • What new products must we create?

At Envisionit, we can leverage several methodologies for getting answers to these questions, depending on your internal bandwidth, available data sources, and the nuances of your offering. It can be as simple as working with your team (particularly sales, based on their relationships) and conducting the right mix of surveys and interviews. We also have great partnerships that allow us to flex and scale quickly when data sources aren’t readily available (e.g. maybe your existing database is too small).

The output of this exercise can be illuminating for fintech organizations as it often susses out misalignment between product, sales and marketing. Specifically, how various leaders would define what a need actually is. If you can get alignment around what these needs are, how they’re segmented by prospect, and get the collective buy-in, no one should be surprised by what messaging is put into the market. Instead, the mindshare is shifted towards what’s working, what needs to be refined and where there are untapped opportunities to create new angles or innovations to drive business outcomes.

Wrapping it up

The intersection between product, sales, and marketing doesn’t typically occur organically within an organization and getting there is often a journey many fintech organizations struggle to begin. A Harvard Business Review article claimed 90% of sales and marketing teams report misalignment across strategy, culture and content within their organizations. On the one hand, that’s really unfortunate. On the other, getting alignment doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Begin by asking your existing customers and prospects the right questions in an intentional way (and with a degree of rigor) to break free of organizational bias, gain a shared understanding of actual needs, and apply this feedback across teams to start driving predictable revenue growth.

Interested in learning more about how our approach to fintech marketing can apply to your fintech? Let’s connect.

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