"CMO talk" with Thomas Schäubli of Apiax: Why best marketing involves the product team
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
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In B2C, fintech marketing is often about targeting a younger or more tech-savvy audience than existing solutions do. On what channels do you reach this audience, and how do you talk about your product so that it is appealing? Revolut is doing a fantastic job in this regard. Apiax is a B2B company. Of course, we also try to find new ways to talk about things, but essentially it's about finding the right marketing mix and improving ROI over time – as it always has been.
In this edition of our “CMO talk” interview series, we hear from Thomas, CMO over at Apiax.
Apiax is a Regtech that helps financial organisations stay on top of compliance with technology. They focus on digitising laws and compliance, and work with the top legal experts to make sure they’re always up to date with regulations. Although headquartered in Zurich, they have offices in Lisbon, London and Singapore.
As financial regulations get more complex and more companies move towards the cloud and digital, Apiax’s services are highly relevant and in high demand. We chatted with the CMO, Thomas Schäubli, on his approach to marketing a B2B Fintech.
He drops some great nuggets of knowledge with regards to B2B Fintech marketing, including:
Experiments Apiax did to get the product in front of potential customers
What Fintech marketers are doing wrong with their marketing approach
Let’s get to it!
How did you end up doing marketing for a fintech services company?
Before joining Apiax, I worked for an investment consultancy for almost six years. During that time, I experienced time and time again the difficulties that global regulation can have for everyone in the industry.
When I saw the opportunity to join a start-up that deals with these very issues, I didn't hesitate to join.
What’s unique about marketing a fintech? Can you define the term “fintech marketing” in a few words?
I'm not sure there's really a single way to define it. B2C and B2B fintech marketing are certainly very different. In B2C, fintech marketing is often about targeting a younger or more tech-savvy audience than existing solutions do. On what channels do you reach this audience, and how do you talk about your product so that it is appealing? Revolut is doing a fantastic job in this regard. Apiax is a B2B company. Of course, we also try to find new ways to talk about things, but essentially it's about finding the right marketing mix and improving ROI over time – as it always has been.
Good marketing is not about "doing marketing", but about marketing a product. Good marketing gets straight to the point. Good copywriting, for example, should not be sales-heavy, but clear and concise. Similarly, a campaign is not successful because it conforms to what others in the industry do, but because it creates leads or brand awareness. In this sense, marketing is the same everywhere.
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What’s the biggest challenge for B2B fintech marketers nowadays?
At Apiax, our biggest challenge is that we are creating a product that has not existed before. We want to be the first real product-driven regtech on the market. So our biggest challenge is to make everything from scratch, without any real instructions or examples. That's a fantastic challenge if you're up for it. But it requires a lot of tenacity to enjoy the ride. While fintech marketing is at least somewhat established, regtech marketing really isn't.
As a CMO, how do you manage to keep the balance between short-term performance tactics and long-term brand building marketing strategies?
It would be wrong to play these two activities off against each other. It is crucial to have a long-term perspective on where you want the brand to go, but to be willing to compromise on that vision in the short term. It is important to have a 5-year plan, perhaps even way beyond your runway of where you want to go with the brand. But then you want to take small steps to get there even if you know that you will have to adjust a lot of things along the way.
And yes, you have to be prepared to go out with things that are not final and not in line with the long-term vision at the time they are released. But the point is that you can also learn from that: performance tactics, if executed well, can generate many interesting insights that can be used elsewhere. We often test copywriting ideas to see what works best for us. Sometimes the insights from performance marketing even influence our positioning or product strategy.
How does Apiax make regulations easier for fintechs? Why is it such an essential part of lowering the barrier to entry?
We are digitising regulations so that they can be processed from a single platform and can be used in any digital channel. Apiax integrates with the main tools in wealth management, asset management and universal banking. Basically, we are creating a fully digital compliance repository that gives everyone easy access to compliance knowledge.
The main reason why this is so important is that regulatory compliance is one of the biggest challenges for financial institutions today, whether it is creating new products, entering new markets or serving new customers. If all the regulations that are of relevance to you are readily available for you to access, you’re in a much better position than your competitors to do business. And that is exactly what we aim for.
We asked financial institutions including fintechs around the globe what their biggest growth challenges are. 35% of respondents said it was regulatory complexity, only 26% said it was finding talent, and only 20% said funding. This should make it clear: mastering the regulatory environment is a key challenge for both challengers and incumbents in the financial industry.
What is the Apiax B2B marketing tactic/strategy that you are most proud of?
In terms of strategy, we invested heavily in product marketing in 2020 and will continue to do so. This is an important strategic decision we have made as a company. Strong product marketing will help us increase the demand for and adoption of our products. Of course, we still have a team that focuses on what I would call demand generation, growing a community and creating leads with both inbound and outbound tactics. But we complement this team with a second team with a very strong focus on product and brand marketing to differentiate us from the competition.
Strong product marketing will help us increase the demand for and adoption of our products. Of course, we still have a team that focuses on what I would call demand generation, growing a community and creating leads with both inbound and outbound tactics. But we complement this team with a very strong focus on the product and brand marketing to differentiate us from our competition.
In terms of tactics, I'm very proud of the way we approach events. For every single event we go to, we run pre-event and post-event campaigns, and we really take full advantage of the events themselves. This has also allowed us to understand the impact of remote events during the pandemic and partly shift to other activities, partly change our approach to events.
On a more substantial note, the most important strategy you can have is to build a fantastic team and give them as much accountability and autonomy as possible. Every strategy and every tactic is useless if you don't have an all-star team to execute it. In that sense, the thing I'm most proud of is that we've managed to put together a really diverse and talented marketing team at Apiax.
What will the fintech industry look like in 2021?
The pandemic is strongly supporting digitalisation, and those who are ready with a good product will benefit. In regtech, we will see more momentum in second-generation RegTechs. First-generation regtechs are those that offer a digital replication of an analogue process or service, such as a better platform to track regulatory changes.
Second-generation RegTechs are those working on the future of regulatory compliance. How can regulatory requirements be digitised so that they are easily accessible to all? How can you reduce the compliance workload for recurring tasks in a way that leaves more time for strategic issues? We are of course optimistic that we are well-positioned with Apiax as we create a completely digital workplace for the compliance officers of the future.
What are some B2B marketing experiments that you've done that have succeeded?
We have definitely tried a lot of things and some have actually worked quite well. For a while, we sought out senior managers at industry events and confronted them directly with the challenges we have in the sales processes with their teams. This often led to very frank discussions that sometimes really got us somewhere. Another experiment was to write to companies with a lot of vacancies in compliance and present our solution to them via a "cover letter".
While there are many little things that have worked, many "growth hacks" do not work in B2B SaaS marketing. The "hack" is really about doing good old marketing. The biggest experiment we have done so far is therefore our investment in product marketing. We see that this "experiment" brings huge benefits and really helps to differentiate our product in the market.
What doesn't work is anything that doesn't add value. For example, while you can be found with any content if you optimise it properly, the only thing that will help you build an audience and generate leads is value-adding content that shows real thought leadership. In the same way, you can attract people to your booth with a nice piece of merchandise – I really love my beanie from Segment! – but most will leave once they have picked up your item. I have a feeling this will become more pronounced in the future. Those that catch on do so because they build real communities based on real knowledge and a product with a meaningful impact.
What is one thing you wish fintechs would do less of in regards to B2B marketing?
Fintech marketers focus too much on what is cool in marketing, what is the latest hype. However, and this is perhaps only true for the B2B regtech niche, the buyer persona is actually quite conservative.
One activity that some fintechs could definitely do less of is mediocre content marketing. The world has already seen enough ebooks about "5 reasons to...". Low-quality content marketing will face many challenges in the future. At least in our niche, the audience is highly educated and not willing to accept mediocre content. This may be different for other companies, of course. It is definitely something we are dealing with right now because we are not yet where we want to be in this regard. At least we have recognised the problem.
The role of marketing is changing a lot. Marketing is becoming a driving force of a company. Marketing must influence product development, anticipate sales processes and put the customer at the centre. This includes a serious analysis of the markets and competitors as well as the creation of a visual identity and clear voice and tone. A demanding undertaking.
What advice would you give to anyone considering starting a career in fintech marketing?
Don't just join any company. Don’t underestimate your market value. Look for a team with a good strategy and a good understanding of their marketing mix. Personally, I would advise looking for a marketing team with a close relationship with the product team. Also, make sure that you fit the culture of the company. Do your research. As soon as you find an interesting opportunity, do whatever it takes to land it.