Updated: May 11, 2022
Launching a new fintech brand is hard, especially when you don't know where to start. In this guest article, Tom Davies, Head of Marketing and Communications at Yonder, shares his experience and breaks down the steps to launching a new fintech brand from scratch.
Last month we launched Yonder, a modern rewards credit card that’s more accessible and rewarding for immigrants in the UK. If you’re interested in checking it out, we’re currently waiving fees for people to test it out. Okay, the hard sell is over.
Our launch was a huge success in terms of the goals and objectives we set out to accomplish. Did we blow up on AdWeek? No. But we didn’t want to, and that’s the point of this post. A successful marketing campaign is all about achieving the goals you set for that stage of your business, rather than the number of retweets or whatever metric your CEO heard on a podcast over the weekend.
We received 1500+ applications to our early access program, 40+ pieces of coverage from a huge range of the UK and European media, and our brand and positioning landed exactly as we had planned.
I figured it might be helpful for other marketers or founders at new fintech to understand how we did what we did, why we did what we did, and how you can follow a similar process.
For what it’s worth, Yonder is very new — we’ve been in the market for all of five minutes. This isn’t a blog post about how to get your first million customers. It’s about how to launch into a crowded market, position your product, find the right customers, and earn some press to start growing outside of your personal network. The rest is up to you.
I have a bit of experience doing this now, having previously launched Monzo Plus/Premium and some TransferWise products in the US, UK, Australia and Europe. The difference here is launching a new product is different to launching a new business. So here I’ll stick to my experience with Yonder.
I’ll say we a lot in this post, and often that means other people did it and I just watched it happen. Or gave my unsolicited opinion, causing frustration and confusion in an otherwise productive meeting between people who know a lot more about the subject matter than myself. The Yonder team are all brilliant and I’m speaking collectively on their behalf. If it sounds like someone else did it, they probably did.
Before we get started…
This is written for marketers and founders starting their journey of launching a new business. A lot of this might seem like common sense to seasoned founders or entrepreneurs who’ve done this before. This probably isn’t for you, go write a Twitter thread or something.
This also doesn’t cover any of the details around regulatory requirements (like financial promotions) you might need to launch safely. Please make sure you’re doing everything you can to treat customers fairly.
I’m also not going to touch on hiring or who to bring into your team. Depending on the type of founder or marketer you are, you might need something different. You’ll want someone with a really broad marketing skillset, particularly with a focus on products and positioning. So product marketers are a great start, but good luck finding one.
I’ll break this down into three main parts:
Preparing for launch
Step 1: Define your comically specific target audience
You’ll want to have a painfully specific idea of who you’re building for. Obviously, you’ll want to target a broader segment of the market, but trust me, it’s easier if you feel like you’re building your product for one person. We defined our comically specific target customer as:
A 30-year-old Australian professional with no children, who’d been living in London for a year, and had disposable income they spent on travelling around Europe and exploring great dining and social experiences.
Step 2: Speak to as many of your target customers as possible
We had over 200 user research sessions last year, each week diving further into one subject or testing out new theories or propositions. Sometimes they weren’t Australian, or they hadn’t been here for a year, but you can generally find a rough fit for your target audience.
We created a Notion page with their name, contact information, and filled their pages with notes on everything from their experience moving to London (how it made them feel, challenges, how it was leaving mum etc.) to setting up their new lives (getting banks, phones, and other logistical challenges). Every week we’d pull the top themes into a Miro board and see what we’d dive into next. If you want a copy of this, I can share a template with you.
Try to really make this part of your culture, because it does get hard. Finding people to interview is a lot of work. We used all the different user testing websites but had a lot of success in just asking someone at the end of the interview if they knew anyone we could speak to next. Facebook groups are great, Reddit was not. We offered an Amazon voucher, but you can play with that / other incentives. Just make it worth their time. You’ll get interview fraud sometimes, so don’t be shy about ending an interview early if they’re just there for the voucher. Just pretend the internet cut out or something. You don’t owe them anything.
Once we had a rough idea of what the Yonder proposition might look like, we then proceeded to waste a lot of time mocking up websites to give them the ‘feel’ (read: vibes) of what we were about. We’re a premium card, so let’s put lots of black everywhere and stock photos of people who look wealthy but deeply unhappy. Ultimately, we weren’t really doing what we wanted to. What we really wanted was to see if the proposition was interesting, not if they liked the brand. Don’t confuse the two. This was a massive learning for us during our user research. So allow me to save you some time here and just list all the features/product propositions in a Notion doc and give people a few minutes to read it before you dive in. Cut all the marketing stuff out and be super clear. You can improve your messaging later.
A broader learning here is to be very intentional about what you’re trying to accomplish from testing. It takes time to do research well, so don’t waste it by trying to answer too much at once. Testing whether a proposition is any good is very different to testing if a proposition is clear. The first part is the product, the second is marketing. Don’t try and do both at the same time. If it’s the proposition, you don’t need a nice website. Just list it all out in a Notion doc. Now go back and read that bit again.
Step 3: Build your brand
Now assuming you’ve got your proposition down and your super-sharp engineers and designers are off to build it, it’s a good time to start thinking about your positioning in the market, and how you want to build your brand.
If you’re a savvy marketer, you’ll know that your brand isn’t just your logo and the colours you use. It’s the culmination of every touchpoint you have with your customers from product packaging to customer support and everything in between. It’s very vibe stuff. And if your vibe is off at any point you’ll lose the trust and authenticity you’ve built (brands are a lot like people, funnily enough…) so it’s important that whatever you go with is consistent throughout your whole experience. Ryan Air is one of my favourite brands because the entire experience, from start to finish, feels like a cost-saving exercise. I feel like I’m getting the cheapest possible flight and not paying for any of the extra stuff I don’t need. When you think of cheap flights, who do you think of first?
To get your vibes, identify your brand values
Once we knew who our customers were and what our product would be, it was easy for us to work out who our competitors would be. Yonder is a lifestyle credit card, so you can probably guess who our biggest competitor is. It meant we could position ourselves as the opposite of all the things you don’t like about Them while also taking all the good things they do. Our positioning was something like “the modern-day version of X”. It’s not our messaging and you won’t see it on our website, but it’s how we wanted our customers to think about us and it gave us a good starting point to build everything else around. What’s that? Do you hate how stuffy that company is? Okay, we’ll be approachable and self-deprecating. But you love how helpful their support is? Okay cool, we’ll have amazing support too. We’ll be all the things you love about Them and a modern version of all the things you don’t like.
We actually did this too soon at Yonder and messed around with our brand identity for months. Our proposition changed after we’d done our visual identity, so then the two didn’t match. We had a brand that felt way too premium for our customers and the product we were offering. So we needed to go back and do it again. Save yourself some time and just have some basic colours and a shit logo from Canva until you’re really ready. A lot of founders get a bit excited about visual identity because it brings their little baby to life but you don’t need one and you’ll waste your time doing it too soon.
I’d recommend highly-engaged, talented freelancers over agencies. Until you have the time to really hold the hand of an agency it’s not going to work out as you would hope. Agencies typically hand smaller projects out to their junior creatives, so going with an agency just means you’ll pay more. Freelancers are typically more experienced anyway and they’re the ones doing the actual work.
If you have a physical product, really invest in some great product photos. If you’re just building an app or website, make sure you have some banging product mockups that show your amazing product in all its glory. I’d recommend starting a folder with screenshots from all the product photography you like on the internet and using that as your moodboard for when you’re ready.
You’ll also want to get photos of your founders that make them look really smart and innovative. Check Sifted or TechCrunch for what the standard founder photo looks like. These will be infinitely useful and also it’s just nice to get photos of your team.
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Preparing for launch
Step 1: Identify your launch goals
If you take anything from this post, it should be to really dive into what you want to accomplish from your marketing launch and plan your launch around achieving those goals. You’ll be more focused and it’ll be easier for you to push back on your CEO who wants a “billboard” or just keeps saying “big bang” over and over again.
We launched several times. We had a staff launch to test the product, we had friends and family launch to get some non-staff testing, and then a closed beta. Don’t worry about your product “leaking” — no one gives a shit about your product yet. Your competitors don’t care, the press doesn’t care, and Product Hunt does not care. Literally, no one cares apart from you lol.
Our launch goals for our various closed betas were something like this:
Staff launch: Get 1 customer, see if this card works
Friends and family launch: Get 10 customers to see if this card works again, cards arrive, onboarding works
Closed beta: Get 100 customers to help us identify Sev1 bugs
Step 2: Design your launch around where your target customers are
Be super clear about the type of people you want to use your product at what stage. Technically our product is for anyone who travels a bit and eats out, but that’s a huge segment of people. Not everyone is a good beta tester. Most people don’t like it when things don’t work — and trust me, things aren’t going to work. So we went for people who love helping to improve new products and see bugs as part of the fun (within reason).
Too many people in tech get excited over big bang marketing launches. In reality, that’s not what you need. Imagine your product was on the front page of the paper tomorrow and a million people downloaded your beta app. Do you have the customer support to handle 10,000 people complaining about a major bug? Unlikely. They’ll all write terrible TrustPilot reviews and every time someone Google’s your hot new idea they’ll see the entire internet complaining about it. You don’t need that stress. Get your product humming before you shoot for the stars.
You can find your first 200 customers in your own personal networks.
1–10 customers: employees and immediate family
10–50 customers: close friends and family
50–200: broader friends and family, and maybe a friend or two of theirs
At all of these stages of growth, you don’t actually need to do any marketing apart from firing up WhatsApp and asking your old pals how their new kid or dog or side-hustle is going. My rule of thumb is that you can usually ask a really close friend for two favours (or one big one) and a friend or acquaintance one favour. So make sure you use them wisely.
Once you’re ready to grow outside of your extended friends and family network, it’s probably time for a press launch.
Step 3: Launching ‘publicly’ or with a press release
The UK press can be an incredibly powerful and valuable tool in helping to achieve some of your goals when you’re coming out of stealth, or whatever you’re calling it. But it doesn’t just happen and being done poorly, can hurt your business.
I’d recommend working with a freelance communications specialist who can help distil what’s special about your business into an enticing story for journalists. There is no silver bullet in getting press coverage, and it depends massively on external factors outside of your control. Paying more for an agency doesn’t guarantee you more success, it just costs you more. Find a top freelancer (I know a couple!) and work with them until they really understand your business. Give them complete access to your company and they’ll feel like a nice natural extension to your team.
I’ll try and write something up separately about how to build an effective press strategy, but it’s also worth highlighting that a press launch will only be successful if you coordinate it in unison with other marketing channels.
At Yonder we (this one was actually me) decided that we wanted to use our launch to find London-based, tech-savvy, early adopters. They have a high threshold for bugs in new products and are usually really excited to contribute to a roadmap with like-minded people. With that in mind, I spent a long time working out where these people spend their time online. Turns out they spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and Twitter during the day, they read newsletters from influential industry people and enjoy news from places like Sifted, TechCrunch and Business Insider. So we wrote a plan that optimised coverage in those places.
With press, you’ll need a story. “Launching today” isn’t news (remember, no one cares). So it’s most likely going to be a story about your seed or pre-seed fundraise. That’s what gets the news. So the story will be a business story about this, and not so much your product. Focus on your vision, and your founder story, and give readers one clear action to take at the end.
Step 4: In the week or two before the big day
Start to build your internet footprint before people start looking for you. Set up your Google My Business page, Glassdoor, Angel List etc. and get your team to write honest reviews about working there.
If you have customers, I can’t recommend enough that you start getting them to write honest reviews on Trustpilot. Aim to get to around 50 reviews before you launch. You can’t get 5-stars until you get to that number. Make it easy by sharing the link with everyone personally and giving them a deadline for when you need it done. Don’t ask your immediate family members or let people write reviews from your office premises. Trustpilot will wipe these reviews. Don’t tell people to write untrue, favourable reviews. Just improve your product mate lol.
Make a big list of all the things that could go wrong, and what your backup plan will be. We didn’t do this for one of our launches and had it been different, would have been a nightmare. Make sure you have a backup website, survey tool, email service etc. — it all sounds quite pedantic but trust me, it happens. At Monzo, we were preparing to launch Monzo Plus and didn’t list ‘global pandemic’ as a risk, which ultimately pushed our launch back. Get creative, then plan for everything. This is common sense stuff, but important.
If your press strategy has worked, you’ll likely have a specific day when the news about your startup will break. So build your launch around that day.
Call in some favours
Make a huge list of every person that you’ve ever so much as passed by on the tube in a spreadsheet. When you have a particular piece of press you like, stick that on your LinkedIn and drive everyone you know to that post. It gives them a chance to experience your brand and can click out to read the article if they really want to.
“Hello mate, I hope your car/dog/child/side-project are going well. I’ve recently joined a startup called X and we’re launching today. Can you do me a massive favour and like/comment/follow this LinkedIn post? I’ll never ask you to do anything like this again. Love you”
I sent that message to about 300 people on the day of our launch. Every failed Hinge date, random 5-a-side ringer and third cousin got that message. The other ten people at Yonder did the same. Before you know it, there are a few thousand people feeding the LinkedIn algorithm (algorithms love to be fed). Be unapologetic about it, I can’t stress enough how important this part is. Press alone will not do the job.
Get investors to do what they love most — share their opinion.
If you have investors, they’ll typically be quite keen to get involved on the day as well. Get them to write a nice blog post about why they invested, a Twitter thread (give me strength), or whatever it is they do. They usually have big audiences of just the type of people who love trying new products so push them to do whatever they can. Don’t assume anything and make sure you give them the exact messaging you want them to go with on the day. Don’t give an investor any room to fill in the gaps, it’s possible your message is different since they last read an investor update. Go as far as writing the blog post for them, and let them add their own twist to it.
Write your own personal message
I took a selfie with a massive credit card and stuck it on LinkedIn with a few thoughts about my time at Yonder. It got about 30,000 impressions. People (generally) love seeing people with positive news, and weirdly selfies go down really well on LinkedIn. So give it a go and make it thoughtful. Don’t pat yourself on the back, just speak openly about how proud you are to have had an idea a year ago that’s now an actual thing. You should be proud! Good for you!
We did some other stuff on social media too. But it wasn’t ever the goal to grow our Instagram following, so it was just a nice bonus that people seemed to find it and give us a follow.
Make sure you’ve planned out the customer journey
We had a website with a waitlist (probably write another post on this tbh) and one of our goals was to drive people there as best we could. Yonder is a popular name–there’s a climbing gym, a consulting business, and a few travel companies with the same name. And while the press is great, they don’t typically link to your website directly. What you’ll find is that people read an article about you at their desk, open up a new tab, type in your company name and try and find you that way. We bought some brand search terms on Google with messaging around “Launching today” so we could bridge the gap between our press coverage and our actual website. If you searched “Yonder”, “Yonder card”, “Yonder credit card” or anything else like that on our launch day you’d have seen this ad below. We did the same with App Store ads, assuming some people might just go straight to download our app.
Celebrate your wins
Launches come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t absolutely nail your first one. Just keep launching until you achieve the goals you’ve set out at the beginning. Working for a startup is hard. And there are probably more tough moments than amazing ones. So if you’ve launched a business, take time to really enjoy it!
With a bit of luck, a decent product, and some good planning hopefully you’re now well on your way to achieving your mission. I hope some of this was helpful. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you want to come work with me, then you can have a look at what’s on offer here.
And if you want to become a Yonder Founding Member, you can apply here.
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