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Guest Post: Lessons on Marketing for Startups from Joe Cross of Transferwise – by Steven Renwick of Satago

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When a company joins Seedcamp, their first week in the SC family consists of five days of masterclasses and workshops on a variety of topics from positioning to startup metrics to fundraising to sales. We call this initiation Onboarding Week, the first learning segment in our Seedcamp Academy program. Over the course of Onboarding Week and the monthly Seedcamp Academy sessions that follow, we work to provide frameworks and toolkits to help our companies achieve product market fit faster and smarter – something we’ve recognised as the one of the biggest hurdles for early stage companies. 

Last week, the newest companies to join Seedcamp out of Seedcamp Week Berlin came to Seedcamp HQ in London for Onboarding Week. We were thrilled to have Joe Cross, Head of Consumer Marketing at TransferWise (SC 2011), join us to lead a session on marketing for startups. Steven Renwick, Founder of Satago, a company that helps small businesses and freelancers get paid on time and one of the newest Seedcamp companies, wrote this guest post. 

A few thoughts on marketing from Joe Cross of Transferwise

I’m a bit of a Transferwise fanboi, so it was a great treat last week to have a session with their Head of Consumer Marketing, Joe Cross, during which he shared some of the ways that Transferwise has managed to hit that elusive “hockey-stick” growth, and discuss how we could do the same. So without giving away Transferwise’s secret sauce (sorry – Chatham House rules, *nudge nudge, wink wink*), here is a brief overview of Joe’s talk.

Joe started off by saying that he felt that too often, startups talk about rational benefits of their products, whereas emotional hooks are much more powerful – we should be telling a story! A startup needs to identify the single behaviour they want to create, then focus their messaging on that.

You need to test different messaging until you find the “higher purpose” that fits with your messa-marketing fit. Transferwise had found particular insight from listening to what their users said when they pitched the service to their own friends. Furthermore, they had found through A/B testing that one particular marketing message had a much stronger conversion rate than the message they had assumed would perform the best.

How does Transferwise get users into the top of their acquisition funnel? Joe described some of their top-level strategies.

Commercial strategy is those marketing channels Transferwise is paying for directly. One interesting suggestion was to attribute as much revenue to the users you acquire as possible. That way you can competitively bid for the keywords of Facebook adverts that you are displaying since you know your users true value. In fact, Joe suggested you should be paying as much as possible to acquire these users as well as trying to guesstimate out their life-time value as early as possible.

Buzz is harder to measure, but invaluable in the long-term. Joe said that content marketing was getting really, really difficult, primarily due to everyone having jumped on the bandwagon and churning out so much content. Clearly Transferwise’s PR has been quite effective recently – they’ve had Richard Branson championing them, as well as their faux-swearing advertising campaign being “banned” by London Underground. As you can imagine the banning created quite a bit of buzz for Transferwise. If you’re going to do a stunt or a promotion – make it epic!

Talking about virality brought us to Transferwise’s evangelists (of which I am one). Joe emphasised how successful Transferwise’s paid referral programme was (£50 for every 3 people you referred). I could only agree as I had, coincidentally, just referred my 3rd friend to Transferwise the previous day and qualified for my £50 bonus! Tools like Facebook and Twitter don’t create virality – they just reduce the friction for users to evangelise. Another part of their evangelism strategy was to be completely OTT on customer complaints, turning negative users back to positive. This should be done alongside NPS measurement so you have an eye on how you are doing overall.

When it comes to metrics, you need to get your tracking technology working asap, and look at everything in terms of lifetime value and conversion rates, tagging users with as much useful information as possible.

Overall Joe had given us an excellent crash course in marketing that could be applied to both B2C and B2B startups. To be honest though, it’s the sort of detail that Joe was able to share with us in person that I can’t write about here that made me realise how valuable it is to be part of the Seedcamp family and get such great insight from other companies in the programme. Great timing for Satago as we figure out how to start acquiring freelancers and small business owners who want help getting paid on time.

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