Why B2B fintech companies are hiring CMOs

Brands see the need to build demand and explain the need for new tech solutions

While chief marketing officers (CMOs) have often taken prominent roles defining the brand voices of large financial companies and consumer fintechs, a new breed of CMOs is taking the reins at business-to-business (B2B) fintech companies. 

Boosting the brand presence 

Earlier this month, Brex, a card and financial product company that caters to startups, hired former Spotify marketing executive June Sauvaget as its first CMO.

Meanwhile, last year, card issuing and processing startup Marqeta, a payments infrastructure company that supports gig economy companies like Uber, DoorDash, Instacart, fintechs like N26 and Brex, and established players like Visa and JPMorgan Chase, also hired a CMO.

Brex and Marqeta may have different target customer bases, but what they do have in common is the necessity for storytelling and demand generation for target customers. 

San Francisco-based Brex is engaging a CMO in their efforts to pursue a consumer-style approach to marketing, a strategy it says is a way to reach more decision-makers and amplify its reach among different types of customers, especially as the company rapidly adds new products. Just this week, Brex launched new offerings for e-commerce merchants, including instant payouts for Amazon sellers.

“When you leave the narrative with benefits and just value proposition and the service types that you’re offering, that may glean short-term acquisition,” Sauvaget told FinLedger. “But when you really want to have a future-proof business, you need to build a brand that has a lasting impact on the consumer’s mind.”

Brex has been employing a marketing approach that closely resembles a consumer brand for more than a year. Sauvaget said such an approach is necessary because of what she calls the “consideration funnel,” or process by which decision-makers take to determine if they will purchase a particular solution or software offering. 

“The consideration process is very similar to how a consumer thinks about their different decisions that they make every day,” she said. “Do I recognize the brand, do I have affinity for the brand? Did I hear it from someone I know?” 

Sauvaget emphasized that the decision process doesn’t often just rest with the CEO or chief financial officer, but among a broader number of influencers within a company. Brex is also looking to expand its customer base beyond startups to small- to medium-sized businesses, and a more consumer-style brand strategy is necessary to build a constituency among prospective consumers, she added.

While Brex has been known to disseminate its brand messages through billboards, podcasts, events and a co-working space, Sauvaget said the company is constantly evaluating the type of channel mix that suits its client needs.

Getting the story right

Top of mind for Marqeta’s CMO is ensuring that prospective clients understand the need for its solution. Payments can be complicated, and making the case to the right types of prospects is a critical part of expanding the reach of the brand, its CMO explained.

“It’s not so much about an in-your-face, aggressive approach; actually, I would say that doesn’t work at all,” said Vidya Peters, CMO of Marqeta. “You cannot put this product on people, and you can only create the need for the product by pointing to why the old solutions don’t work anymore.”

For Marqeta, the story is about the flexibility and the ability to embed and customize payments for a range of use cases. 

“The story that I really focused on building over the last year is that payments are becoming increasingly more digitized and embedded, and businesses have to figure out how they can pay their gig workers or employees and their vendors in a smarter and more secure way,” Peters told FinLedger.

Marqeta has released several new products over the past year and has worked with banks as well as startups, but the problem both are trying to solve is similar, she noted.

Effects of the pandemic

For Marqeta, the pandemic has pushed the conversation toward digital channels. The company pulled back on traditional advertising and instead focused on digital customer acquisition, which include email campaigns, targeted ads to key accounts, and ensuring that Marqeta is part of the broader conversation around payment modernization, amplified by targeted media placements. For example, this summer, the company authored opinion pieces in PaymentsSource and developed research papers that got posted to the Marqeta website. The company’s CEO, Jason Gardner, also plans to publish a book about trends he’s observing in the payments space, Peters said.

Outside of the payments field, B2B fintech marketing leaders are also doubling down on refining the message. Andrew Hoerner, executive vice president of global marketing at Symphony, a company that offers secure messaging and other collaboration tools for bankers and other financial services professionals, said the post-COVID-19 environment for B2B fintech marketers has made client outreach strategies more focused.

“The things that we’ve always talked about as marketers that I would say were more aspirational a few years ago are now table stakes — things like true persona-based marketing, account-based marketing, true segmentation, testing, storytelling, all these practices,” he told FinLedger.

Getting existing customers to tell their stories, and becoming part of the conversation on the future of the industry are important ways B2B fintech marketers can create demand for their solutions, he noted.

Ultimately, for B2B fintech marketers, dissemination of the message is a long-term project. Instead of a bellicose effort to build brand recognition, fintech CMOs are needed to present a broader use case and create a constituency for a solution over time, Hoerner argued.

“I would estimate that fintechs that are trying to get that mix right are diving deep into persuasion, segmentation, and aligning key use cases and stories and really mapping to the way the customer does business, rather than just pitching a product,” he said.

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