Strategies for retention: Interview with Siamac Rezaiezadeh

We recently caught up with Siamac Rezaiezadeh, head of product marketing of GoCardless, about the unique marketing challenges of SaaS, strategy and how to optimise customer retention.

What are some of the key components of the GoCardless marketing strategy?

A key principle for everyone working at GoCardless is focus and this applies equally to our approach to marketing. So we look to invest in a few key activities at any one time that will have an outsized return, rather than spread our time and resources across many activities.

Siamac RezaiezadehSecondly, we want to test, iterate and learn. That means we don’t have to know the answer on day one and we don’t need to rely on people already having the answer from prior experience. Instead, we aim to build a process from principles, which get us to the answer quickly.

Thirdly, we want to make sure that we put decision making authority in the hands of our marketing colleagues who are closest to a particular challenge, and experts in their discipline. They are typically the ones who can test, iterate and learn faster than anyone else.

We take the pain out of getting paid so our customers can focus on what they do best. In line with this, at its core, our marketing function aims to help customers solve pain points including improving and predicting cash flow, reducing the admin burden and  time spent chasing late payments.

How do you make finance and banking fun and vibrant? How do infographics, imagery and video play into your strategy?

Traditionally banking and finance are slow-moving industries, where the instinct is to protect and preserve rather than challenge the status quo. So often there’s not an appetite for critical analysis; people aren’t as open to identifying pains at the scale you need to be truly innovative. So one of the things we set out to do in our marketing is surface these gaping problems in their business. We see that as a really important first step before we talk to them about the solutions. Key to that is data. Without data and proof points, you’re just another supplier with an opinion. But there’s also a balance to be struck. Too much data can be overwhelming and a turn-off. So it’s about selecting the most compelling data, and presenting that in the most digestible format.

Language and tone are also really important. We’re certainly not unique in saying we want to always communicate concisely and with clarity, but we like to think we police ourselves better than others. Ultimately we don’t allow anything out the door if it doesn’t answer two questions: “Why should anyone care about what we’re saying here?” and “Will they understand it?”

What is the current approach to content marketing at GoCardless?

We don’t really see content as a function of marketing. That feels too transactional. Rather we see the role of content as educational, and our primary role as a consultant rather than a vendor. So that’s why we produce a lot of advisory papers, guides, thought leadership pieces – content that doesn’t have an immediate sales hook. For us, the role of content is about building long term credibility and trust.

We aim to create valuable content that relates to the issues that businesses of all sizes face because we know that is likely to be what they’re actively searching for. This makes us discoverable in the research phase.

By way of example, we’ve done a lot of work recently on payment preference, looking at the most popular payment methods in different countries and for different types of products. We have taken a genuinely unbiased approach to surfacing the conclusions, meaning we have been very honest about where GoCardless may not be the right or only solution for your business. I think it comes back to being truly customer-centric, and asking: “How can we produce this piece of content to be most helpful to businesses?”

What are some of the unique marketing challenges when it comes to SaaS?

We’re always striving to find the right balance between being global, yet locally relevant. Broadly, the experience of using GoCardless is the same no matter where you are in the world. Yet each market can be very different, in terms of their maturity, their pains, and the competition – not to mention the language and cultural differences. In an ideal world, we’d have specific content strategies and resources for each market. Failing that, we would go back to the mantra of focus, honing in on the ones we feel have the most opportunity and repurposing relevant content for other markets. There has to be an element of pragmatism here, but never at the expense of marketing that is unlikely to have an impact with an audience. We’d rather publish nothing than publishing sub-optimal content.

GoCardless works with a variety of clients; how do you approach marketing to such a broad range of industries?

Good question! The GoCardless marketing team is tasked with communicating the benefits of recurring payments to businesses across a variety of industries, ranging from small business to large enterprise.  The way we have approached it at GoCardless is to focus on the problems we are solving. We developed a framework called ‘The Eight Dimensions of Recurring Payments’ which are relevant to any business that takes recurring payments, no matter the industry, size or geography. By talking to these dimensions, we talk about what any recurring revenue business cares about. Some businesses focus more on certain dimensions over others and we map those out. It really helps with focus.

Is AI currently playing into any of GoCardless marketing campaigns, or will it in the future?

At the moment not in any meaningful way, however, I don’t think anyone at GoCardless would rule out looking at any new technology that can help us reach and serve our customers better. If technology like AI can enable us to focus, test and delegate better/faster, then that’s a positive. In all areas at GoCardless we’re always looking at how we can improve, iterate and stay at the forefront of our industry – and marketing is no different!

How important are testimonials and client referral programs in an overall marketing strategy?

It’s super important. Social proof is one of the strongest behavioural traits of humans and ultimately we are still marketing to humans. If you’re in a new city on holiday and you see two restaurants, one with a queue out the door and one with no-one sitting in there, which do you go to?

How do you optimise customer retention at GoCardless?

We are fortunate to have a product our customers love and that happens to also be an integral part of their business. As a result, we have customers who signed up years ago who continue to grow their usage with us. This is a sign you have a product that helps them and that continues to solve their problems.

I think in our case, it’s about continually innovating and bringing new features to your customers that provide value. That may mean expanding coverage so they can collect payments from their customers in new countries (for example our expansion into the USA last year), enabling them to grow faster; or it may mean addressing one of a number of other dimensions, such as payment success or cash flow.

What aspect of GoCardless do you find the most exciting?

I think it’s the fact that we solve so many genuine problems for our customers that most excites me. The fact that we have been able to help a large global SaaS business improve their customer acquisition rates, which was a key objective for them. Also that we have been able to help a large media brand get to profitability as they switched their business model over a number of years. Possibly most importantly, that we have helped thousands of small businesses improve their cash flow and lower their costs because they are now getting paid on time where previously they were waiting 30, 40, 50+ days for invoices to be paid. Being a part of their story and helping solve real problems they were having is the most exciting part of our story.

Siamac Rezaiezadeh is head of product marketing at GoCardless.

Photo by William Daigneault on Unsplash.

Jasmine Giuliani
BY Jasmine Giuliani ON 16 April 2020
Jasmine Giuliani is the Editor of MarketingMag