Important lessons from a CMO: Let data be the ‘North Star’ to guide your decisions

Travis Tyler shares three important lessons that he has discovered in the fast-paced world of Fintech, including understanding future customers, using data to drive decisions and how to be playful on social media.

Building Australia’s first smartbank from scratch and leading the marketing team from day one has taught me a thing or two… or three. It hasn’t all gone smoothly, but boy – what a journey it’s been. Below are my key takeaways as we close our first year in market.

So first a little context: 86 400 was the brainchild of our CTO, Brian Parker, who in 2017 recognised a shift in customer behaviour and an opportunity to innovate in the banking space. Like any startup, things began slowly with detailed business plans, ambitious dreams and energy to turn those dreams into a reality. Fast forward to July 2019 when we received our full banking license and the champagne corks were popped, but of course, the marketing team missed the bubbles being in the launch room trying to get our website live. Then just days later we were live to our waitlist and in September last year launched to the market at large.

During that time there have been a lot of ups and downs. Here are the biggest things we’ve learned along the way:

Lesson 1: Get to know your customers upfront  

When I joined 86 400 in July 2018 there was a huge task ahead of us: we had to build a bank, launch a brand and understand our early customers. Of course, there was a lot of research in the market on banking and financial services, but we needed to learn a few things for ourselves. So, we set out with the task of understanding our target customers and exactly what they wanted.

By combining a range of research methods including Max Diff Analysis, user product testing and direct market feedback we started to paint the picture of what customers needed, wanted and how they felt about the innovations we were bringing to market.

Unsurprisingly, we learned that Australians are feeling anxious, frustrated and stressed about managing their money and wanted help to take control of their finances. Over the last decade customer behaviour has changed dramatically – with a decline in the use of cash and an increase in direct debits and automated payments. Banks have traditionally only shown their customers a record of what has happened with their money – but what we discovered is that people needed a way to know what was going to happen with the money in order to be able to plan ahead. We saw a real opportunity to reinvent how people managed their money and to put Australians back in control.

Armed with both quantitative and qualitative data we marched forward to tackle the next big challenge: getting Australians to give us a go.

Entering a market with the lowest trust scores and the highest consumer apathy may seem to many like an insurmountable task. But again, speaking directly to everyday Australians taught us that people were crying out for an alternative. Someone to challenge the status quo of banking, strip out the waste and give back to customers. Australians didn’t want just a new bank, but a new type of bank. It was this thinking that led us to develop a new category altogether and launch Australia’s first smartbank.

Lesson 2: Let data drive your decisions every day 

Once we had established who our customer was, what they really wanted and how we could deliver it, we knew we were just at the starting line. We had to launch and then move in a full sprint to find our target market, set up digital platforms, develop creative and iterate rapidly to feed them.

Everyone knows that creative and messaging has its own challenges; what works one day might not work the next. So we let data take the wheel and drive our decisions, we learned very quickly that within the Bermuda triangle of budget, platform algorithms and creative, that the North Star had to be data to guide us through.

The range and depth of data we had at hand enabled us to be agile and brave with our decision processes. Let’s be frank, none of us had launched a bank before so previous experience would only get us so far.

Rolling up your sleeves, getting into the data and being disciplined on reporting ultimately leads to delivering the right messages to the right customers on the right platforms. Not all messages have work – some were well off target but being able to identify the creative blunders quickly and learn from them has meant greater efficiency and less budget wastage.

Lesson 3: Don’t underestimate the power and playfulness of social media channels

Of course banking is a serious business, after all while money may be fun to spend it’s hard to make. As a new type of bank we wanted to strike an original tone with our customers – one that is relatable, accessible and directly addresses their needs without the hollow sentiment of traditional banking.

One of the things that personally surprised me was the number of people who genuinely wanted to engage with a bank over social media, even before we had launched.

As a digital bank – that is, with no physical branches – being available to connect with our customers in their social media spheres was crucially important. We don’t see these platforms as a one-way conversation for us to advertise and announce new features, but more of a place to engage with customers – and they’re not shy when it comes to telling us what they love or what they hate!

An example of this is our recent user-generated content campaign where customers were invited to share a photo of their 86 400 debit card in their social feeds in exchange for a pair of 86 400 custom socks. We included the prompt in our newly designed card carrier and the results have exceeded our expectations. But most importantly, creating an integrated experiential moment for customers and making good on a simple offer, engenders an early sense of trust that we will deliver on our promises.

What does all this mean? There’s never a dull moment, we’re constantly learning and with the support of an incredible team, I can’t wait to share the next instalment as we scale Australia’s first smartbank.

Travis Tyler is the chief product and marketing officer at Australian smart bank 86 400.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.