A Conversation with Adi Engel, CMO of vcita
In today's MarTech Leader conversation, we speak with Adi Engel, vcita's CMO. She tells us about how she's tailored her marketing strategy to simultaneously engage small businesses and keep growing from a partnership perspective.
vcita is 11 years old now. We're specifically developing an app that helps micro businesses manage their day-to-day activities, their customers, and their relationship with money.
We're looking at the service provider segment. Nowadays when we talk about the digitalization of small businesses, everyone thinks of e-shops, but there's also a parallel digitalization of all of our service provider processes. These days, you can book fitness classes online, you can sign up to courses online, and so on—that's the service-providing industry, which is 90% of the small businesses out there. We help them digitize by managing their services, offering them online, engaging with their clients online, and then, eventually, charging for their services online.
There are two areas that we focus on. First is the connection from the customer to the actual payment. From a micro business perspective, it's about connecting the right client with the right service provided with a link to pay. People are actually paying their service providers digitally through credit cards, through text messages, through all of those payment apps. So we're also managing the logic of all that: who paid me for what, when they paid, subscriptions, coupons, packages, who's eligible for the services that I'm offering, and so on.
The other side that we really focus on is mobility. We're looking at a segment of people who are, first and foremost, doing business on their phones—it's a mobile type of business; it's a mobile generation. We aim to provide something that anyone can manage on the go from their phone.
Our biggest challenge is probably finding ways to pack a huge amount of individual features into something that is essentially a consumer app. You want it to be as simple as possible and as intuitive as possible, but at the same time, you want it to be very powerful.
We've definitely succeeded in balancing flexibility and simplicity in the app. When we show the app to people, the first thing that we hear is, "Wow, this looks so simple." And, often, partners will say, "I wish I were a small business now." And whenever you hear this, you know you're on the right track!
I think that, first of all, it's about having the vision and the tools in place to understand, "Okay, where do we want to be? What is our positioning in the market? How do we view our growth? And what would create growth potential?" And then it's about the actual implementation of this on a day-to-day level. We have the direct-to-customer growth teams, partner acquisition teams, brand teams, product marketing teams, and content and creative teams. At the end of the day, I see myself as the person who's supposed to facilitate the team with whatever they need. If they need motivation, I'll be their cheerleader; if they need to fight for resources, I'll be there; if they need vision and clarity, it's my role to generate it for them.
For every one of our sub-teams, we have to figure out what the right KPIs are. And some teams are service providers to the rest of the team, like the creative and content team is a service provider to product marketing and growth. So we had to come up with ways to measure their success. But the most important parameter for us is the adoption rate of our actual features. A lot of SaaS companies may measure themselves in registrations—we measure actual adoption of the product. That means bringing the right leads, converting them better, explaining the feature set better, and creating great content for clients.
In terms of my day-to-day, like everyone, it's mostly meetings. We've moved to a hybrid model: We're two days at the office and two days at home. I try to make sure that all of my meetings are about a specific topic and an agenda. I have a very, very strong aversion to weeklies, project statuses, catch-ups, and other things that could be done asynchronously. I think people mainly being focused on a weekly cycle means that maybe they're not sharing the urgent information in time because they're waiting for the weekly meeting.
We use a lot of Slack, a lot of emails, a lot of Zoom. And we are also trying to make sure that we are very data focused. So, we're using Looker as our main BI system. Our CRM is a combination of HubSpot and our own app. Of course, vcita wasn’t designed for businesses of our size, but, if we’re not using our own product, we're not seeing the potential issues and we're not experiencing the value.
We've put ourselves in a space where we have a lot of direct-to-market initiatives where we're actually interacting with small businesses ourselves. We're also active in creating partnerships with other bigger enterprises that have a small business offering and who are looking to widen their portfolio of offerings for small businesses.
We're absolutely looking to both of these channels at once in order to grow. If we're thinking about the early adopters—people who can just find us naturally by searching Google—we've reached a certain place, but to actually break through into the early majority, we have to partner up and we have to leverage on some of those partnerships. I always say we have to find our customers where they are and not sit around and wait for them to find us where we are. In 2022, I would like to see some of those early majority customers kick in.
The biggest challenge is the question of how to manage the direct channel as well as the partnership channel. So what does our homepage reflect: small business messages or partner messages? And our partners are banks, telecommunication companies, marketing platforms, and insurance companies. So how do we speak on the same level? I have to say that over time, what I’ve found is that all of our partners are very much attuned to the messages of small businesses. I've found very, very few bank executives who want to talk to me about numbers and their potential revenue; almost all of our partners want to talk about the value for the small business. So we found that we can keep our brand voice and our messaging around the value to the small business. And our partners who are looking to support small businesses will get it.
Although our technical-based campaigns do create traction, one of our most successful campaigns was when we applied the concept of New Year’s resolutions to small businesses. When you talk to small businesses, they don't say, "I wish I had a CRM." They say, "I want to be more organized." So we took the concept, and we said, "Okay, this year, I want to shed five pounds of paperwork. This year, I want to reconnect with my clients. I want to flex my business muscles." And we created images of things related to New Year’s resolutions. And that really speaks to people because, at the end of the day, very few people start off by saying, "I'm looking for an app to manage my business."
Through COVID, all of the interaction that we had with our potential partners disappeared—before, it was all conferences; it was all face to face. Now, you have to be far more active in creating content that will make them opt in to our message. It's not enough to just wait for them to find us or discover that they have a pain point and look it up on Google. We have to create those campaigns that are trying to target their problems. We had to create a lot more LinkedIn-based account-based marketing; we had to increase the presence of our partner brand. It's far more competitive in terms of creating an impression.
I do think there are a lot of approaches to how you direct your content. Do you do it based on nailing certain keywords for SEO? Do you make it fun and colorful to put it on social media? For us, we really wanted to make sure that our content supports our funnel. We hired learning experts who specifically create content for learning as opposed to general content. Obviously, we do have content writers of all kinds, but we were trying to give them briefs that are specifically about how to change your behavior.
Our content goal is to show why to use digitalization through testimonials and case studies from other small business owners. So, we're not speaking in our voice—we're trying to host small businesses who speak about their challenges. It was very important that we not always show just the good side, but also talk about the challenges because we wanted to create trust.
We used to take the approach of creating a million blog posts about things that are trending in the small business environment. Absolutely, we got traction, but I think the question is, "How do we keep the traffic in the funnel and get them to actually use elements of our product?" Changing our perspective from content writing into learning content writing really helped our vision.
You can find Adi Engel on LinkedIn and get more information about vcita on their website.
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