Q&A With Vinay Prabhakar of Volante

Last Updated on August 16, 2023 by admin

What’s happening at the intersection of fintech and content marketing? We set out on a mission to see what the leaders in fintech content marketing think of the changing landscape. Join us for the first in our series of Q&A sessions with top fintech marketers. This week’s post features Vinay Prabhakar of Volante. Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments. 

Ashley Poynter: Could you start by describing your role at Volante and a little bit about your background?

Vinay Prabhakar: I’m Vinay Prabhakar. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Volante. I have been in the fintech industry and fintech marketing for about 23 years and overall in the tech industry for about 30. And what Volante does is provide payments technology primarily to banks and financial institutions. We are a fintech, but I like to also use the term “we put the ‘tech’ in the ‘fin.’” 

A lot of my background, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years, has been in that B2B space where the “B’s” are banks and financial institutions. And content marketing is tremendously important in this particular market as it is in many other markets. I’ve also worked on the retail side and non-bank. 

AP: Okay. I’m going to dive right in. Why do you believe content marketing is so important in fintech?

VP: Sure. There are a number of threads that feed into this. One is that the notion of trust is very important in the world of finance, right? And if we think about the banks and financial institutions that we as individuals do business with, where we have our money, we trust that they’re going to take care of it. We also trust that they’re going to have the technology take care of it and allow us to move our money in and out, make payments and pay bills and settle mortgages and do payroll and all of those things. That notion of trust then also applies to the relationship between financial institutions and their technology providers – the fintechs or the techfins – that provide them with technology. 

A big part of marketing in the world of fintech – and I think this applies to outside fintech as well – is this notion that you are buying from a trusted party, that you’re buying from somebody who understands your problems and who can solve them. Ultimately, that is our job when we’re marketing in this space – to build brands that are trusted and that give the impression and feel of reliability and solidity. There’s really, I’ve found in my career, no better way to do that than to have content that represents one as a trusted partner to the customer and in whatever form it comes through. 

Because what we want is for people to read our content and have a few different takeaways. One of those being, “Oh, that’s interesting, I’ve learned something,” but the other also being “This is a company that understands me and my persona.” We as marketers talk about personas all the time. People on the other side don’t. They don’t think of themselves as personas. They’re people. But in the end, that is a connection. If we get our content marketing right and we’re able to really speak to the problem spaces of those personas, of those people, then the marketing generates trust. The marketing generates that feeling of reliability. They will come back even if they are not planning to buy something right away. 

That’s the other thing in our business, which I think applies again, quite generally to B2B: the sales cycles are longer than retail or consumer marketing. And the price points are higher. And because these are financial institutions, when they buy technology, they have a lot of compliance that they need to go through. The government may be involved in validating what selections they’re making. At our Volante Evolve conference in New York last November, one of the panelists said, “You know, when FedEx loses a package, they don’t get fined a quarter of $1 billion.” If financial institutions lose money, there are significant impacts. And banks that lose money go out of business very quickly, whereas Fedex or UPS can afford to lose a few packages. So it’s that context in which trust is really important. 

Reliability is really important and content marketing has a key role to play because in content marketing we are not selling or we shouldn’t be. That’s a personal opinion. We may tie back to our value proposition, but what we’re principally doing is educating and creating a relationship of trust, so that when they are ready to buy or when they are ready to consider buying, there’s a trusted pathway working with us. 

AP: That makes a lot of sense. And how would you say that those beliefs about content marketing – its importance and its role – tie into what Volante is currently doing and maybe what your future strategy looks like?

VP: What we’re currently doing and our future strategy and something that is an approach that really I’ve taken for many years is firstly making sure that we have content that works in multiple formats, mapping to how people consume that content. Let’s talk about blogs – that’s kind of an obvious one. Everybody does blogs, and they are very useful for providing a point of view on something in 300 to 500 words with maybe one or two takeaways. But that’s often not enough to really get into the meat of a subject. 

You can imagine that payments technology is somewhat technical, and it can be challenging to explain how the technical value proposition of our solutions maps to the business value that a customer would get out of it. So we work a lot with analysts and third parties, whether it’s branded content or third-party content. We also commission research from well-known trusted parties and consultancies. We will co-create pieces of thought leadership with them. 

Again, we’re not trying to sell them anything in this content. We’re trying to educate them and we’re trying to give them a perspective that ultimately is uniquely ours in combination with our partners. The value of that, from a pure content marketing perspective, is we can take these surveys and large data sets, and we can slice and dice them. We can and do create infographics. One paper can produce a series of up to ten blogs, for example. Or social posts can highlight a particular page or chart in that survey or in that paper. 

The strategy, from a content perspective, is really to start with a very substantial hero asset. Then we can take that and then turn it into the formats that people need at the time they need them. Not everybody is ready to read a 30-page paper. Sometimes they are and that’s what they need. 

The tie-in with demand generation and lead gen marketing is really to make sure that we are feeding either the whole paper or the social post or the blog to those personas — those people — at the right time. Because if you give them snackable content when what they really need is something more substantial, they’ll come away with the feeling that we’re shallow – that we don’t really have anything behind those fun messages. 

On the other hand, if we give them very long pieces of content too early before they’re ready, they just won’t interact with it. So, there’s certainly an art to how this content gets out.

AP: Sure. I’m a little curious about getting the right content in front of the right people at the right time. So is that something that you automate or how are you making sure that you do that in an effective way?

VP: We just migrated to a new marketing automation platform. We do scoring so that individuals, even before they are leads, are scored based on their activity. Our approach is very account-focused since we know our target market very well, and we’re investigating intent platforms so we can improve our targeting.

And let’s not forget segmentation, which is fundamental no matter what your MarTech stack is. 

Some channels, like email, make it easy to segment because you’ve got the email address and know what account they’re associated with. 

We do a lot of work in LinkedIn in the B2B world, particularly fintech. What’s fascinating is that, if you think about it, every one of our buyers is on LinkedIn. They’re there – there’s no question of it. We just have to find them. So we advertise on LinkedIn. We promote on LinkedIn. The problem with that is that LinkedIn doesn’t have very targeted segmenting tools. You can advertise or promote by title and by geography to some extent, but it is not as targeted as email. We try to get them where they are as much as possible using the tech platforms that we have. 

Solving this problem of content marketing – getting content to the right people at the right time with the right message – is actually the fundamental problem of content marketing. There’s always room for improvement, and that is what will make content shine. 

And to the extent that I have advice for content marketers, it is…learn as much as possible about how this content gets out there. Try to shadow your demand and lead generation and field marketing peers. Try to understand how business development or inside sales uses this content, because the more you can tie your content to the actual results – which is leads that turn into revenue – ultimately, the more effective you can be as a content marketer. 

AP: Yeah, that’s a really great point. And I do think it’s important to not only create high-quality content and make sure that you’re covering the right subject matter, but also that it’s getting in front of the right people. Which leads me to my next question about audience personas. You mentioned a little bit about segmentation, but how do you guys determine who your audience is? What kind of analysis goes into that, and how does that drive where you’re promoting your content and also the type of content that you’re producing? 

VP: So there’s a bit of a circular feedback loop, but in our particular part of the world of fintech, the good thing is it’s actually not so hard to figure out who or where the audience is. Banks and financial institutions are regulated institutions. There are lists of them. We have lists of all the banks in the US and all the banks in Germany and so forth. And then from past experience, we know based on what we’re selling, what types of titles or personas are involved at different parts of the buying cycle or the decision process. 

[There are] multiple departments and the titles of seniority that naturally translate into a set of personas which, when you get into the detail, becomes pretty complex. We have a minimum of nine or 10 personas… that we have to target in a complex enterprise sale, particularly for a larger institution. And those personas have different weightings at different times in the buying cycle and different pain points.

Coming back to my earlier comment about the different formats, blogs, papers, social posts, audio, and video, let’s not forget those. If you look at six or seven different content types that need to be staged at different parts of the buying cycle, and then you’re looking at nine or 10 different personas and our sales cycle probably has five or six different stages. You multiply all those together. Even if you only sell one product, just doing the math in my head, you would probably be looking at a few hundred different pieces of content needed in order to fully content-energize the buying cycle. 

What I try to do is make sure that everyone on the team really understands that that’s the goal. The goal is absolutely to understand that buyer’s journey, to map the personas to that buyer’s journey, and then make sure there is content that is right-sized for each of those cells in the matrix. 

And content is being refreshed, so if we have 500 points of content on day one, that’s great. But three to six months from now, probably half of them are going to be out of date because the economy has moved on because things have changed. That’s something that content marketers can forget about. We all breathe a sigh of relief that we created those hundred pieces of content. But months from now, the salespeople are going to be saying, “Oh, that one’s old.” So the other thing that we do is we try to be really surgical about what content we provide because we know that every one of those will need to be updated regularly. 

AP: This has been very, very helpful. That covers most of the topics I wanted to touch on, but I also just want to open the floor if there’s anything else that you want to add or think is important for fintechs specifically to think about as they consider how to execute content marketing.

VP: I think for today, the most important thing is being on top of and aware of what’s going on in the world of AI. Every marketing leader is looking at how they can be more efficient. How can I get more and spend less, right? There may be marketing leaders out there who are saying, “Well, now I can finally replace people with robots.” That’s not my approach. But I do think that [AI] ought to change the way that we operate, just like collaborative tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Office and spell checkers have changed the way that we write and edit and collaborate. 

It makes some things easier and some things harder and we really need to know and understand and keep on top of them. As I said, I don’t think [AI] replaces people, but I do think it will replace people who don’t modernize. And this is so that makes it a very exciting time in marketing, but also scary depending on what one’s function is.

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