In The Pulse's Go-to-market series, startup marketers share their advice and insights on marketing for startups. In this edition of Go-to-market, Paypa Plane’s Head of Marketing, Katie Norbury shares why going old-school can be key when competing with the big guys.
Brisbane-based startup Paypa Plane has had a bit of a dream run, attracting top investors and leading Australia’s shift to real-time payments and PayTo. Now the payments software provider is taking on the US and its Head of Marketing and Communications, Katie Norbury couldn’t be more excited—if a little daunted.
While Paypa Plane is all about modernizing payments, its marketing strategy combines digital tactics with old-school networking. Given the startup’s success in Australia, it’s an approach the business will replicate overseas as they compete with big US fintechs and their equally big marketing budgets.
Katie’s experience at not-for-profits means she’s adept at using a limited budget to make a meaningful impact. While she admits there is “no clear recipe for success” in startup growth marketing, one thing continues to help Paypa Plane soar – building personal connections.
Identifying your wins beyond replicating others
When you’re up against the goliaths of the US fintech world, trying to replicate their marketing strategies is a fast train to failure, because their existing brand authority and marketing resources far exceed that of a startup. Katie says it’s all about identifying your brand’s potential wins.
“A lot of our digital tactics are quite scaled back. We aren’t running ginormous ad campaigns because to compete with some of the big fintechs in the US, that’s not going to be our win. We’re not going to reach the SEO levels of a large US fintech with 10,000 staff. We’re a total team of 45 so we really need to focus on networking which has taken me back a little. For us, it’s those old-school traditional marketing approaches that cut through.”
It helps that Paypa Plane’s CEO, Simone Joyce, is considered an oracle on payments technology. Katie says leveraging Simone’s deep payments knowledge has been paramount in building brand trust and optimizing visibility. But that needs to be supported by a professional brand image across all touchpoints.
“Simone has just moved to the US and we’ve started generating some awareness around Paypa Plane via in-person conferences, events and meetings. We’ve done a slight rebrand of the logo and we’re now looking at the website and our client collateral as we’ll be meeting with a large number of US clients, looking particularly at US banks.
"What’s interesting to them is very different to what’s interesting to an enterprise or someone just hearing about Paypa Plane, so we need to make sure we’re matching up to what a large bank is putting out and that can be difficult for a startup to do.”
In developing their US marketing strategy, Katie is applying everything she’s learned from working with the Commonwealth Bank in Australia while recognizing that the overseas market is quite different. How US banks talk about payment systems differs from the terminology used in Australia, so Katie and the team are refining their language to ensure it resonates. Every detail matters in building a new global client base.
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Knowledge sharing can cut through and build brand trust
Another key aspect of Katie’s marketing strategy is establishing Paypa Plane as a global authority in the payments space through targeted email marketing based on specific client needs and existing payments knowledge. Katie finds this far more effective than mass cold emails.
“We keep asking, ‘How can we educate people rather than just sell to them?’ Education has helped differentiate our brand in Australia and we’re hoping to copy and paste that technique in the US to set ourselves up against the big names over there.
We’re looking at doing some educational email journeys about why it’s important to elevate your payments – what does that mean for your business? For most of us, that’s quite foreign so it’s about humanizing the language of payments and generating a community around Paypa Plane.”
Katie says it’s important for startup marketers to explore all the opportunities for community building through knowledge sharing including Facebook groups, EDMs, and in-person events. Limited resources require ongoing ingenuity.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing differently
Unconventional marketing tactics can help cut through the noise, but while most startup marketers focus on innovative digital campaigns, Katie says in-person events can be an opportunity to think outside the box.
“Digital marketing is so important but we also need to look at how we connect in person. As you can imagine, payments conferences aren’t the most exciting events so we try to inject a bit of fun. At one conference, we set up a booth and held a paper plane flying competition. It was a great way to spark conversations with people.”
Before joining Paypa Plane, Katie’s marketing campaigns were predominantly online but she says in the B2B fintech space, that’s not enough.
“The CEO of Wells Fargo isn’t going to sign up to a fintech because he saw a cool ad on Google. They might think, oh that’s nice, but they’re going to need more. They need us to develop a personal connection. Instead of viewing marketing as all these different buckets, our digital and in-person efforts need to go hand-in-hand. For example, using Google Ads to geotarget for a conference location or getting people at events to scan a QR code to learn more about the offering. It all has to work together.”
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In a startup environment, the only constant is change
Katie was previously a Marketing and Communications Executive at Contiki and often finds herself reflecting on the differences between working in an established business and a startup.
“In an established business, things can be very stuck and unchangeable. The hierarchy is so large that getting approval for things is slow and questioning things is out of place. Whereas at a startup, you’re encouraged to break things apart every day. We’re constantly discussing what we can do better. How do we establish our brand? How do we get from this point to that? Within 24 hours things can change dramatically. For me, that’s been amazing because I thrive off change. It’s exciting being able to adjust things for the best possible outcome.”
While Katie admits that startup marketing comes with its challenges, it’s a great way to advance your career, expand your skills and showcase your creativity. Her advice to any marketers thinking of making the leap to a startup?
“You can’t have any ego because you’re going to be doing what a marketing coordinator does as well as what a CMO does. That’s a fantastic opportunity especially if you’re mid-career like me. Just do it! I get to work with so many amazing people who are so skilled and strategic. In other companies, there are probably four layers between you and the execs, whereas I work closely with the C-level team and learn from them directly. It’s a great way to improve your skills in a short amount of time. You can build trust not just in the startup, but your own personal brand."