Meet Jen Smeed and Gillian Carmichael, who are both in the team at Whisperclaims, a tech start-up in Edinburgh. Jen is one of the founding Directors, and Gillian has recently joined the team as marketing manager.
On the podcast today we talked about using LinkedIn and Pay Per Click (PPC) ads to build awareness of a new business. We also talked about the Growth Hacking approach to marketing and how the team used that to design their current strategy. I’m excited to share with you all the interesting things we talked about. Jen and Gillian are both happy to connect on LinkedIn, if you’d like to learn more!
The story of how Whisperclaims was founded is a great example. Jen, Richard and Mike worked together in a different company, founded by Richard, and realised there was a gap in the market. The solution lay in technology, so they set about developing software that could fill the need.
Finding the right team
In the early stages, Richard joined a Code Clan training cohort, but quickly discovered that the skills they needed were too far out of reach. So the brought on Rick Henry, who had been one of the instructors on Richard’s course. If you’re running your own business hiring people can be hard and trusting them with your idea can seem like a huge responsibility. Jen is quick to point out that Rick is so great, and there’s no way they could have developed it without him, so it didn’t feel like handing over their own stuff rather it was brining someone in that had skills they didn’t have.
They’ve since hired three new people. For Jen, hiring new people has always felt like filling skills gaps, rather than giving something away.
Experimenting with Pay Per Click (PPC)
There’s been a lot of experimenting with and focusing on digital marketing. Mike is the head of sales and marketing. When Gillian came on board her focus has been working on growing awareness and getting more leads. She started with PPC, experimenting within the first month or two and using keywords to see what gets the right customers.
Then they tried LinkedIn ads and engaging with media agencies, programmatic and retargeting. Now they’re doing some PR as well, experimenting with all kinds of things just to see what works has been key to their strategy.
It’s interesting to listen to all the different strategies they’re working with and how those fit together. It gives me hope of what I’ll be able to achieve when I have a slightly bigger team myself!
How Growth Hacking works in a tech start up
Gillian has worked in a range of different businesses, but never for a tech start up just like Whisperclaims. It’s an interesting change though – in a smaller company you’re learning as you go, have to be very agile and build in more processes, like Scrum and Trello so things run smoothly.
Recently, Gillian and the team have been applying a Growth Hacking approach. They start with a hypothesis about how to reach a specific goal, and run an experiment to see what has an impact. If you’re interested to learn more after listening, my favourite book is Hacking Growth by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis.
From Jen’s perspective, as the director, is a little different, as she’s responsible for making budget decisions. With that in mind, she needs to be very data led, and I love the way she described their flexible approach.
“OK, try it. Do whatever you think will work, and we’ll take it from there… Show me that this works, and then we’re happy to spend money on it. But let’s not spend money, and let’s not waste money, on things that we can’t show work, or we can show that don’t work.” – Jen
How to develop a growth hacking strategy for a small business
To work on their strategy, they brainstormed a list of all kinds of ideas for what they could do to boost leads. Unfortunately, time and money aren’t limitless and they couldn’t do everything, so focused on one key thing – bring more traffic to the site/raise more awareness. They decided to run this until the end November and see what happened. It’s important to have a date in the diary to review the data you gather and if you need a different approach return to the brainstorming list. That’s a growth hacking approach:
- List of everything you could try.
- Pick one thing that’s fundamental, for example, getting more data, by sending more people to the website.
- Review the data and then see if there’s a case for changing the website, or whatever other strategies are on the list.
LinkedIn marketing with customer personas
I met the Whisperclaims team about a year ago now, when I worked with them on a Digital Boost project through Business Gateway. The focus was on LinkedIn and more organic marketing, rather than paid options. They played about with lots of different approaches to expand their contacts in LinkedIn; sending out tailored messages to second tier contacts and inviting people to connect, comparing salesy to gentle approaches, comparing how different job titles affect people’s reactions to the invites, and so on.
Ads weren’t an option as the product was so new there was no audience or search traffic to target! So instead they had to take this very labour-intensive route. However, that meant the team were able to really hone their messaging, and target the exact customer persona they needed to reach to get the right early-adopter mindset.
As the product gets more established, the person has changed, and that’s reflected in other changes too. The onboarding gets less intensive; some people don’t even want the demo, because they’d rather play around with it themselves. The time saved on onboarding can be spend on other sales activities, but it also means that the rest of the team have been working on improving the support and help options within the platform itself – all parts of the business can be affected by a shift in the audience.
The more up-to-date and specific those personas are, the easier it is to target outreach activities on LinkedIn, as well as in advertising. The sales information is feeding into the marketing decisions. I can’t stress how important it is to focus directly on your ideal customer, so you don’t waste time marketing to the wrong people. If you haven’t yet created a customer persona, you can download a template below and get started right away.
Use customer personas to keep your brand relevant
This work on personas has also led them to think more about the brand. It highlighted the characteristics of the people typically engaging with them: entrepreneurial, digitally savvy, pioneering trailblazers, who are leading the way within a sector starting to be more technologically minded. Whisperclaims are innovative and thinking outside of the box so they identify with the people reaching them. Their brand may evolve over time as the business evolves too. At a recent trade show, several people introduced themselves in a whisper, thinking they were making a smart play on words. Not exactly the effect the team were aiming for! When they first came up with the name, it was about it being a secret back office system for accountants, so it was a quiet and discrete tool. Jen’s not sure that clients necessarily care about that now. Many people take a totally different approach, some are very open about it. So although they’re not planning to change the name any time soon, Gillian and the marketing team are thinking carefully about the messages they want to send out when they eventually rebrand and update the website.
Glossary of terms from the podcast
- Scrum meeting – software development structure – the way you manage teams and workflows.
- Trello – software, third party, which lets you do project management. It’s like sticky notes on the wall. It’s free!
- White label – this means customers can have a dedicated portal with their logo, their web address, so if their clients are signing in to add information, they see their accountant’s branding front and centre. The Whisperclaims logo is much smaller and in the footer of the whitelabel version.
- CRM – customer relationship management – it’s a database of customer details from anyone who’s been engaging with you, kind of an upgrade from a big spreadsheet. HubSpot has a free one, which also paid elements.