Trust in tech.

It’s easy to tell when a company has become “truly digital”—especially in the financial services industry. This week’s guest discusses why being “truly digital” in fintech matters, and the best ways to get there while building trust with your customers.

It's all about how you add value to the audience...Over time the market will come to you.

Eric FulwilerChief Marketing and Commercial Officer at 11fsteam

Transcription

Bringing Financial Services into a “Truly Digital” World with Eric Fulwiler 

 

Katie Hankinson (00:01):

Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.

 

Mickey Cloud (00:02):

And I’m Mickey Cloud.

 

Katie Hankinson (00:03):

Welcome to Building While Flying, a Sasha Group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.

 

Mickey Cloud (00:20):

Eric, welcome to Building While Flying. Thanks for being our guest today.

 

Eric (00:24):

Super, super happy and excited to be here and chat.

 

Mickey Cloud (00:27):

Yeah, man. So Eric has spent the last two decades building brands and businesses around the world from billion-dollar startups to Fortune 50 enterprises. He spent seven years at VaynerMedia with me. Before joining as an early employee and eventually leading our European expansion from London as the managing director of EMEA, he was head of social media for Forbes, the VP of digital at ad agency, Mullen. He’s currently the chief marketing and commercial officer of 11:FS, a leading global fintech consultancy. So Eric, let’s start. For those who maybe haven’t watched the explainer video on 11:FS’s website, could you give an overview of the company and what it is you all do?

 

Eric (01:06):

Sure. We are a startup here in London that works with financial services businesses around the world, essentially to help them understand and take advantage of all the changes and opportunities coming from the world of digital and technology and fintech. The bulk of what we do is consulting work essentially, and that is mostly building out challenger, neo, digital propositions for banks or insurance companies. If Bank of America wanted to build their version of, I’m not sure what’s hot right now in the U.S. for neobanks, but Varo money or Chime or something like that, we would come in and do that for them. So, it’s bringing those two worlds together, helping traditional financial service businesses navigate the landscape of fintech and bring their business into the future.

 

Mickey Cloud (01:58):

Got it. You mentioned some of the things, some of those companies that there maybe a traditional bank is trying to emulate, but could you break that down even a little bit further and define what do you guys see as digital financial services? You say on your website, you only think that only 1% of digital financial services have been creative. So, what’s the vision for the other 99%?

 

Eric (02:24):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s meant to be provocative rather than scientific or actual statement. Yeah, I can talk a little bit about our philosophy and I think there’s some things in there that would probably help the people listening if they are a startup or growth-stage leaders and entrepreneurs. So, digital financial services are 1% finished is kind of our slogan. Again, it’s more about the mindset of when we work with a lot of organizations, I think a lot of them think that they are well into, or very far along, or maybe almost done with their digital journey and we want to reframe that mindset to help them see that where we are, where most organizations are right now, is just the beginning of all the change that’s going to come. I think particularly with what’s happened in the world in the last 12 to 15 months, we’ve seen the future get accelerated into that period of time, so it’s even more relevant to think and act that way.

 

Eric (03:20):

The other thing that we talk about a lot is we have this concept of truly digital. And so, we say, if you oversimplify, of course, but there’s analog, digitized and truly digital, analog being pre-digital, offline, all that, digitized being you take an analog approach and apply it to the digital world and that’s actually where we think most of our clients and most organizations are, is they’re doing digital, and I’m using air quotes right now, people can’t see, they’re doing digital, but it’s really with an analog approach. Truly digital means that you are reinventing yourself, rethinking everything to be from scratch for the way the world is today. It’s the marketing for the now, to use the Vayner expression for it, but that’s what we try to do with our clients, is bring a truly digital approach to what they do.

 

Eric (04:12):

The other thing that I’ll throw out that we talk about a lot, and actually, I guess it’s double-clicking on what truly digital means is businesses, but more specifically products being agile, intelligent, and contextual. So agile, they’re able to move quickly. They’re flexible, intelligent, meaning that they are learning as they go. They are taking data in. It’s not just a static product. And then contextual meaning a big focus on the experience and molding it around the needs of the user. So those are the other things that we talk about a lot as well.

 

Mickey Cloud (04:45):

So then that middle section that you think a lot most companies are in right now, which is they’ve digitized an analog process or an analog system. Can you give examples of what that means practically for banks and financial services? Is it just that like, “Oh, instead of having a sheet of paper, tell me how much money is in my account. I can now look at an app,” but it’s still fundamentally that experiences is you’re checking in on an account that lives maybe physically or at a bank?

 

Eric (05:15):

Yep. Yep. So, that’s exactly right, is the digitized financial service offerings are basically what they used to be, just put onto a computer or put into your phone. Actually, if you just forget what we do or the clients we work with and you just think about it from a user perspective, I think everybody here knows and can relate to… You know when a company is truly digital and when it’s just digitized, because the mobile experience or the online experience, the digital experience is janky. You can tell when a company is modern and when it’s not modern, and that comes from having a different approach, having a different culture, having a different way that you build product and run your company. But yeah, that’s the biggest thing that we think of, is the technology that underpins a lot of these banks and financial service institutions. Operations is a big piece of it, but actually we see and try to focus on the culture and the talent and the ways of working that’s needed to be able to do that type of thing as well.

 

Mickey Cloud (06:16):

Super interesting. And so, I know you offer… You mentioned consulting, that’s the bulk of what you do. You also do research, industry benchmarking. It sounds like you do some tech product development as well, and then you’ve got the media arm. From what I understand and what I’m interested to learn more about is that those offerings are built to span across startups, as well as to the biggest traditional banks out there. I think that’s such an interesting proposition, because specifically coming from our world in VaynerX, we had to spin The Sasha Group out of VaynerMedia because VaynerMedia was building a tanker to service. They have the biggest companies in the world, and our smaller entrepreneurs and midsize market companies were just getting lost among that shuffle up. So, we had to have our own process. We had to have our own people. We had to have our own… The things that are putting our philosophies in place for that. So curious, are all of your offerings truly accessible to that full range of clientele or certain geared towards startups and others are geared towards maybe the bigger banks?

 

Eric (07:18):

Yeah. It’s more certain offerings are geared towards certain people and they can stretch. So consulting can stretch, but usually fintechs don’t have as much of a need for what we do on the consulting side because they are already truly digital. They are the people that the traditional incumbent organizations are trying to emulate. But in places particularly with the ones that are more at scale or later stage, we’ve worked with some of them. And then we do have two products, two technology products, one that we’re still building out, but then another that we sell into big organizations, but also startups as well. So it depends on the offering.

 

Eric (07:55):

But the thing that I would say, and also picking up on the Sasha example because I was there when that happened, I think the push for that and I think the push for us to how we develop our products and offerings, as long as you’re thinking about it from how do you best serve the audience you’re trying to reach, how do you make sure that what you’re developing the offering, the pricing, the way you sell it, the way you support it is reverse engineered from what’s best for the customer. I’m thinking for Gary and you and James, everyone that made the decision to spin up Sasha was coming from a place of, “All right, there’s all this need that we can service. How do we make sure that the way we’re structured is actually bespoke to be able to fit that?”

 

Mickey Cloud (08:36):

So, how do you guys operationalize that at 11:FS?

 

Eric (08:41):

Operationalize the team?

 

Mickey Cloud (08:42):

Do you have teams that are specific for the different offerings or is it more of a everyone works across the different offerings?

 

Eric (08:52):

A little bit. I mean, we’re still a startup ourselves. We’re 150 people, five years old, so there’s not too much. Well, there’s specialization, but it’s not like there’s tons of teams in different places and we can have 50 people working on one thing and 50 people working on another. But within consulting, as client services business, even though we are building propositions, so it depends on what the brief is, what the client’s looking for and we’ll staff the best people that we have available against what those needs are. And then the product, that can be a lot more intentional and led by the roadmap that we have. So for example, so the product I’m talking about, we call it Pulse and it is a content library of fintech user journeys from around the world.

 

Eric (09:35):

So we have hundreds of people around the world that send us screenshot videos behind the login screen of the fintech apps in their country. And then people who are typically in big banks or big financial service institutions, but really could be anybody that wants to see what good looks like and benchmark themselves or get inspiration for how they should design their own product, they pay a subscription to be able to access all that content. We developed a self-serve offering of that specifically for more of those startups. So because that’s a product business, we’re able to have a bit more of an intentional roadmap with how we develop it for different audiences. And then, again, that’s a small team, so it’s not like there’s a separate small business or startup team supporting it, but there is a intentional split and different development area of focus on the product roadmap now.

 

Mickey Cloud (10:28):

Gotcha. Gotcha. Also, in any kind of servicing and what you’ve seen across the startups that you work with, as well as the big banks, you guys talk about helping financial institutions escape the trappings of their legacy system, which is like a brilliant British phrase. But I guess, do you find that there are similar trappings across big banks and startups, or does each have client of their own unique issues or are there patterns that you’re seeing emerge?

 

Eric (10:56):

It’s a really interesting question. There are certainly patterns. Yes, I think you probably could, again, generalized, but you probably could bucket out the fintechs from the incumbent organizations and the challenges that they see. That’s a lot of what we come in to help our clients with is, like I said before, not just the technology, but also the way that they work. This is 11:FS, but also me personally, I think that every organization could and should get faster with how they make decisions and what they do. And that’s something Gary always talked about and I’m sure he still does. Speed is the most important factor in any organization, but particularly big companies, especially regulated companies like banks and insurance companies can move incredibly slow, and I think that’s lost opportunity.

 

Eric (11:47):

I think the other thing that I think about a lot is really pushing for constant experimentation. So it’s not just about data, it’s actually more about the mindset of trying to seek out learnings from everything that you do. I think the thing that’s probably the toughest is being very comfortable, if not actually being hungry for change, and that can be really hard. A whole innovator’s dilemma, there’s real business realities around changing things when you have a massive business operating at scale, but it’s also a cultural thing. Human beings are not naturally comfortable with change, especially when you are the incumbent, when you’re not the one being challenged. I think there’s a lot of inertia to change things, but that fundamentally, that not just being built for change, but actually seeking it out. Another thing that Gary used to say that I love is you need to put yourself out of business before somebody else does. And so, that’s the same mentality and same culture that I think is so important.

 

Mickey Cloud (12:51):

You’ve talked obviously the consulting side, you’re helping a client solve a problem, or you’re giving them access to information data, the Pulse and things like that, but you’re also talking about culture and HR and talent and those things. And so, who are the decision makers that you’re trying to reach to say, “Hey, we can help you guys solve the problem”?

 

Eric (13:13):

Our clients within consulting are typically CEO or a chief digital officer, chief innovation officer. Sometimes we’ll plug into, although less and less actually, but sometimes we’ll plug into the innovation group instead of the main bank. But increasingly, I think financial service organizations and most organizations are realizing that the innovation that comes from technology and being truly digital is not something that should be done on the side of the desk or as a side project. And so, it’s becoming more of a mainstream core conversation. So we’ll plug into the CEO. We’ll plug into the board, but then usually we’ll ladder into the digital side, the innovation side, the technology side. That’s where we took it and plug in.

 

Mickey Cloud (13:56):

Are you working with HR as well, or is that…

 

Eric (14:01):

Not as much directly.

 

Mickey Cloud (14:02):

Got it.

 

Eric (14:03):

Usually, it will be layered into whatever we’re doing with the chief digital officer or head of innovation. Or sometimes these companies will actually have separate CEOs for the challenger banks that they’re building out. And so, within that remit, the people side of it is one, but we’re not typically selling directly to a CHRO or a head of HR.

 

Mickey Cloud (14:23):

Gotcha. So when you’re trying to find those or trying to start conversations with the CEOs or chief digital officer, chief innovation officer, I just want to talk a little bit about how you’ll find those clients. I’m sure the reason you have a media arm is to build a brand and create content that will help those prospects and get them interested in learning more about you. But could you talk a little bit just about the overall content strategy for B2B lead generation?

 

Eric (14:49):

Yeah. So, I spend a lot of time on this. Actually, my role here is now chief commercial officer, but I started as chief marketing officer. Part of why I came to 11:FS was the mindset and perspective that David, our CEO, has on marketing. And so, it’s something that I took and ran with in the time that I’ve been here. But the biggest thing that we focus on is trying to build a content machine around what we stand for. So we stand for the future of financial services. Our mission as a company is to change the fabric of FS. And so, you can unpack that, and that goes into so many different, but we have a 10-person team that is just focused on creating content around that.

 

Eric (15:34):

So, we’ve got a half dozen podcasts. We do a ton of events. We do a ton of reports. We do blogs. We do a lot of social. We do video. We made a movie. That was the first project I picked up when I got here, a documentary about the rise of fintech in the UK, but it’s the philosophy. Again, we did a lot of work like this with B2B clients at Vayner, and I’m sure that philosophy is still there at Sasha. It’s content marketing, but it’s at scale. Also, the difference, I think, is that you are putting out that content without the expectation, particularly the short-term expectation of getting anything from it. It is not a piece of content to generate a lead. It is not a piece of content that’s going to convert into a sale in a 90-day window. It is all about how do you add value to the audience we’re trying to reach. If you do that consistently over time, the market will come to you.

 

Eric (16:26):

So now, 90% of our leads are inbound. That’s were most of our opportunity comes from because we’ve established a name for ourselves. We reach hundreds of thousand people every week with all the content that we put. It’s not just about the reach, it’s about… The content we do is very opinionated. It’s about 1% finished. We do not mince words. We have a very specific way of looking at things, and that actually helps to filter out the people that don’t subscribe to the way that we see the world, because they’re not people that we would want to or could work with anyway. They’re going to go higher, the Accentures or the Deloitte or somebody else. So, it helps to qualify as well. That’s the biggest piece.

 

Eric (17:05):

I think the thing that we do differently is media is actually separate from marketing. So we have a head of media and we have a head of marketing. The head of marketing is obviously very important as well. She and her team actually do focus on, “Okay. How do we generate more MQLs? How do we generate more SQLs? How do we create more pipeline revenue?” But the media piece I’d say is our big X factor. A lot of it is sales as well. We have a decent size team within consulting. I’d say that commercial results are everybody’s responsibility. So it’s not that everybody is cold calling or anything like that, but everybody is thinking about how do we bring more revenue, more opportunity into the business.

 

Mickey Cloud (17:49):

It’s awesome to hear you break that down, because I think so many of the prospects that I talk to, they subscribe to, or that they’re maybe nodding along with that philosophy, but when it comes time to actually staff against that and hire 10 people to put out content that can reach hundreds of thousand people on the podcast, movies and documentaries like that, it takes real investment. It takes real culture to embrace that. It’s the biggest mental hurdle that people have, like can’t get past.

 

Eric (18:26):

11:FS, part of why it works so well for us is because of our CEO and our founders being so invested in that. So, it was their idea at the beginning. They were bought in. They didn’t need somebody to prove it to them and they were willing to build that up over time, but I know a lot of businesses aren’t like that. I’m thinking of people listening who might be marketers and startups and they have to prove this to a CEO, even if they do agree with it. And so, what I would say is one, as a fun side note, our media business is actually profitable. It’s a profit line, as opposed to a cost center because we monetize the content events that we do through sponsorship. So if you can get to a scale, not only is it driving growth of the business, but it’s actually generating a small, but still getting paid to do the things that we do anyway to drive growth of the business.

 

Eric (19:16):

But there’s a couple of things that I think about. One, I think that there’s a difference between trying to start six podcasts, trying to do a documentary and all that stuff that maybe is towards the end of, okay, super long term, that’s going to do good stuff for us. Although there is something interesting with podcasts and stuff like that of it gives you an excuse to reach out to the people you’re trying to talk to. It’s not just the sales message, right? And that has to be genuine thing. You have to genuinely believe that they can add value to your audience. Like I said before, that has to be the North Star and it has to be about something that’s of value to them. It can’t just be about something that’s of value to you.

 

Eric (19:57):

But then I think there are things that are closer to what I would call a content marketing, inbound marketing, the more traditional stuff that people talk about, that if you do have to sell this model in will be something that I think is more palatable to a CEO or a CFO that is more of the lead gen stuff, like white papers, like reports, even events. But I would say, make sure if you do it, that you try to do it differently than somebody else and that you tee it up and everything is designed in a way that’s going to add value to the audience.

 

Mickey Cloud (20:30):

Right. I love that, that philosophy of we’re just going to keep adding value to the audience and then over time, let the business come to us. I mean, it’s something we wholeheartedly believe in. And that philosophy can literally be applied to every industry. Yeah. You just have to have the fortitude to see it through.

 

Eric (20:52):

Yeah. It takes time. The other thing I’d throw out there, because it might be helpful is it’s not just about marketing with that content because actually that is incredibly valuable asset for sales as well. So if you have a great podcast episode that you did, now your sales team can reach out to that prospect. Instead of just saying like, “Hey, do you want to book a call?” they can say, “Hey, I think you’d find this content interesting.” And that’s a much better way to build a relationship. A big thing that we talk about on the sales side of things is how do we build trusted relationships? That’s the focus. From there, then maybe there’s some people that we’ll do business with, but I think that’s something that a lot of people miss is they try to go from the top of the funnel, “I don’t know you,” to the bottom of the funnel, “You’re giving me money,” in one step, and it’s not about that.

 

Eric (21:37):

Anything that people do with you, if you’re a B2B business, they’re only going to do it with people that they know. Certain types of work, certain types of clients, certain types of companies are going to be more about the relationship or less, but you can’t do business with anybody unless you have a relationship with them. So you have to break the funnel down into at least two steps, which is how do you get to trusted relationship? Content is a great way to help do that because a relationship comes from reciprocal value. And so, you, if you’re leading with the content, you’re leading with the experience, that’s an easy way to add value to somebody.

 

Mickey Cloud (22:08):

Yeah. I’m curious, you mentioned 11:FS is five years old, 150 people. You’re scaling startup. So you’ve experienced hyper-growth in the U.S. with VaynerMedia, and now in the UK with 11:FS. I’m curious to learn about are there similarities in those experiences? Are there differences? How do you compare those two experiences?

 

Eric (22:31):

I’m smiling because I’m remembering the LinkedIn posts I put out that actually led to this whole conversation a few weeks ago, a couple of months ago. I can’t remember. I think the one similarity is everybody’s figuring it out as they go along. Everybody would tell you, even me, not that I’m intentionally trying to up myself for 11:FS, but you always talk about the hindsight, the picture. You paint the perfect picture of what’s going on. But man, if you’re at a start up, if you’re in any organization, the nitty gritty of the day to day, a lot of it is figuring out as you go along. I think you need to be comfortable with that, but also hopefully that gives you some comfort, because everybody talks like they know exactly what’s going on and that they intentionally tried to do everything that they did. It’s not true. It’s just not true. So I think that’s the first thing I would say.

 

Eric (23:18):

Other similarities, it’s all about the people. Again, it’s a cliche, but most cliches aren’t worth anything at the superficial level, but it’s about digging down and really understanding what that means for you, and there is a wealth of value in there. It really is about the people. It’s about the team to get together. It’s about the culture that you build. You can’t win if you don’t have that, right? You can’t lose if you do.

 

Mickey Cloud (23:39):

Yep.

 

Eric (23:41):

Another tactical one for me is, especially if you’re the operator, you’re the CEO or the GM, make the finance director your best friend, if you don’t come from a finance and commercial background, because… What’s that expression? Profit is like oxygen. It’s not the reason you exist, but you need it to survive. If you don’t have a really good understanding of the financial realities of how your business runs and where it’s at to help you make those decisions, it’s so easy to get led astray. And that was a big thing for me when I did the MD role in London here for Vayner was I didn’t come from a GM, finance, P&L management background. And so, Fitz, who’s still the FT in London, I probably spent more time with him than anybody else, just getting up to speed and making sure that I understood things.

 

Mickey Cloud (24:32):

Yep. Well, cool. So, I wouldn’t be a good of the moment marketer if I didn’t ask about cryptocurrency, the blockchain and NFT. So, I’d be curious how those technologies are coming up in your discussions with clients. Is that something that the startups are more interested in and building around, or is it the traditional banks are like, “Hey, I know what these words mean now”?

 

Eric (24:54):

I feel like I need to ask you questions about crypto and NFTs, everything going on, what the difference, which has been fascinating to watch. Yes, with our clients… I mean, it’s funny. We’ve been around for five years, and one of our co-founders very much comes from that part of the financial services space, so he’s been saying… We’ve had a blockchain insider podcast for years now, and it’s gone through peaks and valleys and winters and summers, and now it’s definitely hitting a whole new height. But it’s been around and it’s been part of the conversation within banks for years, but it’s certainly coming back. So yeah, we’re doing some crypto work for some clients. There’s also a lot of crypto businesses that are now getting to scale, have raised a lot of money or making a lot of money and now we’re looking for consultants to help scale what they do. So it’s definitely a growing part of the portfolio.

 

Mickey Cloud (25:47):

That’s awesome. Awesome. Well, I’ll end by asking our last question, which is you brought it up already, kind of building while flying analogy. I love it because it speaks to the nimbleness and flexibility of the foresight you need to operate a business, but it also speaks to pilots are renowned for their inflight checklists, right? So the training, it keeps you calm under pressure. So when your back is against the wall and you got to make a decision for the business, what’s your process that keeps you calm getting through it?

 

Eric (26:15):

So the process that I go through with that… There’s a process I go through which maybe will help people, maybe won’t, then there’s something else that I want to say that I think will probably be more helpful. But the process that I go through is one, I think about how little most things matter, perspective. It might sound silly or weird, but everything in perspective. The toughest business decision is nothing compared to the things that really matter in my life, if you think about it. So everything seems bigger up close. I think that giving yourself that type of perspective is really important. That’s the first thing, perspective. The second thing is reminding yourself that everything is a learning opportunity. And so, you make the right decision. You make the wrong decision. Actually, that matters less than how much you learn from what you go through.

 

Eric (27:06):

And then the third thing for me is just reminding myself that I’m going to try to do the best that I can. At this point, especially I’ve been through a lot, I’ve learned a lot, I need to trust my instincts and hope that it works out. So a little bit of, I guess, confidence building as well. It makes you feel a little bit better. But the other thing I would say that I think is… If I think about, okay, the people listening are entrepreneurs, growth-stage people, trying to figure things out, building while flying as they go along, probably the biggest thing I would say and that I think about it as on loop and repeat in my mind all the time is none of what you are doing… You are not the first person to have to figure out anything that you’re doing. Somebody else has done it.

 

Eric (27:53):

At the same time, you will never be smarter than the collective intelligence and experience of all the people that you know. And so, those two things for me, I… Everybody is different. Some people just know what they want to do. They go with their gut. I am much more of a leader and learner by collective thought and input. So whenever I’m struggling with something, whenever I’m thinking about something, I reach out to five to 10 people I know to ask them, who I think might have done something similar or have a perspective and I try to get a lot of input. You can’t make decisions based on the average of what people say, but it’s amazing how much you can learn from just different injections of perspective and other people’s experience. So, that’s why I always think about is who’s done it before, because I’m not the first one for anything that I do.

 

Mickey Cloud (28:42):

Awesome. Awesome. Well, Eric, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for sharing today and for being a guest on the podcast. It’s great to catch up.

 

Eric (28:51):

Of course, man. Great to see you.

 

Katie Hankinson (28:54):

Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land. But before we do, Mickey and I caught up on some of the themes and topics that stuck out to us.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:04):

Yes. We liken this to the post-game show, where we break down the key lessons we all can benefit from, including us here at The Sasha Group. Here is The Sasha Sidebar.

 

Katie Hankinson (29:18):

Great interview with Eric.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:21):

Yeah. Great to catch up with him. Now, you’re one of your neighbors over in the UK. Well, I guess-

 

Katie Hankinson (29:26):

Oh, I know.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:27):

… countryman.

 

Katie Hankinson (29:27):

I know. I can’t believe we did the streets swap. It’s always good to catch up with him in London.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:32):

Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson (29:35):

So, I mean, obviously, it must have been fun to catch up with him, not only because we go way back with him from a VaynerMedia perspective, but also to hear how a lot of the philosophies that he picked up and has been living and breathing in the old Vayner world is stuff that he’s really carried over into 11:FS.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:52):

Yeah. I think for me that so many awesome, interesting things that he talks about, but the thing that I really started and nerd out over was the content machine that he’s built out, and that 11:FS, it sounds like from day one wanted to be known for and wanted to use content to help change the fabric of financial services, like what’s the future of financial services. And so, the way they’ve been able to do that has been really, really interesting.

 

Katie Hankinson (30:24):

Yeah. I love the fact that they really took to heart the idea of, if you really want to be a successful contemporary company of any kind, then you need to behave like a media company. They built a real reputation for themselves. I was working with another brand in this sector, another digital product technology at work with fintech. This is even before Eric joined them. They were building a reputation in the space of having just more of a point of view and being all over LinkedIn and having a ton of content really out in the world. It really does make a difference to start elevating the brand and also give you an opportunity to have a conversation outside of the direct one-to-one sales type combos that you have a lot of the time in B2B.

 

Mickey Cloud (31:11):

Yeah. I feel like this is probably one of the number one new business conversations that I have with prospects who are in maybe the services business, or they’re trying to do lead generation in a B2B capacity, and it’s really stark the difference in the conversation between those who understand that content marketing at scale without the short-term expectation of getting anything from it, versus those who are just looking to pound the bottom end of the funnel and do retargeting and conversion and lead generation and how they’re quick to say, “Oh, these digital channels won’t work,” but in fact, it takes… I mean, Eric said [inaudible 00:31:51], you do this consistently and bring value to folks. Over time, the market is going to come to you. The proof is in the pudding for them. 90% of their leads are inbound now.

 

Katie Hankinson (32:03):

Yeah, it’s interesting in the way, if you think about it, a lot of what Eric was talking about is this whole business is about building trusted relationships, and using content to begin the conversation and bring mutual value is a way of doing that. And that is such a central tenant of the sales conversation that was happening for years and years. Now, you can bring it across to content because there’s so much value you can add by informing, educating, providing a perspective that potential partners or prospects might not necessarily have is so valuable and definitely part of a more valuable potential relationship to start those conversations further up the funnel when it’s less so, so, so.

 

Mickey Cloud (32:48):

Right. You mentioned this content helps out the sales team, as well as it helps qualified leads because they have a provocative, opinionated point of view on what the world of financial services looks like and this whole, it’s only 1% truly transformed, 1% truly digital. And so, it can help qualify leads, but then it can also be… It’s much easier to reach out to someone and say, “Hey, here’s a white paper. Here’s a video. Here’s a podcast, I think, that would actually really bring new value if you just take 5, 10, 15 minutes to consume and use that as a first outreach,” versus, “Hey, can I get you on the phone to talk about a demo of a product.”

 

Katie Hankinson (33:30):

Absolutely. Content as a calling card, it works so well. I think as well when you do it right to the point you just made, you build a brand that then, because you ended up with business coming to you versus you having to be constantly in outreach mode. Not only that, I just love the fact that he got right to the point, which is so often on the marketing side of a business, it’s having to persuade your stakeholders and the finance people that going about this content creation thing is actually going to be a smart thing for the business. They’re looking for ROI positive actions in day one, but actually you can make these things a profit center. It’s fantastic that they’re actually ended up doing that because they did the leg work of building the brand, behaving like a media company, and then running valuable events that now are actually something they can monetize.

 

Mickey Cloud (34:22):

Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s pretty great to see the values that thesis has stood up for 11:FS, and just they’ve taken it to as extreme as they made a documentary about the financial services industry. It’s super cool to see to the degree that that content and media team has taken it.

 

Katie Hankinson (34:44):

Yeah. Mickey, we need to make a movie about being a consultancy media agency.

 

Mickey Cloud (34:50):

I know. For entrepreneurs and growth stage-

 

Katie Hankinson (34:54):

I want myself as pretty merman.

 

Mickey Cloud (34:54):

It can be your breakout moment.

 

Katie Hankinson (34:56):

That’s right. So, what’s are question for our beloved listeners?

 

Mickey Cloud (35:01):

Yeah. I would say maybe who’s your favorite B2B marketer out there right now?

 

Katie Hankinson (35:07):

Yeah, who’s doing a great, great job of content right now in the B2B space? I think a lot of people think business-to-business stands for business-to-boring, but obviously, it doesn’t need to be.

 

Mickey Cloud (35:20):

Thanks for joining us, gang, in for Building While Flying with The Sasha Group today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

 

Mickey Cloud (35:32):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us. Plus, we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on Building While Flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more.

 

Katie Hankinson (35:46):

Original music by Fulton Street Music Group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Eric Fulwiler is the Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at 11:FS, a leading global fintech consultancy in London.

As he says in his conversation with Mickey, “you can tell when a company is modern, and when it’s not.” Through their consulting work, Eric and his team at 11:FS help traditional financial service companies navigate the evolving fintech landscape and bring their businesses into the “truly digital” world. 

 

In this episode, Eric breaks down what it means for a company to be “truly” digital, compared to analog and digitized—and the importance of doing so. He and Mickey also discuss impactful content marketing in a B2B setting, and how it can be used to consistently deliver value to your customers and partners. Eric also shares some advice for growth-stage entrepreneurs, and says one of the best things a growth-stage entrepreneur can do is be hungry for change and be comfortable figuring things out as you grow.

Other in-flight topics:

  • Moving from analog to digital 
  • Digitized vs. Truly Digital 
  • Building the right team for your business and needs 
  • Effective content marketing for B2B
  • Building relationships through content marketing
  • The importance of people and culture

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