I’m thrilled to have Oakam Chief Product and Marketing Officer Amber Skinner-Jozefson explain the marketing philosophy she is shaping at the UK-based microlender. Oakam uses technology to help financially neglected people access affordable credit. And the company has a truly diverse makeup: half its executive committee are minorities and a third are women. Amber steers marketing strategy, execution, and spend at Oakam.

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What marketing content is building Oakam’s brand and attracting customers?

Right now, we’re focused on building out two pillars in our content marketing strategy. Firstly, we’re producing more actionable (read, non-fluffy) content in the form of relevant information to enable customers to establish and reach their credit and money goals. Secondly, for thought leadership, we’re joining conversations Oakam has been involved in for many years, about financial inclusion, leadership diversity, fintech, microfinance, and the unbanked. And we’re doing it authentically and organically.

We’re fortunate to have customers who are happy to engage with us at high rates. We rely on a mixture of conventional content types and channels: blog articles, podcasts, social media, digital and programmatic ads, and email marketing, as well as weaving opportunity to drive down our funnel by pairing marketing and customer experience. 

Our focus now is to develop robust experimentation around honing the type of content users and prospects want, need, and expect — as well as their preferred method of consuming that content. Recently, this has resulted in some big gains for us on both the paid growth and acquisition side, as well as organic marketing. 

We scrutinise message and tone and ask our customers to tell us what they want to see more of. 

What is Oakam doing to make its marketing content more effective than competitors’?

A central part of Oakam’s ethos is meeting customers where they are in life. Key to this is treating all of our customers like responsible adults and with a high degree of empathy. This seems like a no-brainer but is, in fact, fairly unique.

This fuels our marketing, narrative, branding and communications. I mentioned earlier that we’re focusing on actionable, real-life, usable content that is relevant to our customers. We don’t put customers in a box based on their credit histories or current circumstances.

Part of treating our customers with respect is about crafting and delivering content that will help them move forward. For this reason, we scrutinise message and tone, and ask customers to participate in telling us what they want to see more of. Beyond engagement metrics, we ask outright in quick-but-frequent surveys and emphasise testing and experimentation. 

Go back to basics. If you’ve been in the game long enough, you know how to work with a bootstrapped marketing and comms budget.

What I commonly see is how fintechs today have gotten really slick and efficient at presenting value proposition. Whether it’s through animated video, customer testimonials or corporate positioning, the messaging and imagery has been simplified. This makes it impactful regardless of the audience. 

Has Oakam stopped producing certain content?

We’ve stopped TV advertising. What was once a successful channel for driving traffic (and applications) has now become a too broad for our current strategy. As we dive into widespread testing and two-way customer engagement, we’re favouring digital channels we’re able to track, tweak, and control to a finer degree. TV has been great for brand but doesn’t give meticulous enough data for us to prove sustained ROI. 

How has the pandemic affected your content marketing and how you measure it? 

COVID-19 forced us to get creative and take bigger risks. We’ve scaled back on marketing spend but have produced much more content, at greater scale, and faster than before. The pandemic has motivated us to get back to a mode I’m very comfortable with, which is constant test-and-learn. Test everything and iterate quickly.

We’ve pulled over product experimentation principles and incorporated them into marketing, whereby we develop a culture and structure in our marketing team that facilitates either the rejection or validation of hypotheses. The upshot is we’re constantly seeking to learn and measure more. 

This period in our history is testing our mettle – all of us. We, as marketers, need to keep this front of mind to ensure our messages aren’t tone-deaf.

What would you tell senior fintech marketers facing reduced budgets and resources? 

Go back to basics. If you’ve been in the marketing game long enough, you know how to work with a bootstrapped marketing or communications budget. Having less to spend forces you to more ruthlessly prioritise how to spend not-only-your-money but your time, and to be realistic about which activities will deliver actual ROI.

This can be a blessing in that you should come out of the COVID-19 situation with a better understanding of the parts of your marketing strategy and stack that are most valuable. Spend this time to scrutinise your objectives and then go out and prove — through testing and data analysis — how best to achieve your key results. 

What has Oakam learned about its audience’s interests this year?

Because we’ve spent this COVID-19 period driving two-way engagement with our customers, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about how they view themselves, what they see as their main challenges, how they’re being affected, and how they’re prioritising their expenses. This is absolutely golden for our content marketing strategy.

How can fintech lenders demonstrate responsible marketing at this time?

Let’s look out for each other right now. Whatever products or services we’re selling, we need to keep in mind that consumers are stressed – this is a stressful time. And when people are stressed, they make poor decisions.

We’re living through a pandemic and the economic fallout that has accompanied — and will outlive — this virus. Not only that, across the world we ‘re seeing large-scale protests against systemic racism. What does this mean for brands? This period in our history is testing our mettle — all of us. We, as marketers, need to keep this front of mind to ensure our messages aren’t tone-deaf, that they’re relevant to the world we’re living in, and that they acknowledge what the consumer is experiencing day-to-day. 

This is an opportunity to reveal and demonstrate humanity in the brands we represent.