Marketers have a key role to play in finding the right investors for startups and scaleups, but the hard work doesn’t stop after the money’s been banked
Elodie Ferchaud has been with Boundless Life for little more than three months, but she has gained a wealth of fundraising experience in that time. When she joined the Montreal-based startup to become its most senior marketer, it had recently obtained £1.75m in seed funding. The company has since embarked on a series-A round.
Ferchaud is head of demand generation at the firm, which specialises in providing medium-term accommodation, co-working space and education services for digital nomads with children in tow. The Frenchwoman has worked in several countries herself, including Switzerland, Sweden and Japan during a nine-year stint with Procter & Gamble. Today she is based in the historic Portuguese town of Sintra, where Boundless Life is developing a community for travelling families.
“Marketing is a lot about defining what we’re selling and the customer requirements we’re answering, so careful attention has been paid to building our product and telling our story,” Ferchaud says. “There are many steps in a fundraising campaign that are close to what marketing does daily. In this case, it’s about helping the founders to determine who the right investors are – those that believe in our product and will help us on the way – as well as personalising our outreach and tracking those efforts.”
Boundless Life has yet to close its series-A round, but it is already planning a crowdfunding campaign on the Republic platform. It hopes to attract relatively small investments from keen nomads who can serve as brand ambassadors.
“We believe that we’ll find many active supporters through crowdfunding,” Ferchaud says. “This will raise money while also spreading awareness of our product, which is fundamental. It will be a great way to find more like-minded families.”
The attribution equation
While this approach sounds like it should be an easy win, Ferchaud knows that the hard work is far from over. Two tasks in particular – building an attribution model to track the success of customer-acquisition activities and building a highly tech-savvy team to detect and exploit new opportunities – have been keeping her both busy and accountable.
“Developing the right attribution model is critical,” she says. “This is about making assumptions as to where your growth will come from, which is what you present to investors. The model will help you to identify the best levers for growth, so that you can move away from any that aren’t working and double down on those that are.”
Indeed, building an attribution model is where much of the heavy lifting in marketing occurs after an investment round. That’s especially true in Boundless Life’s case, because a customer’s typical journey from learning about the firm’s offering to making a purchasing decision is lengthy.
“People do need time to get acquainted with our product and trust it. It’s also not that easy for them to understand each step along the way. That’s why building an attribution model is complex in this context,” Ferchaud says. “But the pressure to deliver on the targets that have been set is heavy.”
Marius Nedelcu, chief marketing officer at TransferGo, agrees that the marketing function is the first to feel the weight of expectation after a big injection of capital. He joined the money-transfer platform in July 2016, just after the London-based firm had announced a £3m series-A funding round. He’s since helped the business through two further rounds totalling £62m.
“Marketing can work faster than other departments, so that’s why it always gets the pressure first,” Nedelcu observes. “The product team, for instance, will take time to use the money, so everyone turns to marketing and says: ‘Can you show some growth?’ Straight away, I had to prepare a plan and spend my budget to bring in customers.”
A year on from TransferGo’s most recent fundraising round, the task of keeping promises to investors has defined how the marketing team works. It’s become highly data-driven – something of a departure for Nedelcu, who previously focused on brand-building in the health and fitness sector.
He admits that the volume of data his team had to process initially felt overwhelming, but he has since become a convert, having learnt a lot from the insights he’s gained from the process. Big TV campaigns, for instance, are not a priority, as TransferGo has found that these are relatively inefficient ways for it to reach potential customers.
“You have to show that you’re spending wisely and not just bringing in traffic that doesn’t convert into anything,” Nedelcu stresses. “Our focus for the past two years has been on ensuring that the people we bring to our door are potential customers: migrants who need to transfer money internationally.”
A broader base
Team-building is another area in which Nedelcu and Ferchaud have had similar experiences. Both have felt the pressure to strengthen their departments after a big investment, but Ferchaud would advise marketers in a similar position not to be hasty when recruiting.
“There is pressure, but everyone who’s hired fast also learns the hard way that, if your gut tells you that a candidate might not be right, it’s worth pushing back against it,” she argues. “If you make a mistake here, it could have an impact on everyone in the organisation and hinder the firm’s growth.”
Nedelcu also recommends that senior marketers brush up on their leadership skills so that they can keep their teams motivated even if the business hits a rough patch.
“Otherwise, they will crack under pressure,” he warns. “But, if you’re a great leader, they’ll follow you and bring their best to the table even during challenging times. That’s what I am working on daily.”