FintechTO Roundup: Swapping Unicorns for Cockroaches and Being Happy About It

While listening to Vahid Mirjalili, co-founder and COO of Owl speak at yesterday’s FintechTO event, I thought, “It would’ve been way easier to sell software to, like, Alexander the Great or Napoleon.” 

A little context’s required. 

Hello? Hi? ‘Scuse Me? Do You Have Any Power? Finding the Decision Maker in a Corporate Maze

Mirjalili, who runs a KYC company, was speaking to the audience of tech enthusiasts, founders, and entrepreneurs about the importance of knowing your customer. Not for AML purposes, but for sales purposes. People familiar with buyer personas or account-based marketing (ABM) tactics understand the benefits of identifying the right person.

But what if you’re selling to enterprises?

Anyone who’s tried to get anything done within a corporate environment can speak to the agonizing experiencing of finding the real decision-maker, so good luck to the outsiders trying to sell to them. Mirjalili, who correctly calculated that addressing “KYC” from a sales perspective rather than a compliance perspective would land better, provided guidance for navigating a corporate maze.

According to Mirjalili, it’s about identifying the sponsor and then building a relationship with your champion.

How do you know who the sponsor is?

It’s not an easy task given the various stakeholders, the overlapping remits, and the overall inaccessibility of people who actually hold any power. Mirjalili says you can tell you’ve got the right person if they’re solving a problem big enough to require an external vendor (small improvements are usually tackled internally).

Another good sign they’re the sponsor? They have exactly zero time to speak to you. 

Cue the champion. 

The champion is someone trusted by the sponsor, who has access to them, and who has likely been tasked with sourcing solutions. The champion’s job is defined by talking to all kinds of problem-solvers and presenting the most compelling answer. 

Once a company understands this, they can spend less time chasing the “un-chase-able” and more time building a relationship with the power behind the throne. 

Which brings us back to Alexander the Great and Napoleon. I don’t know what need Macedon or the French Empire would’ve had for a cloud-based expense tracker or e-commerce platform. But if they did need one, there’s nothing like a big shiny throne to tell you who calls the shots, vague org charts be damned.

And if I wanted to get to Alexander the Great or Napoleon, you better believe I would’ve made a few BD calls to my champions, Olympia and Talleyrand. 

“You’re Asking a Former Uber Guy About Profitability”: Properly Walks The Walk on Authenticity

Earlier in the night, co-founder and COO of Properly, Sheldon McCormick, talked about building trust with your customers. When you occupy a field characterized by commissions and closing cost horror stories, it’s hard to get people to warm up to you.

Properly understands this firsthand. To prove this, McCormick shared negative comments the company received on Facebook. When asked how Properly would build trust with its customers, McCormick referenced the company’s “starts from within” approach. They hire employees who value customers, conduct all-hands meetings where customer needs are discussed, and everyone within the company talks to customers regularly. 

Perhaps the best moment of the talk was when an audience member asked about Properly’s future prospects, citing the struggles of a similar company. While McCormick had an optimistic answer, he prefaced it with my favourite line of the night. I’ll have to wait for the video for the actual quote, but it was something along the lines of “First off, you’re asking a former Uber guy about profitability”.

Keeping it real is definitely one way to build trust.  

Kudos To Whoever Came Up With The Name: Knowtions Talks Innovation Battle Scars

Christina Cai, co-founder and COO of Knowtions, spent her chat talking about the battle scars of running innovation projects for large enterprises. 

Her big takeaways?

Understand who your stakeholders are, whose P&L you belong to, whose KPIs you affect, and where you can present the most value. 

If you don’t know whose P&L you affect, you’ll encounter resistance and struggle to find the source of it.

If you don’t know whose KPIs you affect, you’ll be talking to people with little incentive to listen.

Finally, Cai recommends understanding where you can make the most impact. When you’re energetic and innovative, it’s easy to fall for your own press. In the process, entrepreneurs forget that many enterprises have been chugging along with existing processes for quite some time. The key to making an impact is finding that 5 percent of the company where you can provide 10x value. 

From Unicorns to Cockroaches: Disrupting Buzzwords During a Fireside Chat with Wave’s Kirk Simpson

Wave co-founder and CEO, Kirk Simpson, joined TechTO co-founder Alex Norman for a fireside chat. Wave’s recent acquisition by H&R Block presented ample opportunity for reflection. Running a startup included both highs and lows, and by lows we don’t just mean having a difficult week. Simpson discussed laying off employees, being weeks away from insolvency, and even questioning the company’s product at one point.

While he definitely thinks there’s a fine line between “never giving up” and “putting a second mortgage on your house”, Simpson encouraged entrepreneurs to focus on surviving another day, another week, another month when the going gets tough. In his case, sticking it out led to a successful $537 million exit

This “I refuse to die” attitude prompted Norman to compare Simpson and his company to cockroaches, marking perhaps the only time in history the word “cockroach” has been used as a compliment.

Norman was unfazed. As he put it, unicorns can die, but cockroaches stay kicking through it all.

Fair enough. Fair. Enough.

Featured image via Unsplash

 

5 Things To Clarify Up Front With Your Freelance Content Writer on Upwork

Want to vibe with your freelancer as quickly as possible? You’ll need to practice good communication and ask the right questions up front.

  • What do you charge and what’s included in this cost?
  • How do you define credited and ghostwritten terms?
  • How do you manage revisions?
  • What do you need from me in order to complete this job?
  • What’s your preferred communication channel?

What do you charge and what’s included in this cost?

Pricing models vary, but freelance content writers typically use one of the following:

  • Fixed article rate
  • Fixed word rate
  • Hourly rate

Nothing strains a relationship faster than misunderstandings about money. Discuss the nitty gritty up front and get it out of the way, so you can get to work. An experienced freelancer won’t have any qualms discussing rates, and in most cases, they’ll initiate the conversation themselves. 

Here are additional questions to ask based on each pricing model. 

Fixed Article Rate

  • What’s the minimum and maximum number of words this article will include?
  • Does this rate include stock photos, captions, and a meta description?
  • How many free rounds of revisions do I get?
  • Is this article rate on credited or ghostwritten terms?

Fixed Word Rate

  • Is this fixed word rate based on the final word count at the first draft stage or at the final draft stage (after revisions are made)?
  • How many free rounds of revisions do I get?
  • Is this article rate on credited or ghostwritten terms?

Hourly Rate

  • What’s the maximum number of hours this article should take?
  • Will you alert me if you think you will surpass a certain number of hours?
  • Do I get a free round of revisions?
  • If I don’t get a free round of revisions, are revisions charged at the same hourly rate or at a different editing rate?
  • Is this per hour rate on credited or ghostwritten terms?

How do you define credited and ghostwritten terms?

When you’re sourcing thought leadership articles for your exec team, those pieces will be published under their name. It’s awkward if that same piece pops up in your freelancer’s online portfolio.

In scenarios like this, it’s important to be clear about how this work will be treated after publication. 

In most cases, writers give up ownership of the work but they retain the writer credit, and rightfully so. This means that while the client can post the article across various platforms like the company blog, Medium, or LinkedIn Pulse, the freelance writer can include it on their online portfolio. 

For my own clients, I use the following distinction. You can use this as a starting point when clarifying the terms with your freelancer. It’s common for freelance content writers to charge double the standard rate for ghostwritten material. This is compensation for the fact that they can’t use it to win future work.

Credited Ghostwritten
  • Under the freelancer’s name or under a general name like “Blog” or the company’s name but not an individual employee’s name
  • The freelancer includes this project in their online portfolio
  • If published under the company’s name (not an individual employee’s name) the client agrees to confirm that the freelancer wrote the piece, if required
  • Under an individual employee’s name or a general name like “Blog” or the company’s name
  • The freelancer does not include this project in their online portfolio
  • The freelancer does not reference this project as a sample of their work in offline discussions with prospects
  • The client is not expected to provide a testimonial or confirmation that the freelancer wrote the piece (unless they wish to)

How do you manage revisions?

Every content relationships has a “get to know each other” phase. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with a top-notch writer. They’ll need time to understand your business and style. 

Ask your freelancer what their revision rules are. 

  • How many free rounds of revisions do you offer?
  • Do you offer extra free rounds for the first couple of projects?
  • Is there a deadline on when revisions must be received in order to qualify for the free round? 
  • Can you work collaboratively  in Google Docs, or do you only work through MS Word attachments and tracked documents?

It’s also important to think about your revision needs. Will an internal subject matter expert review more technical posts? This impacts your timeline and relationship with your freelancer.

The thing is: Most freelance content writers understand that multiple eyes might look at the piece, and they welcome this. An accurate piece means a happy client and feedback  to apply to future projects. But it’s important to remember that your freelance writer is not an employee.

With a direct report, it’s acceptable to circle back a month later and ask for revisions. Doing so with a freelancer, even with a free round of revisions, will likely incur additional charges.

Discuss the revision process at the outset of the project and document this in your Summary of Requirements.

What do you need from me in order to complete this job?

Successful marketing directors understand that good direction equals great deliverables. A freelance content writer is a writer. Their skill set is bringing together information to tell a compelling story. They’re not a consultant in your field, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to have in-depth knowledge of your company and industry. 

A great marketing leader provides his or her freelancer with:

  • A content brief outlining the project’s specifications
  • Temporary credentials to any academic content subscriptions 
  • Collateral detailing the company’s products and services

Content Brief

Even if you find a content writer who specializes in your niche, they don’t automatically know your business, its unique value proposition, or its competitors. Provide them with a detailed content brief that outlines the project requirements including the piece’s tone, audience, and objective. 

Temporary Credentials to Academic Content Subscription

If your piece requires academic content, consider sharing temporary credentials with your freelancer. Google Scholar is a treasure trove of content waiting to be converted into layman’s terms. If you’ve got a writer with the chops to tackle dense articles, give them the tools they need. They certainly won’t pay for this on their own. A single article can cost upwards of $50!

Company Collateral on Products and Services

Provide clear information on your products and services. No one’s saying you’ve got to shoot over an internal deck detailing how the sausage gets made, but if you want decent content, your writer will need something more than a few lines of vague text about your “proprietary algorithm”. 

And look – if they don’t need to get into the thick of things with your product (perhaps this is just a lead nurturing white paper on the industry itself) let them know! This way they won’t take time to parse your landing page copy. 

What’s your preferred communication channel?

Some freelancers prefer to communicate exclusively through Upwork while others are fine with email. Just be sure not to offer payment off the platform unless you’ve met the platform’s conditions. Sure, you may get away with it for a while, but you risk getting both yourself and your freelancer kicked off the site. In fact, your freelancer may report you themselves.

In any case, if you use email, be sure to re-send key communications related to the project deliverable and revisions through Upwork. Hopefully, everything’s smooth sailing, but if there are any disputes, it’s important to have a record.

Clear Communication Leads to A Productive Client-Freelancer Working Relationship

Clear communication is as much about retaining great freelancers as it is about steering clear of poor ones. In demand freelancers have the luxury of avoiding bad clients. In other words, they’re interviewing you, too. Great content writers gauge whether a specific client is worth their time. If you seem disorganized, uncertain of what you want, or sketchy, they’ll make a polite excuse and move on to the next project. By asking the right questions upfront, you can build a strong relationship with a great freelancer and amp up your marketing efforts with fabulous content. 

Need a freelancer who asks the right questions, adopts your brand voice, and whips up the articles and e-books your business needs? Let’s chat

Featured image via Pexels