How to Kill It Before You're Killing It

As a startup, sometimes you need your customers and partners to think you're something more than you currently are. Kaleigh Simmons explains how she did it at Rippleshot.

Kaleigh Simmons was the marketing director at Rippleshot, a Chicago based fraud detection software company until mid-2017. Below is a transcript of her presentation at the January 27, 2017 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference, where she shared advice for gaining credibility and building a reputation from scratch.

How many of you have ever had credit or debit card fraud, or had your card stolen, or you saw transactions that aren't yours? That's not good, but it's good for us. What Rippleshot does, in a nutshell, is work with your bank and credit union to identify the moment when your card information was stolen. So if there was a skimmer on a gas pump, or on an ATM or if Target leaked yours and 54 million other people's information out to the world, Rippleshot is working with your financial institution to identify the point when that happened so that we can stop that fraudulent transaction before it occurs.

In order to do that work, we need data from your financial institution. And that's where my situation, if you will, begins. So, we're selling this fraud detection tool to your bank and credit union, and it requires them to hand over to us quite a bit a sensitive financial information.Your transaction information comes to Rippleshot so that we can identify when your card has been stolen.

Now, what was unfortunate about the time we launched this was that in 2013 and early 2014, fintech wasn't really a term that banks and credit unions loved. They weren't a big fan and saw it as competition. They didn’t really want to deal with us pesky disruptors in their industry. We really needed to rid that title because we weren't trying to replace banks and credit unions, we were trying to sell to them. So, we shed this disruptor title fast.

The problems were we had no money, basically no team and a website that looked disappointing. It wasn't the worst website I've ever seen but it wasn’t great, and if someone was forking over $50,000 to $500,000 to us along with all of their financial data, it probably didn't instill a whole lot of confidence, I would say.

So, what does somebody do that's already got a completely strapped team? Well, I fired the one resource we had, which was our content agency. And there's a reason that I did that, it’s not because all content agencies are bad inherently, some of them do really great work. Some of you may be from content agencies, in which case, I apologize, you're great.

But in our case, because we were selling fraud detection solutions, we really needed to sound like we knew what we were talking about. And, because we were selling to fraud managers in the industry, they really knew what they were talking about and our content agency couldn't really get deep enough to speak to them on the level that we needed.

1.  We moved all content production in-house

At the time that meant me, the one marketing associate we had, any interns we could get our hands on, sales folks, and our VP of Operations helping us to produce content. It was something I felt very strongly about and it was something that we prioritized. It always got done, we posted a blog post every single week. What really worked to our advantage was that we just so happened to be launching in a really dynamic payment time.

In late 2013, early 2014, the Target breach happened, which I'm guessing impacted probably half of this room. Shortly after that, the Home Depot breach happened. Then, shortly after that, EMV cards started coming out, those cards with the chip on it that most of you probably have. Then we had Apple Pay rolling to the scene, and Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. And Target last week announced they're doing Target Pay.

All of this stuff which was brand new to the landscape was starting to be really scary for our target audience, which is the small banks and credit unions. They didn't really know how to handle it, so we stepped in. We saw that as an opportunity to step in and say, let's educate you. We won't really push Rippleshot, but we are going to try and position ourselves as a resource to actually help you through this dynamic time.

2.  We ran a very fluid content calendar.

Most people have probably gotten up here and said, "Oh, get a content calendar, plan six weeks, three months out." We never did that. Every Monday I came into work and I asked, "What are the hot new stories that we can capitalize on, and what can we talk about?" A lot of times, that meant we didn't necessarily add brand new information to the conversation. It meant that we were compiling all the resources that were out there and using ourselves as a central point to collaborate and bring all of that information together.

3.  We launched a weekly newsletter

We posted five stories a week and it's still running. The top four stories are just ones from the industry that we feel like our audience should pay attention to and read. The last story we promote is our own.

4.  We hired a PR agency to help build our reputation

After about a year of doing this, I begged my boss to hire a PR agency to get us speaking spots around every time an incident happened, any time a data breach happened, every time Target happened, every time Home Depot happened, etc. I wanted them to get us on the phone so that we could comment on it and start to build our reputation.

So, the results. Organic traffic increased 1,100%, which was expected. What I didn't expect was that Rippleshot started to become a very trusted source above news sites for certain topics. To this day, if you search certain phrases around EMV and fraud we will be the number one result, above even MSNBC, which is bananas.

What that did for us over time was bring in somewhere around 700 leads, I think we're closer to 900 now. And it also got us an endorsement from the biggest industry association in the country if not the world, which is the American Banking Association. The ABA came to us and said, "Hey, we have identified you as a leader in the fraud detection space and we wanna look at endorsing your product."

The last thing and what's going to rope in this whole "made it look like we were killing it before we were" anecdote are a few comments. The VP of fraud products at FIS, a multi-billion dollar at minimum payments company that we are trying to strike a partnership with, told our salesperson John that he's "heard more about Rippleshot than any other vendor in the last six months."

They get approached probably every single day. Jeff Liesendahl, who’s the co-founder of Accertify, a fraud detection company which sold for something like $155 million, said that people ask him all the time about Rippleshot and that it sounds like we are a 100-person company: we were nine.