Rochelle Gorey is CEO and Co-Founder of SpringFour, a Chicago-based fintech startup with a focus on social impact that works within the financial services industry to help connect customers and borrowers to resources that provide financial assistance.
Read on for a transcript of her presentation from our April 16, 2019 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference, where she explains how SpringFour turned its customers into an active and impactful sales force.
As Josh mentioned, I'm the CEO and co-founder of SpringFour.
Just to give you a little insight into who I am and why I'm doing the work that I'm doing, I've spent my entire career working in affordable housing and community reinvestment, building partnerships between nonprofits and financial institutions.
I also worked as a community organizer, and I grew up in a low income household. I know and understand how important it can be to be able to connect to outside resources – community resources – that can help you when times are tight.
A little bit about SpringFour: we are a social impact fintech company. We are a Certified B organization. There are about 2,200 companies worldwide that have received the Certified B designation.
It means that we adhere to higher social and environmental standards for our company. And we're super proud of that designation because it says to our customers and to the world that social impact is part of our mission.
What we do at SpringFour is we work primarily in the financial services industry to connect their customers and their borrower to on-the-ground, nonprofit, and government resources that help address financial help.
We make referrals in over 30 different categories: anything from help with employment resources to if a borrower finds themselves out of work or underemployed. We help connect to utility assistance payment programs, financial counseling, and child care resources. And we help people reduce the amount of money they're spending on health care.
If you think about a person’s household budget and all of the things that go into it, we're trying to reduce their household expenses and increase their cash flow, so they have the opportunity to get caught up on their bills, pay, and save again.
We offer our resources in 360 cities across the country and growing, and as I mentioned, in 30 different spending categories. And I'm super proud to say that major financial institutions, both large and small, use our products every day: US Bank, BMO Harris, and we just started working with PNC.
And when they're able to do that, people get back on track with their repayments. Our bank customers save millions in servicing costs. It's better for their brand and it's a true win-win for everyone involved.
I'm here today to tell you how we have turned our customers into our secret sales force. I think something that we've done really well because we don't have a large marketing budget.
We don't have a large marketing team. We rely on our current customers to help introduce us to other organizations that can benefit from the SpringFour services.
A couple of years ago we landed US Bank as our customer. This was really big for our company. Everybody knows US Bank. They have a huge loan portfolio. They're well-regarded as a good financial institution.
The reason we landed US Bank as our customer was because our contact there came from another institution who had been using SpringFour. He knew the value that it brought to his organization. He knew the value that it brought to him as a leader.
When he got to US Bank, he gave us a call and said, "Hey, I'm at US Bank. I want to bring SpringFour in here," which was super exciting for us. He knew the product. He knew the value that it was bringing.
Once we started working with US Bank, we knew that this was a huge opportunity for our company. So, we worked with our person there to measure the impact, show the results throughout his company, and then spread the word within the industry about the impact that they were having due to SpringFour.
He was willing to share the results, which was super key. It's interesting. In the area that we work in, in the past we found that clients don't really like to talk about the work that they're doing, even though it's super good.
We typically interface a lot with collections and loss mitigation or loan servicing, so I think they're not used to doing good in the work that they're doing. It's taken some education and some influence on our part to get them to be willing to share their results.
This all culminated in our partnership with US Bank being recognized in 2017 through the BAI Global Innovation Award. It was super exciting. We were on the stage with brands from all over the globe.
While we didn't win the award, it didn't matter. We were nominated. We were a finalist. We got a lot of attention for that and that helped put our company on the map for other financial institutions that could benefit from our product.
1. Be authentic / make it personal
How exactly did we do this? I tried to outline the steps that I think really made us successful in this, and I think the first thing is, is that to be authentic and to make it personal.
We really got to know Scott at US Bank who, again, was very instrumental in the growth of our company.
2. Ask for what you need
And secondly, ask for what you need. I think it took me way too long to understand this and to do it, but I think if you're developing and cultivating these relationships you can be transparent, you can be honest, and you can say what you mean.
We're a small company partnering with a major organization like US Bank. We needed to let them know, "This is what we need. We need you to measure results. We need you to share them. We need you to talk about what you're seeing as a result of SpringFour."
Because getting your clients to talk about it is so much more impactful than me as a vendor talking about it.
3. Vendor vs. partner
Although, number three, perfect segue, vendor versus partner. I hate the term vendor, and I think that really comes from my background, always working to create partnerships between nonprofits and banks.
I do not see our company as being a vendor. Yes, we are a vendor – we have to go through vendor compliance and procurement – but we always want to be the partner. We're always going above and beyond for our clients to really show them that we're in this as a partner. And we're going to help you be successful.
4. Document your success/impact (case studies)
The next step was to be able to document the success and the impact that we were having. We were able to work with US Bank to do a case study, and it was really the first time we did a case study.
And we still, to this day – it's a couple of years old now – but we use that case study over and over again. We use it in conversations. We send it off to any of our prospects – prospects ask us for case studies, so it’s been very influential in our growth.
5. Help your customer be a hero
And then, help our customer be a hero. This goes back to what I was talking about a little bit earlier – collections and loss mitigation. There are not a lot of positive stories coming out of loan servicing and collections.
We wanted to be part of helping that bank – that individual, the SVP of collections in loss mitigation – be a hero. And going after some awards along with our clients helps them be a hero. It's helped be a differentiator for them within the institution, but then, also, for the bank itself.
6. Showcase your differentiators
We also really work hard to show the SpringFour differentiator. I think that our clients appreciate and are excited by what SpringFour brings to them. So, they like the fact that we're a Certified B social impact vendor. We do things differently.
We have a little bit of competition. One of our differentiators is our data team. I mentioned that we have over 12,000 resources spread across 360 cities in the US. How do we do that? Well, we actually employ a professional data team.
Everyone on our data team has a background in community development and nonprofits, and we're not scraping the Internet for these resources.
We are doing the legwork, the footwork. We are interviewing the organizations. Only non-profit and government resources are listed in the SpringFour platform. And so, we're assessing them on: quality, the impact that they're able to create, reputation, do they have the funding, and their capacity to assist.
When you're working with banks, they're very reputation-minded. They're making referrals; they're using our data and our platform to do so. They have to be certain that who we're referring their clients to is the top notch, the best of the best.
We are able to do that through the use of our professional data team, and then we've built a proprietary data integrity portal and process that allows us to do that.
Another way that we've been able to differentiate ourselves is that we are a fintech company. I think that primarily or historically, fintechs have been known as wanting to displace the banks, to take over, to do what the banks are doing and do it better.
But from day one, we always sought to be a partner with the banks, to bring a value add to their offerings and to help them do their jobs better. Our clients really respond to that.
Where are we today? As a result of all of these things, we've really been able to cultivate and craft strong testimonials from major players within the financial institution, and these have been super helpful.
I think every single time we talk with a new client or do a demo, they ask, "What other banks are you working with? Who can we talk to? What are they saying about you?" You can't put money on that. It's super helpful for us.
The white papers or case studies, we have a few of those now. They've been extremely helpful, not only in just showing that we are capable of working with these large brands. Our white papers or case studies show that when a banks employs SpringFour, we're able to increase their repayment rate, increase their borrowers' participation, and loan modifications or foreclosure workout plans.
When we do this, the bank saves millions in servicing costs. So, it's helping the customer, but it's also helping the bank save a lot of money. And, of course, they're very interested in that.
And not only that, but we've been able to survey and get at that when a bank uses SpringFour their customers feel better about their brand.
We've seen NPS scores double as a result of SpringFour. We're using those studies to get that information out there. And because we've been busy cultivating these relationships with our bank partners, they have in essence become our sales force.
As I said, we have a very grassroots marketing approach, so we're relying on our bank partners to help introduce us to our next bank partner. It's a pretty peer-oriented, tight crowd, and they will introduce us to our potential new clients.
In fact, I just got back last week from the LendIt Conference in San Francisco. I was there along with BMO Harris, who is one of our partners. They were introducing us to everyone and talking about us on their panel. That is so much more helpful than me trying to do that on my own.
Since all of this has happened, we've really grown. We have brought on additional bank partners. Our pipeline right now is super strong with a lot of additional Top 10 banks.
I think, by the end of the year, we're going to close several more. That might seem small for those of you who are in the consumer space, but we're B2B and banks are so slow. Signing four banks in one year is amazing.
And then, we have repeat customers. We have a very high customer retention rate. Our product is sort of sticky. And then, when [customers] get it, they're not going to stop using SpringFour. They're saving money, they're helping their customers, and they're improving their brand.
Since we added US Bank, our revenue has doubled. That's always a good thing. I do want to also mention, doubling your revenue is super nice, but we're able to scale and create a large impact because as we bring on these big clients. They have huge portfolios of consumers across the country.
Half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. When we add a big bank, like PNC or US Bank, the ability for us to impact people's financial lives all across the country is huge. We're super excited that every time we grow and add a new client, we're helping more people. Thank you.