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Communiqué 34: Fincra’s media recipe is a centuries-old classic
Fincra is not a newspaper or magazine. It’s a payment infrastructure company. So, why does it need an editor-in-chief?
Steve Dede is Fincra’s editor-in-chief. Fincra is not a newspaper or magazine. It’s not a media company. It’s a payment infrastructure provider. Before joining the company, Dede had spent the last eleven years of his career as a journalist. What then is the rationale behind his hire? Why does a fintech company need an editor-in-chief? And what makes it possible to switch from journalism to content marketing?
To answer these questions, we need to take some steps back in time, first by a year, then by a few centuries.
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In July 2021, I published ‘Paystack’s media threat’, in which I talked about how the company was building its media strategy and analysed its potential impact on tech and business publishing on the continent. Admittedly, I wrote that essay from an outsider’s perspective and with a few assumptions about what Paystack’s plan was. The company’s media efforts haven’t, in fact, grown to rival TechCabal, Bloomberg, or any of the business publications we frequently engage with. But the quality of its thought leadership has deepened. It also launched two more shows: Tabs vs Spaces and Artwork. A few more startups have also picked up on this strategy and integrated it into their marketing efforts.
For example, since publishing the Paystack essay, three senior members of the Zikoko editorial team moved to tech startups, with two going on to head the content teams at Paystack and PiggyVest, and another occupying a senior editorial position at a crypto company. TechCabal’s former editor-in-chief left to start a company that, among other things, aggregates and develops writing and content marketing talent the way Andela does for engineering. Then Fincra, the subject of today’s newsletter, hired Dede from Pulse, one of Africa’s largest digital media companies.
What makes these career moves, where people migrate from traditional media, sometimes journalistic, roles into content marketing positions at tech startups, possible? In other words, what are the shifts that had to happen and the conditions that had to align for Dede to leave Pulse for Fincra?
Centuries in the making
Fifteen years before the turn of the twentieth century, in 1885, a plough-making company came up with an idea for a publication that educates farmers about their products and provides them with information about specific tools that could help them do better, more efficient work.
The publication, named “The Furrow”, dubbed itself “a journal for the American farmer”. By 1912, it peaked at roughly 4 million readers and has been in production for 137 years. The plough-making company, John Deere, has a market cap of over $110 billion.
A few years later, in 1900, a tire company founded by two French brothers created a publication to help travellers enjoy their trips better. It included maps, tips on how to take care of their vehicles, and recommended places to eat and rest. In 1923, the publication introduced a section featuring independent restaurant recommendations, and when that gained traction, it hired a group of people to find and review the best restaurants. This gave birth to what we now know as “Michelin Stars”, which has become a defining feature of the culinary industry. Michelin Guide is still published until this day.
Both “The Furrow” and “Michelin Guide” are fixtures in the history of content marketing, a strategy through which companies create content that establishes their authority, helps their customers make better decisions, and builds long-term relationships with their industry. John Deere helped farmers understand their equipment better without directly selling themselves and ensured theirs would be the brand they trusted the most. Michelin helped influence where people visited when they travelled and etched its name in the minds of vehicle owners.
The idea that companies can build channels that mirror the traditional media and use these platforms to better connect with an audience of potential customers has, as we can see, been around for centuries. Today, it has become much easier to pull off as the Internet has lowered the barriers to publishing and distributing content.
Here’s how Dede assesses this centuries-old evolution:
“In the past, as a journalist, there wasn’t much to worry about other than getting your story out. In those days, people had to buy newspapers, listen to the radio, or watch TV to get the news. Journalists didn’t have to struggle to get an audience -- that was a given. They just had to deliver stories.
“But digital media changed everything. Because now, your stories aren’t enough. Being a journalist today means you have to understand the digital content ecosystem. Pulse, Big Cabal Media, and any digital media company you can think of are competing with streaming platforms, social media, and different brands on the Internet trying to market. If I write a story as a journalist for the New York Times, someone has to decide not to spend time on Twitter and read my story. Someone has to decide not to watch Netflix, or go on Instagram, just to read my story. We are all marketing on the internet, and that’s how the media has evolved.”
For people like Dede who’ve worked in digital media companies, it’s the skills developed while seeking to understand not just how to write stories but also to find an audience that will engage with them, the ability that comes with treating every story like a product that must be packaged and marketed properly, that provides a pathway from journalism into content marketing, which, in reality, pays better. Particularly in Africa.
Still, content marketing is a means to an end. It has to feed into the organisation’s business objectives.
Fincra’s media strategy
As a payment infrastructure company, Fincra plays in the B2B arena, which requires a different marketing approach. With the more prevalent B2C, you’re talking directly to customers whose decision-making you hope to influence. With B2B, the dynamics are different, and communication channels are complex.
Jemima Adegoke, Fincra’s head of marketing, explains it this way in “The Growth Handbook: Scaling Fintech in Nigeria”:
“For B2C, the marketing focus is on quick solutions and enjoyable content because you speak to individuals. In contrast, B2B is more concerned with building relationships and providing a return on product investment for a business customer. [The decision-making process is also] much longer. It involves communication channels like the accounting department, procurement department, or the CEO. So, the sales cycle can be lengthy because of the time and levels of [approval] for the business customer to agree to use the product.”
Fincra employs a two-pronged media strategy to build the long-term relationships she mentioned. First, it embraces niche media advertising. If you’ve read Communiqué long enough, you’d have seen the Fincra sponsorship placement. The company also sponsors industry-specific newsletters and publications like BenjaminDada.com, Notadeepdive, TechCabal’s daily newsletter, Not The Boring Tech Stuff, Techpoint, and Technext, all of which speak directly to people within its target audience.
To consolidate, Fincra is also building an intent media strategy that addresses user pain points and anticipates the audience’s needs. It relies on search engine optimisation (SEO) to anticipate and answer customers’ questions about specific products or services. This is the same strategy that fuels $100-million companies like the Money Group, publishers of Money.com, ConsumersAdvocate.org, and Navchain. Taken to the extreme, it’s responsible for the barrage of mediocre content we must endure on the Internet. When done correctly, it’s a great way for brands to build lasting relationships with an audience.
The companies that employ this strategy seldom talk about themselves. Their focus is on creating content that is primarily helpful to the audience and almost indistinguishable from what you’d find in business media. They seek to build subject matter expertise and use that to gain affinity with an audience that appreciates the information and, by extension, the source. The view is that if the company does this well, they will retain sizable real estate in your mind, making you more likely to consider them when or if you need their product or service.
Wole Ayodele, Fincra’s CEO, thinks about it this way:
“It’s never easy to produce content that people are interested in. It will require some compromise. If you look at Fincra’s blog today, you’ll see us doing some industry analysis and even articles talking about people that could be considered competitors. If you look around our tech space in Nigeria, that’s not something you see very often, where on a company’s blog they’re referencing other companies and talking about things that might not have to do with the core business.”
He explains further:
“For example, a potential customer can say they read an article on Fincra’s blog on Tayo Oviosu’s masterclass on scaling a business out of your home country. That’s relevant content for any business owner or startup, whether in Africa or outside. So, when we create those kinds of content and people engage with them, we make a more lasting impression than when we just run an ad talking about a product because that’s what everybody is doing.”
My conversation with Dede ends with an allusion to Netflix’s hit docu-series, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”. He says:
“All my friends now watch Formula 1 because we hung out at someone’s house and we were watching “Drive to Survive”. We’d never watched an F1 race in our lives, but we now keep up with it. I know a couple of friends who got interested in basketball after watching “The Last Dance”. That’s the power of storytelling, and I’m a huge believer in it.”
I agree with him. If I weren’t already a football fan, watching the “All or Nothing” docu-series on Amazon Prime would whet my appetite for the sport and give me a different perspective. I can see how this plays out in content marketing.
Building top-of-mind awareness requires going the extra mile to embrace strategies and tactics that many other companies won’t. Startups like Fincra play in a market with already-established dominant players, a market where people already have default options and getting them to choose otherwise can be extremely difficult.
What the company is doing with its media strategy isn’t yet popular on the continent, just like Michelin and John Deere’s strategies weren’t popular then. However, history has proven that this almost always bears long-lasting results if done well.
Editor’s note: This is a Sponsored Deep Dive on Fincra. For full disclosure, here’s how we decide on and approach writing sponsored essays like this.
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