We want to empower users with the information they need to sit at the lending table and control their own financial destiny. It’s their data, and they should know what it means, how to use it and when to use it.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Kevin O’Brien.
After working as a global finance executive at international organizations Johnson & Johnson and myMatrixx Healthcare, Kevin decided to solve a problem he encountered in the lending industry. In 2018, he founded Affordit, a fintech startup that uses patented technologies to improve people’s financial wellness and provide financial institutions with an easy way to offer new products to customers. Kevin holds an MBA and Master of Science in Finance from the University of Tampa and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and International Business from the University of South Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
We picked the name Affordit before we realized that it had a previous owner! Luckily, we worked with them directly to fully own and operate under the name Affordit in relation to our current business. We learned to check and double-check before making decisions on catchy names!
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
When I went back to the banks that denied my loan and shared with them the Affordit Solution Based Outcome Report that helped improve my financial wellness, they all wanted to know if they could use it for their customers, both as a way to provide them with a new service and as a new selling opportunity that required no additional data entry. Before those meetings, I sensed I was on to something because it helped me but seeing the reactions from the industry-validated to me that I found something valuable. I told the banks I was working on patent protection and my initial business plan, and very soon we should talk about ways to work together with this new technology.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I would not have been able to grow Affordit to this point without the help of George McGourty. He was an early believer in my concept and has been 100% behind me ever since. He has made key introductions to financial institutions, and he has been a sounding board to answer company-related questions along the way. He is truly one of the most helpful individuals I have ever come across.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Right now, as the Founder and CEO of a fast-growing startup, I am a jack-of-all-trades so to speak. I play a leading and active role in all aspects of the business.
I think if there were one piece of advice I’d emphasize, it would be the focus on hiring smart and energetic people. We’ve hired 12 new team members over the last year, and if the hiring process is effective and thorough it will save you time and resources later.
I am fortunate to have a top-notch Chief Marketing Officer in Mike Teixeira. Having a skilled leader in this role allows me to shift focus to other areas because I trust the work his team is doing and know he regularly brings fresh ideas forward for consideration.
If today’s marketers focus on hiring good people, I think they’ll be better positioned to avoid the burnout that comes when one or two employees feel they have to do the jobs of other team members.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
Away from marketing for marketing’s sake. You are 100% right, people are more jaded. I would add that they’re even more sensitive to phony claims. They can feel when they’re being “pitched.” They can feel when you’re trying to “mine their data.” To gain trust, marketing needs a deeper purpose. For us, it’s about educating the applicant and making their debt information theirs.
What 5 things do you wish someone told you before you started?
- Experience isn’t cheap and saving money on experience ends up costly.
- “Financial people” are still just people.
- People are busy! If they don’t have a very good reason to give you feedback, then they won’t, and you definitely don’t want that very good reason to be negative. You have to work extremely hard to make sure their experience is much more amazing than the competition.
- Promotional items need to relay a belief, not a logo.
- Listen more than you speak! I have learned so much just by asking clients how their day is going.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Mike, my CMO, is a big Simon Sinek fan and often quotes his book Leaders Eat Last. I also am very inspired by watching what other fintech and lending companies are doing in the marketing space and shooting that over to Mike. We want to make sure we’re part of the conversation and ahead of the curve.
Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us!