PR activities, if they are carried out consistently, can greatly help in the development of the enterprise, such as a financial service company. However, two conditions have to be met: the creators of the company want to be its faces, and the product itself fulfills the promise given to customers. Both conditions are met by SMEO S.A., a factoring company.
SMEO is a fintech offering online factoring services for micro, small and medium enterprises. It provides quick access to working capital by immediate financing of clients’ income invoices. It makes it easier for entrepreneurs to manage their companies’ financial liquidity.
The company has been founded in 2017 by a team of experienced managers from banking and factoring industries: Agnieszka Gołębiewska, Monika Woźniak and Michał Pawlik.
Since November 2017, Profeina PR agency cooperated with SMEO in several areas:
- communication strategy,
- media relations,
- public relations,
- social media,
- SEO PR and content marketing.
From this text you will learn:
- how to create a strategy for a new fintech entity on the example of SMEO
- how to verify initial assumptions and optimize operations
- how to educate the market about a new or little-known financial service
- how to develop an expert image of company representatives in the media and business environment
- how to use Linkedin to strengthen the brand image
- how to effectively run content marketing activities
1. Communication strategy. Diagnosing and understanding the market needs
SMEO started cooperation with Profeina before the official launch of their service.
Communication goals given to the agency by SMEO:
- Building initial brand recognition among potential clients and business partners;
- Creating brand credibility in the eyes of potential customers;
- Sales support through market education – increasing awareness of the factoring service;
- Sales support by communicating SMEO market advantages;
- Building favorable business environment and a network of partnerships.
We started our cooperation by conducting joint workshops and developing a communication strategy.
Before the workshops, we have prepared an analysis of competitive entities from Poland and abroad: the language of benefits used, the way they run their owned media channels, the process of acquiring and onboarding new clients, presence in the media.
After the workshops, we developed a strategy that included, among others:
- Precise target groups and personas focusing on end clients who could use the service, as well as on the business environment;
- verified touchpoints, i.e. the place where the audience meets the brand;
- main business problems of prospective clients that SMEO can solve;
- recommended language of benefits;
- defined key messages, including:
- about the brand: SMEO helps small and medium-sized enterprises – SMEO as an SME business partner,
- about the price: I always know how much factoring from SMEO costs,
- about customer service: SMEO is always available. SMEO are people and experts. They answer all my questions, thanks to them I understand my finances better.
2. Verification of assumptions and optimization of activities
During our work we regularly verify the assumptions and practical recommendations detailed in the communication strategy, observing whether we manage to reach customers effectively. However, the strategic basis we defined during the workshop remained unchanged throughout the entire period of cooperation.
During the two-year cooperation, we optimized operations on an ongoing basis.
In the first year of cooperation, we emphasized cooperation with the media – both free and paid – to educate the market and authenticate the brand itself.
In the second year of cooperation, we focused on content activities – blog development, industry landing pages and newsletter.
3. Market education and building trust in the brand
The names of the creators of the new company and their banking careers gave the new brand the necessary credibility at the start. At the beginning we arranged an interview with the president of SMEO, Michał Pawlik, with Puls Biznesu, among other titles.
From the beginning, we positioned SMEO as a modern fintech, which is a solution to the problems of small entrepreneurs, but also their business partner.
Therefore, SMEO experts systematically analyzed regulations affecting SMEs. We commented on, among others government proposals that affected entrepreneurs – “Zielona Księga Zatorów Płatniczych (Green Books of Payment Gridlocks)” , split payment or “entrepreneur test“, which attracted the media outlets such as Puls Biznesu, Spider’s Web and Interia.
Due to the fact that the factoring service is known to a narrow circle of entrepreneurs, we have consistently conducted educational communication – be it explaining the way factoring works (Dziennik Polski, Dziennik Bałtycki) or the differences between factoring and e.g. invoice loans (Puls Biznesu, Gazeta Finansowa).
We were constantly reporting on the achievements and successes of young Polish fintech.
- We discussed the brand representatives’ trip to the prestigious Hannover Messe and contacts made thanks to this trip.
- As the only participant in the meeting of startups with the President of the Republic of Poland “Startups in the Palace” we talked about its course from the perspective of a young startup company. Thanks to SMEO’s report from the meeting with the president, the media learned about a government sandbox for startups for the first time – see Polska The Times.
Other educational activities
In addition to media activities around the report, our educational activities were also conducted at the borders of owned media – i.e. in channels belonging to SMEO and paid media channels – i.e. in channels where attendance had to be paid for.
As part of paid activities, cycles of texts about SMEO and the factoring service itself appeared, among others in:
- Gazeta Wyborcza and Wyborcza.biz website,
- NaTemat and InnPoland,
- local dailies and websites belonging to the Polska Press Group (Dziennik Bałtycki, Głos Wielkopolski, Dziennik Polski or Gazeta Wrocławska), with whom we have established a cooperation lasting several months and including the educational cycle for small and young enterprises.
“Financial security of small businesses in Poland” Report
We undertook extensive media relations activities after creating SMEO’s own report titled “Financial security of small businesses in Poland”.
We have actively participated in the creation of the research report – from outlining its subject matter, through the preparation of a questionnaire in cooperation with a research agency, to the submission of research theses, development of results and designing a research report conducted on half thousand small and medium entrepreneurs.
Based on this material, we have compiled seven press releases – three before the official premiere of the report and four after its publication.
In this way, by carefully dosing information, we have made the media interested in seeing into the entire report. The result was finally 236 publications based on data from the report, with an estimated total reach of over 2.7 million people.
The message about the situation of micro-enterprises in individual voivodships was distributed to local radio stations, where we tried to arrange interviews with the CEO of SMEO, Michał Pawlik. Our efforts resulted in interviews, among others, in Radio Parada in Łódź, Radio Nakło and Radio Afera in Poland.
We have also reached large national radio stations, where we discussed the results of the study. Michał Pawlik talked about the situation of small and medium-sized companies in Poland with Aleksandra Dziadykiewicz in TOK FM, Olga Kozierowska in Chili Zet, Arkadiusz Ekiert in Trójka and Krzysztof Berenda in RMF FM.
SMEO in the media – summary
From the beginning of 2018 to the end of September 2019, information about SMEO appeared in 1122 publications in the media reaching almost 15 million people (IMM data). For those interested, we can also say that the total advertising equivalent (AVE) was PLN 8,221,902.
4. Personal branding – expert positioning
To strengthen trust in the brand and build its recognition, we have consistently built brand visibility through expert statements of company representatives – especially the president of SMEO Michał Pawlik – on topics of interest to the target group.
Our experts have:
- provided advice for entrepreneurs – how to plan a company budget, how to verify a business partner;
- explained complicated terms and issues – while not avoiding presenting alternatives to factoring;
- commented on high-profile topics – split payment, increase in the minimum wage, increase in social insurance contributions made to ZUS.
The agency’s operation was exceptionally simplified by … the natural predispositions and experience of the CEO of SMEO. Michał Pawlik is a charismatic leader and a well-known figure in the financial industry. These skills meant that he naturally became the “face” of the company.
The PR agency’s task was to skillfully connect his person with the communication conducted for the brand.
After identifying thematic areas in which it is worth for the expert to speak, we took care of the constant, regular visibility of Michał Pawlik in the media by:
- quotes in press releases and articles,
- statements in own reports,
- short comments on the market situation of SMEs,
- participation in industry publications and studies (e.g. Vivus report “Millennials in the world of finance”).
Photo: Michał Pawlik during an interview for InnPoland
Presence at conferences and events
Within two years, Michał Pawlik appeared at over 20 industry conferences.
Initially, SMEO was a commercial partner of several events. With time – thanks to the growing recognition of both Michał Pawlik and the brand itself – the CEO of SMEO was invited individually to the events as an expert or jury member.
Among the conferences attended by the president of SMEO, it is worth mentioning:
- Business Insider Trends (2018)speech topic: Digital Disruption in the Finance Space: GAFA and BAT, the real threat
- CEE X-Tech Awards (2019)Member of the Jury
- FinTech & InsurTech Digital Congress, (2019, 2018, 2017)
- European Congress of Small and Medium Enterprises (2019)participation in the panel: Acquiring funds for business development
- FinAdTech (2019) speech topic: The rise of fintech, the evolution of banks and changes in the microfinance market. Trends and reviews from global to local
- ABSL Summit (2019) speech topic: How fintech will change the financial industry (this is actually a discussion)
- BlockchainTech Congress (2018)
- X International Congress of Factoring (2019)panel moderation: New technologies in finance – time for factoring
- FinTech fair (2019, 2018)
As part of educational activities, we supported SMEO in the Future Makers Challenge project – an acceleration program for high school and university students. As part of the program, in which mentors were SMEO experts, millennials sought creative solutions for PZU, AccorHotels and SMEO.
5. Building image on Linkedin
Even before the SMEO service was launched – from December 2017, we operated on LinkedIn platform.
In accordance with the adopted strategy, we published both expert materials, as well as interesting information for the community present on Linkedin – mainly representatives of companies from the world of finance and technology.
On average, we publish 6-8 posts per month – not only including copy, but also infographics or short videos – reaching a total number of views of approx. 12 thousand per month (August 2019).
Since the beginning of Profeina’s actions on the LinkedIn platform the number of followers has increased by over 500 (from 92 to 616 followers- as of September 19, 2019).
6. SEO PR and Content Marketing
Profeina specializes in cleverly combining SEO, content marketing and PR activities.
We began working with SMEO in the field of SEO PR and content marketing in February 2019 from preparing an analysis of their blog.
As a result, at the beginning we focused on updating existing blog texts, that were usually placing at the end of the first and second page of search results. We edited texts that had shown a high average time spent on site, relatively high search potential (volume) to move them to TOP 5 or TOP 10 search results:
Over time, we began planning and preparing our own blog entries, which, in a relatively short time, reached high positions in Google for the keywords we selected:
Of course, for most companies, presence on the high positions in Google for typical commercial keywords is the most important – in the case of SMEO of course such a key expression is “factoring”.
Existing blog text – What is factoring and how can it be used in business? – has been converted into a separate landing page. After shortening the URL, editing copy and adding video and new graphics, as well as obtaining dofollow links (mainly on the side of the SMEO marketing team), the page quickly moved to the first page of organic search results.
As part of positioning support activities ,we have obtained active links to the SMEO website (so-called link-building). We obtained such links – sometimes dofollow, sometimes ‘only’ nonfollow – from the highest positioned domains (usually media, but also industry organizations), such as Fakt.pl, Msn.pl, Egospodarka.pl, Oohmagazin.pl, Kpf.pl, Publicrelations.pl or Obserwatorgospodarczy.pl.
We obtained some links (e.g. to NaTemat, Wp.pl, Bezprawnik or InnPoland) thanks to well thought-out marketing and positioning campaigns.
When introducing a widely unknown fintech company to the market, the credibility and recognition of its representatives is key.
- The development of a communication strategy allowed for accurate and deliberate creation of main messages during nearly two years of cooperation. Even if the seemingly media statement / blog article / social media entry was about a particular event or problem, we knew what key message we wanted to smuggle.Thanks to the strategy, we know what we are aiming for and what effects we expect.
- Focusing on expert communication and support of the personal brand of the CEO of SMEO – Michał Pawlik – gave a relatively fast, but above all – lasting effect and translated into recognition and credibility of the company itself.The results of the personal branding strategy we have implemented fueled further effects.
- Regular cooperation with the media, including the planning and implementation of the report on SMEs, has allowed us to reach 15 million recipients, building trust among SME representatives (SMEO target group).
- Statements in the media showed the insider nature of the knowledge of SMEO representatives, who are not afraid to give controversial or unpopular theses, always standing on the side of Polish small entrepreneurs (this is another element of the communication strategy).
- Participation in industry conferences strengthened the image of an expert and facilitated networking activities for brand representatives.
- All of the above elements helped us organize one-on-one interviews with journalists – first in the press (Puls Biznesu), then on popular websites (also using video – WP.pl, InnPoland, Business Insider), with time on nationwide radio and television stations (RMF FM, TOK FM, Chilli Zet, wPolsce).
- Conducting activities on LinkedIn allowed SMEO to show itself as a leader among factoring companies operating in Poland and was an auxiliary tool in building the expert image of the brand and its creators.
- Thanks to the work conducted with the blog and SEO PR activities, we managed to get to the first page of results on Google. A high position in organic results applies not only to the phrase “online factoring (first place) or” factoring “, but also to phrases such as “What expenses can be put into company costs”, “business podcasts” or “how to finance a business”.
Last but not least: the success of activities carried out for the SMEO brand was a combination of several factors, one of the key ones was including paid activities in media relations activities (advertorials, sponsorship of industry events, especially at the initial stage of conducting activities for the brand), but also openness, flexibility and friendly cooperation with the marketing department.