TRANSFERWISE DIGITAL STRATEGY What's Behind Transferwise Massive +100% YoY Growth?

By Matteo Gasparello

In the world of fintech, Transferwise can’t be beaten.

In 2017, they achieved +100% YoY growth, and now, in 2019, there are more than 4 million people who collectively transfer around $4 billion each month via Transferwise.

They are saving their clients $4 million in bank fees every single day, with the hope to make international money transfers free from commissions, eventually.

The idea behind Transferwise is so great that Richard Branson, and PayPal founders Max Levchin and Peter Thiel, among others, have invested in them.

But how were they able to achieve such massive growth, with such a positive customer experience?

I researched their best marketing strategies so you can use their tactics to take your marketing game to the next level.

Their biggest driver of growth?

It’s not SEO and it’s not advertising – but they both play an essential role to generate more conversions.

We’ll discuss all of them in the following chapters, so keep on reading!

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CHAPTER 1

Transferwise Digital Strategy: An Overview

Let’s understand what Transferwise is all about and why it’s revolutionizing the way people can move money without borders.

To support its strong positioning, Transferwise needs to excel in various marketing fields.

We introduce them in this chapter.

What is Transferwise?

Transferwise is a clever international money transfer service, that can be 8 times cheaper than using banks.

In fact, even if banks tell you that it’s free or cheap to exchange money with them, they are adding a hidden (and usually high) mark-up to the real exchange rate, making the transfer pricey for you, the final user.

Transferwise, on the other hand, will convert your money with the real exchange rate and add a small markup (around 0.3% for most currencies).

Simplifying, they can keep costs low for you by having bank accounts all over the world. For example, if you want to transfer money between Uk and Italy, you’ll simply pay in pounds to Transferwise’s UK account; then, Transferwise Italian account will pay in Euro to the final recipient.

The money never actually crosses any borders:

And it’s (usually) fast, very fast. Faster than your average bank:

It’s so fast because it’s an optimized system, 80% more efficient than banks – and there are no intermediaries to slow down the process:

As you can imagine, there’s a huge market for this service: everyone that wants to transfer money abroad, or use their money in another country at a fair rate!

We are talking not only about travellers but also expats, self-employed and companies working with clients with different currencies.

To reach its target markets, Transferwise needs to excel in several fields of marketing and communications:

  • Positioning – to show that they are better and more trustable than conventional banks;
  • PR – to leverage their unique positioning and get featured on big online and offline publications;
  • Advertising – both online and offline;
  • SEO – to generate free traffic for highly converting keywords;
  • CX and Design – to convert more visitors into paying clients;
  • Collaborations with other brands.

Key Takeaways:

1 / There’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy to get more clients and revenue, but you must put in place more than one acquisition strategy. Make sure to have amazing CX and design to convert your visitors.

2 / All your acquisition strategies will fail if you don’t have a well-defined positioning. The more you can stand out against your competitors, the higher will be the ROI for your marketing strategies (being SEO, ads, word of mouth or any other strategy)

But how are these different strategies impacting traffic and revenue?

Let’s analyze them one by one, starting from their biggest driver of growth…

CHAPTER 2

Word of Mouth: the biggest driver of growth for Transferwise

Evangelism is the definitive growth strategy for Transferwise.

Bear in mind: Transferwise doesn’t do “growth hacks”, but they found a reliable way to get raving fans for their business.

The only problem?

It’s really hard work!

Let’s see how they did it…

The definitive formula to get raving fans

Transferwise’s Growth team developed a formula to monitor and improve word of mouth that we’ll see below, but to start I want to share a concept called NPS (Net Promoter Score) that is at the base of why people recommend Transferwise to friends:


Source: Scaling a Mission-Driven Startup from 50 to 1000 people

How the Net Promoter Score works.

When asking people if they would recommend your product, present them a 10 point scale:

1 to 6: detractors – you assume they’ll go around and tell people not to use your product
7 to 8: neutrals – they don’t make any impact on your business
9 to 10: promoters – you assume they’ll go and tell friends that your product is awesome

Your final NPS is expressed as a percentage and the cool thing is that you can possibly analyze your competitors and get their NPS, and compare it against yours.

For example, Transferwise discovered that:

  • the financial services industry is -27%, crazy low right?
  • Paypal’s is 45%
  • Transferwise overall NPS is 76%, and 86% for users that convert GBP to EUR.

Source: Data-driven growth

Transferwise decided to dig deeper, and discovered that when they could move people up the NPS scale, they would tell more friends about it.

Think about this:

Moving a customer from an NPS of 5/10 to an NPS of 8/10 doubled the number of people they tell about the service, and moving a customer from NPS of 8/10 to 9/10 doubled the people again!

Imagine what you can do if you improve your overall NPS of only 10%…

While improving your NPS, you are increasing the virality of every customer going through your product, and this produces that massive growth you are looking to achieve.

The NPS richter scale: move people up the NPS scale to get more evangelists.

To sum up:

If promoters are higher than detractors, you will grow.

But how to improve your NPS?

As pointed out before, it’s very hard: you need to create an experience that your customers didn’t believe was previously possible, and there are two elements to this.

Transferwise explains it as follows:

Let’s analyze it in detail.

There are two broad reasons while people recommend them.

  1. Very Rational reasons (they talk directly about the product) – Customers talk about speed, price, convenience, coverage
  2. Emotional reasons, where they talk about the mission – Transferwise calls this “cause-driven marketing”)

1 – Rational reasons

In order to get advocacy and crazy explosive word of mouth growth, you need to be 10 times better than the alternative in the market.

For example, they want to be much cheaper than conventional banks.

Think about it: if a bank charges you 5%, and Transferwise charges 4.8%, nobody would talk about them. But with their fee being 0.3%, you’ll start to see why they are getting raving fans…

And at the same time, they want to be extremely fast:


All these continuous improvements to the services are directly connected to the philosophy of the company and who they want to be – and this brings us directly to the next part of our equation…

2 – Emotional reasons

The emotional reasons to talk about a company are directly connected to the mission of the company.

Transferwise defines itself as a mission-driven startup – meaning that the company is just a catalyst to achieve its own mission.

So what’s the mission?

To take price, speed, ease of use to their theoretical best, by continuous improvement of the service for the final user. This is what lies at the hearth of Transferwise.

If you have a strong mission and you incorporate it into your marketing, you will be unstoppable.

When you adopt this mindset, you’ll see that hacks and optimizations, while still important, lose part of their importance.

Fancy graphics and AB testing are not essential to get great marketing results.

One example?

Nilan Peiris shared Transferwise’s most successful marketing email:

As you can see there are no images, no call to action, no discounts… but who received this email it was so impressed by the attitude of a financial company (in a way that nobody did before) that they wanted to share it!

We’ll talk in more detail of Transferwise’s actual marketing campaigns in the next chapters.

Like this one:

Source: Mission Driven Marketing at TransferWise

For now, just know that Transferwise never leaves anything to chance. Every strategy serves a specific purpose and it’s deployed at a specific stage of growth of the company.

In the next chapter, we continue with SEO – an acquisition channel that is bringing millions of new visits every month to their website.

CHAPTER 3

How to generate 14M visits/month with SEO and Content (without building links)

In their early days, Transferwise had a problem.

They were able to generate leads with word of mouth, pr stunts and advertising, but they were lacking the process to generate leads from unbranded keywords.

Now, 43% of their traffic comes from search (and without building any backlink!)

Let’s discover how.

From 2011 to 2015 Transferwise didn’t have an SEO team.

They were just focusing on creating an amazing product and telling the world about it.

They succeeded with the help of PR, advertising, and by having the right people (like Richard Benson) betting and investing on them.

They tried content, but it wasn’t optimized for search engines and the sum of all their efforts wasn’t enough to capture organic search demand.

What they did, however, was to create a strong link profile thanks to PR: lots of websites were talking (and linking to them), but the number of pages targeting non-branded keywords wasn’t growing.

The solution?

Since people were already talking about their product and the PR team was promoting the company, they didn’t need to spend time acquiring links but just focusing on creating amazing content.


As Fabrizio Ballarini (Organic Growth & SEO @ TransferWise) puts it:

“Instead of building links, we focus on what matters for our customers. Transferwise SEO linkinbuilding plan took about 0 minutes”

How to build links in 2 steps:

  1. Create high-quality content for our customers [hard]
  2. Wait [easy]

If you are saying that you can’t do this for your own company, think about this:

Transferwise spent 4 years building a 10x product (cheaper, easier to use and better than their competition – banks), with great positioning and building their brand with PR, stunts and advertising.

I bet that if you focus your next 4 years doing the same, you’ll have a much higher probability to be successful with SEO.

After all, Transferwise published 243 high-quality articles in just one year. This definitely helped their organic rankings!

And the results don’t lie.

These are the best articles in the last 12 months by the number of shares:

And these are their pages with the most organic traffic – all created thanks to their landing page generator Lienzo and their content team:

With this I mean that success doesn’t happen overnight – it takes hard work and implementing several strategies until you find the key to make them work perfectly together like a well-oiled machine.

Behind the curtains: How Transferwise maximized their SEO traffic

The SEO team at Transferwise didn’t stop there.

They build a team where everyone had a specific function, and they created several tools to maximize SEO traffic.

The team:

The first point of contact is, of course, the SEO specialist, that has several tasks:

  1. Researching search intents and validate impact on user acquisition;
  2. Building tools that help SEO team scale their work;
  3. Defining technical specifications for microservices and CMS;
  4. Working with content writers to build content and landing pages;
  5. Working with engineers to develop products, like MVPs, experimental pages, and defining SEO specs for new products.

In fact, in the course of the years, Transferwise developed several tools to cover the search intents of their customers. As a result, they scaled from 7K to 1.7M index pages, across 20 markets & 10 languages less than 24 months.

They created some amazing tools to support their SEO growth. Here below some of them.

LIENZO – The first product is Lienzo, a content management platform created only to scale the creation of landing pages:

With this tool, Transferwise is able to replicate fast the same proven and tested landing page for different markets.

In the example above, the page is targeting customers that want to send money to Brazil, but with a few clicks, the SEO team can replicate that page changing the calculator, the copy and the social proof to adapt it to a different niche of customers.

BLOG – To publish long-form content, they created a blog:

SEOWise – a series of tools to scale, automate and understand how the SEO efforts are performing. With APIs, they can track keywords and rankings and analytics, all from the same tool.

Price comparison tool – it started like an MVP and updated several times to become a useful and easy to use tool.

Before:

Now:

As you can see, the difference is huge.

What originally was a simple landing page with a few images, became an interactive tool with a breakdown of fees that increase the perceived trust of the company.

! PRO TIP: to validate a search intent, you don’t need an actual product. Build a landing page and drive traffic (even with PPC) to see if you are giving to customers what they actually want when they input a specific query in Google.

In conclusion, Transferwise wins at SEO because they spend times on things that matter:

Building products, content & landing pages focusing on their customers search intents.

If you don’t have a 10x product that attracts links automatically like them, that’s perfectly fine. You will need to build links by yourself but switching your focus to customers and search intents will give you the right path to follow, and save you lots of time in the end by not creating pages and products that don’t convert.

PRO TIP: to validate a search intent, you don’t need an actual product. Build a landing page and drive traffic (even with PPC) to see if you are giving to customers what they actually want when they input a specific query in Google.

In conclusion, Transferwise wins at SEO because they spend times on things that matter:

Building products, content & landing pages focusing on their customers search intents.

If you don’t have a 10x product that attracts links automatically like them, that’s perfectly fine. You will need to build links by yourself but switching your focus to customers and search intents will give you the right path to follow, and save you lots of time in the end by not creating pages and products that don’t convert.

CHAPTER 4

The online advertising strategy to generate clients at a minimum cost

The way Transferwise approaches advertising is not conventional.

They use all the strategies that other clever brands out there are using, but they also have a couple of tricks to engage their customers into their ads and get a better return on their ad spend.

We analyze them in this chapter.

When Transferwise was looking at the activity at their social media accounts, they had a problem:

Actually more than one…

Basically, people were not aware that banks, PayPal, and post offices were overcharging them because of fees hidden inside the exchange rate.

So they started several advertising campaigns (online and offline) to explain the issue of the hidden fees, promote their business and build more trust for their brand at the same time.

Source: Refresh 2017 – Mission Driven Marketing at Transferwise

 

The engine behind their advertising strategy

They are able to create a sustainable and highly performing advertising strategy thanks to 4 main pillars:

Presence: They have a strong online presence and a well defined messaging.

Precision: They use several layers of targeting to reach the right people ( = the ones more willing to use their services).

Penetration: They try to be everywhere. Organic search, online ads, pr stunts, and retargeting help them to put their message in front of the right people multiple times.

Performance: By a continue optimization of their targeting audience and testing different creatives and messages, they are able to get a better ROI.

Bear in mind that moving all these levels helps to grow, but it doesn’t step change the growth.
The only way to have an exponential growth is by getting more customers talking about Transferwise mission (as we saw in chapter 2, their main driver of growth is word of mouth).

Some of Transferwise best advertising campaigns

Their main focus some time ago was to compare their service with the competitors, leveraging the sneaky fees that other companies hide inside their transfer prices.

They run advertisements on Facebook:

On Youtube, they don’t simply explain the hidden fees of the service, but they also have a very creative way to show how fast their service is.

On Instagram, they even used emojis:

But the very best strategy is to show their ads to people that are already customers.

But wait a second – why would Transferwise spend money on people that are already using their service?

Simple, to generate more social proof.

In fact, under the social ads, Transferwise customers were “defending” the service and explaining how it works to other users that saw the promoted bust, but that are still not Transferwise users.

This is actually the best advertising there is: an endorsement from a “real” person, external, impartial and independent from the company.

The strategy works so well because previous customers love them – after all, Transferwise spent years developing a 10x product, as we learnt in chapter 2.

Source: Mission Driven Marketing – DAWS

But they didn’t stop here…

When you know that you have a 10x product and that customers support you, you can be bullish about it, and develop a strategy that goes even further.

That’s why Transferwise started bidding on Google Search Results for their competitors branded keywords.

Source: Transferwise Singapore – Mission Driven Marketing

PRO TIP: When you have a product that is much better than your competitors and with raving fans, you will be totally missing out if you are not targeting the brand name of your competitors and get a share of their traffic.

CHAPTER 5

Offline Ads: The Next Obvious Step to Get More Dream Clients

When you have a strong positioning and you have a strong online presence, there’s a way to reach more people that can benefit from your product or services:

offline advertising.

Let’s see some clever offline campaigns that Transferwise ran all around the world.

Offline ads are important for two reasons:

They help you to be seen by new people, and they reinforce the message with the audience that already knows you from your online campaigns.

Transferwise tapped into the offline market by displaying powerful ads in the subway.

These ads are seen by millions of people that ride the subway in big cities every month, and they help in two ways:

1 – They talk about Transferwise mission:


Source: Transferwise Singapore – Mission Driven Marketing

2 – They make an impact and help the company to stand out by being shameless

In this second advertisement, you can see a custom link to redeem a free transfer.

That’s a great way to track the performance of offline ads!

I suppose that Transferwise is using a specific link for every offline campaign their run, so they can test what’s working for them.

You could take this approach to the next level by AB testing different creatives in your printed advertising, and by having a different URL for each creative.

CHAPTER 6

Create strong connections with other brands to reach bigger audiences

Transfewise doesn’t approach affiliate marketing as you would expect.

They think that quality trumps quantity, and decided that a better approach is to focus on creating strong partnerships.

Let’s see what they are doing, and why they are crushing it.

Transferwise does affiliate marketing in a completely different way than other companies:

they focus on finding only the right partners online that can drive high-quality traffic.

It can be anything from a blogger that targets French people in London to a comparison site that tells you with which provider you should use to transfer your money.

The mission of the affiliate team at Transferwise?

To form strategic partnerships to help consumers discover TransferWise, but with a twist:

They focus on partnerships that have meaning and that can be great opportunities to expand the awareness of Transferwise mission. As Inez Miedema (Head of Strategic and Referral Partnerships at TransferWise) explains in her Slideshare deck:

UNIQUE VISITORS X AFFINITY = OPPORTUNITY

1 / Smart Affiliate Marketing

There are two main ways in which Transferwise helps its affiliates:

1 / They build products for affiliates.

Think about their tool to check conversion rates and fees from other banks, that affiliates can reuse or link to.

2 / They give affiliates a strategy.

For example, here below you can see a nice infographic that Transferwise created for bloggers that work with them:

But Transferwise affiliate team doesn’t work only with bloggers.

In 2018, they focused on expanding their partnership efforts globally with several brands.

For example, the team formed a new partnership with Le Figaro, France’s oldest daily national newspaper, to help educate their large readership about the lack of transparency in the industry and the hidden cost of international transfers.

They also started a partnership with Monito, a money transfer comparison site completely aligned with TransferWise’s mission of ensuring transparency in money transfer fees and the exchange rate. They display prices across many providers and show people the best deal possible on their transfer.

2 / Strong Partners

To deliver Transferwise message outside of their core product, they are creating strong partnerships with other companies and banks.

Bank partnerships are something TransferWise has done in the past, for example with German bank N26, but, during the summer of 2018, their Bank Product team launched a new partnership with Monzo Bank in the UK.

The integration is really well done: Monzo users can now make payments overseas without actually needing a Transferwise account, from the Payments tab inside Monzo app.

One partnership formed lately by the business development team was with Wolt, a food delivery service, that now uses TransferWise batch payment system to process large volumes of transfers in the shortest possible time.

Last but not least, the Small/Medium Business team launched a partnership with accountancy software Xero in order to automatically sync the activity for over 40 currencies to Xero.

As you can see, the key to get and maintain a strong partnership is to deeply integrate their product with the partner’s platform and to offer a customer-focused experience to reduce friction and increase user usage.

5 Key Takeaways From Transferwise Massive Growth

When it comes to marketing and skyrocketing growth, Transferwise knows what they’re doing.

And now that I’ve lifted the curtain and shown you how to do the same, it’s time for you to test some of these strategies by yourself.

Here are the 5 key takeaways:

  1. Create something useful, that users, your marketing team and your affiliates can refer to in order to accomplish something – like Transferwise is doing with their fees comparison tools. It doesn’t need to be a custom tool; infographics and in-depth articles can be pretty useful as well.
  2. If you are in a sector where link building doesn’t work, don’t despair. You can still get backlinks and rank your pages by focusing on PR.
  3. Find the affiliates that make the most sense to your business. You don’t need a complicated system to sign up affiliates, just a handful of the right partners can send you a lot of business. Treat them well and offer them the tools to promote your product/service.
  4. Build a better product to get exponential growth. The difference from being the leader in an open market and being a follower is an amazing product. How can you improve your product? How can you connect it better to your mission?
  5. Show your ads to potential clients, as well as to previous clients. They can answer questions directly in the comments of the ad and support your brand, doing the hard job for you.

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