From sales-led to product-led B2B growth with Brendan Miller, Head of Global Marketing Strategy and Operations at Rapyd

More and more companies in the B2B tech space are moving away from sales-led growth and embracing product-led growth. There are several challenges to overcome in order to pull this off successfully. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, Alex talked to Brendan Miller, Head of Global Marketing Strategy and Operations at Rapyd. He shared the journey of how Raypd transitioned from a typical sales-led enterprise to product-led growth and how he measured success.


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Full transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hello everyone. Welcome back to the FINITE Podcast where today I have the pleasure of talking with Brendan Miller. Brendan is head of global marketing strategy and operations at Rapyd, a FinTech as a service platform providing API is that help integrate local payments and FinTech capabilities. 

Brendan and his team are in the midst of an interesting journey and a transition from a typical enterprise marketing sales motion towards product-led growth. And this is something we’re seeing more and more in the enterprise B2B technology space. How can traditionally lengthy and complicated enterprises sales journeys move more towards product growth, more towards bottom-up selling, acquiring users and longer time customers in a much more frictionless way and growing from there. 

So this is a really fascinating area. I know Brendan is in the midst of a really interesting journey with his colleagues at Rapyd. So I’m looking forward to diving into it in some more detail. Happy listening.


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Alex (01:23):

Hello Brendan. Welcome to the FINITE podcast. Thank you for joining.


Brendan (01:27):

Hi Alex. Thanks for having me.


Alex (01:28):

Looking forward to talking. I’ve been looking forward to this episode since we first scoped it out because I think you are on a very interesting journey at Rapyd which I’m looking forward to having a bit more about. Before we do that I’ll let you tell us a bit about yourself your background and experience everything leading up to that Rapyd.


About Brendan and his role at Rapyd

Brendan (01:46):

Yeah sure. So just give you a little background on my career so I think you can break my career into two chapters. 

Chapter one was really what I’d call B2C marketing even in high school and college I knew I wanted to be a marketer and studied even advertising and marketing and had an internship in college at Young and Rubicam, the global agency. 

And early on in my career I was working in with automotive dealers actually. Automotive dealer associations here in the US and it was really a group of Chevrolet dealers or Ford dealers that I’d work with and I think at a formative age I learned formative point of my career how important results were from working with those car dealers if you didn’t drive sales on on the weekend that you get a call Monday morning and they would let you know.


Brendan (02:35):

So it was a good early experience. I went into homebuilding after that work for the nation’s largest homebuilder and then did a lot of work in marketing strategy and research were doing research for agencies and our own client base and then you know the financial crisis of 2008, 2009. I needed a new job and new role and somebody reached out to me from a company called First data

First data, if you don’t know it was the largest is the largest payments processor in the world or now for Fiserv and I got into the payment space around that time and that really began the second chapter in my career which was really more B2B focused and spent some time at multiple payments companies. 

FIS being one of them which ended up acquiring World Pay and World Pay and the name changed World Pay. And I did that for about six seven years and then became a Forrester analyst.


Brendan (03:32):

So Forrester recalled and was there needed somebody to cover the payment space so I could take my payments experience and combine that with my background and research and writing and strategy and it was kind of a fun detour in my career. 

And I did that for a couple of years and then I moved on to Rapyd in 2019. Rapyd was a fledgling FinTech startup with big ambitions. Now it’s one of the top 10 FinTech in Europe. It’s a series E valuation of large valuation and we’ve raised over about seven hundred million funding.


Alex (04:08):

Awesome! Quite the journey. So tell us a bit more about Raypd and excatly what you doing in the payment space.

Brendan (04:13):

Yeah. Rapyd mission, we like to say is deliberate global commerce. And so as you may know sending accepting holding funds from transactions and payments is really complicated. Every country around the globe has a local element to it when it comes to payments and FinTech. They have local payment methods local compliance, local regulations even a local banking infrastructure that you as a company have to tap into. And when you go global.


Brendan (04:43):

There’s this dichotomy of you want to scale but you have to be local and locally relevant at the same time when it comes to financial FinTech and payments. And so what ends up happening is companies have to build payments infrastructure to go global. 

And so Rapyd come along we offer APIs that make it easy for developers to integrate that FinTech and those payments into their applications. And so this enables them to be to use our infrastructure essentially to be more globally agile. We work with large and small companies growing e-commerce companies, software financial services, and gig economies in every region around the globe.


Alex (05:21):

Awesome. And tell us a bit about the marketing organisation function within Rapyd. How big Rapyd is overall as a team now. What’s the marketing look like within that.


How the marketing team functions at Rapyd

Brendan (05:32):

We’re a total five hundred quickly gonna be 600 here very very shortly. Plus company size, I joined in 2019. We were employ 50 or somewhere in that range. And so we’ve grown very rapidly as you could say and marketing team in 2019. I was really the second marketing hire early. I spent about three years now and we’ve grown to 20 and we plan to be 30 by mid-year I would say. 

So I started as head of product marketing and content marketing and really was at that point to bring definition and clarity to the products that we were selling out lots of capabilities very enterprise driven sales approach and as a startup we needed to decodify that product story which ultimately when you’re a small startup is your brand story as well.


Brendan (06:26):

Especially in tech right, your tone product story. But that’s really what your brand is. And then throughout 2019, we define that we redid the brand. We built a concept called content marketing machine. We revamped our entire web experience and then we began to layer on developer relations or an API based companies. 


Developers are really important to us and we also added performance and demand generation marketing. At that time as well and built that team and I’ve taken on a different role now I’m head of marketing strategy and operations and so I see my role in my team’s role that I’m building is empowering the rest of the marketing organisation. So data research analytics, we are bringing processes and systems to the marketing team as well so marketing is probably the largest consumer of internally of technology and needs of systems and so there’s a lot of partnership that needs to happen with the I.T. team and so working with them to make sure we’re implementing the right technology for the rest of the team.


Alex (07:35):

Cool! Well it sounds like you’ve been on an interesting journey in this kind of transition from what sounds like it’s been a kind of typically enterprise sales and marketing operation towards that growth. Maybe you can start to set the scene by telling us a bit about I guess how marketing and sales has led to Rapyd and kind of so far up until you began this kind of transition phase.


The transition of marketing and sales at Rapyd

Brendan (08:00):

Yeah. When I started it was very much I think I mentioned this, enterprise-focused sales-led approach. Today we have two distinct teams a go-to-market so we have an awesome team SME and SMB team and our enterprise team. And it was 2020. We said we wanted to build what we called self-service onboarding and we used that term internally as our internal team and name and SSLB is for short and the vision was that you could sign up for Rapyd without talking to a human and there’s not very many payments or financial services companies out there where you can do that on the B2B side. 

Going this route is fairly complicated financial services, every company has to signs up has to go through a complex type KYB know your business, KYC process so you have to submit all their documentation the registration information there’s a lot of friction when you’re onboarding a company to process payments.


Brendan (09:06):

And so we have to do these checks there’s verification that has to happen. We’re working on automating that but there’s always human manual labour involved in that process no matter how sophisticated you make it. 

Every country every jurisdiction has different needs as far as checking this KYB information registration information all that kind of thing. So into a lot of the work that we did early on and still are doing is to simplify that process reduce down the friction to get our prospects and clients into the system.


Alex (09:37):

We’ll drive into that soon. But I guess the natural question is what prompted you to start looking at product-led growth and what was that. You mentioned that developers are important. 

And I think developers are user always kind of an audience that likes to get hands-on and play with things and use things sooner rather than later and probably they don’t want to spend three days waiting for a call with someone and that typical enterprise journey.


Brendan (10:03):

It was ruled the genesis of it you know was the developer. To your point, we knew that the developer didn’t want to talk to salespeople all right. That’s kind of one of the rules of developer relations is they don’t talk to sales so that was the genesis of it. You could log into our portal into our dashboard and get your API keys and get going. 

However, our documentation was not the greatest early on. And so as a developer you’d struggle a little bit and you would need help. And so that’s actually where it started. We said: “OK, we’re going to start improving our documentation for developers we want to make it easier for them to log in and just get their security and API keys and start running. 

And then it turned into more of OK. How do we onboard a full-on business in a more automated way? And really that came from the CEO, the founder who wanted to scale faster and saw self-service onboarding product-led growth as well as a way to do that across the board.


Alex (11:06):

Interesting and so is the vision that I guess I’m seeing this more and more actually in the enterprise space which is really interesting but I guess famous examples of often being platforms like Slack or Canva that they’re always touts as examples of like a small team of people start using them and then suddenly they’ve sold a license of like 10000 to the entire business and they’ve kind of work they way up the kind of trojan horse, bottom-up all these different terms we used to describe but I guess what is most commonly known as product-led growth now it’s that kind of what you’ve got in mind developers start using the product they see how great it is how easy it is they like it and it starts to open up conversations kind of from in reverse of us from the ground up.


Brendan (11:51):

On the enterprise side, it really is. You have a buying decision team and for payments and financial services that include technical folks, business folks, financial team, chief financial officer treasurer. And so if you can set it up in a way that a developer can log in and get going and start playing around the code and making some API calls that can accelerate the conversation tremendously on the enterprise side. 

The developer says hey I downloaded this got their postman file started this took me 10 minutes to get going. Now, this looks pretty easy. And for the rest of the team that’s a good sign and so we definitely see that when we see enterprise prospects coming in and doing that quite frequently in our system. And so everything that we’ve done on the product-led growth side was to onboard more smaller SMB users but all the work that we’ve done has actually improved our enterprise sell through as well because we’ve built better documentation we’ve built a knowledge base. 

So our enterprise sales team, our commercial sales team can find this information easier and send it to a prospect that they can search for it on our website or even do a google search and find everything from code samples to documentation to help them get started. So it’s really helped our sell-through and or speed of moving prospects through our sales funnel as well on the commercial side.


Alex (13:25):

Yeah it sounds like one of those projects that kind of had a ripple effect across the entire business right in terms of unlocking efficiencies and helping to scale which is always exciting. Where would you say you are in the journey now. I think did you mention it was 2020 when you first started kind of exploring this.


Brendan (13:41):

Yeah, we started late 2020. So I would say we’re still literally on it was me and a few other folks across the organisation cross-collaborative team and we’ve grown the team now in our first step. And in 2020 was really just been a lot of test and learn. It’s what we’ve done and we’ve made a lot of mistakes throughout it and learned from those mistakes. I think that’s key. 

But the first thing was just embedding on our website the sign-up form. We went from contact us contact sales sign up forum to sign up right and we got people into our dashboard OK. We got people into our dashboard but they didn’t know what to do. We didn’t have any instructions there for them and so they would land on the dashboard and be confused. And so we began sending drip email campaigns, we hadn’t even started that process yet. So that was one of the first things we did. 

And then we began as I mentioned building more documentation and understanding where the pain points were and building out a knowledge base and improving our documentation and developer tools as well. And then today we have a team of product designers, we have a product marketing manager focused on experiences. We have a product manager focused on that SMB persona and we have analysis SMB sales team as well and they’re working together as a group. I’ve actually stepped out more more out of the day to day. But we’ve built a team essentially around this that’s working on this across collaborative cross-functional team.


Alex (15:17):



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Alex (15:38):

I’m interested in how it shifted you alluded that to kind of the product team put a marketing team I guess in a more enterprise environment marketing’s relationship with sales is often the one that people focus on the most and when you move towards product-led growth and the product having to do so much of the heavy lifting in the you’ve done your bit as marketing and then it’s kind of there in the product and you’re hoping that everything continues. 

Has it shifted how you work with a product team or you having to align more with them with sales to some extent now. I assume you’re still doing enterprise sales should I touch in working closely with them. How is it shifted the product team relationship.


How product-led growth shifted the product/marketing team relationship

Brendan (16:19):

I think it did force us to be more collaborative marketing and product. I’ve been in product marketing for a while and I think every organisation I’ve ever worked at there’s always this product throwing the feature over the fence to marketing and not giving the heads up and no matter how good the organisation is that inevitably happens. 

The goal is to minimise the things that are falling through the cracks or minimise those experiences and I think this has forced us to get better at that and it really comes down to hiring marketers that are the right fit and product folks for that matter too. But on the marketing side in particular, when we need to hire somebody, we look for that connector, Uber connector type gene I call it that person that is very collaborative that goes out of their way to get into other teams’ businesses and essentially understand it.


Brendan (17:14):

And that’s really helped a lot is defined those types of people that are how that collaborative gene and we hired somebody that had a UX background as well. So when they worked with this experienced team on the product side they had instant credibility because they were our product before and they had a UX background and then that also helped so those part when I was looking for somebody to for this role to improve this experience and the product growth approach was somebody I was part product. 

So as part marketing in Wes Bush in his book: The Product-led Growth Book, he had this metaphor about a bowling alley and you want to move. You wanted to go in a straight line but then you have gutters on both sides and you want to protect the ball from going into those gutters. Essentially you want just like you want to get a prospect through that gauntlet without going into the gutter you need on one side.


Brendan (18:09):

Product features, components and capabilities that guide the user. And then on the other side the other gutter is you want to prevent. He calls them conversational bumpers when I think about marketing and messaging bumpers. And to guide the user down that path and towards the pins or to that straight line.

And so having a marketing team that thought like that that could provide input on them on the product capabilities and features but also add to those conversational bumpers was key and I think it’s force the team to collaborate better and overall not just on this experience front but on all kinds of features and capabilities that we’re building.


Alex (18:49):

I like that connect to gene analogy. I think it’s the soft skills is something that we often overlook. I think current marketers are always looking at do they know this and they know that and this tool and this hard skill. 

But I feel like as we progress in our careers soft skills are just as important as any on but we often don’t put enough thought into them. So that’s interesting. What about on the sell side if I was a sales leader and one day marketing told me that they were taking away my contacts us form and just shifting it a sign up now button I might get a little bit.


Brendan (19:22):

It’s hard, because it’s hard to get rid of those but yeah you can reach out for an enterprise conversation. Enterprise sales conversation so it’s still there. So the sales team is happy because we’ve built more documentation that helps move that that user down the path on the enterprise side. The way I look at it s the Enterprise salesperson as I laid out that bumper analogy an enterprise salesperson is essentially that VIP tour guide you get them through that process. 

So you know, if you’re on the enterprise side you get that experience. And then on the SMB side we have now a sales leaders. Focused completely on this and SMB experience and there’s a process that funnel that they’re responsible for. They work with our SMB or SME performance marketing team and there’s an operations committee essentially that’s working there between marketing SMB marketing SMB sales and product.


Alex (20:29):

Interesting. And so that I guess the approach whereby someone can get in touch and speak to sales that’s still possible. You’re saying in the enterprise space but in SMB are you saying that more people are if you’ve got both options and you’re able to measure kind of who’s going for which but are you saying instead of a steady kind of increase in the number of people that are heading straight for that kind of depends.

Brendan (20:55):

On the SMB side. If you begin to engage in the product, we’ll call it a product engage lead PL that SMB team can engage. And they begin to more engage with that prospect to hear your ears and SMB visiting our blog or reading our newsletter or that kind of thing you may not be getting direct outreach but once they begin to engage with us in that dashboard experience then you start to get outreach from SMB salesperson.


Alex (21:25):

Interesting. And what does success look like. Because I assume again in the more traditional enterprise approach you’re looking at marketing qualified leads sounds kind of find pipeline. All of those kind of things how does that change when you move towards product that growth is obviously one of the more kind of products and experience focused metrics but I guess there’s also the more revenue focused on opportunities based ones as well.


How to measure success of product-led growth

Brendan (21:49):

Yeah. On the only analytics front we do look at the funnel when we stay. I think that’s the one thing that coalesces that operations team is the funnel and we’re looking at MQLs and product engage leads and SQLs and a PQL is somebody who engages in the platform and begins the cable TV process that kind of thing so we’re looking at all those analytics. And right now that is a major major focus. And then we begin to once they begin transacting there begins a lifecycle approach which we’re actually we’re still early days right. 

So we’re just now OK we figured out how to get people on board and get them processing volume transactions which is what we want them to do. And then then begins this process of upselling and cross-selling and looking at average revenue per user and things like that.


Alex (22:39):

So I imagine that really the analytics and measurements key here in terms of not just I mean I’m sure you had some of this in place before but now it becomes so much more important to understand how people are using the products in terms of marketing performance and how engaged they are and where the friction points are in kind of user experience and journeys and everything really become owned by product on marketing and everything becomes kind of intertwined but for good right you beat up more closely together on those kind of things.


Brendan (23:07):

Yeah and we’re adding this performance marketing aspect has really increased our sophistication around that. Looking at these funnels looking at all the different channels that they’re using it becomes infinitely more complex and you know I’m constantly feeling in my role now. 

From a marketing operations perspective a little bit reactive because they’re moving very quickly and we’re trying to build analytics folks and trying to build systems and operations and procedures to support them. And so it’s great now that we have this muscle of performance marketing. It’s really up to everyone’s game. I would say across the board not only from market operations perspective but product what they’re building and what sales is doing as well.


Alex (23:54):

We can’t talk about measuring stuff unless it’s not talking about some of those tools that you might be using so on the MarTech side. You mentioned that was in marketing. You say that the biggest spender kind of technology in the business entirely. Can you give us a sense of if any of those tools that have been kind of an integral to this process and things that you’re looking at using to kind of measure things and track things as you need to.


MarTech tools that can measure success

Brendan (24:16):

Hubspot is are our marketing automation system raising Salesforce system that we implemented early on that that I like is Pendo. So it Pendo is a user guide provides guides to users but also does a lot of analytics and you can do a lot of segmentation amongst users. 

And so I’ve become a fan of Pendo. It’s easy to use and really are our marketing team or our product marketer focused on experiences is the one using that probably more so than the product team. And so that’s that’s tracking analytics that’s tracking funnels where input implementing user guides to help users as they get into our dashboard into our portal to help them move them in the right direction and down the right path.

Alex (25:02):

Cool. And you touched alittle on kind of what the I guess what the future looks like you’re kind of underway but still in the journey. I’m kind of done this moved to product growth. What does the future look like and what are the next steps. You mentioned kind of the full most like customer lifecycle marketing side of things but is that where you’re heading and I mean I guess is a is there an end point or is it constant iteration improvement.


Future marketing plans at Rapyd

Brendan (25:25):

It’s constantly ongoing right now for at least on the SMB side. We are onboarding users that are mostly using our acceptance product to collect money from their users. Think of an e-commerce transaction. And so but there’s from our product we can open the doors to those SMB users in more ways that we can enable them to disperse funds. We can allow them to potentially issue cards or do things with effects that we’re currently haven’t fully opened up to the product to to that SMB user. 

So there’s lots of opportunity there to begin to upselling sell across so those users with more more capabilities. We’re looking at things like better data enrichment at this point and moving to more personalised messaging. So when you do something in the in the portal or start a process that you’re getting a very personalised message about what’s happening.


Brendan (26:25):

So that work has already begun. And then as we begin to grow and move into this process more it’s looking at lowering that the impact of the churn views that I’d like to say. And so we’re tracking and NPS, we’re tracking CSap across the organisation now and we’re looking at CES which is customer efforts score. 

So customer ever score is kind of a precursor to NPS and we’re asking users early on in the process. How easy was it to get started in those types of different spots throughout the process of their customer journey. And we’re tracking that now to reduce that friction.


Alex (27:06):

We’re almost out of time but I wanted to ask you just to wrap up if you had any career advice for aspiring B2B marketers then and you’ve had a background that kind of transition from B2C to B2B as you said you had to take a little detour on that kind of an analyst side at Forrester. Any thoughts, any advice for anyone that’s kind of at the earliest stages of that B2B marketing journey maybe.


Career advice for B2B marketers

Brendan (27:26):

Yeah I would say take those detours and lean into those opportunities. You never know where the journey may take you. I always look for opportunities in my career that are growth opportunities. I always look for adventures interesting work. So chase interesting work don’t chase titles. That’s another thing I would say.


Brendan (27:49):

And I think if you’re early on in your career in marketing learn a discipline become a specialist in something. That doesn’t mean you have to stay in that specialisation but learn something. And for me it was product marketing and I became an expert in product marketing, learned the discipline of product marketing and have leverage that background and other places throughout the marketing organization. 

But I would say become a specialist in one marketing discipline or performance marketing, PR product marketing whatever it might be. Focus on something don’t be a generalist.


Alex (28:22):

Good advice to wrap up. This has been great. I think there’s more and more within the FINITE community we’re hearing big enterprise businesses looking at that move to some form of that product-led growth. 

So it’s been great to have someone from someone that’s kind of in the midst of it. Well made a lot of progress I think by the sounds of I think you’re not doing yourself justice by saying you’re kind of selling them. I think you’ve done a fair bit over the last year or two. By the sounds of it. Thanks for sharing everything science opening with us.


Brendan (28:47):

Thanks for having me.


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