Did you take this crossing the chasm approach, where you have the early adopters and then the pragmatists? Did you split it up by what they actually focused on? Was that how you segmented the market, in that sense?

We need to segment the market, depending on what people want. You get them in different channels, as well. In doing a lot of tests, we saw that those were the main targets. With the early adopters, they then worked as ambassadors, as well, so that they created that first wave, inside each market. We saw that in Germany, but we saw that, as well, in France and in Italy. I, specifically, have been the General Manager Italy, for N26 and then, later, Head of Growth Europe. The evangelists and ambassadors have always been very important.

Another good channel mix, for marketing acquisition, was coming from referrals. In the app, we put a big emphasis on recommend a friend. Sometimes there is just an icon for that. You have about four or five icons at the bottom but, especially at the beginning, you really put a lot of emphasis on that. That’s not only almost free, because you do pay a benefit to the referrer, but it’s not only that and it’s very cheap. That friend explained, in a lot of detail, why they are using N26, so there is that extra explanation. So you keep the entire different phases of the customer funnel, which from the very beginning, the lead generation, from the company point of view, which is brand awareness consideration.

Then there is the nurturing part, where that person gets much more information and wants to really understand the app or the software or the service. Usually, you look on the website or you go on the blog. The third phase is the sale part, where the person makes the purchase. That friend does that one on one. So the activity that we saw from those people that they were physically using the app every day, was much higher than all the other channels. That was one of the best things you could achieve, in a cycle, with referrals.

Were those early ambassadors, those early adopters that you mentioned, the tech savvy, UX focused customers?

I would not say that, necessarily. Yes, you have some sort of self-selection, in general. What do I mean by that? The world is becoming more and more polarized, in all sorts of areas. One being also, that people like to have everything digital or they still want to go to a branch. Particularly at the beginning, we were getting people who really wanted the digital experience, either for the UI of the app – one of the first logos for N26 was, ‘banking by design’, so it really created a lot of emphasis on that – but it could also have been for the pricing. You have both sides, working in your favor. More on the beauty, which is much more aspirational, as well. Or very down to earth as many people were going there and saying, this bank account is costing me nothing and it works super well. I use it every day and you gave me €15, open it.

How did you make those early ambassadors feel special, apart from the referral fee? Did you spend time with them? How did it work?

We created a kind of welcome package, with goodies, that we were shipping to people who were referring a lot of other friends. We also created a real ambassador program, specifically for universities. We were physically shipping stuff like t-shirts, stickers, etc. So we were working on things to make people feel special, but it doesn’t have to be a big monetary commitment. People feel special even when you just talk to them, making them feel part of the community. We seem to always think that, in order to make someone attached to you, you need to pay them, one way or another.

The other side was also that people really compelled to be part of the N26 community and they loved even putting it on LinkedIn. We had so many ambassadors in the university and that worked similarly well. It took some time, but we had many universities, with a lot of students that put that on their experience. We became a bit like work experience that you want to show when you joined student associations, etc. Not only that, they were also starting to organize events around N26. We would go there, to present the company but then, of course, it’s some sort of mentoring type of activity or event. I was 29, at the time, so they felt quite related to me. I was just a few years ahead of them, so they wanted to know how I got there; what were my issues and what were the challenges that I encountered, after I finished university.

That’s how we worked around ambassadors. But really, there was a lot of focus on the universities, for us.

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