Looking for financial advice for the rest of us? From credit cards and debt to investing and travel, FinanceBuzz is a personal finance brand on a mission to democratize financial independence. The entrepreneurs and financial experts at FinanceBuzz “believe anyone, regardless of current income, can achieve financial independence if they take the right steps.” The company is also founded on partnerships and connecting financial brands to audiences and consumers via relevant and high-quality content.
Impact’s Richa Dani, Director of Strategic Partnerships, had a conversation from her home office with Rich Fatigate, VP of Sales at Launch Potato, the parent company of FinanceBuzz, to gather insights about the media company’s perspectives, partnerships and prognostications.
Richa: I take it FinanceBuzz’ workforce was remote before remote was a mandate, but I imagine you’ve been impacted by the crisis in other ways. How is FinanceBuzz doing? You saw 76% YoY growth last year and were predicting triple-digit growth for 2020, but we now live in a different world. Has your outlook changed?
Rich: Resilience in the performance marketing world is key. Prior to COVID-19, we were a hybrid team with half the team working remotely from all across the globe and the other half working out of our headquarters in Delray Beach, FL. Luckily the transition to having the whole company working from home was smooth since we already had the tools and best practices in place to support effective remote work.
From the business side, we’ve had to make a few pivots to deal with the new world we’re living in, but are still on track to hit our growth goals. Our team has really hustled and embraced change, two of our core values, over these last three months. We’re cautiously optimistic for the rest of the year, but also fully aware that the world might have more surprises in store for us in the coming months.
Richa: Your CMO was recently asked about how to reduce risk and prepare for the inevitable next financial crisis after the pandemic. For FinanceBuzz, she mentioned the importance of not putting too many eggs in one partnership basket. How does FinanceBuzz maintain a diverse portfolio of brand partners so you’re not relying too heavily on any one brand or even category within finance?
Rich: FinanceBuzz covers a wide range of topics from credit card comparisons and reviews to side hustles, personal loans, and investing apps. While we’ve seen downturns in some categories like credit cards, our breadth of coverage has allowed us to lean harder into categories like insurance and investing which haven’t been as impacted by the economic downswing.
Richa: FinanceBuzz covers all the hot topics in personal finance from the SBA’s PPP program to ranking the best side hustles or jobs if you’re saddled with student loans. During the pandemic, what trends have you seen in content consumption — what are consumers reading about now? I’m guessing it’s not travel rewards.
Rich: You’re absolutely right! While we’re starting to see interest in travel rewards pick back up, it’s definitely not been the hottest topic on FinanceBuzz over the last few months.
Early on in the pandemic, we saw a lot of interest in COVID-relief, unemployment help, and tips for cutting costs and lowering bills. Over the last month, we’ve seen interest shift towards things like investing during a recession, earning some extra cash, and saving money. This fits national trends we’ve seen where Americans are spending less and saving more. I think the uncertainty around our economy is really causing many to buckle down and build up a bigger emergency fund “just in case.”
Richa: You are a partner publisher for some well-known brands like Bestow, Stash, Robinhood, Chase, Citi, Truebill, and Ibotta, and you also have a stable of writers and content producers to manage. Can you unpack how Partnership Automation™ and Impact fit into your business model?
Rich: We are definitely juggling a lot of relationships between all our freelance content contributors and our partners. Impact allows us to really streamline the onboarding process with advertisers. The two-click apply means we can get a partner set up quickly and we’ll know the tracking is going to be reliable. Another huge time saver is the ability to customize contracts and deal terms right in the platform. It’s nice not to have to send redlines back and forth via email.
Richa: Did you launch with Partnership Cloud right away when you debuted in 2018 or deploy it later? And what are the biggest benefits you get from it now?
Rich: We’ve been using Impact for a little over a year now, during a time of huge revenue growth for FinanceBuzz. We wouldn’t have been able to scale as quickly as we did without the help of Partnership Cloud. The easy onboarding and integration makes it simple to activate and scale new partnerships. The real-time action reporting that Impact provides integrates with our internal analytics platform making it simple to track and optimize performance.
Richa: What is your approach to partnering up with the banking and finance brands and advertisers — do you have an ideal partner type or a dream partner you’d love to work with? Are there brands you probably wouldn’t work with, and if so, why?
Rich: We work closely with a diverse group of brands, from the big banks to fast-growing fintech startups. We only partner with brands aligned to our mission of democratizing financial independence. We need to believe that the company or product is something we can stand behind and share our values of equality, inclusivity, and empowerment. Financial products aren’t one-size-fits-all, but if we wouldn’t recommend the product to a family member in the target market, we won’t partner.
Our favorite partners are the ones who are as nerdy about data as we are. We love partners who can provide us conversion data in real-time and who can provide detailed data that allows us to understand the quality of the conversions we generate. We might find copy that resonates well and drives a lot of clicks to a partner, but if they aren’t hitting our partner’s target customer acquisition cost (CAC), we want to know as soon as possible so we can adjust strategy. We’ve found the most success with collaborative partners who strive for innovation and understanding the next opportunities in the market.
Richa: You seem to have a strong commitment to fact-checking and to expertise among your contributors. How do you preserve trust and authenticity for your readers while at the same time meeting the acquisition goals of your partners — not to mention producing hundreds of articles each month?
Rich: Our editorial team takes the accuracy of our content very seriously. We know that readers are making important financial decisions based on our articles and we want to make sure we’re presenting them with the best possible information to make those decisions. Every article we publish is edited in house and fact-checked.
That trust we build with readers is also important for helping us drive quality conversions for our partners. If we write about or recommend a product, our readers trust our opinion, which leads to better performance both on the front end (clicks) and the back end (conversions.)
We also take the time to understand what is important to our partners. We want to understand, in depth, the KPIs that will make a campaign successful. With this knowledge, we can make sure we’re using the best possible creative to send the best possible audience and ultimately help our partners crush their goals.
Richa: You’ve done some interesting original research since you opened your doors in 2018, including a recent survey that showed that 81% of remote workers, despite feeling isolated, would prefer to stay remote beyond stay-at-home. What are some of the more surprising trends you’ve uncovered in your research?
Rich: FinanceBuzz publishes new original research every few weeks. We love to dig deep to understand how Americans are feeling about a whole range of topics from summer travel to retirement to coronavirus worries.
One of our recent surveys looked at how COVID-19 is affecting housing decisions. We got some surprising results: 45% of Americans who were furloughed or laid-off due to COVID-19 are considering moving. That’s a huge number and really highlighted how this pandemic is affecting our country in all kinds of unexpected ways.
Richa: At Impact, we’re seeing a lot of brands and companies “lean in” to partnerships during this difficult period, in part because it’s a stable performance-based channel when cash is tight. As both a financial industry observer and a participant in the partnership economy, do you think that’s a valid perception? And where do you think partnerships are headed as we — knock wood — begin to rebuild later in the year?
Rich: Publishers who rely on a CPM/display advertising model are having a hard time right now. It’s an unusual situation where many are seeing record traffic, but they aren’t able to effectively monetize because advertisers either don’t want to be displayed near the topics driving the volume and/or rates are low.
Luckily, partnerships have always been at the core of our revenue strategy at FinanceBuzz. Our strategic differentiator is our ability to pair partners with their ideal audience at scale. Quality is extremely important to us and we believe it will power our business for the long term.
As for the future, companies are always going to be looking to connect with customers. Budgets may ebb and flow, but the publishers who can connect those companies with their target customers at scale are going to get the biggest share of those budgets. At FinanceBuzz, we’re not immune to the economic pressures, but we do believe that if we keep innovating and executing at a high level, we’ll be able to thrive for many years to come.
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