In this article, I talk to founder and CEO of API cashback loyalty platform Network B, Brad Blake.
G: What prompted you to establish Network B? What market need did you identify?
B: Simply put, Network B's offering arose as a result of our discovery that the current approach to customer loyalty, cashback and rewards could be significantly improved.
The affiliate marketing industry is huge but it very much relies on a limited infrastructure. It uses cookie tracking to attribute clicks to purchases but this is likely going to be phased out in 2023, leaving its future uncertain. Plus, brands are usually unable to give personalised cashback offers to customers as there are very limited ways to profile or understand more about their needs.
The potential for open banking is becoming increasingly clear. Through embedded finance, there are numerous ways to improve the customer experience, and that includes using it to enhance experiences in customer loyalty.
That’s how Network B was born: our tech is here to facilitate a smoother cashback experience as well as connecting customers to brands. There are advantages for everyone: shoppers make significant savings and brands can win the loyalty of customers with hyper-personalised offers.
G: Network B has grown significantly since its inception two years ago. What has helped you get there?
B: Partnerships and collaboration have been really important for the company’s growth. It’s enabled us to broaden our offering and reach more customers. One of our board advisers is Alex Preece from gift card startup Tillo. We’re in a similar sector but not competitors so there are many areas in which our businesses can complement each other. We also partner with Fidel for card-linking and Nordigen for our open banking API. It’s enabled us to iterate and get products to market quickly, whilst meaning that we don’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as the technology is already out there and ready to use.
G: How did founding startups before help you when establishing Network B?
B: They say there’s a lot to learn from failure and it’s 100% true. I’ve learned a lot in the past, had some successes and had some failures. A lot of the failures related to “worry” – is this going to work, shall I keep going, what about the competitors, etc… It’s hard being an entrepreneur most of the time and you’ve got to keep reminding yourself that you can do it. So long as you have a product that fits into the market, absolutely focus on it and don’t give up! And never ever run before you can walk. You could have the best idea in the world, but if you run out of cash, it’s game over. If you don’t start with deep pockets, do EVERYTHING yourself and focus on following the money until you breakeven.
G: How have you adapted your product to fit the market?
B: We started off promoting our ‘out of the box’ full white-label cashback platform together with the benefits of ‘plug and play’. The advantage is that a client can host their own cashback platform with thousands of offers available to their customers; all they need to do is add their branding and they're good to go. Whilst this has been popular with a proportion of our clients, we soon realised that some were looking for more flexibility.
Since we’d already developed the technology, it was quite straightforward to expand our offering to include cashback APIs. Customers can plug into every function that we provide in the white label package such as the offers engine, user wallets and transaction reconciliation, but they maintain the flexibility of keeping their own user interface.
Furthermore, we discovered that our clients desired the freedom to choose how they rewarded customers for loyalty. They are free to reward customers in any way they see fit. Some offer cashback, while others offer bill discounts, charitable donations, or loyalty points.
G: How have you found new clients?
B: The majority of our leads come in through organically the website or LinkedIn. We've spent a lot of time and money on research and development over the last two years to perfect the product and proposition, which has resulted in people in our networks reaching out to us.
We've also been investing in digital advertising on a regular basis, which is helping us raise awareness among those who are unfamiliar with what we do.
G: Are there any online marketing or sales tools that you recommend?
B: Well yes, there are many online apps that I swear by. We’re lucky to operate a business in this day and age, there’s so much available to help make our working lives easier. I use Fiverr a lot for graphic design and web development however, these platforms can be hit and miss and it’s important to find a trusted expert, cheaper is not always better!
For account based marketing, I really like PipeDrive as it helps us manage the business development pipeline. There are a lot of touchpoints in our sales process from first contact to sale and then onboarding so having a solid CRM helps us stay on track.
Trello is brilliant for task management - we use it for tech tickets as well as marketing activity. As we have a disparate team, it’s really useful for visibility and to show which tasks are being worked on.
For funding documents, SeedLegals and Rocket Lawyer have been a godsend when it comes to drawing up contracts.
Plus, how can I forget Slack? It’s really helped to reduce the size of my inbox which is always a good thing!
G: What’s next?
B: We will keep working closely with our clients to ensure that our products meet their requirements for acquiring new customers and rewarding customer loyalty.
We recently went through a rebrand and will continue to flesh out our proposition and messaging, which includes demonstrating how our clients are leveraging Network B's technology to grow their businesses.
Thank you Brad, wise words! One can learn a lot from failures as well as successes. Partnerships are a great way to grow, reach new markets and access expertise. The focus on steady growth and the breakeven point is powerful, after all, startups don't often start out with mountains of cash.
Would you like to be featured in the next instalment of Secret Saas? Get in touch!
" Are you ready to bring in a SaaS digital marketing freelancer for your startup? From ongoing support to one-off projects, strategy to delivery, harness marketing expertise at a fraction of the cost of an employee."
- Georgina Willison, Digital Marketing Freelancer, Marwhal.