When the team and I first started building Exeq, we wanted to make sure we were designing a product that young people truly needed. This meant not following industry trends or letting profit alter our decisions. It meant meditating to tap into our own intuition as a group of young adults, and then going out and testing our hypotheses.
As a marketer, I don’t believe you can come to understand any person through data analytics or trend analysis alone; ultimately engaging with real people is the strongest way to understand them — you need to hear their voices.
So, I closed my computer and took to the streets of Manhattan.
Over the course of two years, I personally spoke with hundreds of individuals between the ages of 16 and 35 about their financial life — their goals, their fears, and their hopes.
What did they wish they had? Was it more money? Was it better experiences? Did their lack of money limit their lifestyles?
I spent a lot of time in places like Washington Square Park (it helped that I went to NYU for a while before dropping out), Union Square and The New School making conversation with anyone who would engage the kid in red shoes asking where, why, and how they spent their money.
I approached people in coffee shops, in bars, and in juice shops. I started conversations in the Subway, in taxis, and in Lyft Lines (much to the chagrin of my fellow passengers).
Over all these casual conversations in a wide array of settings, I was able to conclude 3 things:
a) We don’t like looking at our finances, we actively ignore them. How could we create a product and experience that fixes this fear in our generation?
b) We want tech companies to help us manage our money, not big banks, because we feel like they actually want to bring us innovation.
c) We know saving money is important, it’s just boring, and even worse — it’s hard.
These three conclusions guide our team at Exeq every day. From a design perspective, our goal is to make looking at your finances feel right. From a product perspective, we must innovate banking — making saving and spending frictionless.
My foray into the millennial hubs of New York City taught me that sometimes marketing means taking a step back. It’s true that data speaks volumes, but when marketing to our generation, tone is everything, and that’s hard to understand from a set of numbers. If you’re trying to sell something, there’s two things you need to do.
First, take to the streets and make sure what you’re selling solves a damn strong pain for the people you’re trying to sell to. Second, make sure you’re actually listening. If you don’t listen to your customers, don’t expect them to listen when you market.