Having the courage to focus on a market sector and use innovative digital tactics to generate sales leads is core to the success of Pushpay, winner of the supreme award at the 2017 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, as well as Innovative Company of the Year. Concentrate talked with co-founder and CEO Chris Heaslip about their marketing journey so far.
Like any award-winning technology company, Pushpay has shown outstanding innovation around its mobile payment product. Just as important to the company’s success has been innovating in the way they market and sell, says the company’s co-founder and CEO Chris Heaslip.
“Innovation for us is not just about product innovation. One of the mistakes we make as Kiwis sometimes is thinking innovation stops with the product. Actually that is where it begins – innovation in the go-to-market is one of the most critical factors in our story,” he says.
At the heart of this marketing innovation is Pushpay’s decision in 2015 to focus its growth efforts on churches in the USA. Heaslip and co-founder Eliot Crowther had originally conceived their payment app as a way of helping churches collect money more easily from their members, but were selling to a range of sectors.
“I can remember a time in 2015 and we had just moved to the US, and we were very unfocused. We had a lot of good ideas, but no execution in any of them. I got together with the senior management team and we talked it through, and wondered if our investors would understand the (church focus) story.
“There is a Chinese saying that ‘a man who chases two rabbits catches none’, and that was us at that time. We were so bifurcated. Choosing that focus was a turning point for our company.”
A focus that is working. Pushpay last week published their annual results for the year ended 31 March 2017, recording a 79% increase in customer numbers from 3766 to 6737.
Pushpay improved their annualised committed monthly revenue (ACMR – a measure of recurring revenue), a key metric for a software-as-a-service company, by 158% to $US50.5 million and are forecasting that they will achieve break-even on a monthly cashflow basis by the end of the calendar year.
According to the company’s website, 10 of the top 20 and 36 of the top 100 largest churches in the USA use their products, including the largest church in the USA, which has over 39,000 average weekly attendees.
Chris says other vendors weren’t looking at the church sector, “People missed the growth of the evangelical churches. The number of actual churches is decreasing but attendance is growing in the US. There is lots of consolidation, and some large churches are growing rapidly.”
Extending the animal metaphor, Chris cites US business writer Jim Collin’s concept of the fox and hedgehog, where the former is chasing every shiny thing and not making much progress, while the latter is taking a slow and methodical movement towards a single goal. “That was us, so doubling down on the faith sector made sense because it was so under-served.”