Editor’s note: The following story is sponsored by Academy Bank, a Kansas City based community bank, and is part of a series of features spotlighting some of the bank’s startup and small business partners.
The golden key to success is communication, said Matt Moody, but it can also be the biggest challenge.
“Bellwethr’s software has been very complex, so it’s always been a bit complicated to explain it. It took us a long time to really figure out how to clearly communicate our platform, and I would say we’re still not quite there yet. It’s just getting better because we’re tapping into the specific pain points we set out to address,” said the founder of the Kansas City-based software startup.
Click here to read more about Bellwethr.
Bellwethr launched in 2016 as a tool for clients to optimize customer lifetime value and customer retention. The platform uses such services as Smart Prospecting and RetentionEngine, which analyzes consumer accounts/subscriptions and solves problems in consumer loss.
Such tools also take a no-code approach — meaning that non-technical users can build business platforms without needing coding knowledge, Moody explained.
“Our tools have always allowed users to utilize artificial intelligence or machine learning in order to automate this process,” he said. “But we didn’t call it ‘no-code’ — we called it ‘Autopilot for Customer Retention.’”
Through simplifying the company’s language, as well as providing prospective clients with real-time examples of how Bellwethr can benefit them, May 2021 was the startup’s best growth month to date, Moody shared.
“So now we’re looking to double down on that growth for the rest of the year to hit 100 percent growth by the end of 2021.”
Once Moody and his team switched their terminology to no-code earlier this year, greater opportunities arose because more people understood the benefits of the platform, he noted. The startup also changed position on how it marketed its products.
“Instead of focusing on [customer] retention, we decided to talk about what that ultimately means — which is lifetime value,” he said. “… Most businesses put a ton of budget into sales and marketing, and very little budget into keeping customers. That’s where we come in because it’s a perfect opportunity to use artificial intelligence software to optimize that [retention] on a business’ behalf.”
A recent example of business demand for Bellwethr’s product: the startup’s work for Academy Bank.
Academy Bank, a Kansas City based community bank, engaged Bellwethr and its predictive AI tools to help it understand client behavior around debit card usage and optimizing debit card swipes.
“We were introduced to Matt a few years ago through our relationship with the KCRise Fund,” said Paul Holewinski, CEO of Academy Bank, referencing the Kansas City-based venture capital firm that invests in early stage small businesses, many with a technology focus. Bellwethr is among KCRise Fund’s portfolio companies.
“Client debit card usage is directly correlated to client retention, so by working with Bellwethr and their AI tools we are better able to target client messaging and analyze spending patterns to optimize results,” Holewinski continued.
Bellwethr’s steady, upward trend comes after a slow year, Moody noted. With e-commerce skyrocketing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Moody initially assumed there would be a higher demand for Bellwethr’s platform.
“We actually came across fewer businesses that were putting money into retaining customers because they were acquiring so many,” he explained. “So that slowed down our progress, which kind of came as a surprise because we just didn’t expect that.”
To combat the slowdown, Bellwethr applied for the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through Academy Bank.
“We took a very small one, really just to cover the salaries that were on the fence,” Moody noted. “As far as the process [for applying for PPP], it was pretty simple.”
“Academy Bank’s PPP loan and loan forgiveness process was completely automated and has been winning over a lot of small businesses that Academy Bank helped during the PPP process,” Holewinski added.
A positive take away from the pandemic was found in the vast amount of data Bellwethr was able to collect related to the company’s impact on customer retention, he said.
“Over the last year and a half, we’ve been able to compile this really strong data to try and identify how much value we’re delivering to our customers,” Moody said. “What we can see right now is that we are increasing the lifetime value of our client’s customers by about 32 percent.
“If anybody is interested in some of that data we’ve collected — on how other businesses are increasing customer lifetime value, how long customers are sticking with a subscription before they cancel it [and] if there’s anything they can do to overcome problems — we’re publishing all that data. We want people to jump in and utilize that data.”
Click here to check out the Bellwethr’s data behind customer retention.