Does this sound familiar: A determined team of marketers needs more data to build up its email acquisition campaign, but the resources for a program upgrade just aren’t there.

That’s no problem, the Trailblazers at Upstart told a crowd of insurance, banking, fintech, and wealth management professionals at Dreamforce.

In the direct-to-consumer lending platform’s session, Jungwon Byun, Head of Growth, explained that robust email is essential to an acquisition strategy, but traditionally, building the content and audiences to grow leads via email required a dedicated team — something up-and-coming organizations couldn’t afford. At Upstart, Jungwon and her team changed the game. “It’s possible to do it with one person,” she said. The company overhauled the program, added Salesforce technology, and essentially invented a new way of doing email marketing.



That’s just the kind of inventive thinking for which disruptive Upstart is known. 2As the first lender to leverage AI and machine learning for pricing credit and automating the borrowing process, Upstart boasts unparalleled credit performance and the industry’s highest consumer rating. And the company, founded by former Google employees less than five years ago, didn’t get there by dwelling on tradition.

“We believe the traditional system is outdated in a lot of ways,” Jungwon said. It’s always been difficult for young people without a long financial history to get credit, so Jungwon looked for ways to circumvent the traditional credit process.

“Upstart gives consumers access to much more affordable credit — so when you’re just starting out your career, you won’t be burdened by high credit card rates.” Powered by artificial intelligence, the Upstart model is always learning and improving to identify creditworthy customers. This means the disparity gap between the 45% of Americans who have access to prime credit and the mere 17% percent of Americans who have defaulted on a loan is narrowing.

Of course, a groundbreaking idea needs great marketing, so Upstart’s leaders applied their innovation to the brand’s growth. Farouk Rice, Head of Growth, is the “one person” Jungwon referred to. He single-handedly manages Upstart’s email marketing campaigns, alongside his other duties. Farouk recalled how email marketing worked in the lender’s early days:

“Our email platform was independent of the Salesforce CRM at first,” Farouk said. Having two databases caused problems with conflicting or out-of-date information. So the marketing team recommended integrating with Marketing Cloud. The three-month integration period provided a good opportunity to trim campaign fat and reevaluate the team’s email strategy.



Now, “I only spend about two hours managing email every week,” Farouk said. If that sounds like a small-time operation, it’s not. Consider this: Farouk sends 3,000 emails to more than 2 million contacts weekly.

These emails are part of the five major uses Upstart’s running in Email Studio and other Salesforce solutions: acquisition, retention, operations, investor, and service email initiatives. Around 20 journeys are spread across those five categories, with significant results. Five percent of the lender’s conversions are attributed to email endeavors.

Salesforce also helps Jungwon, Farouk, and their team create highly personalized content for responsive, dynamic journeys. In fact, the switch to targeted, 1-to-1 content led to a 58% click-per-lead boost.

Looking ahead, the upstart marketing team will base future efforts on three key takeaways from their experiences as Trailblazers so far.

  1. Email matters.
    As the #1 driver of ROI (now and perhaps forever), email is a worthwhile investment of both time and money.

  2. You don’t need an army.
    Engaging consumers at scale used to take a large group of dedicated marketers. With the right technology, that’s no longer true.

  3. Test early and often.
    This is still a tried-and-true rule of marketing, but it bears repeating.


Two emails that Upstart marketers tested: The email on the left netted 4.7x more clicks than the one on the right.


With an impressive streak of new ideas and inspiring successes behind them, Jongwon said the Upstart team is looking forward to the future of the financial industry and the ever-changing world of marketing. With 88% of today’s consumers expecting consistent experiences across every channel — whether you’re a lending institution or a coffee shop — change is inevitable, but it’s a good thing.

“This has created a huge opportunity for the fintech industry,” she said. And Upstart is right at the forefront.

Dreamforce 2017 had more strategic content and Trailblazer use cases for financial services marketers than ever. Couldn’t make it to the conference? Missed that special breakout session? We’ve got you covered. This blog is part of a series of financial services session recaps. Check out the rest of our coverage.