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How You Need A Budget Drives High Value Actions and Revenue With Braze

Sunny Manivannan By Sunny Manivannan Sep 07 2021

Founded in 2004, fully remote YNAB—short for You Need a Budget—offers personal budgeting software and apps across channels and devices, including web, iPhone, Android, iPad, Apple Watch, and Amazon Alexa, to help customers meet their financial goals on the go.

I spoke with Barry James, Marketing Automation Specialist at YNAB, to learn how YNAB takes advantage of the Braze platform to keep the company's large number of monthly active users engaged. James shared how the team brings campaigns to life and how Braze has enabled them to drive subscribers and key activity within the company's cross-device and cross-platform apps.*

What’s your end-to-end process for creating campaigns?

I'm a one-man show. I'm the only person that works on email and cross-channel strategy here. So all the way from strategy and execution, data analytics, and making sure that we're delivering, those are all my responsibility. The strategy piece, in terms of creating a campaign or a Canvas, comes from my head in terms of what I've seen across different touchpoints, but I’ve had plenty of thought partners along the way.

We segment based on actions that customers can take in the app, especially in our welcome series, to help nudge them along their customer journey. Our end goal is to get a conversion from the free trial and get folks to become monthly or annual subscribers. But in general, we want to help them with their financial learning by providing resources like free live workshops, video courses, bootcamps, and challenges.

I put together a strategy detailing the segmentation with a campaign brief explaining what the concept is and then share that with our copywriting team and designers. For creative, we’ll use an animated doodle rather than a stock image to bring the campaign to life; our designers will either reuse an asset or create a new digital image. I run my ideas by those two teams, as well as our Product Marketing Manager and our Growth Marketing Lead. But I'm responsible for wrangling all those assets and folks to meet a certain delivery date.

What are the teams you work with most often and how do you collaborate?

Beyond working with the copywriters and designers, we also have our own dedicated engineer who works on marketing-specific initiatives. We work hand in hand, although I'm leveling up my technical skills so that I don't have to ask for engineering support quite as often. Braze supports that with no-code solutions, like the new in-app survey templates where I can update the custom attributes myself. But there's certainly still engineering aspects that I need assistance with and they're usually pretty quick. Engineering has helped with our mParticle integration and guided me in understanding and creating new events, passing these along to Amplitude, and understanding certain pieces.

Our Product Marketing Manager is a valuable resource for connecting product and marketing and is a great thought partner for me. She makes suggestions on segmentation, different copy options, and new ways of conducting outreach in order to gain that subscriber earlier in the process.

Any advice for collaborating with other teams?

As a team of one, everything falls onto my plate in terms of making any final decision—from initial strategy to the final thumbs up, that depends on me. What I try to do is involve as many people as possible to make sure that I'm getting a diversity of opinions, so it's not all coming from my head.

Having strong written communication is really important. Internally, we're not an email-centric business—we use Slack primarily and work asynchronously—so I create different documents to make things as easy as possible.

When I create a new marketing series, I create a Google Slides deck, for example, to show the copy just in case people potentially want to make suggestions about changes or use a Miro Board to show the flow of a campaign segmentation to get buy-in from different stakeholders.

What are your most important metrics and key high-value actions?

As a company, we're tied to a single metric: Increasing net new subscribers by 15% in 2021. That comes with increasing sign-ups for our free 34-day trial, which in turn increases paid subscribers. Growing sign-ups is primarily a Marketing team responsibility and we’re up for the challenge.

As for the main metrics from an email perspective, with open rates changing, we will still have access to click data and things of that nature, but at the same time what we're tracking more specifically is activity inside of the app. There we focus on people who subscribe and complete their payment at a later date after their trial ends since we don’t charge until it’s over. To better understand these behaviors, I had our engineering team create and keep track of a new event we're calling “Purchased Future Subscription.” I'm tracking that metric and other general user behavior inside of the app, such as if customers have added their bank account, linked their bank account, and finished the onboarding flow for the app itself, as these are healthy indicators of whether or not these folks are potentially going to become subscribers.

How does Braze enable you to be agile and efficient?

Braze has helped me streamline processes. I think of myself as a technical marketer from a lifecycle perspective, but Braze has allowed me to take off my technical hat in a lot of instances and do the work. The Braze platform's intuitive UI enables me to do my work in a way that's thoughtful.

Being able to give users on my team access with specific permissions to check in on certain things on their own has enabled me to increase and speed up my workflow as well.

What resources have helped you get the most out of Braze?

One of the Braze features I love is the Braze Bonfire Slack community.

Another one of the most important things that Braze does an excellent job of is documentation.

I remember when I first joined, I just consumed as many LAB (Learning at Braze) courses as I possibly could and rewatched them to learn about Liquid and understand how certain things work. My customer success manager would also send me new documentation or remind me of existing documentation, like our push notification and in-app message playbooks. I always review those resources. I'm constantly sending documents to different members of the team, and not just our engineers.

It's refreshing to know that as our business grows at a pretty rapid clip that Braze is going to continue to grow with us by implementing the tools we need to become more flexible.

Final Thoughts

Hundreds of innovative small and growing companies like YNAB, IDAGIO, Branch, and Grover are using Braze to disrupt their categories and achieve success within their industries. See for yourself why Braze is the secret weapon startups turn to to gain a competitive advantage, engage thoughtfully with their users, and ultimately drive business outcomes like user growth, conversions, revenue, retention, and more.

*This conversion has been edited for length and clarity.


Sunny Manivannan

Sunny Manivannan

Sunny Manivannan is the VP and GM of Global SMB at Braze, and thoroughly enjoys being a Boston sports fan in New York City. Previously, Sunny served in various marketing and general management roles at Coupa Software (NASDAQ:COUP), and was formerly a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and an aerospace engineer at General Electric.

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