Zak Westphal’s Secrets to Building a Loyal Fintech Following

As innovations reshape personal finance, standing out is a monumental challenge for startups in the rapidly evolving fintech sector.

As innovations reshape personal finance, standing out is a monumental challenge for startups in the rapidly evolving fintech sector.

We sat down with Zak Westphal, co-founder and CEO of StocksToTrade, a powerful trading platform empowering ordinary investors with tools once only available to institutional players.

In just a few short years, Zak has organically grown StocksToTrade’s user base to over 30,000 engaged members who rave about the community and educational resources available. The platform’s meteoric rise proves Zak knows more than most when it comes to cutting through noise to form authentic connections in a crowded fintech space brimming with technical complexity.

Over the course of our wide-ranging discussion, Zak Westphal stressed that while innovation clearly matters, the ultimate keys to sustainable growth revolve around understanding real human needs, forging emotional bonds through vulnerability, and delivering exponential value versus incremental improvements.

In the following questions, he expands on the core elements beyond flashy tech – the mission, motivation and community building required to earn retail investors’ trust and attention in a sea of nonstop marketing.

Q1: Retail investors are bombarded with a barrage of advertising and communications daily. How do you effectively rise above that constant noise?

It starts with serious self-awareness. Really dig into why your specific solution or technology delivers substantially more value for a narrowly-defined audience versus alternatives before fixating on mass scale or rapid expansion. Get extraordinarily crystal clear on precisely what core differentiation makes your product a must-have. Then ensure every piece of external messaging and positioning spotlights that unique value proposition at the expense of all else. Noise-cutting clarity around exactly why you’re distinctly worthwhile matters most.

Too many fintech founders have a bad habit of leading with technical capabilities before they validate whether those capabilities actually close critical consumer gaps. Don’t fall into that trap. Truly understanding target users’ deepest frustrations, fears and aspirations should guide what you build. Engineer for their underserved emotional needs first rather than chasing what may sound logically appealing during watercooler debates. If your messaging isn’t explicitly calibrated to spotlight how you deliver powerfully on those psychological needs better than any potential substitute, you leave the door wide open for consumers to tune out your communications as irrelevant to their reality.

Q2: Beyond engineering great technology, what else is imperative for rapid, sustainable fintech growth?

Giving people wings – that’s the ultimate higher calling and driver here. Our platform only succeeds if we empower traders and investors to spread their own financial wings further to reach personal goals and visions. So beyond pure software capability, we have to focus intensely on user experience and relationships over features. At the end of the day, if your solution doesn’t help your target audience expansively accomplish more of what matters to them, technical polish means nothing at all no matter how elaborate. We win when members constantly tell us: “I couldn’t have achieved this without your platform.”

But that psychology requires moving beyond transactional interactions to actually understanding customers, almost at a consultative level. That means addressing their obstacles, hand-holding newbies through unfamiliar tools, Brainstorming ideas collaboratively when they’re stuck. Don’t just present your offering statically and expect buy-in. Actively guide people to succeed on their schedule, not yours This role as an enabler earns loyalty that withstands newcomer challengers popping up with shinier objects.

You emphasise community heavily as part of the StocksToTrade model. Why is cultivating that so crucial beyond the software itself?

Because investing and trading can isolate you in narrow echo chambers of your own limited fears, assumptions and experiences without outside perspectives. We consciously built out a members-first community approach so traders can brainstorm ideas together, find reassurance when markets get crazy, and celebrate wins as a team. At our core, humans crave bonds and accountability partners – especially in turbulent times with money on the line.

If your fintech product just focuses on utility without equally fostering genuine camaraderie, networking, and personal growth, you leave fundamental human emotional needs unanswered. Customers don’t stick around out of mere satisfaction; they become zealous evangelists when a solution transforms their sense of what’s possible. That inspiration sparks organic growth. But you have to walk the walk when it comes to nurturing community far beyond talking the talk.

What role should creative storytelling play for fintech brands versus simply marketing features?

Storytelling should play an absolutely huge role here. Unfortunately the fintech niche trains most brands to sound highly identical and transactional, overloaded with technical and operational lingo. But vivid, creatively framed stories that highlight how you expand members’ horizons and transform their real lives are infinitely more stirring and irresistible to investors sick of homogenised hype trains.

Startup fintechs especially should get extraordinarily vulnerable and human about the behind-the-scenes struggles – both from company founders and customers. Blow past superficial, sanitised messaging to forge genuine connections through openness. Creative narratives also allow you to simplify extraordinarily complex technical capabilities into compelling positioning that newcomers can latch onto and start their journeys. So lean very hard into bold, resonant storytelling over and over rather than fading into undifferentiated static.

The pace of innovations constantly reshapes emerging sectors like fintech. How should startups adapt their branding and marketing strategies to stay ahead?

Recognize that you realistically can’t remain rigid and static – both competitor offerings and customer expectations shift like sand in nascent industries evolving rapidly. There’s constant pressure to react to the latest buzzworthy features or channels. But also realise clearly that chasing every newly minted shiny object indiscriminately inevitably dilutes your core messaging and emotional appeal over time.

So yes – regularly retool tactical specifics like delivery mechanisms, analytics frameworks etc. to current expectations while simultaneously doubling down on and reinforcing your uniquely human appeal and target customer Bullseye. As long as you maniacally stick to serving specific real human needs better than absolutely anyone else out there, those kinds of positioning and branding fundamentals should never shift even as competitive tactics morph. Don’t lose sight of your vital foundational basics in the deafening hurricane of innovation swarming around you.

Q6: Looking ahead over the next few years, where should fintech marketing teams be focusing the bulk of their attention and energy?

Absolute mobile obsession should be front and centre – with platform flexibility supporting seamless financial management on-the-go quickly becoming an assumed basic expectation rather than a bonus differentiator. Customer experiences need to be flawless across mobile devices, so design with that smaller format limitation always in mind.

AI-powered precision personalization to hyper-target messaging per each individual based on behavioural data also looms large rather than merely segmenting broader groups and demographics. The technology to tailor communications to unprecedentedly specific customer clusters is advancing rapidly.

And perhaps most unpredictably, agile collaboration between fintech disruptors and incumbent institutions rather than two isolated orbits will accelerate. Those walls between innovative startups and old guard financial giants will keep crumbling faster than most expect as convergence forces partnerships. So flexibility will be key.

Above all else, keep that core human element front-and-centre instead of getting distracted by bells and whistles innovation. Comprehensively understanding and serving others still matters most. Lead with that motivation and emotional connection in branding, and you’ll always stand out from temporary flashy fads.