In this episode, we’re back with another two-part series with a marketing leader in our portfolio, this time from leading Southeast Asia logistics technology platform Janio Asia. Janio co-founder and Head of Marketing Nathaniel Yim shares in this first part the origins of the Janio brand and how they leveraged on thought leadership and content strategy to build a credible and trustworthy brand for an emerging startup in a traditional sector like logistics.
01:35 How Nathaniel co-founded Janio;
03:42 Thought process behind developing the Janio brand;
06:22 Janio’s content marketing strategy and how it links to commercial success;
10:49 Examples of benefits of content marketing for Janio clients;
12:52 Engaging entire company in marketing efforts;
14:52 Engaging ecosystem partners in marketing efforts;
Paulo: Welcome everyone to On Call with Insignia, where we go on call with Southeast Asia, emerging technology, startup leaders, and investors. And this episode, I am glad to be on call with Nathaniel Yim, co-founder and head of marketing at Janio Asia. Let’s talk about the role of marketing and content strategy for cross border logistics technology platform like Janio.
So previously we had on our show Janio COO Ali and previously as well, we’ve had another marketing leader from our portfolio Manisha Glad to have another founder from Janio and also a marketing leader as well. So just a little bit on Nathan.
So he joined the founding team at Janio in 2018 after graduating and pursuing several branding and marketing internships at consulting firms the year prior. He has since taken the lead of Janio’s marketing efforts across Southeast Asia, building the marketing team and new brand from scratch, covering areas like PR, lead generation, website development, account-based marketing, sales enablement, SEO, as well as representing the company at public speaking engagements and podcasts like this one for branding amongst others.
So welcome to the show, Nathan.
Nathaniel: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Paulo: Right. Yeah. So just to start things off, I’d like to get to know how you ended up becoming a founder, a co-founder of Janio, and coming from a marketing background, what drew you to work in a logistics tech startup.
Nathaniel: Okay. It’s an interesting question. and not me, the answer that I give just to be quite interesting for most people as well. So I fell into it by chance actually. My co-founder and CEO Junkai is my classmate from university. So I’ve known him for about seven or so years now. Basically at the time when he started the company, I had just graduated about a month after graduation, and I was in between interviews getting a couple of offers and then just thinking about what to do for the start of my career.
And just at a time Junkai just messaged me one day and he was like, “Hey man, do you want to start a company with me?” It actually went something like that. So I thought, “Okay, you know what? I’ll just hear you out and hear what you’re gonna say.”
So I met him and we spoke about it. And the more we talked about it, the more I realized like, “Oh, this is actually a huge opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I say, no, it will never come back again.” And I hadn’t taken any offers yet.
So it was really at that point in time where we had this conversation and that’s how it got started. So, I mean, I did some of my own research into logistics. I realized that “Okay, this is a huge industry, and there’s so much more to do in the region, especially.”
And as a consumer of ecommerce, I’ve seen some of the — or experienced rather — some of the issues that come about with logistics when we are talking about cross border logistics, especially, when deliveries get missing or delayed and all that.
So I thought, “Okay, since, I mean, this is a very real problem that I face as a consumer, why don’t I give a stab at it and then try to solve it as a service provider?”
So that was sort of like how I got to become a founder of the company and why logistics was something dear to me.
Paulo: Yeah. So prior to Junkai’s invitation to join the founding team, you had no solid intention of joining a startup per se, right?
Nathan: Yeah. I mean, I was looking at like perhaps MNCs or at least ecommerce companies that have been around for a while, but not so much of a brand new startup or even starting out my own company.
Paulo: Right. And it’s been a pretty interesting past two years for you. And you came into it really, from a consumer perspective, right, and earlier I mentioned that you helped build the Janio brand from scratch. So, coming from a consumer perspective, what was the thought process behind building the Janio brand?
Nathaniel: Okay. So back then when I started this, logistics to me was just taking something from finding it and putting it at point B. If you strip it down to its bare essence, that’s really what it is. But the process of doing that is a lot more complicated than just moving something along a straight line. So, when we started it — l mean from the beginning, we knew that we were focusing more on businesses rather than consumers, at least not at the beginning.
So it was more of, “Okay, how do I make this company interesting? How do I market moving a parcel from A to B in a sexy way that can work for people in the industry?” Especially since we are a brand new company, nobody has heard of us.
I mean, even this name Janio is a made-up word that just came into existence in February of 2018. So how do you then head-on against the incumbents or people who have been in the industry for decades and come across as credible.
So I guess really the thought process was how do I, firstly, get myself in front of the audience that I’m looking at in a cost-effective way, because when you’re a brand new startup, you don’t have the same kind of million-dollar budgets that incumbents will have and how do I come across as credible enough for people to begin the shipping process with us since we are brand new and we are more of a platform rather than a traditional asset player.
So it’s tricky when you don’t have your own extensive fleets of vans or warehouses or planes that some of the other players do. Cause many of these merchants and shippers will be asking like, “Okay, so where are your vans? Where are your bikes? Where all of this…?” Right, but because we are a platform and at the beginning, we basically — we have nothing — how do I then show that I have what it takes, I can do what is required to service these client’s needs?
So it was really about getting the correct awareness and then focusing on the credibility. And that was the key — I guess it still is a key requirement for marketing and building the brand.
Paulo: I think it’s interesting that you said that you really wanted to build that credibility, right. Especially since you guys were just starting up this company and most of the founders were just getting into the logistics sector and I think part of that building credibility, one thing that I noticed from Janio’s marketing is that you do a lot of these reports, guides, case studies, and you know, just all-around content and sharing information about the how-to’s for ecommerce and cross-border trade.
So I think our listeners would be interested to know how this content strategy concretely impacts the business. Maybe you can share some examples of linking the content that you guys do to build that credibility and then how it impacts your clients.
Nathaniel: So at the beginning, we identified quite early on that this lack of a physical footprint would need to be dealt with in a different kind of way, compared to what most of the logistics players do when it comes to marketing.
So to make up for this lack of physical footprint, our digital footprint needs to be strong enough.
And it made sense because ecommerce players were our initial focus, they’re still a big focus for us. So ecommerce players would be online anyway. So, we realized, what that would mean is people need to find us when they are searching for solutions, searching for doing research, or anything related to ecommerce and logistics.
So our SEO needed to be strong, which means we need to have a well-built website with the correct type of content and it needs to be optimized for search. So content marketing then was a very natural, choice of key initiatives that we’ve embarked on.
And [content marketing] is still a big focus for us because content marketing if done well, not only will it help you to be found when people search because they are ranking high enough, it also helps to create credibility because the quality of the content, when people are reading on your page, can make or break their impression of you as a service provider, right?
So we decided that since we are focused on Southeast Asia and we are looking at how ecommerce companies can do cross-border shipping. So “ecommerce”, “cross-border”, “in Southeast Asia”, those were, I would say our key themes when it came to content.
So if you look at our website and you would see, there’s a lot of content on these main topics. Often they overlap. So you end up talking about cross-border ecommerce in maybe a specific country, right? And so these were insights, which back when we started, you wouldn’t really find a lot of this unless you paid like a ton of money for a specialist with one.
So what we wanted to do was to leverage the data that we had, the connections, and I would say the network that we have, the many partnerships throughout the countries, and also with our own interactions with clients to form our own view of what’s going on in these markets.
And then turn that into some kind of meaningful resource that our clients and potential clients could tap into. Because it helps with awareness and being found establishing credibility, but to our clients, it’s also a big help to them to understand and make sense of the markets that they are in.
Because even for many of these clients, they might not have a big in-house research team or strategy team, so how they get their opinions and views on what the market is doing, where it’s headed, comes from the secondary materials that they read, in this case, that would be the content that we develop. So that’s how our articles give us the views and the credibility and help evaluate the clients.
Some of the bigger bucket items I would say would be things like ebooks or case studies. These tend to be a lot more expensive and include things like interviews with our clients and partners and other types of research such as primary surveys that we conduct and whatnot. So they tend to be a lot more detailed and in-depth on specific themes, such as maybe a specific country and an overview of ecommerce there, or perhaps even a specific vertical or a specific season during e-commerce in the region.
So these are meant to really, really help people go in-depth and even help to inform an opinion, beyond just like a thousand-word article. Now you have maybe a 50-page report that can help you to prepare better for, let’s say Hari Raya, Ramadan ecommerce season in the various markets because that’s a very big thing in this market.
So It also helps us in generating leads. So that’s where we start to see like really concrete results in driving commercial success. Because [with] these ebooks, case studies the standard practice in B2B marketing is to put this behind what you would call a “gate”, so it’s gated content, where people need to sign up for it, provide some data about themselves, their contact details, et cetera, and then they’ll be able to download it for free.
So when we get their details, there are some fields in the form that they fill out that would help us understand what are their interests, how we can better help them in their logistics requirements. So when these leads come in, then we work with the sales team to follow up with these leads, engage them, and in so doing it helps to set a better context for sales discussion, facilitate the commercial process a bit better.
So I would say content gets awareness, it generates leads, but it also helps to retain clients and keep them happy.
Paulo: Right. So it really does a lot in terms of driving Janio’s commercial success. Do you have any, in terms of like generating leads, do you have any specific examples that come to mind or stories from past clients?
Nathaniel: Yeah, so, perhaps without naming any names, we do have quite a lot of clients from overseas markets, especially outside of Southeast Asia, looking to expand their knowledge and their presence in the markets. Folks in the UK or Australia, even some of these markets, which we are further away from, so their ability to make sense of what’s going on is not as extensive as someone who is in the market.
So for many of these overseas companies, some of them include even MNCs that carry many household brand names. When they find our materials, especially our ebooks and case studies, they tend to start there and it provides great help for them in terms of understanding this market that they are trying to expand to or expand in. So that helps us to firstly, find out that these people are interested and we also know that these are some of the topics that are top of their mind.
So when we engage them, you’re able to not just talk about the logistics aspect of ecommerce, but we can also talk about market entry strategies, so how we can help facilitate conversations with other ecosystem players.
So those are some ways I would say, especially for […] markets, which do not have that kind of footprint in this market, is particularly useful. I would say.
Paulo: Right, I think that’s a really interesting use case for the content, especially as it aligns with what Janio does as a platform, right? Helping all of these companies outside of Southeast Asia, get into the logistics lanes within the region. And one thing that you mentioned about how you approach this content strategy is that you really make use of all this information that comes from Janio’s network of partners, right?
And that reminds me of, in the previous podcast with Manisha, where she said that “everybody in the company should be marketing savvy, everybody should be able to represent the brand” and I think that’s something that Janio is able to do very well as well. So, what’s your approach when it comes to driving marketing company-wide? You know, making it sort of like a company effort or even driving it beyond the company and you know, getting ecosystem network partners involved as well.
Nathaniel: So, definitely agree with you, everybody in the company should be able to help represent the brand and also should be involved in developing the brand. So internally within the company, there are several ways in which other stakeholders can be involved.
So firstly, it would be — I think that the more common way to be involved with marketing and content would be to provide insights into various aspects of logistics and ecommerce. So for example, our ops team, they’re the guys who facilitate the flows of the physical products. They work with network partners. So they’re the most in-tune with what’s really happening on the ground when it comes to the operational side of things.
So we get their insights and their inputs when it comes to our content and our materials, which concern the operational side of things. So if you see our articles that talk about airfreight from certain countries, this country to that country, and how it’s done, basically that’s developed with the help of somebody from operations.
If you look at something that is more on, I would say, the tech or product side of things that talks about how perhaps the data can help with improving the state of ecommerce or ecommerce logistics, that would be provided by somebody in the product or tech teams because they are the ones who are developing the software and the integrations and whatnot that are required to optimize and improve on what’s happening in the industry.
So everything has a special part to play. And of course the sales team, they’re the ones who speak to the clients directly. So they have the best knowledge of what are the pain points, what are the things that people look out for, how expectations are changing, what are the key questions on the minds of the clients?
So this also helps to inform our content strategy, our marketing strategy like what are the materials, the type of topics we can write on, what are the types of materials that we need to develop, what do our materials need to answer, right?
So everybody provides the inputs that help shape the marketing strategy or the marketing content in one way or another.
Paulo: Right, and how about your partners in Janio’s ecosystem, how do they also get involved in, or how are they engaged in terms of your marketing strategy?
Nathaniel: Okay. So many of the partners in our ecosystem, beyond just logistics partners, of course, we do work with a number of other ecommerce enablers or market-based players and other business-related service providers. Basically, collectively cover all the different areas of business and ecommerce. So every partner that we have brings a unique perspective or a unique set of services that they can provide to the shared clients that we have.
So usually what we try to do, is we look at how we can leverage each other’s capabilities and our insights and come up with something that is a bit more comprehensive.
So an example of such an initiative that we did would be a conference that we did back in 2019 with some of our ecosystem partners. So we worked with market-based players, logistics players, that cover other areas of the supply chain even with channel management systems and companies to provide any insights to ecommerce merchants, ecommerce merchants being our audience or shared audience, and how they can tap into all these different areas to improve the ecommerce business.
So that would be one very tangible way that we get involved, with our partners and work together to come up with something useful and valuable for our merchants.
Paulo: Right. Right. And I think that those are really great initiatives, especially as it adds to the larger ecosystem of supply chain management and cross-border logistics.
About our guest
Nathaniel Yim joined the founding team at Janio in 2018 after graduating and pursuing several branding and marketing roles at consulting firms the year prior. He has since taken the lead of Janio’s marketing efforts across Southeast Asia, building the marketing team and new brand from scratch, covering areas like PR, lead generation, website development, account-based marketing, sales enablement, SEO, as well as representing the company at public speaking engagements and podcasts like this one for branding amongst others.