#0023 James Hammerton of Vault

The Civitas Team

13 ideas on brand awareness, engagement, and overcoming the inner saboteur.

Vault was founded six years ago as a reaction to how much the web development environment was being undercut.

With the overload of web and software developers, James found it super-difficult to generate a stable revenue until he and his team started toying around with ideas of a platform for investor relations professionals. Through an igniter program with Standard Bank, they started surveying people on what they want and what they would pay for. This gave them a clearer idea of how to develop the platform.

Today, more than 80 top issuers in Africa, including Pick n Pay and Netcare use Vault not only for managing the admin and risk reduction but also for communicating with other investors.

Civitas team member, Paul, interviewed James on approaching prospects, keeping clients engaged, being active, and managing a client base.

Summary of the best ideas from the discussion:

  • Instead of trying to sell your software directly, focus on building relations with your potential clients.
  • Contact end-users for further brand awareness.
  • Do your homework and find the contact info of the person you want to approach.
  • Don’t overwhelm clients with too many extra modules in the beginning.
  • Despite your fear of rejection, always continue to phone/email/talk to people.
  • Send weekly newsletters.
  • Implement a mix of face-to-face and remote calls to keep in touch with your clients.

Brand awareness

  1. “Ask your potential client base what they need and what they would pay for.”
  2. “If you try to sell your product straight away, people put their defenses up and block you”. Work on building relationships first.
  3. “Approaching clients to chat about investor relations without trying to sell our software led to more sign-ups in the end.”
  4. Rather than using generic contact information found on a company website, “spend time digging around to find the contact info of the actual person you want to speak to”.
  5. The more people you engage with, the more brand awareness you build through the word of mouth.
  6. Contact end-users (in our case, analysts) to gain traction. Even if they are not a paying customer, they can be the intermediate between you and the hard-to-get people (in our case, CFOs).


  1. Set-up regular community meetings with end-users to build a sense of community.
  2. Whilst trying to expand your client base, build extra modules (value) for your existing clients. This can be done by identifying additional problems (and solutions) for them and selling them at reasonable prices.
  3. If you try to sell unrelated products (modules) to new clients, they will get confused and overwhelmed. “Stick to your core offering for at least a few months until you build trust.”
  4. “Send out weekly newsletters to prospects and current clients to keep them engaged with your story. This helps the prospects to recognize you when you give them a call.”

Being proactive

  1. “Don’t be a self-saboteur, finding excuses and not taking action. That’s not going to move you forward.”
  2. “If you are passive, you are not going to get any engagements. So, don’t be afraid to phone people, email them, or walk into offices."

Time management

  1. “Once your client base has expanded, it can be difficult to allocate face-to-face time for all of them. You should instead opt for phone or video calls to save up on the travel time. This will also increase your productivity. That said, you should try to have a mix-up of face-to-face meetings and Zoom calls because one-on-one interaction is still crucial to growth.”

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