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Just trying to learn as much as I can about marketing, venture capitalism, start-ups and New York

Start-up Marketing School: Class 1- So you’re planning to be the CMO someday?

Perspectives on marketing in a start-up.  How to plan for the unplanned whether you’re bootstrapping your venture or funded to the hilt.  The format will be a panel and town hall discussion, including the views of three people who’ve taken different paths to the lead marketing role in successful a start-up. So what does it take? How do you prepare yourself to build a marketing machine from the ground up?

 Panelists:

 Rich Ullman, Former SVP of Marketing at Ripple6

See full size imageDeena Bahri, VP of Marketing at Birchbox

 Jeff Grill, VP of Marketing at Mimeo

Notes from the discussion:

develop brand- content and cases, story, distribution, customer base

look at analytics- how do you measure?

Deena’s advice-

  • started in offline world
  • focus on brand
  • product being the center
  • what makes product different
  • really know your product, get close with product teams
  • website is very important
  • understanding the customer- really talking with them
  • “voice of the customer”
  • focus on the metrics
  • money, head count -> prove ROI
  • measuring and communicating
  • spread the news

Jeff’s advice-

  • started as a media planner
  • ran focus groups- literally talk to customers
  • “the whole world is being rewritten”
  • you are limited by what you work on
  • he needed to learn direct marketing
  • went back to agency world as true integrative marketing
  • in marketing, “always have a hypothesis about why something will work”
  • mimeo- online version of fedex
  • continuously felt constrained
  • too much of a bystander
  • “i don’t trust a marketer that doesn’t actively market”
  • integrative marketing careers are built, they don’t just happen
  • start-ups don’t understand marketing, keep it simple
  • think again if you can’t measure it
  • marketers are not magicians understand what others are doing, what customers are asking for, what you are trying to do

 

Discussion- Startups and their small marketing budget

Deena-

  • money equals more options, can test more freely
  • helps if you want to outsource
  • yet you don’t want to get too far from home base
  • haven’t figured out the product-market fit
  • money allows you to be more creative

Jeff-

  • tremendous amount of accountability with money
  • life span of a CMO is 10 months
  • problem comes when you want to test things that are more expensive
  • have to find a balance between spending money and cheap

 

Discussion- Is it about money or culture?

Deena-

  • startups by nature are disruptive, no rules, bring ideas to life, passionate
  • there is risk and appetite involved
  • lack of structure
  • can be hard to let go of pieces of your job as your company grows

Jeff-

  • job gets smaller as company gets larger
  • make it up as you go along

 

Discussion- How do you deal with being the middle hire? Who’s the first person you hire?

Jeff-

  • hire an analyst, brought outside resources in-house
  • better to keep everything compartmentalized
  • with start-ups, sometimes you need to prove certain channels don’t work
  • its always a work in progress

Deena-

  • always be prepared to adjust
  • bring in copy design- don’t outsource brand identity
  • want to be hands on in all aspects of company’s marketing
  • place a lot of importance on analytics

Rich-

  • Outsourced results need to be taken with prejudice

 

Discussion- what are some free marketing techniques?

  • referrals, really looking at what is important to your customers, video
  • what tools? facebook, twitter, youtube dashboards
  • nothings free-spending time, money, effort
  • create content by listening to customers
  • facebook is an avenue to communicate
  • people will stumble upon online

 

 Q: what is the relationship between content and marketing at Birchbox?

A: very separate. we have our content, then we have selling to beauty products, and selling to the customer

 

Q:  How should you do offline marketing for online businesses?

A: combine offline media with direct marketing tactics

online has to back up offline

never underspend in a test

there is a myth that online media is unmeasurable

use different channels but always project the same message

sometimes company is too small to handle all projects

 

Q: is there tension between brands and subscribers at Birchbox? You want customer opinions but also want to sell product

A: don’t manage any negativity

publish to brands, but not everything to consumers on website and forums

peer reviews and comments can be very powerful

 

Q: do you want specific customers?

A: you want profitable customers

shoppers and referrals can both be very profitable

someone with money vs.someone who tweets a lot

delivering customers something that they are looking for

analytics has to differentiate between new and existing customers

 

Q: What tools do you use?

A: Google analytics, queries on the database, mailchimp for email, social media platforms individually

need to stay lean

crosstraining people on platforms

friendbuy- drive referral engine, prompted to share

would rather use fewer tools

be careful with any tool that gives you a monthly invoice

 

Q: When do you look at metrics? How do you check the progress?

A: organize data around your best customers. Check data three times a day- tap into dashboard

have someone look at win/loss customers

align metrics around your goals

KPIs and planning- don’t overplan, plan for action and then immediately put it to use

start-ups change so frequently- stop planning and start doing

have to be “adaptive and adoptive”

look to others, copy what works, keep your eyes open, keep listening to others and understanding new ideas

 

Q: Are there helpful tests for good product market fit?

A: designing campaigns, experiments with controls- use same demographics, population

easier to do testing control

hard to test buyer experience

marketing doesn’t own any real estate

have a kitchen table focus group

bring in a customer and watch them

use their UI and get feedback

focus group- qualitative research

listen to the passionate focus group member

listen to the emotions

if you can get a good idea about your customer group, then make a focus group with similar demographics

look for the “power users”

everything is now lean and agile

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