Marketing for startups is like tracks for the train. As obvious as it may sound, you won’t get far with your product without coming to grips with marketing. What startups usually experience is low marketing budget and small teams where a variety of things fall under just one person’s shoulders. As exciting as it is for personal development, it poses many questions regarding budget allocation and workforce optimisation. To get answers to some of the burning startup marketing questions, we caught up with Matthew Eisner, Global Marketing Manager at Startupbootcamp.
You have led marketing efforts in a wide variety of projects. How did the experience help you on your way to joining Startupbootcamp?
I find that the more projects I work on, the wider the frame of reference I have to be able to recognise patterns, draw from various experiences, and adapt to new challenges. More granularly, some of my former colleagues have become mentors for our programmes or events at Startupbootcamp, have provided me with advice for the more technical work I do, or even have become good friends of mine.
What is Startupbootcamp’s modus operandi and how exactly can startups benefit from it?
We try to facilitate tight partnerships between corporates and startups. We’ve found that having major banks working with our FinTech programmes and automotive manufacturers partnered with our Transportation & Energy programme creates much more solid relationships between the larger organisations we work with and the startups we accelerate. Not to say that we don’t have a major focus on preparing startups to scale and secure funding – and our partners and mentors are incredibly helpful to that end.
We also provide hundreds of thousands worth of discounts from our partners, office space, hands-on support from our staff during and after acceleration, €15,000, and plenty of other perks. We say in 3 months of acceleration, you can expect about 12 months of productivity, which is an enormous amount of time to an early stage startup.
“The term “growth hacking” suggests an imprecise approach, which is generally the opposite of what we try to do.”
What are some of the key points every startup should consider whilst building a marketing team?
Scalability: marketing needs to be built in a way where it is scalable in the future – where past iterations can be leveraged to make future executions more efficient. This is true to content but much more in the context of technical email, website, and SEO, where the costs of building non-scalable systems can be incredibly high.
Feedback: if you don’t track something, you can’t improve it. If you don’t provide your marketing managers with a solid analytics infrastructure that allows them to see how their executions perform, they won’t be able to improve.
Growth: you can hire a Social Media manager before a Head of Marketing, but at the end of the day you want someone at the top who’s skill sets are well-aligned with your company. They need to be capable of building, training, and managing a team, as well as integrating into other teams and ultimately driving business goals.
How to best allocate low marketing budget? Any strategic, tactical advice for startups?
Focus organic and put money in small amounts behind solid longtail executions, probably content driven. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost something, but it doesn’t cost you per execution necessarily. That might be confusing, but the example I like to use is if you get a blog to link to your site that gives you 2 new users per day, and you can replicate that link once a week on a different website, by the end of the year that strategy alone is getting you 3000 new users per day.
That’s scalable marketing, and it doesn’t usually take significant budget. I’d guess that 90% of early-stage startups that elect to go for paid digital strategies, before finding their organic growth mechanism and having solid analytics infrastructure in place, are simply lighting their money on fire. But once you have those two things in place, advertising at the top of the funnel can act as a multiplier.
“We say in 3 months of acceleration, you can expect about 12 months of productivity.”
For early-stage startups, feedback is more important than customers. Do you dis/agree and why?
If you have a solid analytics infrastructure, there doesn’t have to be a difference. If we mean external feedback as opposed to feedback from your customers, that’s always valuable, but your customers’ needs should come first. Frankly, though, that’s what companies like Facebook and Uber do so well – leverage their user data to improve the platform and determine what to develop next.
Growth Hacking is on the rise. Where do you stand in the debate whether it is a new practice or just a new term?
Well, Hotmail is regarded as an early growth hack and they were around in 1996. PayPal also did significant growth hacking. In my eyes, this means it is a new term. It’s really a catchall for difficult to describe marketing roles that span across multiple specialties.
I don’t like the term growth hacking, and neither do any of the serious “growth hackers” I know. It suggests an imprecise approach, which is generally the opposite of what we try to do. For me, growth marketing is all about optimisation, not automation. Put more simply, I try to specifically reach people who can actually benefit from what I’m trying to grow. There certainly are growth hackers who go for a broader, spammier approach, but that really only works in a few scenarios as it can bite you in the ass long-term. I always try to focus on the users I can delight when creating campaigns, not users I can onboard.
In the second part of the interview, Matthew shares some practical advice: Building a winning marketing strategy
Making your first hire: advice for startups