The ongoing fintech revolution continues to level the playing field where legacy companies have historically dominated startups.
To compete with retail banks, many newcomers are offering customers credit and debit cards; developer-friendly APIs make issuance relatively easy, and tools for managing processes like KYC are available off the shelf.
To learn more about the low barriers to entry — and the inherent challenges of creating a unique card offering — reporter Ryan Lawler interviewed:
Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.
We’re off on Monday, September 6 to celebrate America’s Labor Day holiday, but we’ll be back with new stories (and a very brief newsletter) on Tuesday morning.
Thanks very much for reading,
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
Image Credits: Suriyapong Thongsawang (opens in a new window) / Getty Images
The barrier to entry for launching hardware startups has fallen; if you can pull off a successful crowdfunding campaign, you’re likely savvy enough to find a factory overseas that can build your widgets to spec.
But global supply chains are fragile: No one expected an off-course container ship to block the Suez Canal for six days. Due to the pandemic, importers are paying almost $18,000 for shipping containers from China today that cost $3,300 a year ago.
After spending a career spinning up supply chains on three continents, Liteboxer CEO Jeff Morin authored a guide for Extra Crunch for hardware founders.
“If you’re clear-eyed about the challenges and apply some rigor and forethought to the process, the end result can be hard to match,” Morin says.
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch
Twice each year, we turn our attention to Y Combinator’s latest class of aspiring startups as they hold their public debuts.
For YC Summer 2021 Demo Day, the accelerator’s fourth virtual gathering, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm, Devin Coldewey, Lucas Matney and Greg Kumparak selected 14 favorites from the first day of one of the world’s top pitch competitions.
Image Credits: Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images
Few people thought about virtual events before the pandemic struck, but this format has fulfilled a unique and important need for organizations large and small since early 2020. But what will virtual events’ value be as more of the world attempts a return to “normal”?
To find out, we caught up with top executives and investors in the sector to learn about the big trends they’re seeing — as the sequel to a survey we did in March 2020.
Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)
Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim wrapped up TechCrunch’s coverage of the summer cohort from Y Combinator’s Demo Day with an evaluation of how the group fared in comparison to their expectations.
They were surprised by the number of startups focusing on no-and low-code software, and pleased by the unanticipated quantity of new companies focusing on space.
“It seems only fair to note that some categories of startup activity simply met our expectations in terms of popularity,” noting delivery-focused startups including dark stores and kitchens.
Popping up less than expected? Crypto and insurtech.
Read on for the whole list of startups that caught the eye of The Exchange.
Image Credits: erhui1979 / Getty Images
Cohort analysis is what it sounds like: evaluating your startup’s customers by grouping them into “cohorts” and observing their behavior over time.
In a guest column, Jonathan Metrick, the chief growth officer at Sagard & Portage Ventures, offers a detailed example explaining the value of this type of analysis.
Questions? Join us for a Twitter Spaces chat with Metrick on Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT. For details and a reminder, follow @TechCrunch on Twitter.
Cohort analysis is a way of evaluating your business that involves grouping customers into “cohorts” and observing how they behave over time. A commonly used approach is monthly cohort analysis, where customers are grouped by the month they signed up, allowing you to observe how someone who joined in November compares to someone who signed up the month before.
Cohort analysis gives you a multivariable, forward-looking view of your business compared to more simple and static values like averages or totals.
Cohort analysis is flexible and can be used to analyze a variety of performance metrics including revenue, acquisition costs and churn.
Let’s imagine you’re the CMO of the “Bluetooth Coffee Company.” You sell a tech-enabled “coffee composer” that brews coffee, tracks consumption and orders replacement coffee when users are running low. The longer your customers are subscribers, the more money you make. You recently ran a Black Friday feature on a popular deals site and you’re interested to know if you should run it again.
The chart below is a simple analysis you might do to gauge your marketing performance. It shows the total customers added each month, and a clear spike in November following the Black Friday promotion. At first glance, things look good — you brought in more than double the monthly customers in November compared to October.
Image Credits: Sagard & Portage Ventures
But before you rebook the promotion, you should ask if these new Black Friday consumers are as valuable as they seem. Comparing monthly customer percentage is a good way to find out.
Below is a monthly cohort analysis of new customers between September 2020 and February 2021. Like our previous chart, we’ve listed the monthly cohort size, but we’ve also included the customer engagement rate (calculated by dividing daily active users by monthly active users or DAU/MAU for each month (M1 is month 1, M2 is month 2, and so on).
This analysis lets us see how the customer engagement of each monthly cohort compares to the next.
Image Credits: Sagard & Portage Ventures
From the figures above, we see that most cohorts have a customer engagement rate in their first month (M1, 42%-46%), meaning 42%-46% of new customers use the coffee composer everyday. The November cohort however has materially lower engagement (M1, 30%), and remains lower in subsequent months (M2, 26%) and (M3, 27%). Interestingly, the customer engagement rate only drops with the November cohort, returning to normal with the December cohort (M1, 45%).
Pixalate raised $18.1 million in growth capital for its fraud protection, privacy and compliance analytics platform that monitors connected television and mobile advertising.
Western Technology Investment and Javelin Venture Partners led the latest funding round, which brings Pixalate’s total funding to $22.7 million to date. This includes a $4.6 million Series A round raised back in 2014, Jalal Nasir, founder and CEO of Pixalate, told TechCrunch.
The company, with offices in Palo Alto and London, analyzes over 5 million apps across five app stores and more 2 billion IP addresses across 300 million connected television devices to detect and report fraudulent advertising activity for its customers. In fact, there are over 40 types of invalid traffic, Nasir said.
Nasir grew up going to livestock shows with his grandfather and learned how to spot defects in animals, and he has carried that kind of insight to Pixalate, which can detect the difference between real and fake users of content and if fraudulent ads are being stacked or hidden behind real advertising that zaps smartphone batteries or siphons internet usage and even ad revenue.
Digital advertising is big business. Nasir cited Association of National Advertisers research that estimated $200 billion will be spent globally in digital advertising this year. This is up from $10 billion a year prior to 2010. Meanwhile, estimated ad fraud will cost the industry $35 billion, he added.
“Advertisers are paying a premium to be in front of the right audience, based on consumption data,” Nasir said. “Unfortunately, that data may not be authorized by the user or it is being transmitted without their consent.”
While many of Pixalate’s competitors focus on first-party risks, the company is taking a third-party approach, mainly due to people spending so much time on their devices. Some of the insights the company has found include that 16% of Apple’s apps don’t have privacy policies in place, while that number is 22% in Google’s app store. More crime and more government regulations around privacy mean that advertisers are demanding more answers, he said.
The new funding will go toward adding more privacy and data features to its product, doubling the sales and customer teams and expanding its office in London, while also opening a new office in Singapore.
The company grew 1,200% in revenue since 2014 and is gathering over 2 terabytes of data per month. In addition to the five app stores Pixalate is already monitoring, Nasir intends to add some of the China-based stores like Tencent and Baidu.
Noah Doyle, managing director at Javelin Venture Partners, is also monitoring the digital advertising ecosystem and said with networks growing, every linkage point exposes a place in an app where bad actors can come in, which was inaccessible in the past, and advertisers need a way to protect that.
“Jalal and Amin (Bandeali) have insight from where the fraud could take place and created a unique way to solve this large problem,” Doyle added. “We were impressed by their insight and vision to create an analytical approach to capturing every data point in a series of transactions — more data than other players in the industry — for comprehensive visibility to help advertisers and marketers maintain quality in their advertising.”
In Europe and the US we are very much getting used to groceries being delivered within 15 minutes, with a huge battleground of startups in the space. Startups across Europe and the US have raised no less than $3.1 billion in the last quarter alone for grocery deliveries within 10 or 20-minute delivery promises. But all are scrambling over a market where the average order size is pretty low. What if it was in the hundreds, and didn’t require refrigeration?
This is probably going to be the newest “15/30minute” consumer battleground, as high-end consumer goods come to last-mile deliveries.
The latest to Arive in this space is… arive – a German-based startup that delivers high-end consumer brands within 30 minutes. It’s now raised €6 million in seed funding from 468 Capital, La Famiglia VC and Balderton Capital.
But stacking its shelves with well-known brands and spinning up last-mile delivery logistics, Arive is offering fitness products, cosmetics, personal care, homeware, tech and fashion. Consumers order via an app, with the delivery coming via a bike-only fleet in 30-minutes or less.
The behavior it’s tapping into is already there. It seems the pandemic has made us all work and play from home, leaving foot traffic in inner cities still below pre-Covid levels.
Arive says it works directly with brands to offer a selection of their products for on-demand delivery, offering them a new distribution channel to a new type of customer that wants speed and convenience.
arive is currently available in Munich and has recently launched in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. The 30-minute delivery guarantee means it doesn’t need as many micro fulfillment centers as grocery players, helping it to keep infrastructure costs low.
Maximilian Reeker, co-founder of arive, said: “While the space for hyper-fast grocery delivery is increasingly crowded, we found the brands we love are still stuck in a three-day delivery scheme. For today’s time-poor consumers, this is too long.”
Bardo Droege, investor at 468 Capital, commented: “Our cities are dynamic, fast-moving places, and people living there want the tools and services that reflect their lifestyles so it’s no wonder the 15-minute groceries category has taken off so quickly. We’re confident the arive team will take this on.”
On the heels of Heroes announcing a $200 million raise earlier today, to double down on buying and scaling third-party Amazon Marketplace sellers, another startup out of London aiming to do the same is announcing some significant funding of its own. Olsam, a roll-up play that is buying up both consumer and B2B merchants selling on Amazon by way of Amazon’s FBA fulfillment program, has closed $165 million — a combination of equity and debt that it will be using to fuel its M&A strategy, as well as continue building out its tech platform and to hire more talent.
Apeiron Investment Group — an investment firm started by German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer (known first for biopharmaceuticals, then investing and crypto, including playing a role in SoftBank investing in Wirecard) — led the Series A equity round, with Elevat3 Capital (another Angermayer firm that has a strategic partnership with Founders Fund and Peter Thiel) also participating. North Wall Capital was behind the debt portion of the deal. We have asked and Olsam is only disclosing the full amount raised, not the amount that was raised in equity versus debt. Valuation is also not being disclosed.
Being an Amazon roll-up startup from London that happens to be announcing a fundraise today is not the only thing that Olsam has in common with Heroes. Like Heroes, Olsam is also founded by brothers.
Sam Horbye previously spent years working at Amazon, including building and managing the company’s Business Marketplace (the B2B version of the consumer Marketplace); while co-founder Ollie Horbye had years of experience in strategic consulting and financial services.
Between them, they had also built and sold previous marketplace businesses, and they believe that this collective experience gives Olsam — a portmanteau of their names, “Ollie” and “Sam” — a leg up when it comes to building relationships with merchants; identifying quality products (versus the vast seas of search results that often feel like they are selling the same inexpensive junk as each other); and understanding merchants’ challenges and opportunities, and building relationships with Amazon and understanding how the merchant ecosystem fits into the e-commerce giant’s wider strategy.
Olsam is also taking a slightly different approach when it comes to target companies, by focusing not just on the usual consumer play, but also on merchants selling to businesses. B2B selling is currently one of the fastest-growing segments in Amazon’s Marketplace, and it is also one of the more overlooked by consumers.”It’s flying under the radar,” Ollie said.
“The B2B opportunity is very exciting,” Sam added. “A growing number of merchants are selling office supplies or more random products to the B2B customer.”
Estimates vary when it comes to how many merchants there are selling on Amazon’s Marketplace globally, ranging anywhere from 6 million to nearly 10 million. Altogether those merchants generated $300 million in sales (gross merchandise value), and its growing by 50% each year at the moment.
And consolidating sellers — in order to achieve better economies of scale around supply chains, marketing tools and analytics, and more — is also big business. Olsam estimates that some $7 billion has been spent cumulatively on acquiring these businesses, and there are more out there: Olsam estimates that there are some 3,000 businesses in the UK alone making more than $1 million each in sales on Amazon’s platform.
(And to be clear, there are a number of other roll-up startups beyond Heroes also eyeing up that opportunity. Raising hundreds of millions of dollars in aggregate, others have made moves this year include Suma Brands ($150 million); Elevate Brands ($250 million); Perch ($775 million); factory14 ($200 million); Thrasio (currently probably the biggest of them all in terms of reach and money raised and ambitions), Heyday, The Razor Group, Branded, SellerX, Berlin Brands Group (X2), Benitago, Latin America’s Valoreo and Rainforest and Una Brands out of Asia.)
“The senior team behind Olsam is what makes this business truly unique,” said Angermayer in a statement. “Having all been successful in building and selling their own brands within the market and having worked for Amazon in their marketplace team – their understanding of this space is exceptional.”
“There are three common blunders that most SaaS marketers make time and again when it comes to clarity and high-converting content,” says Konrad Sanders, founder and CEO of The Creative Copywriter, “1. Not differentiating from competitors. 2. Not humanizing ‘tech talk.’ 3. Not tuning their messaging to prospects’ stage of awareness at the appropriate stage of the funnel.”
In an oversaturated market, how can you differentiate yourself? This week in marketing, Sanders took the time to answer that, break down B2B SaaS marketing, and tell us how marketers can do it right. Anna Heim, Extra Crunch daily reporter, interviewed Robert Katai, a Romanian marketing expert, as part of our TechCrunch Experts series. If there’s a growth marketer that you think we should know about, fill out our survey and tell us why!
Marketer: One Net Inc.
Recommended by: The Good Ride
Testimonial: “Exceptional SEO expertise. My e-comm startup relies 100% on SEO traffic and three years ago we were delisted from Google because we didn’t understand about duple content. One Net fixed our site and optimized it for Google, which allowed us to get back into the SERPs. Bottom line is: They saved our business.”
Marketer: Natalia Bandach, Hypertry
Recommended by: Jean-Noel Saunier, Growth Hacking Course
Testimonial: “Natalia is someone with an out-of-the-box approach to growth drivers and experimentation, full of creative solutions and many ideas that she quickly tests through experimentation. Rather than focusing on one area, she tries to verify what makes the most sense to a business and designs experiments that are crucial not only short but also long term. She is an ethical growth manager, likes to know that the business brings real value and is ready to pivot in every direction, [which] she does fast, however, with a focus on the team’s well-being, professional growth and always avoiding burnout.”
Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.
Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.
Marketer: Avi Grondin, Variance Marketing
Recommended by: Adam Czach, Explorator Labs
Testimonial: “They have a hands-on approach and worked with my team to not only drive results, but educate us on how we can grow our company further.”
Marketer: Nate Dame, Profound Strategy
Recommended by: Amanda Valle, Adobe
Testimonial: “They offered a robust content research, management and writing platform, which is enabling us to manage, produce and collaborate around our content better.”
Marketer: Oren Greenberg, Kurve
Recommended by: Michael Lorenzos
Testimonial: “He’s the most well-versed growth marketer I’ve met with a wide range of expertise and an uncanny ability to zoom in and out for business context and tactical implementation.”
(Extra Crunch) Are B2B SaaS marketers getting it wrong?: Konrad Sanders, a content strategist in addition to being the founder and CEO at The Creative Copywriter, wrote about SaaS marketing for Extra Crunch. He dove into what SaaS marketers are getting wrong, how to stand out in the crowded industry and the importance of how to approach each section of your funnel. Sanders says, “By creating content for every stage of the funnel, you’ll address your prospects’ concerns at the appropriate point in the buyer journey and increase the chances that when they do come to make a purchase, it’s with you.”
Romanian marketing expert Robert Katai explains how to get the most out of your content: This week, Anna profiled Robert Katai. Katai told her all about Romania’s startup scene and his views on repurposing content. When speaking about using content for carousels on Instagram and LinkedIn, he says, “The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.” Read the full interview to find out what the third slide should be!
Tell us who your favorite startup growth marketing expert to work with is by filling out our survey.
As Synder’s two co-founders Michael Astreiko and Ilya Kisel wrap up their time at Y Combinator, they also announced their seed round of $2 million from TMT Investments.
Though the round was acquired before going into the accelerator program, the Belarus-based pair wanted to wait to publicly share the milestone. As they focus their sights on their next journey of growth and expansion, the new funding will go toward attracting more clients, visibility and sales.
The company bills itself as an easy accounting platform for e-commerce businesses. It was originally founded as CloudBusiness in 2016 and developed accounting automation and management of business finances for small and mid-size businesses.
Astreiko and Kisel started Synder, in 2018 and a year later focused on the company full-time to develop an easy way for commerce companies to shift to omnichannel sales, something Astreiko told TechCrunch can be “a huge pain” due to the complexity of different payment systems and high fees.
“There are a lot of solutions on the market, but you still have to have special knowledge to operate within accounting or commerce,” Kisel said. “For us, the simplicity means that it is worth it if you can have access in several clicks to consolidated inventory, profits and liabilities. Small businesses sometimes are not sharing this information due to competition, but if something is working and easy, they will definitely share it.”
Synder does the heavy lifting for companies by connecting sales channels like Amazon, Shopify, eBay and Etsy into one platform that users can manage with one-click operations. It also created a way to help the accounting stream so that all of the different payment methods can still be used, Kisel said.
The company is already working with 4,000 clients, and will now be fast-tracking their expansion, but will need the right people on board to help the company grow, Astreiko said.
Igor Shoifot, a partner at TMT Investments, said he will join Synder’s board after the company graduates from YC. He likes the simplicity of what the company is doing.
“Often the best solutions are economical, succinct and elegant — you can be onboarded in 10 minutes,” he added. “There is really nobody that really provides a similar solution that was that easy or didn’t require downloading or installing something. I also like their focus on growth, the fact they have no burn and they are making money.”
Synder’s business model is a subscription SaaS model that starts off as a free trial, and users can purchase additional services inside the platform to fit small and large companies.
Its more than 15 employees are spread around Europe, and the company just started hiring in the areas of marketing and sales in the U.S.
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to grab people’s attention, but there’s one aspect of marketing that Robert Katai thinks isn’t talked about as often: maintaining their attention. The solution, he says, is a combination of content strategy and positioning.
Based in Romania, Katai is known for his podcasts and speeches covering the gamut of content marketing. A product manager at online graphic design platform Creatopy, he also works with clients as a freelance content strategist, and it is in this capacity that he was recommended to TechCrunch via our growth marketer survey. (If you have growth marketers to recommend, please fill out the survey!)
Katai was recommended by multiple Romanian clients and contacts who vouched for his content strategy prowess, so we were curious to know more. Who is he? And is his advice applicable beyond borders?
The short answer is yes. In a freewheeling interview, Katai spoke about how content marketing should integrate with users’ daily lives, and how content can be repurposed across multiple formats. He also shared some insights on the booming Romanian startup ecosystem.
Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
TC: How do you help your clients as a freelancer?
Robert Katai: One of the two things I’m doing is that I’m helping clients with creating their content strategy based on their objective. You can get web traffic, but you can also create a message and build the brand. You don’t have to start at the beginning; You can rebuild the brand later.
For instance, I’m working with a Romanian outsourcing company that started in 1993. They pioneered this industry in our city of Cluj-Napoca, but lately they started to realize that they should be more attractive from a sales as well as from an employee perspective. So I worked with them to perform an internal audit to see why employees love the company, why they leave, why they stay and what they want from the company.
Image Credits: Robert Katai.
From there, I got to the idea that they needed to reshape their brand to not just have people notice them but to also maintain their attention. And here comes the content: I started an ambassador program, because there are people outside of the company who love it.
I also recommended they create an internal print magazine. It’s a very well-designed magazine that their 200 to 300 employees can take home and read. It’s not just about the job; it’s also about their hobbies, things to do in the city and some thought leadership articles that can inspire them to have a better life.
What’s the second way you are helping clients?
Apart from content strategy, I’m working with clients on their positioning for their audience, community and market, but also sometimes in terms of employer branding. Content can be a bridge between the two ways I am helping clients, because I’m using a lot of content marketing here and not focusing only on performance or growth marketing hacks. I’m helping them understand that if they want to establish a memorable, long-lasting brand in the market, they have to make content marketing part of their life.
If they want to reposition themselves in the industry, they need to say: Okay, these are the kinds of content we have to create for our goals; who will amplify the content, who will connect with us, and who will consume the content. Today, content creation is free — everybody can do it. The hard part is how you distribute and amplify that. And here’s how I can help the startups: Make a big piece of content and repurpose it in several small pieces; get it in front of people so that the brand is on their minds.
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How can brands achieve that top-of-mind status?
We all know that there are four kinds of content: Text, video, pictures and audio. These four formats never die. The platform can change, but the format will stay the same. A video can be an Instagram Reel, a documentary or something else, but it’s a video. The same goes for a photo. So the content strategy I’m working with is how brands can use that content ecosystem.
When I work with my clients — and also with Creatopy where I’m a product marketer — I recommend them to use content to build their brand and be visible to their users every day in their feeds. Every morning, when their customers are waking up and checking their phones, they don’t open a newspaper. They will open Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and maybe then when they get out of the bathroom and make coffee, they will open YouTube and connect with Alexa.
I really believe that brands should create content that can just be in the mind of the user. Snackable content, Reels, TikTok … It doesn’t matter what we call it.
You also talked about repurposing content. Can you explain that?
Let’s take the interview you’ve done with Peep Laja. You could have recorded it as a video. And he covered several topics, so you could have several short videos — 30 seconds, three minutes, whatever. You can publish them daily on your site or social media channels with a comment that says, “Here’s the link to the full article.” But remember that on LinkedIn, that link will need to go into the comments section, not the post itself.
You can also have a longer video that you can publish on social media or on Wistia, asking people to give their email — so now you also have subscribers.
Then the second type of content you can create is audio. You already have it from the recording. You don’t have to publish the full 45-minute conversation, but you can have a five-minute audio clip, and again link to the articles.
Now we have video and audio, but what if you also designed quotes with his headshot and messaging? If it’s part of a series, you should also give it a name.
And it’s not just motivational; it’s educational, too, so you should take these quotes and create carousels for Instagram and LinkedIn. The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.
The last slide will always be a call to action: Asking people to share, comment or save it for later — it’s the new currency on Instagram! And once you have your Instagram carousel, you create a PDF and publish it on LinkedIn.
So now you have five formats of content from one piece of content.
Wow, how much do we owe you?! Just kidding, we actually do some of that for the Equity podcast, for instance. Now, what other advice do you have for startups?
I’m a big advocate of documenting the process. Just imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had done that and you could read how he launched Facebook and so on. Noah Kagan is doing that right now. I think startup founders should do it, not just from the PR and marketing perspective, but for their audience. Even if your audience is not paying for your product right now, they are staying with you and giving your brand an essence in the industry.
Just think about what Salesforce is doing right now: They launched Salesforce+, which is like Netflix for B2B. It’s to get the attention of professionals and also maintain it, and I believe this is the currency of the big companies today: People’s attention.
Do you work with any startups in Romania? And do you have any impressions to share on the Romanian startup ecosystem?
Yes, I help a few Romanian startups with their content marketing and positioning. Sometimes other startups email me with questions, so I help them, too, but I don’t charge for email advice. I work with the ones that are looking for a long-term or project-based collaboration.
Startup founders here in Romania are curious, and very courageous to experiment even if it won’t necessarily work. And Romanian startups are very smart. For instance, Planable is doing a great job with content, social media and positioning. We also have social media analytics company Socialinsider, which this year launched virtual events, and TypingDNA, which wants to get rid of needing to log in with passwords and was founded by a former colleague.
I also found that the founders here work harder than their teams and don’t just leave others do the work — at least the ones I have met. We have several startup events in Romania: How to Web, and Techsylvania here in Transylvania.
I don’t like this name, but people say that Cluj-Napoca is the “Silicon Valley of Romania.” Lots of startups have been launched here, but the city that is getting more and more traction is Oradea, where the bet on education is paying off.
(If you are a tech startup founder or investor in Cluj or Oradea, fill in TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021.)
Which terms come to mind when you think about SaaS?
“Solutions,” “cutting-edge,” “scalable” and “innovative” are just a sample of the overused jargon lurking around every corner of the techverse, with SaaS marketers the world over seemingly singing from the same hymn book.
Sadly for them, new research has proven that such jargon-heavy copy — along with unclear features and benefits — is deterring customers and cutting down conversions. Around 57% of users want to see improvements in the clarity and navigation of websites, suggesting that techspeak and unnecessarily complex UX are turning customers away at the door, according to The SaaS Engine.
That’s not to say SaaS marketers aren’t trying: Seventy percent of those surveyed have been making big adjustments to their websites, and 33% have updated their content. So how and why are they missing the mark?
They say there’s no bigger slave to fashion than someone determined to avoid it, and SaaS marketing is no different. To truly stand out, you need to do thorough competitor analysis.
There are three common blunders that most SaaS marketers make time and again when it comes to clarity and high-converting content:
We’re going to unpack what the research suggests and the steps you can take to avoid these common pitfalls.
It’s a jungle out there. But while camouflage might be key to surviving in the wild, in the crowded SaaS marketplace, it’s all about standing out. Let’s be honest: How many SaaS homepages have you visited that look the same? How many times have you read about “innovative tech-driven solutions that will revolutionize your workflow”?
The research has found that of those using SaaS at work, 76% are now on more platforms or using existing ones more intensively than last year. And as always, with increased demand comes a boom in competition, so it’s never been more important to stand out. Rather than imitating the same old phrases and copy your competitors are using, it’s time to reach your audience with originality, empathy and striking clarity.
But how do you do that?
Marketing automation has usually focused on driving sales, mainly using past purchase or late funnel behavior (e.g., paid search) as a predictor of an imminent purchase. While effective at boosting sales numbers, this widely implemented strategy can result in a disservice to brands and industries that adopt it, as it promotes the perpetual devaluation of goods or services. Narrowing a brand’s focus only to aspects linked to conversions risks stripping the customer experience of key components that lay the groundwork for long-term success.
We live in a world rich with data, and insights are growing more vibrant every day. With this in mind, companies and advertisers can strategically weave together all the data they collect during the customer experience. This enables them to understand every inference available during customer interactions and learn what benefits the customer most at a given time.
But focusing exclusively on data collected from customers, brands risk falling subject to the law of diminishing returns. Even companies with meaningful consumer interactions or rich service offerings struggle to gain impactful contextual insights. Only by harnessing a broader dataset can we understand how people become customers in the first place, what makes them more or less likely to purchase again and how developments in society impact the growth or struggle a brand will experience.
Here’s a look at how we can achieve a more complete picture of current and future customers.
A critical component in re-imagining customer experience as a relationship is recognizing that brands often don’t focus enough on consumers’ wider needs and concerns.
Over the past several years, almost every industry has capitalized on the opportunity data-driven marketing presents, inching closer to the “holy grail” of real-time, direct and personalized engagements. Yet, the evolving toolset encouraged brands to focus on end-of-the-funnel initiatives, jeopardizing what really impacts a business’ longevity: relationships.
While past purchase or late-funnel behavior data does provide value and is useful in identifying habit changes or actual needs, it is relatively surface level and doesn’t offer insight into consumers’ future behavior or what led them to a specific purchase in the first place.
By incorporating AI, brands can successfully engage with their audiences in a more holistic, helpful and genuine way. Technologies to discern not just the content of language (e.g., the keywords) but its meaning as well, open up possibilities to better infer consumer interest and intentions. In turn, brands can tune consumer interactions to generate satisfaction and delight, and ultimately accrue stronger insights for future use.
Instagram is ditching the “swipe-up” link in Instagram Stories starting on August 30. The popular feature has historically allowed businesses and high-profile creators a way to direct their Story’s viewers to a website where they could learn more about a product, read an article, sign-up for a service, or do anything else the creator wanted to promote. In place of the “swipe up” call-to-action, Instagram users who previously had access to the feature will instead be able to use the new Link Sticker, the company says.
This sticker had been in testing starting in June with a small handful of users, the company said. But on August 30, it will begin to roll out more broadly.
App researcher Jane Manchun Wong first noticed the announcement which warned creators of the plan to shut down swipe-up links.
IG said the swipe up links will go away starting from Aug 30 and that I should use the “link sticker”
… but I searched my Stories Sticker sheet and I’m not seeing the link sticker at all (not rolled out to me).
Does that mean I’ll lose the ability to add links to my Stories?
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) August 23, 2021
Instagram says it will begin to convert those who currently have access to the swipe-up link to the Link Sticker starting on August 30, 2021. This will include businesses and creators who are either verified or who have met the threshold for follower count. (While Instagram doesn’t publicly comment on this count, it’s widely reported to be at least 10,000 followers.)
The new Link Sticker has a couple of key advantages over the older “swipe-up” link.
For starters, it offers greater creator control over their Stories.
Like polls, questions and location stickers, the Link Sticker lets creators toggle between different styles, resize the sticker, and then place it anywhere on the Story for maximum engagement. In addition, viewers will now be able to react and reply to posts that have the Link Sticker attached, just like any other Story. Before, that sort of feedback wasn’t possible on posts with the swipe-up link, Instagram noted.
While there isn’t a change to who will gain access to the Link Sticker for now, Instagram says it’s evaluating whether or not to expand link access to more accounts in the future. The decision to expand access is one that has to be made carefully, however, as it could impact the app’s integrity and safety. For instance, if Link Sticker were to be adopted by bad actors, it could be used to spread misinformation or post spam. The shift to the Link Sticker is the first step in making it possible to broaden access to link sharing in Stories, if Instagram chooses to go that route.
Overall, the move away from a gesture to sticker is more in line with Instagram’s current creative direction, where interactive features are added to posts in the form of stickers. The new Link Sticker will join others already available in the app, including stickers for donations, music, and polls.
Givz, which has developed an API-powered platform that gives brands a way to convert discounts into donations, has raised $3 million in seed funding.
Eniac and Accomplice co-led the financing for the New York-based startup. Additional investors include Supernode Ventures, Claude Wasserstein of Fine Day, Phoenix Club and Dylan Whitman.
Givz was founded in 2017 to make charitable giving more accessible and convenient for the masses. In March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the company pivoted from B2C to B2B and used the technology rails it had built to create the e-commerce marketing platform that Givz is today.
The company aims to drive “full-price purchasing behavior” by giving consumers the ability to convert the money they would be saving if getting a discount, and donating it to their favorite charities.
Prior to the funding, Givz had been working with more than 80 enterprise, mid-market and SMB retail and e-commerce clients such as H&M, Tom Brady’s TB12, Seedlip and Terez, and accumulated more than 40,000 individual users. Since the shift last year, the company has helped drive more than $1 million to 1,100 charities, according to CEO and founder Andrew Forman.
It just launched on Shopify, which Forman says will give the startup access to the 1.7 million retailers that use Shopify as their e-commerce platform.
Givz operates under the premise that “donation-driven marketing” consistently outperforms discounts and costs less, “making it an attractive addition” to corporate marketing.
“We are creating a new marketing category and generating the largest sustainable charitable giving platform in the process,” he told TechCrunch.
An example of a company using Givz can be found in Tervis, which offered customers “For every $50 you spend, you’ll receive $15 to give to the charity of your choice.”
“They used Givz technology to allow consumers to choose the charity of their choice and make a turnkey disbursement to hundreds of charities,” Forman explained. “They saw a 20% lift in website conversion and a 17% increase in average order value as a result of this offer.”
Image Credits: Givz
Currently, Givz has eight employees with plans to more than double that number over the next year.
The company plans to use the new capital toward that hiring, and to do some marketing of its own.
“We also want to explore the full potential around the consumer behavior data we collect,” Forman said.
In the short term, Givz is focused on “Shopify growth” with direct to consumer brands.
“But we have successful use cases and huge potential with enterprise retailers and financial institutions,” Forman told TechCrunch. “In the future, we have our sights set on restaurants, the gaming industry and global expansion. I believe that using personalized donations to incentivize consumer behavior has endless application across industries, verticals and continents.”
Eniac partner Vic Singh said that there’s been a trend of brands experimenting with different ways to target the socially conscious consumer.
“We believe Givz’s donation-driven marketing platform offers brands the best way to attract the socially conscious consumer while elevating their brand, moving more inventory and driving increased order value rather than simplistic traditional discounting,” he added.
Accomplice’s TJ Mahony said that both he and Singh believed SMS would emerge as a new marketing category, which led to early investments in Attentive and Postscript, respectively.
“We both saw a similar opportunity with Givz,” he wrote via e-mail. “Discounting is a well worn marketing muscle, but it’s detrimental to the brand, margins and customer expectations. We believe continuous impact marketing becomes the alternative to discounting and marketers will begin to build teams and budget around thoughtful and persistent giving strategies.”
“Email impacts marketing strategy and enables better overall business success. It’s the lifeblood of an effective multichannel campaign,” says Melissa Sargeant, CMO at Litmus. “However, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection — announced earlier this summer with its iOS 15 update — attempts to eliminate metrics and data associated with email.”
This week in marketing, Sargeant dives into the changes that Apple is making through the new privacy protection in iOS 15 and how these updates affect marketers. Sergeant leaves no stones unturned, covering the impact on consumers and how marketers can prepare for this. Anna Heim, Extra Crunch daily reporter, interviewed some team members at Ascendant, a London-based agency, about the methods they use when working with startups, no matter what stage they’re in.
Ascendant was recommended to us through our Experts Survey. If there’s a growth marketer that you’ve enjoyed working with, we’d love to hear about them. Please fill out our survey.
Marketer: Jack Abramowitz
Recommended by: Frida Leibowitz, Debbie
Testimonial: “Jack is personable, sharp and overall a super helpful guy. He genuinely wanted to help and started adding value before we even formalized our relationship. Whether it’s making useful intros, or getting into the nitty-gritty details of campaign strategies, he rolls up his sleeves and gets right in the trenches together with the team. He’s really treated our project as his own.”
Marketer: Nate Dame, Profound Strategy
Recommended by: Diana Tamblyn, Danaher
Testimonial: “[I] did a fairly extensive search for a content partner. [I] was impressed with their expertise, their references (I spoke to three), and their growth forecasting.”
Marketer: Kyle Lacy
Recommended by: Natalie Beaulieu, Seismic
Testimonial: “Kyle is a marketing master of none, and successfully built a brand that is fun, engaging and lively out of the otherwise dull ‘sales readiness’ and ‘corporate LMS’ industries. When’s the last time a B2B brand had a llama for a mascot and sent golden llamas to its customers? He leads a team of writers, creatives, performance marketers and more as one cohesive team, fueling Lessonly’s growth through to its acquisition by Seismic. Can’t wait to see what he does at Seismic!”
(Extra Crunch) Apple is changing Mail Privacy Protection and email marketers must prepare: Melissa Sargeant wrote a guest column about email privacy changes and what it means for marketers. Sargeant says, “Litmus data collected from over a billion email opens worldwide found Apple Mail held a 48.6% total share across iPhones, Macs and iPads in June 2021. Though down slightly from April (51.1%), the data still suggests Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will significantly impact email marketers, entire marketing teams and especially consumers.” Sergeant also covers how marketers can prepare for these changes.
For British agency Ascendant, growth marketing is much more than a set of tactics: Anna Heim spoke with Ascendant, a British growth agency, about their experience working with startups. Gus Ferguson, co-founder of Ascendant tells us, “We also know that probably one of the biggest barriers to growth is marketers being dependent on developers, which are such a rare resource. We address that by implementing marketing frameworks at a basic level of the business whereby marketers are able to at least control basic marketing operations directly.”
Is there a startup growth marketing expert that you want us to know about? Let us know by filling out our survey.
Today, OnlyFans dropped the massive bombshell that it will be banning “sexually explicit content” from the app later this year. This is obviously a wildly seismic shift for OnlyFans, which completely disrupted the adult content industry and gave performers a path towards greater independence by allowing them to connect directly with their fans via subscriptions. This shutdown is also the opportunity of a lifetime for the crypto industry which could capitalize on the shutdown and a recent wave of increasingly consumer-friendly crypto payments infrastructure products to create a platform that won’t crumble under the influence of payment providers.
OnlyFans, which has been trying to raise at a unicorn valuation and running into plenty of trouble doing so despite huge revenues, didn’t mince words on the reasoning for today’s fundamental change. “These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers,” a statement on the news from OnlyFans partially read.
Despite popular culture’s ongoing destigmatization of sex work and adult content, banking institutions are still fundamentally conservative and wary to handle money flowing through these platforms. Most of the operators of these platform are forced to deal with constant uneasiness of knowing their platforms might one day lose favor among these providers and instantly lose everything. All the while, “vice clauses” present in plenty of venture capital firms’ underpinnings keep them from operating in these spaces as well and prevent these platforms from accessing growth capital. It’s clear that adult content platforms are probably never going to have a friendly relationship with these financial institutions and it’s likely time for the platforms — and the creators using them — to move on.
In a lot of ways, OnlyFans dumping porn seems like an outright betrayal of their creator network and one those creators will be sure to remember when embracing whatever copycats spring up in their wake. They are likely going to look at new platforms with renewed skepticism in how they’ll handle payment provider standoffs, but there likely isn’t going to be a different outcome for ambitious platforms looking to grow. That would likely be a different situation for crypto native platforms, but given the tiny adoption, it’s still a substantial risk for creators to embrace a platform their fans might not know how to pay for content on.
The porn industry has been embracing crypto payments, albeit slowly. In 2018, Pornhub first announced that they would begin accepting cryptocurrency payments, fast forward to 2020 when Visa and MasterCard dumped the platform, now crypto payments and ACH bank transfers are the only ways to pay for its premium subscription service. There are already a few crypto platform players in this space like CumRocket and SpankChain catering to niche audiences (and probably in need of rebranding), but with the OnlyFans juggernaut out of the way, there might actually be a space for an existing or upstart player to innovate and capture this market.
The real challenge is in making it simple to onboard new users to both a new platform and potentially their first crypto wallet — while staying compliant with regulatory guidelines — at a time when more conventional web payment structures have gotten so streamlined and free adult content is just as prolific as ever. Know your customer (KYC) guidelines that push users to upload their passport or driver’s license to verify crypto purchases probably aren’t the easiest onboarding ask for a new crypto porn site, but as the market matures a bit and the challenges of a user setting up their first wallet are decoupled from the onboarding process for the platform, there are plenty of benefits to be realized.
Porn has always been a launchpad of sorts for new technologies. While the popularity of crypto has surged in recent months and nearly eclipsed $2 trillion in total assets, crypto penetration among the apps that people are actually using remains extremely low. As new solutions and startups pop up aiming to demystify buying and sending crypto, it feels like there’s a chance the industry could be in the perfect place to fill the void left by OnlyFans’ exit and build a more innovative platform in its image that goes all-in on crypto.
The most critical phase in a marketing team’s mix and overall multichannel strategy happens after you press send on an email campaign: the post-send and performance pillars of email marketing.
During this phase, marketers should gather metrics and data to guide insights impacting future emails and entire marketing campaigns. Email metrics can influence ad messaging and social posts and guide the design, content and product marketing teams. When used strategically, these metrics increase email programs’ ROI while raising marketing channel and workflow efficiency and effectiveness.
As one of the most lucrative channels for reaching target audiences — for every dollar invested in email marketing, brands receive $36 in return — email enables brands to reach their core consumer base: email subscribers.
Just as they adjusted to accommodate the evolution from print to digital, marketers must pivot and accommodate this new disruption to remain competitive — and successful.
They have opted-in to email touch points because they want to hear from the brand. By applying these insights via analytics, marketers optimize marketing spend and messaging to hit business goals.
Email impacts marketing strategy and enables better overall business success. It’s the lifeblood of an effective multichannel campaign. However, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection — announced earlier this summer with its iOS 15 update — attempts to eliminate metrics and data associated with email.
According to the Litmus Email Client Market Share, in 2020, Apple iPhone, Apple Mail and Apple iPad accounted for nearly half of all email opens. Lacking these insights will create marketing roadblocks for segmented and personalized touch points. Marketers and businesses must prepare by adjusting email strategy and processes before the update occurs.
Companies and consumers have talked about privacy quite a bit lately. Companies fearing breaches, reputation damage and potentially lost revenue want to protect consumer data. Consumer awareness of privacy concerns has grown, too.
In a 2021 survey, over half the respondents expressed more concern about online privacy than in 2020. Consumers expect brands to demonstrate trustworthiness before they willingly share sensitive personal information.
Recognizing an increased desire for better privacy control, Apple revealed new privacy protections in its iOS 15 update, including its Mail Privacy Protection. Apple Mail users may hide their IP addresses, locations and additional data from senders, preventing brands from pulling information like open rates and location. Apple said that “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.”
What does this update mean for marketers? The potential disappearance of a critical phase in the marketing mix and multichannel strategy: the post-send and performance pillars of email marketing. No open-rate-specific data — the brand will appear to have a 100% open rate.
Accord opened up its previously announced $6 million seed round to accept over $1 million from a group of CEOs and sales leads at companies they are working with to officially launch its business-to-business sales platform.
Brothers Ross and Ryan Rich co-founded the San Francisco-based company in 2019 with Wayne Pan to create a customer collaboration platform that, in the words of CEO Ross Rich, “makes the process of buying and selling suck less.”
The average sales deal can involve 14 people, just on the buyer side, which means teams do a lot of “herding cats” in order to drive consensus on sales, he said.
Instead, Accord’s application provides shared next steps and milestones for buying and selling teams to align on so that the right people are looped in at the right time.
“Our unique approach is helping management and sales, but also helping the buyer, which is how you build a relationship,” Ross Rich explained. “Before COVID, you could go onsite, but now you can’t do that. You also have to adjust to the buyer’s expectations, and with business-to-consumer, everything is ‘now and immediate.’ ”
The company’s target market is technology startups, but Ross Rich said Accord is now attracting interest from medical device companies and others where there is no software that bridges the gap between external parties.
Over the past six months, Accord doubled its team and was approached by multiple companies with acquisition offers. However, just a year-and-a-half into the company Rich said he is not entertaining those kinds of offers just yet.
“We have barely scratched the surface and would be selling ourselves short not having had a swing at it,” he added.
The company decided to focus on non-institutional investors when it raised this uncapped round, opting not to grow the board, Rich said.
Instead, it gathered a group of CEOs and sales leads from companies it works with — people who were getting it and seeing the value, including Mike Murchison, co-founder and CEO of Ada Support, who said via email that Ada’s B2B growth “exploded in part because of our focus on being a true partner — not simply a vendor — to our clients.” He added that Accord made it easy for Ada’s sales teams to offer a collaborative buying process.
Another investor, Stephanie Schatz, one of Accord’s advisors, said via email she got in on the round due to Ross Rich having “all the right ingredients for a successful founder,” and the product, which she said was taking into account how people want to buy.
“Ross has intelligence, drive, passion, vision and charisma, but on top of that, I have found that he has excellent instincts for leading a team and building a generational company,” she added. “Accord offers CEOs and sales leaders the opportunity to build a high-performing sales team from the very beginning that truly puts customers at the center.”
The new funding will go toward the general launch of the platform and adding to its team of 13. Rich expects a Series A round to quickly follow.
“I like to think of successful brand-building as creating a company that customers would be upset to separate from their identity,” growth marketing expert Julian Shapiro told us earlier this week. “For example, they’d cease to be the man with Slack stickers all over his laptop. Or the woman who no longer wears Nike shoes every day. And that bugs them.”
Shapiro comes from a technical background, as a repeat startup founder and open-source web developer. But these days, as the co-founder of growth education company Demand Curve and startup growth agency Bell Curve, he advocates telling your story by speaking from the heart. We interviewed him earlier this week to hear more about how he sees marketing in 2021.
Elsewhere on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch this week, we published guest columns about using influencers in early-stage brands, the global retail media spending trend and talked to Growth Folks, a growth marketing organization in India.
But first, here are a couple of the most recent recommendations from founders in our startup growth marketer survey. (If there’s a growth marketer that you’ve enjoyed working with, please tell us here.)
Marketer: Bili Sule, alGROWithm
Recommended by: Femi Aiki, Foodlocker
Testimonial: “Bili has a proven track record of driving growth, as the former vice president of Growth Marketing at Jumia Nigeria and as a senior growth consultant for Founders Factory Africa. She’s able to cut through the jargon/vanity metrics and has found a way to consistently and reliably engineer growth for us. What’s unique about Bili’s approach is that her strategy moves beyond just marketing. She is data driven and takes an iterative experimental approach to unlocking growth across various business pillars, from marketing to product and operations.”
Testimonial: “Jack is incredibly talented at both growth hacking as well as building an automated growth engine. He has been tremendously helpful to our team.”
Building a growth community in India with Ayush Srivastava of Growth Folks: India is producing a huge, well-funded new generation of startups and increasing sophistication in growth marketing is one reason why. “Companies have started realizing the true importance of having a fully functional growth team and they have started acknowledging their one metric that matters as well,” Srivastava told us in a recent interview. “The growth marketers have also started setting up a lot of experiments and have taken a data-driven approach to solving a problem. Now, I see many startups going out of the box and putting in efforts to find new ways of acquisition. They haven’t restricted them to acquiring users via the traditional ways and that’s why you see so many ideas going viral so easily.”
(Extra Crunch) Early-stage brands should also unlock the power of influencers: Jonathan Martinez, an experienced growth marketer, breaks down influencer marketing. Martinez notes, “When reaching out to influencers, it’s a sheer numbers game in capturing their attention and pitching your brand, but there are myriad ways to increase response conversion.”
(Extra Crunch) What’s driving the global surge in retail media spending? Cynthia Luo, head of marketing at Epsilo, discusses what modern marketing is in 2021. Luo also talks about how businesses have had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luo says, “As e-commerce turns into a dream marketing channel, reaping the benefits of retail marketing is only possible if the marketplace equips brands with the right tools and data sets.”
The art of startup storytelling with Julian Shapiro: Eric Eldon, Extra Crunch managing editor, spoke with Julian Shapiro, about how companies communicate with the public. Shapiro offered insights from his experience as an angel investor, “I’m interested in businesses with product-led growth, brand affinity moats and who get harder to compete with the larger they get.”
(Extra Crunch) Growth tactics that will jump-start your customer base: Jenny Wang, principal investor at Neo, gives insights on the challenges startups now face to launch their customer base and provides some tactics to help them do so. In this article, Wang discusses what the playbook was like five years ago and says, “ … it’s never been harder to corral eyeballs and hit a breakout adoption trajectory.”
Salesforce State of Marketing: Salesforce published a marketing report that uses data from a double-blind survey they conducted. The survey has five main chapters, “Marketers Embrace Change with Optimism,” “As Customers Go Digital, Marketing Steps Up,” “Collaboration Drives the Market-from-Anywhere Era,” “Marketing Is Spelled D-A-T-A” and “Metrics and KPIs Continue to Evolve.” When looking at digital channels, they mentioned that, “Even those digital channels that may have been classified as emerging in recent years are seeing mass adoption. Mobile messaging, for instance, is used by 69% of marketers, and nearly two-thirds of organizations use audio media like podcasts and streaming ads.” The report lists out the five “Most Valuable Marketing Metrics/KPIs” and looks ahead at “Digital Marketing Tactics.”
Is there a startup growth marketing expert that you want us to know about? Let us know by filling out our survey.
Indian startups of all sizes are raising record amounts of investment funding this year and getting public exits, as we’ve been covering in recent months. To hear more about the growth behind the numbers we caught up with Ayush Srivastava, a cofounder of growth marketing group Growth Folks (and a growth marketer at Zynga by day).
The organization, which describes itself as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” began as in-person events for growth marketers across major cities, but made the jump to online networking during the pandemic. From there it began an online speaker series for its 1300-some members, introduced more community networking groups and virtual events, and one-on-one mentoring.
In the interview below, part of our ongoing series profiling growth marketers around the world, he says India’s startup scene has quickly gotten more sophisticated about growth in recent years. Companies are centering high-quality user growth as a shared team goal, not as a side job, and are thinking more creatively about where and how to find users. “I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier 2-3 cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown… they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You describe Growth Folks as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” with more than 1,300 members. What does “growth enthusiast” mean to you, and how does that term define you?
The terms ‘growth’ and ‘growth marketing’ have picked up a lot in the last five years in the Indian startup ecosystem. All of a sudden there are more than a million heads who are interested to be a part of this circle or are already a part of this community. This had a positive impact as more and more people started to look at their growth problems and not only just promoting their business. For us, growth enthusiasts are everyone and anyone who is even a percent excited about how to grow a particular brand/service.
How did the focus and efforts of Growth Folks change during the pandemic for community engagement?
In the pre-COVID era, Growth Folks was heavily functional in the offline space. We used to manage and engage the community online but most of the efforts went in and success used to come from the offline activities that we used to organize. From December 2018 through the end of 2019, we organized more than 80+ offline events in nine cities of India. These events were previously panel discussions, industry talks or seminars followed by networking sessions…
[H]owever, once COVID came into the picture, our operations shifted completely online and I must say the shift was quite smooth but exciting for me.
We started hosting bi-weekly online webinars with industry leaders and tried giving our community folks (and new attendees) a look and feel of the physical event in the form of this virtual gathering so that they feel connected.
Ever since lockdown began, we have done over 25+ events and have had speakers from companies like SEMRush, Baremetrics, Zynga, Indigo Airlines, Adjust, Myntra and many more. Not only this, we started a lot of interesting threads on our Facebook group to get people to engage more. Within the same period, we launched our website to give people an idea about all our services.
We made sure that we are having dedicated networking sessions after the webinars for people to interact with each other. In October 2020, we re-launched the online version of “Brunch Sessions” that we used to have in the pre-COVID times. These brunch sessions helped the fellow community people to come together on a single day and interact and chill with each other virtually. We started producing more online content knowing the fact that this could be a way to have a value add and it worked.
Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.
Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.
Growth Folks is multifaceted, offering traditional growth marketing services as well as hosting a “growth hackathon” and community activities. What can a startup expect when working with Growth Folks? How is it different from existing services?
We have been virtually able to connect with so many people and we continue to do so… [W]e started something which is called “growth huddle”. It is a highly curated one-on-one mentorship session with a few of the best talents out there in the growth space. You can book your session and we will take you through the entire process to make sure that the session is right on point and you learn what you want, not what we want.
All of the mentors who were onboarded vary from experience level to expertise and provide the right set of guidance needed for individuals and startups to grow further. We also partnered with startups and companies for various online events to promote them and make sure that the right voice reaches out to the right set of people who matter to them – the Growth Folks. We have collaborated with companies like Adjust, Microsoft, Rocketium, Canva and many more and we have been able to make people learn the right things.
What are startups doing better now than ever before? In India? Around the world?
Companies have started realizing the true importance of having a fully functional growth team and they have started acknowledging their one metric that matters as well. The growth marketers have also started setting up a lot of experiments and have taken a data-driven approach to solving a problem. Now, I see many startups going out of the box and putting in efforts to find new ways of acquisition. They haven’t restricted them to acquiring users via the traditional ways and that’s why you see so many ideas going viral so easily. And all in different ways…
I see so many founders not restricting themselves to hiring just a growth marketer for leading all growth initiatives. Rather, they have spent time understanding the importance of it and have ended up building a full force growth team of marketers, PMs, tech people, designers etc. I feel that is the best way to look at any growth problem statement.
I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier 2-3 cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown… they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.
Lastly, companies have started considering the importance of the entire customer experience more seriously than ever before. This is helping brands to grow via communities easily and create a strong brand presence.
Five years ago, the playbook for launching a new company involved a tried-and-true list of to-dos. Once you built an awesome product with a catchy name, you’d try to get a feature article on TechCrunch, a front-page hit on Hacker News, hunted on ProductHunt and an AMA on Quora.
While all of these today remain impressive milestones, it’s never been harder to corral eyeballs and hit a breakout adoption trajectory.
In this new decade, it is possible to first out-market your competitor, and then raise lots of money, hire the best team and build, rather than the other way around (building first, then marketing).
Looks like @stripe redesigned their landing page.
— Marc Köhlbrugge (@marckohlbrugge) July 7, 2020
Outbound marketing tools and company newsletters are useful, but they’re also a slow burn and offer low conversion in the new creator economy. So where does this leave us?
With audiences spread out over so many platforms, reaching cult status requires some level of hacking. Brand-building is no longer a one-hit game, but an exercise in repetition: It may take four or five times for a user to see your startup’s name or logo to recognize, remember or Google it.
Below are some growth tactics that I hope will help jump-start the effort to building an engaged user base.
Before users are evangelists, they are observers. Consider creating a bot to alert you of any product mentions on Twitter, or surface subject-matter discussions on Reddit (“Best tools to manage AWS costs?” or “Which marketplace do you resell your old electronics on?”), which you can then respond to with thoughtful commentary.
Join relevant communities on Discord, infiltrate Slack groups of relevant conferences (including past iterations of a conference — chances are those groups are still alive with activity), follow forums on StackOverflow and engage in the discussions on all these channels.
The more often you post, the better your posts convert. The more your handle appears on newsfeeds, the more likely it will be included on widely quoted “listicles.”
My list of coolest startups around today:@Replit – no more dev environments@highlightrun – understand how people use your app@DoNotPayLaw – saves +@Superhuman – first pleasant email app@Railway_App – what Heroku should have been@pipe – recurring revenue = assets
— Zain Allarakhia (@zallarak) May 18, 2021
Most “user-generated content” in the early innings should be generated by you, from both personal accounts and company accounts.
Building in public is scary given the speed at which ideas can be copied, but competition will always exist, since new ideas are not born in vacuums. Companies like Railway and Replit post to Twitter every time they post a new changelog. Stir brands its feature releases as “drops,” similar to streetwear drops.
Building in public can also lend opportunities for virality, which requires drama, comedy or both. Hey.com’s launch was buoyed by Basecamp’s public fight against Apple over existing App Store take rates.
Mmhmm, the virtual camera app that adds TV-presenter flair to video meetings, launched with a viral video that hit over 1.5 million views. The company continues to release entertaining YouTube demos to showcase new use cases.
Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.
Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.
Like an artist teasing an upcoming album, some companies are able to drum up substantial anticipation ahead of exiting stealth mode. When two ex-Apple execs founded Humane, they crafted beautiful social media pages full of sophisticated photography without revealing a single hint of what they set out to build.
Do you remember the first time you received a personalized ad? Perhaps you discussed a product with a friend, and the next day, an advertisement for that product popped up on social media. It almost makes you think someone’s listening to your conversations, doesn’t it?
Over time, consumers have become increasingly skeptical about ads like these — and for good reason. A 2019 Accenture study found many customers felt brands communicated in a way they felt was too personal — and 71% of those customers worried how the brands had acquired personal information they hadn’t voluntarily shared.
First-, second- and third-party data make it possible to generate hyperpersonalized ads. But these data collection efforts fall short. Consumers find these methods invasive and a breach of trust — and the data collected is often inaccurate. Google’s third-party cookie is going away, and Apple has made recent changes to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), but no one has clarified the effect of these changes on advertisers’ or marketers’ abilities to reach and remarket consumers.
Many advertisers have begun leveraging AOOH as a more significant part of their brand and marketing strategy to improve reach, frequency and overall business outcomes.
It’s not so much that customers don’t appreciate ads targeting their interests — the concern lies in the methods marketers use to collect data and how consumers can maintain control over what personal data they choose to share. Interestingly, as consumer demands for personalization have increased, according to the 2021 State of Ad Personalization report, half of marketers have yet to invest in ad personalization.
Personalization and data play a vital role in the success of marketing and advertising campaigns today. Brands and their marketing departments must think outside the box and use a more targeted medium not predicated on invading privacy but designed, nevertheless, to provide a unique, personalized experience for in-store shoppers: audio out-of-home (AOOH) technology.
AOOH technology does not request the use of personal data to work effectively. Instead, it focuses on the in-store customer experience. AOOH broadcasts premium music and programmatic advertisements to enrich customer experiences and reach shoppers directly at the point of sale, influencing buying decisions and positively impacting sales.
In the marketing world, personalization has many nuances. Ultimately, marketers see its goal as providing a unique experience to every individual based on personal preferences and data. The current generation of personalization in marketing is not about collecting cookies or third-party data, merchandising or guesswork.
Today’s personalization focuses instead on delivering the right content, the right offer, the right channel and, most importantly, the right sequence of events generating value exchange between the brand and the consumer.
Although consumers don’t trust superpersonalized ads, they still expect brands to offer a personalized experience. Ninety-one percent of consumers polled in another Accenture study indicated a willingness to shop brands with some form of personalization.
On the other hand, personalization in audio advertising has seen significant growth over the past 15 years, as reflected by a willingness by brands to invest in this medium. A recent report predicts an astonishing 84% growth in digital audio ad revenue for 2025 compared to 2019.