MKT1 is a strategic marketing company founded by experienced startup executives that is anything but a marketing agency. It advises startups on marketing approaches, recruiting and mentoring workshops, with some Angel Syndicate also investing. It also offers a job board, newsletter and workshops for marketers.
Founders Kathleen Estreich and Emily Kramer say they are responding to some big trends in the startup world. Today, young companies are raising more capital than ever and facing increased pressure to maintain rapid growth, but founders typically focus on technology and product issues. The result, which they have sometimes seen firsthand, is that marketing comes too soon or too late to really help a startup grow. Instead, Kramer and Estreich help companies make marketing a central part of their implementation right from the start.
Estreich, previously on Facebook, Box, Intercom and Scalyr, and Kramer, previously Ticktfly, Asana, Astro and Carta, were recommended to us by our survey for the recommendation of top growth marketers in the startup industry. (If you have your own recommendation, please fill out the survey here.)
In the interview below, they share more about how they recruit startup marketers and advise founders to address marketing as needed and several other issues that are critical to early stage startups.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
TC: You are both accomplished marketers and have worked for well-known companies. What made you give up this career and start your own marketing company?
Estreich: It was different for both of us. I worked in sales and actually went and had a baby. COVID hit and we were unsure … Emily and I have known each other for several years so she and I started talking about what we were up to and what we were thinking about over a year ago. One of the trends we saw was that when we started a lot of the companies were typical founders [focused on technology and product] and there was a gap to help them get to market and marketing.
We started talking and realized that we like to work with founders; We love working with companies in the early stages. We wanted to do that full-time. So we started doing it last fall and it was great. We have worked with a lot of interesting companies and see a lot of trends. Hiring is a huge, huge thing, and it's about figuring out who the right person is, when to hire them, how to find them, and how to hire them.
Kramer: It's similar for me. I was the first or first marketer on TicketFly and then on Asana – I was a marketer there and built a team of about 25 people. I really love building teams, and I like them on a large scale too. I love the jigsaw puzzle that a marketing team builds with all the different roles, be it hiring or strategic approach.
Then I joined a seed-funded company – again because I love building – a company called Astro. I actually had this experience when they were hired too early on the marketing side, which is also a mistake I see people make. While trying to find the product market, I realized that my experience at Asana was probably too high for me. I then went to Carta – but Carta consisted of 300 people. We didn't have any marketing at all. They had stops and starts and they had a big organization, so I built this marketing team – only much later [stage].
In the end, I filed a fairly public lawsuit against Carta for discrimination with equal pay, retaliation, among others [Ed. TechCrunch coverage here]. After such an experience one begins to reevaluate things. So Kathleen and I started advising companies together and it has become more than just consulting. We help young companies to develop their marketing functions across the board.
TC: You focus on SaaS companies. Is there a reason why you have this focus instead of going broader?
Estreich: That is our experience. Since I left Facebook, I've worked at B2B SaaS companies with different target groups and different phases. I think there is a huge opportunity for marketing and it is changing in the B2B SaaS world.
Kramer: Although we focus on SaaS marketing, I think our sweet spot is modern marketing, both self-service and developer marketing. We actually think that developer marketing is what all of our things should be. It focuses on creating value, and it focuses on treating people like people.
TC: You have written extensively about how to think about marketing in the early stages of a business. So what are the biggest mistakes that founders will still make in 2021?
Estreich: I would say they either go too early or too late with the setting they are hiring. Or one of the things we talked about is that your first marketers are actually your founders. They are the ones to help you tell your story and do your early marketing.
I think a big part of that is finding the right early team, and one of the key takeaways we've written about is that the first marketer should really be a pi-shaped marketer. It is someone with breadth and depth who has experience in product marketing and growth marketing. It is your first marketing setting. Regardless of what you hire them to do, they will do anything because you have no one else. They are the default for every aspect of marketing.
Kramer: It is not necessarily that you are an expert in two areas instead of all areas – product marketing, growth marketing, content marketing. So two of those areas, and usually that's growth marketing and product marketing based on what they need.
Estreich: When you are thinking about going in the market, some companies think the content is going to be the most important thing, so your first marketer should be pretty knowledgeable about this.
Kramer: I think when we help companies with job description and planning, we are primarily looking for someone who is strategic and sloppy. But they also need to be able to set their own goals and figure out what to do because the other trend we're seeing in marketing and marketing professionals is that entrepreneurs give marketers goals like “10 blog posts write “give.
That is not the goal. What are you trying to drive Try to increase web traffic because, as a satisfied person or as a marketer, it really only scares me off when I have to write 10 pieces of good content. Instead, 50,000 page views are generated. I could write a really amazing data study or a well-researched article that does all of that and yields well over 10 crappy posts.
Estreich: You could do a smaller number of things better and get the same results. So it is really that balance of a number of things that you can do. And one of the most common conversations Emily and I have with marketers right now is, “How do I prioritize? What should I do? "
Kramer: "How do I really set goals for prioritization and how do I get my goals focused on these different activities?" Find the sweet spot of someone who still gets their hands dirty want to do and leave early, but can think strategically about what we are doing uniquely and how we will have an impact.
Estreich: We also look at people who have experience with your business model. So, if you're a top-down corporate sales company, the marketing role in a number of areas is very different from that of a bottom-down inbound company. So, in my opinion, it's important to hire someone who matches your vision of what your market entry will be like. It's a different way of looking at the world, and when you compare companies, they may hire someone who has done one thing or the other. But you want someone who is actually new because that is more important than almost industry experience.
Kramer: Sometimes consumer goods are more like your business model. To underline what Kathleen said about the industry, I think I often work with tech companies and they think we need people who have done fintech or finance. Now you are narrowing an already small pool for an early stage marketing role to an even smaller pool. It is worth getting a person who is not too high in their career, who is full of ambition and can learn quickly instead of gaining the experience. Your company should have other people who are experts in this field.
Estreich: Well, I think that readiness and excitement in the audience are also part of that. Similar to Emily, I have worked for very different audiences in my marketing career. And part of it is like, am I looking forward to delving into this space and learning about this space?
TC: What are the main trends you are currently seeing in the recruitment of advertisers?
Kramer: Companies go to marketers early on. One reason is that companies are in the bigger rounds sooner than ever before. If you can spend more money on launch and marketing sooner, get marketers in sooner.
Now some founders are still not. And they say, "Oh, we don't need marketing." But founders who really know that they have to differentiate their sales – which would be a successful company in my opinion – say, “Oh, we have to hire more money sooner.” So there is a shortage [of marketers] I think. I imagine we'll see sales just after Labor Day when some companies get people back to the office.
Estreich: Yes, we are keeping a very close eye on your return to the office.
Kramer: I think it is more difficult than ever with marketing goals in the early phase.
Estreich: There are many more companies that start early and get funding, and if you get that funding sooner, there is pressure to grow sooner. They say, "OK, we need marketing help sooner." And then the bigger companies are doing great, people say, “I'm sitting on this big exit package – what's my incentive to leave?”
Kramer: And I think there's a little less stigma on the job bounce; People say, “This is not great, I am super lonely and at home, I am not treated great. … I'm going somewhere else. ”I think there is simply more fluctuation in marketing roles than in other roles. Because to be a marketing director you usually have to understand these different areas of marketing and when you work in a big company you get isolated and you won't learn these things and you will go to stifle your career.
Estreich: Yes, it is important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of a great job. I've always appreciated that in companies I've spoken to or joined that tell me everything so I won't be surprised when I get there. Because if you try to surprise me, I'll find out anyway. To the extent that you know, you could learn as much as possible without participating.
I think that's important. And that's what we're trying to do on both sides, like helping companies prepare these jobs for success. And then, on the marketers side, you help them know what it will actually be like, and to the extent that we can do some kind of matching to find good people for these companies who we think are a good fit .
In one of your Substack posts, you said that “the marketing strategy needs to be a healthy mix of testing new things, scaling what works, and optimizing what is already working. Goal setting is key here. ”How do you work with companies to ensure that their goals are appropriate for the stage they are in?
Kramer: There are things that we say the traffic lights stay on, like traffic numbers, conversion numbers.
Estonia: The steady state of marketing.
Kramer: And then there are things that can cause leaps and bounds if you measure to find them. If you measure everything with the same measures / metrics you will never get there because the tests will never do as well as things that have already run.
So it's also about breaking up your goals. "Here are the big steps we're taking, and here are the drivers of change that we think are a good idea and how we're going to test these things." It's balancing those quick wins and things who keep the light on and long term projects and how to bite off a bit to test it.
Estreich: “What do we want to do?” And then: “What action plan do we have to put together?” Otherwise: “What can we do in the next three months?” And then: “What do we have to do do and invest in the next few months? "
Kramer: You know, that's why I always say that you can do so many different things. And I don't think founders know how many things there are to do because founders often think of marketing in a couple of pockets. They say, "Oh, it's advertising, PR." But it's much more than that; There are many things that will drive growth, both in the short and long term. That's a very quick definition of marketing, but that's basically it. But there are so many different things to do.
You are more than most agencies, you are angel investors and consultants. Is that how you feel about yourself, are you more of an operator than a growth marketing agency?
Kramer: We are not a marketing agency; we are strategic marketers. We recommend agencies to work with. Part of it is like, “Could we become Operator VCs? Could we raise a fund? ”Yes, probably … we do this as advice and investment. In fact, we treat a lot of what we do as you would in a SaaS company. We found that everyone needs help with recruiting. So we repeated a few things [and] and started a new job exchange.
And then we do angel investing. We are always interested in repeating what we do there. So yeah, there is a big shift going on towards people raising money from operators who are definitely part of that shift. We want to help as many companies as [we can whose] values are mission-oriented. And we want to raise marks too. … I'm a marketer. That's what I do. It's marketing.
So it's a bad word and marketers are / are not angel investors, and marketers are often paid less and marketers are often viewed as second class citizens in the company. That is why we want to raise the role of marketing to other workers and help them. As much as we want to help companies grow, we also want to help marketers. We're still trying to figure out how best to do all of these things.
Estonia: We started: “Okay, what do we like to do? Where do we see the market? ”We like to help founders think through marketing jobs in the early stages, as we could then do that as consultants. What are the common themes that we see? Everyone needs help with recruiting: How can we help not only these companies, but also in general, similar to the job exchange we were talking about.
And I think there is a need in the market, as we discussed at the beginning, where there are many companies that used to start with technical founders who deal with many aspects of the business. Companies with good marketing will be more successful. That's why we advise them, and that's why we work with these marketers. That is a major reason why we started what we do.