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The Secret to Successful Start-Up Marketing

Join ContentCal and Quantum Metric for the replay of our session with their Senior Director of Experience Marketing on their journey from startup to unicorn.

Sophie Thompson
12th November 2021

The almost mythical status of becoming a Unicorn is awarded to start-ups, that pass through the scale up stage and reach a $1billion valuation - which usually follows a revenue trajectory of double, double, triple. Quantum Metric achieved that status in just three years and became the first Unicorn of 2021.

Caitlin Tucker, Senior Director of Experience Marketing for Quantum Metric, a business designed to help enterprise organizations build better digital products, joined the QM team on the day it received its Series-A funding. Since then Caitlin has been heavily involved in the campaigns that helped Quantum Metric reach the ultimate Unicorn milestone, and has generously shared her learnings from taking a marketing led business through every stage of start-up growth.

During the session, we also shared our 2022 toolkit to help you plan for months ahead filled with success and marketing growth. Download it for the best in free tools, templates, and calendars to help you get ahead on your planning.

Watch the full replay of the session below, or keep scrolling for the summary.

Quantum Metric made an early call to focus on events and content, over paid media and digital acquisition (the go-to for a lot of early stage start-ups). How did this approach propel you to success?

"Yes! Digital channels have just gotten so crowded, it is so difficult to make an impact there. And it's very slow, you're only able to make a small, iterative impact to the buyer. We sell primarily to enterprise businesses, which come with a long deal cycle and often involve multiple stakeholders - which made trade shows a big part of our strategy".

"Being able to get our culture out into the market, and being lucky enough to have a very enigmatic, passionate CEO who wanted to be on stage, helped us emanate the idea that Quantum Metric is full of passionate people who will not let our customers fail, and it’s very difficult to get that message across on digital."

Obviously, live events disappeared from everyone's marketing strategy for a couple of years - so how did you maintain that personal approach - and how did you manage to turn traditional informative webinars into more memorable, experiential events?

"What really made a difference was building in interactivity. Live Q&A is a place where that is really impactful. A lot of people, especially with conferences, or webinar series have moved into pre-recording to try and create a really slick, well-produced video with graphics - but this means you lose the human touch at a time when people are craving connection.

We looked for as many opportunities as possible to turn virtual events into round tables. In doing so we took a hit on our lead numbers because to make an effective round table, and to make sure everyone feels their voice could be heard, you have to significantly lower the cap on how many people you let in. So that was a risk. And it took some convincing at the executive level, I had to explain that we were going to intentionally decrease our lead funnel, but increase the quality of those engagements and interactions. It definitely works because your buyer feels seen and heard and can actually engage with the brand. The conversion rates ended up a lot higher from that type of activity."

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Do you think there is anything in particular that has generated this level of success for QM that other B2B brands are missing?

"There is an easy trap to fall into, which is when we think of selling a product to Walmart or any other business, we can forget that it's human beings who have to sign that paper and find that budget. I think there's a lot of opportunities to blend B2B marketing with B2C and a lot of lessons we can take from the creativity B2C has. Human-to-human connection is very important."

So, the business has obviously scaled a lot following the wins that you guys have had. How different does Quantum Metric's marketing team look now, compared to the start?

"Today we have 36 people on the marketing team. We started by focusing on content and field marketing, then quickly scaled to bring on digital (including someone to focus on paid). Things really got going when started to introduce operations and automation, which was basic at first but scaled into much more sophisticated, multi-touch, full-funnel programs, and even started up a partner program. My team is responsible for field marketing, partner marketing, direct mail and gifting, social community. And then experiential campaigns. Product marketing quickly came after, because you need both sides of the pie, right?

"We took the classic route from generalists who wear many hats and are responsible for many things, but aren't really focused on any one of them, to having true experts in each of the fields we operate in."

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Having experts to focus on each area of marketing sounds like a dream to smaller teams who find it challenging to branch out. What advice would you give to teams that need to build initial trust with senior stakeholders to gain the freedom to explore new channels?

"When we talk about the most important internal stakeholders, for marketing, it's going to be your sales organization. One, because they’re who you have to make successful, especially in that startup stage. Customer marketing generally doesn't come along until further down the line, because you don't have that large of a customer base to be able to work with and grow.

"What we find works is articulating all of our programs and initiatives that need sales and senior buy-in, in their terms. You need to clearly understand your sales goals, your sales team's challenges, and what types of activities they find value in.

"When you're talking about getting buy-in at the executive level - this actually applies truly to every relationship that you hold in business or in your personal life - it's a mutual understanding of each other's goals and challenges. With the executive specifically, finding ways to let your customers do the talking for you is the quickest way to achieve what you need. This is another reason events were such a large emphasis for us in the very beginning - we knew that if we could show people a good time at experiences we were hosting, they would then be writing notes to their account managers. That feedback always makes it up to the executive level and says how much people appreciate our differentiation against other brands.

We were creating experiences that would get people talking, that in turn gets the attention of C-suites, and that really makes them want to continue to invest."

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And did you find it equally as easy to get stakeholders on board with marketing campaigns that don't create traditional, number-driven ROI?

"We are very fortunate at Quantum metric and have a leadership born of entrepreneurial spirit, our CEO is our founder and has risk built into his DNA. Leaders hire people for the specific reason of needing someone more knowledgeable, more proficient, more experienced in that specific area than they are. So by keeping in mind that you've been hired for the job that you're doing, specifically because of your skill and expertise, you can use that confidence to explain what other metrics/benchmarks you are going to be measuring.

There's a lot of respect in saying, you know, you hired me to do this job, I've done it before, I've got this experience to draw on, and I'm confident that we're going to get results from this type of activity. Equally, if we don’t receive the types of results I'm expecting, then then we'll move on, and we'll pivot fast. By articulating the failsafe plan you create a lot of comfort and trust. Staying communicative about your willingness to adapt based on the results you're seeing, creates a tonne of trust, and ensures people don't think you are just doing crazy things for the sake of doing crazy things."

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With the hindsight you have now, is there anything you wish you could have done back at the beginning when you didn't have as much budget? Or on the flip side, is there anything great about a smaller team that you're worried you'll lose as you grow?

"Something I wish we had invested in earlier was operations. We waited an awfully long time because we were working off intuition, and things people were telling us they really liked. We relied on that for too long, and there does need to be that marriage between data-driven decision-making and what you're hearing.

That's the only way a culture of high risk, high reward failing, and pivoting fast is going to work - if you actually take the time to understand why something failed. It's only once you make that investment in ops that you have analytics to really track things."

"The fear as you scale is that you lose that original passion. It's very easy in those early days to be excited that we are building something incredible and it's never been done before. It's exciting and it's scary, but you're all in it together.

"So, what you fear as you grow is that you lose that commitment to each other as a team, as it becomes harder and harder to create that intensity of the relationship and trust that can only come from being on the battlefield together. It's things like staying up until 3am in a hotel room with your content marketer because you've got to change the presentation that's going to be given the next day on the stage!

"Mario our founder still to this day interviews every single employee despite the fact we’re over 400 people now. That commitment to culture and never losing that closeness as an organisation is something we're trying really hard to hold on to."

And one final piece of advice to finish, from your amazing experience - what makes a successful marketing team?

"One thing that makes a successful marketing team - that's tough - OK - don't wait until it's perfect. Speed to market, especially in the early days, is so important. The quickest way to kill innovation is to overthink it and to keep gathering more opinions, it's death by committee. Get things out to the market and be okay with knowing that it's not going to be perfect when you first launch, you'll make iterative improvements and you'll get to perfect eventually."


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