Awesome People - Ep 37

GTM, messaging, channels, updates, retention

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

Please meet Fabri, your Hands-On GTM Consultant 🙌

Jason Yeh, a former founder and angel investor, introduced me to Fabri a couple of months ago. We jammed on new ideas and his energy was infectious. He recently helped Square launch a new product that brings together payments, payroll, and CashApp. Before that, he was the first GTM hire at Alan, a French health insurance startup backed by Index. He helped them scale from $4M to $40M ARR in 1 year. Over the course of his career, Fabri has hired 30+ people, helped raise $50M in funding, and worked with over a dozen CEOs. Fun fact about Fabri: when he was 20, he started his first business, a Deli in London, UK 😀.  

He's trusted by leadership teams at Square, Stripe, Snapchat, Google and many seed and series A startups in Europe and the US.

You can hire him to:  

  • Drive your GTM Strategy, including segmentation, distribution channels and positioning 

  • Kickoff or refresh your product marketing, including launching websites, emails, content, and ads

  • Manage and hire agencies (think SEO, SEM, ASO, Social Media, PR, and other marketing agencies)

  • Build growth models, set KPIs, and build reports for your investors 

Need GTM help? Email me and I’ll intro you to Fabri!

Fabri generously shared 5 pro-tips 🙏

Start marketing before writing a single line of code

Drive quality traffic to your website on Day 1. Don’t wait to learn what messages resonate and how to reach your customers. Start small by posting regularly on LinkedIn and Twitter. Spencer Fry at Podia and Allison Barr at Fast do this well. As you ramp up, set aside a few hours every week to test different tactics like posting in forums, slack communities, and cold emailing. Take notes on what language and channels perform well. The more you engage with your audience, the better you’ll empathize, and the faster you’ll nail your marketing positioning and channel strategy.

Understand your buyers’ journey before spending marketing $$$

Most founders don’t spend enough time studying the buyers’ journey. Meet your customers where they are and invest in those channels. Success comes from being in the right place at the right time. Long sales cycle? Invest in pre-purchase content and tools. High churn risk? Invest in post-purchase email sequences and activation campaigns. 

At Square Payroll, we needed to improve our pre-purchase funnel. The goal: improve our conversion rates and lower our acquisition cost. After studying the buyers’ journey, we decided to update our positioning. This led to new email sequences, a fresh content strategy, and engaging pre-purchase assets (like this awesome EIN tool and the employer launchpad). With these initiatives, we saved $1.2M (40% of our paid budget). Net, we added more ARR for less marketing $.

Hire generalists, before you hire specialists

Most founders hire channel specialists, hoping that they can drive a holistic strategy. For example, they hire a paid ads expert and hope that they can grow into a content, PR, and brand expert. This almost never works.

A cautionary example: I work with a company that sells a membership tool for digital publishers. After raising their seed, their first growth hire was an awesome sales specialist. He did a great job setting up their internal processes and building pipeline. But he didn’t question the broader GTM strategy. Ultimately the enterprise sales cycle was longer than their runway. Mistakes like this can kill your company, be careful! 

Luckily, the product is in hot demand among small publishers. Now we’re focused on a self-service offering and growing 10% MoM organically. In an ideal world, the company would have evaluated segments, channels, and viable GTM strategies, BEFORE hiring a specialist.

Get your priorities straight, and stick to them

Scaling is a balance of iterating and investing in what works. Don’t spray and pray. Can you imagine writing your codebase in multiple languages over and over again just to try it? Nonsense 😂! Take the time to think through your strategy, build a forecast, and ask experts for feedback on your assumptions. Then execute with conviction. 

In my first year at Alan, we 10x-ed our revenue ($4M to $40M) but failed miserably to meet our super ambitious goals. We were still confident that our strategy would take us to $100M, but lacked resources to scale. Rather than change our targets, we 2x-ed hiring and tried again. It went better but wasn’t perfect. Three tries later, with the same strategy, we’re at $80M revenue YTD and are on track to reach our annual goal.

We felt confident in our strategy and doubling down proved to be the right approach. For example, we were bullish on paid ads, and after some iteration, they’ve gone from a super negative ROI to adding $MM in ARR every quarter.

Listen to your customers

Empathy is underrated. More often than not, customers are happy to talk to you and tell you what’s wrong with your approach. Take notes on the words they use to describe your product, what they like and dislike about your brand. Don’t defend your pitch, embrace the feedback, and track it over time. No need to change anything if one or two people surface at the same problem, but take action when you see a recurring pattern over sustained periods of time.

At Homie, a renter’s marketplace, I conducted a survey and discovered that most users liked the software, but they didn’t care for the personal assistant priced into the expensive offering. The company resisted the feedback and it cost us $1.2M in net-revenue in 6 months. This was a 3rd of our seed round we raised earlier in the year! Actively listening saves you costly mistakes and leads to more $$$. Trust your customers, they’re the boss. 

Ready to GTM? Want someone to help you figure it out? Email me and I’ll connect you to Fabri!

That’s all for this week ✨!

Stay awesome, 

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

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Most recent Awesome People 😍

Megan - Marketing Program Manager and campaign whiz. She’s worked with NerdWallet, Samsara, and Twitch to develop strategic partnerships, marketing campaigns, and growth strategies.

Behzod - Product, design, and user experience research expert. He’s worked with companies like Slack and Facebook to help them launch new products and better understand their users.

Russ - Ghostwriter and editing master. He has worked with AngelListNaval RavikantMorado Venture Partners, and founders. He’s one of our go-to’s for thought leadership.

Feel free to email me for intros to any of the awesome people above!

Helpful resources 🎉

Retention - For those of you who know me well, you know I’m obsessed with retention. Retention is a strong indicator of PMF, drives revenue, and saves you from the churn hamster wheel of hell. In the past week, I’ve sent a handful of you Lenny’s article, What is good retention?, and figured I’d include it here. Also, if you aren’t already subscribed to Lenny’s newsletter, I highly recommend it. It’s 🔥.

Public company updates - Fabri sent me notes on Alan, including their Q2 2020 Letter to Shareholders. I like how they publically ask their community for help and share metrics for broader accountability. For those of you who love building in the open and transparency, this might be worth testing out 🙏.