Awesome People List - Ep 22

Go-to-market, puppy, covid-19 marketing tips, product marketing

Hi Founders and Fellow VC Friends!

Happy Tuesday! Diving in… People give companies superpowers 🚀. Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know. The best part is, everyone is hirable on an interim basis. 

This episode is jam-packed. Skim the main reading now and come back later with a cup of 🍵.

Main reading 

  • Meet Conner, your product marketing and GTM expert 📈

  • Special section: how to communicate with customers about Covid 🎤

  • Value props 101 🥳

  • Remember, marketing starts BEFORE you build a product 🤩

  • FT gems 😍

PS section (too much goodness!)

  • Resources for founders 

  • Facebook and Instagram ad tips 

  • Surprises


Please meet Conner, your product marketing and GTM expert 📈

Conner and I met through On Deck*. Conner’s specialty is go-to-market. Most recently, he established the marketing org at Affirm, a lending startup that raised $1B+ from Founders Fund, Lightspeed, and others. He worked with the product team to build and market new products to attract large customers like Williams Sonoma, Walmart, and Chanel. The result: millions of dollars in revenue. Previously, at Facebook, he re-launched two blockbuster ad products, resulting in $1B+ in revenue in less than 4 months. Yassss 🚀. Fun fact: Conner fortuitously got a SUPER cute puppy two weeks before shelter-in-place (sneak peek at the bottom)!

He's trusted by Facebook, Instagram, Eco, Affirm, and many startups in SF. He specializes in B2B and B2B2C marketing. 

You can hire him to help with all things GTM.  He outlined the key elements for us here:

  • Market research and segmentation - figuring out the unique parts of your market

  • Positioning - explaining your product to each segment in a way that resonates

  • Value prop design - wordsmithing and distilling your message for each segment 

  • Narrative building - using the value props of your products to create a story your audience understands

  • Campaign strategy and execution - building a cross-channel marketing plan that achieves your business goals 

If you’re interested in connecting with Conner, email me and I’ll connect you. 

*Side note: if you’re working on a new startup, you can apply for On Deck’s 4th cohort here #notanad #friends


I think it’s important to address marketing in the COVID era, so I asked Conner to kick us off with a few pro tips 🎤

If your business changed due to COVID, address things swiftly.

With so much uncertainty, people want answers. Clear communication builds trust and is an opportunity to deepen your customer relationships. If your product is delayed due to a supply chain issue, communicate it clearly. If you’ve changed a policy, let people know why. Keep customers in the loop. People will understand. 

If your value prop shines right now, find a way to show your customers that you’re here for them, but do so very gently.

No one wants a self-congratulatory company or a blatant marketing push when people are dying. 

I saw two examples from my alma-mater, Facebook, that checked the boxes on what I’d consider both terrible and fantastic. 

The first was a list of all the amazing things Facebook did for the Bay Area. The tone was self-congratulatory and totally off base. It’s great that Facebook is helping, but now is not the time for self-promotion. 

The following week, Facebook launched a video campaign inviting people to request and offer help through their COVID help page. It was classy and well done. 


Now back to our regularly scheduled programming! 3 pro-tips from Conner 🥳

Since product marketing can feel fuzzy, I asked him to give us tangible examples. He did not disappoint! 

When you talk about your value prop, lead with benefits, not features.

I always have a picture of Steve Jobs on stage announcing the iPod. He contextualized every feature into a tangible benefit. Instead of 4GB of storage, it was 1,000 of your favorite songs in your pocket. He made everything instantly understandable by telling stories about how it would make your life better. You want to communicate your value in as few words as possible, so you can cue the emotional reaction as quickly as possible. 

Adjust your value props based on your audience.

Target your message to each segment. Only talk about things your audience cares about. Everything else is noise.

For example, Affirm’s value props include (1) increasing conversion  (2) increasing average order value and (3) making sales happen faster. Not all segments or companies care about all of the value props.

Take online travel agents like Expedia. They get paid per transaction so they don’t care about the flight price (value prop #2). But they do care about increasing conversion (value prop #1) and making sales happen faster (value prop #3). Once we narrowed our value props for online travel agents, we signed up CheapOAir, Priceline, JustFly and several others. Messaging matters.

Marketing is something that you do before, NOT only after you launch a product. 

Most founders view marketing as something that happens after launch. But market research and customer discovery need to start long before you officially launch - before you write a single line of code.

At Facebook, I worked on Lead Ads. Before we launched, we thought the product was destined to be a hit among automotive advertisers. They spend a huge portion of their marketing budgets on acquiring leads. Then we launched. Crickets. Turns out that in the product discovery phase, we missed one very important detail. Auto advertisers need to send their leads to specific dealers. Our product only supported sending leads to one place. Back to the drawing board. We reworked and relaunched Lead Ads with this key insight and within four months we were generating over $1M per day within that vertical.

Bottom line: founders need strong product marketing early. Then, when it comes time for a full-scale launch, nailing the marketing campaign is easy - because you’ve had your marketing hat on all along.

Want Conner’s help? Let me know and I’ll email intro you!


FT Gems 😍

Last week, the vast majority of you said that you wanted more lists. Here are my two favorites right now: AngelList Layoff Lists and WFHbuthiring.


Ok dream team, that was a beast! Let me know if you want an intro to Conner and chat next week!

Stay awesome, 

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People List

Founder of Awesome People Ventures

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PS. Q&A with Conner  

What are your favorite resources for founders?

I love this framework by Product Marketing Alliance👇. Any GTM plan, should use this as a checklist. Start on the outside with discovery and work your way in.  

Something tactical: I make a lot of decks and websites and use icons to make my message pop. Check out the Noun Project for free logos and icons.

Based on your time at Facebook, what should people know about their ad platform?  

  • Broad audiences. Everyone wants to get the highest ROI for their ad dollars. But when you define your audience too narrowly, CPMs increase and delivery decreases (aka your ads get shown less). Facebook’s algorithm is so good at driving the action you care about that you should let it do its thing and get out of the way. This is proven time, and time again. Rather than tweak with targeting, make sure Facebook is receiving clean signal from all your customer touchpoints. This helps hone the Facebook machine to the actions you care about most (clicks, conversions, etc). 

  • Creative matters. Cutting through the noise and clutter is extremely important. Think to yourself: does this phrase pop in people’s feeds and stories? Ads and content customized for each platform and ad unit perform better. Brands should create a lot of variations (if possible) and test/learn quickly.

Any parting words? 

Test and iterate quickly on your value props. We live in a world where instant feedback is readily available. Don’t get too far down the process of refining your value props until you’ve gotten feedback from your audience.

  • For B2B: empower your sales team, join the calls and see how messages are landing.

  • For B2C: set up landing pages, run a bit of paid media. See what parts of the message are resonating. Or simply push an experiment live to see how it behaves. 

Fun fact

I’ve never posted puppy photos in this newsletter (or anywhere), but Conner sent me a photo of his new puppy and OMG 🥰. Meet Marlowe.


Secret invite: Do you want to beta test a new note-taking app (that’s SO much more)?
No, it’s not Roam. Message me and I’ll hook you up 😀!