Digisemestr #13 (2019-05-18) – Startup Marketing, Product Development & Innovation, Service Design

Welcome to the final lesson of Digisemestr. It has been a pleasure. This one is about B2B marketing, growth hacking…

Veronika – B2B Startup Marketing

Back in the ol’ days, Veronika had her own website about horses. Yes, it was optimized for Internet Explorer!

Now she works at CDN77 as a Marketing Director.

B2B startups are fairly successful, however, we don’t see as much as B2C startups. It’s more difficult to for B2C startups to succeed because they need to adjust and localize to local markets. And this is hard to execute globally from a single location. One example is Brazil – your B2C product doesn’t sell there and you don’t know why. You need to know they desire to buy everything on installment purchase (yes, even a 5€ T-shirt). Global B2B is easier since English is often enough and there are global standards for business.

How does growth hacking fit into the picture?

When trying to gain ground as a startup in the global market there is fierce competition. Large global corporations with massive budgets can easily bid more on ads than a tiny startup. Growth hacking is doing marketing the smart way.

CDN77 has a very niche target market. Only about 100k websites worldwide can actually take advantage of content delivery network. Their competitors are massive companies such as Akamai or Cloudflare with much larger market shares & budgets.

In-house marketers are more suitable for startups rather than hiring a marketing agency. Why is that? Startups are disruptive. Nobody understands their product or service. It’s all very new. It’s innovative. Before an agency is able to grasp it, startup innovates further (or pivots), the agency is one step behind, needs to learn all over again and that would take too long. Furthermore, marketing in startup touches business, product and other parts of the company so more versatile marketer with a broader skillset is desirable. Whereas marketing agencies are highly specialized.

How not to get loopy as an in-house startup marketer?

Time management & prioritization. Use tools like Trello to set priorities for the team. They also add visibility and prevent ideas from rotting hidden away. Prioritize based on “Cash is King”. If it brings money it’s probably worth doing. Be flexible & adapt fast, solve problems once they come. Be content with things not being 100%.

What is growth hacking according to Veronika? Think instead of throwing money at problems.

Smarter targeting

Use not only demographics and geo but also behavior. Interests in GDN are too broad. There is no way to target niche audience website owners. The audience would be just too irrelevant. Is there a smarter way to do this?

We can use placements. Show ads on a specific URL. For example, we could advertise running shoes on a small blog for running enthusiasts. We would probably reach only a couple hundred people but highly relevant. Instead of paying the blog for its ads, the startup could arrange another form of cooperation to save money.

Where to find placements?

From GDN results (conversions), clients and influencers (“Where do you get information about <the topic>?”), friends on social networks, top websites about <the topic> (thematic websites), SimilarWeb, Ahrefs & Marketing Miner (websites for keywords), and (brand) mentions tools.

The downside of placements is that websites might not offer ad space on Google, they might have a different ad system or none at all. The reach is low and it takes a lot of effort to manage (manual work).

Custom intent audiences (CIA) partially solve these issues. It targets people (and people similar to) who visit a particular website or search for kws. Unfortunately, KWs are a broad match. Targeting specific URLs is better. For example, competitors pricing subpage – this is more high intent than a competitor’s homepage. Other URLs to target: complementary products, comparison, and thematic websites.

CIA is suitable when it’s hard to come up for relevant search KWs or these KWs are expensive, having a niche target audience (another targeting is too broad), and there are thematic websites lacking ad systems. Also, it can be used instead of search ads when targeting people who visit competitor’s web. In search, the quality score would be lowered if the competitor’s name is not mentioned on your website and you would have to bid more.

Smarter content

The best content is the one TA is crazy about. They totally live it. Preferably, right now.

For example, sharing the image above two days after Christmas with a caption like “Oh my, I stuffed my tummy pretty well I can’t move at all.” to people who are crazy about this cartoon is a great fit & and timing is right. People feel just the same as the bear right after Xmas!

Another good fit is product placement in YT video about home cleaning. It works because the timing is right. People are most interested right at the moment of watching the guide “how to clean xyz”.

A smarter way to work with audiences

Nobody was targeting Let’s encrypt because it was free (and KWs were cheap). They offered an instant demo and whitepaper as lead magnets. This brought them traffic and they were able to collect email addresses. They used remarketing and emailing, and sent these people SSL specific collateral.

Similarly, they did this with TLS 1.3.

Utilize the human ego

Let other people create content for you (and promote it). Podcast hosts might not know anything about the topic. They invite guests to talk about it (for free).

Guests are stars in their field. They want to shine! They share it with their network. Utilize the human ego.

Always customize emails and messages you send to market influencers and experts. Asked them about top trends, etc. They need to find their contribution valuable. People you choose to invite must be relevant for the target audience.

This is not just for podcasts, you can do interviews, articles with expert opinions, etc.

Read How to win friends & influence people from Dale Carnegie. It’s a foundational marketing book.

Stay on top of news and niche tools

CDN77 participated in early Quora ads. Only a small volume but highly specific targeting (“What are the best xyz providers?”). Promoted answers look like regular answers. You can target questions. Looking for relevant questions and adding answers (manually, scraping, KWs in Quora).

Smarter learning

  • Sharing expertise and meeting fellow marketing people in person (workshops, conferences, meetups, trips.. just events in general).
  • Sharing expertise and meeting fellow marketing people online (various groups).
  • Asking directly (on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter).
  • Reading books and articles (it’s not about how many you read but what you learn).

Leads in B2B

Leads are prospective customers – we want to be able to evaluate if they are willing to spend. In B2B they are often only a few with high LTV. With so few leads it’s hard to analyze campaigns. Furthermore, you don’t want just more leads. What you want are quality leads. Those are highly relevant leads who will most likely buy your product or services. So more leads don’t equal a better marketing campaign.

They tried machine learning script to analyze leads, however, it was favoring leads from rich countries just because they were from those countries. Because of these issues, a low volume of leads per day and high LTV allowed them to switch to manual analysis.

Lukas – Marketing for B2B

We already knew Lukas from the previous lesson about marketing tools.

In B2B there are more decision-makers (DMs) influencing decisions. Often goods and services are sold via partners (B2B2B). It’s more complex than in B2C.

For small teams in B2B startups, T-shaped marketers are the best bet. What does T-shaped mean? Broad skill set and one deep expertise. Btw, I’ve actually studied SSME field at Masaryk University which is a T-shaped education for IT managers. Marketers in startups need to know a lot. They need to understand business as well as marketing (all your favorite abbreviations including PPC, SEO, LTV, CPA,.. ) and the product/service.

Events are pretty important in B2B marketing. You want to be seen by DMs who attend. This creates touchpoints. It’s an opportunity to build relationships and trust. Now DMs know you and it’s easier to do business. You can also organize your own events to attract DMs (and potential employees).

What #martech (marketing tech) Lukas uses at Smartlook?


Ryte.com for on-page optimization, Ahrefs for backlinks & referring content, Google search console, SEMRush (KWs targeted by competition, KW gap), HyperSuggest and AnswerThePublic for KWs.

Email marketing
For email marketing, they use MailChimp and beetle.email for competitor email analysis.

Competition analysis

BuiltWith for web analysis (what scripts they use) and Similarweb for traffic analysis (see sources of traffic).

Ryte.com for TF*IDF analysis, and WordPress.


Adespresso.com for competition analysis, and Hootsuite.

Data tools
Google Analytics, Chartmogul, Supermetrics, Google Data Studio, and GetSiteControl.

The most important are Google, BuiltWith, SimilarWeb, SEMRush, and Ahrefs. With these tools find both local and global competitors, what technology they use, and how do they get traffic.

Lukas urges to differentiate your traffic. It’s like with investments. Don’t rely on a single asset class, diversify! Same in marketing. Don’t rely on a single source of traffic. For example, if you do only Facebook it might work well. Then, suddenly, Facebook changes its algorithm and you have a problem. Another example is when competition pushes you out. Have a backup source of traffic.

Find relevant sources with SEMRush or SimilarWeb (or similar referrals as competition).

Make yourself an expert on Quora. Answer questions. Add your product/service as alternative to similar products on sites such as AlternativeTo. Comment on relevant YouTube videos and add a link to your website. Consider creating Intercom integration if suitable (integrations are showcased on their website).

B2B buyers often look at product reviews on websites like Capterra. Google reviews for your competitors and aim to be there too. Use SimilarWeb to prioritize the most important ones. Some review sites offer their analytics. This allows you to see traffic outside of your own website. Aim to be in every relevant product category on review sites. How to get reviews? Work with support, sales, and partners to motivate the right customers (with high NPS score) to leave a review.

You can showcase yourself on Product Hunt which is a platform for launching new products. The most popular product gets featured in their newsletter. So tell all your fans to vote for you there.

Don’t just blindly copy what others are doing. For example, Neil Patel is blogging like crazy about marketing and is successful. Smartlook knew they couldn’t make this much content. They ditched content marketing and focused on other things. And it works for them. Don’t fall for all the buzzwords and hype. Often, it’s the same old thing.

Michal – Growth hacking and Product development

Michal considers growth hacking a buzzword. What it really means is helping the business to grow through different means. Growth hacking is a good fit for scalable business (like SaaS). It doesn’t work well for manufacturing with a limited production capacity.

A good example of growth hacking is Dropbox. They have a great referral program. When you invite other people you get extra storage for free.

The second example is Avast. They switched from manual to automatic subscription renewal and voilá +43% increase of renewals.

Growth hacking combines marketing, data and user experience. In the case of rohlik.cz, Czech grocery home delivery company, the product is the website where select and order what they want. It’s unlike other e-commerce websites. People don’t search on Google for “canned fish” when they shop. Instead, they go through rohlik.cz brand and add items to the cart directly on the website. And they shop fairly often meaning shopping experience needs to be smooth (emphasis on UX).

What’s interesting is that Czech grocery delivery companies don’t compete with each other. The delivery market is minuscule compared to traditional grocery stores. It doesn’t make sense to try to steal customers from each other. It’s much more rewarding to gain more customers who used to shop at regular grocery stores.

Grocery delivery companies are all about logistics, trying to optimize truck routes with each additional order. Astonishing 65% of orders are delivered the same day. Marketing, logistics, and inventory need to be in balance. This includes the number of people hired. If there is too much marketing effort, logistics and inventory are not able to cover the demand. It’s hard to predict the demand. Weather plays a big role. If there is rain, people order more.

The product is a part of Customer Experience (CX). It has 3 goals: eliminating obstacles, motivating for more frequent and valuable orders and boosting word of mouth where people recommend it to their friends and neighbors.

There are 3 types of action:
1) Operations – taking care of daily business and planning for public holidays (eg. Informing customers you’re open during Easter)

2) Optimizations – gradually improving CX and other parts of the business (eg. Personalization based on previous orders)

3) Innovations – introducing new projects (eg. Rohlik Chef – ordering ingredients for recipes)

Collect feedback directly on your website, categorize it and watch customer interest trends for each. Create a system to estimate and prioritize features (eg. Google Sheet). Ask yourself how many customers are going to use it? How much can you earn? How hard is it to implement?

Are you making a change? Ask for feedback.

Segment your customers and learn how much you earn per customer from each segment. It’s fairly common to see 20/80 rule here: 20% of customers bring 80% of revenue. Take good care of your most loyal customers. Prioritize their request when they try to reach customer service, etc.

Visit your customers at home! Do proper research. Learn how they live and what separates great customers from regular ones. You won’t be able to collect this kind of data via an internet survey!

Lastly, go out and have fun with your colleagues, rent a cottage in the countryside and have a brainstorming session.

And this, my dear friends, was the last Digisemestr lesson (All Digisemestr lessons). Hope you enjoyed the ride, I sure did. Every Saturday I went from Brno to Prague! I made 13 trips back and forth. Sometimes, It was tiresome. For the online part (on an online learning platform Digisemestr Online) I picked “Marketing startups, SaaS companies & B2B” specialization course, studied hard and earned 46 out of 50 points. Final exam wasn’t easy but I managed to earn 44 out of 50 points. This gives me a final score of 90 out of 100 points. Certificate of completion is my LinkedIn profile </brag> 🙂

I learned a lot about digital marketing during Digisemestr and met a bunch of great people. Thanks everyone from Digisemestr team for organizing such an amazing course!


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