Emerging Growth Channels — Spring 2016

Interviews with 11 top Silicon Valley growth marketers


At Tradecraft, we often ask top founders & hiring managers in startups to weigh in on topics of interest to our students. We’re starting to share these insights publicly.


Summary

We were surprised by how varied these answers were. Of ten channels that were named, only one channel (Snapchat) had more than one vote. This shows how many channels are still viable to accomplish one’s acquisition goals. There were also polarizing channels (Pinterest, Facebook, bots) where different interviewees thought the channel was either prime or overrated. The only channel that had multiple votes for being on the decline was Twitter.

This week’s interviewees:

Andrew McInnes — Growth @ EatWith
Archie Abrams — Senior Director of Growth @ Udemy
Arjun Naskar — Product Marketing @ Remind
Brittany Murlas — Chief Marketing Officer @ Babylist 
Eric Siu — CEO @ SingleGrain 
Graham Hunter — Director of Marketing @ Patreon 
guillaume cabane — VP Growth @ Segment
Ivan Kirigin — Founder @ YesGraph 
Katelyn Watson — VP Marketing @ IfOnly 
Kimberly Hagner — Demand Gen @ TINT 
Morgan Brown — COO @ Inman News


Andrew McInnes — Growth @ EatWith

Why listen to Drew?

Drew brings a product-focused lens to growth. Before joining EatWith, Drew was a product manager for growth in the games industry, doing stints at both Zynga & Kixeye.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Bots.

Why? 
First let me say that I think bots indirectly drive acquisition by directly driving retention, which almost every growth person I know agrees is the number one growth metric! (who wants pour CAC money down the drain to fill a leaky bucket?)

Messenger platforms for driving acquisition and retention are key for EatWith. Chat bots hold the potential to eliminate the back and forth friction organizers experience in trying to get attendees to commit to a date and place for a dinner get-together.

Agree with Drew’s thoughts on bots? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
Assistant-as-an-app are early adopters of text based platforms, and I believe that they’re using chat bots.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Any product where there exists a need for back and forth between the user and the person trying to help the user that annoys the heck out of the user because the user’s motivation is not high enough to trigger him to persist with the product.

Any recommended resources / articles?
http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/17/facebooks-messenger-in-a-bot-store/. Plus a bunch of recent Medium articles about chat bots


Archie Abrams — Senior Director of Growth @ Udemy

Why listen to Archie?

He’s an OG growth guy at Udemy, which has one of the strongest growth marketing cultures in the Valley. In the four years he’s been at Udemy, the company has grown dramatically.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Mobile growth.

Why? 
Searching in the app store is equivalent to searching the web…if only a company’s homepage was in the index. Indexing all of the content within an app and allowing users who don’t have that app installed to surface that content will potentially democratize the app world in the same way that Google democratized the web. Currently a new app without a web user base can only get scalable installs via paid acquisition + ranking; mobile search opens the door for many more folks to compete.

Agree with Archie’s thoughts on mobile growth? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
It’s still too early. Google and Apple still haven’t really started showing specific pages within an app for a given query that takes place within the app store. But to give a sense of volume, at Udemy we created 500 android apps optimized for long-tail queries and had 100k+ installs per month…the volume is there. It’s just hard for most folks to take advantage of.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Any site that does well in SEO will do well here. If you have a lot of high-quality crawl-able content that people are searching for, mobile search will be big.

Any recommended resources / articles? 
http://searchengineland.com/app-indexing-new-frontier-seo-apple-search-ios-app-indexing-223880


Arjun Naskar — Product Marketing @ Remind

Why listen to Arjun?

Before joining Remind as a product marketer, Arjun ran growth for Homejoy, which grew very, very quickly. He has deep experience in a variety of channels through that work.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Quora.

Why? 
I’m interested in any channel where people seek out information. It’s a new type of content marketing with really authentic engagement and significant reach.

Agree with Arjun’s thoughts on Quora? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
Potential customers are asking very specific questions about product comparisons. These niche questions often go unanswered. It makes sense to develop a support or marketing program about getting these questions answered. It solves a specific customer’s need and serves to boost SEO over time. Buffer and KISSmetrics both do a good job of this.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Expert-based services or B2B companies in general.

Any recommended resources / articles? 
https://blog.bufferapp.com/quora-marketing

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Facebook Ads. Cost has increased 10x over the last 5 years and Facebook users are becoming numb to these ads. Promoted posts are better but I prefer channels with less noise.


Brittany Murlas — Chief Marketing Officer @ Babylist

Why listen to Brittany?

Brittany has helped Babylist become the 3rd largest registry site in the world after Target & BabiesRUs. During her 2+ years at the company, she’s helped increase the user base by 15x.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Pinterest (ads specifically) & YouTube.

I think SnapChat is fascinating, but I believe it’s more of a branding play for bigger companies (i.e. Warner Brothers, P&G) and won’t drive noticeable ROI for most startups because there is no clicking out of SnapChat.

Why?
People are searching for answers/content in more than just Google. Folks are searching for “ideas” in Pinterest and “how to’s” in YouTube. Smart companies can WIN these platform-specific searches faster and easier than winning a top 5 spot in Google search. Same methodology for platforms like Quora or the App Store.

Agree with Brittany’s thoughts on Pinterest? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
I’ll start by saying, I think BabyList is using Pinterest better than anyone right now. Check out our most recent pins and you’ll see what I mean.

BuzzFeed has been killin’ it on Pinterest for a while. I’ve drawn consistent Promoted Pin (and signup flow) inspiration from Fabletics (Kate Hudson’s yoga brand).

For video, the first company that comes to mind is Zappos. If someone types in “mom & pop sneaker review” Zappos is going to have that video. Another note: people love watching folks unbox new gear on YouTube, so if you have a physical product send it to popular vloggers ASAP.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Pinterest = brands that can utilize search history (e.g., targeting people that search for “vacation” or “mortgage”) and can sell themselves through a visual ad. Know 41% of US women have a Pinterest account.

YouTube = if content marketing can help you grow, YouTube can help you grow. You can turn a blog that is performing into video content. And don’t worry too much about video quality — shooting from your phone is “in.”

Any recommended resources / articles?
Here’s a talk I did at 500 Startups about growth on Pinterest: https://youtu.be/3cm98uCRnjE

The only other recommendation I have is to pay attention to how YOU search for answers/content online. And figure out how you can watch your target demographic do the same. Watching over people’s shoulders counts (I do it on the train everyday).

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Facebook. Their default settings make it look like they drive many more conversions than they actually do. That said, while unpopular with millennials, Facebook seems to be exploding among the baby boomer generation.


Eric Siu — CEO @ SingleGrain

Why listen to Eric?

Eric was hand-picked by Neil Patel to help turn around the marketing agency SingleGrain, which does paid and SEO work for companies including Salesforce, Intuit, Blue Apron, KISSmetrics, and Treehouse.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Snapchat.

Why?
Stories hold your complete attention and really show the personality of each individual. Twitter used to answer the question, ‘what are you doing?’ via text. Snapchat does it using video.

Agree with Eric’s thoughts on Snapchat? Click to tweet.

Who uses that channel in interesting ways?
Justin Kan and Mark Suster (both former entrepreneurs and now investors) do a great job of doing ‘Snapstorms’ that add snippets of value every day to their audience.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
I’ve seen fashion and design products do particularly well but to be honest, I think anything using video works.

Any recommended resources / articles?
http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2016/03/11/snapchat-101-vcs-old-folks/

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Search/AdWords is getting a little shakier with Facebook/messaging/videos/etc. gaining momentum; I’m curious to see how that plays out in the next few years.


Graham Hunter — Director of Marketing @ Patreon

Why listen to Graham?

Before Graham joined Patreon, he spent two years leading growth at Tradecraft, where he interfaced with the top growth practitioners in Silicon Valley. He also started a marketing agency and led growth at a startup acquired by Intuit.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you? 
Local PR. (I know that this is not really emerging)

Why?
It’s gotten easier to get placements and automation.

Agree with Graham’s thoughts on Local PR? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
GoFundMe!

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Services with “user success stories”

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Traditional display, as always


guillaume cabane — VP Growth @ Segment

Why listen to Guillaume?

Segment is a cutting-edge marketing tool that many of the best marketers in SF use, and the Segment founders chose Guillaume to lead their growth. He’s spent 10+ years as a performance marketer.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
I have a hard time being constrained by this question, as my view is that we are switching away from segregated channels towards a more unified omni-channel experience. The challenge is in having different channels work well together to create that seamless experience for the customer, instead of trying to extract the maximum value from a given channel (and perhaps killing it in the same way). When you achieve that you can serve the right message, at the right time, where it is most valuable to your customer.

Agree with Guillaume’s take on this question? Click to tweet.

Ivan Kirigin — Founder @ YesGraph

Why listen to Ivan?

Ivan runs YesGraph, which is a tool to help foster customer-driven acquisition. He got his insights for the product as he helped build the growth engines at Facebook and Dropbox. Enough said.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Email & sms invites.

Why?
I think mobile growth generally is the most interesting category because it’s unsolved. User-to-user invites are a strong candidate to help solve this.

Agree with Ivan’s thoughts on sms + email? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
Infrastructure like YesGraph, Branch Metrics, Twilio

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Social products for sure

Any recommended resources / articles?
http://blog.yesgraph.com/social-networks/

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Bots are very overrated


Katelyn Watson — VP Marketing @ IfOnly

Why listen to Katelyn?

Katelyn’s an accomplished marketer with 13 years of experience in acquisition & retention for big brands, start-ups, and agencies.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
Instagram.

Why? 
See below.

Agree with Katelyn’s thoughts on Instagram? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
I see a lot of retail brands run contests to get users to tag someone in the post, for example “Tag the person you would want to do this experience with.” I also follow Rockbox on Instagram and they do a great job of tying Instagram into the buying process where you can wishlist things and easily refer people. I have seen brands use Offerpop Shoppable Instagram platform to allow users to shop directly on the channel. This is a great opportunity to drive conversion by allowing people to shop your gallery of products. Revfluence also has a cool platform of influencers who you can go after: https://www.revfluence.com/brands/4509927411286016/app?state=&state_params=null#/onboarding

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
With the carousel ads and the power of FB targeting, I think retail companies with beautiful photography can do very well. The carousels optimize in real time based on performance, which is helpful to learn what people are interested in and allows you to do less work. I also think video ads could do well, but are probably better for branding campaigns vs. direct response.

Any recommended resources / articles?
Not what you want to hear but the best thing to do is to seek out a friend at Facebook / Instagram. They will usually only talk to you at specific spend levels, but they do have a group in Austin that deals with newer advertisers. Of course their goal is to get you to spend more, but at least you will have an ‘in” at the source and can ask the hard questions like, “When can I create follower campaigns” and “When will we be able to link Instagram posts easily?”
 
This is a nice guide on Instagram influencer marketing: http://www.business.com/social-media-marketing/the-secret-guide-to-instagram-influencer-marketing/

We’ve been testing Linqia for Instagram and influencer marketing and the process has been good so far.

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Pinterest — I think advertisers are frustrated with the slowness of their ad tech in general and lack of ability to do much outside of babies and weddings. Also, Twitter. They have tried everything, but advertising on Twitter at scale remains really tough. For one off campaigns, I think Twitter can work well, but for ongoing optimizeable performance based marketing it has not gotten much better.


Kimberly Hagner — Demand Gen @ TINT

Why listen to Kim?

Kim has been doing demand gen for 4+ years, first in bio tech and now at B2B startups. At TINT, she’s using demand gen to target customers at every step of their buying journey.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you?
SEO. (not really emerging, more of a classic)

Why?
SEO is a channel that pays off continuously once you’ve achieved a good ranking (as long as your site authority doesn’t change too much). However, SEO is slow. This is unlike paid where you need to pay for every click again and again. In other words, SEO is a better long-term play.

Agree with Kim’s thoughts on SEO? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
At TINT we’re creating content across the buyer funnel (awareness, consideration, conversion) but that isn’t anything new that addresses specific challenges on a per industry basis. It is better to be focused than broad.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
Any type of product that occupies some sort of a niche is useful. For example, I would not recommend SEO for a shoe company as there is already a lot of competition and content in that area. I would recommend SEO for B2B SaaS in a particular niche industry like digital out-of-home , where there is a bit less competition and higher chances of getting a good position.

Any recommended resources / articles?
Moz Blog

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
As competition increases, PPC is not as valuable. The cost per click goes up and it also becomes more difficult to gain visibility here.


Morgan Brown — Inman News

Why listen to Morgan?

Morgan is a growth guy. He’s done a ton of thinking and publishing on growth over the years, has consulted for many startups, and has been doing growth marketing in a variety of industries for 10+ years.

What emerging channel / platform is interesting to you? 
Snapchat.

Why?
The engagement and attention is off the charts and the noise is super low. It blows away other social channels for attention/engagement.

Agree with Morgan’s thoughts on Snapchat? Click to tweet.

What companies use that channel in interesting ways?
Many companies are spinning up media divisions, so startups like MeUndies, Arsenic TV, Buzzed, etc. are doing interesting things with it and we’re starting to see more B2B companies get involved too such as HubSpot and Hootsuite.

What types of products are best suited for this channel?
E-commerce and media.

Any recommended resources / articles?
Snapvice.co newsletter

Is there a channel that you think is on the decline?
Twitter — thing is dead.


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