Wining, dining & sharing experiences with the Underscore.VC Marketing Core

Wining & Dining with Core Marketing Leaders
October 28, 2016 Michelle Burtchell

This guest post was written and published by Michelle Burtchell, Core member and VP of Marketing at Salsify following a recent marketing-focused Core dinner.

A few weeks back I had the privilege to share dinner with some of Boston’s best marketing leaders. I always have peer networking on my to-do list, but often don’t put it as high up as I need to. But because I’ve seen some of what Underscore is delivering through their community, it felt like an obvious yes. The long and the short was it was a fantastic way to spend the night.

With 9 of us around the table from various backgrounds and leadership experience in the B2B tech space spending a few hours wining, dining and sharing experiences, I walked away with exactly what I had hoped. There were a few nuggets that I found hugely helpful. Some just good reminders (no, marketing isn’t easy, yes, the basics matter) – others a little surprising. Here are five of the key takeaways from the dinner:

  1. Define your Target. Our market is the foundation of all that we do, but defining the who and the why is not always as straightforward and clear as we’d think.
    • Study your customer. Use whatever data you have, visit them, watch what they’re doing, the questions they ask, what they’re focused on. Walk in their shoes.
    • Look for patterns across your market. What’s the same and how can you leverage that in your positioning? Are the pain and problem the same? Title? What’s different and how much do you need to differentiate?
    • Vertical matters, but avoid going there for as long as you can. It’s a lot of heavy lifting, and often, when starting out, you can position relevant to pain and problem without having to dive deep into vertical. You’ll get there, but it doesn’t always need to be the first approach you take.
    • Don’t try to be something you’re not. Feels a lot like the first bullet, I know, and yes, as marketers, it’s our job to test, learn and that often means leaning a bit far out over our skis. But make sure, at the end of the day, you know the problem you’re solving, who you’re solving it for, and sell the hell out of it. Don’t force yourself into a market that’s not ready. If you want to expand beyond your target, study the opportunity, define the business case and push to get done what you need to expand.
  2. We aren’t that excited about anything in the martech space right now (and that made us sad). Yup, it’s true. We’ve all seen the martech ecosystem map – but as much as it’s growing, and as crowded as the space is, this was the surprisingly silent part of the conversation. Not a single one of us had a ‘hey, here’s some new tech we’re excited about.’
    The one thing that did spark group interest and where some saw advances as of late was with chat. Hello Bar, intercom,, Olark, and of course Boston-based Drift were all mentioned as companies to watch. Google Data Studio received a round of applause too, but if you’re in the martech space, we’re ready for something game-changingly spectacular. Bring it.
  3. Hire right. There’s nothing more important than our teams. But how are we hiring? Generalists? Specialists? At what stage do you specialize? Thoughts and experience were varied, but the general pattern was hire leadership with expertise, and then generalists who can scale mass amounts of work in a short period of time, and no matter what, make sure everyone is willing to roll their sleeves up. Regardless of experience, insatiable curiosity, work ethic, passion, and desire to win were the common characteristics of each of our top team members.
  4. No matter what you’re marketing, you’re marketing to humans. The marketing we most admired was the authentic, human-to-human approach that avoided jargon, realized the value of being up front, and simply made the best use of their reader’s time. Jargon and empty words are dead (except for ABM, and we’ll tackle that in another post). Be you and be real. (yes, Gerhardt, your name came up)
  5. Network. Network. Network. Sometimes it takes a nudge, and sometimes you’re the one nudging – but spend time talking to your peers, those that have more experience than you, those that have less, and those with experience wildly different than yours. You can always learn something. If you don’t have a group, reach out to people you admire, to people you don’t know. Most people will gladly take you up on the offer.

A special thanks to Underscore for making this happen – looking forward to the next one.


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