Edition 34: Quibi

Got a few minutes?

My son is sitting inches from me playing. I pull out my phone to check out Quibi. The new streaming video by Hollywood + Silicon Valley with episodes being 10 minutes or shorter.

There’s a show with Hemsworth. Thinking its Chris Hemsworth, I steal a few seconds to play it. The episodes are 10 minutes or shorter. The entire time I am confused that this dude kinda looks like Thor but doesn’t really… till I realize it’s his younger brother.

It’s perfect for me. I hardly have 30-40 minutes to sit down these days so Quibi provides a format that fits perfectly. Even though it’s said to be competing against Youtube/TikTok - I think it misses the point. Its more HBO/Netflix Prime territory with its A list stars + directors/producers, not phone shot funny cat videos. Maybe I show my age but I don’t even care about TikTok.

I am no media analyst but I do have opinions. I think Quibi could have a massive market amongst parents - especially during the quarantine.

What I am eagerly awaiting though is marketers tasked with ‘What can marketers learn from Quibi’ posts or chopping their webinars into 10 min videos for mobile (vertical video) but missing the point - Quibi is entertainment with a lot of firepowers. Folks like Steven Spielberg are making shows for the service with the celebrity status to go with it.

Note: Not sure how but my LinkedIn post got featured. Not sure how many folks actually read it but that’s new.


If you are in media buying / paid social:

Keeping it short instead of forcing the writing & Quibi is waiting.

Stay healthy.

Kamil

Edition 33: Keep the noise down.

My toddler just went for his nap.

First of all, I hope everyone is safe, home & staying cautious. I am not even sure what day it is anymore. Being under quarantine, the days sort of blur together & you slowly get into the rhythm of things. Productivity is down though. Most of my days is spent with my 2.3 years old who seems to have endless energy to jump & play all the time.

We live in weird times. I was talking to my parents in Pakistan (Whatsapp not zoom, not sure why people use Zoom for family calls) & my dad mentioned one of our distant relatives who drives a taxi for a living. The civil government was lax & dilly-dallying but the military stepped in and imposed a lockdown + checkpoints across the country. They stopped all cabs, public transit (privately owned vans & rickshaws) hitting my distant relative hard on the source of income. Naturally, the extended family is helping out as much as they can but in a country like my motherland, there’s little in way of government support & the already poor are being hit the hardest (like it is across the globe). It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to make my living on the internet, even though my pipeline went poof, I see signs of folks starting to fall back into the rhythm of things. On the note of Pakistan, here’s a read by the NYT.


Writing WFH guides & COVID survival guides is NOT a content strategy. Lots of companies are working remotely for the first time & honestly, there’s folks who have been doing it for longer. Everyone writing WFH guides like they are the experts all of a sudden just creates more noise.

And if your WFH home looks a lot like working from the office you are likely doing something wrong. Sitting on back to back Zoom meetings is not how it works. Try to communicate async. I was on CMO Office hours today for a bit before #dadduty came up (Anthony @Front ex Gainsight arranges it) & one of the panelists spoke about delaying meetings by 5 min so folks can get off their chairs and grab a coffee or a walk because back to back zoom meetings. All I could think of was, man there’s something fundamentally wrong if that’s what your week looks like.

ALSO using any of what is going on in your marketing/sales messaging is slimy. A lot of companies are changing their approach in the light of what is happening but I wonder how the GTM will change after everything goes back to normal - whatever that looks like in a few months. By changing I mean adding ‘Hope you and your family are safe in their tough times’ to their sequenced marketing/sales automation emails 🙃

Want to do something different - Amrita (VP @ CrowdRiff ) hosted a call with 200 DMOs (customers/prospects) who are effected COVID19 to share experiences & stories & put together their stories.


Staying on COVID topic for a hot second:

I’ve seen a bunch of VC’s, Tech/Startup folks (mostly men sadly) comment or write about COVID. For the love of God, leave it to the experts. We don’t need half baked opinions based on some growth model you used for your tech startup. There’s folks who research, model & study these for a living & have for years. But tech folks do have the ‘smartest person in the room’ mentality and of course, they think it’s just a problem like any other they can solve. For they are the new messiahs. I can’t find that article that was circulating across twitter & later mainstream media by some Everlane ‘growth dude’ about how the experts were wrong or something.


I disagree with Juliana here. This is something I struggled with but in the end, I think it’s ok to cut down rates if you need cashflow & don’t have the money in the bank to find the right clients. I’ve debated reducing my project rates just to get more work in the door (which reminds me I need to start building a pipeline). I am sure folks will disagree. We all need to adjust our expectations to what your realities may be.


I really believe Mark (Freshbooks) came from a good place when he said he spent $3,000 buying gift cards for local businesses but when Jess (hey Jess) forwarded me the email, I couldn’t help but think - they should likely put the subs of the freelancers who are likely struggling to close more business on hold - not boast about spending 3K on gift cards. Mark did apologize on twitter (and he got some heat for it) but I truly believe it came from a good place & it was a misstep.


Every so often, the marketing world comes back to MQL’s are evil. Some years ago someone suggested PQL’s (product qualified leads) as a replacement. The thing is though, PQL’s/MQL’s can all be gamed even Opp creation / sale activity. Here’s an example:

  • MQL = Demographic + Behaviour. But if you say - anyone who opens a single marketing email is an MQL then it quickly becomes bloated & meaningless.

  • PQL = Demographic + Product Engagement. But if a login >= 1 makes someone a PQL you run into the same issue.

  • Opportunity Rate = Qualified Opps. But if you are creating bad opps just to fill your pipeline without a proper process like BANT & have a timelime / $$ associated with it, your inflating your pipeline & your close rate will be shit.

At the end of the day, the funnel & stages like MQL/SQL are at best leading indicators of pipeline & revenue. Use them to identify big dropoffs b/w stages or dives in handoffs / conversion rates & dive it deeper to solve the underlying issue. Any metric can & will ultimately be gamed.


Mayur is (ex Spotify) has an interesting take here. Why did I share it? Because it’s really not brand vs performance or brand vs growth or Ads vs Organic etc. Brand creates demand. Performance/Growth/Demand Gen captures it.


Other assorted notes:

There’s been alot of layoffs & hiring freezes given the current climate. LeadSift used their tech to create this spreadsheet of companies currently hiring. (Canada only)

You want to do PR? Read this by Janessa first.

Self Service (dare I say PLG) vs Enterprise. Love this post from Brianne on her Substack. Every company eventually goes up-market, Slack did (had to as the company evolved) & even Notion is (earlier then I expected, I suspect current conditions have accelerated usage & created an early opportunity). Like with marketing (brand vs performance), its not a zero-sum game.

On a personal note. My consulting/micro-agency turned 2. I didn’t think I would make it but here’s to another 2.

The soundtrack for this edition was the me being disappointed at Birds of Prey which could have been fantastic. Margot Robbie is the perfect Harley Quinn though. I wish DC would really get their universe together.

Till hopefully next week. Stay home & stay healthy.

Kamil

Edition 32: Quarantine

Stay safe.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t talk about the COVID pandemic across the globe. In Canada or specifically Toronto, life seems to be somewhat normal, though you can catch folks with masks in the subway (spotted 2 today). But from what I am seeing happening south of the border, things are relatively calm. I personally think it’ll get worse before it gets better. On the business side, I am seeing a slowdown & personally focused on cash in the bank in case things go south so I can ride out the storm.

Taking a page from this post by Sequoia (Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020):

  1. Cash runway. Do you really have as much runway as you think? Could you withstand a few poor quarters if the economy sputters? Have you made contingency plans? Where could you trim expenses without fundamentally hurting the business? Ask these questions now to avoid potentially painful future consequences.

John Short (who is a fellow consultant at Compound Growth Marketing) sent an email out asking how we view the risks for the current situation. Here was my somewhat coherent response (summary).

don't know how helpful this would be but the way I've always looked at it is that - most of the companies I work with are  general venture backed (with a few exceptions). Most VCs have LPs who  would likely put their money in low risk investments. As the macro  economy takes a down turn due to lack of mobility / manufacturing and  the economy slows down, the Venture funding that keeps companies I work  with going will likely dry up - driving companies to be more  conservative with their spending. 

How are you viewing the situation? Let me know by replying to this email/twitter or LinkedIn or carrier pigeons.

On the flip side, there are marketers trying to capitalize on this situation and peddling their ‘how to make your business shine in times of great crisis’ type stuff. Go out, get some air & perspective.


I just met Jacob for lunch today. We went to a small Japanese place, a meeting that was kicked off by us both attending an event called Masters of Ops by an attribution vendor called Calibre Mind (canceled) & his response to the previous newsletter. One of the interesting points he brought up was that I can/should weave more of my ‘work’ stories into the narrative I write about here. I am going to try this once a while but if it gets soo ‘content marketing’ let me know.


It’s difficult to write about the state of the industry right now but here are some interesting reads - as this crisis shows us questions to grapple with:

I could not end without leaving this here: (thanks Jess!)

Soundtrack for today:

Wishing you health.

Kamil

42/Agency


Edition 31

Because 30 is still in my drafts

I still have edition 30 in my drafts. It was about Jumpshot and some other things, but since I went on vacation, I lost my train of thought on that. I might revisit it though.



What no one tells you about building a business is how fucking hard it is. I’ve been lucky to be able to do what I love (marketing) for most of my career even though I started in IT/Business Tech at P&G. I’ve been lucky to be able to build a micro agency over the last 2 years (yes its been 2 years officially!) but every other week or so, I think it might just all go away tomorrow. Part of it is imposter syndrome, part of it is the global economic situation (COVID has sent the markets plummeting) & part of it is, being exhausted. March is off to a slower start then I’d like - I had some conversations in Feb but none of them have closed or seem to be closing so I am partially living in far and partially taking this time to refresh my site, do some of my own marketing (you might have seen some twitters ads from the 42/Agency handle) and mostly watching Money Heist on Netflix after my 2-year-old firecracker goes to bed.

After my last letter, I felt like an old brown dude shouting at the internet. So the break was good to reset on this front as well. Subscribers have been trickling in (Hello Masa!) but I haven’t really treated this as a ‘marketing’ channel for my business. Should I repost this on the company blog? It literally has zero keyword optimization but it potentially could be a ‘brand channel’ even though I express very strong opinions about the industry.

Onwards.


I’ve been thinking about the intersection of media & marketing for a while. Essentially every company is a media company (hello content marketing & video marketing & events, SEO & Ad Tech) but also how strong personalities lead in both businesses.

Take the Ringer acquisition for example - Spotify bought the Ringer (a pod business) for $230M. Why? Because Bill Simmons has built an incredible business around his personality & voice and its distance to him.

On the print / written side - I’ve been a fan of Steven Levy (BackChannl), Erin Griffin (Fortun/NYT), Jessi Hempel (BackChannl/Wired/LinkedIn( for a while. Each time they move to a different pub, I ‘move’ with them because I want to read their stuff. I subscribe to the pub they work at to access their writing & by bonus discover other writers I like.

Similarly, you can see a parallel b/w marketing. The most recent example is (you probably guessed it) Dave Gerhardt from Drift. He built an incredible following while at Drift & he '“carried” that following with him when he joined Privy. I’d have never know what Privy is if it hadn’t been for Dave. Now I even know they launched a text product for Ecomm brands! I don’t always agree with Dave but I respect what he’s done.

Another example is Jason Lemkin who built a following on Quora & now moved his audience to LinkedIn /Saastr & podcasts. Incredible what he’s done.

A B2B Influencer product in there somewhere?


I was going to go down the rabbit hole of PLG & how PLG isn’t a GTM but another word for freemium biz models but I’ll save that for another time.

Here’s an interesting point of view on that though - from Jason Lemkin:

“Let’s add a Freemium Edition.” “Let’s Add a Super Cheap Edition.”  This almost never works. Freemium is great -- look at Zoom, Slack, Monday.com, etc. But if you were going to have a successful freemium edition … you’d already have a freemium edition. It doesn’t work to add one later because freemium is rarely a go-to-market and marketing strategy. Taking on "free" almost never generates enough users to be worth it. Nor does a New, Super Cheap Edition. The effort here almost always is extremely dilutive of your time and resources, if you didn't more or less start there.


And now a word from our Sponsor:

⚡️ 42/Agency is a micro agency that helps B2B SaaS cos with ABM/RevOps/Demand Generation. Get $500 in free consulting.


Assorted interesting reads I might revisit:

Never has been a subject so polarizing. Marketing always advocates for SDRs under marketing but what does their career path look like under marketing?

Enterprise is complex & rarely makes for a neat ‘SEO optimized’ page. But you could pick a single ‘angle’ and work that or create some tangential SEO benefit around the core product offering.

I was joking about this (but it’s true) - ecommerce / DTC folks are at the bleeding edge (they are hyper focused on paid acqusition because there’s little product differentiation so they essentially become ''marketing’ companies. But in B2B we’re so behind times that we’re still running ‘traffic’ campaigns & wondering why FB/Twitter/Google doesn’t ‘really’ work.

On the same topic, this podcast on Ad fraud at Uber was mind-blowing. Android being open source creates more opps for sneaky bastards. Also ALWAYS exclude apps from your display placements. Lots of accidental fat thumbs even if the apps showing the ads are sketchy.

A great long read on Elliot (calling for @jacks head)

If you’ve followed DTC - is the bubble bursting? First Brandless went under then OV founder is stepping down.

Thanks for reading along. The soundtrack for this edition was me munching down shawarma while typing it out.

Till next time.

Kamil

Edition 29: Cussing like a sailor

Thank you to those who signed up after my LinkedIn humor yesterday.

This newsletter is a bit different then my typical ones. You can read previous ones here if you haven’t.

This was likely the best one I’ve written (said Geoffery)

Marketers suffer from FOMO. Its that feeling that someone is doing something that you aren’t doing. We are idiots and don’t realize good marketing is an output of a good product, team & the market itself and the overnight success that you see today is likely 5 - 7 years in the making. Still - we fucking fall for it every time.

Not sure what I am talking about? Go to LinkedIn & you’ll see those long posts that wind around the point eventually ending in - “if you want to get a copy just comment - ‘I want one’ below & I’ll inbox it to you. It’s so fucking rampant that it bothers me. The kicker is, I just for kicks, I did get one or two of those & guess what - it was marketing 101 shit - from VP’s/CMOs at well known B2B SaaS brands.

This reminds me of another trend I saw in the early LinkedIn days (Yep I am a child of the internet). A little detour before we get into it.

I was born in raised in Pakistan. It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people in South Asia (India/Pak/Bangladesh) but it’s riddled with economic, socio-religious & other challenges. Many opportunities aren’t forthcoming & hence every decently educated person is mostly in a constant race to leave the country to find a better life elsewhere. Me being one of those.

One of the most popular places Pakistani workers eye is the middle east - I have my few hypotheses on why this is:

  • It’s close to home (2 hours by plane)

  • It’s a majority of Muslim countries so you don’t have to worry about the whole halal dilemma.

  • There’s a big community of workers who moved there in the 70s & 80s so you’ll have community.

In the early days on LinkedIn I’d always see these so-called ‘Recruiting Agencies’ from Dubai post on LinkedIn - ‘Hiring XYZ position in Dubai, Comment ‘Interested’' below to have your profile considered for the role’.

Who the fuck believes that you ask? EVERYONE. Those posts would end up with thousands and thousands of comments of hopeful workers seeking to land the job in Dubai and be able to provide for their families. I am not holding the folks who comment at fault (though landing a job just off an LI comment is some next level Jedi Mind Trick) - it’s those recruiting agencies that exploit the naive just to rack up some views on LinkedIn.

Can you see where I am going with this? The current marketing ‘thought leader’ trend of comment below has been run through the grinder by folks below. It’s not new, the shit you get from commenting is meh & fuck - the internet has a ton of learning opportunities. Everyone is probably making this up as they go. So next time - for the love of God, don’t encourage this behavior.


Kyle is a smart marketer - but I think his definition of influence is different then what I tend to use.

Yes, absolutely marketing should influence everything in the company (product, CS, sales, recruitment) but when we look at pipeline/demand gen, etc - marketing doesn’t generate 100% of the revenue. Some prospects might be from sales prospecting, others might come via referrals, yet others might come from tradeshows, etc & that’s where marketing influences % of revenue.

This is a pandoras box of attribution that’s been beaten to death about how you measure, what you measure & if you should measure at all.

There are tools/methods out there. I wrote about it for CXL a while back.


This was something I came across this morning & left me scratching my head. Are the PLG folks changing their tune or have I misunderstood the PLG bandwagon? For a long time, all they talked about was how your product will replace sales & potentially marketing <?> and now it’s ‘hey you should still hire sales because you need sales eventually & remember Atlassian & Slack that we held up on a pedestal as the holy grail of product that sells themselves? Guess what - they have sales team too and did previously in some shape or form.

From the Zendesk Story (Startup Land): (thanks Wes for the reco)

“ … We were really committed. Michael Hansen gave his personal phone number to at least ten thousand trial customers. Matthew proactively called customers” - sounds like selling to me?


Who’s this guy? Bad take. School & education teaches you much more than how to write or read - it teaches you critical thinking. My mother never had formal education & she sure as hell made sure my 4 siblings all got good education and we are better for it. Will traditional education service as we know it? Perhaps not. Is college worth the debt structure that North America has? Probably not. Can everyone afford school? No. But does formal education have value? Fuck Yes.

Some interesting reads:

Sales Engineers are the MVP of SaaS

Why most ads aren’t setup for success & folks end up blaming the channel and paid media/channels get a bad rep.

Twitter:

The soundtrack for this edition was the hum & buzz of the co-working space.

Thanks for reading. Till next time :)

Cheers,

Kamil

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