Our series of interviews with marketing teams in Notion companies continues with David Shearer at Elevaate.
David’s marketing background brings real experience at agencies and in house working with some of the world’s leading technology companies. As a result, there’s a real sense of a broad palette of skills that have to be carefully considered through the lens of a more limited startup environment.
Read on for the full interview with David, including a particularly interesting way to scale up marketing materials for the sales team that anyone can learn from.
Tell me a little bit about your background..
About 21 years of brand building and marketing, half of that in Europe, half global, from America. My background is as a copywriter then a strategic brand leader in agencies with clients like Apple, Virgin America, IBM and Microsoft. Then, I joined Box.
With so many giant brands in your background, how do you find working at Elevaate by contrast?
If you’re working with huge global brands, there’s as much thought about the risk of damage as the upside of the work. By contrast, smaller brands can be a little braver because there’s less existing premise and complexity internally.
Startups are much clearer, simpler and faster moving. Taking calculated risks, trying that path then course correcting is much more common. The opportunity to iterate is much greater.
The other big difference is budget. At a smaller team, you have to be much more resourceful and inventive about finding answers.
It sounds like your approach is to look for those calculated risks — how would you define your philosophy?
I would rather we had 100 raving ambassadors over 1000 people who just liked us. You’ve got two schools of marketing. Stack it high, sell it cheap. Or building value into the brand that garners a cult following and unprompted evangelism.
Both are valid but very different.
When you look at those two options, which do you think is most relevant to SaaS PR strategy?
It really depends on the type of business you are trying to build. For us, if we can develop that 100 that will evangelise Elevaate to their key contacts, that’s much more valuable than trying to reach the 1000 with a thinner conversation.
Talk to me about how you develop that kind of evangelism through the brand…
Elevaate is so young that a lot of the work is on the fundamentals of a balanced and stable brand with a clear sense of identity — who we are and why our platform is a better answer than anything else that’s out there.
When it comes to execution, I think brand is a way of life for everyone in the company, not a department. One of the most valuable things the marketing team can do is provide clear positioning language with scalable tools that empower every member of the team — and our advocates — to successfully and consistently evangelise the brand, irrespective of their discipline.
What examples stand out as particularly successful campaigns you’ve delivered?
There’s always the big, splashy moments that are easy to point to but, for me, it’s the intelligence with which you execute that matters as much.
For example, we created a simple product demonstration video at Box that walked the viewer through a day in the life of a marketing team using the product. The short film was designed with editable keyframes that could be swapped out depending on the company the sales team were courting. A small piece of custom code behind a UI allowed us to integrate the video with Salesforce so it was very easy for anyone in the sales team to customise.
So, let’s say we wanted to demonstrate the power of the Box platform to a company like Louis Vuitton. The Box Sales Rep can now login to Salesforce, type the company name into a text field and drop assets from a recent LV campaign they might find online. The video engine we integrated with Salesforce would re-render the original Box film with the Louis Vuitton assets so that it looks custom made just for their brand. Then of course, the sales guy can send it out to his hot prospect and it feels very special and not mass produced.
Rather than spend a lot of time and energy explaining the benefit, they can use this 60 second video to bring it to life instantly. We only had to develop the creative and the technology once and the code made a well crafted video scalable to thousands of custom films almost instantly.
What kind of tools and services does Elevaate rely upon for marketing?
Not surprisingly, we use Box. We use Slack. We use Pipedrive. We use HootSuite for social. Most collaboration and integration is split between the first two.
We’re a very small team so, for PR, we’re doing a lot of it ourselves through direct relationships. Our PR syndication mostly happens through Business Wire today, but I’ve been very disappointed with the digital savvy of PR syndication platforms generally.
Industry standards, like responsive image scaling across mediums for example, are not part of their offering. In this day and age, that’s just not acceptable. This kind of syndication has been convenient for getting us out of the gate but it’s not the way forward.
I think when newswires weren’t crammed with any old story, journalists may have used them a little. But today, I think the opportunity is to be the newswire yourself. So, you can pitch your story targeted. You can use sponsored social to reach e.g. followers like the followers of your target media.
So, you’re achieving what the wire achieves and more likely to get written up — and on top of that, you could amplify the coverage generated across this “wire” in the same way. You become the newswire, build the relationships in a more focused sense and own it.
As we scale, we’ll use the help of a dedicated PR expert that, as you suggested, can help us through targeted relationships and social reach/amplification. That’s a better way to build those bonds with 100 enthusiasts rather than just be known by 1,000.
Post produced in partnership with Augur.