I have posted before about binge watching videos from past 500 Startups Marketing Hell Weeks, but this past week was totally different.
The reason was because Paubox is a proud part of Batch 18!
I wasn’t able to physically be at MHW because my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter a couple weeks ago (girl #3), but that still didn’t change the impact of having the entire team go through the week together.
Thankfully 500 Startups live streamed the entire week and I was able to attend all the talks virtually and chat real-time with the team in Slack.
Be sure to grab the slides from MHW here.
Here’s a few of my top takeaways from each day of the week.
Day 1 – Setting the tone
The first day of MHW was all about creating the foundation for your startup to grow. From the basics of what the growth process is, all the way to hands-on exercises in building your growth experiment backlog.
A lot of the information was pretty basic, but is essential for any startup who doesn’t have someone on the team with a marketing, sales, or growth background.
But what was invaluable was having everyone get on the same page how we were going to grow Paubox. Using Google Sheets and Slack, we were able to go through the exercises together and build up our backlog of experiments to run.
This was a different experience than me just building the backlog on my own and running it by the team. Getting everyone’s hands dirty gets more buy-in and helps everyone get on the same page for prioritizing what to run and understanding the methodology behind it.
Day 2 – Don’t forget offline opportunities
On day 2 of MHW, we started to get into more tactical things we could implement to drive growth.
There were a lot of great talks, led off by Hiten Shah who gave a presentation on How to Prepare for Growth. In the talk was great information on the mindset and questions you need to ask in order to have a path for growth.
He didn’t just start off assuming everyone had product-market fit either. Instead, the talk started out with great ways to discover if you have product-market fit by asking simple questions to your customers like the essential product-market fit question designed by Sean Ellis:
How would you feel if you could no longer use [brand name]?
The talk then moved on to minimal viable product and fundamental growth questions to ask yourself.
Now, this would’ve been the talk of the day if it wasn’t for Bernard Huang’s impromptu guerrilla marketing talk at the end.
Earlier, Bernard (who happens to be our Distro POC during our time at 500) gave a great preso on the basics of SEO. A lot of great questions were asked and Bernard opened up about his thoughts on all things, including gray-hat and black-hat techniques and the risks associated with things like Private Blog Networks.
But what kicked-ass was his talk on unconventional marketing tactics, the best of which was explaining how he and small group took $200 to make a Food Crawl become an unofficial event at SXSW in 2013.
By creating enough buzz around an unofficial food crawl, Bernard and his team were able to get a free venue, a free keynote speaker, and tons of media attention, which equaled up to a great launching pad for the startup Food by People.
Going offline is actually one of our strengths, from hosting social mixers to giving away 500 spam musubis to celebrate milestones. I’ll be writing a post on that later, and the tangible benefits we’ve gotten from it.
Day 3 – Adding to the backlog
On hump day, there were even more distribution channels presented as opportunities for growth.
We added 10 more experiments to our backlog based on just two talks alone.
The first one that really resonated was given by Dan Soha about AdWords. I’m not exactly a rookie with Adwords and even took the time to get certified, but I’m excited to start testing Gmail ads again.
We did one test on Gmail ads about a year ago and it didn’t do too well. But we have a better understanding of our customers now, so it’s a good time to test with clearer messaging.
The other great talk was from Armando Biondi of Adespresso, knower of all things Facebook advertising.
Facebook advertising is probably one of the channels I know least about, so it was a great talk for me. We’ve done Facebook ads before and they’ve done ok, but nothing great.
But the preso was great and gave us a few tests to add to our backlog. One we’re implementing right away is to create a custom audience from actual visitors to our website on certain product pages. This gives us a wider potential audience to market to than just a straight retargeting campaign, and is something I never would’ve thought to do without the session.
Day 4 – Put the customer first in order to sell
There were again a lot of great talks on day 4, covering channels like content marketing, email marketing, and remarketing. But what had all of our attention at Paubox was the last session of the day by Robert Neivert.
That was because the session was on enterprise sales, which is something no one on our team has expertise in.
I’ve been sold to a bunch of times while working for bigger mid-market companies, but have never been on the selling side and I felt there was always a little bit lost in translation.
With more of our inbound leads coming from larger organizations (and closing two), we were getting clear signals to move upmarket from SMB.
So the timing was perfect, and the talk didn’t disappoint and really laid the foundation for Day 5. But the best thing was the SPIN framework when selling to bigger customers.
Created by Neil Rackham, SPIN gives a framework for salespeople to learn the needs of the customer by understanding the Situation, Problem, Issue/Implication, and Need. This means that you need to ask questions first.
As much as marketers get a bad rap sometimes, sales people get a worse one. But the SPIN framework helps redefine everything around what the customer wants and seeing if there’s alignment for a win-win situation.
Another great benefit, is by asking so many questions first, it becomes very easy to gain a clearer picture of the different buyer personas you’re encountering. This helps puts sales and marketing more in alignment.
Day 5 – More sales please
The end of day 4 ended up being a teaser for day 5 where we learned the basics and intricacies of setting up a sales team, lead generation, cold outreach and pricing and positioning.
SPIN was mentioned again and again, and it was clear that the best way to sell is actually not to sell.
J. Ryan Williams, VP of Sales at Leadgenius also introduced the Ideal Customer Profile, something that Lincoln Murphy has also been preaching on for years.
He also gave a great simple structure for an outreach email that is NOT a template or script.
Sean Sheppard from GrowthX emphasized putting the customer first by putting everyone through a few role playing exercises. It was quickly clear how difficult tit is to ask questions without trying to jump the gun and make a pitch. But going too fast can hurt the relationship you’re trying to nurture.
End of Hell
I wish I could’ve been physically there to talk with the speakers and bond with the rest of the batch, but streaming it was the next best thing.
But we did realize the best possible outcome from the week, and that was putting the team on a clearer path for growth with more defined frameworks in place to help us get there.
500 Startups is going to be releasing a few of the talks from the week on their Youtube channel, so be sure to sign up and get notified. It will be worth it.