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Extra Crunch Partner Perk: Get 6 months free of Zendesk Support and Sales CRM

We’re excited to announce an update to the Extra Crunch Partner Perk from Zendesk. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members that are new to Zendesk, and meet their startup qualifications, can now receive six months of free access to Zendesk’s Sales CRM, in addition to Zendesk Support Suite, Zendesk Explore and Zendesk Sunshine.

Here is an overview of the program.

Zendesk is a service-first CRM company with support, sales and customer engagement products designed to improve customer relationships. This offer is only available for startups that are new to Zendesk, have fewer than 100 employees and are funded but have not raised beyond a Series B.

The Zendesk Partner Perk from Extra Crunch is inclusive of subscription fees, free for six months, after which you will be responsible for payment. Any downgrades to your Zendesk subscription will result in the forfeiture of the promotion, so please check with Zendesk first regarding any changes (startups@zendesk.com). Some add-ons such as Zendesk Talk and Zendesk Sell minutes are not included. Complete details of what’s included can be found here.

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Tesla’s decision to scrap its PR department could create a PR nightmare

The move effectively makes founder Elon Musk the company’s lone voice

A solid public relations team solves many issues within a company.

It helps spread important news announcements and topics integral to a company’s success. It communicates with the media in a timely manner to ensure accurate coverage and control the conversation. It builds a state of trust and engagement that propels a company’s vision and goals forward. Unless of course that company is Tesla, in which case it wants none of that.

According to numerous internal sources confirmed by automotive blog Electrik, Tesla has been slowly dissolving its internal PR department over the course of this year, leaving the sole voice of the company its founder, Elon Musk.

If true, this is a confounding decision by Musk and the decision-makers at Tesla.

What this creates for Tesla is a black hole of information coming from the company. Facts will be obfuscated if there is no official position on whatever happens in the news. For instance, consider the recent cases of self-driving collisions or a roof flying off a new car.

Or last month, when there was a major outage in Tesla vehicles, the press was left to speculate. There is no longer a PR department to reply to these incidents. It seems that Tesla has adopted a crisis management strategy that appears to think that the best course of action is to ignore future crises and they will just go away on their own. Unfortunately for Tesla, real life doesn’t work like that.

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The Shed is a startup out of Virginia trying to revive the rental-for-everything business

Reducing consumption by expanding the notion of the rental economy and giving people access to tools and equipment has been something of a startup holy grail for some time.

It’s a model that’s worked famously well for fashion and accessories (just ask investors in Rent the Runway), but has had not had the same resonance for white label goods.

The Shed, out of Richmond, Va., hopes to change that.

Launched by Karen Rodgers O’Neil, a longtime marketing executive, and Daniel Perrone, a serial entrepreneur and technology executive whose previous company, BroadMap, was acquired by Apple; The Shed hopes to take the rental model that Home Depot has turned into a billion dollar business line and take it to the masses.

Unlike Home Depot, The Shed touts its presence in eight categories. Stanley Black & Decker is a marquee early partner and the company’s executives said that others have come on board.

“We don’t buy product,” said Perrone. “We take delivery of all the products and rent them out in the local marketplaces where we do business.”

The only thing the manufacturer provides is the products and some servicing starter kit so that The Shed and its employees can manage and maintain the product.

The Shed founders Karen Rodgers O’Neil and Daniel Perrone. Image Credit: The Shed

Since its launch in April the company has expanded beyond its Richmond, Va. home base to Denver — and will be looking to expand further into Portland, Austin, and San Jose, according to Perrone.

Among the features that the company intends to roll out as it expands is a dynamic pricing capability that will enable manufacturers to wring the most out of their goods when they’re in high demand.

Rodgers O’Neil came up with the concept back in 2012 when she was working as a marketing executive for General Electric out of Boston.  Perrone met Rodgers O’Neil at a networking event in Boston and became convinced that her notion of offering more rental options to encourage a more circular economy and reduce consumption was something that could resonate with consumers.

To be sure, The Shed isn’t the first company to attempt to bring the rental business to a broader array of consumer products in an effort to cut down on consumption. The Los Angeles-based startup Joymode was attempting to do much the same thing. That company sold to an early stage investment firm out of New York.

Joymode’s chief executive, Joe Fernandez spoke about the difficulty of running the business. “Part of the thesis was that by making things available for rental, people would want to do more stuff,” said Fernandez, but what happened was that consumers needed additional reasons to use the company’s service, and there weren’t enough events to drive demand.

By contrast, The Shed isn’t owning any of the inventory, just acting as a broker and managing inventory between local retailers and manufacturers who want to take advantage of the company’s service.

In addition to Stanley Black & Decker, companies like Primus camping equipment have placed their products on The Shed along with Mobility Plus, which added wheelchairs and mobility scooters; and Replacements, the largest china dealer in the country, which is offering a “Party in a Box” for dinner, cocktail or tea parties.

To date, the company has raised $1.75 million from investors and entrepreneurs from the Richmond, Va. area. Now, with 60 manufacturers on board and another 15 to 18 vendors signing up monthly, the company is looking to expand even further.

“I joined with Karen because I saw that this would be a game changer in the rental space,” said Perrone. There are a number of retailers in specific verticals that still don’t transact online, so The Shed becomes their avenue to reach the market, he said.

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Facebook’s former PR chief explains why no one is paying attention to your startup

At TechCrunch Early Stage, I spoke with Coatue Management GP Caryn Marooney about startup branding and how founders can get people to pay attention to what they’re building.

Marooney recently made the jump into venture capital; previously she was co-founder and CEO of The Outcast Agency, one of Silicon Valley’s best-regarded public relations firms, which she left to become VP of Global Communications at Facebook, where she led comms for eight years.

While founders often may think of PR as a way to get messaging across to reporters, Marooney says that making someone care about what you’re working on — whether that’s customers, investors or journalists — requires many of the same skills.

One of the biggest insights she shared: at a base level, no one really cares about what you have to say.

Describing something as newsworthy or a great value isn’t the same as demonstrating it, and while big companies like Amazon can get people to pay attention to anything they say, smaller startups have to be even more strategic with their messaging, Marooney says. “People just fundamentally aren’t walking around caring about this new startup — actually, nobody does.”

Getting someone to care first depends on proving your relevance. When founders are forming their messaging to address this, they should ask themselves three questions about their strategy, she recommends:

  • Why should anyone care?
  • Is there a purchase order existing for this?
  • Who loses if you win?

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Accessing social groups through referrals

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Accessing social groups through referrals

Excerpt from Demand Curve’s Growth Training.

A surprising benefit of referrals is how they often lead to social partnership opportunities.

Consider this process:

  1. Find your happiest users.
  2. Figure out what social groups they belong to. This could be anything from a female founders group, to university alumni networks, to a restaurant management trade association.
  3. How do you find out? Just ask them what groups they belong to. Don’t be afraid of conversation.
  4. Ask the happy user to connect you with the heads of those groups. Solve a problem they collectively have — even if it’s only tangentially related to your business. What matters is that more of these ideal customers know and trust you. You can also refer speakers, offer deals, write content for them or offer free office hours.
  5. Down the road, these people inevitably send you referrals.
  6. Reach out cold to people in other, similar groups. Reference the endorsement of the original group and provide a case study (with their permission).

Going through groups can be a high-leverage way to land and expand into ideal audiences.

Pixel-sharing tactics

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The essential revenue software stack

From working with our 90+ portfolio companies and their customers, as well as from frequent conversations with enterprise leaders, we have observed a set of software services emerge and evolve to become best practice for revenue teams. This set of services — call it the “revenue stack” — is used by sales, marketing and growth teams to identify and manage their prospects and revenue.

The evolution of this revenue stack started long before anyone had ever heard the word coronavirus, but now the stakes are even higher as the pandemic has accelerated this evolution into a race. Revenue teams across the country have been forced to change their tactics and tools in the blink of an eye in order to adapt to this new normal — one in which they needed to learn how to sell in not only an all-digital world but also an all-remote one where teams are dispersed more than ever before. The modern “remote-virtual-digital”-enabled revenue team has a new urgency for modern technology that equips them to be just as — and perhaps even more — productive than their pre-coronavirus baseline. We have seen a core combination of solutions emerge as best-in-class to help these virtual teams be most successful. Winners are being made by the directors of revenue operations, VPs of revenue operations, and chief revenue officers (CROs) who are fast adopters of what we like to call the essential revenue software stack.

In this stack, we see four necessary core capabilities, all critically interconnected. The four core capabilities are:

  1. Revenue enablement.
  2. Sales engagement.
  3. Conversational intelligence.
  4. Revenue operations.

These capabilities run on top of three foundational technologies that most growth-oriented companies already use — agreement management, CRM and communications. We will dive into these core capabilities, the emerging leaders in each and provide general guidance on how to get started.

Revenue enablement

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What brands need to do if they want to break up with Facebook

With more than 90 major advertisers and counting announcing plans to dump Facebook, a significant question lingers: Where will brands go next for their digital marketing needs?

The case for the breakup is clear: Brands want to distance themselves from third-party business practices that do not align with their values. Specifically, they are disenchanted by what even some members of Congress are calling Facebook’s “lackadaisical” approach to enforcing community standards, allowing an epidemic of paid political misinformation and hate speech to persist on the user-driven platform.

However, with Google, Facebook and Amazon representing just under 70% of global digital ad revenue, a clean break from the tech giants is easier said than done. Advertisers, like anyone facing a breakup, must look within. After all, they don’t want to make the same mistakes and they cannot just throw newly freed up advertising dollars at a new social network ad platform, where similar conflicts could easily follow.

With introspection, advertisers will see that this is more than just a war on disinformation and hate speech. A data war is brewing, pressuring businesses to diversify data sources. As brands compete to understand the needs and preferences of today’s consumers, consumers are concurrently responding with more guarded protection of their online data.

To win this war, brands must reclaim data autonomy and infuse their digital media strategy with more diversified data. But they cannot do it alone and they cannot do it within the current system.

Time to brandish holistic data

Whether Facebook adjusts its community standards to appease dismayed advertisers has yet to be seen. But in the interim, as advertisers walk out the door, it’s worth noting that Facebook’s reliance on online data may soon be obsolete anyway.

One of the key differentiators for Facebook’s ad platform has been its ability to help level the playing field for smaller brands by cost-effectively captivating the right audiences. But the platform primarily draws insights from audiences’ behaviors online. The next wave of data-based marketing must employ tools that blend first-party data and qualified third-party data to offer a holistic view of customer behaviors, both online and offline.

Offline data sets, which include location intelligence, interactions, purchase history, contact information and demographics are lynchpins in the next digital media wave because they allow brands to develop a more human view of consumer data and create meaningful marketing moments. For example, location intelligence, an extremely potent tool that is currently helping brands pivot during COVID-19 disruptions and is even protecting public health, can drive personalized, alluring marketing campaigns with massive ROI opportunities.

The leading integrated data providers are managing extremely rich datasets, which increase in value daily as consistent tracking yields higher quality data. Such powerful and enriched data stacks offers brands visitor insights based on a specific location after an ad is interacted with on any device — requiring no guesswork for the marketing team. Brands are able to pinpoint exactly which messages resonate with which segments of their audience at which time. This precision ultimately helps them craft the right message for the target consumer — and deliver it at the exact right moment.

Marching orders for combat

Brands want to cut Facebook loose but where do they go next? How do they achieve data autonomy and make omnichannel strides in digital marketing? If the boycott movement is to succeed, revolutionary changes to the digital marketplace are needed.

A newly imagined system must be organized outside the proprietary grasp of any one single tech conglomerate. Otherwise, advertisers will lack ownership of the data they need to reach new audiences. Or they’ll once again get mixed up with similar paid political disinformation and hate speech across user-generated platforms, sending them straight back into the arms of Facebook.

Rather than rely on a single centralized social media platform, transparent media partners and publishers must come together on a shared central system that takes an omnichannel approach to building lookalike (LAL) audiences. A LAL puts advertisers in front of new audiences by finding users that, while they may be unfamiliar with their brand, are very similar to the buyer personas of their current customers. The LAL for each advertiser would be constantly tested and refined to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace.

Facebook currently operates on a LAL model but it is almost exclusively generated by online data from their users. The next step is expanding on this model and infusing offline and third-party data with a company’s first-party data, putting them in front of a LAL across a range of media partners and platforms. This will help build a core conversion audience, while constantly scaling new LALs for each brand.

Such a system would require collaboration, enlisting many players in a co-op style undertaking. For example, to get it off the ground, it would be helpful if about 20 of the large brands boycotting Facebook invest some of their newly freed advertising dollars to establish the data and publisher sharing co-op network.

Once the advertiser framework is set, the co-op would need to identify media outlet partners such as news websites, blogs, apps, podcasts and social media outlets. The co-op would negotiate a performance-based publisher relationship for every player, effectively increasing content monetization for publishers’ content channels.

Reinventing the digital media landscape

This would be a transformational movement, galvanizing brands with data autonomy and increasing customer engagement across an entire network of media platforms — not just one platform. Each advertiser’s first-party data, which they’ve already given to Facebook, would be analyzed to isolate data overlaps within the co-op. This would essentially lay the foundation for building a core conversation audience, helping each advertiser tap new LALs.

Brands advertising with the co-op would gain access to more enriched, robust insights on consumers than Facebook could ever offer, leading to a higher return on investment for the $336 billion spend on digital advertising annually.

Most importantly, it would help brands future-proof their digital marketing efforts and grant them greater freedom in choosing where their advertising dollars are being spent.

That is how the war is won.

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Building your startup’s customer advisory board

A customer advisory board (CAB) can be an invaluable resource for startups, but many founders struggle with putting together the right group of advisors and how to incentivize them. At our TechCrunch Early Stage event, Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners, talked about how he thinks about putting together the right CAB.

“We encourage all of our early-stage companies to put this in place,” Motamedi said. The goal here is to speed up the process to get to product/market fit since your CAB will provide you with regular feedback.

“The idea here is [that] you have this feedback loop from customers back to your product where you build, you go get feedback, you iterate — and the tighter this feedback loop is, the faster you’ll get to product-market fit. And you want to do things structurally to make this feedback loop tighter, starting with a CAB.”

Motamedi said a CAB should consist of about three to six customers. These should be “luminaries or forward thinkers” in the market you are serving. “You add them to the CAB — you might give them small advisory grants — and they become stakeholders and give you feedback as you work through the early stages of product development.”

Image Credits: Greylock Partners

As for the people who you put on the CAB, Motamedi suggests first setting the right expectations for the board.

“There are three components. Number one, the most valuable thing you can get from these customer advisors is their time. So the first piece is you want them to commit to a monthly cadence, that could be 60 minutes, it could be 90 minutes, where you’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to come to the meeting, I’m going to bring two of my teammates, we’re going to show you the latest product demo, and you’re going to drill us with feedback. We’re going to do that once a month.’  […] And then piece two is this notion of customer days, you could do quarterly, you could also do twice a year.

“The idea is you want to bring the customers together. Because if you and I are both CIOs at Fortune 500 companies and we independently react to a product, that’s one thing, but if we sit in a room together, we all look at the product together, there’s going to be interesting data amongst us as customers and the founder is going to learn a lot from that.[…] And I think the third piece is just an expectation that as the company progresses and product maturity increases, that folks on the CAB are going to be advocates and evangelists for the company with their customer networks.”

Motamedi recommends outlining those expectations in a short document.

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Singapore-based marketing SaaS startup Insider gets $32 million to enter the US

Insider, a Singapore-based startup that develops software to help clients make marketing decisions, plans to launch in the United States after raising a $32 million Series C. The round was led by Riverwood Capital, with participation from Sequoia India, Wamda and Endeavor Catalyst.

Founded in 2012, the company says its SaaS for multichannel marketing and customer engagement is currently used by more than 800 brands, including Singapore Airlines, Marks and Spencer, Virgin, Uniqlo, Samsung and Estée Lauder.

Insider’s Series C brings its total funding so far to $42 million. In addition to entering the U.S., the new capital will be used on sales and marketing, hiring more engineers for its research and development team and adding new features to its platform.

One noteworthy aspect of the company is that half of its executive team, including co-founder and chief executive officer Hande Cilingir, are women. The company runs a program called Young Engineers that provides coding classes to high school students, especially girls, and it plans to expand to primary school-age kids as well.

Cilingir told TechCrunch that Insider’s AI-based technology differentiates it from older, larger competitors like Salesforce because it is able to integrate customer data from different marketing channels, including offline ones, to help companies make better predictions about customer behavior. Insider’s analytics help brands coordinate campaigns across different platforms, including the web, mobile apps, messaging apps, email and other channels.

“Insider, on top of all those solutions, creates a one-stop shop because you can overcome operational bottlenecks because of the technology, but at the same time, we are still offering all of the features, including personalization technologies, that online businesses need,” she said.

Helping brands create new marketing strategies is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, e-commerce companies have seen a surge in traffic because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, but need to figure out how to make that translate into sales. Meanwhile, other verticals, like travel and hospitality, have to find new ways of making revenue.

The company has teams in 24 countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East to support brands’ localization strategies. Even though Insider’s software does not need to be adapted in order to work in different countries, Cilingir said marketing differs widely between cultures.

For example, in Indonesia, direct sales are important, but in Japan, sales operations are often dependent on agencies within a company. Insider’s customer support teams serve as a complement to its software, helping clients use it to create marketing strategies.

In a press statement about the investment, Sequoia India principal Pieter Kemps said, “We liked the Insider team from the first days, but have been positively surprised by their highly efficient go-to-market engine. The quality of customer interactions, combined with exceptional product and technology, has enabled Insider to stand out among the many point-solutions out there—and build up a very impressive list of customer logos.”

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TikTok is a marketers’ shiny new toy, but how do you optimize campaigns?

TikTok is a rising star in the social media category. Since its launch three years ago, the company has secured 800 million active users worldwide. That makes TikTok ninth in terms of social network sites, ahead of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. As more people start using the platform and remain engaged, it goes without saying that TikTok is an increasingly desirable destination for marketers.

But outside the sheer numbers, is there any real sustenance to the platform from a marketing perspective, or is this just a temporary fad brands are flocking to? Here’s a look into what makes TikTok unique through a marketer’s lens, and a few things the platform can improve on to make it a permanent option for brands looking to explore mobile.

Better user experiences lead to more unique advertising

Digital advertising is only as effective as a platform’s user experience — that fact presents a unique differentiator for TikTok. Being in 2020, where content creators continue to blossom, TikTok provides an opportunity for literally anyone to reach millions of people with their content. It is a “platform for the people,” as the algorithm sends user content to groups of 5-10 people, and based on the engagement, it will continue sending it out to the masses. What’s interesting here is that it resembles an early era of Instagram, where all content was user-generated.

Additionally, unlike other leading social media channels, a user is focused on one piece of content at a time. TikTok videos take up the entire screen, which leads to more engagement and genuine interest from the viewer. That said, creative plays an incredibly important role in every campaign you run on the platform, especially when trying to grab the user amid a mass of alternative entertainment options. The TikTok audience is hyperfocused on viewing organic, visually stimulating content that could be the next big meme or viral sensation.

Creative is the key

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