#TechVAN highlights how personalized experiences are key to connecting with customers

TechVancouver November 2016

How can a plucky tech startup reach their audience when their customers’ inboxes are bursting with spam and ads? What does a successful business culture look like and how do you build it? About 140 tech enthusiasts and aspiring startup founders showed up at TechVancouver this week to absorb advice, hacks, and inspiration around these questions and more. Tuesday night’s event at Lighthouse Labs in downtown Vancouver featured Kabuni CEO Neil Patel; Payfirma CMO Robin Jones; Skyrocket partner Mo Dhaliwal; and Elastic Path VP Product Peter Lukomskyj, who all shared a bit of their hard-won expertise.

Personalized video killed the radio star when it comes to engagement

Kabuni launched in 2013 with a mission and online platform to help designers and homeowners create beautiful functional spaces. In keeping with that commitment to a highly artistic and visual medium, it makes sense that one of Patel’s most successful means of outreach has been video. Not viral videos, in the sense of reaching millions on YouTube; personalized, short 1-to-1 videos that help him reach his audience in a more effective way.

“On Linkedin, I can shoot a quick link to YouTube with a personal video just to you, and I can get an 80 to 90 percent open rate,” Patel says. It’s not just for customers – Patel says he used the tactic to help his startup raise about $10 million. “It’s the medium for better conversion rates.” And now it’s easier than ever to record and send out that video via a mobile app right from your smartphone.

Show me the data: how marketers get respect

Jones was in marketing long before she joined a one-stop-shop merchant services partner for credit card processing.

She recalls doing marketing in an age before websites or email marketing, where often the best way to get in front of customers was at a trade show. You would print out 500 brochures, 300 would disappear (perhaps with the help of some of your competitors) and you might say you had garnered 300 qualified leads – but who really knew? That inability to definitively tie marketing efforts to sales results meant marketers got no respect.

It’s very different today. If marketers for startups want to get recognition from sales colleagues and increased budgets from their CEO, they can and must track leads and show how the campaign is converting. “There are always intangibles, but when you can show how the data translates into success, they’ll back you,” Jones says. “Get that landing page out. Test it. Fail fast. If it works, double down.”

How to communicate your startup’s values

Product-market fit is a big part of success, but in a crowded marketplace, the way to win customers is by creating an emotional connection, Dhaliwal said, drawing on the experience from his branding agency. What language is your outfit using to create that connection?

Going further, how can a company avoid the trap of mixed messaging? Lukomskyj posed the question as he explained how different parts of a company will use different language. Marketing will talk about the company in a certain way when engaging with customers, but that could be very different internally, among the leadership team, departments or individual teams.

The way to bridge the gap and gain some consistency is by understanding the company’s values and being authentic. “It seems easy, but in 20 years of working at many large companies, I’ve seen that this is one of the hardest things to do,” Lukomskyj says.

When companies do get around to discussing values in the boardroom, they typically go about it in backwards fashion. They talk about what values the company should have and try to hash out an aspirational compromise. Instead, they should discuss and discover the values that are already present among the group and work from there, he said.

In the process, a global company will agree on a vision that’s a lot bigger than just being around to sell widgets. With that in hand, the company needs to assemble an aligned team that keeps each other accountable.

TechVancouver meets monthly to provide a forum for the people behind local tech ventures to engage and advise fellow entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the sector. It is now a cross-country phenomenon with roots in TechToronto.

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey is a content marketing strategist and BetaKit Senior Editor. Living and working in the heart of downtown Vancouver, he's watched this city's tech hub grow and start to compete on a world-class level. He has learned most of what he knows about tech startups and entrepreneurial spirit by interviewing some of the most innovative thought leaders here and abroad. He's always up for learning something new about the startups, leaders and technologies that are changing our world.