A Conversation with Mailshake's VP of Marketing, Alessandra Colaci
In today's MarTech leader conversation, we chat with Mailshake's VP of marketing, Alessandra Colaci. Mailshake is a platform that helps small to mid-size businesses run multi-channel cold outreach campaigns. In our chat with Alessandra, we discuss building a marketing team as a startup, trying bold new strategies, and evolving content.
Our initial focus was on how we could help people do cold outreach via email. We wanted to help make those emails personalized and customized to each specific receiver. Since then, we've expanded to become an end-to-end way for people to get in touch with people. We have a dialer built in so people can make phone calls, and we also support social connections on platforms like LinkedIn.
Unlike some of our competitors, we can help people do outreach on multiple platforms. And with Mailshake, you can even send emails to potential leads and prospects who have not opted. We make sure that we're really informed on anything that's changing in the industry so that we ensure we're always compliant with new regulations or requirements that come in.
It's a very, very competitive marketplace. It's one of those spaces where it's growing exponentially. But there's also a very large market. One thing that sets us apart is our focus is mostly on SMBs (small to mid-size businesses)—a lot of our competitors are looking at the enterprise space. We really want to provide the right kind of training and information for people who are small businesses. And then also, as we hear from customers all the time, we're the simplest solution. Our goal is to always eliminate as many clicks as possible. And we keep only the features we really need. But then we also always find ways to add on the power so that we can have more powerful analytics and more powerful features and really make it end to end.
We have a lot of happy customers. One of the coolest pieces of feedback I've seen was someone saying, "Mailshake has really changed the game for us—it's super powerful; Mailshake will always be a part of our tech stack." They really feel like we're going to be a crucial tool for the long term.
I often think of myself as a deep generalist. I've been very involved in every single marketing channel, but to a pretty deep level of strategy and contribution. So I bring that to every role.
With this role, it's about asking, "How do we get very strategic about every single channel that we're experimenting with or rolling out?" A recent example of a relatively new channel for us is partner marketing. I've been working on how we can do partners and affiliate marketing effectively. As a startup, there is a lot of experimenting with different things at the beginning—seeing what works and continuing to really increase that conversion and optimization. And it's the same approach across all of our channels.
We have an SEO specialist who's been with us since I started. And since then I've gone on a bit of a hiring spree. We now have a partner manager, a content manager, and a growth manager. It's a relatively flat structure, but the goal is to see how we can grow and scale each of those channels.
As a team, our main goal is growth—in this phase, as a software company, it's very much focused on how to renew revenue and increase our monthly revenue. I think that as we mature, it may look a little different, because we may look more at retention and some other things that are a little bit deeper and a little harder to solve.
We've been a remote company since the beginning, so obviously, Slack is a big part of our communication. Beyond that, we try to maintain that connection with Zoom calls and through asynchronous communication. We use Loom or Vidyard to do one-off videos to explain a concept or do a screen recording. And then on the marketing team, we have a variety of tools. We use Customer.io for some of the data that we pull from our customers, and we also use it for some communication. We use a number of other tools, like Figma for designs, and for SEO, there's Ahrefs, Semrush, and some other smaller tools. And we love to try out new tools.
We're just always trying to grow our audience of salespeople and really grow awareness, which we've accomplished to a certain extent. Our blog, for example, has a ton of content and we have a lot of traffic. But I think in the next few months, the goal is figuring out how to bridge the knowledge gap—the gap from "They understand us as a company" to "They understand exactly what our software does”—and then, ultimately, converting them. It's one of those things where a lot of people coming in may not be as familiar with cold outreach and they're learning about it for the first time. So, my goal in the marketing team is to bridge that gap as quickly as possible.
All that, of course, goes along with growth, because I think the more that we can do that, the faster we can grow the company and the more we can convert people who are already coming in the door.
Something that is a challenge in my role—but also in marketing in general—is understanding how to bridge that gap between the person coming in and the person you need them to be by the time they convert. And that can look different for different companies. In our case, they may be problem aware but not solution aware and there's a good and a bad to that. It can be good because they may not be shopping around—they may be like, "Hey, this is the first time I'm exploring this kind of tool." But the bad side is that you also have a farther gap to bridge when you're trying to say, "Okay, let's convey this concept; let's convey how you could use it for your specific business and why we are the best tool for that." So, you have to jump through multiple hurdles. We're constantly working on how we can do that faster and how we can do that with the specific things that resonate with them. It's difficult when you have five to ten different types of people coming in the door and you're trying to address them all. Over time, we will create more of these paths for each of them to guide them through.
In marketing, there are always things that don't work, but we always try to learn from them. For example, we did a challenge recently on LinkedIn and I think the structure just wasn't right. We had a multi-day event and we learned that it may do better as a one-day event or as something on our site versus on LinkedIn. I always test if something's working by looking for signs of life: If you see the signs of life in the top of the funnel or the initial leading metrics, maybe it's not converting, but the takeaway could be that the topic resonated well.
What has been working is that we've been leaning a lot more into video content and webinars. One other format that has honestly worked well for us is word of mouth. It is just really powerful for our software and I think that's something that's just happened very organically. As our visibility and awareness continue to grow, that word of mouth is something that stays very strong for us.
In the last year or two, there's been an acceleration of the velocity of changes in marketing. It's just become so different so quickly. The things that were working are not always working anymore. Apple makes lots of changes; Google is constantly trying to mess with us with new algorithm updates. So there's a lot of turbulence in the search engine results and things like that.
I think it's going to make a lot of marketers think, "How do we go back to the original principles of marketing?" Digital marketing can make things a lot easier and reduce the friction. Unfortunately, as friction becomes reduced, marketing can become more democratized. And that means too much noise and too much content. I think you really just have to stand out and do something different, especially in B2B. You have to cut through the noise; you have to stop the scroll—otherwise, you just blend in. The only way is to try off-the-wall ideas. Not everything is going to win, but you have to try.
We've been very content focused. I'm thankful that I'm in a company that understands the need for content. It's been in our DNA since the beginning.
What we're seeing is that as things evolve, it needs to be very much tailored to upleveling. Even if you have a previous blog post that's good enough, you need to be thinking about how you can add things that really speak to the current state of your persona.
We're also always thinking about how we can work the product into more of our content. And that's something that a lot of companies just don't get to, but there are companies like Ahrefs that have a ton of really great connections in their content. Content is the best way to do it, because people are always looking for content and then you just have to find a way to convert them off of that.
The most important thing to remember is to keep evolving your content over time. It's always good to have a first pass and just get it out there, get it live, get some traffic coming to it. And then, you can keep on improving it, especially if it's pulling in lots of traffic.
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