Lessons from a Marketing Leader in a Fast-Growth Fintech Startup
International Women’s Day was on March 8th, and Proper Rebel wants to celebrate and shine a spotlight on women who are in the arena every day, doing their best to bring their dreams into reality. There’s a lot to learn from women willing to roll up their sleeves, take risks, and strive to lead by inspiring others.
Being the first marketer and then building a marketing team in a fast-growth fintech startup is no easy feat, and Jessica Brown makes it look easy!
As the Head of Marketing at OpenEnvoy, a fintech startup founded in 2020, Brown leads her team by staying loyal to strategy and data-driven decisions but seldom forgets to show her team compassion, empathy, and her enthusiasm for the work.
1. How did you get started in marketing? Why Business-to-Business?
I’ve always been in love with marketing dating back to a young age. Whenever I went shopping, I was aware of brands and would get so excited to see what new things they were up to! While these interests relate more to consumer marketing, there are a lot of similar principles that apply to B2B. During my time at Duke University, I took multiple marketing classes and was President of the Marketing Club. It was a great experience! We were lucky to have an amazing advisor, and this is where I dove deeper into both the academic and practical applications of creating messaging and going to market to convince people to do things based on that message.
I chose B2B because it’s easier to convince businesses to spend money than individuals. I specifically chose technology within that sector because it’s so fast-paced and innovative, which aligns with my personality type. It’s been a passion of mine for over a decade. I love doing what I do every day; create messaging and campaigns that are infused with value and ways to solve prospective customer pain points, in order to generate revenue for the business.
2. What’s it like being the most senior marketer at a fast-growth startup? What’s the biggest challenge?
It’s a great opportunity to continuously problem solve and grow exponentially. I believe marketing blends the arts and sciences. Arts in terms of being creative and landing a spot in the market with little brand awareness or making a splash without a big customer base as a one-year-old company. And science in terms of measuring the efficacy and doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
I love using both the creative and analytical parts of my brain. I also consider myself an expert in strategy and execution – I get to do both and I’m able to wear a lot of hats depending on the situation. I believe to be a leader in a fast-paced startup you have to be creative and analytical.
Working at a smaller company is unique because we can use our customers as design and thought partners as we continue to develop our product and find true product/market fit. It’s really exciting and unique because you can have closer customer relationships and leverage those insights to help build the product and your marketing strategy.
3. What’s a unique or out-of-the-box marketing approach you’ve tried? How do you pivot when things don’t go according to that plan?
When you’re trying to market technology, I think it’s essential to take a step back and think, “how can I help solve people’s pain points in a personalized way?” so we’re not just reaching different types of people with the same message across the board. Even for the smallest company, you have to find a way to develop a targeted, personalized approach and let go of the technical language. Whether your touchpoints are through digital communications or physical conferences and events, you must lean on the principles of simplification and personalization. In any customer communication, you have to think, “how can I appeal to these folks in a relatable way?”
However, even a good, personalized story sometimes doesn’t work.
When you spend time developing and executing a campaign and repeatedly don’t receive a response (not even a “no thanks!”), and you’re “ghosted,” you have to get creative and think about things differently. When I see folks not engaging, I look at the data and pivot to change something. Marketing is an experiment. Just because something worked last quarter or even last week doesn’t mean it will work the next time. You always have to go back to the data. Review your value propositions and see if they truly resonate with your audience. If people still aren’t responding to it, then change it up!
4. What qualities are most important for you to model as a marketing leader?
You have to lead with empathy and compassion, but you also have to be a great communicator and make data-driven decisions.
In terms of leading with empathy and compassion, it’s about listening and helping people grow. You need to ask the people you work with what they believe their strengths and areas of opportunities are, where they want to grow, and help prioritize those things as part of their professional development. Ultimately, it’s your job to help others better themselves and support their future in whatever path they choose to take.
Being open to collaboration is also essential. Marketing often sits in the center of go-to-market efforts, so it’s critical to align with other teams such as Sales and Customer Success, on both messaging, activities and goals for all campaigns and channels. It’s important to get feedback and adoption from your counterparts and set realistic expectations.
A final anecdote:
Working in B2B marketing and technology specifically, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way – the biggest one is that the only constant in tech is change. You always have to ask yourself if the opportunity feels right and if you’re getting what you want out of that opportunity – whether it be career growth, new experiences, more skills, respect, or whatever. Typically you’re working longer hours in tech, and if these buckets aren’t being fulfilled, you need to ask yourself if it still feels right.
In my experiences, I’ve always prioritized my overall happiness and mental health. The most valuable lesson I have learned to date is that women are more likely to believe they have to be perfect for a job before they go for it, rather than looking out for themselves or their overall career – that belief harms them. I’ve really paid attention to assessing whether I’m doing what’s best for me and my career long term, and that I’m not focused on perfecting my skills for any particular job.
I believe you have to feel empowered to make decisions based on what’s best for you –- not what will look best on a resume or to someone else. Ultimately, you need to drive your career and happiness.
If there’s a woman in your life who’s an inspiring entrepreneur, marketer, leader, or maybe a Rebel who takes risks, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d love the opportunity to connect and share their story.
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