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There’s a simple truth to the world of ecommerce. You can dress up a product, a business, or an industry all you want, but it can still be boring. Think about the world of accounting, companies that offer technical assistance, or even office supply stores—the word ‘fun’ doesn’t immediately spring to mind with them.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to settle for mediocrity. In fact, you can still make lemonade from lemons—even if it still tastes bitter. Transforming a pre-conceived weakness into a strength is a skill that can elevate any business, which is exactly what Katheriin Liibert set out to establish.
As the Head of Marketing for Outfunnel, Katheriin is well aware of the notion that the company is boring. She even proclaims it the ‘most boring tool on the internet’, understanding how this in itself can be a direct, to-the-point approach to marketing.
Many value a direct message like this, especially those that are part of the industry that are used to being part of a ‘boring culture’. It’s self-aware, good-natured humor that can help stick in a customer’s mind—which is exactly what Katheriin was going for.
To learn more about this intuitive approach to marketing, as well as how to grow a brand in any climate, we sat down with Katheriin to discuss branding, marketing, and more.
Transforming negatives into positives with branding
Can you talk to us a bit more about what Outfunnel does and how you help ecommerce merchants?
Katheriin Liibert: Outfunnel connects sales and marketing data. We do it by integrating CRMs like Pipedrive or HubSpot with marketing tools and web forms. So, any B2B marketers can use Outfunnel to keep CRM and marketing contact lists in sync, and share marketing engagement data with their sales teams automatically. All of this will save marketers and salespeople a ton of time, and drive revenues.
Talk to me a bit about this branding—most brands, even ones far duller than data sync would hate to be associated with the word “boring.” But at Outfunnel, you lean into it. I’d love to hear more about how you came up with this, and why you decided on it.
There are many great examples of branding where companies lean into what many would consider a shortcoming or as something ‘negative’ and then turn it into a strength.Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing, Outfunnel
Katheriin Liibert: There are many great examples of branding where companies lean into what many would consider a shortcoming or as something ‘negative’ and then turn it into a strength. Probably the most famous example of this is Avis turning their second place in market share into a convincing marketing message: “We’re number two, so we try harder.”
When we were working on revamping Outfunnel’s messaging, we realized that syncing data between platforms isn’t anything very sexy or intriguing. It’s something that has historically been the thing IT departments somewhere in the basement take on. So we figured we’ll be upfront about it, and use it as the “hook” to pique people’s interest.
Fostering growth via marketing expertise
Few marketers stay in one place forever. Like a rolling stone, many will find themselves going from company to company, adventure to adventure, throughout their career. This can include starting a role with one company, only to move on to creating a new company from the ground up.
Wherever a marketer finds themselves in their career, growth should always be at the forefront of their mind. This isn’t limited to the growth of a company, but the growth of oneself—understanding what areas of expertise you can bring to the table while relying on the skills and knowledge of others.
Katheriin has run a tour of digital marketing across a variety of functions. With this experience in mind, we knew she’d have a diverse array of advice for marketers and merchants, both old and new.
If you could go back to when you started and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be? Is that advice different from what you’d give to someone just starting out in the industry today?
Katheriin Liibert: If I could go back to the early days of my career, then the one piece of advice I’d give myself is to seek out more mentors and connections with senior marketers. It’s the best way to learn, and it does not come naturally unless you are a part of a sizable marketing team. And it’s the same advice I’d give to people starting out in the industry today.
Talk to me about #muhoov—what made you want to start this brand? How did your marketing experience play a role in #muhoov’s success?
He had the technical know-how and I had the marketing expertise, so we teamed up and bootstrapped the business. If I didn’t have a clue about marketing, we may not have been able to grow it into a six-figure business.Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing, Outfunnel
Katheriin Liibert: There’s an up-and-coming neighborhood called Kopli in Tallinn. About Five years ago, a local vintage clothing brand started making sweatshirts with KOPLI written on them. Me and a bunch of my friends loved the idea, but wanted our own neighborhoods sweatshirts, as we didn’t have any special feelings towards Kopli.
Five H&M sweatshirts with custom prints on them later, a colleague from Fleep (where I was working at the time) suggested that we try and make a business out of it. He had the technical know-how and I had the marketing expertise, so we teamed up and bootstrapped the business. If I didn’t have a clue about marketing, we may not have been able to grow it into a six-figure business (or would have had to hire some help in the early days!)
Learning from ecommerce mistakes & self-improvement
With growth comes challenges to overcome. Any marketer or merchant worth their salt knows that for every success they build, several failures will act as the foundation. Understanding how to improve from these mistakes, how to turn losses into opportunities, and how to ultimately keep growing is the cornerstone of any successful business.
However, not all mistakes are universal—what causes one marketer to stall may be a minor inconvenience to another. That’s why we asked Katheriin what she considers some of the largest follies in her day-to-day life, as well as from her experiences as a marketer as a whole.
What is one mistake that you see a lot of ecommerce merchants making? On the flip side, what’s one best practice you wish more merchants were doing?
Katheriin Liibert: My current pet peeve with ecommerce merchants is bad translations. Like, really bad. So many ecommerce businesses are localizing their businesses, but doing a very sloppy job at it. I’ve had so many weird customer flows where half of it is in English and the other half in Estonian. If you’re doing something—don’t half-ass it!
The best practice that I wish more merchants were doing? Personalization that’s not creepy. I listened to Drift’s RevGrowth, which was all about personalization, and there were many great examples of smart and elegant personalization in online shopping. I would strongly recommend anyone in ecommerce to go and watch those presentations!
Do you have a go-to tool or app that makes your life easier?
Katheriin Liibert: There are many! But if I had to choose one, I would go with Audible. I’ve grown very fond of listening to audiobooks that are easy reads and/or autobiographies, read by the author. And Audible is my go-to for listening to those.
Can you recommend a social account, blog, podcast, etc to those looking to grow?
Katheriin Liibert: Being a B2B marketer, I have to recommend The Growth Hub podcast by AdvanceB2B. It’s my go-to podcast for inspiration and practical advice.
Handling COVID, iOS 15, and other big changes in ecommerce
The last few years have been exceptionally challenging for ecommerce merchants and marketers. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world of ecommerce, rarely for better and more often than not for worse.
Some have seen their online stores bombarded with demand, while others have had to swiftly adjust to getting an online presence. Companies, large and small, have had a lot to adapt to, with the ‘new normal’ slowly blending back into the world we all knew before COVID.
However, for marketers and merchants, new clouds are looming on the horizon—some shaped like an apple with a bite taken out of it. The iOS 15 update signals new changes to ecommerce, but these aren’t the end of the changes to come, as Katheriin knows. We ask for her insight on these topics, as well as what she believes will keep marketers and merchants relevant in the future.
I imagine at Outfunnel, you have interesting data that you’ve gathered over that time period. What are some of the trends that jumped out at you? Do you think these are bandwagon trends or trends that are here to stay?
Katheriin Liibert: In the middle of the pandemic, we produced a research report on sales and marketing of SMBs. Two interesting findings really stood out.
First, 51% of the respondents reported that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their company’s revenues in 2020.
Secondly, 53% of respondents agreed that the pandemic has made it more difficult to align sales and marketing goals.
I’m curious to see what the longer-term effects of the pandemic will be on the world of business. We are a species that adapts, but change always comes at a cost. On a personal level, I’ve definitely noticed more burnout and exhaustion among my peers and friends in the last few years. People have stayed at home and worked a lot since there wasn’t much else to do anyway. And now, it’s starting to take a toll on their health.
Over the past few years, there have been quite a few changes to digital channels in the name of privacy. I’m sure Outfunnel is no stranger to navigating complicated and ever-changing data privacy laws. What are your thoughts on the iOS 15 update and the impact on open rates? Are there any other metrics you think might be at-risk in the future?
Katheriin Liibert: When it comes to B2B email marketing, we’re big fans of tracking replies or clicks. Each campaign should have one or the other as the main goal. We’ve even got an entire lesson on it in our B2B email marketing crash course.
As a whole, there is a big shift going on in regards to privacy and tracking marketing engagement. As such, it’s difficult to say which metrics are not at risk! I only hope such changes bring about innovation in marketing analytics, and that in the end everyone—the marketers as well as the people being marketed to—wins.
Finally, how would you advise merchants to future-proof their marketing strategies? Do you think it’s better to remain reactive and nimble for these kinds of changes?
Katheriin Liibert: The only way to future-proof your marketing is to stay hungry to learn! That’s what I love about marketing—it’s ever-evolving and keeps you young!
Among Katheriin’s many insights, one of the overarching lessons to take away is that growth is good—no matter how big or small your business is. Exploring how you as a marketer or merchant can grow, change, and improve yourself is just as important as seeing how you can develop a company.
Some of this growth, arguably some of the most important part, is to fully comprehend yourself, your business, and where it fits into your industry. Whether you’re an established company seeing a decline in business, or you’re a new competitor pondering how to set yourself apart from the rest, understanding yourself and what you’re bringing to the table can do wonders. As Katheriin has proven, you can extract magnificent results, even from the mundane.