Startup Office Hours

Founders and team leaders, we’re here for you.

All of our former senior operators - who have been through multiple downturns - will host virtual office hours to answer your startup questions on how to respond to emerging challenges. After every session, we will summarize each question and answer below. Have an additional question? Email [email protected] with the subject line "Virtual Office Hours" and we’ll answer as soon as we can.

Go to other sessions:

Jump to a question:

With all that is going on right now, it's critical to be sensitive during these times--what is your guidance in launching new marketing campaigns right now?

Any companies we can look back at that had growth during downturns and ended up thriving beyond?

How do you stand out when everyone is doing digital? 

How we need to be rethinking marketing/sales alignment? Should you rethink your ICP?

How to prioritize team’s time TOFU, MOFU, BOFU? 

How to delicately cold-outreach into accounts?

How would you address beginning a demand gen program in this environment?

There probably won’t be in person events for a while. What are the digital channels marketing teams should try?

Does sending direct mail to someone’s home come off as creepy?

Companies are tightening their expenses so marketing and sales budgets are getting slashed. How do you get scrappy and show value?

What are the best channels to engage with innovation teams who are looking for emerging tech to solve unique business problems?

In the context of channel marketing, what can we do to keep top of funnel healthy via our partners and keep those channel partners engaged?

Tips for selling into security?

Is it ok to promote how we have helped our existing customers manage the crisis, especially when customers are operating in an industry that is particularly impacted (eg. healthcare or grocery)? 

We launched a free service to allow prospective customers (mostly restaurant chains) to use our product to help them tackle COVID19 challenges. We’re considering promoting this free service via ads, but it feels a bit off. What’s your advice?

Given the current environment, will “30 day free trials” resonate more or it doesn’t really matter? 

How will this crisis affect the future of marketing?

With all that is going on right now, it's critical to be sensitive during these times--what is your guidance in launching new marketing campaigns right now?
  • Recognize it is not business as usual marketing. Turn off standard nurture campaigns. Don’t be overly promotional. Truly be of service. 
  • Optimize everything you say around how you can help existing customers or how you meet needs. 
  • Be optimistic, but pragmatic and authentic. Humanity sticks out.

Jump to the top

Any companies we can look back at that had growth during downturns and ended up thriving beyond?
  • Many companies started in the last 2008/2009 downturn like Airbnb, Github, Pinterest, Slack, Square, Uber, WhatsApp.
  • Focus on your fundamental value proposition to customers. Self examine what your product is doing that really has value and hone in on how to do that better. 
  • Work with product marketing and management teams to see if there is anything the company can do slightly differently where you can be of more service given the needs of the market today.

Jump to the top

How do you stand out when everyone is doing digital? 
  • Quality of execution matters.
  • Focus on fundamentals like positioning
  • Find the most deeply resonant message for the moment
  • Be different - be happy, use memes, ask me anything sessions vs. webinar 

Jump to the top

How we need to be rethinking marketing/sales alignment? Should you rethink your ICP?
  • Marketing and sales need to be extremely well aligned right now 
  • Marketing = bring heart and authenticity to your brand. Sales = make it personal, highly directed and targeted
  • Adapt ICP and value proposition to match shifting market and industry trends. 
  • Focus on your existing customers to make them your strongest advocates / referral base

Jump to the top

How to prioritize team’s time TOFU, MOFU, BOFU? 
  • Focus on existing customer base first - retention is extremely important since it is easier than getting a new one right now. Be a trusted partner, not just another vendor. 
  • Instill confidence that you’re not going anywhere even in this tumultuous time. Make sure they’re feeling the value of your product.
  • Priorities: inverted funnel - BOFU, MOFU, TOFU

Jump to the top

How to delicately cold-outreach into accounts?
  • MUST do homework. Check out social. Get a sense of who they are and try to engage with them at a deeply personal level. 
  • No email blasts. No canned nurture campaigns. Have a real reason for why you’re reaching out, don’t just hammer lists. Quality over quantity.
  • Scrap typical nurture stuff. Run more targeted tests, messages, tactics. 

Jump to the top

How would you address beginning a demand gen program in this environment?
  • Would not start a demand gen program in this environment. Double down on what your fundamental value proposition is and what you can do that is genuinely of service.
  • Demand is easiest from existing customers versus new so focus on your existing customers. Make them the primary way in which people hear about you. Reach out to customer advisory councils, design partners, groups of advocates in whatever shape you have them. Nurture those relationships that might lead to organic referrals.

Jump to the top

There probably won’t be in person events for a while. What are the digital channels marketing teams should try?
  • Social - engage in existing channels; leverage them.
  • Direct mail. Sendoso. Survey + results in eBook. Podcasts. Webinars. Virtual meals. AMAs. Document best practices of existing customers--not just of your product--and share out.
  • Hone in on improving quality of execution.

Jump to the top

Does sending direct mail to someone’s home come off as creepy?
  • Partnership with sales matters. Make sure there was an actual connection and permission before sending something. Be authentic.  

Jump to the top

Companies are tightening their expenses so marketing and sales budgets are getting slashed. How do you get scrappy and show value?
  • Sales and marketing alignment is crucial!
  • Get clarity on objectives and expectations from the leadership team. What do you want us to do? What can you stop doing? Make sure expectations are aligned with what capabilities and budget you have. If not, be a problem solver along with the company and propose what you can do.

Jump to the top

What are the best channels to engage with innovation teams who are looking for emerging tech to solve unique business problems?
  • Go directly to your customers or prospects and check in with them to see if and how they are affected. How can you help?
  • Non necessary spending is all under massive scrutiny right now so work with them and meet their needs.

Jump to the top

In the context of channel marketing, what can we do to keep top of funnel healthy via our partners and keep those channel partners engaged?
  • Ask them! How have their priorities changed? How can we be a good partner?
  • Brainstorm together. Talk about new ideas - remote 1:1 consultations, ask me anything sessions. Make sure there is no extra work for them. Slip into what they are already trying to do as opposed to adding to their plate.
  • Be a fun distraction/enliven their day - something that their prospects might find engaging.

Jump to the top

Tips for selling into security?
  • Recognize their new reality - budgets might be slashed, personnel may change.
  • Sales should maintain relationships - work together to figure out the 3-5 prospects you already have good relationships with and want to target. Cultivate those relationships.

Jump to the top

Is it ok to promote how we have helped our existing customers manage the crisis, especially when customers are operating in an industry that is particularly impacted (eg. healthcare or grocery)? 
  • Tone is everything. OK if genuinely helpful and not promotional. 
  • Depends on where it flows within your funnel and how you use that as a play, but it should be very curated.

Jump to the top

We launched a free service to allow prospective customers (mostly restaurant chains) to use our product to help them tackle COVID19 challenges. We’re considering promoting this free service via ads, but it feels a bit off. What’s your advice?
  • Tone is everything. Anything you can do to help them survive is genuinely helpful.
  • Depends on where you put it. Running ads versus contacting existing restaurants that are using your service already and asking them to post this in their community channels or email conversations where people are looking for ideas.
  • The most powerful promotion will be from people who are actually in the field themselves using the product and being an evangelist on your behalf.

Jump to the top

Given the current environment, will “30 day free trials” resonate more or it doesn’t really matter? 
  • “30 day free trials” sounds hooky. Sounds business as usual. Need to be in genuine connection and relational.
  • Depends on your objective. If it is to maintain a relationship, let them hangout in the trial.
  • Do not phrase it in such a way that it’s not time bound - we don’t know where we’ll be in 30 days. Be dynamic on some tests and don’t make it feel like you’re forcing or coercing anyone into anything.

Jump to the top

How will this crisis affect the future of marketing?
  • Hope it makes everyone much better at marketing - better at execution and quality of what you do to stand out. Hope it makes people less promotional and more authentic.
  • People will get better at ‘sideways’ marketing - don’t market yourself directly, but market the things that customers care about in the moment with something genuinely helpful. Do this as regular business versus just in times of crisis.

Jump to the top

Our Perspectives

Casey Aylward | May 27th 2020

Strong Data Quality, Strong Data Operations: Our Investment in Toro

At Costanoa, we believe that a new generation of companies will emerge to ease data operations between the data infrastructure layer and…

Martina Lauchengco | May 5th 2020

Be Human, Be Real: New Rules for Marketers Right Now

This is a time of intense vulnerability and crushing uncertainty.

Amy Cheetham | April 15th 2020

Referencing a VC: Separating Believability from the Bullsh*t in a Remote-First World

How to determine if the VCs you’re talking to might be right for you.

Tony Liu | April 8th 2020

How to build a platform data scientists will love

(Hint: Cross-functional collaboration and iteration speed are critical.)

Michelle McHargue | April 22nd 2020

5 Ways Founders Can Support Their Employees Right Now

Today all of us are living an odd life, where time seems to run differently as we sit in our homes (“What day is it again?”), there’s a…

Mark Selcow | March 22nd 2020

How to steer a startup through a major downturn

Here are some actions your leadership team should be taking quickly.

Jim Wilson | April 1st 2020

The Importance of a Buyer’s Perspective for Startups

Why we hired Declan Morris as our newest executive-in-residence

Costanoa Ventures | March 20th 2020

Virtual Office Hours on How to Respond to Emerging…

We will host live office hours to share best practices and tactical responses to emerging challenges.

Costanoa Ventures | February 20th 2020

How to Transition a Slow Start Into a High Growth Startup

When most people think of a startup, they imagine a rapidly evolving company that finds product market fit and launches into the ether…