This is the third in a series of interviews I’m conducting with startup marketing veterans, in hopes of helping Triangle entrepreneurs better market their companies and find the right marketing leaders.
December 2, 2015
Startup Marketing Q&A: Adwerx VP Todd Mosier on Leaving Coding for Marketing
From DevOps to CTO to VP of Product Marketing, serial startup executive talks his move away from coding into marketing.
For this installment I sat down with Todd Mosier, the vice president of product marketing at Adwerx.
Todd is a true Renaissance Man. He is an accomplished jazz pianist and he has visited more than 50 countries. You can read about his adventures on his blog. (During his travels he met an actual Big Foot hunter. He tells the story much better than I could so please ask him about when you see him at local events.)
Unlike my previous marketer interview subjects Phil Buckley of PrecisionLender and Dan London of Ansible, Todd is much newer to the dark side. He began transitioning his career to marketing two years ago while working as CTO of SportTracks.
I graduated from UT Austin with a degree in computer science and I began working at the infrastructure layer instead of software development like many developers. My path was a little non-traditional. After traveling for a couple of years I started working at ReverbNation in DevOps where I was introduced to Ruby on Rails.
I also went to my first Triangle Startup Weekend where my team built an app called Wanderful. One of my team members was Aaron Averill who is the founder of SportTracks. The team continued to work on the app for several months after TSW but eventually we realized our mistake. We built the tech first and asked the business questions much too late in the process.
My experience building Wanderful (It was the mobile app for the Durham Arts Council’s CenterFest in 2012) helped me realize the importance of marketing but I still didn’t fully appreciate the discipline. Working on Wanderful also helped me get to know Aaron and I left Reverb to work with him at SportTracks.
Aaron and I knew we needed to attract more customers for SportTracks and, after we built the product, I began spending a half day each week on marketing. We also hired a consultant to work with us. He is extremely knowledgeable and he was a great teacher who coached me to look at different areas of marketing strategy. It was really daunting to think that there was an entire discipline that was key to my business and I didn’t even know how to prepare a roadmap of what I needed to learn.
But it was really interesting. One of things I love about marketing is that it’s a little like DevOps. You have to find an optimized solution in a non-deterministic environment. (Todd says that’s the nerdiest thing he has ever said. Its also the nerdiest thing I have ever written, and ain’t even close.) In DevOps you have to be prepared to manage unpredictable situations like a spike in traffic to a specific page and you have to do it with limited resources. In marketing you have to find the right audience, the right message and deliver the message at the right time. It’s an ever-changing problem that almost doesn’t have a right answer.
Near the end of my time at SportTracks I was working primarily on marketing. I wanted to continue the company’s growth so I reached out to Adwerx CEO Jed Carlson as a mentor. I had worked with him at ReverbNation and asked him to give me his perspective on marketing and customer acquisition. He helped me refine our strategy and taught me how to think about problems, like how to allocate my marketing budget. Our conversations led to my current role.
We are focused on helping real estate agents build their personal brands. It’s traditionally been difficult for them to create and manage their brands online but we have tools that make it easy for them. Our tagline is “Brilliantly Simple Digital Advertising.” Simplicity is the most important part of our brand essence and it’s a key differentiator for us. We enable our customers to brand themselves using locally targeted ads that reach people who are interested in buying and selling homes. The targeted ads prevent wasted impressions outside the agent’s audience. With tightly defined segments, we are able to maximize their ad budgets to reach the audience that matters to them.
We have worked very hard to own our brand positioning. Realtors tend to think of digital ads as lead generation because of Zillow and Trulia and they view traditional ads like billboards as awareness. We are providing a “digital billboard” that drives brand awareness, so it’s a paradigm shift. A lot of customers view it as a contradictory offering at first blush. It’s also a challenge to add a KPI to our service because lead gen is more straightforward but digital ad effectiveness requires multi-touch attribution.
We use the same tight segmentation tools that help our customers to find Realtors. The helpful thing about marketing to this industry is Realtors want to be found. Part of their job is to be well known.
In addition to our segmentation strategy, we are aggressive content marketers. We attend lots of conferences and our blog was recently recognized as one of the 10 best blogs in real estate technology. Our goal for the blog is for it to be viewed as a resource that helps agents use technology more efficiently to grow their businesses.
Email has been very effective for us. We have strong onboarding and retention campaigns that rely on our content teams. My next goal is to develop a win-back campaign to bring back former customers.
We started going to conferences last year. It’s been a learning experience. We sponsor some but we are working on more thought leadership and branding efforts. As a marketer, I love being there. I get to hear how people respond to a certain message. Do customers understand what I mean when I say things like, there are only a certain number of spots in one geography because the company has a limited number of impressions it can serve? Being onsite with that many members of your target audience is fantastic from a messaging perspective. I call it research and investigation.
The company has several relationships with major real estate firms and we list them on our site. The relationships are great for our brand and through them we get access, social proof and credibility. We have 22 relationships and our most recent is with Realogy, which is one of the larger companies in the industry and includes brands like Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker. The partnerships are a point of emphasis for us but it’s well worth the effort.
I have recorded three albums on keys but never guitar. I am a classically trained pianist and I started playing jazz while in college.