AMA: Timo Pelz, VP Business Marketing at Reddit

5
 min read
Published: 
June 21, 2022
NAVIGATION
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Note: If you’re an early-stage founder anywhere from pre-idea through pre-seed, consider applying to On Deck Founders

Note: This article is adapted from a live discussion for the On Deck community featuring On Deck alums Ming Lu and Vik Duggal. If you’re an early-stage founder, angel investor, or exec interested in joining our community, consider applying to one of our programs - you’ll be in great company.

Note: If you’re an early-stage founder anywhere from pre-idea through pre-seed, consider applying to On Deck Founders.

Note: This article is adapted from a live discussion for the On Deck community featuring Josefin Graebe. If you’re an early-stage founder, scaling founder, or senior exec interested in joining our community, consider applying to one of our programs.

This is an AMA recap from On Deck Marketing.

Timo Pelz, VP Business Marketing at Reddit, is a full stack, generalist marketer with global experience. Previously, Timo built business marketing teams at Facebook and Instagram. He is guided by a deep belief in audience-centric, community driven marketing. 

Could you share your advice on how I can make our marketing less reactive and more able to guide strategy?

At Reddit, my team serves businesses. Period. If we serve businesses well, we help the company win by enabling sales and product to reach their goals. Everybody wins.

Being very clear on this allows me to set strategic pillars in place that have longevity. I hardly ever change my strategic north star every year.

I make it a point to regularly and clearly share the progress my team is making against the measurable KPIs I have set against my pillars. Some of these will show more immediate impact (e.g. performance metrics) and others move slower (e.g. brand metrics around awareness, familiarity and comprehension).

Lastly, I always budget only 80% of my teams capacity against the work that needs to be done - because things always come up and we need to be in a position to be nimble/react to changing environments.

The current macroeconomic climate is a good example. We are pivoting some of my team's plans for Cannes due to recent developments. Since I always keep 20% capacity free, I can adjust without having to make immediate sacrifices.

And before you ask – my team is almost always at 100% capacity – because we use the 20% almost every week.

You were promoted every 2 years at Instagram. What advice can you share about setting yourself up or positioning yourself for promotions?

Be clear about where you want your career to go. Be honest to yourself about what drives you, the kind of work that enables you to bring your best self to work and go after that.

Measure against yourself. Don't look at what other people in the industry, your peers at your company etc are doing.

Ask for big projects. Put yourself out there. I signed up for projects that made me feel queasy (e.g Sheryl Sandberg Keynote at dmexco) but that I was able to master.

Create a checklist of things that you can still accomplish in your current role and once you have them all checked - move on.

Lastly: Find a mentor in or outside of your company. I have always had people that pushed me, questioned my decisions, that I could use as a sounding board. This has made a big difference. 

Success begets success. I spent a lot of time in my career trying to make promos happen. But once I focused on doing the work that I am good at and that I enjoy - the promos happened. At least one of them came as a total surprise to me as I was genuinely just having a great time doing my job.

What’s your take on how B2B marketing is changing? There’s a lot of noise that the “get a bunch of leads then give them to an SDR” playbook is no longer working, but there’s always a divergence between narrative and reality.

This goes back to how marketing is changing in general. B2B is too often too rational and boring. We assume that people make B2B decisions purely based on stats and numbers. 

But as human beings, we are making decisions rationally AND emotionally. So B2B marketing is changing to be more purpose driven, more expressive of the brand - with more personality and wit.

And then there is the topic of efficiency. Lead gen only works so well if you are not able to differentiate. You will run into diminishing rates of return if you pummel your same audiences to death with the same messaging.

For example, at Reddit, I changed the approach to a more sequential one. 

When I arrived, we were very bottom-funnel focused. I changed that to a more even distribution and A/B tested the value that different cohorts were adding. 

Turns out that the cohorts that got a brand message, then a consideration message and then a conversion message had higher value and higher conversion rates.

What are your suggestions for using social media or other communities in a very niche B2B industry when places like Twitter and Facebook are not garnering engagement? How does one find smaller communities that attract B2B professionals in an industry that doesn’t consume content like others would (thinking a medical journal vs. Twitter)?

My recommendation is to not focus on a specific channel. Start by getting to know your audience.

Segment your current high value customers, figure out what makes them tick and where they spend their time. Craft messaging that addresses challenges they’re trying to solve, and bring those to life in a way that is authentic to your brand.

The people you want to reach may have similarities that are outside of their core B2B world. For example, we see B2B brands successfully engaging their audiences in communities around Baseball.

Once you have identified the right communities, follow this checklist:

Understand The Community

  • What is the culture?
  • Is your brand/product a fit?

Understand Why You Belong

  • What existing problem can you help solve?
  • What are the needs & wants you could fulfill?
  • How does your brand/product fit into the conversation? 

Understand How To Engage

  • What is the vibe?
  • What questions are people asking?
  • What are the behaviors you can tap into?
  • How are people connecting and communicating?
  • How can you join the conversation? Via organic participation or ads?

Understand What You Want

  • What are your target outcomes?
  • How can you measure the right outcomes?

Can you share examples of who is doing an excellent job with marketing on Reddit?

The vast majority of Redditors are very open to brand participation and ads - if it is done right.

See my checklist for engaging communities in the previous question.

We see brands of all sizes find success on Reddit from huge enterprise clients to fast moving disruptors. The key is to meaningfully engage a community vs. just marketing at a community.

When you meaningfully engage, that’s when things start to happen.

Good examples:

What lessons from your agency days do you carry with you to the brand side?

I learned the craft of marketing, positioning, messaging, storytelling in my agency days.

I became a marketing generalist because of the broad exposure I got to different businesses, industries and functions: I worked in comms/PR, integrated agency, creative agency. I worked as an account guy and as a strategist. I worked on B2C and B2B. I worked on global accounts and niche brands. 

I learned a lot about valuing people and making sure they have something to believe.

I also learned that you’ll have a hard time finding better camaraderie than what you’ll experience in an agency.

What are your top (and potentially controversial) beliefs about where marketing is heading in the next 5-10 years?

The way we are used to buying and measuring media is over. The pendulum is swinging hard into the direction of consumer empowerment. That means that contextual targeting, sequential messaging and interest graphs are going to be key.

Sustainability and DEI are going to be topics that will decide where media is spent to the same degree that viewability and brand safety have in the past.

We are seeing a resurgence of community driven marketing that is reminiscent of the earlier days of the web. Social media and search have become so gamed and commercialized that people increasingly turn to communities that they can trust to make buying decisions.

I strongly recommend the book Quantum Marketing by Raja Rajamannar as the best take on where marketing is headed in the future that I have read so far.

As an exec, do you ever miss doing the work? Or do you have an approach that allows you to get your hands dirty now and then?

As you advance in your career you have to be honest with yourself: What do you enjoy doing? 

I know a lot of people that rose to managerial roles, leading large teams ...and who were miserable. Because the more you manage, the more you move away from the actual work.

One of the reasons why I joined Reddit is that here I have the opportunity to get my hands dirty. Both on the marketing side and as a member of the executive team, working on larger topics for the business. I don't really miss it when I am not doing it though - because I understand that in my role the work I do and the value I add is different.

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