Corey Rabazinski

Mostly marketing, SaaS, and remote work – some other stuff too. Onward and upward.

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The Worst Way to Grow a Startup


Companies consistently think that they can raise money and grow exclusively using PR and paid advertising ad infinitum. The thought is, with a good product (in their eyes) and enough money in the bank, you can shove anything down consumers throats with mid-century modern Instagram ads and a few mentions from a fitness influencer.

The problem with that strategy is eventually, and usually quicker than most companies realize, acquisition costs creep higher and margins are squeezed as they try to scale. Once early adopters and core audience segments have been saturated, it takes more to cash to effectively reach the next up-market group of potential customers. That is also when competitors start to enter the auction and bid on the same ad inventory. Even in hyper-niche markets, this can cause negative ROI ad spend quickly.

CMOs of these companies would have consistently better outcomes...

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Uber as Infrastructure

After reading through Uber’s S-1 ahead of their upcoming IPO I was astounded by the scope of their potential impact. Their total addressable market is a large chunk of global GDP and if they succeed, even partially, their software is going to power how cities work.

Many of the headlines from the business press revolved around their annual losses, operating costs, and CEO compensation. While that clickbait can draw shares and comment on social media, the interesting data is how Uber is changing the way cities behave and how people in those cities live. Uber has shrunk cities to make every corner more accessible and is even effecting behavioral change. For instance, 16-year-olds are delaying their driver’s licenses because Uber (and Lyft) provide reliable, cost-efficient solutions. Why drive when you can be driven with the press of a button without having to buy a car and pay for the...

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Name the Pain for Better Marketing

One of the biggest issues I see with new products is their approach to product messaging. Often times makers and product teams are so close to the build process and so proud of what they’ve built that they focus on features over outcomes.

“Our Widget has 2x the speed than our competitor PLUS a Nodeblaster2000 chip”

“Oh, ok. Cool?” -customers

New products tend to talk more about themselves than what the product can help with. Features are important, but tangible life improvements are what makes people buy.

The process of creating a message that resonates is a lot like writing a short story. There is a hook, a narrative, a climax, and a happy ending. The climax of the story involves the product and how it helped slay the problem at hand. The happy ending is the outcome that the product produced.

Directly naming the paid that potential users of a product are facing is the best way for...

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Version Control for Marketing Teams

I found that as marketing teams get bigger it becomes more and more difficult for everyone to be on the same page. There are often multiple versions of copy, descriptions, and creative used by different teams on different channels.

Design and UX teams use things like Zeroheight to build design systems that are helpful reference tools for hiring, building teams and collaborating cross-functionally.

Development teams have GitHub and Gitlab which define the workflow for most organizations. They help reduce friction and let teams focus on actually doing the work.

Why isn’t there anything similar for marketing teams? The need is certainly there.

What we need is a web-based tool that makes all current marketing collateral available to the team with information about updates and who has worked on it. This would include things like logo variations, voice, and tone, long descriptions, short...

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Marketing is the fuel, not the fire

I’ve worked in marketing roles for companies in several different industries throughout my career and one consistent theme that I’ve noticed is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role that marketing plays by even the savviest founders.

Well-intentioned but misguided conversations about marketing strategy include “we just need to do a better job marketing our product” or “we need to start spending more on advertising” – thinking that these are cure-alls for linear or non-existent growth.

I am here to tell you that if your company isn’t growing organically after a launch you shouldn’t spend a dime on marketing.

I’ve seen products with negative growth double marketing spend with the assumption that it will help turn the trajectory of the product around. Not only will that set your marketing team up for failure, but it never works. Spending that money on competitive analysis, user...

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4 Must-Read Marketing Books for Developers

Marketing and selling a product you’ve built takes a completely different mindset than building that product. Knowing something so intimately often makes it hard to present software in a way that is appealing to end users. Usually, builders undersell their creations to the detriment of their marketing.

One of the most important factors in building a successful marketing program for a new product is having a solid marketing philosophy to build off of. Tools and tactics are important, but they evolve so rapidly that it is better to start with a solid foundation and then learn specific tools in a modular fashion when needed.

Its similar to learning the fundamentals of computer science first, then learning specific programming languages rather than just jumping into something like PHP for Wordpress. Sure, you can build a functioning blog, but the skills are less transferable should you...

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Inflection Points

Often times with startups there is this moment when everything comes together at just the right time to spark a new evolution of the company’s trajectory. These moments are hard to see from the outside and don’t always present themselves as obvious even to those inside the company at the time.

I’ve had this experience once in my career thus far and felt like the collective consciousness of the company came out of the fog and could more clearly see the path ahead. Prior to this, everyone knew the ‘what’ not the ‘why’.

These moments represent months or years of consistent pushing up a hill that culminate in a step function of growth that has longevity. The tectonic plates underpinning the company shift in just the right way so all of the moving parts fit together oh-so-nicely.

Some of the most valuable technology companies have well-documented inflection points and they usually take a...

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Email as a Foundation

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to build a successful marketing strategy in today’s ever-changing, ultra-competitive digital world. Every person and company is competing relentlessly for consumer attention. Attention aggregators – namely Facebook and Google – are incentivized to sell that attention to the highest bidder. They make changes that can impact a business that relies on them to connect to customers – seemingly overnight

Facebook is consistently making changes to their newsfeed algorithm to improve “engagement” and increased competition for ad space will continue to drive up costs.

Building a Google-dependent strategy also exposes companies to risks of organic ranking changes. Paid search takes constant gardening and high margin products with lots of searches query to be successful.

But there is one channel that consistently drives results that companies can...

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Invisible Revenue

After spending almost 8 years in marketing and analytics working for companies of different sizes and in different markets, I’ve noticed that every company leaves some amount of revenue on the table by not following common marketing patterns. I estimate most small and medium-sized businesses lose out on at least 10% of potential revenue that could be fixed by mostly small changes.

It doesn’t always look the same, but holes in marketing strategy or unneeded product friction could be fixed simply by following best practices that have been proven to work consistently. Some of them are easy fixes, some of them are more complex, but nonetheless should be able to be fixed by companies with a competent team.

I think most of the time this happens because of the way marketing teams are judged and incentivized. It looks better to run a splashy campaign compared to building marketing systems...

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A/B Testing the Coffee Shop

As I was waiting in line at the coffee shop that I work at most mornings, I noticed that the display typically reserved for doughnuts had been replaced with croissants.

While that might seem like a small change, I began to wonder how and why they made the decision to switch. Was it because the doughnuts weren’t selling well? Was it based on a hunch that croissants might sell better or maybe they have better margins?

That got me thinking about how interesting it would be if small shop owners had a toolset that they could use to easily test small changes around their shop. If they could quickly get quantitative feedback about the performance of this test they could not only make more money but also make their patrons happier by serving the pastries they actually want to buy.

On the web, it is common practice to A/B test elements of a website to improve conversion rate, sales, and...

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