PR Marketing Lessons And Webinars Done Right: Ethan Chernofsky from Placer.ai

Posted on Aug 11, 2020

Episode: S02E06

Podcast Guest: Ethan Chernofsky
Role: VP Marketing
Company: Placer.ai

Follow on Apple | Spotify | Google | Anchor | Pocketcasts


In today’s saturated environment, landing a hallowed TechCrunch pickup may just be the best training ground for marketers.

So in this episode, Ethan Chernofsky of Placer.ai talks about

  1. The war lessons that make for incredible B2B marketing
  2. A playbook he uses to snag 50-70 media pickups. Every. Single. Month.
  3. How those lessons set the stage for COVID-driven webinars that land 500+ registrations
  4. ROI on press (kinda like cockroaches, it’s weird)
  5. Why my fantasty football podcast will suck.

You can read a little bit about Ethan’s data-led (not driven) strategy here, see an awesome example of Ethan’s PR strategy in motion here, watch a Chicken on a Raft here, or…find your own damn pages online to look at.

Oh, and Ethan’s favorite marketing tools:

  1. A pad of paper. Yea. Seriously.
  2. Hubspot.

If you enjoy this, leave me a review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

Episode Transcript

Eytan Buchman: [00:00:00] An angel loses its wings every time a marketer writes an email that says register to this webinar – we’re capped that 500 attendees. But what if the cap is real? You need 500 attendees, that’s like 1,500 registrations. Well, it could happen. In this episode, Marketers In Capes with GCMO. We’re going to talk to Ethan Chernofksy, a friend – yes – that’s the disclaimer who made the elusive hop from PR to full-stack B2B marketing. We’re going to touch on storytelling, a proven webinar strategy that reels in hundreds of prospects, how measuring PR ROI is like counting cockroaches and more. It’s a lot. And one quick word. This episode is a little more conversational than most of my episodes are – I’m just kind of A/B testing it. If you like this more than my other episodes, leave me a five star review. If you like other episodes more than this, leave me a five star review. I’ll figure it out. Let’s just jump right in. Meet my guest.

Ethan Chernofksy: [00:01:01] My name is Ethan Chernofsky. I’m the VP of Marketing at Placer.ai. Before Placer, I began my career on the PR side of things. So I started at an agency called Finn Partners and then joined a really small agency at its infancy called Headline Media out of Tel Aviv. So it was this really amazing experience. And then from there. I went to SimilarWeb and led what we called corporate marketing. And then I moved to Placer for the opportunity to join a startup at the earliest stage and build something from the ground up. Placer’s a location analytics platform, which essentially means we show how people are moving in the offline world in the United States every day. PR Shaping Marketing Eytan Buchman: [00:01:43] So we’ve spoken a lot about PR and the impact that had on the way that you market. Do you feel that it shaped you in a specific way? And do you feel that PR and marketing are intrinsically linked? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:01:55] So there’s two elements that I look back on the PR starting point and I say, “wow, this was really helpful for me.” And the first is that it’s storytelling. But not storytelling for the sake of the story storytelling for the sake of the audience. And as much as I know, this is 101 marketing, you see how often people are telling stories that make them happy as opposed to what their audience needs to hear. So in PR you’re working with so many different companies and they all have these big visions and they’re so convinced that they’re the next breakthrough unicorn that’s going to change the world. When the reality is most of them aren’t and that, how do you translate that story that they have have, and that passion and excitement into something that’s exciting for journalists and therefore a wider audience. Eytan Buchman: [00:02:39] Just to jump in here for a second, pay attention – that’s basically storytelling, but also the ability to adapt that to a specific audience. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:02:46] So that’s the first thing. And it was also storytelling with a goal. Like I’m not telling you a story, just so it’s interesting, I’m telling you a story so that a journalist is going to see that and then want to write about it. So there’s an action linked with the story, which I think is super helpful and has been really informative. And a lot of the work it’s actually explaining to a founder, why the thing they think is so important actually doesn’t matter, or is overused or, properly setting expectations so that if you have a really amazing backend dev ops product, you’re not going to be on the cover of the New York Times. Eytan Buchman: [00:03:25] So component number one, storytelling and figuring out how to get that to fit for the right audience. What else did PR teach you about marketing? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:03:33] I got to work with Omer Shai and his incredible team at Wix ,Nir Pachter and his incredible team at Lightricks and like on and on to these amazing marketers. And these really incredible companies and see internally how they operate and how they view things. Eytan Buchman: [00:03:51] is there any one or two marketing activities, tactics, strategies that you can flag from a specific company that say those people knew exactly what they were doing. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:04:00] I don’t know if I can even say the company, but I’ll give you a few examples of things that I thought really stuck out to me Eytan Buchman: [00:04:06] It rhymes with. Schmoogle. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:04:09] and blaze book. No one will ever figure it out, but the, I think one of the ones that was really big for me was, what’s a minimum viable product for so many different companies is so different and understanding how do you test that, is a big marketing function of like, how deeply do you understand your audience? So this guy was actually specifically involved with their user testing group. So when there was a new product, he would work with this community that would try things out first. And the ability to understand, like what’s an important bit of feedback that they need to change. And what’s feedback that like, it’s good, but it’s not going to you know, delay a launch was really interesting. And then the other thing was just, decision-making like, how do these really smart people deal with uncertainty. So I’ll give you an example. We were working actually directly with the CEO on this, and we had a funding announcement that was going and funding announcements are really big for startups because they give you this ability to get mainstream exposure. And we basically presented the CEO with three options where like you can do a, B or C, which one do you think is best? And he was like, give me your recommendation. And he was like, why did you give that recommendation? And we ended up getting to a decision within a half an hour where so many of the companies that I’ve worked with that have been less successful on the marketing front. Even though we all want to be purely data-driven marketers, There’s a lot of information that there just is no data for, or that the data that you get this flaw. And so you can’t make that decision in the perfect scenario you’re looking for. And so this kind of confidence to say, there’s a lot of things I don’t know here are those things I’m going to make the best decision I can and I’m going to try to figure out ways to account for those variables and to measure the success as a result of those variables. Eytan Buchman: [00:06:03] I just want to point out exactly what this means. You need to find the right story. You need to find out the way to accommodate it for the audience, and then you need to make the right decisions to get it in front of the right people. . Is there any specific marketing strategy this really lends itself towards ? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:06:17] I think the basic premise is… Eytan Buchman: [00:06:20] is that too big of a question? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:06:22] no, I like it. It’s cool I want to tease you with the premise that if I can get you excited about something, imagine what you can do with this resource. So it’s like the teaser trailer, it’s not the full movie and that’s how I view our marketing. And because we’re a data company, we’re not, we’re empowering customers to do something like we’re not giving them the thing. So if I was building chairs, I need to explain to you why this chair is so good, why it’s the most comfortable chair? Why it should have four legs, enough, three, why it’s blue and not brown, whatever. When I am selling you a data product or an empowerment product, cause there’s a lot of things that would fit within this, under this umbrella, I’m trying to show you what you can do if I give this to you. And I think that’s what we want to do with our marketing, because it creates this level of excitement that goes along with the ability to bring you into our funnel. So it’s not just a transactional orientation. Eytan Buchman: [00:07:22] So that means that really your brand marketing and your product marketing are basically one and the same, right? Because you’re taking your product and you’re showcasing it on the brand level. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:07:31] So the initial interaction is giving people value, which is always amazing. When you can do that as a marketer is like from my first touch point, you’re getting something from me and even the second level of signing up for a free tool, that’s actually really good ,is another value. And then I want to be able to support for you as you’re trying to figure out what does this mean for you and why should you engage further on. That’s where the that’s where the kind of product marketing really fits in for us. Eytan Buchman: [00:08:01] Okay, since so much so much of this started off with webinars, I mean walk me through the Placer webinar playbook and where it all started Ethan Chernofksy: [00:08:08] we had always wanted to do webinars and COVID hit and we were, we have a lot of events. We did like almost an event a week. And I would say my CEO is amazing here. Cause he was really like, “go do this now. Like you, we’ve wanted to do this for awhile. Don’t do this in a few weeks, do it tomorrow.” And so it happened like a week later and we did a webinar and the webinar was just, it was totally our style. It was, we’re going to talk about things that really matter within the retail and real estate industries, from the perspective of our data. And the first time we did it had really high registration numbers, over a thousand, I think it was, 1300 or 1400 registrants. And we had an attendance rate of about 80%. And and there was a lot of engagement afterwards as well. And so I think that was a really big eyeopener and it was a highlight not just because it succeeded, but it, because it validated this approach, we had that, we’re going to give you our perspective on the world and we’re going to start having this conversation with you as our prospects, our leads, our community, about what we’re seeing. And that’s been something that’s driven, a lot of our approach since that point. Eytan Buchman: [00:09:21] So obviously if you’re getting 800 people to sign up or a thousand people to sign up for your first webinar, that means that your marketing activity didn’t start there. What were the factors that contributed to such a qualified list of people that were so I guess confident that you’re going to provide value during that webinar? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:09:36] We started from my first week we were producing, two to three blogs a week, and then we would throw them up through our PR channel and bring that to media. So we’ll get somewhere between 50 and 70 articles a month that are including our data and everything from the wall street journal to really target trades and. And then from there, people would hear about us come to our website and try one of our free tools. And it developed this relationship where you know, that we have interesting insights and that hopefully they can tease some interesting ideas for you as well. And that created this basis from which we could utilize the webinars effectively. Eytan Buchman: [00:10:15] Okay. Anything from like a vibe perspective, uh, how did you actually make them. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:10:19] We were not over producing them. Like it’s a real honest conversation. And because it’s a real honest conversation, I think. People are willing to are more open to learning about it. And they’re more opening to speaking on these interesting topics. And then finally it feels authentic. Like I think what’s cool about the webinars is they get to see your face. Like it’s one thing to be like, exclamation points, six times in an email, look how charismatic I am, there’s another thing when like they see your face and they see that you are genuinely excited about what you’re talking about. Eytan Buchman: [00:10:54] What do you feel like people are doing wrong with webinars today? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:10:57] They’re doing webinars for the sake of doing them. So like we have to do a webinar. So what are we going to talk about this week? Let’s talk about five ways to use Product X better. That’s boring. Like it’s not bad because webinars are bad. It’s bad because the people don’t care about it. I saw a company do a webinar about the spread of COVID and this company had nothing to do with health. Nothing to do with, pharmaceuticals. I don’t care about your opinion about COVID. , if I’m in the freight industry, I want to attend a Freightos webinar about freight. I don’t want to attend it about fantasy football. Eytan Buchman: [00:11:32] and you would be quite remiss if you attended any of my webinars for fantasy football, or even ask me a question about fantasy football. Ethan Chernofksy: [00:11:37] Because it is such a massive difference when you see brands that truly care about what their audience is getting versus what they’re doing and who really have a voice. I’m like, I’ll go back to Wix. Cause to me, they’re like a North Star of what an incredible company, incredible marketing looks like, They just did this TV ad like quotes of people who hate their ads and they from the YouTube comments and websites built around that. And so it’s funny, it’s super authentic, it’s who these guys are like, they’re willing to make fun of themselves, but it’s also, so on-brand in terms of the colors and the style and the emphasis on the product. And I watched it like that. I’m like, this is, and then you see other companies that are so good at so many different things, but then they’ll put together an ad and you’re like, you clearly did that because you had a KPI to create a video ad and it doesn’t really feel like it’s you. And it doesn’t feel all that interesting or authentic. And so that’s, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. Eytan Buchman: [00:12:35] Now it seems like you’ve made that shift towards dealing with people at scale and thinking about it less from a PR like how many hits do I get and more of an ROI perspective. How do you approach ROI from brand marketing? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:12:49] If I’m a sales person, I have a revenue number. It is a perfect metric. It is a measurement of my success. Most of the time in marketing, you don’t have direct measurements. You have. better and worse indicators . Figure out some way to have kind of a finger on the pulse of indicator metrics. So everything from, web traffic as a proxy, or, social, following growth as a proxy or even, increases in leads on a specific day from a specific sector as some sort of proxy of what’s working and then finally learn to embrace anecdotal evidence. We have this amazing sales team and SDR team that do a really great job of investigating. Like, how did you find out about us? And when we hear from, a brand like, and they say, we heard about you from this PR article or this media article we saw in, outlet X that’s something that we do give weight to. You have to assume that it’s like a terrible example, but like it’s like cockroaches. if you see one in your, there’s a lot more than that in the building or in the walls. And I think that’s been the guiding principles that we’ve used to try and understand our performance there. Eytan Buchman: [00:14:05] Working in a place like Headline Media is probably very different than working at a international company, like SimilarWeb. And then that’s so different than building a company up at Placer. How do you actually approach building and then expanding your team? Ethan Chernofksy: [00:14:18] It was very much go with things until you feel like you physically just can’t do the things you need to do anymore, and then hire, and then give that person time to bake and figure out their space and then hire. And so I think one of the things that I really want to focus on and it’s been a big lesson for me is really respecting each hire being different from what I expected. So you hire someone and you’re like, I think they’re going to do X, Y, and Z. And then you find out that they’re incredible at X and Y but terrible, at Z but oh wow they’re exceptionally good at A , which is not what you expected. So then shifts your mentality for the next hire to build around the people you have. Eytan Buchman: [00:15:04] If I lost you at cockroaches, I regret nothing. And if you want to walk away with one important thing, is that when people talk about empathy in marketing, it’s not just tone. It’s also realizing that the most empathetic thing you can is making sure that your marketing drives value to the right people. And that’s why I know I’m not going to start the fantasy football podcast. Not now, not ever. You could learn more about Placer at Placer.ai, or you could head to buchman.co.il to read a very long post I wrote about building and scaling this podcast up. My name is Eytan Buchman, you’ve been listening to marketers and capes with . Let’s do that do doo music thing?