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We interviewed a digital marketing strategist and a Big media Fish Kate Kolambet. We talked about first experience in digital marketing, New York level-up and personal inspiration. So, enjoy!
Digital Marketing Strategist, Techstars alum
Content nerd and blogger
Excited to see the future with VR-enabled games
Big fan of biking
Nice to meet you, Kate! Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Traditional first question: Who are you? What is your expertise in business?
My name is Kate Kolambet. I have a degree in journalism but I worked primarily in marketing. Despite this, I have over a dozen publications in newspapers and magazines. My career started at the marketing department of a big company. Later, I changed my perspective and worked for almost five years for a full-service web marketing agency as a digital strategist and an editor-in-chief for our own media. From time to time, I was freelancing with copywriting and social media marketing. I realized I was stuck in my comfort zone and accepted a job offer from the startup Looksery, who are known for creating the Snapchat lenses. Later, I joined Kwambio, a startup in 3D printing. On the side, I was a consultant for eCozy, a Munich-based startup, which specializes in smart home technologies. I had all kinds of experiences, with the exception of owning any business myself, and hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to do so in the future.
What made you choose this profession?
My strongest skill is creating content. I’ve always been interested in all kinds of stories. Especially the ones brands tell through their social media channels, emails, and blogs. I’m hooked on analytics so I look for certain patterns to extract key insights that drive business results. When you see the big picture, you don’t need any additional motivation to continue. After a few years of this experience, I started developing digital marketing strategies from scratch, visualizing “big pictures” for startup teams. Very often they have a goal like “One million unique visitors on the website”, “Five thousand subscribers” or “One thousand products sold until the end of the year” and they have no idea how to get there or attract potential clients to their the website: how to draw their attention, what to tell them, how to make them come back, or why would they recommend a product to someone else. I have to answer all these questions and as startups are all unique, it’s always challenging.
Dozens of great articles and projects have been headed by you - what is the secret of your inspiration?
I guess it’s curiosity. For example, when I traveled a lot in Europe, prior to my new adventure I was doing my research on local brands and startups. I was curious to see what local ad agencies do. When you see certain insights behind commercials and digital marketing campaigns, you understand more about people and places. A quick glance on ads in New York City subway can tell you that New Yorkers hate everything, they avoid Times Square, rarely cook, live in tiny apartments and have storage boxes to keep their stuff somewhere in the city, and it’s also very rare if they find themselves in Staten Island. I love to know such kind of things about cities and people. Usually, I was lucky to find something inspiring and even to fall in love with the project (that happened with EyeEm in Berlin, Journi in Vienna, Tiger Lab in Barcelona, Super Heroes in Amsterdam, Frommee in Rotterdam, etc). When this happens I’m not shy to email the companies I’m interested in and usually this sparks up great interviews, collaborations, and even friendships.
How do you cope with everything in time? What is your time management secret?
I tend to plan way too many things than I can accomplish so I’m always dissatisfied with myself. At the same time, I don’t want to make it simple. I make to-do lists and try to follow them. I can say that wandering around during lunch time helps me to stay productive. I try to go for a walk or at least watch a few episodes of Metropolitan Artist Project (different artists talk about works of art that inspire them, sometimes they say something you would never think of because of their own background and perspective, so I find it very interesting).
You worked for Looksery. Inc. Was it your first Kickstarter campaign?
That was the time when I had my honeymoon with crowdfunding. I analyzed dozens of successful campaigns and backed 15 projects myself (all of them were successful and didn’t fail to deliver rewards, so I got some pretty cool stuff at very good prices). My team was preparing for our own launch on Kickstarter and I was responsible for creating media list and developing PR strategy. Those were new tasks for me but during this time, I helped my startups be featured in various media such as The Times, Washington Post, BBC, The Next Web, Business Insider, and The Vogue, among many others.
How did you end up in New York?
I just wanted to get the experience of a life in New York so I bought tickets, booked a room for a month, and went. I believe that traveling is the best way to spend money and the only thing that makes you rich. This month could give you a level-up in so many ways. If you watched the movie ‘Big Fish’ you might remember Edward who said a very touching thing:
“Kept in a small bowl, the goldfish will remain small. With more space, the fish will grow double, triple, or quadruple its size. It occurred to me then that perhaps the reason for my growth was that I was intended for larger things. After all, a giant man can’t have an ordinary-sized life”.
If you’re a big fish in a small pond, maybe it’s time to put yourself in the ocean?
The next year I wanted to come back and spend one more month in New York and a month in San Francisco. Later, Kwambio happened to be one of the twelve startups attending the Techstars 2015 summer session. They were provided with seed money, mentorship, as well as an extensive networking opportunities. That’s why I went to Boston. After that program I went back to NYC, applied for a change in my visa status and am still waiting for the decision. I am only hoping for the best!
Kwambio is on the top-10 list of Ukrainian startups ratings in 2014 and 2015. How did Techstars help?
If I had to choose one word to describe Kwambio I’d say, “evolution”. From plastic to ceramics and metals, from 3D-printing at home to on-demand services by big manufacturing companies. A new peak of this evolution is Kwambio’s very own 3D printing ceramic factory in Ukraine. The quality of products is incredible and prices are so low that it’s a gem. It’s a long story about ups and downs, finding early adopters, and ways to make profit.
Techstars is a tremendous community, a great experience for the team, and an accelerated level-up in three months. You meet more than a hundred people, who have their own businesses, and they share their opinions on the problem in the market you are addressing. You choose mentors and do your best to achieve your goal back-to-back with startup fellows from all over the world. The atmosphere there pushes you forward. If you were lucky enough to be chosen for Techstars, Y Combinator, or 500 Startups, then this experience will be more beneficial than an MBA course.
What is a must-have toolkit a marketer cannot do without when managing apps promotion?
If you’re trying to get app reviews, using a service like BananaTag assists you in knowing if your email was opened and if the recipient clicked on your links. I highly recommend Rapportive (you see LinkedIn profiles right in the Gmail). Also, use Twitter to know more about the people you’re trying to reach out to.
Is there any golden rule of a successful app promotion?
The hardest but most important thing is to build relationships with editors, writers, and contributors that are based not on “I need something from you” but on shared interests and “here’s what I can do for you”. It’s only one side of the story from a PR specialist, because there are many other ways to promote apps. Synergy is the key. I’d say: do not rely on a referral traffic only, because you can never predict it.
Do you have a table-book?
I love the book “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. I can share some advice that I follow:
What is your advice to newbie marketers?
Work for projects that matter. Find the project you’d think of in the shower. The project has to give you peace of mind. I mean, as a marketer you always make a choice what person, company, or product you promote and you have to take responsibility for your own choices and deeds. Profit shouldn’t be the main goal.
Nearly every marketing initiative involves a hearty dose of trial and error. Challenges make you conduct experiments, test new theories, and find solutions. Sometimes it’s a team effort, sometimes you are on your own. As they say at Techstars, always make new mistakes.
What are you most proud of?
I already mentioned the press coverage I was able to get for my startups, so I’d say that as an editor-in-chief of Netpeak blog I achieved a stable twenty thousand unique visitors per month (I believe, their current numbers are much higher in 2016). I'm cooking a new project and hope you’ll hear about it soon enough.
How do you wind down?
I like biking in the park. We have a huge park with hills and hiking trails 10 minutes from my home. You can see different birds (robins in summer and hummingbirds in fall) and animals there (chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, skunks). It’s always good to smell pine trees.
Tons of events are held in NYC every day so I often attend meetups (such as the ones that are held at the offices of big companies like Salesforce, Twitter, Vimeo, Google, LinkedIn, etc), go to various museums and theaters, or just chill at the bar with friends.
What will you be in the world of digital marketing in the next 5 years?
So many things have happened to me without any prior notice that I don’t know what to expect next. It’s good to have planning skills but it’s even better to be flexible and spontaneous. I’m excited to see the future with such projects as Snapchat glasses and VR-enabled games like Pokemon Go.
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