Navigating MarTech Product Growth: Strategies for Thriving in Challenging Business Environments
B2B Data 01.03.2024

Navigating MarTech Product Growth: Strategies for Thriving in Challenging Business Environments

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In this episode of Sunny Side Up, Katharine Noonan interviews Erik Kostelnik on thriving in the MarTech space. Erik underscores the critical need to build customer-centric brands, carefully balance marketing investments, and prioritise hiring skilled marketers for storytelling and brand development. He highlights the importance of creating a human-first brand strategy that values customer engagement and relationships. He advises marketers to cut through the noise of the marketplace. He underscores the value of hiring skilled marketers who craft compelling stories and develop brands that listen and respond to customer needs.

About the Guest

Erik Kostelnik is a serial entrepreneur, professor, and investor with over 15 years of experience building and scaling technology companies in the B2B space. He is the founder and CEO of Postal, an offline marketing automation platform and marketplace that helps personalise, automate, and scale direct mail, internal and external events, branded company swag, and personalised gifts. 

Connect with Erik Kostelnik

Key Takeaways

  • Cultivate a brand that resonates with and delights customers, encourages sharing, and integrates seamlessly with users’ systems to foster organic growth and customer loyalty.
  • Allocate marketing spending strategically between digital and physical outreach for balanced engagement.
  • Focus on increasing conversion rates by innovating within typically underutilised channels.
  • Prioritise hiring talented marketers to build a strong brand and tell compelling stories.
  • Listen to customers and partners to become adept problem solvers and improve your offerings.
  • Integrate customer interactions with brand-building efforts to showcase real value and foster loyalty.
  • Aim to transform every product experience into a potential user acquisition channel.
  • Focus on problem-solving and adding genuine customer value, which builds brand loyalty.
  • In challenging economic times, selectively target a customer base with transparent, addressable needs.
  • View human capital as the bedrock of your business and prioritise hiring individuals who align with your brand’s mission and values.
  • Develop a human-first brand strategy that prioritises customer relationships and personal engagement.
  • Prioritise direct feedback from customers to tailor the technology to their journey.


“You’ve got to hire great marketers. We believe in brands, great marketers, and in telling good stories. Part of our development of Postal has always been to be the best storytellers out there and listen to our customers.” – Erik Kostelnik

Can you share the story behind Postal and the inspiration that led to its creation? Give us an overview of the journey you’ve embarked on since its inception.

Erik shared the inception of Postal, reflecting on his extensive experience as a seller, CRO, and entrepreneur focused on the go-to-market strategy. Inspired by the lack of a technology-first platform for B2B direct mail automation, he and his co-founder saw an opportunity to serve the sales and MarTech community. Erik’s vision involved three core aspects: systems of record, such as CRM and marketing automation; business intelligence systems providing market signals; and effective channels for targeting accounts. Identifying a gap in direct mail, they launched Postal in 2019. Despite economic downturns, the company has thrived, signalling the success of its solution and its value in servicing a critical marketing channel.

Walk us through the primary features and advantages of an offline marketing automation platform and explain how it brings value to its users.

Postal is a platform that revolutionises customer and prospect engagement through direct mail, a channel traditionally known for its operational challenges. Postal disrupts the norm with its ‘pattern interrupt’ strategy by capturing unexpected attention. Integrating advanced technology infrastructure, Postal enables direct mail to operate efficiently and measurably through digital channels like advertising and email. This integration allows for precise budgeting, targeting, and measurement of engagement efforts, translating into tangible increases in conversion rates across both sales and marketing funnels. Erik emphasises the value of integrating Postal with existing systems, ensuring that direct mail becomes a cohesive part of the overall go-to-market strategy.

As a relatively new player in the martech landscape, we’d love to explore your brand and marketing strategies. How do you navigate the challenges of this competitive market, and what insights can you share about your approach?

For businesses looking to impact their market, Postal showcases the importance of investing in top-tier marketing talent to tell compelling brand stories. Erik points out that a brand should reflect a company’s values. In Postal’s case, it’s about balancing professionalism with enjoyment and maintaining an ethos of growth and learning. Creating a solid brand goes hand in hand with creating viral experiences through products or services, turning each engagement into a potential marketing opportunity. This approach builds the brand’s reputation and serves as a resource for customers, solving their problems and adding value to their operations.

How do you perceive the evolving demand for marketing automation systems in today’s landscape? What are your thoughts on the anticipated future needs of users in terms of platform features and functionalities within this segment?

As marketing automation platforms advance, incorporating AI and automation in business tools will become standard. However, the anticipated future needs of users will likely include a desire for human interaction within this high-tech landscape. Erik suggests that while automation enhances efficiency, companies must ensure it doesn’t replace the human connection. The key takeaway for businesses is to develop a human-first brand strategy, using AI as an aid, not a substitute. This approach will become more critical as customers push back against impersonal automated systems and seek brands offering a more personal touch.

Could you shed light on some of the prevalent misconceptions regarding marketing automation that you believe are important to address and clarify

As MarTech evolves, it’s crucial to identify and focus on the technology that explicitly addresses your business problems. With an overwhelming number of options, Erik advises seeking professional guidance to make informed choices. As the market heads towards inevitable consolidation due to economic pressures, expect to see fewer but more versatile service providers emerge. Amidst these changes, the essence of business interactions—people dealing with people—remains unchanged. Businesses should not lose sight of this human element as they adapt to a more integrated technological environment.

For marketers on the verge of choosing a marketing automation system for their needs, what valuable tips and advice would you offer to help them make an informed decision?

For marketers on the cusp of investing in MarTech, it’s important to sift through the noise of the marketplace and seek authentic insights. Scepticism towards third-party reviews and user stories is healthy, as these platforms can sometimes misrepresent the true efficacy of the technology. Instead, focusing on how top players in the market leverage their tools can serve as a reliable benchmark. The goal should be to forge partnerships with vendors who are invested in your success, guiding you to use their platforms in a way that sets industry standards and possibly turns your use case into a success story for others to follow.

Good reads: Is there a book, blog, newsletter, website, or video that you would recommend to our listeners?

Podcast – Taking Flight: GTM Experiments From Today’s Top Leaders

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Paperback by Walter Isaacson

Some good people: Could you share the names of 3 inspirational people in the B2B space that you recommend we bring to the show?

How can listeners get in touch with you after this podcast?

Manny MedinaCEO of Outreach

Henry Schuck – CEO & Founder of ZoomInfo


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