10 Estonian Top Marketing Managers: Advice for Beginners, Lessons Learned & Marketing in 2020

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Estonia might be a country that you’ve perhaps only heard of in the Eurovision Song Contest but in addition to that, it’s also a pioneering country in many other fields.

In fact, some people even call it the Silicon Valley of Europe.

As our first interview article with Estonian top marketers turned out to be insanely popular, we decided to launch the round two. This time, we’ve also added another great marketer to our roundup article, so that you could benefit even more from it.

Ready to find out the most valuable lessons, learn from the best and read some crazy predictions about marketing in 2020? Read on!

1) What advice do you have for marketers who are just starting out?

2) What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career about marketing and business growth in general?

3) What will happen to marketing in 2020?

1) What advice do you have for marketers who are just starting out?

Triinu Murumäe, Chief Marketing Officer at Insly

Do your research; find out what your competitors are doing and what they’re not doing. Do what others aren’t doing or won’t do.

Ensure your content is 100% awesome. It’s hard to define what makes very good content, but Google uses a number of indicators to help decide whether a piece of content is of high quality or not. The best way to do both of those things is to simply ensure that the content is so good that readers want to share it.

Dedicate resources to content promotion. Even if your content is really good, it still might not get the engagement. You can give it a boost by promoting it in a number of ways.

Social Media is only getting bigger. Maximize your presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and depending on an audience on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Analyze your website SEO. Investigate your page titles and meta descriptions. In organic search results, the difference between an excellent title and one that is not is usually the difference that can get someone to click on your listing.

Karola Karlson, Digital Marketing Manager at Scoro

As someone who started learning marketing from scratch on my own, I get this question a lot. Whenever I interview a digital marketing candidate, I look for a single trait: curiosity.

If you’re curious and passionate about marketing, nothing’s standing in your way. There seems to be a real draught of good digital marketers here in Estonia, and I’m really proud of the two girls I’m mentoring at the moment: Leen and Lele.

So my advice would be: find yourself a marketing mentor who’s willing to point out good learning resources and introduce you to the right people. If you’re just starting out and have no experience, send your CV to every single marketing agency in Estonia, asking to do an internship with them. If you’re a good writer, someone will take you along, and that’s the starting point for your career.

Ott Jõgi, Head of Marketing at WeekDone

Alongside the 3 most valuable lessons points, I would say the ability to think long-term. Be determined to look at your company’s marketing as a long-term strategy. It is so easy to get caught up with short-term metrics, short-term action plan etc. It is good to fail fast, but your strategy needs a longer period to be tested. In addition, your boss and coworkers will pressure you to have success right away, so just make sure you keep to your guns.

Quarterly Objectives and Key Results – OKRs really help with that. Mainly because 3 months is a good period to test your strategy out in marketing and OKRs will be set up with your boss and coworkers, so they are interested and you can hold them accountable when they start changing their mind after the first month.

Oliver Vesi, Head of Marketing at GoWorkaBit

If anyone has a plan to study marketing at a university, I would recommend making sure that the teachers there are actually practitioners and the curriculum includes a lot of hands-on studying. That way you can already gain more actionable insights and new contacts, that will be beneficial in the future. Otherwise, you’ll just be studying theoretical background and you won’t learn that much about the latest trends and best practices.

One of the most useful skill these days is the “googling skill”. If you’re a self-learner and really want to learn something new, you can probably find all the necessary information, tutorials, and examples from Google. There’s a huge number of different free courses, blogs, videos, case studies etc, that can provide you with the necessary knowledge for starting out. If you still feel that you could gain more knowledge & ideas from a formal education, you can go and study marketing somewhere else.

After you’ve learned something new, put that knowledge into practice. For example, you could start your own blog and try to market it. Employers also value proactive people. Another thing that you could do, is to get an internship in a marketing agency. You’ll get a better understanding of how the communication with the clients works, how goals for clients are set and how the business works in general.

Liina Ilves, Marketing Manager at Click & Grow

It’s important to have an analytical mindset and understanding of human behaviour & their triggers. So whatever you can do to improve those two things, that’s what you should be focusing on.

Also, it’s important to stay flexible and have grit. The digital marketing landscape is evolving and changing fast, you’ve got to have an inner desire to keep up with the field, learn more and persist.

Mart Virkus, Marketing Team Lead at Toggl

Instead of studying marketing at a university, I’d go and learn something different, perhaps something like the business administration to understand more on how the business world really works. The reason why I wouldn’t recommend to study marketing at a university is because it’s such a fast-changing field. There’s always something new to discover and to learn and it’s usually too difficult for the universities to keep up with the pace. Be a practitioner – practice makes perfect.

My university background is in anthropology—the study of what makes us human. In my case, it has helped to understand more about the psychology and the way how humans behave. A strange or a different background can be a huge plus in marketing.

I’d also recommend trying to market something on your own—like a blog, website or something else. Testing is the way to find out which channels and practices work in marketing, and what don’t. Companies are looking for people who are practitioners—in reality, a degree doesn’t help you to find a job. Period.

Also, we’re currently hiring new talent in Toggl. Seems interesting? Find out more.

Elen Veenpere, former Marketing Manager at Teleport

I wouldn’t say that a person shouldn’t study at a university but if you want to work in the field of digital marketing, it’s not always necessary.

You can also learn about the ABCs of marketing from different blogs, podcasts, and books. All the other skills will develop when someone actually starts their work and discovers which practices work, and which don’t.

If I should start learning about marketing today, I wouldn’t attend a university but would try to get as much practical experience as possible and learn from my own successes and mistakes. Marketing is such a fast-changing field and it’s always evolving. What can work for one business may not work for another one. You must constantly test and learn.

Sander Gansen, former CMO at Shipitwise

I’d recommend to study marketing at a university if you’re not a self-driven person and can’t learn without external help. If you’re able to discipline yourself, you can learn by reading blogs and books, listening podcasts or even by watching YouTube video tutorials.

I’ve never learned anything about marketing in school, so that’s why I guess it’s not really that important to get a degree in marketing.

My main recommendations for anyone who’s starting out in digital marketing.

  • Start using any marketing tools and platforms that you may find, test them and be a practitioner from the day one.
  • Try to find a job or an internship in a smaller startup or a marketing agency. Connect with different people, get as much practice as possible—you will benefit from it in the future.
  • Be an early adopter of new tools and platforms. If you do that, it’s easier to become an expert or an influencer.
  • Build your own audience and get followers—the quickest way to do that is by sharing high-quality content (blog, videos, audio, image or whatever).

Annika Helendi, CEO at Teamweek (former Marketing Manager at Toggl)

There’s no point of going to school to study digital marketing. After you’ve finished your studies, a lot of the things that you learned in school will already be old. Digital marketing moves fast. I’d rather go and learn computer science since it’s becoming a really technical environment these days and companies expect that you can even write a little bit of code and understand programming.

Be a practitioner, don’t just think that something works since someone told you that something is the way to do it. Test, learn from the mistakes and improve.

Failing over and over again, learning from the mistakes & fixing them are the key components to success.

Start learning from blogs and books and take it to the practical level. Perhaps test out different marketing tools with your own blog? 🙂

Annika Ljaš

Annika Ljaš, Marketing Communications Manager at Planet OS

If you believe that you could become a great marketer, my recommendation is to study something in a field of science—be it cyber security, space engineering, energy, or something related. Having knowledge in a field that is highly valued in the (future) world, gives you a guarantee that you’ll have a job even when most of the marketing activities get automated and done by computers. It provides you with context.

The best marketers aren’t the ones who only know about marketing. To be really good at marketing, you need to know a lot about the industry that your company is in.

Looking back, it worked just the same for me. In my early years when I worked at SK, I gained a deep knowledge of Estonian IT systems and the benefits of having a secure identity online and an efficient e-state. That background has proved to be valuable in all the other marketing roles I have taken in IT.

Then again, if you’re really into writing, you could become an amazing content marketing expert etc. It doesn’t have to be science that you study but become great at something that will be valuable in the future world.

If you want to test if startup marketing would be something for you, check out these resources and see if they make you excited:

2) What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career about marketing and business growth in general?

Triinu Murumäe, Chief Marketing Officer at Insly

I would point out the importance of cooperation between sales and marketing teams. It is important that the team will work in a tandem for maximum results. This requires coordinating on brand and product positioning throughout the prospect’s entire sales journey. It is important to share the data about leads, and customers and analyze it to improve the tactics.

Secondly, it is important to be consistent. Nothing comes over night but if you make efforts and focus on your goals and measure KPIs then you will be successful.

Karola Karlson, Digital Marketing Manager at Scoro

Ooh, there are so many. I’ll make this answer a rundown of random thoughts I’ve found myself contemplating about lately.

  • You should always do the things you’re under-qualified to do – this way, you’ll master a skill at a 10x faster rate.
  • If you’re confident, they’ll come – don’t let your customers know that you’re dying to get them. Act cool and they’ll come to you instead.
  • Work on your relationships – in business and life in general, relationships matter a great deal. My coolest guest blogging gigs were via the people to whom I reached out to on my own or who found me via another blog.
  • Be skeptical about best practices – don’t believe all the facts and stats you see online, test the assumptions on your own.
  • Always trust the data – if you’re unsure whether your gut feeling’s right, do an A/B test instead of jumping to a conclusion.

Ott JõgiHead of Marketing at WeekDone

Be agile and fail faster. I have worked in a large corporation, in a media agency and now in a startup. I think all the other marketing models have 1 thing to learn from startups and that is to be agiler. I am blessed with a great team of talented people who are able to mobilize themselves very quickly. For example, I had an idea for a “Manager Simulator” game in marketing, but I knew it would take a lot of time. That was the old mindset speaking.

What ended up happening was that we combined a team building exercise with useful work and did a 48h hackathon to complete the game. It turned out great and our whole team was behind it. I think everybody can do something like that with their team. Concerning failing faster, I would advise all the digital marketers to fail faster with campaigns, facebook or other paid media ads.

Nowadays, you can see even within hours how something is performing. I would advise not to wait too long and fail faster. We have a human bias to think that our content or our ads should perform great and then you end up waiting for it to do well, which just wastes money.

Have a customer acquisition cost in every step of the customer journey. It just makes your life so much easier as a marketer. Usually, it is quite hard to figure out how much you can pay for a click, signup or a paying customer and still be cost efficient. So many factors are included in calculating it. I would recommend to just have some number that is good enough. It is better than nothing.

Sit down with your co-workers and come up with the best number you can. You are able to make quick and easy decisions. For example, paid media. If the signup or new visit price is over your CAC, then you optimize or stop doing it.

Talk to your customers regularly. It was one of the first things I started doing when I came to Weekdone because it is so much better if a real person says that your product is great than the company praising itself. Also, it is a great way to start in a new company. Talking to your clients you get the best sales points, you understand what content they need and also it is really nice to hear nice things about the product – gives you extra motivation. Again, getting a hold of your customers and getting them to open up is hard and you need to be persistent, but it is totally worth it. I am really proud of our clients and case studies we have made.

Oliver Vesi, Head of Marketing at GoWorkaBit

Firstly, I’ve learned to keep the most important business objectives in mind when working on any of the marketing activities.

Secondly, you must test everything and learn from the mistakes – in our company, we’ve started to use MVP modeling with our marketing efforts – we test our marketing messages and campaigns on a smaller group before we launch big with our marketing campaigns. This approach helps us to save time and avoid costly mistakes.

Also, find the balance between creating content and distributing it. Smaller campaigns can work with less distribution, but larger ones need a lot of time and effort.

What is more—never forget to teach and educate your clients. It’s common to explain the meaning of some definitions to the clients like you would explain them to a 6-year-old child. And if you see that something can be too difficult to accomplish, don’t hide your doubts from the client. Tell them honestly, that we’ll be learning and testing a lot, but we’ll always try to give our best.

Liina Ilves, Marketing Manager at Click & Grow

In general, it’s all about the quality of the product or service. You can do and say whatever you like and it might work short-term, but if you’re selling a faulty product or offering an average to bad service, you’ll be out of business soon. You have to understand your customers and offer them something of value.

So I think it’s really important for the marketing team in any business to make sure they trust the product they are selling or branding and believe they are offering something of real value to the customers.

If you don’t have enough data to understand how your customers feel about the product, it’s important to collect it. Gather feedback and optimize based on that. Gathering feedback doesn’t mean sending out surveys or questionnaires relentlessly. Everything you put out will give you feedback. The ads you show, the pitch you use, the content you share, the way you talk about your product/service in general. Target, test, analyze, learn, optimize.

Mart Virkus, Marketing Team Lead at Toggl

Having a focus is crucial. It’s better to work in a niche and put all your efforts on that because if someone starts to play around with a lot of different things, it’s more likely that he or she will have just about average skills in all of the things and areas. Do less, but be really good at what you do.

Remote work is great. These days, during our job interviews, we try to filter out the people who don’t seem to be able to work well remotely. To be successful, we must have the right people on our team and well-working communication channels & processes in place.

Strong marketing campaigns play with the audience’s emotions. The stronger the emotional feeling, the more easily people get interested and interact with your content.

Be yourself, you don’t always need to be liked by everybody. Create marketing campaigns that will be remembered—you can even take your efforts to different extremes, but as a marketer, you’ll need to take the responsibility when you “cross the line” and go beyond what is proper or acceptable.

Elen Veenpere, former Marketing Manager at Teleport

My first lesson is that doing random marketing stuff won’t bring you any good results. All the marketing activities must have certain goals in mind, otherwise, you’ll be carrying out irrelevant tasks which aren’t that important.

The second lesson is that it’s okay to fail. If we set a marketing objective and we work hard for that objective but still fail, then that’s totally acceptable. But if we set a goal, and won’t put in any work to achieve it, then that’s not acceptable.

And the third lesson is that people are not dumb. Don’t be trapped by dogmas, marketing is not always black and white. Trust yourself, be yourself and do the things in a way that you believe they should be done.

Sander Gansen, former CMO at Shipitwise

In my opinion, you don’t need much intelligence, technical know-how or a great product to succeed with your startup. You can also become successful and get ahead of others if you do one of the two things really well—focus on a specific activity or eat a lot of shit. 🙂

The team and the people are a hugely important part of your business. I’ve seen problems with smaller teams who have good leaders, but the lack of any hard skills that can be measured. You need people who have the actual ability to take your business forward.

Estonia is a great environment for starting your business but the size of the market is as big as a small fish is in a giant ocean. You need to have a global mindset if you really wish to succeed with your startup.

And because of the previous reason – if you want to sell your product or promote it in a far away market, you need to move to there as well. Be where your main clients are and you’ll understand their needs, problems, challenges a whole lot better.

Annika Helendi, CEO at Teamweek (ex Marketing Manager at Toggl)

The first lesson for me has been that the most important part is having a focus. In the beginning phase of a startup, a marketer needs to do a lot, but the best results come when you know the direction where you’re heading, you have certain goals in place and you’re focused on achieving them.

Secondly, those certain goals need to be measurable. Otherwise, you won’t know if they are achievable.

The third lesson for me has been that there’s no point of doing anything for the local Estonian market. If you plan to go big and get far into a global scale, you should start doing everything in English from the first day.

We are also huge fans of remote working – the people are happier, the results are better, it’s more cost-effective, and there’s a whole lot less stressing. Everyone on the team needs to have the sense of duty. To achieve that, we also keep the team members on the same page with weekly video calls, and at least for four times a year the whole team gets together and has fun together. We’ve decided that working in our office is totally optional for our employees.

Another lesson would be that a marketing campaign that won’t cause any disruption is quite pointless. Some of the most successful marketing campaigns have been the ones where we’ve received letters from people who’ve written something like “I go to church and you sent me a t-shirt like this. This is not normal…” 🙂

Annika Ljaš

Annika Ljaš, Marketing Communications Manager at Planet OS

Understand if your business is marketing or sales-driven. It’s really the foundation of all your activities. If it’s marketing-driven, then there is an original demand for your product and you can grow your business with just doing more and better marketing.If it’s sales-driven, your business will only grow if the sales team is doing a great job in reaching out to prospects and closing deals. Then your role as a marketing manager is to grow brand awareness and help the sales team in any way you can. There’s a great blog post by Mark Leslie to understand the difference –Read it here

Planet OS is a sales-driven company and we’ve grown the brand awareness via thought leadership. My goal is to build trust and collect new leads for sales purposes. Recently, we launched a new project called Visionary Series where we interview 10 most significant global thinkers in the energy industry asking them about their vision for the future of smarter energy. (P.S. That’s what Holini is doing. 🙂 ).It’s a great way to show your brand together with people that are respected in your industry. Building a strong, trusted brand is very important for sales-driven B2B companies.

Secondly, I have learned not to listen too much to other people’s opinions and suggestions. I prefer to make the challenge clear for myself, break up the problem and then find a solution. On many occasions, the advice from outside can be a distraction and it can make you lose your focus.

Thirdly, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, or have better skills in something you want to improve. It will help you learn so much faster. That’s also a reason why I spend half of my time in San Francisco and spend time with people who have built successful businesses at global scale. Hint: whenever you travel, always check for meetups and relevant conferences that are happening in bigger cities.

Finally, if you’re a marketer and your startup wants to go global, you need to go outside of the local market. Estonian market is very small and as almost everyone knows each other, the market is twisted. Soon after you’ve expanded to a foreign market, you will realize that most of the things that used to work in Estonia, will not work for you in the new market.  

3) What will happen to marketing in 2020?

Triinu Murumäe, Chief Marketing Officer at Insly

I am quite sure that video marketing will achieve the status to be the most used way in digital marketing. And if both text and video are available on the same topic on the same page, customers prefer to watch the video. Facebook leadership predicts that the majority of content shared on the platform in five years will be video.

Avinash Kaushik of Google recently said, “It’s not a mobile first world, it’s becoming a mobile only world”.

Karola Karlson, Digital Marketing Manager at Scoro

Robots will replace the marketers. Lol, not really. But I do believe that machine learning and AI will empower marketers with intelligent tools that help to auto-optimize and get awe-inspiring audience insights. I believe that marketing tools will have the capacity to recognize complex user patterns and automate a huge part of personalized marketing. However, these tools couldn’t work with the marketers who know how to communicate with a living person.

The skills that will never grow out of fashion will be great copywriting, creativity, and the ability to work as a translator between the marketing team and intelligent tools. As we perceive what’s happened to marketing in the past 10 years, it’s the saturation of all marketing channels with countless voices, each trying to be heard.

I believe that in 2020, there will be ever more of these voices, but only a few will have the creativity and expertise to stand out. There’s a lot of buzz around video right now. If have to make one prediction, it’s that video will be long forgotten by 2020 and we’ve found a new marketing obsession to talk about.

Ott JõgiHead of Marketing at WeekDone

More quality content, a smarter automation and a game changer I am not able to foresee. The first two are already happening and I am glad to be part of it. The life for consumers will improve. There is so much content right now, so it is crucial to make very high-quality content that people actually like. Furthermore, we will be able to give each customer a unique customer experience, because it will be automated to their needs and behaviour patterns only.

I am not sure if this will happen, but I hope content marketing keeps evolving and remains one of the main ways to market your product. Content marketing is more seamless and makes the consumer comfortable. In addition, content marketing makes sure companies are giving customers value instead of forcing them to do something.

Oliver Vesi, Head of Marketing at GoWorkaBit

Today, and also in the year of 2020, one of the most important things that a marketer can do is to not only sell and convince, but provide as much value as possible to the potential customer. The channels and formats for delivering the valuable content may change, but the ABCs of marketing and consumer psychology won’t.

The ability to provide potential customers with valuable info and content before the actual purchase is becoming even more crucial.  

Using user data more wisely will sure make marketing more personal. Google and Facebook are leading the way for using their data to create more personalized experiences for customers.

Liina Ilves, Marketing Manager at Click & Grow

I think we’ll be seeing highly targeted & personalized 1-on-1 marketing across all devices and channels. An ad will look less and less like an ad and actually feel like a seamless consumer experience for a customer. Which I think will be a win-win for both parties.

Mart Virkus, Marketing Team Lead at Toggl

In the current startup scene, there’s a large number of unicorns who live on their investors’ money but haven’t actually shown any signs of becoming sustainable companies in the long term. I think that by 2020, there will be less such companies because they haven’t been able to generate enough revenue and money and have gone out of business.

Also, the investors will become more aware of the situation and they will start to invest their capital into startups more wisely than in previous times.

For example, SnapChat seems to have a good potential to grow as a marketing channel but at the same time, Facebook has copied so much of their stuff that it will be hard to tell where the large giants will be by then. Some of them might have crashed and other’s grown another 10 times. 🙂

The strongest startups will survive and those will be the businesses who are able to show a profit as soon as possible. It’s difficult to survive if your success only lies on hype.

Investors will be looking cockroach startups instead of the unicorns—these are the companies which can generate their own revenue, grow a lot and become profitable.

Elen Veenpere, former Marketing Manager at Teleport

During the past four years, I’ve noticed that people’s attention span has decreased a lot. So when people visit your website and don’t understand in three seconds, what your business does and what benefits it has for them, they will just leave.

A lot of people don’t bother to read longer articles and posts because they just don’t have time for it. Delivering information will be a more difficult challenge because people are losing their attention so much quicker.

I’ve learned the truth—the shorter, the better. 🙂

Sander Gansen, former CMO at Shipitwise

It’s already a very popular topic these days and that’s the topic of the mobile-first world. In 2020, not a single marketer could ignore the mobile devices, that’s for sure.

I also believe that the future won’t simply be a mobile-first world because people are using their smartphone more often but because the world will move towards a mobile-only world. The value of quality content will rise even higher—doesn’t matter if it’s video, audio or text.

More than that, the importance of VR & AR is rising and I won’t be too surprised we’d already have the first ads in those channels by that time.

Annika Helendi, CEO at Teamweek (former Marketing Manager at Toggl)

More startups will start to develop side products with a goal that those products will then help them to promote the main product of their business.

In Toggl and Teamweek, we’ve already created a variety of different side products which have turned out to be quite popular

The gravity of quality content will increase. That’s what we’ve also focused on in Teamweek. A great example is The Blueprint (a magazine for curious creatives) which is run by Laura Noodapera.

We will see more artificial intelligence and machine learning will also start to have a bigger influence on marketing. Or perhaps there will be no Internet by 2020 and it’s a whole different world? 🙂

Annika Ljaš

Annika Ljaš, Marketing Communications Manager at Planet OS

The world is becoming more transparent each day. Consumers are wise and know what they want. In the near future, we’ll see companies publicly sharing the exact differences between them and their competitors. As the speed of decision-making will be faster, being transparent and honest helps the customer spend less time on googling and comparing which product/service to choose.

We’ll see increasingly more outsourcing instead of maintaining in-house marketing teams. Solo freelancers and agencies that are strong at a certain niche will provide a better quality than in-house teams. With each year, there will be less “jacks of all trades” in marketing as more and more people see value in becoming great at something specific as opposed to being generalists, who can do a bit of everything but are great at none.

Final Thoughts

In this part of the series, the marketing managers revealed a lot of valuable insights, so hopefully, you got at least a few actionable ideas that can help you to become a better marketer.

In the next roundup post, you’ll get answers to these intriguing questions

  1. If you got an extra €10K to improve your marketing results, where would you start?
  2. What are your company’s main KPI’s?
  3. What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to improve the performance of their website?

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If you have any valuable lessons that you’ve learned about marketing or business growth in general or you’d like to give your advice for marketers who are just starting out, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Cheers! 🤜💥🤛

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