🍾 Brex's champagne campaigns

Plus: 6 signs you should fire someone...

Today’s Tech Creator is 1,565 words, a 6 minute read.

In this edition, we’re studying a masterclass on marketing and personalization, when to let go of an employee, and how you can forge imposter syndrome to your advantage as a founder.


Brex's champagne campaigns: a masterclass in targeted personalized marketing

Brex's champagne campaigns is one of the most genius marketing moves in startup history…

Here’s the playbook:

Brex sent their prospects a bottle of champagne with a handwritten note from their CEO. Each bottle cost $50, and they had 300 prospects. They only used prospects in the Bay Area who had recently done a big fundraising round.

The handwritten note said, "Congrats on your recent fundraise! We know how hard it is to build a startup and we're rooting for you."

Shortly after delivery, the CEO would email the prospect asking if they would be open to a demo. 75% of the prospects said yes. They did 225 demos. From this, they got 169 new customers. Their total spend was $19,000. $15,000 for the champagne. $2,000 for the handwritten notes. $2,000 for TaskRabbit delivery. Brex launched in 2018 as the first corporate card for startups.

Just one single customer is worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their $19,000 campaign got them 169 of these customers. Champagne campaigns. And shout out to the marketing madman behind it, Sam Blond.

Let’s break down why this campaign was so effective and how you can apply 4 strategies to your business:

1. Target your outreach: focus on a specific, high-potential group of prospects who are likely to benefit from your product or service.

Brex focused on a specific group of prospects—those in the Bay Area who had recently completed significant fundraising rounds. Laser focusing to ensure the recipients were in a prime position to consider Brex's offerings.

2. Personalize your touch: make use of personalized gestures, such as handwritten notes or thoughtful gifts, to create a memorable connection with your prospects.

Each prospect received a bottle of champagne along with a handwritten note from the CEO. This personal touch made the gesture memorable and created a positive emotional connection with the brand.

3. Follow-up strategically: time your follow-up communications to coincide with the positive impact of your initial outreach, increasing the likelihood of engagement.

Shortly after the champagne delivery, the CEO sent an email asking if the prospect was open to a demo. This timely follow-up capitalized on the goodwill generated by the initial gift, significantly increasing the chances of securing a meeting.

4. Measure and optimize: track the results of your campaigns carefully and be prepared to adjust your approach based on what works best.

75% of prospects agreed to a demo, and 75% of those demos converted into customers. While the total cost of the campaign was $19,000. Considering that just one customer could be worth several hundred thousand dollars, the return on investment was substantial. Brex gained 169 new customers, illustrating how a relatively small investment can yield significant returns.


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6 signs you should fire someone

Keeping the wrong person on board can be more damaging for your startup than letting them go. 

Most founders hesitate to fire employees, often giving them too many chances. However, waiting too long can jeopardize your entire business. So, how do you know when it’s the right time to let someone go?

Here are six clear signals that it's time:

  1. They lose your trust: when you hire someone at a startup, you're making a leap of faith by trusting them right from the start. Unlike larger companies, startups don't have the luxury of time to build trust slowly. If an employee loses your trust, it disrupts the essential fast-paced environment. Look out for someone who:

  • Consistently communicates poorly or isn’t reliable.

  • They lie to you, other team members, or external stakeholders.

  • Over-promises and under-delivers on quality or deadlines repeatedly.

  1. They don’t learn from mistakes: mistakes are part and parcel of startup life. However, repeating the same mistakes is not. If an employee fails to learn from their errors despite guidance, it signals they may not be ready for the level of responsibility required. You want people who can rapidly grow and take on more, not those for whom you'll need to hire managers.

  2. They’re not taking enough initiative: startups thrive on proactive, self-starting individuals who seize opportunities and take action without needing constant direction. If an employee requires excessive oversight and isn't proactively solving problems, identifying areas for improvement, or bringing new ideas to the table, it weighs down execution.

  3. They’re not a culture fit: culture fit is crucial in a startup where the work environment can be intense and personal dynamics play a significant role in success. If an employee's values and working style severely clash with the company values and the way the team naturally operates, it leads to misalignment and unhealthy conflicts.

  4. The team doesn’t respect them: Respect is fundamental for effective collaboration and productivity. If the team doesn’t respect an individual, it can lead to significant issues: Team members are reluctant to collaborate with them or frequently bypass them. There is a noticeable lack of communication or a breakdown in team dynamics involving the individual. They fail to gain trust and respect due to perceived incompetence, poor behavior, or lack of leadership skills.

  5. Their work just isn’t getting done: at a startup, every team member's contribution is critical. If someone isn’t delivering, it affects the whole team and the company's progress. You simply cannot afford to have underperformers whose name keeps coming up for dropping the ball, and other teammates have to have to pick up their slack, which hampers overall productivity and team morale.

The bottom line: at a startup, you need a unified, high-performing team with everyone rowing in the same direction. Even a single underperformer can disrupt that cadence and put the entire mission at risk. So, always keep a lookout for these 6 signs.


Why imposter syndrome is a superpower

Imposter syndrome is often seen as a negative force, but it doesn’t have to be. It's a common feeling, especially in the startup world where the stakes are high and the pressure is constant. Most advice on this topic misses the mark, treating imposter syndrome as something to be cured or managed.

What if we flipped the script? What if I told you that imposter syndrome can be a superpower? Here’s why and how to harness it.

Frees you from expectations and reputation: the beauty of feeling like an imposter is that it frees you from the weight of lofty expectations and reputations to uphold. This liberating mindset allows you to get scrappy, experiment shamelessly, and take unconventional approaches without fear of failure. Feeling like an imposter can push you to work harder and strive for excellence. 

Heightened self-awareness: imposter syndrome makes you more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness can lead to personal and professional growth, as you seek to improve areas where you feel less confident. The fear of being "found out" can drive you to prepare more thoroughly and seek continuous improvement, often leading to higher performance.

Continuous learning: imposters are often driven by a need to prove themselves, which can result in a strong commitment to learning and development. When you don't have a prestigious background to fall back on, you're forced to outwork and outsmart your competition through sheer grit and ingenuity. This hunger can breed a level of calm confidence that helps you punch above your weight class.

Empathy and humility: eexperiencing imposter syndrome can make you more empathetic and humble. You understand the struggles of others, which can improve your leadership skills and make you a more supportive and understanding founder.

Embrace the negatives: the worst that can happen is they say no. But each rejection becomes an opportunity to learn, adapt, and try again with a new approach – a mindset that is critical for iterating to success. Moreover, when you're constantly operating outside your comfort zone, which is precisely where growth happens.

The bottom line: everyone fails. Everyone expects you to fail at first as a founder – use that to your advantage. Lean into the underdog mentality, get comfortable being uncomfortable, and you may just surprise yourself and the world with what you're capable of achieving. Remember, it’s not about eliminating imposter syndrome; it’s about leveraging it to become the best version of yourself.


Everything you need to know today

That brings us to the end of this week’s edition. We hope you’ve had some key takeaways and news to keep you fuelled for the week ahead.

We’ll see you again next week, same time, same place!