This episode is part two of our conversation with Nathaniel Yim, co-founder and head of marketing at Janio Asia, leading Southeast Asia logistics technology platform. While in part one Nathan shared how Janio’s content marketing strategy has contributed to commercial success for the company, this time he dishes out practical advice on handling speaking engagements, press releases, and ads, as well as how he built Janio’s Marketing team and how they’re looking at the future of marketing at the company.
00:51 Nathan’s tips on handling speaking engagements;
02:39 Nathan’s tips on managing press releases;
04:19 Nathan on timing press releases;
05:40 Common misconceptions founders have when it comes to B2B marketing for startups;
08:39 Nathan’s approach to building Janio’s marketing team;
11:03 The future of marketing at Janio;
13:21 Nathan’s favorite books, movie, apps, travel destination, and recommendations;
Paulo: Going back to the whole concept of getting everybody involved in the marketing strategy and I think many founders in our audience would also be interested to know is what are the best practices when it comes to handling interviews like this. Say, you know, ’cause not all of the interviews are done by the marketing team, right or the marketing head. Sometimes the COO comes out like Ali or, you know, Junkai comes out and does a panel.
So what are the best practices when it comes to handling these types of interviews? What advice do you have for founders? What are some of the misconceptions first-time founders have about the role of marketing/marketing strategy, especially for B2B startups?
Nathaniel: Okay. I would say it’s really dependent on the personality of the spokesperson. I mean some people prefer being spontaneous and just thinking on their feet and answering on the spot. That works for them, but I would say for perhaps those who are not as extroverted or who don’t spend too much time engaging external audiences, a good way to prepare for this would be to try to get a hold of the questions beforehand.
Not everybody would share questions beforehand, but if the interviewer or the media company or whoever it is you’re speaking to is willing to do so, that really helps you to prepare. Also internally, I think it’s important for you to speak to the rest of your stakeholders like maybe your co-founders or the marketing team, or whoever to agree on what are some things that should be said, or shouldn’t be said, because you don’t want to disclose something that might be sensitive, but at the same time, there are some things that would be interesting or juicy for the interviewer and the audience to hear that you might want to disclose.
So agree beforehand with the rest of your key stakeholders what are some things that you can or can’t say. I think if you are able to do those two things, generally you’ll be in a good spot. You can also consider even rehearsing with your own — if you have an internal marketer or spokesperson who is comfortable with public speaking, you can do a rehearsal with them as well.
That does help, perhaps for founders who might be a bit more nervous being under the spotlight. That might be a good way for them to prepare as well.
So agree beforehand with the rest of your key stakeholders what are some things that you can or can’t say.
Paulo: Right. I think that’s pretty great and practical advice for founders who are uncomfortable with public speaking or doing these interviews, right. But eventually, at some point, you know, especially if you want to build that thought leadership in your space, you would need to have to do these things, right. And speaking of public relations, another thing that founders often ask us at Insignia, in particular, is how to handle press releases and PR. Do you have any thoughts from your own experience or best practices that you do when it comes to handling press releases?
Nathaniel: I think the key thing to take note about press releases and by press release, I take it that you mean newspapers, mainstream outlets that would do an interview or something and then publish.
The key thing about this, about doing a press release through these outlets is that once the interview is done, you will not be able to take back anything you’ve said.
So you really need to make sure you know what you can and cannot say beforehand, because once the papers are printed, there’s no way you can recall the paper, right? So you really need to prepare beforehand. And if there’s anything that should be off the record or on the record, you need to make that distinction very clear when you’re speaking to your interviewer.
Of course, there are sometimes where perhaps there might be something you want to say, but you do not want to be quoted for it. If the information is available online or on a public source, you can just mention that the interviewer can probably take a look, right? That’s a very subtle way of getting the information out without being quoted, but it’s something that you can do.
I’m quite sure members of the press, they know what that means. So just make sure you get your story straight before you go out because there’s no turning back.
And even if they do, I think at the most, if they are very generous, they will allow you to modify maybe like 10 words or something if it’s just a digital platform. If it’s print media, then there’s no going back.
So just make sure you get your story straight before you go out because there’s no turning back.
Paulo: Thanks for that. I think that’s pretty consistent advice even from the previous question, right — just make sure you have everything down before you go out and do these engagements. How about when it comes to the timing of press releases, do you also have any like, advice on that , especially when it comes to say, for example, like fundraises or like product launches, do you have any like rule of thumb when it comes to timing these things?
Nathaniel: Yep. But it depends on how you go about doing the press release. If you are working with several different stakeholders then I guess there’s something that you could do called an embargo, just agreeing that this is the date and time that they’re going to release their own story. So it doesn’t matter if you’re doing like five interviews with different outlets or one interview with five outlets at the same time, so long as everybody knows that this is the timing, this is the date to follow and they agree and they follow through, then that should be fine.
If you don’t make that clear, people will release it whenever they want. I think sometimes founders might not know that there’s such a thing that they can do, which is to agree on a time to release. They don’t talk about it and then end up with different newspapers releasing at different times. And then you get journalists coming back and saying, “Hey, how come somebody else got there first?” right. So you just have to communicate more and be very clear about when and where you’ll be okay with releasing these kinds of information.
So you just have to communicate more and be very clear about when and where you’ll be okay with releasing these kinds of information.
Paulo: Yeah. And I think that that’s something definitely that founders should take note especially those who are at the early stages are first-time founders. And just going along this thread of best practices and advice, I’d also like to ask about misconceptions, especially being a first-time founder yourself, like in the sense that, coming off university and then immediately co-founding a company.
What are some of the misconceptions that first-time founders have when it comes to the role of marketing, especially B2B marketing?
Nathaniel: That’s a really good question. I think many founders, even marketing founders, the trap that they fall into is thinking that marketing is about — it’s about the brand, it’s about fancy ads, it’s about being on stage in front of 10,000 people and winning awards.
I mean, all that stuff is great, they don’t get me wrong, but when you are a very early stage startup, you don’t have the resources, you don’t have money, you don’t have time and you don’t have the manpower, right? So you need to be very, very selective, and very effective with the way you spend your resources. And of course ultimately what you want to do should help the company in a tangible commercial way, right?
There’s no point getting like a million views and being seen on BBC if it doesn’t translate into any new clients or deals. Because then your company will just die out anyway. So it’s better to not have this kind of coverage and to focus on something else which moves the needle. It’s always better to do that, right?
So I think early on when you start generally there are not many things that you can do. So sometimes when a potential marketing opportunity comes along, when someone says, “Hey, I got this speaking opportunity or, Hey, I got this something that you can tap into or whatever”
For a very early stage startup, usually, I would say it’s good just explore and see what’s going on, but don’t always continue doing the same thing if you know that it doesn’t work. So if you know that speaking engagements of a certain type don’t lead to anything meaningful, then after a while, just stop doing it, don’t do it because everybody else is doing it and you see it on LinkedIn and it looks cool. But if it doesn’t help the company, don’t do it.
So I think very early on, it’s important to have an iterative mindset as well. You can try new things. It’s always about trying new things because that’s the status quo. You need to do something new. Otherwise, there won’t be anything, by making sure you review and see whether it works rather than being fixated on just one channel or one way of doing things.
And it’s not always about ads. I think sometimes I speak to founders, especially younger founders. They’re all about so, “when you start doing ads or how much money do you use?” The truth is we didn’t do any ads for the entire first year of our business and we still managed to get leads. Because we focused on things like content, focused on very specific types of networking events, where we knew our audience would congregate in.
So we were very selective about what we did. So I think don’t be too fixated on having just one channel or one way of doing things. Keep a flexible, agile mindset and look at the data and question yourself and review and see whether certain channels or revenues are working. It’s fine not to get it right at the beginning. There’ll be a lot of hits and misses. More misses than anything else at the beginning, but you must learn from this and figure out what works.
The truth is we didn’t do any ads for the entire first year of our business and we still managed to get leads. Because we focused on things like content, focused on very specific types of networking events, where we knew our audience would congregate in.
Paulo: Right. You basically really focused on that point of really being strategic about how to approach the marketing and really being selective what really works and what doesn’t. and that’s something that I noticed, like Janio — that ability has been really mastered over the years since you guys started.
And I think a huge part of being able to do that is the marketing team, right, and it’s something that you built since you took on the role when Janio started. So I’d like to know what has been your approach to building your marketing team at Janio and attracting, hiring, and retaining marketing talent.
Nathaniel: At the beginning, I would say that perhaps this is common across all the other teams, it wasn’t just unique to marketing. Being a very early stage startup, and unknown company with basically fresh grad founders, it’s very difficult to hire good talent at the beginning. You won’t have experienced managers or even experienced junior staff, with a few years experience signing up left, right, [and] center. In fact, you’ll be rejected most more than anything else because there definitely isn’t much else that you can use to convince people to come on board. So at the start, we looked out for people who believed in what we were doing, we still do.
It’s very important for people to believe in their business and what we’re trying to do. Otherwise, they won’t find purpose in their work. But we also looked at people who are very hungry to learn, to do something new, to take ownership of initiatives, to drive new initiatives that they wouldn’t typically get elsewhere.
So we looked at people who had this growth mindset. Because when you’re starting out, you need that kind of people who can take initiative, who dare to try, take risks, do something new that they have never done before, and learn from setbacks. So we looked out for people that had that kind of mindset.
And as an extension of these people who are very moldable, very, I would say, humble, but at the same time, confident in themselves, humble enough to know that they still have more to learn, and they can improve, but confident enough to try. That was the kind of people that we were looking for. And I would say for many of our teams and for the people who came in early and who are still here, they still have that mindset and you can see it very clearly because we wouldn’t be in this state now, if not for them really.
So we do lookout for people that have that kind of mindset and mentality, And people who can scale themselves over time, we are not looking for people who know how to do everything right away. We look for people who know how to figure things out as they go along and that has held true from the beginning, even now, when we are hiring at this slightly later stage in our journey.
So we are still building a lot of things, a lot of processes, a lot of structures. So we need people who can think and create. It’s not just enough to be able to, follow procedures or to optimize, if that’s the only thing that people want to do, then they will probably not have a very good time here because we are still building many, many different things.
So we need a builder mindset, a growth mindset. It’s very important. Otherwise, there will be some very fundamental misalignments in terms of what people want and what they will experience.
So we are still building a lot of things, a lot of processes, a lot of structures. So we need people who can think and create. It’s not just enough to be able to, follow procedures or to optimize…
Paulo: Right, and speaking of that growth mindset, how do you see Janio’s marketing strategy evolve or change moving forward in the next few years as the business grows?
Nathaniel: Okay, I mean that’s something I’m still figuring out as well, but I would say that it depends on a variety of factors. Firstly, of course, the markets that we are in and the nature of the service that we provide will influence the kind of marketing that we do, at every level, not just in terms of content, but in terms of the channels that we use.
Because I mean, at the start, if you’re just doing B2C service, right, in one or two countries, it’s a bit more straightforward, but if you’re starting to do B2B related stuff, things which are a bit more upstream, you’re expanding to more countries, then you need to tailor your approach to every country.
You’ve got to come up with new strategies. It’s not just about localizing or it’s not just about translating the language. There are a lot of nuances and things to take note of and different channels to use, different ways of portraying your company that you must take note of. So the strategy will evolve with the business strategy, I would say.
And then I would say for every country that we, sort of focused on, it’s very different. What we do in Singapore versus what we want to do in let’s say Indonesia is really very different. So it will be driven a lot by the business strategy at the same time also in terms of the state of something I like to call the state of marketing in the country.
So, for a country like Singapore, where we have done a bit more, people tend to know of us when we reach out to them. So perhaps in terms of branding or awareness, that will not be such a key focus for a market where we’ve been around a bit longer, but a market [where] we are totally new, people need to know about us first, before we can even get to the table.
And in overseas markets, SEO and content might not be the most suitable method for reaching the audience there. Perhaps something a bit more traditional might be better suited. So it really depends on the business strategy at the corporate level, what we want to do, and that informs the marketing strategy.
So [the marketing strategy] will be driven a lot by the business strategy at the same time also in terms of the state of something I like to call the state of marketing in the country.
Paulo: Yeah. And I think a really relevant factor for, especially for Southeast Asian startups, what you mentioned about, you know, the state of the marketing in that country, right. Especially for startups that are in multiple markets, one strategy will work for one country, but not for the other.
And I think that’s something that founders, especially going into that growth stage need to be really aware of. And I think Janio has really built sort of that thought leadership since 2018, since you guys started in the cross border logistics and supply chain management space.
And I always find the e-commerce report really interesting. So if any of our listeners are interested, you know, you can go to janio.asia and check those out.
To close things off we always ask our VIP guests to share some of their favorite things in our rapid fire question round.
Favorite book on leadership / marketing or entrepreneurship: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, autobiography of the founder of Nike
Favorite movie on leadership / entrepreneurship: Saving Private Ryan (shoutouts to Captain Miller)
Favorite mobile/web app that you think not many people know about or use: Redara (reading app for documents in different file formats)
Favorite destination in Southeast Asia: Bangkok, Thailand (for food and friends)
Favorite activity to de-stress: Play with his ten cats (Hot tip: feed them on time, invest in an automatic feeder)
About our guest
Nathaniel Yim joined the founding team at Janio in 2018 after graduating and pursuing several branding and marketing roles at consulting firms the year prior. He has since taken the lead of Janio’s marketing efforts across Southeast Asia, building the marketing team and new brand from scratch, covering areas like PR, lead generation, website development, account-based marketing, sales enablement, SEO, as well as representing the company at public speaking engagements and podcasts like this one for branding amongst others.