Navigating The Changing Marketing Landscape

Meera Clark, Principal at Redpoint Ventures, is wholeheartedly investing in content — for Redpoint, for portfolio companies, and for herself.

For context, Redpoint is a venture capital fund with a multi-decade track record of backing great entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of company formation. The fund’s investments range from Snowflake and Stripe to Twilio and Whatnot. 

We sat down with Meera for a two-part deep dive. In part one, we dove into: 

  1. How changes to the paid marketing landscape have affected all companies
  2. Why organic growth through trusted channels is defining DTC 3.0
  3. The shifting nature of B2B paid marketing
“The best buffers against change are trust and credibility – all the marketing and campaigning in the world won’t matter if someone just dismisses it on principle.” 

Why Paid Marketing is Getting Harder for Startups

For any and all startups — whether you’re B2B, B2C, or any industry, really — the paid marketing landscape has changed dramatically with regards to:

  • Privacy changes — Apple’s iOS 14.5 rollout infamously shifted paid media overnight
  • Investments — VCs have far less interest in companies relying solely on third-party data

As Meera explains, everyone seems to be theorizing about the new post-COVID “normal,” in terms of what the future looks like for consumer brands. 

In addition to the world reopening, one stark reality many are facing is the fact that the traditional strategies of the consumer and DTC paid social playbook no longer work. 

This is the case for a number of reasons, and she’s seeing these issues exacerbated. 

How Privacy Updates Killed Affordable CACs

This is a double-sided killer for brands — brought to them by two channel giants: 

  1. Apple — The iOS 14.5 updates that launched last summer have led to a very abrupt and equally damaging uptick in CACs. 
  2. Google — Google's third-party cookie moves mean companies are realizing paid social alone is not a reliable and scalable playbook moving forward. 

Still, one year later, the costs and returns on paid media have yet to stabilize. And with this, most teams lack confidence surrounding their ability to navigate ad spend over time. 

“Privacy updates have dramatically changed the economics of how companies and brands can tackle marketing in the most cost-effective way(s).”

Entering DTC 3.0: An Era for Trusted Channels & Organic Growth

Meera affirms that we're entering the new generation of DTC 3.0. 

  • DTC 1.0 relied on billboards and TV ads
  • DTC 2.0, naturally, relied on digital and paid marketing
  • Now, DTC 3.0 leans into new trusted channels and organic growth

The emerging channels driving serious returns are more rudimentary than one might expect. 

She highlights employers, health plans, school systems, and other specific, trusted networks across our lives as more reliable sources of product or platform discovery. 

Accordingly, when it comes to building trust within these new channels, organic efforts are critical for driving more considered purchases with less overt advertisements. 

“It’s more about building trust and credibility vs. asking someone to purchase. Companies now, more than ever, are investing in content and connection to drive revenue.” 

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How Paid Spend Across B2B Channels is Shifting

When most people imagine paid marketing, they think of DTC brands, privacy changes, and how CACs are only going up for these businesses. 

However, Meera points out how folks forget this phenomenon is also occurring for B2B companies that have pushed through and relied on paid channels. 

When Redpoint thinks through paid efforts for B2B founders, they’re most interested in creating efficient investment avenues. Some tactics include: 

  • Cracking best practices for investing in SEO
  • Minimizing reliance on paid search vs. more efficient, scalable discovery channels
  • Investing in repurposable, evergreen content to bring buyers back — again and again

Whether these efforts are on-site or through press-oriented offerings and efforts over time, B2B companies are upping their reliance on content to drive revenue. 

Meanwhile, in Meera’s experience, more B2B companies are undergoing delayed suffering. 

They’re just now seeing the impacts on their paid engines and feeling these pain points, since many initially had more padding around their marketing budgets. 

Larger contract sizes and unit economics afforded B2B players more wiggle room. 

However, the increasingly capital-constrained ecosystem for early-stage and growth companies alike means more and more B2B teams are feeling the pressure to pivot tactics. 

Build Trust, Expect Slowdowns

The higher your price point, the more touchpoints and trust you’ll need to establish with a customer before they’re ready to go all in. 

Consumer confidence is at record lows, and spending intentions from low-income to high-income shoppers alike show a notable deceleration. 

As Meera and Redpoint look at spending intentions over the next few months, they predict folks will be increasingly slow to press purchase, whether they’re individuals or other companies.

For companies selling to startups, who are delaying fundraises or being asked by investors to rethink all costs, she anticipates a potential slowdown across the board in purchasing decisions as well. 

To combat this, she highlights the increased value of investing in drip campaign-esque approaches, as opposed to blowing your marketing budget on a few billboards or podcast ads. 

“We’re transitioning more to a world where the goal is building trust over time, instead of just racing to get in front of the consumer first.”
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