Episode 53

How Not to Suck at Marketing: 3 Actionable Tips From ParkMobile’s CEO Jeff Perkins

Jeff Perkins

Getting into marketing is fairly easy. But how do you make it big?

You probably already know that proving your expertise is an important factor that can have a huge impact on building trust with both the company’s leadership and your team. 

Establishing yourself as an expert in a crowded industry such as digital marketing, though, can be tricky. 

Our CEO, Paris Childress, recently sat down with Jeff Perkins from ParkMobile to uncover how to prove yourself and earn credibility as a marketer, as well as how to grow 30M users with little to no acquisition costs. 

Let’s dive in. 

From Marketer to Marketing Leader: 3 Tips on How to Get There

Not too long ago, marketing was mostly about creating clever digital campaigns and sharing them across multiple channels.

Today, marketing has become much bigger than that. To lead in marketing, you need to be able to show your expertise, harness the capabilities of the business, and drive growth. 

With the projected growth rate for the marketing field set to increase by up to 10% by 2030, you simply can’t afford to not get savvy with today’s marketing. 

So where do you start and how do you stand out?

Inspiring to guide modern marketers through the ever-changing marketing landscape, ‘How Not to Suck At Marketing’ chronicles Jeff Perkins’ journey from middle management to the C-Suite.

Along with authoring this practical guide on how to survive and thrive in today’s digital world, Jeff is the CEO at ParkMobile – the #1 parking app in the US. Perkins is a CMO turned CEO with an extensive background in marketing that has earned him numerous accolades including the Technology Association of Georgia’s Award for Marketing Executive of the Year.

Let’s walk through three practical tips Jeff shared on how to start making an impact and build a successful career in marketing.

Identify the Quick Wins

From rebranding and website redesign to launching a new product, many newly-hired marketers are inclined to tackle a big project as soon as possible.

Planning large marketing initiatives right off the bat is undoubtedly exciting, but Jeff notes it’s also a recipe for disaster. 

“Those things take months and months of time to actually execute on,” he explains, and the worst place you can be as a new marketing leader is “when other executives are walking around the company and they’re like ‘I don’t really know what that person’s doing.’” 

One piece of advice ParkMobile’s CEO has is to first figure out what the quick wins are. 

A great starting point is to ask yourself: what is the low-hanging fruit that I could take on right away to show people I know what I’m doing?

Building a reservoir of credibility through these quick wins will give the company confidence that you can take on big projects down the road and deliver a positive return on their marketing investment. 

Here are a few ideas on how to generate marketing quick wins and show results in a short time frame:

  • Fill gaps in the buyer’s journey
  • Uncover and analyze your competitors’ PPC strategies to plan your own paid search campaign and amplify it with powerful data on what’s working and what isn’t 
  • Improve technical and on-page SEO 
  • Implement a simple chatbot

Fill In the Blanks: We’re Not Growing Revenue Because ___?

Every marketer faces different challenges. Some struggle to generate enough leads, while others are stuck on finding a good marketing fit. 

Whatever the case may be, there’s always something you can improve to transform your marketing into a more effective revenue generator. 

“I always like to tell marketers that the most important thing for you to do, within your job, is to understand what the biggest problems are and focus 100% of your energy on solving them,” Jeff shares.

To get the needle moving, the CEO of ParkMobile suggests that every marketer starts off with a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Simply put, you should try and identify:

We are not growing revenue because of ___?

“Look at what you wrote in that blank and focus on how to solve that first,” he explains, “it’s all about focusing on the highest impact things you can do and then pushing all of your energy, all of your resources to that.”

Making progress on what you wrote in that blank, is going to make a world of difference when building a marketing program that drives results for the business.

Build Relationships With the Key Stakeholders

It’s always handy to remember that many CEOs come up through operations. For that reason, one of the critical first steps of a marketing leader is to build a good relationship with the key stakeholders in the organization. 

The key to building a great relationship with leadership? 

Go after big issues with a top management viewpoint and educate the executive suite. 

Helping leadership understand what you’re trying to do, how it works, and then showing incremental progress along the way – “when you do that, it opens their eyes. It helps build trust that you know what you’re doing.”

Transparency and communication have long been two critical recession-proof, cross-industry abilities that help not just marketers, but anyone advocate for themselves. 

After all, most business executives don’t expect you to be perfect. What they want to know is what’s working and what’s not, and, if something’s not working, how are you tackling that. 

If you can effectively communicate those things, you will be more successful in changing some minds and, in some cases, buying yourself more time to do the big marketing initiatives within your program.

How Parkmobile Acquired 30M Users With Close-To-Zero Acquisition Costs

In a field where nearly everyone is savvy about the available marketing tactics, acquiring customers is tough, let alone achieving that at a low cost. 

Yet, ParkMobile has done it. 

ParkMobile is a leading parking app that enables users to easily find and pay for parking via their smart devices in more than 400 cities across the US. 

The parking app has managed to acquire over 1 million monthly users with close-to-zero customer acquisition costs, and completely transform the parking industry

So how did they do it and what marketing strategies did they use?

Here’s what ParkMobile’s CMO and CEO, Jeff, shared with us. 

Focusing on Offline Marketing

A typical way to grow an app is to leverage performance channels, and this is what Jeff thought would work best, too. 

When he first joined ParkMobile, their user acquisition strategy was similar to any new, fledgling startup – fierce digital marketing. 

“We tried a ton of stuff but after analyzing everything we’ve done, I realized that none of it really worked that well,” Jeff reflects. 

Ultimately, what did work was getting to know their customers, and more specifically: when they are using ParkMobile. As it turns out, most people download the app for the first time or use the web version when they’re parking. 

For Jeff, this meant one thing – shut off the majority of digital efforts and focus on creating outstanding point-of-purchase signage around parking meters and pay stations. 

While we cannot deny the impact the online world has had on marketing, offline channels are still a fundamental aspect of many companies’ marketing strategies, including ParkMobile. 

“We made sure our signage is great and we saw no change in our user acquisition. This basically means we probably have the most efficient user acquisition engine ever built because we acquire 1 million users a month and we do it all through physical signage that’s out on the street.”

By acquiring all of these users through on-street parking, ParkMobile also created a significant advantage – a great database of users they can market to and get them to try out their other features, too.

Leveraging Network Effects

Because they focus primarily on offline marketing, ParkMobile expands its ad inventory by going into new cities and leveraging network effects. 

With the network effects, as described by Andrew Chen, the network of the product actually brings new users into the product and, in turn, increases its value as the user base grows. 

ParkMobile’s network effects strategy, as Jeff shares, is pretty simple: “you land one city and then you look around for other operators. So, once we’re on all the on-street parking in the city, we go to the operators, universities, etc. Once you tap out on a city and you’ve maximized your impact, you can go to the suburbs or the adjacent cities.”

All in all, leveraging network effects can significantly increase the size of your user base, as well as your product’s value and the company’s market share. 

Ultimately, “the more locations we launch, the more users have more places to use the app. So now we’re on this great flywheel where we don’t have to spend a ton of money on marketing.”

Segmenting Customers Into Cohorts

A cohort is a group of users who share a common denominator over a specific period of time. 

In marketing, a cohort can be made up of customers who share a common characteristic such as geographical location, pricing plan, or acquisition date. Learning how to segment customers into cohorts and track them over time allows you to gain a deeper understanding of your business’ performance.

ParkMobile separates its users into three main cohorts: clients that have been with the company for 1 to 3 years, 3 to 5 years, and 5+ years. 

Analyzing these cohorts puts data into context and shows what is and is not working for the business. One common approach for a cohort analysis is measuring customer retention against a cohort characteristic.

In the case of ParkMobile, analyses show that clients who’ve been with the company for 1 – 3 years are growing over 100% a year. Clients that have been using the service for 3 – 5 years and 5+ years are also growing with 50% and 15% a year, respectively.

“So you look at the growth of our existing client base plus all these other clients that are still out there and we have a huge growth opportunity,” Jeff adds. 

As demand for contactless payments increases, ParkMobile has managed to successfully hit the 30 million user milestone, and “there’s a ton of green space out there to go get a lot of new customers who don’t have a mobile app in the city yet.” 

Even with ParkMobile’s existing base of customers, the average mobile adoption is usually below 50%, which means “we have another 50% of transactions that are still going through the meters and pay stations that we can still go get as well.”

Strategizing Your Digital Efforts to Facilitate Stronger Growth

The digital marketing world changes on a dime, and identifying which areas to improve and develop may be challenging. 

If you want to win the race, though, you’ll have to get ahead of it, and one of the best ways to get ahead is to develop some of the most in-demand skills on the market. 

Today, that means you need to be data-driven. 

Data-driven marketing helps you better understand your audience – and do so in a quantifiable way – as well as make better decisions and acquire new customers. 

Ready to take the next step? Here’s how to get started with data science for marketing.

Want to chat about SaaS growth with Paris?