One of the greatest promises of technology is to simplify processes and experiences. This is especially useful for financing and tax. It’s a field every business owner has to deal with, often without any formal training.
After working as a Senior Marketer for eight years, Michael Korkia found himself freelancing and struggling to understand the German tax filing system. When the opportunity to apply his marketing experience came around at Taxfix, a fast-growing tax app, he jumped in hoping to make a difference.
We talked to Michael to find out how he is powering rapid growth at Taxfix by building connected experiences for prospects across different channels. He also reveals 5 criteria for building team processes that will drive results.
Discovering the power of connected marketing
I am originally from Georgia but did my Master’s Degree in Advertising & Marketing in Coventry. After an internship in Berlin at an advertising agency, I found a marketing job at Hotels.com where I stayed for 7 and a half years.
I progressed to a Senior Marketing Manager role there. The position included supporting new regions in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, DACH, and Scandinavian countries. It was a great experience to work with emerging markets that were more like startups.
There was a lot of scrappy do-it-yourself (DIY) work. Learning how to run different channels helped me expand my horizons in digital marketing and understand how to manage a country’s marketing mix as a whole. I also worked on some of our bigger markets learning about brand value and brand impact. It was an incredible experience for me.
Then, after spending 9 years working towards it, I got my British citizenship and promptly moved to Berlin with the idea of opening a bar. That didn’t quite work out straight away.
It took a long time to find a location and I ended up taking a freelancer role as Head of Marketing at GuestReady short let management startup. While working freelance I had to deal with a lot of tax challenges, which is how I found Taxfix for the first time.
Taxfix had the right levels of ambition and was fixing a super important problem. They had a lot of great ideas but also made sure they took calculated risks. When I joined the Marketing team in November 2018, the company was around 28 people in total.
Today we have more than 350 people with a marketing department of around 30 people. We have gone through two investment rounds and started expanding into Italy and France. The budgets I work with at the moment are bigger than what I had for most of my regions at Hotels.com.
The German tax system is really complex. You have two options to get through it. The first option is to go to a tax accountant who will handle everything for you, but it can cost up to 700€.
The other option is to use free government software (ELSTER) with tax jargon that gets people very stressed out. In general, the system is confusing and fundamentally broken. This is why more than 20% of people in Germany have never claimed the tax refunds to which they’re entitled. This works out to 7.6 Billion euros in unclaimed tax refunds!
Taxfix is an app-first product that allows people to do their taxes on a mobile phone in less than 22 minutes. Today, we cover 85% of all tax scenarios in Germany on mobile and desktop to help users go through the tax refund process painlessly. This emulates the process of talking with a tax accountant to maximize your refund.
Taking a holistic approach to marketing
One of the mistakes a lot of companies make is approaching their marketing in a fragmented way. You’ll often see marketing teams with rigid targets per channel or quarter.
Once you set these kinds of targets, you are effectively shooting yourself in the foot. The mistake is looking at these channels in isolation when in reality, the performance of different channels is always linked. Taking a holistic approach means ensuring the channels are working in harmony with one another and the user journey is consistent across each of them.
For me, there are two main types of marketing tools:
Free and cheap
This includes search engine optimization (SEO), direct traffic, customer relationship management (CRM), and affiliate marketing. In bigger organizations these are often linked to customer experience, returning customers, and engagement.
This covers paid search (SEM), paid social (including influencers), and display advertising. Marketers tend to overpay on these channels per acquired customer. If you have a good business model, you can be confident that customers’ lifetime value will grow, justifying the spending.
Very often, if your cheap channels are performing well, you end up funneling more money to the expensive channels. This investment helps to increase reach and further your brand and virality effect, which results in better performance and results of the cheap channels.
I have kept brand advertising separate because it includes such a wide range of activities and it can start at any stage in the lifecycle of the company. Some businesses start only with this (risky).
In my opinion, you want to begin by getting an idea of traction, audience engagement, product-market fit before getting into the brand awareness activities. It can be as easy as launching a top-of-the-funnel campaign in one or two cities through your performance channels as an experiment and comparing the results to understand the impact.
The key thing with any channel is not to do anything in isolation because each channel feeds into the next one. Once customers start seeing you across multiple channels, they remember you more and gain trust in your brand. The entire experience needs to work together or it all falls down apart.
Michael Korkia, Head of Marketing at Taxfix
5 criteria for team success
As part of this connected view, ensure you are not constrained by the attribution model too much. In reality, it doesn’t matter much if your customer path is short and doesn’t include many touchpoints.
Working with a view of the entire marketing mix enables you to understand the true impact of your combined actions and activities. I choose to focus on building processes in the team that will drive results.
1. Set the right principles and values from the start
Innovative marketers need to have an experimental mindset. They need to experiment, test, learn and share information. Start with a few projects that encourage this collaboration and get people to test this method of working. The first ones will often fail but the important part is getting used to the process.
2. Bring the right profiles into your team
The tricky part is managing the mindset of the team. You can’t afford to have people with a narrow view of marketing. Look for T-shaped profiles who are specialized in one area and understand how their work connects with other activities.
3. Create processes that encourage collaboration
Encourage individual contributors to understand other areas of the business and channels. This will allow them to grow and deliver better results now and in the future. There are no silver bullets – you need to experiment and figure out what works for you.
4. Share knowledge
Knowledge sharing doesn’t just happen. Create an internal place for people to read about what is going on, share insights, document success, and failure. Build a forum for the team to communicate, learn, share knowledge, and question what is being done. It’s all about people buying into the process and participating rather than following.
5. Lead by example
I always try to be as transparent and collaborative as possible. For example, I don’t assign projects that I don’t understand myself. Instead, I always want to know enough to provide feedback and guidance. I want my teams to know my approach to making decisions and solving challenges. Often, I aim to over-communicate and be as direct as possible.
Sacrificing speed in actions taken is necessary for the team to improve, make decisions and optimize the profile. The ideal scenario is to teach people to that extent so you yourself will become obsolete.
Successful marketing happens when you use the right communication channel to send the right message to your target audience. Knowing which channel makes the most sense for your particular target audience is a great start.
Danche Azmanova, Marketing Lead at Massive Rocket
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