High Alpha Pilots: Justin Keller and Brad Beutler

by Paige Haefer

VP of Marketing and Director of Marketing at Sigstr

Brad, Bailey, and Justin of the Sigstr marketing team!

In my opinion, Sigstr’s content is some of my favorite to read every week. Quick shoutout to some of my favorite pieces of content: the “If Your Favorite Characters Had Email Signatures” series! I highly recommend the Parks and Rec and Super Bowl Halftime Performers pieces.

It’s no surprise that a marketing company is great at marketing. As a newbie in the world of marketing, I love learning from other marketers about their career journeys, successes, failures, and overall advice and perspective on the world that is B2B SaaS marketing.

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Justin Keller (VP of Marketing) and Brad Beutler (Director of Marketing) about their work builidng the Sigstr brand, their team dynamic, and how it’s important to never feel too comfortable.

Building a Brand + Building a Team

When Brad joined Sigstr in December 2015, he was the first true marketing hire. After three years in various marketing roles at hc1.com, Brad had come to discover all the aspects of marketing he liked and disliked and was ready for a new challenge — building a brand from the ground up. Brad’s introduction to Sigstr came at hc1 where he served as the Sigstr admin, experiencing the product as a customer first. By the end of 2015, he had bit the startup bug and jumped over to join Sigstr as employee number 8. Brad described the early Sigstr marketing machine, saying,

“I just jumped in and got to work. I wanted to build a foundation for a content and inbound marketing machine, all while shaping a general direction of what we wanted our brand to represent.” — Brad Beutler

In 2017, in conjunction with a successful Series A funding round, the marketing team was ready for more high-level strategy and vision to drive the company’s continued growth. Indiana native, Justin Keller, was the perfect fit for this new leadership role. Justin had experience leading marketing at three different B2B SaaS companies in the San Francisco area, had been a part of a startup right out of college, and was looking for a move back to the Midwest. The combination of experience and Indy connections made Sigstr a match made in heaven for the next step in his career.

“I didn’t mean to move back to Indy, but between the impressive team at Sigstr and the relationship with High Alpha, which was unlike anything I have seen, this role was just a big draw.”- Justin Keller

Justin’s main goal has been to really hone in on a long-term brand vision for Sigstr. Feeling as though it was the missing piece, clarity around brand vision is allowing the team to really dig into their favorite aspects of the marketing machine as well as focus more energy on really specific areas, including ABM, a major new product launch, working with larger brands, and growing the team in 2018.

Sigstr, at its core, is all about making something old, new again by reinventing the email signature. A great post to learn more about Sigstr’s growth, can be found here.

Marketing Is a Community

One thing I was especially excited to hear from Brad and Justin was their views of the Indy tech and Indy marketing communities. Brad’s entire career has been in the Indy tech scene, so he’s seen the growth from within. Justin, having been removed for a number of years from Indy tech has been pleasantly surprised by his return.

“In San Francisco, you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who works in tech—and probably a tech marketer. Before I left Indianapolis, there wasn’t anything similar to that. Now, though, the downtown area has become really concentrated with almost the same thing.” — Justin Keller

Justin’s return to Indy is well-timed, as the Midwest, and Indianapolis in particular, is seeing a steady growth in the tech scene. Regardless of geography, however, both Justin and Brad agree — marketers are some of the friendliest folks in the business world. As the first marketing hire at Sigstr, Brad had to really lean on the community to build his initial practices.

“As Marketers we are in that situation where it’s a guessing game half the time. As a new team and a new startup, you’re just figuring it out.” — Brad Beutler

Justin has seen the relational side of marketers exemplified all around the country. In a discipline where you want to push boundaries, but you want to push them in a reasonable way, it’s incredibly important to learn from others and rely on best practices.

“People, especially marketers, are so happy to help. I think a lot of great marketing is just being really polite about stealing good ideas . You have to take chances as a marketer, but if you can point to someone else and say ‘they didn’t mess up, so I bet I can do it’. this reafirms your willingness to try a new idea.”— Justin Keller

Don’t Get Comfortable

As someone brand new to the marketing world, I am constantly asking for feedback and attempting to learn the tricks of the trade. Brad and Justin had some very real advice that they believe is critical for anyone in a marketing role: Never stop moving, your job is never done.

“If you ever feel comfortable, you’re doing something wrong. If you ever feel like you’re done, you’re missing something.” — Justin Keller

Marketing is an ever-evolving craft. This uncertainty can either scare people (probably not people meant to be in marketing) or excite people (marketers). A note for the first marketer at a startup?

“Approach it in a way where it’s fun to figure it out. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Know enough to be dangerous in a lot of areas.” — Brad Beutler

By always raising the standards for yourself and your team and adjusting at different stages, a constant sense of positive discomfort will emerge. According to Justin and Brad, this positive discomfort is the key to a cohesive and successful marketing team. Based on what Sigstr has been up to, I would say they are definitely on to something.