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In a world brimming with conventional marketing tactics that have a tendency to blur together, standing out demands bold, innovative, and sometimes unconventional approaches. In this series, we're talking to inbound marketing maestros, brand gurus, entrepreneurs, business leaders and all those who dare to think differently in the marketing sphere to share their stories, insights, and experiences with unconventional inbound marketing tactics. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anastasia Corjan.

Anastasia Corjan

Anastasia Corjan

As a seasoned marketing and recruitment expert with over 5 years of experience, Anastasia Corjan has helped an early-stage startup transform into a fast-growing scaleup with a presence in 170 countries. Having a track record in organic marketing, community management, talent management, and growth hacking, she currently leads a cross-cultural team of 5 as a Senior Marketing Manager in a real estate tech company.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! To begin, can you share a bit of your personal backstory with us? 

I am currently a Senior Marketing Manager at the Finnish company CubiCasa with 5+ years of experience. When I first joined the company, I was the first marketing hire. I started as an intern and after a few months, I was offered a full-time position and quickly promoted to a managerial role. Despite joining the company in its early stage in 2019, through my organic marketing methods, the company's application is now being used in over 170 countries, with over one million orders processed since then.

In addition, I initiated an internship program within the company, through which we recruited students from Europe to work in our offices in Finland, specifically in Helsinki and Oulu. To date, I have recruited and mentored over 33 interns for CubiCasa. I have also provided guidance to students and recent graduates, helping them find the right career paths and opportunities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?

Aarne Huttunen is my manager, and he is one of the kindest individuals I've had the pleasure of working with. Since my early days at the company, he has served as a mentor to me. Despite my limited experience at the begginning, he was patient in helping me learn the tools and was always available to teach me new software. From him, I learned the mindset of "ship it," which means that perfection is often overrated, and taking action is more valuable than waiting for perfection. He has also been tremendously supportive, dedicating time each week to review my progress on my Master's degree thesis and providing valuable feedback. It's rare these days to find a colleague who is willing to invest their time and expertise in this way.

What are three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves? 

Experiments and letting go of perfectionism are the first two. One of the key strengths that has propelled me in my career is the willingness to experiment and the ability to let go of perfectionism. In the rapidly evolving field of marketing, waiting for a campaign or idea to be perfect can often lead to missed opportunities. Instead, I've learned to embrace the concept of "good enough for now" and launch experiments. This approach allows us to test ideas quickly, gather data, and iterate for improvement

For those looking to develop this skill, I'd recommend starting with small-scale experiments in your current projects. Set clear objectives, try out new tactics, and don't be afraid to fail. The key is to learn from every experiment, whether it succeeds or not. Over time, this mindset shift toward experimentation will become a natural part of your approach.

Knowledge sharing and training would be my third skill. Sharing knowledge outside of your immediate department and collaborating with colleagues from different backgrounds is another strength that's been instrumental in my career. By conducting training sessions and workshops, we empower team members to tap into their hidden talents and broaden their skill sets.

To actively build this area, start by offering to share your expertise within your organization. Whether it's through formal training sessions, mentoring, or simply offering your assistance, sharing knowledge is a two-way street. You'll not only help others grow but also learn from their unique perspectives and experiences. Bonus Point: Recruit an intern through the Erasmus program. Not only will you gain an energetic team member who can learn and contribute with innovative ideas, but you may also be nurturing a future workforce for your company or industry.

Curiosity: Curiosity is a fundamental trait that has fueled my personal and professional growth. In the marketing landscape, staying curious means constantly seeking new information, exploring emerging trends, and being open to different viewpoints. This quality has driven me to explore unconventional tactics and discover innovative approaches.

How to Build: Cultivating curiosity can start with a change in mindset. Approach each project or challenge with the mindset of a learner. Ask questions, seek out diverse sources of information, and don't be afraid to explore topics outside of your immediate expertise. Reading widely, attending webinars, and engaging in conversations with people from diverse backgrounds are all excellent ways to nurture your curiosity.

Which skills are you still trying to grow now?

While my career has taken me through various aspects of marketing, I'm actively working on strengthening my skills in public relations. PR is a multifaceted field that requires a deep understanding of media relations, crisis management, and strategic communication. I'm investing time and effort in learning from PR experts, staying updated on industry trends, and gaining hands-on experience in this area.

Marketing automation is another skill I'm dedicated to growing. In today's digital landscape, automation tools are invaluable for streamlining processes and delivering personalized experiences. I'm actively exploring marketing automation platforms, experimenting with workflows, and honing my skills in data-driven marketing to harness the full potential of automation.

Can you share an interesting or amusing story about a time you tried an out-of-the-box marketing tactic? What was the result?

When our Chief Product Officer (CPO) mentioned that the legacy system in another city in Finland was going to be retired and that I was invited, my immediate thought was, "How can I document this and share it with everyone?"

But what exactly is a Legacy System and how does it impact a business? A legacy system refers to an outdated system within a company, and not updating it can lead to negative outcomes for companies, such as the potential loss of IT talent. For CubiCasa, retiring this system marked a new chapter in the company, ensuring more effective and efficient strategies, processes, and departments.

CubiCasa is a company originating from Finland, more precisely from the northern parts of Finland, in the city of Oulu. We decided to hold a farewell event for our old Legacy System (2013-2022) involving both the Helsinki and Oulu teams on May 19th, 2022.

This farewell event served as a symbolic moment for CubiCasa and was carefully planned a month in advance. It featured a tombstone bearing the inscription "LEGACY SYSTEM 2013-2022." To add a unique touch, we even hired a choir of Finnish singers. Instead of traditional flower tributes, we used broken keyboards.

Eager to prove that my attendance was worthwhile, I filmed the entire event and pitched the footage to my Erasmus intern at that time, who hailed from Italy and brought Gen Z creativity to the table. In just a few days:

The video I posted on TikTok went viral, amassing almost 150k views and a multitude of comments expressing interest in changing companies or suggesting this idea to the ones they work for. Furthermore, we decided to share the video on LinkedIn. This served not only to communicate CubiCasa's commitment to continuously improving its app, user experience, and systems but also to signal that the company was in search of new IT talent to shape the future of real estate digitization. It was a memorable moment when people even in beauty parlors recognized our employees in Finland, and we realized that this TikTok had brought us some fame.

What tips do you have to receive buy-in from the CEO and other stakeholders for trying out less conventional tactics?

Just because certain tactics lack a well-established track record doesn't mean they should be dismissed outright. Consider TikTok, for instance, which emerged just three years ago and introduced an entirely new dimension with its "reels" feature. Back in 2020, a brand could have secured a prominent position in this realm by embracing innovation. The fact that competitors may have hesitated to adopt such tactics shouldn't discourage exploration; instead, it often signifies an opportunity worth pursuing.

Venturing into uncharted territory can reveal numerous possibilities, especially when seeking to tap into a fresh social media platform and potentially achieve viral success. Take, for instance, the surprising success of a viral cat video for Clancy Autobody: a strategy that yielded millions of views, numerous followers, and even new clients within a matter of days for what is typically a local and conventional business.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Rapid Fire Question Round

What is the most valuable marketing software in your tech stack? Intercom

What other company or CMO are you admiring right now? Open AI – a game-changer for so many professionals and businesses.

What single piece of advice would you give to aspiring CMOs? Start before getting the ideal role. Once you learn the skills you will be able to execute anywhere.

What are you reading right now? Unshackled by Soundarya Pooka Balasubramani and From Zero to One by Peter Thiel

What product, tool, or service do you wish existed? Automated content editing after publishing on social media; automated agreements for students

Content is a big part of inbound marketing, but with content saturation making it increasingly harder to stand out, what unique approach have you taken to make your content memorable?

In a landscape saturated with content, our approach to creating memorable and shareable content is rooted in authenticity and community. We believe that content should not just inform but also foster meaningful connections. To achieve this, we produce content that resonates with the pain points and aspirations of our audience.

What truly sets us apart is our emphasis on co-creation. We actively involve our customers in content creation. We ask for their input, questions, and even invite them to share their success stories. By featuring their voices, we not only ensure that our content is highly relevant but also empower our community members. This approach makes our content memorable because it's a collective effort, and members are more inclined to share it with their networks, thereby expanding our reach organically

Personalization is another key trend in marketing. How has your company embraced unconventional methods to deliver personalized experiences to your target audience?

Embracing personalization in marketing has been a game-changer for our company, and we've achieved it through behavior-based data. Instead of relying on traditional demographics, we use Intercom's capabilities to tailor experiences based on customer behavior.

One unconventional method we've embraced is what we call "Behavior-Driven Engagement." Here's how it works:

Behavior Tracking: Intercom allows us to meticulously track user behavior within our app and on our website. We monitor which features users explore, what content they engage with, and how frequently they interact with certain elements.

Dynamic Messaging: Armed with this behavior-based data, Intercom enables us to engage users with dynamic and highly personalized messages. For instance, if a user frequently interacts with our real estate photography tools, Intercom ensures they receive messages and content related to this aspect of our offering.

Can you share an innovative strategy you've used to effectively nurture leads and guide them down the conversion path?

We use Intercom to create tailored content pathways for users based on their behavior. If a user exhibits a strong interest in a particular topic or feature, Intercom ensures they receive content that delves deeper into that area. This approach keeps users engaged and informed at every stage of their journey.

Intercom's behavior-based data has transformed our lead nurturing strategy. Instead of relying on one-size-fits-all approaches, we nurture leads based on their unique behaviors and interactions. This way, we guide them down the conversion path in a way that feels natural and valuable.

Based on your experience and success, what are 5 unconventional inbound marketing tactics that work?

1. Community Building through Facebook Groups. In today's digital landscape, the power of community building through Facebook groups is often underestimated. While some may argue that Facebook's relevance is waning, I firmly believe that these groups offer exceptional opportunities.

In my experience, the nucleus of successful community building within groups lies in the authenticity of engagement. By becoming an active participant, contributing to discussions spanning both positive and negative facets of the industry, brands can etch their name as a trusted entity. This cost-effective approach, meticulously executed, positions your brand as a go-to thought leader and expert within the community. The added beauty of this strategy? It's not only free but also hones in precisely on your target audience.

As we transition from community participant to community leader, we open avenues for organic growth. Founding your group enables you to cultivate and nurture a community of like-minded individuals. Simultaneously, maintaining your presence across other groups keeps you connected with a broader network. From firsthand experience, I've witnessed significant spikes in app usage and signups each time I posted within our group or responded to comments in other groups.

Currently, our Facebook group has over 2000 members, and daily posts are being submitted. Having our own group helps us communicate important announcements, provide a safe space for users to give feedback and learn from users' suggestions. Moreover, our users help by responding to questions from other members and newbies. Despite that, I am part of many other groups where our target audiences spend time; this helps our social listening strategy and helps us mitigate any crisis due to easy identification of unhappy customers. This allows us to be present and proactive in our communication online.

2. Empowering Ambassadors and Influencers. Identifying and empowering power users within your community can be a game-changer for your inbound marketing strategy. These individuals are often active on social media channels and groups, making them valuable assets for brand promotion.

Once you have identified your power users and they are active enough on social media channels and groups, it's essential to recognize them and contact them to ask if they would like to be ambassadors, considering they already speak positively about your product. If they are well known in the industry, consider even an influencer collaboration with them for monetary compensation because the value you will get will not only translate into an increase in new customers but also into valuable content that links to your business and gives more credibility to you in the industry.

In the realm of influencer marketing, our strategic selection of content creators within our niche, such as real estate photographers, has led to targeted collaborations that magnified our signups and fortified brand relationships. These collaborations transcend transactional sponsored content, as our influencers frequently and organically mention our product in subsequent videos. To amplify authenticity and impact, the paradigm shift is essential. Seek out thought leaders who transcend the confines of traditional influencer platforms. True influence radiates from individuals recognized as industry authorities within their niches. These genuine voices resonate on platforms like YouTube and Instagram, magnifying the reach and credibility of the marketing efforts. At least one video out of 3 generated 2 million views and continues to receive comments to this day since August 2022, all from our ideal target audience.

3. Leveraging Quora and Reddit. Consider leveraging platforms like Quora and Reddit to engage with a broader audience and answer questions related to your industry. By providing valuable insights and solutions, you can position your brand as an authority in your niche.

4. Marketing Automation with Intercom. Marketing automation software and tools, such as Intercom, can revolutionize your inbound marketing strategy by streamlining processes and delivering tailored experiences to your users.

Two months ago, my team and I implemented Intercom's marketing automation to streamline the onboarding process and customize user journeys based on customer types, geographical areas, and app activity. This versatile tool allows us to communicate with our target customers through various methods beyond email, including in-app notifications, push notifications, banners, mobile carousels, and customer app announcements.

5. Harnessing Backlinks, PR, and SEO. Invest in backlinks, public relations (PR), and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to bolster your inbound marketing efforts.

Securing backlinks from reputable sources can elevate your website's authority and improve search engine rankings. A well-executed PR campaign can generate buzz around your brand, attracting new customers and strengthening your industry presence. By implementing effective SEO practices, you can enhance your online visibility, driving organic traffic and increasing your brand's reach.

Where do you look for inspiration on creative and unconventional marketing tactics? How do you come up with new ideas?

TikTok and Instagram Reels: Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels are goldmines for discovering innovative marketing tactics. The short-video format often forces marketers to condense their message into something highly engaging and memorable. Scrolling through these platforms helps me stay updated on the latest trends and creative storytelling techniques.

Community Groups: As I mentioned earlier, community building through platforms like Facebook groups has been a revelation for us. Beyond the engagement aspect, these groups are fantastic sources of inspiration. I regularly participate in discussions, and the insights and ideas that emerge from these conversations are invaluable. It's amazing how diverse perspectives can spark creative marketing approaches.

Conferences: Attending industry conferences and seminars is a great way to tap into collective wisdom. Networking with peers and listening to thought leaders often leads to fresh insights and unconventional ideas. I make it a point to attend events related to marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship. These experiences have undoubtedly fueled our marketing innovation.

If you had to share one ingredient in your ‘secret sauce’ to success with inbound marketing, what would it be?

The cornerstone of our inbound marketing success lies in engagement, whether it's within online communities, on social media, or through other channels.

Our journey into the world of online groups, especially within social media platforms like Facebook, has been transformative. In an era where some have questioned the relevance of these platforms, we've harnessed their exceptional potential.

By actively participating and initiating conversations and fostering meaningful discussions, we've etched our brand as a trusted entity within our industry. 

This allowed us to transition from community participants to community leaders, allowing us to nurture communities of like-minded individuals. Simultaneously, we've maintained a strong presence in various other relevant groups, expanding our network and fostering organic growth.

Beyond providing a platform for important announcements and user feedback, our group has become a hub of valuable interactions among users, including helping each other with questions and sharing insights.

Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?

Two underrated skills that I believe are essential are social listening and responsiveness online. As I mentioned earlier, our active participation in online communities where our audience congregates has significantly enhanced our social listening strategy. This approach equips us to promptly address any issues, making us not just present but also proactive in our online communication..

Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?

I would aspire to lead a movement that offers support and assistance to those who lack opportunities, helping them pursue their dreams. Whether it's guiding individuals in applying for their desired university programs, securing jobs at companies they admire, or acquiring valuable skills, such a movement would open doors for countless individuals, empowering them to reach their full potential. The impact could be profound, and the possibilities limitless.

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Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.