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Enpal: He became CMO at the solar startup when he was just 22 years old

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Enpal: He became CMO at the solar startup when he was just 22 years old

Not an outstanding pupil or student, but still a top job at Enpal: Frank Köhler’s path to becoming a solar unicorn. And what advice he gives you in marketing.

Frank Köhler heads marketing at Enpal. He got the job after studying at WHU. Enpal

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A top job straight out of college is something many people want, but very few get. And if so, then probably with top grades at university. Frank Köhler made it, but claims that he wasn’t a top student (Abi: 2.1; Bachelor: 2.3) and that he didn’t study at all most of the time and preferred to work on his own projects. Or at the foosball table. At the age of 22, after studying at WHU, he landed the job as head of marketing at what is now the solar unicorn Enpal.

One thing straight away: The Enpal from back then is of course not the Enpal of today. “When I met Mario (Kohle) there were ten of us. And when I started, there were already 20 people,” said Köhler in an interview with Gründerszene. “We thought back then that if things continued like this, we could even have 40 people at some point.” And so they did: Köhler started at Enpal in September 2018. Today, according to his own information, over 2,000 people work for him Solar companies, including over 1,000 permanent employees in the trades.

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Via email mention to the CMO of Enpal

“At this stage, with the level of previous experience I had back then, joining Enpal in such a position would no longer be possible,” says Köhler. This means: Getting there quickly and early is worth it. He received the CMO title himself almost on the side. “I joined as Head of Marketing and after nine months I was promoted to CMO through an email mention.“

Nevertheless, Köhler’s performance should not be downplayed at the time. Even startups in the early phase are usually only looking for top personnel. Especially when there are experienced founders like Mario Kohl behind it. He was already known in the scene before Enpal started. He previously founded Buyer Portal, collected millions and led the company into the black and to an exit.

So how was Köhler able to convince Kohl? (And yes, the two of them really have a very similar last name – and both went to WHU.) After all, says Köhler, he received an “extremely large advance of trust” from the Enpal founder, although or precisely because the current CMO preferred the projects in question to his studies at the time. Among other things, Köhler started “Best of Jodel,” a platform for funny sayings, and one of the fastest-growing Facebook pages in 2016.

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Building platforms and understanding Facebook

“With Best of Jodel I was able to show that you can achieve something at a young age,” says Köhler. “And it gave me previous marketing experience. It helped me to understand the social media market: What works, how, and why?†He also founded, among other things, Jutego, a platform for printing jute bags with your own texts or motifs. The student initiative “Business meets Tech,” which Köhler initiated at WHU, still exists today and convinces major sponsors.

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Köhler gained further experience with social media through his bachelor’s thesis at WHU. His research examined the Facebook algorithm. In particular, Köhler looked at how the timeliness of an organic post influences the ranking. Fittingly, after completing his studies he landed a short position as a summer intern at Facebook itself.

His knowledge of how Facebook works proved to be useful for Enpal and so Köhler was able to bring this into the early phase of Enpal. A big topic back then: addressing users via social media. “We (Enpal) initially bought leads from lead portals. “But within a few weeks we went completely to our own leads with higher conversion, which we acquired via Facebook,” says Köhler.

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Not always just social

The whole thing was about six years ago, Frank Köhler is now 28 years old. So still young, but significantly more experienced than CMO. After starting with social, Enpal has placed much greater emphasis on brand channels, such as TV and radio, in the past two years. “The channels are very suitable for us, other companies with a younger target group might have wastage. I don’t watch linear television myself, but I like listening to the radio while driving,” says Köhler.

The CMO has these four tips for other companies:

(1) All(!) marketing channels are super important, according to the CMO. You have to try out a lot and not just rely on the well-known names like Google or Facebook, otherwise you will lose potential. Just like Enpal does with radio or TV.

(2) It is also important to engage intensively with your own target group: “You can spend a lot of time in the first few weeks attending sales meetings or, in our case, going out to assembly,” says Kö holler. “I was in the hardware store myself and tried to talk to people about a solar system – it wasn’t very scalable, but we tried it out anyway.”

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(3) And, which is also relevant, only working with the right people, hiring the right team, and only “getting the very best people interested,” says the CMO: “We would rather try not to hire anyone than the wrong person .“

(4) His final tip: exchange ideas with other companies and CMOs. You can learn a lot from this. Was his young age ever a problem in this exchange? “No,†says Köhler. “My age never played a role, there was never a negative undertone.” There was always a professional exchange on an equal level. On the contrary, said the CMO: “There was more admiration that a company managed to grow so quickly in the solar sector.”

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