Oct. 26, 2020

Growth marketing for startups leading to an exit - by Hasan Luongo.

Growth marketing for startups leading to an exit - by Hasan Luongo.

Hasan Luongo, VP Growth Marketing at Chipper Cash, previously Director of Growth Marketing at Voicea (acquired by Cisco), Growth Marketing Lead at Fairy acquired by Postmates and Head of Growth at Honey acquired by PayPal, talks about growth marketing and how founders with no experience in this should approach it.

Hasan's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hasanluongo/

Chipper Cash: https://chippercash.com/

Fill out this form to get connected to investors and mentors: https://form.typeform.com/to/vT8gVQDG


Transcript

And today is a guest speaker, we have Hassan Luongo, 

VP of growth marketing at cheaper cash and these will talk about growth marketing how to scale your company when to start hiring actual people who are specialized in growth marketing and how founders who 

have no experience in that field can start doing that by themselves without additional hires. So let's kick it off by here giving us some background on yourself and on cheaper cash. 

Thank you so much for having me I really appreciate it and really looking forward to this podcast. So, my name is Hassan Luongo. I run I'm the VP of growth at Chipper cash. 

So, Chipper is a P2 P payments app similar to Venmo or cash shop, but serving the African market. So we're currently live in 7 countries across Africa and growing quickly across the continent. 

And so I joined Chipper cash in March of this year. So, it's still pretty early on prior to that. 

I was working at Cisco actually, on the Webex marketing team. Cisco had acquired the company that I worked for previously called voicea in 2019. 

so, I spent a little bit of time at Cisco before jumping back into an early stage startup before voicea. I worked at a few high growth companies, including honey, based in L. A. 

and then your mechanic, which is which is in Mountain View, California, silicone Valley. But I really got my start on the marketing side of things at a company called hoodie people dot com, which was a bootstrapped E, commerce company that I started with a few friends in 2006. 

So, let's talk about that. 1st, so you were the head of growth in multiple Serbs that got a CT and eventually. 

What were you doing there? And how do you think your particular role affected acquisition part? 

Yeah, so there is for each acquisition, there's multiple things and 1 of the mantras of anybody that's in growth, is that growth is a whole company contact sport. 

It never is actually the by the byproduct of 1 person's efforts. We're just we're just part of that part of the system, of course, but a couple of a couple of the key things. 

I mean, I think at at the point of joining, honey, they'd already grown quite a bit, but we're, we're still under a 1M users hadn't raised very much money. So they were operating. 

They were growing fast, but very much operating under the radar screen. 

I think for that 1, 

what we really worked on as a team was just 100% Facebook advertising so we had 1 channel, 

we didn't advertise anywhere else, 

or spend any dollars anywhere else but we spent a lot of money on Facebook and we're in the weeds optimizing campaigns on a daily basis, 
if not multiple times a day. 
So, it's really for me an opportunity to Super dig in on that channel and really kind of learn how it works and how to scale it up. 

And then at voicea for example, that was much more of a technology driven acquisition. 

We had an amazing engineering team and amazing led by Achmed, who is also a guest on this podcast not so long ago. 

But that was, that was the crux of the company was growing quickly and I'm very confident we could have gone on and raised a series. 

B, 

but there was just such high interest from the Cisco team, 

in terms of what the technology was capable of, 

and what it allowed that was what advantage you would provide for web access a product competing against zoom and in the marketplace against some of the other players, 

so that 1 was as much as we like to tote our head and say we. 

Had lots of awesome things on the marketing side that 1 was very much driven by by the technology behind it. 

And by the way for those who don't know, I'm actually using a Webex, which is product of Cisco, which uses voice technology. So we are kind of using the technology that was developed back there in voicea. So that's that's really awesome. 

So kind of amazing. Really? Really? Cool. Yup. Yup. Yup. And I actually, I got it because I fully advice. No. Because they were really nice speech to text recognition technology. 

So that's why people who can check out our official website can see a full transcript of each episode on fundraising radio. But let's move on and talk about growth marketing and specifically for. 

Acquiring 1st, customers, uh, 1 of my previous guest speakers speakers. I forgot who exactly that was, but basically, she's as vice voice you should not pay for your 1st, customers still should be growth hack. 

Somehow you cannot get your 1st customers through Facebook or Google ads. I personally don't think that's the best approach, but I think it does make some sense. What are your thoughts on this? 

Yeah, I mean, I'm not super agnostic about this. Right? I'm not super. Like, I don't really care where you get your 1st customers. Right? The ideas that you go out and get them right? 

So, if you can spend a little bit of money on Facebook, and you're seeing some return, and people are actually signing up and using your product amazing, right? 

More power to you, if you're doing, you know, passing out flyers and handing out coupon codes for people to download your app and try it for the 1st time and that works. Amazing. 

Right, I think the idea that you should do something or shouldn't do something, because it's paid is kind of pointless. 

Um, you should just focus on finding something that gets you a few users in the product. That's the that's the thing that matters not the actual paid or non paid side of the tactic. 
Right, right? Yep, that's the perfect approach. And do whatever you have to do to get those 1st users. So, next question is about, um. 

Founders, who don't know much about growth marketing. What should they do if they don't have money to hire the growth market or what are the major points? You think those founders need to know about growth marketing? 

Yeah, 

I mean, 

I think this is a really common situation, 

and I think a lot of founders will struggle with this early on, 

especially if your side of your expertise is coming from an engineering background or something like that. 

Right? I think the most important thing to know about growth marketing is that it's not actually that difficult. Right? 

It's not like somebody that has a lot of experience doing advertising or something like that is going to. 

That outperform, you buy 10 X, right? I think that I think that there's a lot that you can learn online, there's a lot of things that you can just do, by simply giving yourself a super small budget trying out a couple of things. 

And when you're writing copy,
when you're kind of creating your ads, 

keeping it simple being very direct and straightforward understanding that you're going to change it a couple of times, 

and not being married to the initial result will help you just test and learn and test and learn and as you continue to grow and scale, 

you'll continue to hear about that kind of an approach. 

So, taking it early and then bringing it all the way through once you're building out a team or hiring agency or something like that is the same exact monitor. 

The same exact approach that you do when your marketing budget is 500 dollars or a 1000 dollars, and you're looking to pick up your 1st, your 1st couple customers right? 

So, diving into any 1 of those tools, I think you'll quickly see that. It's not actually that difficult. And if you take this kind of test and learn approach, just be willing to turn off things. 

If they're if they're initially not not going and not working. And then just rinse and repeat rinse and repeat until you find something that's working and then scale that thing up. Right it's pretty straightforward. 

And so I think it seems a lot more daunting than it actually is. 

Right so now that we've touched on to you with a CO founder that doesn't have money to hire growth mortgage needs to know. 
Let's pretend that these Co founder got the money to hire the expert in that field. Actually. Nevermind, let's pretend that we just have a CO founder. That doesn't know growth marketing. L. 

when is the moment when he or she, she hired that growth. Mark. There should be, should they try to go out and try to get 1 for equity only? Or should they wait until they raise their 1st round? 

Or once you be when should be that moment when they hire that expert? Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of there's a couple of points, right? 

So, I think the point of when do you hire, like, I don't know, a head of growth or somebody that's going to build out an overall team below them and really drive that. That should be. 

That should be something. That happens at a later stage. Right. So, if you're thinking about at the seed round, or at least there or afterwards, or after, you've built some revenue. 

And there is, there is some customer usage, and you've kind of hit a certain inflection point on product market fit, where, you know, that your users are actually getting value out of your product. And they're talking amongst themselves. 

And some referrals are flowing through some of the really basic ways of how all early stage startups actually grow in the early days. 

Once once that has happened and you see a little bit of repeatability then you can start considering bringing folks on. And it's really also, that initial hire can't be too much of an executive. 

Right they do have to be able to actually hop into Facebook actually hop into run a webinar for early customers. Do do the work as an operator. 

That's the characteristic that you're looking for. Right. As somebody that's going to really roll up their sleeves and actually do the work and then also build out a team below them as the company gets bigger and bigger. 

But in your 1st, in your gut, going back to an earlier stage, in terms of, when can you hire an expert or somebody there. 

It's it's very relative. I mean, you can get huge value out of hiring an agency. That knows their way through this and can really be like a multi tenant team where you have a copywriter, and you have some graphics and design support. 

And then you have somebody like, buying the ads. 

And placing the campaigns and optimizing that that can be hugely valuable because in fact, you're hiring 3 or 4 people, or 3 or 4 roles rolled up into 1 agency. Right? 

So,
I wouldn't be too shy about that, 

because it's simply not your forte and your time needs to be a coding building product and or selling your leads and things like that, 

whatever stage or whatever area of business that you're most focused on. 

You can the ability to kind of hand that off to somebody is really valuable. Right? I think the equity side is really great. 
I think lots of folks on the growth marketing side love, jumping back into early stage startups. It's the most exciting period. 

And so I wouldn't also be hesitant about asking for help reaching out to folks that have been there done that and seeing if you can get some input and advice. 

But the same thing, it's like, having somebody tell you everything to do, doesn't actually get the work done. Right? So you need somebody even if you're paying them equity, that's going to dive in and actually do some of the work or else. It's not really that helpful for you. 

Absolutely 100%. So speaking of being helpful and, you know, gain advice so that you can yourself learn something. Let's touch on to creating the board of advisors real quick. So, do you think it makes sense to get someone on your board of advisors? Uh. 

She has to get that experience. So, would you recommend to start founder to get you. 

Personally, on their board of advisors, just to get access to your knowledge in the space of growth marketing. 

Really right just because I feel like it's such a big commitment for both for both parties. Right? 

So, a, if you're on the board, you're going to, you're going to get some equity in the company and you're going to you're going to you're going to ask for something in return over the long term. Right? 

And so, trading equity early on is can be useful. But also, I don't know if that's exactly the right path. I think that for anybody, that's busy. Right? 

Framing what that commitment needs to look like and say cool. I would use cash if you've got it. Right? 

And you just say, hey, all we need is 3 or 4 hours a week, somebody to kind of cycle through this, help us with a strategy and help us with the execution. 

I would much rather pay cash for that upfront versus giving equity and asking somebody to take a serious role in the company as in if you're just reaching out to them. 

If you're not, it's not like your close friend or somebody that you worked with in previous companies. It's a big ask and I, for myself would rather start small, do a little bit of work and if things are going good, then. Yeah. Great. 

I'd love to have some equity and love to be a broader participant in the company but early on if someone's like, hey, can you join my board? I'm like no, there's no way. I have time for that. Right right. Right. 

I wish those people had more time, because you're an older boys are there, but it's not the case. So, let's talk about more specific details of growth marketing. So you mentioned something that really caught my attention specifically for 1 company. 

You were just using Facebook ads. So, you were putting a lot of money. 

Into 1, uh, you know, customer acquisition channel, and you are basically improving it over and over and over. 

How should founders find that? 1. 

Customer acquisition channel and decide when is the point that you or the founder in general under says that that customer acquisition channel is great for me. It's working. I'm going to focus 100% of 
my time on that channel. 
Yeah, I think that's a pretty unique use case, right? In relation to, in relation to honey but but the genius of it is is focus. Right? And so. 

What what often happens right? Is that you're running 3 or 4 channels? Not not very well writing. 

You're spending a little bit on Facebook and a little bit on Google, and some through some paid ads and you're doing some content marketing. You're just doing all of these different things and you're not doing any of them very well. Right? 

So, the trade off there is the ability to focus, and I thought that was brilliant. 

I was 1st, a little surprised, it was like, what we're only doing Facebook, but your ability to absolutely say, no to the 500 pitches that you get all the time from different agencies and different ad reps and just be like Nope, not interested. That's a huge time. 

Saver right, and then, and then just digging in and saying, do we fundamentally understand what our thesis around this channel is? 

Why it works and if that is something that you feel like, it's going to work over the long term and you're getting kind of an outsized value from it from a single channel. That's brilliant. And you just hold onto it as long as you can. 

And then once it's kind of maxed out your shift, you shift to another. Right? So, it's like, it's a bit of discipline to your approach. And especially when you're at the early stage, I think that's I think that's really great versus kind of spreading yourself too thin. 

A bunch of across a bunch of channels and dabbling with a 1000 dollars here and 500 for that campaign. You're never going to learn as quickly as you need to, versus focusing all in on 1 channel. Right? 

So, that was really something that I took away from that from that experience. 

Right great. That's good advice. And speaking about spreading yourself too thin, let's talk about testing out those customer acquisition channels. So, how many channels should you test prior to design on 1? That seems to be the best fit. 

So, I mean, there are like, what, 20 plus customer acquisition channels right? And how many of those do your recommended founders testing? 

Yeah, I would just say, I mean, it's not like, so, 1 company that I worked for a call to media where we were very marketing heavy and we had we were testing on. 

So the way that we did it is we were basically allocating, like, 70, 80% of our budget to 2 channels. Right? And then we would have some budget allocated every month for spinning up and testing small channels. Right? 

And so we would only make, like, 5000 dollars a month and we would have 1 or 2 of them that we would run. And we would kind of dive in and focus on that. And seeing. 

If it works seeing if it's showing some early signs of growth. What you're looking for is either a signal to say this is, has some potential or this is definitely not working. 

Right and the definitely not working signal is equally as important, because then you just turn it off and move to the next 1. right. And so and it's the same thing, even at the campaign and ad set level, if we're talking about just paid acquisition right? 
The 1 of that habits, 
or 1 of the things that, 

I think trips people up is, 

like, 

you have a bunch of campaigns that are sort of working they're kind of doing okay and you just keep them on forever and you sort of are you're sort of locked into them, 

right but the reality is that you're not if it doesn't show good results early on just turn it off right. And refocus and rebuild on something else. 

So, that ability to, to turn off channels is as important as how many testing, how many channels you're testing going forward but to be specific around your question. 

I think that I think 1 or 2 at a time is really the bandwidth that anybody has the scope to manage on a small team. 

And so it's just remaining some discipline there and it will help you say, no to a lot of things, which is really important and. 

Not get yourself spread too thin. Right? So 1 or 2 at a time and then small budget allocations have hard and fast rules about how much you're willing to invest. It can be a 1000 dollars a month. It could be 5000 dollars a month. 

And if you're much larger, you can go out from there, but having some hard parameters, telling the. 

Agency slash ad. Rep whoever you're working with to roll that channel out that you're strictly investing this amount of money. It's either going to perform or not gonna perform. You take out all of the other variables. 

All of the things like it raise your awareness by 600% or whatever like nonsense metrics get get added into the reports that come back. Right? And you're like, this is our goal. This is the parameters we're investing this much. Cool. Go for it. 

Let it run. Try it for seeing some potential here. We're seeing sign ups at a pretty good cost per then. 

We'll then we'll and then we'll scale it up from there, but it's really just about disciplined going into these channels and knowing when to turn them off as much as a went to double down and reinvest. 

100% discipline is the key to everything. So, let's talk about the fun experience now about your fun experience. 

So, has it ever happened to you that, you know, you were testing out some sort of channel and you didn't think it's really going to work and then, boom, it returns huge growth. Has that ever happened? No worries not really the case in the real world selling the shows. 

Well,
I mean,
we've seen we've seen, 
you know, 
we were seeing some periods certainly, 

like, 

thinking about just like Facebook ads, 

you know, 

when, 

when when we were running at honey, 

I mean, 

we were just doing unbelievably low cost per acquisition and we were like, 

we really had some campaigns that were just. 

Performing so phenomenally, 

and it was just like, 

it's like it's like, 

so many things don't work and you're and you're and you just kind of continuously running stuff and it's like, 

kind of working not working saying no, 

but when you find those things that are working, 

it's magic right and you're like, 

oh, 

my God now you can say, 

okay, 

let's, 

let's increase the budget by 1520% couple of times a day seeing if in 3 or 4 days, 

if you can get it to a good good mark. 

And then that opportunity when you really open it up, and you're pushing a lot of budget at at a particular channel is really great. 

And then some of the recent surprises that I've seen is, like, going back to, like, just newsletter advertising. Right. And finding good placements. 

And writing little ads to to, to go out on these distribution lists for some of these large newsletters. Those can be extremely cost effective. 
You can reach into really nice audiences and really see some significant pop. 
So, on the B2 B side we did, we started off with testing a couple of newsletters, and we were just seeing some amazing performance. And then it was just like, okay, how many of these things can we buy? How can we scale this up? 

That became the real that became the real challenge right? So finding that is the thrill of the job. Really? 

Nice. That's really interesting. To be honest. I didn't I completely forgot that such thing as newsletters and newsletters advertising ever even existed time. Me too. Me too. 

And then someone brought it up and we tested it out and were, like, wow, look at this thing. Go like, it's really great to see, especially like, you can think about, like, things like. 

Oftentimes, it's all about, like, what's the new and latest thing? Like, what's your strategy for Instagram reels or something like that? And you're like, actually, I don't care about that at all. 

I like something as simple as, you know, as a lead gen, form on a LinkedIn ad that's giving you some quality leads into a Super tight sector that, you know, converts well for you. I mean, that's the value. 

There is so much higher than just like chasing the, the latest trends, right?
Right, right completely 100%. Right? So quick questions here that just popped into my head. 

I remember back in a day seeing ads of a firm that was doing ads on actual field boards and basically the idea there was that those billboards for digital. 

So you could put up for advertisement for, like, as as 1 minute per week or something like that. Have you ever tried anything like that like, literal, physical advertisement of your product? And how does that work out. 

Yeah, 

we've an outdoor a couple of times, 

and I will certainly say, 

I'm not an expert in this space, 

but I actually really believe in it, 

too, 

as a awareness visibility channel, 

especially if you're a small startup, 

trying to look big to the world. 

Right? I know that, at at 1 company, we bought 2 billboards and 1 of them was in a very high visibility location. 

Like, in the 1 on 1 in San Francisco, as you're exiting out of the city. And then the other 1 was inside of San Francisco on,
like, 
a more kind of high traffic area,
but not as major as a huge highway rights and the billboards, the 1st,
1 in the large location it did. 

Okay. And it was interesting. And we saw an immediate sort of bump and of downloads and installs and stuff, but as soon as our date ended, like, they had already sold that inventory and it was off to the next company. Right? 

But the smaller 1, which didn't have as much demand for it was up for a year and a half, and we bought it for 3 months or something like that. Right? So we got amazing value from something like that. Right? 

And then I listened to a podcast recently from that was talking about hims, which is that,
like,
consumer, 

direct to consumer brand that sells, 

like, 

stuff for your hair do not go bald and kind of men's health oriented stuff, 

right? 

They talked about how outdoor is like, this is like, this opportunity to create impressions for your brand and places where people don't expect it. 

Right and so their example was, this is like, men's health men, sexual health products, men's hair and wellness products. Right? 

And so they had ads in the San Francisco Giants stadium in San Francisco in the men's bathrooms, where there's huge, huge banners, and everybody's at the game standing in line nothing to do. 

Right? And then, and you see these ads and you're kind of like, wow, I didn't expect that. It's contextually super relevant. It's very targeted adjustment in there all of that. So, there's some, there's some brilliant stuff that you can do with it. Right? 

And looking for ways that you can get impressions that are outside of just digital channels is something that I think is catching on a lot these days. And people are doing really interesting stuff around it. 

He has that honestly, that sounds super interesting and pretty fun. So, let's move on and touch on a real quick about content generation. That's more of a trend in the recent years more and more small startups. 

Believe that new content generation gosh is.
You know, bring them more and more greed leads. Do you think that content generation is still an 
option? 
Because I personally feel that it's this market is so saturated that it's really, really hard to get through to get the actual, you know, customers to get real revenue from that source. 

Yeah, I agree with you that it's really hard. I think that a lot of that stuff falls on deaf ears, right? These days, but in in it's like, if you get it right? 

And you have just an informative article about a topic that's relevant to you and you're getting a couple of leads. 

I mean, the evergreen nature of publishing content online that it's just going to live there forever is is really powerful right? Any campaign, any paid media thing. That you do has a limited lifespan right? 

And so the opportunity to get on content is that it's lifespan infants and so it's not. It's like it's like, you're not going to Stripe gold necessarily. 

Certainly some people do. But, but the chances of the chances of writing of producing a viral video, right? Good luck. Trying to do that. 

If that's your outcome by the process of producing a lot of content on YouTube or publishing a lot of podcasts, 

and then the collective nature of all of those things coming together,
you're building a little bit of an audience and starting to get better distribution. 

Maybe you'll get featured somewhere somebody links to you and references like all of that stuff can happen organically without, without, without you doing much work and you're just focused on producing good content. Right? 

So, I think it's, I think for, for certain channels that can be effective. I think it's, it's a slow rolling build, right? 

So you can't expect it to just all of a sudden pop and we're producing tons of leads every day. But the collective efforts of it is Compounding and you can get good results for a long time. 

That will far exceed the costs that it took you to create that piece of content in the beginning. Right? So, I think that's a good piece in the mix. I wouldn't say that's your. 

Single strategy, because, like you said, right, I think the amount of content that's being generated and the amount of quality content being generated, it's just hard to break through. Right? 

Right, right that's very fair. And the most important thing I think here to remember is that. 

Content generation takes really, really long time to pay off as you mentioned. So definitely prepared for that stuff. So, here, we're moving on to 2. last questions 1st question is, you know, as a part of company that exits. 

Are you doing any mentorship or angel investments now? 

So, angel investments on a very small scale just dabbling, just dabbling a little bit, but happy to be moving forward a little bit on that side of it. I do do a lot of like, just mentoring. Right? 

Because that's very satisfying work. I mean, it's very fun.
And exciting to do to talk to founders figure out what some of their problems were and be in a 
position to offer some advice and some help and some guidance on that side. Right? 
So, I do try to make time in my schedule to do that. I think anybody that's reached out to me over the last couple of years, will know that I'm certainly happy to engage with folks on that side of it. 

And it's like, personally it's Super rewarding. So, I really like doing it. 

Right. That's actually very, very accurate. That's I think the way most people do mentorship, not because they get, like, point 5 for your company. So here on these positive now, we're moving on to a last question of today's app is, which is a call to action. 

So, what's the 1 thing you want to listen to do? As soon as the episode is over? 

Yeah, well, for anybody that's in that's in Africa. I would say, go and download chip or cash and get the app and use it. So, that's my. That's my. That's my. That's my 1 call out. 

But I think it's, 

I think it's just think clearly, 

if you're if you're an early stage founder, 

and you're finding yourself kind of feeling overwhelmed by the by the amount of marketing things that you can be doing, 

or the amount of growth efforts that you can be doing whether it's paid acquisition or something. 

Totally different. We have been focusing a lot on paid acquisition, but there's obviously multiple things that make up a growth program for a startup. 

And it's like, if you can think of about the 1 thing that has worked for you. So far, then just give yourself permission to kind of focus in on that, and just do more of that. Right? 

Because all you're looking for is return on investment for your time, knowing that you're constrained, and you have a limited amount of time to do these things. 

So, it's like, simplify your your efforts right find think objectively about all the stuff that you're doing what's providing value and just do more of that right? Just to double down on 1 or 2 things. 

Right, right that's actually really accurate and simple to do call to action. So people definitely follow the advice and I'll make sure to leave a link to cheaper cash. This episodes point. 

Something percent of my listeners from Africa will enjoy. So definitely start building an audience across the continent as well. 

So, hopefully, we'll see we'll see. But here, Michael is going to be as usually go to the scripting that this episodes I'll leave a few other links in the description. 

So,
if you're looking for to connect with managers and actively invest investors, so if you're looking to get mentors, 

just check out the link and description of the episodes and fill out the form and if I like your project might connect you to my network of those mentors and actively investing investors as 
usually have a good day.