Jason Mikula is the Head of Growth at Merlon - the world’s most advanced AI-powered adverse media research platform for enhanced Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) Investigations. Jason has spent more than 10 years working with consumer finance companies like Goldman Sachs and LendUp to develop and implement impactful growth strategies. Jason chats with Chris Snyder about how fintech companies can gain a competitive edge when it comes to user acquisition and growth.
Today’s show is sponsored by banks.com – the world's most comprehensive and trusted branding and discovery platform for banks and banking related products & services. Banks.com is aligning consumer core values with trusted financial institutions bringing attention and awareness to leading financial brands.
[00:00:44] Hello, everyone. Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, President at Juhll Agency and founder at Banks.com. On the show, we take a no B.S. approach to business success and failure, told through the stories of the top entrepreneurs and executives who have lived them. Join us today as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful brands. Today's sponsor is Banks.com, the world's most comprehensive and trusted branding and discovery platform for banks and banking related products and services. Banks.com is aligning consumer core values with trusted financial institutions, bringing attention and awareness to leading financial brands. To learn more, you can go to banks, dot com forward slash partners, or you can send an email to info at Banks.com. Okay, without further ado. Our guest today is Jason Mikula. He's the head of Growth at Long, the world's most advanced, a high-powered adverse media research platform for enhanced A.I. money laundering. That's AML and Know Your Customer, which is KYC investigations. Jason has spent more than 10 years working with consumer finance companies like Goldman Sachs and lend up to develop and implement growth strategies. Jason is here today to chat with us a little bit more about how fintech companies can gain a competitive edge when it comes to user acquisition and growth. My two favorite topics keeps me up at night.
[00:02:19] Welcome, Jason. Thank you. Great to be here. Absolutely. Well, let's kick this thing off. Tell us a little bit about your upbringing, where you grew up and how you got to where you are today.
[00:02:32] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there is plenty of backstory there to unpack, but to start off with. I grew up in a medium sized suburb about an hour north of Chicago. I never really thought about how odd the name is, but it's called Libertyville. No one knows his John Hughes movie, maybe. Yeah, I grew up there. You know, my entire life until 18. Same house. Same school system. High school. My best friend and I were both convinced we were going to become lawyers for the ACLU one day. That clearly did not turn out that way. Wow. And ultimately, you know, I left the area to study political science at Michigan State University. So I actually still kind of thinking that I wanted to go to law at some point. Fortunately, I wised up and realized that that sounded very miserable. And when I finished Michigan State, I moved back to Chicago, didn't really know what I wanted to do. I always had an affinity for sort technology and computers. I mean, growing up, I think I begged my dad to get me a. Plus like that all in one map from the 1984 commercial. You know, our father son bonding activity was him teaching me basic. Oh, your dad was teach you how to code that he was an engineering electrical engineer by trade and also a major tinker, you know, ham radio and computers and all that. So, you know, after my parents got divorced are one of our bonding activities was him teaching me how to code in basic. Wow. Every kid's dream.
[00:04:18] Yeah. Except for mine. That's out. Well, hey, man, you know, that is some, you know, learning how to problem solve and put those frameworks together at a young age just helps you and so many other ways, because I know that you also it looks like you did a whole bunch of stuff from Web design to PPC to all of that stuff requires this, you know, almost a problem solving or engineering mindset, right?
[00:04:49] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:04:49] I mean, ultimately, you know, I didn't pursue, you know, a quote unquote, technical career path in the sense of studying computer science or wanting to become a software engineer. But that style of thinking, to your point, is, has certainly been helpful. You know, and as my career progressed, being able to understand and interact credibly with product managers and with engineers, software developers has been a really critical to being able to be successful in my own role. But, yeah, I didn't didn't pursue that as a career path, you know, kind of bounced around between, you know, those those first jobs after college for a couple of years in Chicago now went back to school doing a masters degree. University of Chicago focusing again on kind of sociology and social science, not not MBA, not not, you know, a technical field. And as I was finishing up there, you know, I thought I have my entire life to work in offices. Now I want to do something different for for a while, for a couple of years. And I was actually accepted to serve in the U.S. Peace Corps. And so when I finished my Masters, I shipped off to the British West Indies, the Caribbean, for my two year stint.
[00:06:21] Wow. Sounds sounds painful. The Caribbean on the taxpayer's dime.
[00:06:29] That is everybody's reaction. I don't know. I was living on the island of St. Lucia for two years. Yes. It was a beautiful. No, it was not a two year vacation. Although I will say the the. Archetype of a Caribbean pace of life being a bit slower was certainly true. And during that extra time, I basically self-taught myself as CEO search engine optimization and PPC. So Google Ladd's being ads and so on and actually against Peace Corps policy. I started freelancing on I think I was called oDesk back then.
[00:07:14] Oh, yeah. ODesk is e-lance now. Or is it a Fiverr?
[00:07:19] It's one of those. Yeah, it's one of those. Mostly just to sort of force myself to learn by doing and I'm talking, you know, really, frankly, kind of shitty assignments, you know, turning out. And this is, you know, two thousand eight. So a very different era for a CEO, but churning out MCO content and running super simple, you know, to be a lead on campaigns and really learning, you know, by doing. And having that answer to these, you know, clients who are paying me something pitiful, you know, 10, 20 dollars an hour.
[00:07:52] Oh, for me. For me, it was like a like a chance to get, you know, a side hustle income and, you know, learn how to learn how to do these skills and, you know, basically start building a resumé, you know, having that specific skill set.
[00:08:07] Yeah. Yeah. Why did you why did that interest you and why did you get into it? I mean, you're at your. You're working for the for the Peace Corps, quote unquote, working for these guys, helping out people in need. And then you just wake up one day and you're like, I want to check out this SVO stuff. Like, Yeah, that's a good question.
[00:08:27] I the rules I had had, you know, both as an internship and undergrad and one of the Full-Time roles I had had in Chicago were, I guess, the old school term of Web master. Yeah.
[00:08:42] Which I don't think is a real job at this point. But basically you can think of this like, you know, content management, except, you know, these were sites that, you know, at that time were maintained in like Dreamweaver and sort of manually editing HMO files and you know that.
[00:09:00] So I sort of I had a bit of this understanding of what does it take to build, you know, build a site and try to drive traffic to it? No, I just didn't have, you know, in either of those roles, there wasn't there wasn't a function. There wasn't to be a marketing function. It was, you know, as a content management, almost more of. Yeah. I mean, it was the Web master.
[00:09:23] Like, take these articles and post them online and edit Almario content. And I notice you worked at a newspaper as well. So it probably fit. It probably fit. You coded a little bit as a kid, like it probably fit really well within the confines of your experience. I think that you know something interesting as well and you probably didn't know it at the time, but. You know, getting your your masters of sociology. If you look back at that in retrospect, that was probably doing what you do today. That's probably one of the most important degrees you could have for the role that you're in today. Would you would you agree with that?
[00:10:06] I mean, I've I've found myself, you know, in conversations or interviews where people sort of see the degree and then like sort of ask that question, you know, and my responses is always that course of study taught me how to think about sort of the how and why of groups of people. Yep. And very tactically, quantitative and qualitative, you know, analysis.
[00:10:39] So things like focus groups, one on one, interviews and surveys, which are really critical to doing a marketing function. And to be honest, a lot of people I've encountered in my career think you throw a survey on survey monkey and email it out to everybody. And those results are, you know, the gold standard. And there really is no scientific approach to doing those things to generate results that are going to be more meaningful.
[00:11:10] Yeah, I mean, Qualtrics, I think Qualtrics got bought by SJP for whatever it was, billions of dollars. I don't know what the exact number is, but it is in the billions of dollars. And the reason why they have a company that is that valuable is because they actually don't act like survey monkey is the gold standard. They put a lot of rigor into these questions to get the best results in. They make them scientifically available in evidence for and companies. Right. For marketers. So I don't know if you've used those guys, but Qualtrics is a they're an amazing company. So let's get on to the finance piece of this discussion. You know, you had your toe dip with clients. You get warmed up. You get up to speed. Let's talk about maybe your first real experience with consumer financial services and growth marketing.
[00:12:11] Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I came back from the Peace Corps in early 2010, I think, OK, I probably need to find a job and get some health insurance. That's that's what it all adults do. And I was on LinkedIn looking at stuff, and I got a request to interview for this company in Chicago called Enova super, super ambiguous name.
[00:12:41] You know, not necessarily super clear, but it is. They do it's in consumer finance space. You know, I look at their sites and understand more.
[00:12:50] That is essentially call it an alternative lending product done over, you know, over the Internet. And this is 2010. So, you know, well in advance of sort of the wave of fintech lenders that are popular now, there's like twenty five of these guys now.
[00:13:09] My God.
[00:13:10] Right. And, you know, I went in interviewed. I remember distinctly that I was wearing, you know, a full suit and tie and it was probably like June or something super hot in Chicago. And I go in to, you know, my first or second interview. And it's a guy in cargo shorts, a Michigan State t shirt. Oh, sweet. And, you know, flip flops. And I'm like, oh, this is a very different kind of financial services than than, you know, the bank that you picture in your head. Yeah. And ultimately ended up taking the job. And that very much set me on the path, you know, to work at a number of different consumer financial services companies, you know, including Goldman, which you mentioned, which is somewhere never in my life that I think that, you know, I would work at at the investment bank. Not that I was in an investment banking function, but, yeah, a very interesting sequence of steps in my career to get me to where I am now.
[00:14:12] Yeah, well, let's talk about, you know, three and now four. I mean, the the company you work for now, they're not consumer facing, really. Right.
[00:14:27] No. So it is that is accurate stuff. They'd be to be. And, you know, essentially it's they're a vendor. So they're building tools in the anti money laundering space that AML space and clients. The most obvious client is, you know, the banking industry. Although there are other types of organizations that do have anti money laundering responsibilities. So think casinos, no money transmitters like a Western Union. So there are many applications for that kind of technology. But that's sort of the place people's mind goes to, is OK. So you sell the banks?
[00:15:11] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Consumers aren't going to buy a digital Merline to get caught when they're laundering their own money. Right. No or no or no. Your customer. You know, which is super important as well, because there's a lot of regulation that basically says to banks, hey, if you guys are taking deposits from bad people, criminals or what have you, you're responsible. So the banks actually have to integrate this technology. Herold's, you don't wind up in hot water. So let's flip back. But actually, one thing we didn't mention, you're actually calling in today from Amsterdam, right? Yeah, that is true. How did you get to Amsterdam? And then we'll come back and talk about growth in consumer finance.
[00:16:01] See, I told you the tell tale a bit about how I got where I am and could take, you know, 20 minutes. So I moved to London originally, and that was for a company, a startup in the student lending space, private student lending space. And then ultimately, for personal reasons, I met somebody and moved here to Amsterdam to join him.
[00:16:30] And fortunately, I've been able to continue finding relevant, interesting, engaging work in my field, even if it is remotely not that there isn't a lot lot of fintech in Amsterdam as well.
[00:16:42] Yeah, no, I mean, Europe's got a lot of this stuff going on. And I would maybe argue it's probably easier with their kind of open banking, their diligence in open banking and in kind of prescribing, you know, open API and open banking across Europe in the UK. I think it might even be easier for you guys to get stuff done there, especially if that's who you're selling to. Let's go back to growth marketing, because you've had this title in roll for the better part of the last 10 years. Yeah, I think it's time for a promotion. Yes, I agree. Entrepreneur, entrepreneur in residence. I think actually CEO would suit you. So let's talk about at the beginning of the show, I call it like the pre game we were you know, we're talking a little bit about growth marketing and in some of the things that we kind of scratch our heads about that, why hasn't this stuff change? Why are people getting better at this? Why are they asking the right questions? Can you maybe kick us off with what growth marketing is to you and what some of the skills are that that folks should need or want to have or that executives should look for in a highly skilled and reliable professional growth marketing person?
[00:18:13] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think the term growth marketing are sort of its predecessor. Growth hacking has gone through a number of iterations.
[00:18:23] You know, what it means to me is somebody who is not only running and running advertising campaigns, are running media campaigns, but is actually thinking about, you know, and hopefully tightly integrated with how can we build this product in a way that is going to support acquiring more customers and within the fintech space. For some products, that's challenging.
[00:18:55] Now, I come primarily from a lending background. And, you know, there there are some limitations on what you can do there to sort of introduce by reality or introduce network effects. I think a much better example, product wise of where those things are possible are in the US. You know, Venmo, that clearly has network effects where getting its usefulness to me as an individual consumer increases as more people start using it or, you know, in the UK particularly, or the, you know, these challenger banks which exist in the U.S. as well. I also have done a great job of really leveraging their existing customers and referrals to build, you know, to build their customer brand and. Customer acquisition. So I'd say within FinTech. No, the. There are going to be constraints on what kind of growth marketing you can do based on the kind of product your you know, you're selling or your marketing. But ultimately, it's about going beyond running ads to understanding how can I build virally into the product itself.
[00:20:17] And is that in your mind? Is that more of a product role or is that is it is it necessary and important for us to attach this this growth marketing moniker to a specific kind of individual? Or do we say, hey, some of these some of these people really look like product managers or some of these people really do look like, you know, advertising managers or regular. They're certainly not brand managers, I don't think. But, you know, back to your point, you know, I know you've been in product management. I know you've done, quote unquote, acquisition. I know you've done a lot of different things. But I guess the question is, do they all now roll up into growth or do you still have to have all of these separate skill sets on your team?
[00:21:10] No, I it depends on the organization, you know, and how. How those functions are delineated. And, you know, to some extent, the cynical part of me says, like, this is a trendy kind of title.
[00:21:28] So, you know, if people if you're thinking from employer brand perspective or you're trying to hire people onto your team, you know, calling it customer acquisition sounds kind of boring. Calling it growth marketing sounds way more exciting. Yeah. And when that doesn't necessarily mean that, you know, that that department or that function is doing anything different, even if they've changed the name.
[00:21:56] I couldn't agree more. But I'm cynical myself about the stuff. I'm like, OK. So when I was growing up, they were called V.P. of sales. Now they're called chief revenue officers. So which one are you? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So customer acquisition and retention, I guess, is now growth. I don't know.
[00:22:21] I mean, thinking through the different organizations I've worked in and sort of how these things were carved, you know, sort of carved apart.
[00:22:33] I think in the ideal world, the.
[00:22:39] Perhaps the ideas of how can we make this product have a stronger referral component or stronger by reality are probably going to come from the person who asked the bottom line responsibility for how many accounts did we book last month? Now, who actually executes that? Now you need a product manager, you need a software engineer, et cetera, to actually take that idea and build it and deploy it into production, particularly if it's a financial services product. Know, highly regulated. I know it's been a while since I've read any of the articles or case studies about Facebook there. So I would argue, you know, it's a bit different in a sense. It is completely more or less unregulated consumer product. And you can just sort of invent features that did not exist in any function at all to try to introduce that that growth of fact. So, I mean, if you think of, like, the awful days of, like Farmville or actually even linked in and its ability to scan your address book and then accidentally trick you into, you know, inviting everybody in there to connect. Exactly. And, you know, when that's not what you meant to do, I mean, that was probably the idea of, you know, marketer and executed by a product person. And then, of course, the engineers who actually built it.
[00:24:12] Let's talk about the phase that a company in a fintech or a bank should be in, since you've got this consumer finance background. What phase should these guys think about hiring a growth team? What phase should they be in? What is is it a number of accounts that they've already booked? Is it OK? We've got product market fit now. We're ready to step on the gas. Like, how would you evaluate your target as a growth market person so that that company needs me? Right. What phase is it?
[00:24:51] I mean, I think that's a great question. And you could probably ask half a dozen people and get totally different answers. I think the starting point of the answer is no. What what is the perceived problem that the company or the startup believes it needs to solve? And you hit on, in my opinion, sort of the key part of that, which is product market fit. Yep. I think most. Tech startups that I've that I'm familiar with or that I have friends or colleagues that work at, you know, they come from a very engineering led culture where where they probably have zero marketing people, possibly even zero product management people until you know, until they believe they've established that product market fit, you know, especially I think, in like the beat of the year in the enterprise space. But even in consumer brands, you know, if I think about Lindop and sort of the time, they're now the growth team and it was called the growth team there, it didn't really start getting built until, you know, kind of well after product market fit was established.
[00:26:10] So it was you know, we know there's consumer demand for this. We know that our product can meet that demand. You know, obviously, there's like we have the legal ability to lead money in these certain states. Now, we really need to ramp how much volume, originating ramp, the number of customers. So we need to hire people who know how to do basically how to do acquisition. How to do. How do you run the channel? How do you run PPC? How do you run SVO? How do you run affiliates or LIJUN? I would argue that, you know, depending on the problem that a company is trying to solve. Having somebody with a marketing skill set, not necessarily an advertising skillset, but a marketing skill set for much earlier in the process where you're defining your value proposition. Understanding what benefits customers derive from the features. Understanding what you're positioning is versus competitors. And then translating that into a strategy. Now most. Most startups, most founders, I've seen no skip past all that stuff and just sort of figure it out without half without having a framework. And then once they believe they've got product market fit, then then they want to bring in somebody who is just going to sort of scale it. Yeah, that's been my experience.
[00:27:38] I couldn't agree. I couldn't agree more. They've got to get the they've got to get people in there like us sooner rather than later. And it doesn't mean that you have to have an enormous team. And I do want to talk about team composition a little bit after make a couple comments.
[00:27:54] But I think that having someone there even writing thoughts in a blog that attract MCO, because that attraction sends a signal that states, whether it's interesting or not, the product that you're building and the work that you're doing, then I think that doing that for a year before you even hire a team, because it would take probably at least a year for this to start to Germany and really pick up steam. I think it could teach the engineers and the product team and the CEOs and the all the higher ups.
[00:28:33] I think it could teach them something about where they should go. I don't know how they would get that signal otherwise. Right. Well, you know, I want to talk about if you were to draw like a gigantic circle on the whiteboard and you you you write in the middle of that circle. Call it growth team. And then you start branching out like an octopus. All the different functions or roles that you would have on that team. Could you talk a talk to us about. You mentioned a little bit earlier about the composition of the team. But can you tell us if you had your dream team? What would that composition of that growth team be?
[00:29:20] That is an interesting question and not not what I thought about prior to this call. So I'll I'll try to. We can do it together to I'll talk through this on the fly. I mean, I can tell you how it has been done at most places I've been. And then I'll highlight some of the shortcomings or excellent shortcomings of that. Yeah, let's do it. Most companies I've worked for have organized it at a channel channel level. You know, if you're getting a subject matter expert who has no deep expertize in paid search, organic search, you know, maybe display. Direct mail as old school as that sounds. But for lending particularly, you're doing direct mail. Hey, that stuff works, by the way. Yes. And then it may go by different names, but lead gen or partnerships. So that could be like your credit karmas and lending trees and those types of companies. Now, one of one of the problems I've experienced with that model, particularly for paid search and MCO kind of roles, is depending on who you hire into that. They tend to get bored. And it's not really a clear career progression for that person. So thinking as like a people manager, you know, when that's been the structure, I'm like, OK, if I hire this really awesome paid search person into this role, either I need to develop a career progression for him or her where they're having increasing responsibility, or I need to just admit that they might turn out after, like, two years. Yeah, yeah. And I've seen it.
[00:31:08] I mean, I've seen that at plenty of places where because there's no you know, there's potentially no up if you're sort of single skilled and you already have a management layer, a strategy layer on top of you. Those people, especially if they're really good, if they're really good, they're going to get frustrated that they can't, you know, move move ahead.
[00:31:30] Yeah. So so let's let's work through this. So we've got subject matter experts, specifically Google. I'll put that down as a stack. And just because you're good at Google doesn't mean you're good at Facebook. And by the way, just because you're good at the Google PPC does not mean you're going to be good at the Google display or the Google YouTube. Right. So. So but for sure, into your point. And based on your advice, we do need to start building this dream team with some subject matter experts. So we've got kind of PPC, which could include, you know, paid search, you know, Google in being I think, being exist still to this.
[00:32:23] I've seen it on our TV show.
[00:32:28] And then we've got paid social, which. Oh, my God. Has taken off and become an absolute juggernaut. And in my experience, you can not have the same person that is managing the Google, also managing the face place. Right. Like that just doesn't. Those are two completely different people.
[00:32:50] Would you agree 90 percent of the time? Ninety five percent of the time. Yeah. I mean, I think the the assumption is, OK. These are both like metric driven, quote unquote, pay per click channels. So if you can do Google, you should be able to do Facebook and that skills transferable. I think the key element that that ignores is that Google is super high intent, you know, bottom of funnel, you know, Utah and Yeezy, whatever shoes. And that means like you are ready to buy those shoes, whereas, you know, Instagram, Facebook, you're scrolling through whatever your friends did last weekend. And the ad is an interruption. So it functions much more like a display ad than it denotes a search ad. That's a plus channel. So that can be great because it can be demand. Right. If you're trying to sell a product that people don't know exists or they're unaware of, you need to generate that demand. Nobody is searching for it. But again, to your point, you know, it's not it's not the same strategy, particularly on the creative side. You know what? Our target. OK, targeting. Who are you targeting? How are you segmenting that? How are you tracking. Those are pretty transferable. But how do you decide what image or video to put in front of somebody? There is. And art and science bounced to that, that not all search marketers are gonna to that to do.
[00:34:24] And this is expensive. Like, someone's got to create all this content. And we're not talking about, you know, five pieces of content for Facebook. We're talking about five hundred. Right. We're not, you know, in in varying assets, depending on if it's mobile or desktop. And different audiences read this can get, you know, really deep, really fast. You really need, you know, you know, someone who just focuses on that, on your dream team or you need to locate an agency that does just that really well and actually want to come back to the agency model versus in-house. But so we've got subject matter experts. We've got, you know, the advertising side of the house, Google, Facebook, social paid. You'd mentioned direct mail a little bit, which is a completely different skill set. I would I would suggest that probably most of the kids coming out of schools these days don't don't even do this. You would probably have to hire an agency for direct mail. But let's talk about what kind of support this team might have now, because in our pre game, you know, I think we had a chuckle about how clueless a lot of companies still are about tracking. And interestingly, I had to. Which is a major tracking platform. I had to on the show a couple of weeks ago. And we were having a good chuckle about this, too. That's why they have a whole business in their company just got bought. But what other supporting roles would you have? Engineering, design, tracking, analytics. Can you finish building out the team here? Yeah.
[00:36:08] I mean, I think you just named almost all of the probably the most important one. So if you think of the sort of the core of this as team members were owning specific channels, they're going to need other resources to actually execute on that track and optimize. So what are those other resources? And do they sit within a growth workstream or do they belong to some other team or are they at an agency design? Absolutely.
[00:36:44] And I can tell you that every startup I've ever worked at this has been a huge pain point. Oh, yes. Tippett Because typically your design resource is actually a front end designer who is supposed to be working on the Web app or IOW app or Web site, and you're begging them to make you ad units for Facebook or banner.
[00:37:06] They absolutely despise. Yeah, exactly. So Benoff them, according to them, not what they were hired for.
[00:37:15] It's not what they want to do. And so you're kind of like begging for their time to make you like a five second video or a new new set of creative for Facebook. So, yeah. Design resource. Absolutely. Analytics resource. This is interesting. I mean, I've I think I've found that most. Good digital marketers or channel owners should come with some proficiency in how to basically do analytics on their own channel. Yeah. Maybe not fluent in the sequel. I'm not fluent in the sequel, but know enough of how to use Google Analytics intelligently or another. And like Web analytics platform. And, you know, every business I've worked for has also had basically an internal data warehouse or database. And so being able to, you know, use that proficiently enough to answer the questions they need to answer because like the designer, every startup I've worked for. Now, if you need to get outside help to answer that, it's kind of like a data scientist or a business analyst who's sort of dayjob job is doing something else. Building a credit model, building a response model. And they're not necessarily interested in, you know, passing year your Facebook data to see which ad performance the past there are.
[00:38:43] I'm going to I'm going to agree with you wholeheartedly that your channel managers and your experts should come geared up for. You know what? I think we would agree to be some simple data analysis. It's just part of the job. But I will also add to that until our listeners or any company out there that can afford it, hire the marketing team. A full time analyst. Please, please, God. Because the complication should not be just at the individual channel level where you know this, because you've managed these teams and built these teams.
[00:39:22] The complication comes in, aggregating all of it and getting strategic about it and having the CEO come in red is sticky on your desk that says, hey, can I just get that one thing? And you're like, oh, that is that one thing is gonna take an analysts, like a real analyst that only stares at spreadsheets all day. That one thing is going to take him or her three hours. It's going to take you eight.
[00:39:50] And one of the key shortcomings. You know, I've experienced, again, at pretty much every orig I've worked at is around that. No, call it data infrastructure. Yeah. And I mean, particularly having a lot of marketing data that's sitting in a silo, that silo being the publisher platform and then having a lot of other really important customer data in an internal data warehouse database. And the result being that, you know, probably the channel owner is sitting there by hand sort of joining impressions and clicks and cost data and timeframes with the output of some, like, sequel query. Yeah. And it's like this is 20, 20. Like, how is this still how we're doing?
[00:40:41] You just described, like, how we started doing this 10 years ago. Joins in a pivot. Right. I personally do it, but I've seen it done. And, you know, we shipped it off. It's it's basically grunt work. That's by the way, they don't the channel managers don't like this work either. No. Absolutely not. So. So, yeah, we got to get that sorted out. You know, we use like big query, which hooks right up to Google, obviously. And then, you know, you can use tools like Tableau, which is relatively expensive and complex. You can use data studio. There's a lot of different tools out there now that hopefully any analyst or, you know, database person should be able to string together for the marketing team in no time. But I will say, like I would agree with you, they just don't dedicate the resources and the time to the marketing team to get them these kinds of resources specifically designed and specifically analytics. So that's a little it's a little frustrating. I know that. Let's talk about. And one more comment on that. I will say that even more important than having the analyst is the person asking the questions. So I don't know how many times, like, you know, a manager would say, well, I need to understand what's going on. And then they walk out of the room. And then, you know, an analyst with, like, four years of experience is just strings up all his data with no guidance. Right. And they're showing you all this stuff. Dude, what are you doing? What is this?
[00:42:23] So, yeah, I mean, I have I have I have seen that.
[00:42:26] I have lived that where now if you're when you're far enough along in your career, hopefully you've learned the right way to to push back and be like, what question are you really trying to ask?
[00:42:42] Yeah. So that I can make sure we pull data and do an analysis that answers the question that you really want to ask. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, when you're a junior, that's hard to do. You just start, you know, pulling data out of places and throwing it on a slide. And it may or may not actually have any value.
[00:43:02] Yeah. And back to your original point. As a growth marketing leader, growth marketing leaders out there need to help educate and I guess even inspire their executives on what they should be thinking about. Right. Because if the CEO of the company is an engineer or the CEO of the company was a finance person or the CEO of the company is a, you know, X P.W. CE consultant or whatever. I would I would suggest that most CEOs in the B2B fintech space are not coming from the marketing department. I would suggest that. So they need help, too. So if you're if you're in charge of growth and you're listening like get your questions together, get your shit together so you can not have people put stickies on your desk and then overload them with information, everyone becomes frustrated and you waste a bunch of time. You know what I wanted to talk to you about? I wanted to talk to you a little bit about goals and KPI as. I mean, I think there's some obvious ones that you might look at on a daily basis or that you're familiar with over the course of your career that you've looked at. Can you share a little bit of that?
[00:44:17] Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I'm coming from a financial product background, particularly a lending product. There are like some some relatively specific and unique KPI. But I guess let me start out the publisher side that's more general and then move more specific. Right. So if I'm thinking about evaluating the performance of paid campaigns or really on any platform. Right. I mean, it could be Google paid search or it could be TV. I mean, I've I've run TV adverts in my career in radio adverts as well. There are some complications with computing. The KPI is, but it should still be possible. So I'm thinking about sort of more traditional marketing metrics, obviously. How much did I spend? You know, what was my reach or how many impressions did I generate? What's my frequency? So that's sort of more traditional framework of thinking about marketing in terms of reach and frequency. And I found particularly, you know, when I've worked with, you know, how to say this politically correctly, older peers who maybe came from a more traditional brand marketing background.
[00:45:35] Being able to switch into that language was really important because they were used to buying, you know, G.R. Peas against Demo. Yep. And, you know, 20 year old me was like, what's the GDP? What's the demo? But, you know, at this point, you know, being able to apply to the performance skill set across marketing channels is really important. And performance means looking at KPI. So how much I spend, what's my reach? What's my frequency now? What's my what's my CPM? So how much am I paying to buy this media? Or if you're talking clicks with my CPC and then basically progressing that down the funnel. So depending on what kind of product and I'm clearly a very direct response thinking person, depending on what kind of product you're selling, you could have a very short conversion funnel or a much longer one. Yeah. So, you know, thinking in terms of like the personal loans kinds of products that I've sold that tended to have like a 24 hour sales cycle. If somebody clicked, you know, 90 percent. Ninety five percent or going to convert within a day or they were, you know, going to leave and not convert on your site. So understanding and this is where it gets a little bit more specific in in sort of the lending space. OK. This person came to my site, you know, my landing page or my home page. How are they progressing through key points in this conversion flow? So did they fill out a request for loan information? If so, and this is the big difference in lending versus any other business. Were they approved? Did not have credit policy? You know, I think that lending is like the only business where you really care who your customer is because they need to pay you back.
[00:47:28] Yeah, if I if I'm selling shoes or purses or accrues. No, you give me money, I'll give you the product like, you know. Whereas in lending and particularly as a marketer in lending, understanding, you know, the nuances of credit policy and your companies approach to underwriting and any any modern company is doing this probably fully automated, at least for sort of the first qualification. You know, I am not a credit risk analyst, but in the past 10 years, I have learned a lot about credit risk underwriting credit bureaus and how that works.
[00:48:09] So, OK, click. Proceed to application sort of request pre prequalification, what percent of those are approved. And then, you know, the highest level of those approvals, how many go on to actually fund a loan? So that's sort of like the first core part of the journey that allows you to compute a CPA. So how much did I spend on Google Search? How many loans that I fund that is my cost per acquisition or in the lending space cost per funded loan?
[00:48:42] Now, there's a whole bunch of downstream metrics because, again, unlike a consumer product where, you know, you probably know the margin upfront and you can know kind of right away. So am I. Am I. Are y positive or are we as positive, you know, based on this person's average order value or what they bought. Whatever in lending, the profitability comes down to a couple of key things how much money did the person borrow? What is the interest rate you're charging now? And do they pay you back?
[00:49:21] What do they pay you back? What's the what is the default rate?
[00:49:25] And I'm not going to pretend to say I could build that model. But somebody and they you're asking what teams does marketing need to interact with in a finance company? You also have legal compliance. You know, this this sort of team credit risk accounting, you know, all the really fun stuff that people go into marketing for. Yeah. Build a model. I might be called like a lifetime value model or present value net present value model to basically say what do we think we're going to earn from a customer who looks like this? And there are variables that go into that mostly credit score and how much they borrowed.
[00:50:06] How much revenue are we going to earn from this kind of customer on average? Yes. And then basically you're saying, how much do I spend to get this person? And hopefully that number is lower than how much you think you're going to earn in revenue over the lifetime of that loan.
[00:50:23] And if you really want to go crazy, you can put each one of your ad campaigns into these cohorts. You can think about what you said. Right. To get these people into your funnel. And then you can look at those default rates or the health of that cohort and tie it directly back to your advertising messages. And so super important stuff. Thanks for explaining that, Jason. What do you see? Some common mistakes actually before that. What do you see as some common mistakes that fintech in particular would make, since you do have a lot of experience here? What do you see some of the mistakes they would make as they think about how to measure themselves? Or what have you seen in the past? Like what you just described candidly was like a perfect scenario. Right. Having all that is perfect.
[00:51:21] Where do you see the biggest mistakes happening? You know, based on all your experience with some of these these proteins at Thin Texas specifically?
[00:51:31] Yeah, I mean, there've been a couple things, a couple recurring trends that I've detected. I mean, I think one. Is. And this is going to sound counterintuitive based on our conversation.
[00:51:47] But the.
[00:51:49] Relentless and almost tunnel vision like focus on on these kinds of metrics that we're talking about. These metrics do lend themselves very well to measuring and optimizing performance marketing programs. So all of the things we've been talking about, even TV ayran Deeyah Direct Response TV at Lend Up. And we used a performance framework and an external tech vendor that specialized in measuring TV to say, you know, is this individual campaign? Are alive, positive. And even within that day, parts and creative's and champ TV channels and all that. And this is this is the type of sort of person and culture I've worked with in a lot of of fintech startups. It also is how I tend to think since I come from that world. I think the the shortcomings there or the potential mistakes are, you know, one, it lends itself to micro optimization and being blind to the whole picture. So you're missing the forest for the trees. Metaphore. Right. So you're like looking at all these individual pieces and trying to tweak and trying to optimize with the assumption that that means your marketing program in aggregate will become optimized. And it's not it's not clear to me that that's always the case. Right. You have questions around attribution and assigning, you know, assigning credit for acquired customers to different channels that most companies I've worked with still struggle with. Will last click fine or some sort of time decay model or whatever. And I think expertize on the marketing side is very low. Their expertize on the analytics side is very low there. And so, you know, either in the fintech side, most companies say, I don't believe in brand marketing. We can't measure it. We can't measure it with these metrics as customers. What is the CPA? I don't believe in it. We're not going to do it. Or if they do it, it's the you know, we're just going to call this brand. It's like the Sofya approach. We're just gonna buy a Super Bowl ad for her, you know, millions and millions of dollars. And, you know, maybe they're measuring that, which is, you know, brand brand awareness. Purchase intent. Brand favorability. Those sorts of classic marketer metrics and not tying it to to our ally. So I think there the mistake is. And I'd say the more common one is. I don't run this at a channel level. I'm going to optimize every single channel. And if the if the spreadsheet says that Spotify ads didn't work because I see too few conversions that have the source tag Spotify. Yeah, I'm going to I'm going to turn off that channel. Yep. And that, you know, can be a little bit can be limiting or perhaps a little short sighted.
[00:55:11] Yeah. I agree with you 100 percent. And we've done this. You know, it's interesting, this last click model and you mentioned the the hardest the hardest, dirtiest word on the planet, which is attribution. I still don't think anyone's figured that out. If you meet anyone that's figured that out, let me know. But, yeah, I mean, you you come in as the growth team and you say, OK, here's the budget. You do all this stuff for paid. But then you look at your direct and organic and of course, it grows, but you're being valued and measured on your paid effort. And then I guess someone in Brand gets credit for the organic and direct growth. Right. And I've actually ran experiments before where we've shut off like a single channel. And you've seen a massive degradation in both organic and direct traffic. I've seen up to 20 percent loss in a corresponding channel. Prior to that. So if in your Spotify example, if you weren't watching the whole business and you were being really myopic, you actually could hurt the organic indirect channel because maybe people don't want it. Maybe you're just gonna type it in. You're going to click on the Spotify ad because they know it's a frickin ad. They want to click on it. Right.
[00:56:31] If if I could get all the time back from conversations, meetings around. Well, can't we had a vanity. You are able to that TV ad or Kelly. What about a promo code. And it's I mean, I could explain the problems of both of those. But I mean, to your point, it's like for it for something that is not an ad that you're clicking on or even when it is. Right. Even with Facebook and Instagram, that is going to drive people searching brand terms or directly typing in your URL. And yes, at that point, the direct clicked level tracking is broken. You know, you can't capture a parameter and then create a database or look at Google Analytics report and see exactly where they came from. But that does not mean that you're not having an impact. And I think that, you know, that complexity and that ambiguity is something that a lot of people who call themselves performance marketers are uncomfortable with, like the super needs. And they can't just make a quick slide with tables that say we spent X, we got Y customers. This is a CPA.
[00:57:43] Well, it's easier. I mean, I will say that it's easier than maybe, you know, you you kind of putting your ass on the line and going, hey, guys, I'm gonna I'm going to keep this spin going and we're gonna figure out how we should look at it and measure it. That would be a lot harder than just saying, oh, I placed the Spotify ad. We only got one conversion for two thousand dollars. I spent two thousand dollars. Test is over. It's like, what? OK. That's actually the easy way out. That's the easy way out. And I think that it's easy to go to Google and it's easy to go to Facebook and run your tests in there because everything is clearly defined. But every single one of these platforms, in my experience, they are large. They're complex.
[00:58:30] They have big audiences. They have different ways of tracking things. You actually have to put a lot of time into it. And by the way, you have to put a lot of budget into it. You might want to run a hundred thousand dollars worth of media on Spotify before you walk away from that channel and you say, I am confident this is not going to work. We did our best job. We tried everything we possibly could in Spotify is not going to work for us. So I'll add another one to that list on top. Your myopic kind of thinking is just not giving enough time and attention and budget to new channels. They're just simply not doing it. And I know it's hard, but you've got to do it like you got to do it.
[00:59:12] What you described, I think, is the exact approach that, you know, several companies I've worked with or worked for of. We ran a four week test. We spent five thousand dollars. We generated two customers. It was a failure like next next project, self-fulfilling prophecy.
[00:59:34] It's obviously it's going to fail. Like, honestly, I tell I tell my clients. I'm like, wait a second. You want us to do what, with 5000 dollars or 10000? Dollars. It's not worth your time, guys, because we can't come back and tell you confidently with ten thousand dollars that we gave it the college try. We just can't tell you what. Give me three months. Give me thirty thousand dollars or sixty thousand dollars. Obviously, we're not just going to. Throw it up in the air. Right. We're gonna really try hard. But there should be some build into that, right? Like, maybe you start at one hundred bucks a day or two hundred bucks a day. You tinker, you tinker, you tinker. Then it moves all the way. And so you get to a thousand dollar a day in month three. Now you spend sixty five thousand dollars on the test. You understand you're creative, is warmed up. Your copy has been tested. Your landing pages are now congruent. This is a whole thing. This is a thing. This is in dollar testing. Can just go jump off a building.
[01:00:35] I think that the v.C funded startups, especially earlier stage wardens, now have that pressure to show growth, but show hopefully positive unit economics. And so they're very reluctant and they may be cash constrained. Right. I have a ton of cash to throw around, in fairness. You're right. Yes. And so, you know, the experience said, you know, a series, a lend up. You know, they raise like 14 million versus and experience it at Goldman, which let's say functionally has unlimited money in some regards.
[01:01:13] It's like, you know, you can spend years running brand oriented advertising at Goldman and no one's going to bat an eye. No. One, the budget is there added to the mentality is very different because they don't need to go back to Andreessen Horowitz or G.V. or whoever in a 12 to 18 months and raise another round. The time horizon is very different.
[01:01:38] And thus the the willingness to do do those kinds of campaigns. And they wouldn't even call them tests really to to run those kind of campaigns is quite different if they're on a five year or a 10 year time horizon. Not one one to two year time horizon.
[01:01:54] Yeah, well, this is why, Jason, it's so important to get someone in a leadership position like yourself that has the experience because you only have a few bullets, man. Right. It's like, OK, you know, we don't have Goldman money. We don't have 14 million. Even 14 million dollars is a lot of money. Right. That's a lot of money for a lot of startups. So they need someone that knows how to pick the shot because you don't have that many of them and you can't go spending five thousand dollars over the course of 10 different platforms. Right. That's fifty thousand dollars when maybe what you should have done is just hunker down. And Google spent your 50 G's and done it the right way to build that channel properly. Wow. Well, look, we have like we have a ton to talk about, but unfortunately, I can't. I'd love to do this for like two more hours because I love this. But a couple more questions. What do you see as as shifts or trends and user consumer preference regulation or any of that as relates to retail banking or fintech? Where is the pocket it? Where are we going with this thing, either from a consumer point of view or from the banks, whatever you want to give us. What do you see? You can see around corners you're magic.
[01:03:16] Be the space in the US, you know, is really interesting and is going to continue to be really interesting. I think some of the the too obvious trends in retail banking broadly, but specifically in the US, you're going to see a continued decline of retail brach branches. So even pre Cauvin, that trend was already well underway due to both consolidation there. Just fewer banks now than there were 10, 20 years ago and less demand. People are doing other stuff online on app. They don't need the branch except I guess, you know, four quarters for laundry. And so you've seen a dramatic decrease in the number of branches that's going to continue. Kove It's going to accelerate it. Know, I don't think there's a question there. The second one with I think no question is you're going to continue to see. I'll say the big four Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google, push into financial services. Do they do they have the appetite to actually become a bank? And actually, I don't even think that's legal, even necessarily possible. Wal-Mart tried it to get an ILC in Utah. They were rebuffed, but they're going to continue pushing into, you know, starting with the front end of consumer financial services. Right. So Apple did Apple card with Goldman, but really, you know, Apple is customer acquisition channel and the UI. The wallet app with an iPhone. Goldman does all of the sort of banking regulatory, credit risk management kind of stuff that I think is going to be. Approach, at least for the near term. You know, Facebook is kind of a wildcard. They had Libra, but it wasn't necessarily well-received. They obviously had a lot of other issues, sort of reputation, legitimacy issues that they make that more complicated. Google recently announced, I think, six additional banks that they're launching debit accounts or bank accounts with also basically powering the front end of that experience. And then Amazon, I can't even keep track of all the things Amazon is doing. They're doing small biz loans with Goldman. You know, they have a slew of other financial related products, which makes sense given on the one hand, they have consumers who are going to want to borrow when they're buying things. On the other hand, they have SMB sellers on their platform who need to borrow to finance and finance their businesses finance inventory. So two key ones, declining branch footprint going to continue. These four companies pushing further into financial services. Going to continue. You know, apart from that, I've become a very, like, keen watcher, slash skeptic, I suppose, of the Challenger banking space. Yeah. So in the US, that's like China is probably the biggest one aspiration I think is getting. Been getting a lot of attention lately. Not that there's not. Interesting things they're doing. From a consumer benefit perspective. They are, I think, pushing and pushing on things like fee revenue and pricing. So even a Robin Hood. Right, Robin Hood led basically led all the other brokers to zero commission fee free. I mean, on the back end, they're making money by selling your order to a high frequency trader. But for the consumer, it's like, okay, this is a free product now. So I'm I'm watching that space. You know, I want to see how it develops right now. Like, I'm very skeptical of some aspects of the business model. So I think they do good things for consumers with transparency, with no fees, with no offering. Obviously mobile first app, first rate, you buy all of that. But I think the U.K. is ahead of where we are in the sense that a lot of those companies actually have banking licenses and does hold deposits and they still haven't actually developed a real business model.
[01:07:38] Now, analyzing I was reading off FinTech blueprint, Lex produced this revolution. Monzo lose one hundred million pounds. For those of you who don't know what pounds are the pound sterling chappies. Yeah, 100 million to your point. The business model is not there. How are they going to make money if they don't have fee income? Right. I don't know.
[01:08:07] I mean, I, I, I spent way too much time poring over some of the report filings for Monzo. Reville loots. There's a third one Starling, and they're all in pretty much a similar boat where they've managed to get the eyeballs. So customers have signed up for accounts. Now customers have money, some money in those accounts. So they have deposits. But right now they're relying on interchange. So basically debit card transactions and some like fee revenue, like you get a premium account is sort of the basic one. But that still gets you a 100 hundred million Palmos. I think if they don't develop real lending businesses. So basically using the deposits they've gathered. Yeah. Quickly, I'm curious if how many of those companies will continue to exist?
[01:09:02] Well, there's the bot, right? They'll just get bought for their front end. I don't know if you saw on deck on that it was worth over a billion dollars. They got Bofur 90 million bucks. Oh, my God.
[01:09:14] By my first employer, the company that I started working for in Chicago, whatever, 10, 12 years ago, Enova ot on deck for 90. At its peak, it was worth had a market cap of, I think, one point eight billion. And you know who loses there? It's the public market shareholders, because you see cashed out long, long ago. So the institutional and the retail shareholders, you know, are the ones who basically saw all that value get vaporized.
[01:09:43] And I see cabbage. Cabbages on sale to where they may have been acquired. But I think I don't see these. These are, by the way, for those of you don't know, these are SMB lenders. Right. I don't see any difference between what these guys are doing. And candidly, some of the personal loan and alternative lenders like I just when is the music going to stop for some of these guys? Right. I just don't I don't understand. I'm not saying that traditional banks are not without their flaws. And I'm not saying that they should pay a little bit closer attention to how they make their fee income and how they rack up fees on unwitting consumers. I think they've done that for many years on purpose. But there's got to be a balance here, right? They've got to get better at their front end. The traditional banks have to get better at the front end. They've got to get better at mobile. They've got to get they've got to move faster. So that's what these Challenger banks are really good at. But they don't they don't have the business model together yet and they're not as well capitalized as a bank that's been around for 100 years.
[01:10:45] So, yeah, I mean. Exactly. So, you know, kind of the way I see this playing out is, you know, maybe you have these challenger banks in a Robin Hood and those types of startups that push the incumbents to have better products. So better you buy better mobile and also reduce some of that punitive fee revenue overdrafts and trade commissions and all that. But you know what? JP Morgan Chase can can afford to forgo that revenue, whereas, you know, aspiration and chime probably can not. So you may see the end result being that these startups push the incumbent banks to be a little bit more consumer. Friendly, but that and these startups themselves don't get enough traction to build a survivable scalable business.
[01:11:37] Yeah, well, Marcus pulled it off. Right. But, you know, I think you're common around J.P. Morgan. They had Fin and it failed, actually signed up to that. They said it wasn't available in the state of California. I was like, huh? But, I mean, to your point, you know, Goldman was probably pressed into doing this and they did it and they've done a great job. But what other I don't hear any of these other banks doing this stuff. They're probably just waiting to buy one of these guys when they fail. I guess, you know, they're valuable.
[01:12:08] I'm out of control right now or.
[01:12:11] And I think Capital One really has an interesting strategy of like buying entire design studios and design shops to really build up their talent and their capabilities in the digital space. I I've never actually used Capital One, so I haven't seen it firsthand. But, you know, if there's one thing that these banks have, it's money and money also gives them time. Yeah. So, you know, it's the process of building, you know, digital application at an existing bank. I can guarantee you is going to take way longer and cost way more than it would in a startup. But these these banks have the equity capital to do that. And so the question is, in five years, maybe their margins are squeezed, maybe their expenses are higher or whatever. But where are these startups in five years? And we'll find out.
[01:13:13] Well, series, series Z funding go go public for one point a billion. They get bought by one of your then prior companies for another 90 million. All right. Well, this is great. You know, I really appreciate you being on the show today. Jason, let me just tell everybody, you know, who you are and what you're about.
[01:13:36] Jason Mikula is the head of growth at Malone, the world's most advanced, a high powered adverse media research platform. Anti money laundering KYC know your customer, and more importantly, he came on the show to talk about consumer fintech and consumer finance growth marketing, which was awesome. Jason, thank you so much. It was great to have you on the show.
[01:14:03] Yeah, any. I appreciate the opportunity. Excellent. Excellent.