Get ideas for marketing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), teambuilding, and finding “aha” customer moments by listening to episode #50 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a delightful conversation with Melissa-Ann Chan, Head of Marketing, Arta Finance.
Listen now to hear Chan discuss taking Google Pay adoption from 0 to becoming the largest digital payments app in India, collaborating with engineers for Google Retail projects, and much more.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
We had a recent SuperFunnel LiveClass, and I was giving conversion optimization advice to a participant – it’s live optimization, we see the landing page for a few moments, and then give advice. And the page seemed off to me, so I had specific thoughts on the design and wording and such.
And then Flint McGlaughlin went next, and he took a very different approach then I did. He didn’t talk about the page, he talked about the entrepreneur behind this page. Why this offer? Why this product? How many books have you read about this topic in the past 24 months?
He hit the underlying problem with the landing page. Not what was on it, per se. It’s what wasn’t beneath it. It didn’t tie into the entrepreneur’s personal value proposition. This person was not tapping into his passion, he was trying to get an offer out into the world and just make money.
Who can blame him, you might say. Isn’t that our job?
Pushing pixels on a page is not enough – when you don’t truly believe in what you’re selling, it will hurt your marketing effectiveness. Our latest guest tapped into that caution as well. She said, “If you don’t believe in the company or the product, your job as a marketer is going to suck.”
So true. And I would add – your marketing is going to suck as well.
You can here the story behind that lesson, and many more lesson-filled stories, from Melissa-Ann Chan, Head of Marketing, Arta Finance.
Chan helped take a product from 0 to 100 million users, has worked on many lean teams at Google, and currently works on a team of three, along with a “bunch of contractors,” at the Series A startup.
While in stealth mode, Arta Finance raised more than $90 million from Sequoia Capital India, Ribbit Capital, Coatue, and more than 140 tech and finance luminaries, including Betsy Cohen, Eric Schmidt and Ram Shriram.
Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
Some lessons from Chan that emerged in our discussion:
Find the missions that you believe in – because once you do, you’ll be able to market almost anything. This seems really obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of times Chan has met marketers who tell her they feel a bit ‘meh’ about the company or product they’re marketing.
Your job is to connect the right audience to the right product or service, it’s near impossible to do that if your mindset is ambivalent towards it. If you can’t see the value of your own product – then what hope does a customer have?
But when your belief is sky-high, your technical skills as a marketer become amplified. So for marketers who want to find satisfaction in their job as well as stay on top of their game – your belief in the mission is the #1 reason why you should take a job or stay in a role.
That’s one of the reasons why Chan stayed over 14 years at Google. She got to work on so many different products – from the B2B ads business (display, video, programmatic advertising, buy and sell side digital advertising) to B2C business (retail, devices, emerging markets, fintech). Google’s mission – to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful – manifests throughout all the products and teams she got to work on, even if the brief varied from convincing East Coast media empires why they should trust AI to run their digital advertising, to growing digital payments in Tier 3 Indian cities.
Now she is Head of Marketing for Arta Finance. They’re on a mission to make the “financial superpowers” of the ultra-wealthy accessible to more people, so people can build the future that they want. Nothing matters to her more than helping to close the wealth gap – and even though they have a long way to go before they can claim to help here, her belief that this team and product will make a difference motivates her to become a better marketer every day.
In 2016, Chan was pulled in to help develop a digital payments product for Google, starting with India. She had a major moment of impostor syndrome – she wasn’t a finance professional! She hadn’t cut her teeth at Mastercard or a bank. And she had worked on the India market in a B2B capacity only, never to consumers! She was given a challenge – launch and drive adoption for a digital payments product in India, where 97% of transactions were made in cash. Trust was low in digital payment products, where concerns around fraud and security were high.
From the launch of Tez in 2017, which became Google Pay, the team drove its adoption from zero to becoming (by most measures) the largest digital payments app in the country. At the same time, the percent of transactions made in cash dropped to around 50% by 2019. In two years, India halved its reliance on cash for everyday transactions. The catalyst was the India Government’s introduction of bank-to-bank transfers via the Unified Payments Interface, or UPI.
They built Google Pay, or Tez as it was known then, on UPI, and around the user insight that money is personal. The hero feature was the ability to instantly send money from one person to another. Because trust in digital payments was low, they needed to break through this inertia, and convince people that it was safe to link their bank accounts. No amount of TV or print or email campaigns would really move the needle – awareness or education campaigns could only go so far. People had to experience it to trust that it would work.
They identified that magic moment – the transaction had to happen between two people who knew each other and could verify with each other that it worked. And they found that consumers had to do this three or more times for the maximum retention. So to acquire new users, they created a referral program to help friends onboard each other. University students would get on their parents and grandparents, and even go around to local shop owners and onboard them, too. They created this rewards program where you’d get a scratchcard that could earn a surprise amount when you transacted with a new person. And they optimized all of their campaigns to get a user to repeat that magic moment over and over again, with at least three different people – and that would then snowball into many, many more people.
In fintech and financial services you’re creating products and services that deal with people’s money. And people’s money, bank accounts, transactions, and data is really high-stakes stuff. Just being in finance automatically raises the bar on the kind of marketing campaigns and communications you put out there. So decision-making can get really risk averse, especially when it comes to evaluating creative, product roadmap, or campaigns.
In user research time and time again, users would tell Chan’s team that finance products and brands needed to come across as serious and had to feel ultra-premium and all professional. But then you asked a user whether they identified with them, or whether they wanted to use them more or grow with them, and the answer was almost always no. There was often this disconnect between what a user would say they would want, and how they would act.
As one example – Chan’s team built games into the payments products at Google – and those campaigns drove some of the highest rates of engagement and reactivated users. They introduced quirky animations that celebrated and identified the fun in transactions – users would send these along with their payments to others. When a user started using these animated ‘wrappers’ they’d actually start to transact more and use the product with more people.
Over time, she learned that even though the end user is a marketer’s most important focus, user research is a way to generate insights and inspiration – not a blueprint for what we should do next.
Chan also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with.
For Chan, it’s rare that life lessons happen due to a single person. Usually, career-changing lessons were learned when she worked among an incredible team. And she has been fortunate enough to work with many.
via current and ex-Google Marketing: Anderson Tien, Arijit Sen, Benedict Tan, Neelesh Singhal, Oli Segovia, Robin Joseph, Rushit Mashru, Sapna Chadha, Sherry Jiang
High-performing teams take time and effort and constant reaffirmation to continue to make them amazing. Chan’s team faced really hard challenges – crazy acquisition or revenue targets, with pressures externally as well as internally – and the team would always rally to support and remind each other that they were there for each other.
via Google Retail and the ACME crew (a skunkworks within Google): Arshan Poursohi, Daniel Aden, Kenzo Fong Hing, Matt Amacker, Paul Byrne
Chan’s team embedded an engineering team within their retail marketing team, aiming to create spaces that were as interactive, personalized, and dynamic as the brand and products that they were selling.
This team’s mandate was to create cool retail spaces, but they got more than they bargained for. Fusing marketing and engineering teams created applications for sensor technology in in-store analytics, hyperlocal advertising, robotic window displays, and immersive branded experiences. Not everything was shippable, but everything was so cool!
via Arta Finance’s: Caesar Sengupta, Charles Dong, David Shapiro, Edward Chiang, Lu De Pasquale, Matt Johnson and the entire Arta team
Bringing different perspectives to the table as well as widely divergent skillsets can be an incredibly effective way to jumpstart big ideas. Sengupta is a leader who is able to bring together AI and ML researchers in the same room as a go-to-market sales head, and weave together a common goal between them.
This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application.
Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.
Daniel Burstein: We had a recent Super Funnel LiveClass and I was giving conversion optimization advice to a participant. So it's live optimization. When we see the landing page for a few moments, then we give advice, and the page just seemed off to me. So I had specific thoughts on the design and the wording and all those things, right? Then Flint McGlaughlin went next and he gave his advice. He took a very different approach than I did though. He didn't talk about the page. He talked about the entrepreneur behind the page.
Why this offer? Why this product? How many books have you read about this topic in the past 24 months? He hit the underlying problem with the landing page. Not always on it per se, it's what wasn't beneath it. It didn't tie into the entrepreneur's personal value proposition. This person was not tapping into his passion. He was trying to get an offer out into the world and just make some money. Who can blame him you might say, right? Isn't that our job?
Well, our next guest tapped into that fundamental disconnect as well in this lesson from her podcast guest application. If you don't believe in the company or the product, your job as a marketer is going to suck. So true. That is really the fundamental behind all good marketing. Before we get into any tactics at all, I would add your marketing is going to suck as well if you don't really believe in it. If you're not passionate if you're having not having fun. So here to tell the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories, is Melissa-Ann Chan, the Head of Marketing at Arta Finance. Thanks for joining us Mel.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Thanks so much for having me, Daniel.
Daniel Burstein: So let me tell people about you, going to look at your background real quick. You started on the agency side as a Business Management Executive at DDB Group Australia. You went on to work at Google for 14 years where your last role was Head of Product Marketing for Google Pay. And now, as we said, you are the Head of Marketing at Arta Finance.
So in your career you have taken products from 0 to 100 million users, wow. That is very impressive. And you mentioned that you have typically worked with lean teams, and since you're at a series A startup now, you're just a team of three along with working at a bunch of contractors and then Arta Finance itself, while in stealth mode, the company raised more than $90 million from Sequoia Capital, India, Ribbit Capital, Coatue and more than 140 tech and finance luminaries including Betsy Cohn, Eric Schmidt and Ram Charam. So give us an idea, what is your day like as Head of Marketing at Arta Finance?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, well, let me first give you an introduction into Arta Finance. We are aiming to just create opportunities for people to harness these, like, financial superpowers of the very rich and apply them to their own, to their own lives. And we're doing this in a couple of ways. We're enabling intelligent investing in public markets through the power of AI and ML. We're helping to open up access to private markets. And we're also helping to make connections to other financial professionals who can help you maximize, protect, grow, save whatever you want to do so that you can create the financial future that you want. And this is, of course, a pretty grand plan. But we're at the very, very beginning of our journey, like we said, where we've been around since 2021.
And a lot of our day to day activity right now is really just building that product, trying to get our product market fit, trying to like listen to our first initial customers and who we call members actually, and give them, you know, what they want. And also not just what they want, but also what they need. So my day to day role in marketing is, you know, I of course, every day starts with email and slack messages, just digesting what, for example, our US team has done where actually dual headquartered both in the US as well as Singapore. So it's kind of like we've got this around the clock model of people working in the US when they go to bed. You know, Singapore wakes up when we start working, so we're maximizing 24 hours in the day to make this company make this mission happen for us. And yeah, so we catch up with them. My mornings are full of US meetings, maybe talking to our UX team, product team, research and engineering team about what they're what they're up to.
It could be creating or getting a download of like the latest research and updates on our performance of what we call AI managed portfolios, and then translating that into what we might need to help a user or a member understand our offering. So whether this could be, you know, understanding how we're applying, we're applying AI and ML to our products and helping and making sure that we're creating the right portfolio for the right user. Or it could be something like understanding our insurance offering. And so there's a lot of learning and a lot of collaboration with the product and engineering teams that happened in the morning. We always have lunch in the office. We also have a hybrid working culture. So it could be lunch in the office. It could be like a brainstorm with the team in the afternoon. But in the Singapore office in particular, which is where I'm based out of a lot of our front end team is here. So what we call the human team and the like, UX is here, a bunch of marketing is here and we're really concerned with making sure that the touchpoints with our members are as beautiful and seamless and useful as possible.
And so we could be brainstorming things like our go to market strategy, what we might need from an onboarding, from an onboarding sequence to like maybe even the push notifications that happen to let you know where you are in the process of signing up. So it's a real mixed bag. We get to work with a bunch of people across product engineering, marketing, legal finance, and it really is quite a very cross-disciplinary team that we have here at Arta Finance. And there's lots of collaboration, lots of fun, lots of stories to tell, and lots of optimism for what we're building here.
Daniel Burstein: I like I like how you talk about the touch points with your customers. Beautiful. That's an adjective I've rarely heard to talk about customer touchpoints, so I've written about this recently. I was trying to kind of mentioned this in opening too is like so often as marketers are like how much can we pull out of a customer? Like what is their lifetime value? What can we pull out of them versus let's have a beautiful touchpoint with them. That's great. Well, we've got varied experiences, great working with one of the biggest, most well-known tech innovators in the world, Google and now in a startup. So I think we're going to learn a lot from you. Let's go through some of your lessons and your stories.
And your first lesson was, if you don't believe in the company or the product, your job as a marketer is going to suck. I mentioned that intro, and I love it too, because by the way, you see the way people get picked for this show, there's an application they go through. They share the lessons, they share the stories. I love Mel. This was her first lesson. This was right out of the gate. She's coming out of the gate hot. It wasn't like working up to this. You started here. So I feel like you've got to you feel passionately about this. So tell us, how did you learn this lesson in your career?
Melissa-Ann Chan: I do. I mean, I think as a marketer. The reason for you being in a company is to get the goodness out of your product. Explain it to who might take it, who might buy it, who might use it, and make that connection between the product or service and your user to happen and make that magic happen.
I think one of the, I mean, I grew up at Google, essentially. I spent 14 years there, a big part of my formative career there and our CMO, one of her favorite phrases was this Like as marketers, you know, the magic is there. You know the user, you know, the magic, i.e. the product, and then you connect the two and that is your reason to be as a marketer.
And I think that in some cases I found that when I talk to other marketers, they could be a little bit meh about the product or a little bit a little bit down on their company's overall mission. And, you know, everybody has their ups and downs, everybody has moments of doubt about their product or about the company that they work for. But I think it's important to resolve that internally for yourself and then be able to translate that conviction into the programs, the campaigns, the team that you're leading so that you can bring a product or service to market and connect it to the people who want this. So I do think it's really important to make that happen.
Daniel Burstein: Well, take us into your career at Google, because you mentioned you were there 14 years, maybe almost 15 years. And the reason you stayed so long was because it didn't suck and now at Google you were brought around to many different roles, I think, all over the company. I mean, how did you make sure to really tap into a passion for each thing? I think you worked on B2C and B2B. I mean, if you're on the retail side and you go to B2B that can be boring. So how did you make sure to keep that fire alive for 15 years? That's a long time.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, yeah, it is a long time. But Google is such a big and inspiring and ever growing company that there was always a new opportunity around the corner. But at the end of the day, it came just down to Google's overall mission, which is like, you know, organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. And it's something that underpins the ads products.
So when I was working in B2B, it was about being able to fund publishers and make sure that they had the monetization options that they needed to stay in business and also adapt to this new era of digital advertising or programmatic advertising. And that was also, you know, huge momentous change in industry and that kind of thing. But, you know, the end goal was, you know, there is this opportunity called the Internet and we need to make money on the Internet.
So how do we help our publishers, our advertisers connect with each other and form that ecosystem and keep the Internet growing, you know, And so that kept me going. And so finding that meaning, finding that deeper meaning into something is as good as what could be is like penny pinching or money grubbing as advertising is something that kept me going in in the B2B world. But not just that, but also talking to the end user or, in tech we call user of technology, right? Or like you know, it could have been like the publisher or the customer at the end of the day, we just call them users. But talking to users and talking to them and understanding what their needs were and pain points were and how we could have helped or how we could help translate some of those wants and desires and needs to our product and engineering teams gave me a lot of satisfaction to help keep that going.
And then I think it was pretty easy then to also apply the mission to the consumer side of the world. So it was, you know, whether it was thinking about Google's retail presence and how do we make known Google's devices to the world all the way through to launching a payments product to, you know, to rural India?
And there was that kind of same kind of connection to making the Internet really useful for people and helping people get the most out of a connected world and getting that kind of feeling and being ab;e to wake up to every day knowing that, you know, what you're doing is helping some of that helps you get through the highs and lows.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, I think the greater lesson there is really understanding that downstream value you're creating and tapping into that interesting downstream value or I guess downstream harm. Right. And see if that's what you want to be doing with your career and your life. I mean, we talk about our career, but it's our life. And some of it we spend, you know, in a job and work.
And one of the one of the most profound stories I heard about that wasn't about a marketer, but it was either a story, an NPR or I read in a magazine. It was a worker in a factory that was making iPads, and they showed that worker like that worker was basically just every day there was a microchip and they would like glue it to a motherboard or whatever. That's all they saw a microchip motherboard all day long, 10 hours a day, six days a week, whatever it was. And they were in a cafe interviewing this worker about, you know, what it's like to work there. And then they showed her an iPad and she cried because she didn't even know what she was making. Right. She was just putting it together when she saw that she was part of, I like your word, magical part of something so magical.
And so I think that's a great lesson for marketers, too, of like tapping what is the downstream value we're creating or how are we creating that magic? And then and then that really fuels the passion because I think if we don't do that and you tell me what you think Mel it's just databases and it's automation and it's meetings and it's budgets, right?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I think that there's so much to be said around being able to get that feedback back in, because it not only makes you, you know, more motivated, but it also feeds the insight that you have to provide back to your work, whether it's creative or whether it's product, right? So being able to understand what that end result could be, could look like that, that ultimate motivation at the end of the day, having that kind of manifest itself in through your work is it that's kind of stuff that makes you a better marketer also helps you just get up and face the world every day.
Daniel Burstein: On your thoughts too, on how you translate that passion that you have now, maybe for your current company into actually getting that passion into the customer as well, I specifically want to ask you, we were talking about earlier artificial intelligence, machine learning. The challenge I've always had I get pitched these tools all the time, and it's such a black box you know. You don't know what's going on inside and how you pitch it. And while you're thinking of that, I just want to tell one research I came across before I interviewed Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, and he did this really interesting research where he wanted to see what people would value most from software.
And so he used like a travel search. And it was either a travel search and or like a Google alert and boom, you got instant result. Or it was a travel search like a Kayak style it took longer but you saw, oh, wait, this one's for you. Oh, no, this isn't. And things are coming in and things are coming out. And what they found was if you just asked the question, you know, do people want search, you know, travel search results quicker or slower, you would think, well, quicker. Right. But when you see it that way, because people were actually seeing the value that was created for them, then at the end from his research, it was like people actually have like an affinity for the algorithm. They felt the algorithm was working harder for them, right? The algorithm was doing the same thing right in the black box.
But when people could see it, they sort of saw the value more. So now you're at Arta Finance. You mentioned artificial intelligence, machine learning. That's part of what you do. Have you figured out a way to start communicating that, to get, you know, that passion across, to get the way it works across and just kind of get out of that black box feel.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, I mean, I can start going back to why we developed this in the first place. I mean, for people who, you know, are just starting out in their careers or starting out, you know, earning some money, you know, they their needs are pretty basic. You know, it's transactional banking. It's like creating a banking relationship and trying to figure out how you save a little bit of money for a rainy day, that kind of thing.
And then you have like the opposite end of the scale where you have ultra rich people, very wealthy people with like 10 million, 50 million, all the way up to $500 million or more. And they get like a bunch of services ready for them. You know, that like the world opens up for them. The red carpet is rolled out and, you know, every kind of question they have about their finances is catered to.
And then there's like the people in the middle. And unless you're rich enough to qualify a private banker, what you get is your everyday banking services, your everyday financial services. You could go to a financial advisor, but they charge 1 to 2%. You see them once every year, maybe, or you could do it yourself and then you know you're stuck in this kind of spreadsheet hell with your spouse trying to update your figures. And like a bunch of us, you know, we're busy, we have lives, we have kids, we have jobs, we have social lives. And the last thing that you want to do is be kind of like manage your finances.
And we also experience this. So a bunch of us actually, when we started Arta together, we came from these professional jobs and we all founded this. You know, we had this kind of this kind of thing in common. And I think that like overall, the and the way that we wanted our big lessons of working because we had worked together at Google before we moved to Arta Finance, one of our big lessons and one of the big fulfillments that we got out of some of our previous roles is that we use technology to create access.
And whether it is this access to faster payments or access to some of the team came from the Chrome OS ecosystem and developed Chrome OS. So whether it's access to a better computing device at a much lower cost and or even some of us came from creating a high speed internet access in places like at train stations in India to access the Internet for the first time or access the Internet more regularly on their commute. This idea of technology and access brought together was kind of magical. And so we’ve had this and this drive to make technology kind of this background thing that forwards the greater good, which is making sure it's a productivity booster or it's an entertainment enhancer, or it's a way of you being able to send money very quickly to a shopkeeper.
And AI is just one tool. It's one part of that. And I think when AI and ML is done well, it can have like, you know, just amazing, amazing effects on doing even simple things. And I don't think it's necessary for you to always understand exactly what the technology is doing behind the scenes when the output is something that you can do something with or is explainable. Like, for example, what's one device that we have with us all the time? It's our mobile phones, but you ask somebody how does a mobile phone actually work, they probably would not be able to tell you that's just hidden behind this beautiful, sleek glass panel like your world at your fingertips. You know, people, you're able to video chat with, email on your phone.
You don't actually need to like, you know, explain how phone works to benefit from it. And AI and ML I think should be the same. Like the output of that should be wonderful and useful and helpful. And you know, over time, hopefully as more and more people see the benefits and the usefulness of interacting with products built with AI, some of that fear of like that unknown of how it works, might go away.
Daniel Burstein: Okay. And I think that pretty much ties well into our next lesson where you said put the most effort into figuring out what's the magic aha moment of your customer and relentlessly drive all your marketing efforts towards that. And it sounds like that's something you are doing now at your current company. But take us back to how you did this when you were at Google.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, and so back in 2016, I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a couple of people who I'm actually working with now. This is how I met them. I had an opportunity to work with them to build out a digital payments product and, you know, my boss, Dave Shapiro, who's one of the co-founders of Arta Finance, he pulled me in a room and he's like, okay, there's this big opportunity to transform the payments landscape. And I think we're going to start with India. And me, first day on the job, I was kind of a bit gobsmacked because, you know, I've never come from any of those traditional banking or payments backgrounds. I wasn't a finance professional, you know, I had barely worked in India only cursorily.
And to deal with something like to create a product from the ground up, create a marketing strategy from the ground up and take this thing to market was kind of like a very daunting thing really. Yeah, I thought that, like you know, I just kind of applied the principles that I've learned throughout my career, which is you just have to think about the user and know the user and all else will follow. We, just to give you some background at the time, at the time India was a predominantly cash was king, so all transactions were just done in cash. I think it was like something like 97% back in 2016-2017. And one of the things that we did as a as a product team was built our product based on these new rails that the India government payment rails that the India government was creating.
We had this insight for our product, which was that we needed to make really fast instant connections between people and build that trust very, very quickly. And we bet the farm on these bank to bank transfers between people. And what we found was this magic moment when somebody would see that it would work was the moment they became converted. Because you had to understand that, you know, Internet banking and just generally digital payments there was rife with fraud. It had many, many trust issues. But if you knew the other person on the other end of the line got the money that you were sending to them, you could confirm with them it worked that immediately was like, you know, a massive trust build up. And we found that as soon as you were able to do that one transaction, peer to peer with a different person three times.
So basically through connections made a transfer either you received or you sent it. Retention would just go through the roof and you know, you basically become a very sticky customer of the app. And so we focused all of our marketing efforts to just that magic moment, and we called it the aha moment where the moment where retention basically there was no there's no foot against retention. You were a customer or like you had other reasons to leave us. And so getting all of our marketing efforts, getting all our go to market partnership efforts towards that really paid off dividends. But the road to getting to that aha moment is of course, something that, you know, not all companies, not all products get to straight away. It takes a lot of trial and iteration. But once you find it, then, you know, you turn up the gas, whether it's campaigns or whether it's like the way that you structure the product or service to get your customer there.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I think that magic moment is such a great lesson for people listening. Because I know one thing we do is like value proposition workshops with companies where we get in with the main leaders and we know we go through and we talk through their value proposition. And something I noticed, is there was many times I would read their advertising or marketing before getting in there. And then you talk to them and as you mentioned, there's a certain magic moment or magic aha about the product and it doesn't come through in the advertising or marketing at all. The advertising and marketing is all hype, but that special moment that's going on and usually sometimes you can just even ask how they got to wanting this. As like you talked about founding this company, how you got to wanting this company, and that kind of sometimes helps you time to the magic moment.
But another thing that helps is customer research. So I want to talk about that for a moment. And you mentioned to I like this you mentioned really we talk about customer research. It's all like, oh, I'm a data driven marketer, I just get data, I'll get the answers. And it was great. We got a response at the end of the year. We published an article about like, What have you learned from MarketingSherpa this year? and one of our previous podcast guests talked about, you know, data, it's great. Sometimes you've got to trust your gut. And this person talked about in creating our content, we're very data driven, right? And then we realized, well, wait a minute, all of our competitors are data driven too. And so we're all publishing the exact same content.
And so at some point we had to, as humans say, wait, we've got to trust our gut with this data informs us and how do we go out on a limb? And so it reminded me of your lesson and you talked about putting the user first doesn't always mean doing whatever users want. Because this is the other kind of trick we get into with data and research. So tell us how you learned this lesson.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that this is a very nuanced lesson, I think and I think that there is this it's very tempting, right? As a marketer you have so many tools and you have so many data sources that come through, you know, first party research, second party research, third party research, all of that kind of stuff all comes through. You have like the interviews that you do, the focus groups that you do. And, you know, I think that they're all very, very useful in their own different ways. But at the end of the day, I think there needs to be some element of judgment applied to creating the insight that comes from that.
The other thing that we found too, was and I'd like just to give the example of that payments product that I worked for Google Pay. I mean, we did a bunch of research because at the end of the day, we also needed to learn about this market. I particularly need to learn about this market. And everything that people tell you about payments and money is that they want it to be super secure. They need the product itself to scream professionalism. It needs to be incredibly solid, stayed, no funny business, right. And I think that if we took that at face value, we would never have created the product that we did. We would never create the campaigns that we did to get people to love it.
One of the things that we learned too through that user research is that money is intensely personal. It's all about the relationship that happens between people who make a transaction and those transactions that happen. You think about what you do in your day to day life, right? It forms a huge picture of who you are, who you associate with, what you care about and that kind of thing. And that kind of like money map is something that is very individual to every person. And so we took that insight, but we also took the idea that, of course, the foundations had to be really secure. We made the product incredibly secure and everything like that. Our personality to reach people was based on the insight that money is personal, right? We were able to create like social games that like got people talking about the app, transacting with each other again, like multiplying the number of times that they got to that magic aha moment. And, you know, in all of our research people would tell us, Oh, I don't want to play a game in my finance app or my payments app, right. But these games took off and that helped us get to over 100 million users.
And I think back on that lesson and I think about, you know, our current company where, you know, we're trying to help people with their investments in their financial lives. And again, there’s this like deep seeded as soon as you start talking about finances, there is this kind of avoidant, kind of feeling of, you know, I really need it to be super secure, I need it to be very professional, etc., etc.. But finance doesn't always have to be really stuffy and serious. Being able to connect with people at that very personal level, making sure that your product is accessible the way that we talk to people is accessible and useful and interesting and relevant to where they're at. That is more important than trying to like over index on the fear that people might say in when you're interviewing them about what they might want and need. So it takes, I think, a marketer, it takes a partner in your UX research, in your user research team to help draw those insights out so that, you know, you're not just leading your marketing strategy or your product strategy based purely on what the user says. It's really about applying that judgment.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, and we're kind of bad at thinking about what we might want in a certain situation, right? Just as human beings, not as marketers, we're flawed in that way, right. Daniel Kahneman talks about this in Thinking Fast and Slow, right? So if you sit down in a focus group or something, you might think you want something, but when you're in the actual moment, it might be very different and you don't even understand why. So I think this is where actual marketing experimentation, AB testing, these types of things comes in to see what user behavior is in that moment of making a decision.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, yeah.
Daniel Burstein: I've found like, you know, qualitative research can also help. Okay, now let's add color to some of this data we found. Is that something you found too?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, that's, yeah, that's exactly it. That's exactly it. I mean, we like as a Google led marketer, a Google brand marketer rather, like data is king. Like if you have data then it's an amazing asset to decision making. And of course good data matters a bunch right. So one of the things that we found really useful from just like a growth marketing perspective is being able to AB test and iterate upon real users using the product, changing some form like some aspect of their journey and running it again with the next group of people or like creating that AB test where you know, we're running this test simultaneous and seeing which variation happened to win.
And in those kind of, in those kind of experiments, data does tell you something it’s incredibly useful, but you don't often get like the motivations behind why somebody chose option A, this is option B and you can only get that by like a deep understanding of the user at the end of the day, or alternatively, like being able to talk to them, right, about why they did that and you're not going to get that from a survey or from your data logs. And so having both is I think it's central.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I want to ask you about that. I mean, you know, one of the things the challenge is it seems like, too, is, you know, if we focus too much on short term data, sometimes we don't give things a chance to let their strategy actually play out. And you've lived, I'd say probably in a hyper digital environment where you get kind of data pretty instantly. And it reminded me of a Sirius XM show hosted by Kathryn Hayes from Wharton, and she said something that always stuck with me. She said, One of the dangers of digital marketing is the feedback loop is so fast that you might not be getting a true long term view of the real effectiveness of what you have going.
And I interviewed someone before he was a key marketer at PayPal and they had to stick with I think was like two or three years. They had to stick with the way they were marketing PayPal until it kind of kicked in. And I was asking him like, my gosh, how were you fighting that fight? I mean, two or three years is an eternity these days. And so from reading what you've written here, you struck me as very strategic, a very long term thinker.
So I wonder, have you ever had that challenge of that battle of, okay, we're getting in this quick, you know, these hyper digital environments like Google, like we're getting these this quick data, but how do we say, well, maybe we have to stick to our guns because, you know, we've learned it takes three or five or ten or a million messages before like it gets through to people. Like, at what point do we have to, like just kind of push and like, stick to our guns a bit to see if this plays out?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah. And the added complication of that is that no two cohorts of people who come in through your product are the same, right? Like especially in tech, what usually happens when you launch a product is like all the, the hardcore fans come in at once or the people who are really, really savvy in that particular area come in at once. And their behavior is going to be very, very different to what happens when you have a new product being out for a while. Maybe it's a maturer product, that kind of thing. Like your acquisition profile is going to be incredibly different. And so extrapolating the same learnings that you had when you first launched this is when you know your product is like a year or two years, ten years old is a massive danger. So having this constant mindset of testing, testing again, trying new things, maybe testing something that didn't work before, maybe you need to try it again.
Like always having to go back to the playbook of hypotheses is a constant every day. It's something that you always have to continue making sure that I mean, for me anyway, I always questioned that the knowledge that you already have gotten to make sure that, like, you know, you haven't over guessed it this time or you haven't, you know, extrapolated some past lesson into what your actual current reality is today.
Daniel Burstein: Playbook have hypotheses, you have many good words I’ve got to write these down and use them. That's a great that's a good word. I'm glad you said that. That was actually the next question I was going to ask you about. You said the different cohorts or different groups you get with in research, and I wanted to talk about that.
So you mentioned something very specific, especially we're talking about technology, the early adapter versus the laggards and those groups. But in any research, this is true for any company. There's going to be different groups, right? If 60% are going to use this product for X and 40% for Y, well, it doesn't mean 60% majority. We all go into that.
And so it reminds me there's this quote, We have a free digital marketing course. And in FastClass #14, Flint McGlaughlin taught structure and engagement continuum that attracts people with varying degrees of motivation. So I want to ask you about that. When we talk about that, like there's different motivations that people are going to have coming in, right? So, for example, if I'm buying a car, some people are going to want this electric car. Let's say, right? Some people are going to want that electric car because it's environmentally friendly and some people are going to want that electric car because it's super fast, right, quick acceleration, right. And so if we saw well, 60% want fast and 40% want environmentally friendly, it doesn't mean like we all go in on fast, right.
So I wonder when you're talking about that user research, have you done I mean, Google Pay or even Arta Finance some of these products? There are a lot of different motivations why people might use them. And so like, how do you balance that in the research of understanding, okay, we can't go all in on just what the majority of people say. There are distinct groups within here that we need to market to personalize whatever you want to call it, segmentation.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Mm hmm. And I think that I have an interesting perspective on this because I face the same problem at Google as well as at Arta Finance, right. And also, I've had the privilege of working on very, very big teams at Google and also very, very small teams at Google. And that also has an impact, too, on the way that you approach this problem, which is that like everything at the end of the day is a trade off, right?
You can't go after absolutely everybody unless you work on that really big team, that really big product that is literally trying to Arta Finance I've had to change my thinking a little bit from working at Google, which is, you know, there's a limited set of resources available to us, not just in terms of money, but in terms of time, in terms of people. And that means that you have to ruthlessly prioritize. And so you can't do these kind of ocean boiling missions of trying to get, like you said, the product or the campaign to fit everyone. And so that user research, that input that you get the insights that you receive, you do have to pick one. You have to pick a few and go after that with the conviction of knowing that that is the company that you want to build, that is a product that you want to build or that is the problem you want to solve. So it's a matter of tradeoffs.
Daniel Burstein: And I think that's what makes an effective value proposition at the end of the day, it's you can't be everything to everyone. I mean, like you said, other than a very few products and sometimes within the business we’d be like we're leaving money on the table. And it's like, no, when we're really tightly targeting and hitting those right people with the right motivations correctly and they know it's for them, that's a more effective value proposition than just kind of being watered down and saying like, Oh, I can solve all your needs.
So in the first half a podcast, we talked about lessons from the things you made. That's something we get to do as marketers. We get to make things. You help make products, you help make companies, campaigns. In the second half, we talk about lessons from the people we collaborate with because that's a great thing we get to do too. And I wanted to call out you were the first person that said this in the application. You know, other people called out teams individually in some of their lessons, but it was very focused on mentors. People work for all those sorts of things. But you said, it's rare that life lessons happened due to a single person. Usually career changing lessons were learned when you worked with an incredible team and you've been fortunate enough to work with many, that is so cool.
And so we're going to talk about now with some teams you work with, not individuals. The first lesson we had is high performing teams don't happen serendipitously and you learn that from working with these current and ex-Google Marketing folks: Anderson Tien, Arijit Sen, Benedict Tan, Neelesh Singhal, Oli Segovia, Robin Joseph, Rushit Mashru, Sapna Chadha, Sherry Jiang. So how did you learn this from this group?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, so when I started on Google Pay, it was me and maybe one of the guys. And you know, he went on to do different things, but I remained. And the Google Pay team, because we're at Google, through various reorgs [reorganizations] and everything like that. Ended up becoming bigger and bigger and of course the product became very successful. And again, attracted like a bunch of investment. And so the team became bigger and bigger and bigger. But we were still, so it was that weird kind of moment where it was a very small team that found success and then became very large team. And you add to that the pressure cooker of a product doing well and also being within a big company like Google and being able to hold on to that kernel of what made you successful when you were small too when you're a large is a very tough challenge. And so I credit the immediate team that we worked with who put a lot of effort into putting and keeping that same team culture that made us successful all the way from when we were small to very, very big.
And it took effort, you know, it took regular check ins. It was making sure that we knew each other at a personal level. It wasn't just about work and action items. And creating that team culture and making it a very purposeful moment in our careers together. And it took work. It didn't just happen overnight. It's not because the product was successful. It's because we worked at the team so that we could, like, drive that success. And I took that away as like a it's a big life lesson. These kind of high performing teams, they take just as much work as the end result that your team is pushing out.
Daniel Burstein: I mean, you know, it kind of makes me think of a marriage or really any other like personal relationship. You know, marriage doesn't work because you just love someone so much. I mean, hopefully that's the key part of it, right? It's because you've got to work at it. You've got to keep working at it and make sure that it's working. Sometimes we forget that the relationships we have at work, are versions of the relationships we have in our personal life, because we're all just people, right? Unless we work with some AI’s, I don’t know.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Exactly.
Daniel Burstein: So we also got another good team lesson here. Creativity and technology is a killer combo. You learned this from the Google Retail and Acme Crew. Acme is a skunkworks within Google and the folks who are : Arshan Poursohi, Daniel Aden, Kenzo Fong Hing, Matt Amacker, Paul Byrne. So tell us about this story. How do you learn this lesson?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, I was freshly out of B2B marketing when I joined the consumer marketing team focused on the Google retail product and Kenzo hired me and he was basically like, Well, we're getting together a group of engineers and we're going to figure out how to make you know, like a Google store, like and this was before Google had stores or physical locations and that kind of thing. And I was like, what are we going to do with these engineers? Like, really like retail marketing? It's about, you know, square footage and Best Buy or Target. It's about, you know, dollars per square foot, that kind of thing. And but when I when I realized what we were trying to do, it started to make sense. And the more I took to like Arshan and Matt and Paul and Daniel and the team, the more I got really inspired. Essentially our brief was to reimagine if Google was a place. Previous to this, Google had been just like something behind your screen, right? And you couldn't really visit Google unless you were really lucky and got invited onto campus.
So we were trying to figure out what Google would be like as a space. And this was a big branded experience. And what better way to do that is to express ourselves through technology. This is when I think I was first exposed to how creative engineers could be and how amazingly out leftfield their inputs could have on marketing. So we did a bunch of stuff together to try and create Google as a physical space. One big part of it was measurement, like how do we measure people as they're interacting with staff or how do we know what area is hotter than others and that kind of thing. So just general store analytics, There's other things that we did too, which were just purely emotional and that created a very emotional connection. When you visited this Google space, there were like these branded experiences. Like we flew people through Google Maps to visit their home. We created these very immersive experiences that felt like otherworldly and to showcase how, you know, a bunch of like Google products could string together to create a very intense experience for you. And all of this was made possible because these engineers and these marketers came together to brainstorm what that would feel like. And I think that from just like a lesson that I continue to take forward with me is that technology applied with creativity can just create very magical things.
Daniel Burstein: And their last lesson here, it kind of maybe broadens that a bit. When you talk about overall cross-functional power, you said bring together product engineering, UX and marketing and watch the sparks fly in a good way. You learn this with Arta Finance’s: Caesar Sengupta, Charles Dong, David Shapiro, Edward Chiang, Lu De Pasquale, Matt Johnson and the entire Arta team. And if there's a pattern, I've noticed, it's like with your stories. It started here and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So now is this just like the biggest cross-functional new group you've worked with and what did you learn from that?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Yeah, absolutely. So a bunch of these guys and these people I've worked with before, we all a bunch of us worked at Google before and now we're at we're spinning out to try Arta Finance. At Arta finance we're deliberately bringing together three core groups of people with different expertise’s like we have a bunch of people from consumer product and growth expertise, like figuring out how to build products from zero to 1 and 100 million and beyond, right? We also have a bunch of people who come who have run quant hedge funds deep in the finance world, deep into private equity, deep into like options trading and that kind of thing. And then we also have a third group of people who are AI and ML researchers, and these are people who have been thinking about how to push forward an application into finance for quite some time.
And so these three groups of people, normally you could build a company out of just one of these groups of people. But Caesar Sengupta, our CEO, has bought these three kind of expertise’s together and tried to knit together a team and a company that draws on the best of all of these three. And these people who I'm working with currently. It's not just the people you mentioned, but like all of the Arta Finance team, there are stereotypes abound, right? Like, you know, it's not often that you can sit down together with a marketing person, a sales person and, an engineering head researcher and have like a really productive conversation. But it happens and sometimes you don't see eye to eye because you come from such different furnaces, right, if you will, of your everyday working. But putting us together and forging those connections it creates really cool things.
And, you know, we kind of trust each other to do our jobs and to do them really well. And as a marketer, that's really rewarding when you know that, you know, the research side is taken care of by such an amazing group of folks, or the customer service side things is just like humming, right? And having that trust with people who, you know, you don't know exactly what they do day to day. I have no idea what some of these people do. I could never do their jobs, but and vice versa that they can't do mine. But that common connection of that goal and that mission of making, you know, these financial superpowers available to more people, I think that's what drives us and that's how we get over our like at least functional differences.
Daniel Burstein: I love that Mel. Now I've heard the term silos. I use that term silos all the time. This is the first time, different furnaces, that's another note, another great one I'm going to use. We got to get out of our different furnaces we work in every day and collaborate together. So, many great story, so many great lessons. And I wonder if you had to boil it all down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer? We've talked about finding the magic, collaborating with engineers, all those things. If you had to just boil it down. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer?
Melissa-Ann Chan: Well, marketing today has undergone so much change, right, from what it was 10-15 years ago when I started. And I think one of the things that I, you know, I could never have told myself when I was first starting out as a marketer was like, how many different products and teams and challenges I would get to work on and still apply very like, you know, this toolbox and still add to this toolbox and take away these different lessons regardless of how disparate these different experiences are.
And I think what makes an effective marketer, especially today, is that ability to adapt and the ability to learn and take those lessons. But also not be afraid of branching out and being able to like, you know, know that as a marketer you have a very special set of skills and they can be applied everywhere, whether it's, you know deep tech marketing with, you know, an AI product or, you know, toothpaste, right. And I'm not saying that like there's not specialization that can happen. There's definitely there's definitely a lot of knowledge wrapped up in people who have spent like many, many years in a certain vertical as an industry. But I think as a marketer, being able to relate an end product to the user takes a certain flexibility in thinking and being able to keep that flexibility in your thinking just helps with career development, with personal fulfillment, with writing that brief.
Daniel Burstein: Well, the thing I love about your career too, when you talk about flexibility, you started we said if you don't believe in the company of the product, your job as A marketer is going to suck. But from what I've learned from your career, it's because you didn't stay in your little kind of office and silo and just get, you know, again, your programmatic ads going in, all these things. You were so involved in actually creating the value that was delivered to the end customer. You know, working with engineers, working within that company and think that's a great lesson for all marketers to learn, is take the skills we have. It's not just, like I said, getting the right ad buys or even getting the right messaging or some of these things we get caught up in day to day. It's using those skills to find that magic, like you said, and to actually help the company build something of value. And then maybe it won't suck because you’ll get to deliver that right. You'll get to deliver that value you helped create.
Melissa-Ann Chan: I think that's the goal, that’s the goal. I mean, that's kind of why I've called myself a product marketer in a way. That's essentially what product marketing is. It's being able to make sure that the product is the thing that people need and want. But then being on a built on growth marketing, being on a built on brand marketing, being a built on performance marketing, that all comes down to being a really good PMM, Product Marketing Manager kind of thing in a way. So that's how I've been able to navigate so many different industries.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thanks for navigating your career just for a few moments today with us. I learned so much from you.
Melissa-Ann Chan: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.
Daniel Burstein: And thank you to you all for listening.
Get Better Business Results With a Skillfully Applied Customer-first Marketing Strategy
The customer-first approach of MarketingSherpa’s agency services can help you build the most effective strategy to serve customers and improve results, and then implement it across every customer touchpoint.Get More Info >
FREE Trial - MECLABS AI Guild
Get the power of 10,000 experimentsPlay with MECLABS AI >
Marketer Vs Machine
Marketer Vs Machine: We need to train the marketer to train the machine.Watch Now >
Free Marketing Course
Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages (with this free online marketing course)See Course >
Project and Ideas Pitch Template
A free template to help you win approval for your proposed projects and campaignsGet the Template >
Six Quick CTA checklists
These CTA checklists are specifically designed for your team — something practical to hold up against your CTAs to help the time-pressed marketer quickly consider the customer psychology of your “asks” and how you can improve them.Get the Checklists >
Infographic: How to Create a Model of Your Customer’s Mind
You need a repeatable methodology focused on building your organization’s customer wisdom throughout your campaigns and websites. This infographic can get you started.Get the Infographic >
Infographic: 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design
To build an effective page from scratch, you need to begin with the psychology of your customer. This infographic can get you started.Get the Infographic >
Receive the latest case studies and data on email, lead gen, and social media along with MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.