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Benjamin: Today we're going to discuss career development in the technology industry as a marketer. With us is Jeffrey Ouyang, who is the manager of paid acquisition at Zumper, a real estate rental search engine. Prior to working at Zumper, Jeffrey has worked in a variety of different marketing roles for various startups in Silicon Valley and in this episode Jeffrey's going to walk us through the various skills that he's learned while working at those early stage startups. Here is our interview with Jeffrey Ouyang from Zumper. Jeff, great to have you here. Welcome to the MarTech podcast.
Jeffrey: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Benjamin: So this episode is going to be a little bit different from what we normally do because you have a diverse set of skills that you've learned at a variety of early stage startups. So what I want to do, instead of focusing on your core strength, the one thing that's really your superpower, I want to talk about the various things that you've learned at all of the different startups you've worked at. So why don't you just walk us a little bit through your career path and tell us some of the skills and expertise that you gained at each of the stops.
Jeffrey: So after graduating college I started my career at kraft foods, so non tech related whatsoever. Not exactly a startup either. So a summer internship turned into a full time opportunity and like most folks I grabbed onto the first job and jumped right in. It took me about a year, but I quickly realized that it wasn't what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. So basically my responsibilities were to manage about 15 different supermarket stores in southern California. Go into these stores, actually merchandise the product, place orders, and then work that inventory back onto the shelf.
Benjamin: It sounds like you were doing more of a traditional marketing role. Very much focused on old world marketing tactics of product placement. The four ps, I don't know if you had much to do with pricing at kraft, but kind of what you learn in marketing in college, why did you make the transition away from that into more of a tech centric role?
Jeffrey: That was exactly right. So I focused on marketing in college. When I started at kraft, I didn't really understand the different types of marketing that is out there, so I've always dabbled in kind of online businesses while I was in highschool and ecommerce was getting more and more popular, so I knew I wanted to transition from the more traditional old school marketing and focus on more of the digital marketing side of things.
Benjamin: Before we go on, can I ask you how old you are?
Jeffrey: I'm currently 32.
Benjamin: So would you consider yourself a millennial? Yeah. So you're digitally native and grew up with a computer. So you had access to the internet and learned online businesses as you were growing.
Jeffrey: Absolutely. So this was back in about 2008, 2009. So all the listeners that you guys are pretty aware if you guys were around at that time, how horrible the economy was. So I was actually out of a job for quite a while, did some personal soul searching, really dug into a lot of hobbies that I kind of put on the wayside as I was going through school and handling a full time career. This was really the only time where I kind of sit down and explore my own interest in my own hobbies. So as I was doing that, I actually started a cooking class company down in southern California, exploring my passion to start a business that failed horribly, but it got me interested in online advertising and figuring out different ways to get in front of the right customer because I took my old school techniques from kraft and I applied it to my own business and I ended up handing out flyers that advertised my cooking class service. That didn't work out very well. So you kind of learned from your mistakes and you iterate. And from there I dived into yelp advertising a little bit and found some early success there, but my business wasn't paying bills so I decided to close that business and move up to the bay area to start a mobile digital advertising career with Ebay.
Benjamin: So it sounds like you had an entrepreneurial venture and the issue initially was the marketing strategies that you were using didn't have the type of reach you need to generate enough customers. Then you started testing local advertising with yelp. What was the problem and why didn't that work?
Jeffrey: It wasn't necessarily an issue with yelp advertising. I started to understand how a business grows and operates and since I was running a cooking class company, ultimately I was the one resource that cannot scale with the business. I could only hold so many classes and the likelihood of booking a cooking class, let's say in the morning versus a more convenient time, let's say, after someone gets back from work or Saturdays and Sundays. So I quickly understood that even if I've found success driving customers to my doorstep, I ultimately wouldn't be able to service them properly.
Benjamin: Essentially at a product problem, not a marketing problem. Exactly. Okay. So then you ended up at Ebay. You decided to go fully into digital marketing. That's where we started working together. Talk to me about what you were doing at Ebay and what are some of the skills that you accumulated there?
Jeffrey: At Ebay? I started as a general digital marketing specialist, so I worked on the display team, the ads that you see when you're hopping from website to website and you see banners on the top or the bottom or on the sides. So at first my responsibilities are rather limited, kind of helping manage campaigns on a daily basis, but after about a year I was given an opportunity to move into a mobile specific role. So back in 2009, 2010, there was a very big shift in the way people were shopping. So ebay really recognize that the future of shopping wasn't limited to just the desktop or the PC, so they really wanted to capture a piece of the market share in mobile ecommerce because we saw a trend, the general population and using their phone to do absolutely everything, so we knew as people became more comfortable using their phone, consuming media on the phone, that shopping through the mobile device would be a natural progression. So they actually built out a mobile strategy team of probably about two. So we were actually responsible for building out the mobile marketing strategy for Ebay North America.
Benjamin: That seems like a gigantic opportunity. Just for the context, Ebay started to focus on mobile advertising in 2010. About two years after apple launched the initial APP store. What's surprising to me was that the team was so small. There's two people that are putting together a mobile marketing strategy. The other thing that occurs to me is that you, in a very short period of time, went from working in a very traditional type of marketing, which is the old way to sell products in a store with a piece of print or collateral or a sign pointing to this specific product to display advertising, which is pointing to a product across the entire Internet to mobile advertising, which was a different form of display advertising. So you really covered a large gamut of how products are sold earlier in your career.
Jeffrey: Absolutely, and one of the things that really surfaced after these experiences is that the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing, digital marketing, one of the benefits is you're not limited geographically versus an ad within a store or passing out flyers where you can only reach a very limited number of people.
Benjamin: Yeah. I think that goes with basically any local business online or offline is that when you have a very finite geographic restriction. I was the head of marketing at a laundry and dry cleaning delivery startup and we had a regional strategy where we had to market, you know, in the San Francisco Bay area and in Los Angeles, and even those geographic restrictions can be challenging as a marketer and when you're looking at a product that's national or international, there's just so many more people to reach. The other thing that's important is when you're online, you can collect a ton of data and I think that the people that are listening to this podcast understand the difference between the two. Eventually you moved away from Ebay, you were there for looks like three years according to your linkedin page. Tell me why you left the mothership.
Jeffrey: He has. So I really enjoyed the time I spent at Ebay. I learned what I needed to learn and the ultimate goal is to create my own business and start something on my own. And I knew working at a large company, you're very laser focused on your specific vertical. So I needed broader experience and that's when I started to work my way down two, my second job at tagged, which is a medium social networking startup.
Benjamin: So you say a medium social networking startup. What do you mean by that?
Jeffrey: When we think social networks, we think facebook's right medium. Would it be a social network that is far smaller than facebook?
Benjamin: Okay. So you were just talking about the size of the network. Exactly. So you're at a social networking startup. What was the differentiation for the company and what was your role?
Jeffrey: My role was the mobile user acquisition manager. So I was responsible for coming up with the strategy on how to drive mobile app downloads for tagged and then execute that digital marketing strategy.
Benjamin: So let's dive a little bit deeper there. You're focusing on mobile and acquisition. When you were a tagged, what were some of the channels that you were focused on?
Jeffrey: So specifically for Mobile Apps, we test a lot of different channels. We ran ads on ad words facebook, but then we work directly with a lot of mobile ad networks too, such as Inmobi, m dot m tap joy to create kind of a comprehensive mobile marketing mix.
Benjamin: Okay, so you're learning APP store optimization and you're doing some paid acquisition, really your first foray into an early stage startup and you've gone to a couple early stage startups, so what some of the reasons why you moved from one startup to the next.
Jeffrey: So about a year in tagged, rebranded to if we. During that transition, their mobile APP became secondary as they kind of repositioned the company in the different direction and refocus their efforts on creating a new product. So as you can imagine, when a company makes a decision like this in the early stages, driving user growth through acquisition isn't necessarily their number one agenda. So that's when I transitioned over to Wifi to acquire different sets that I needed to open up my own business in the future.
Benjamin: Okay. So where did you land next? After tagged?
Jeffrey: After tagged. I really dug deep to kind of really understand how I acquired a lot of the opportunities that I've had throughout my life and networking and connecting people has always been kind of the common link between being able to move from Ebay to tagged and then finding my next opportunity. So I really still wanted to focus on the digital marketing space, but wanted to focus a bit more broadly, not just on mobile APP installs. So I looked around to see what type of company would fit what I was looking for and I ended up at we've, which is a professional networking app that is y combinator funded and the way it worked is I think tindr meets linkedin. We pull professional profiles of folks from Linkedin and this APP allows people to network with other professionals on a purely professional basis to expand their network within San Francisco.
Benjamin: I'd love to weave. It was a great way to network is swipe or swipe left on somebody that had an interesting linkedin profile and it's the primary reason why I wanted to have you as a guest on the MarTech podcast because not only have you learned a tremendous amount about marketing, but you've jumped through multiple startups, so navigating the waters of early stage startups and using some of the networking skills that you've developed through the [inaudible] platform I think makes you uniquely positioned to talk about what life is like as an early stage startup marketer. So tell me about the experience at we've. What were you focused on and what did you learn from not only working on the product but from focusing on networking?
Jeffrey: So I think when you work at companies as large as Ebay and then you work your way down to a medium sized company and then to c stage company, you're trying to drive growth and you start realizing, okay, it all boils down to resources and what you have available to you. So being a very early stage startup, we don't necessarily have cash in the bank to drive $5 cost per installs, so I've found a lot of creative ways, whether it was to grow our community or reach different types of professionals that we wanted to use our platform. So I did things like started a podcast and interviewed interesting folks that were on our platform already. So leaning on your strengths, you know, we've. We had in inventory, have very cool people, vcs, ceos of great startups and I would invite them to be a part of my podcast.
Jeffrey: That was a great way to grow organically and get the word out. We even changed our service from purely swiping right or left and leaving the scheduling to the user. We actually pivoted and created an extension to the service that would actually help coordinate where the meeting would be within San Francisco. So we would designate and find a spot that would be convenient for both users at a local coffee shop. So when we decided to make that move, I saw that as an opportunity to partner with a lot of the coffee shops locally. Taking kind of the experience I had at kraft and applying it to a startup scenario at the same time, running the traditional digital ads when we still had resources to do that.
Benjamin: So you had to get scrappy.
Benjamin: I think that's one of the headlines for being at an early stage startup is you're not going to have the budget to do the type of advertising that you want to do to achieve scale and you have to put a lot of experiments to try to cobble together growth to earn the money that you'd need to spend at scale. Absolutely. So eventually the startup went under like many early stage startups do. And you're at Zumper. What are you doing today?
Jeffrey: So I'm running paid acquisition currently as zumper where an apartment search engine, one of the top threes. We serve both the US and Canada. We recently introduced an extension to of our search platform. It's called zumper select. It's kind of an end to end apartment searching service where you tell us where you want to live, what is your budget, and we'll actually give you recommendations and you signed the lease with us.
Benjamin: Okay, so jeff, let's talk about the learnings that you've gathered along the way from each step in terms of career development. When you were at Ebay, you worked at a big company. You were just starting on your career. What would you say is the biggest learning being someone early on your career, working at a large fortune 500 tech company
Jeffrey: when you're early in your career, it's all about just acquiring experience. It really doesn't matter what type of experience. The whole idea is just to experiment and try different things. You're young, you get the luxury to do that. It's not supposed to make sense because what ends up happening is as you accumulate these skills and the years pass on, they'll all start making sense. They'll start falling into place, so acquire as many skills. Yeah, Ebay gave me that opportunity. I got to work on the a lot of different types of projects, so that would be the best advice I would give.
Benjamin: I'll add a somebody that you met at Ebay, it's always great to work at a big company because you get lots of opportunity to network and meet really smart people. Tapping myself on the back as we speak. So tell me a little bit about what your big learning was from working at tagged.
Jeffrey: I think biggest learning there is things can literally change overnight. I saw how the company decided to go a different direction. They may changes within the organization immediately, so I think if you are going to be working at a startup, you have to be okay with abrupt changes
Benjamin: and I think that's one of the reasons why you see younger people working at early stage startups is because generally they have lower overhead. You don't have a wife, a mortgage and kids that you need to pay for and if your job dries up, you can spend three to six months looking for a new one because you don't have a ton of overhead. Exactly. So tell me about the big learnings from. We've. That was an early stage startup. Vc backed, had lots of traction, but eventually went the way of the Dodo bird. What did you learn through that experience? Yeah.
Jeffrey: Even if you have an amazing product that people love at them that day, you're still business. Your kpis still have to check out, and while we were creating an amazing service that connected thousands of professionals on the monthly basis within San Francisco, we had a difficult time monetizing. We pivoted multiple times, added functionalities, additional services went the corporate route. So even if people love your product, you still need to find a way to make money. If you want to run a successful business.
Benjamin: So now you've had the opportunity to work at a large company, try lots of different things. You worked at early stage startups that pivoted their way away from your area of expertise. You worked at a startup that had a great product and didn't really have an established business model and you've moved on to Zumper. So tell me why you're excited about this business.
Jeffrey: When anyone thinks about their movie experience, all we think about is the dreaded and endless pages of craigslist ads that you have to look through and how the experience is just completely broken end to end. It's a very, very traditional field. Technology hasn't really disrupted the real estate side of things quite yet and we're very well positioned to do that, especially our incorporation of the use of technology and ai to help connect to you too, the right apartment within your budget and what amenities so you're looking for. So being able to run the paid acquisition for a company like that really excites me.
Benjamin: And you mentioned before that one of the things that you learned along the way was to understand a little bit more about the business model. Even if the product is great company doesn't necessarily worked out. Tell me about [inaudible] business model.
Jeffrey: So traditionally speaking we consume a lot of partner data, so we resyndicate a lot of apartment and feeds onto our platform. So whenever a user comes onto our website and look for an apartment and sends a lead to a property, were then paid out for that specific lead on our zumper select side of our business, which is a relatively new product. Think of us as kind of a traditional agent or broker that you would see in, let's say New York City where a service that helps you look for the correct department. We have licensed agents that will work directly with you and then ultimately we would be the ones to sign the with you,
Benjamin: right? So essentially you're able to take advantage of both sides of the coin, not only the lead generation where the people trying to fill an apartment are paying you to drive visitors to their listings, but also you're able to be the listing holder and when it gets filled, you're able to monetize the customer actually moving into the property.
Jeffrey: Absolutely. It's a very supply and demand type of business. Very Uber Chicken or the egg. So when was founded a few years back, we were heads down, focused on filling that top of the funnel, getting people onto our platform. And looking for apartments and now that we have that, we're looking more long term to how can we improve the experience and use technology to augment the experience and that's what we're doing.
Benjamin: Yeah. And from a career perspective, why do you feel like this is a good role for you?
Jeffrey: It's giving me the opportunity to continuing to hone my digital marketing skills. So we're a well funded series b startup we're currently embracing for our series, see and we have resources to use in order to drive growth. So as a paid user acquisition manager, it's my responsibility to take that budget and those resources and allocate it effectively to drive our growth for whether it's top of the funnel or for our zumper select service.
Benjamin: Okay. So from policing end caps, for craft to Ebay to early stage startups, we've gone from big to small and sounds like jeff has landed in a place that continues to give him an opportunity to grow a skillset. And that wraps up this episode of the MarTech podcast. Thanks to Jeffrey. Ouyang for joining us. If you'd like to learn more about Jeffrey or about Zumper, you can find his contact information in our show notes, or you can go to [inaudible] Dot Com, Z U M P e r Dot com. Special thanks to search metrics for sponsoring this podcast. If you're looking to grow your online presence, go to searchmetrics.com or click the link in our show notes to request your free tour of their platform. If you'd like to read the transcript of this podcast, again, it's in our show notes, or you can visit our website@MarTechhpod.com.
Benjamin: If you're a subscriber to the MarTech podcast, we want to thank you and we want you to feel like a member of our community, so if you'd like to ask us a question or a comment or be a guest on our show, again, it's MarTechh.com and you can go to the contact us page or you could reach out to us on twitter or linkedin. Our handle is Ben j Dot Shap, Llc. If you haven't subscribed yet and you want a weekly stream of marketing and technology knowledge and your podcast feed in addition to part two of our episode with Jeffrey. Oh, Yang, we've got some other great episodes signed up. Okay. That's it for, but until next time, my advice is to just focus on keeping your customers happy.