Bennie Liu

Building growth engines for startups
Performance Marketing
@
Dovetail

What was your journey to joining your current company?

Growing up, I was fascinated by tech and entrepreneurship. I started with buying and selling earphones via eBay.

I got my start in growth when I grew an Instagram meme account to 90,000 followers. It started just as a joke between a uni friend and myself until we started seeing our follower count tick up.

We started making revenue and even GaryVee got in touch at one point! Unfortunately we were ultimately banned as a meme account.

This experience sparked my interest in growth marketing as a career, leading me to join a seed stage fintech as the first hire. We managed to get acquired and I decided I wanted to work in a consumer business next.

I joined Healthmatch, a healthtech startup, leading performance marketing and had an awesome experience. We scaled the user base to 1M+ patients through performance marketing in just 10 months and I met some fabulous friends and mentors along the way.

My most recent work is at Dovetail. Here, I lead performance marketing as part of the growth team and work on everything ads-related.

How did you make the decision to take your last role?

Dovetail is a great place to work for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because of its fantastic product, extreme focus on the customer, and the constantly changing nature of my role – which I absolutely love.

Their research tool is loved by thousands, which shows just how deep the need for the product is. One of my top criteria for joining a startup is seeing this - you simply can’t scale something people don’t love or have a deep need for.

Now, the best part for me is the dynamic nature of my role. I mean, working in a startup, you get to wear many hats and solve new problems as the company grows. I especially enjoy tackling challenges across a breadth of areas including growth, data and product. Also, building the performance marketing function from scratch allows me to dictate a lot of practices and make a real impact on the company's direction.

In a nutshell, the role is the great mix of an awesome product, a customer-centric mentality, and having lots of interesting net-new problems to solve.

What stands out the most about the culture? 

The most notable aspect of culture here is genuine customer-centricity. Almost all companies are customer centric, but it’s rare to see active incorporation of customer perspectives into decision-making. This occurs through regular voice of the customer sessions and  continuous streams of data, like NPS feedback. These rituals help all teams feel close to the customer.

How would you describe your role to a 5 year old?

Performance marketing is like being a friendly detective who helps people find their favourite ice cream shop. We come up with fun ways to tell people about the ice cream, like drawing pictures or making signs. We then pay for these pictures to be shown everywhere. When people visit the ice cream shop because of our work, we know we've done a good job. We also keep a notebook to remember which ways worked the best, so we can help even more people find their favourite ice cream in the future.

What does your day-to-day look like?

I generally start the day by catching up on metrics to see how campaigns are trending and triaging any important issues that might have crept up over the day or week. 

From there I catch up on some long form product and growth reads. Favourites include Lenny’s podcasts, engineering blogs from Netflix, Duolingo and the Founder’s podcast.

After that, I work for a block of time on my most important task for the day. What that work looks like depends on the day but it’d generally be setting up a new experiment, working on a landing page or working on strategy.

I’m a big fan of allocating thinking time. That’s intentionally blocking out time to work on the biggest gnawing business problem I have at the time.

After I’m done with my deep work, it’s generally meetings, if any, for the day and working on admin tasks. I stay closely in sync with the product and data teams as our work is all intertwined.

What does career progression/promotion look like for you?

In my opinion, the evolution of growth as a discipline and career is trending towards how engineering is structured. In engineering there’s two tracks. You can become a people manager (engineering managers) or you can go deeper into subject matter expertise, such as those who become principal engineers.

I’m seeing a similar trend in growth. It’s company dependent but there’s lots of scope to progress down the route of subject matter expertise - something I don’t think a lot of growth marketers realise.

For someone considering joining your company, what are 3 things they can expect?

  • Extreme focus on execution: startups thrive on adaptability and innovation. You can expect a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment where you'll have the opportunity to wear multiple hats and work across roles.
  • Remember those choose your own adventure books? Startups sometimes feel like that due to a lack of defined playbook. For many, that’s exciting as there’s an element of artistry. You get to test and learn to discover what works and build around that.
  • As my tip for those entering a growth role, operate within your zone of genius. I strongly believe in focusing on your unique strengths and passions until you build an ‘unfair advantage’. If you haven't yet discovered your own zone, I’d recommend concentrating on one skill or discipline and becoming exceptional at it. As you gain expertise and confidence, you can gradually expand your zone of genius to encompass a broader range of disciplines. 

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