Office Hours: I’m the Head of Marketing at AngelList, and was previously Head of Marketing at Plaid and Quora.Featured

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @helenmin!Elphas – please ask @helenmin your questions before Friday, May 14th. @helenmin may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Pavalow's profile thumbnail
What is one lesson you’ve learned at each of your jobs that changed the way you approached the next one?Last year I was looking into technical marketing, and somebody passed me your article on developer marketing. It was the most thoughtful framework I’ve seen on the topic, and since then have continued to see an increase in marketing job posts at developer targeted companies. Any thoughts on what are some other specialized types of marketers that we will begin to see more demand for?
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Hannah, thank you for the questions and kind words! It means so much.I think companies (not just developer-focused startups) are coming around to see the value of community, and you'll start to see more community-focused roles and roles that have community-management responsibilities. It's easy for leaders to look backward and see how their community has contributed to their growth/success, but it's very hard for leaders to make the kind of long-term investments in community-building when starting out and resources are scarce -- devoting precious time and budget to an area that does not have a clear short-term, measurable ROI seems very risky. It's understandable! The success of Twilio, Stripe, Replit, Product Hunt, Reddit, Clubhouse, has recently been attributed to their communities so it seems like more founders are willing to take the plunge early on.The good news for job seekers is that you can draw connections between a lot of your past experience and the skills required for community management. Hope this helps! Good luck and thanks again :)
HelenaRonis's profile thumbnail
Hey Helen! Thanks so much for this AMA. My question is about analytics: What's your approach in getting daily/weekly/monthly updates about key insights in marketing performance and progress towards business goals? Do you mostly use Google Analytics or did you find anything better? Also, are there any best practices in alignment between the marketing team, product, sales, and customer success?Thanks a lot!Helena
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Helena, thanks for the questions!Some insights I find useful to look at on a daily basis: campaign-level performance metrics such as email opens, form submissions, whatever the KPIs are for the campaign(s) that you're running; weekly basis: digital ad performance, social media follows, blog visits; monthly basis: organic site traffic; half-yearly basis: NPS and brand recognition and sentiment. It's not one size fits all, which is a good segue to your next question: the responsibility is on you to over-communicate your priorities, KPIs, and how you're tracking against them to the organization. Marketing is unique from any other function: it means completely different things to different people depending on their previous experience with marketing teams, it's both "vertical" (you're driving your own, unique goals) and "horizontal" (you're enabling other teams to meet their goals), and it's the one function that everyone has an opinion on (e.g. "as a consumer, I have strong opinions on Super Bowl ads and what brands I purchase over other brands, therefore, I am qualified to have an opinion on this work!"). It can feel like a burden, but it is absolutely an opportunity :) Everyone at the company is interested in what the marketing team is doing. Use that to your advantage by sharing, soliciting feedback and ideas, getting people involved to help you with different initiatives. All of this however requires you to communicate regularly and be accessible. The onus is on you as the leader to set the right foundation to create alignment. It will not happen on its own.Hope this was helpful. Overcommunicate :) Good luck!
ChristyShannon's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen, thank you for sharing with us here. It's so great to hear from accomplished women, such as yourself. I am currently building a marketing org from the ground up at a fast-growing green energy company. While I have needs for help with ALL marketing functions, I need to prioritize my first hires to make sure they have the biggest impact on our work. What would you say are the most critical first roles on a marketing team? How do you stay focused when all areas of the org are in need of marketing support and your team is still growing? Thank you!
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Christy! Thanks so much for the question. It's a good one. Generally speaking, my advice is to hire "smart generalists" and resist the urge or pressure to hire specialists this early on. When you don't yet know what your highest leverage channels are, you want people who are energized by experimentation and the opportunity to write a playbook (versus run it). I wrote about this recently here: https://helenmin.com/blog/smart-generalistsI would hire one person whose superpower is in messaging/writing who focuses on creating A+ content, and one person with a quantitative background who focuses on finding, setting up, running, optimizing, and evaluating channels You could call them a product marketer and growth marketer respectively. Both job descriptions should emphasize experimentation, the importance of context switching, and wearing many hats. Hope that helps! Good luck :)
ChristyShannon's profile thumbnail
This is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. I really appreciated your blog post. It makes so much sense to hire for these general superstars since the business is changing so fast at this stage. I am going to put this in practice. Thank you!
JulJuly's profile thumbnail
Hi @helenmin.Thanks for sharing your time and experience with us and congrats on a very impressive career!I'd love to hear your thoughts on:1. What do you think contributed most to your success?2. What are the key lessons you've learned leading marketing function for big name brands?3. What is your advice for someone trying to break into the US tech industry from oversees (Europe)?Thanks in advance!
HHoang's profile thumbnail
Thanks for your time @helenmin. We are 7 people B2B Tech startup, seed-funded and finding product market fit. We are debating if we should hire a Marketing people (which takes a lot of time and effort to hire) or just find a small agency to help with executing our ideas 🤔 Any other thoughts on Marketing, PR and social media would be much appreciated 🙏🏻Thanks, Hien
mburushkina's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen,Thanks for your open hours!I'd like to learn more about your marketing planning & strategy process. Do you build strategy around personas and customer journeys in-house, or outsource? What is your process? Would love to get those insights (for our product development research).Thank you in advance!Maryna- Founder of GrowthChannel.io
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Maryna, thank you for your question! I think the biggest factors to consider are internal capabilities and bandwidth, and budget. If you have an internal team (anywhere in the organization) that is capable, has time, and is interested in taking on this project, there is so much to gain from doing this in-house -- a great opportunity to increase customer empathy! We did this in-house at Plaid, where the Design team took on persona development based on user research they conducted themselves. You can read about it here: https://plaid.com/blog/behind-the-scenes-with-design/However, in my experience, startups so rarely have the bandwidth to be able to prioritize this work in-house, even if they really want to. Then there are 2 options I've seen work well: one where you outsource the work completely with a strong internal project leader who is accountable or the success of the project, and one where you hire an external strategist or agency to lead the project and have the internal teams coordinate the customer interviews and insights. The first route is more expensive and requires a very strong DRI, and the second route requires very strong communication and coordination across different teams and customers that will be involved in the work. I hope one of these options sounds like a fit for you. Good luck!
EmilyWan's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen! Thank you for your time and generosity. My question is regarding startup marketing: I'm working on a fintech MVP and the idea is to provide fully digital mortgage origination services. I'd love your advice on validation ideas and sourcing early users. How did Plaid overcome this hurdle in the very beginning? Again, many thanks for taking the time to do this!
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Emily, thanks for the question. The mortgage/lending vertical was treated a little differently from a GTM perspective compared to other verticals while I was at Plaid because we believed the buyers and existing industry ecosystem were so different. We didn't have as much runway to do things "our way" or take a developer-first approach; we had to sort of plug-in to the existing industry and participate in trade events and engage with industry publications. I would join those opportunities and build relationships with people you meet there to source your first 10 customers. Unlike other industries, those buyers are not proactively searching for better solutions to their problems, so it's less likely that they will come find you. You have to go to them and spend time where they are spending time. Does this make sense? Happy to continue the dialogue if not.
EmilyWan's profile thumbnail
Absolutely—this makes sense 100%. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I’ll begin researching more into it so I hope you don’t mind if I DM you (or other ways you prefer to be reached) with further questions in the future. Thanks again and best of luck in your endeavors!
Ting's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen, thank you for offering your advice!At what stage do you think a startup should bring a CMO onboard? Does it make sense to do it before achieving product-market fit? What are your recommendations on finding the right marketing talent (processes, platforms, etc.)?
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Ting, thanks for the question! I get this one a lot from founders and investors so I actually wrote about it here last summer: https://helenmin.com/blog/first-head-of-marketingTl;dr - if marketing is the most strategic function/lever for the future of your business (usually true for most commodity products where brand and distribution can make or break a company), then hire as early as possible. Otherwise, hold off until you're ready and able to have a CMO be successful in the role. In the meantime, hire smart generalists who are interested in solving high-impact business problems through work that happens to be marketing. Hope that helps! Good luck.
divyakhurana's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen,I use AngelList to seek out roles within VCs - I’m looking for a non investor role. Just want to show appreciation for taking the time time to share insight with others.Thanks,Divya
MollieFleury's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen - appreciate you taking the time to do this! I'd love to hear your take on cold emails.Do they work? Should you spend put hours personalizing each one, or is it better to do a thoughtful but automated spray and pray method? Does the messaging differ between enterprise vs. startup target recipients? Is a cold DM on social more likely to get a response?
annajoofee's profile thumbnail
Thank you, Helen, for offering your time and advice! 1) What KPI(s) would you recommend for a consumer fintech that is pre-launch and gathering interest from potential customers? I'm taking e-mail sign-ups on a website landing page and wondering if there might be better metrics to focus on.2) If my target audience for our beachhead market is young millennial professionals, which social media channels would you recommend we focus on as we work towards launch (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or YouTube)?
helenmin's profile thumbnail
1) Email signups are a great way to measure the efficacy of your messaging. They're opting in to continue to hear from you! To expand upon that before launch I would invest in content and look at upper funnel metrics like views, follows, and engagement. You're increasing awareness, testing messaging, and growing your audience. I wouldn't say these are better metrics, but they're ones you can add to what you're doing already. Building muscle at every stage of the funnel takes time so you'll have a head start.2) Those + trying out new channels like TikTok. If building a community is one of your goals so that these young professionals are able to connect and share with one another, building spaces on Slack, Discord, Facebook Groups, can all be important. If you find one channel is working better than others, invest in it further. You don't need to be super active everywhere.
nhu313's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen, Thank you for taking your time to answer our question. I'm thinking of building book clubs for bookstores/libraries. Do you have any advice on marketing to local businesses/communties? What key metrics should we look at? What kind of strategies do you think are most effective in reaching out to users? How do you evaluate which platform to advertise your application?Thank you again for your time :)
Isie's profile thumbnail
Thanks a lot for being here Helen! What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an angel investor?
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Isie! Thanks for the question :)When you're starting out, I recommend getting to know lots of founders, listening to them, and figuring out the unique value you offer (hint: it's not your money). Build a name for yourself as a value-add investor so that founders are coming to you when they are raising. Start small (check size, number of investments), and work on your pitch for why you're excited about startups. Founders want investors who believe in them and their ideas, and want to be helpful. As you build your track record, your check sizes will get bigger and you won't have to put as much effort/hustle into pitching yourself. A lot of the content in this post resonates with me: https://venturehacks.com/11-lessonsExcited for you! Good luck.
How much marketing to farm out to experts and how much to do in house? When to bring such marketing in house? Thanks!
sophiayenmd's profile thumbnail
What % of AngelList users are women? Are there any special groups on AngelList or initiatives to help increase the number of Female Founded, Female Led companies? Check out FFFL.co, a nonprofit initiative by Springboard Enterprises to increase consumer awareness of Female Founded, Female Led companies.
leighkloss's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen - wow, you are seriously impressive! Thank you so much for your time.I have a few questions about career development and building out a successful marketing function at a startup:-I'm currently leading marketing and press at an early-stage startup. I'm managing all the marketing channels―some of which I have experience in, some of which I do not. Do you have any recommendations for how to build out a high-functioning marketing organization when managing channels and things you don't have experience in, especially when hiring for those gaps might not be an option?-You've had amazing career success, and I would love to have a career as impressive as yours one day! How instrumental do you view your MBA to your success? I'm in my late 20's with no advanced degree (outside of a bachelor's) and was hoping I could avoid getting my MBA, but I've been hearing that an MBA is important to make it to the top, especially for women. How true is this advice to you? -What are your favorite marketing tech tools or software programs you recommend for an early-stage marketing team?-In your experience, are there any key attributes that make a successful leader, particularly for entrepreneurs? Any patterns or guiding characteristics you see in successful venture-funded leaders?Thank you!
helenmin's profile thumbnail
Hi Leigh, thanks for your questions and kind words.Hiring: No one can claim to have experience with every marketing channel -- new ones are popping up all the time! And if you don't yet know what your primary channels will be for brand building and growth, having an experimental mindset is great... which makes it even harder to know what full-time roles to hire for. When you're just starting out and there is lots to do, I'm a big fan of the "hub and spoke" model where you hire for smart generalists (another plug for this recent post: https://helenmin.com/blog/smart-generalists) who are experts in the product and strong on messaging, and have them each manage a few "spokes" (channels) where they might have to find and manage specialists (consultants, agencies) that they can scale up or down as they learn more about the channel. Invest heavily in the "hubs" from a company/product knowledge perspective, and career development, and be agile with the "spokes."MBA: It depends on what you want to get out of the MBA program, and part of that involves what you feel like you're missing right now. Generally speaking, I don't think anyone needs an MBA for anything in startups/tech, but I believe it can be useful in a few ways: 1) if you don't feel like you have a strong network based on your undergraduate alma mater or employer alumni networks, an MBA program gives you an instant "club" to meet classmates and alumni and get access to opportunities you might not have come across without one 2) if you're interested in changing industries where you don't currently have any connections, an MBA program can help you pivot through the coursework in your second year and internship(s) 3) if you're moving to a geographic area where you don't have a network, being a graduate of an MBA program in that area can be a good way to instantly find friends and prospective co-workers. For example, if you're interested in moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and don't know many people there, going to GSB or Haas makes it easy to instantly gain a network of folks who will most likely also settle in that area post-graduation. Note: this is probably becoming less relevant as companies move to remote work. 4) you're single and interested in meeting a future spouse :) Marketing tools: Google Analytics for quantitative signals, Hubspot for qualitative ones. I like to use ads to test messaging before the start of a campaign.Leadership: Startups are constantly changing -- no two quarters are the same. I suppose the most successful leaders I know are able to successfully balance adapting to change, while staying focused on long-term goals. In practice this looks like: raising performance standards for yourself and your team Q/Q (and investing in L&D so everyone is growing at the same pace the business requires), having an open mind and revisiting channels and tactics that didn't work in the past (they could work now that your brand and products are more mature), on the flip side: not getting too comfortable with channels at are working today because they might not scale with you, consistently communicating a long-term vision that unites and inspires everyone around you to do their best work.Hope that helps! Wishing you all the best on your journey.
GraceM's profile thumbnail
Hi Helen,I am starting a digital stationery platform for the growing digital journaling and art community. While I managed to grow a community in Discord that are highly engaged and looking forward for my beta, I feel like it is really small compared to the mailing list of other successful startups in this space. What would be a realistic number of waitlisted beta testers to say I have traction and should I have to invest $$$ in paid marketing at this point? I am a solopreneur (experienced in product but not marketing). I wanted to go to VC route but for the space I am operating, I am afraid I will just waste time talking to people who wont get it. Tips for traction?