Dave Westerhof – Beat

Dave Westerhof – Beat

Dave Westerhof is the Global Marketing Director at Beat, a ride-hailing mobile app, part of the FREE NOW Group, a joint venture between BMW and Daimler. The app is currently available in Greece, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, and can be classified within the top 3 players in Latin America. Dave works at the office in Amsterdam, an engineering hub aimed at acquiring new talent. Before joining Beat, Dave worked for several big companies in the FMCG market: “Working at bigger organisations like eBay, Adidas and Vistaprint, I enjoyed the idea of working for a start-up in hypergrowth mode trying to impact the ride-hailing space in a different way. My team consists of 20 people, and we have local marketing teams which we work together with closely”, Dave explains.

Growing the brand

Working at brands such as Adidas and eBay, Dave shares how marketers have a lot to their disposal, from resources to budget. You are part of a greater whole, and your role tackles something relatively specific. Starting at Beat, Dave shares how things are different: “Having worked for big brands and joining a start-up or any small company, you come in knowing ‘how things work’, and yet, it doesn’t matter. It is not about how much you know, but how much you can do. There is still lots of ground to cover in terms of discovering data insights and measurements and subsequently turning this into actions. We have some steps to take in that area, but you also have to explain to the business why those measurements provide more insight.”

When Dave joined the company in February of 2021, he focused on its current activities and preparing the marketing organisation to be future-proof, Dave shares: “I first wanted to get the team in order and make sure there was an agenda. Many smaller businesses move towards online, and in the mobility and ride-hailing space, things have plummeted during the pandemic. When you notice that top-line moving, you need to make sure your operating income stays in line. That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting your marketing budget, but you need to manage it. 2020 was a year where we dimmed the lights, and so this year we ramped up activities. At the end of 2020, we launched a new service in Mexico City, Beat Tesla, the largest private all-electric fleet in Latin America. The service consists of Tesla 3 cars ensuring amazing customer experience from driver behaviour to quality of ride. It offers more sustainability and more control throughout the user experience. Especially in Latin America, people’s mindsets relate more to things we perhaps take for granted; safety, reliability. Industry-wide, we noticed a lack of reliability when it comes to the estimated time of arrival: you request a car, not knowing whether it will be on time, what quality car it is, and what type of driver. There will always be a constraint when using drivers, whilst Beat Tesla ensures an excellent end to end experience to its users. The experiment redefined the ride-hailing space and allowed us to set a higher standard in the market, alongside creating a big differentiator for our passengers.”

“Sometimes, you need to take a step back and look at the data from a distance. (…) It’s not just about short term numbers, but about how to realise growth in the long run.”

Role of data

In terms of data, Dave believes data to be both an opportunity and a pitfall: “We can measure everything, which creates big opportunities, but it can also become a rabbit hole. At a previous company, one of the ten principles was; ‘test before you invest’. That is great, but it can also result in people testing for the sake of testing. That culture is something I have learned from, the availability of data and looking at things with a certain bandwidth can have its detriment. It’s like with the Covid-pandemic, data is widely available, but it is about the interpretation of data and the discussion. When you look at the trend going forward, you need to make those data points actionable and know your standpoint as a company, and how that fits your purpose. That’s also where the challenge lies. You can take it too far, and sometimes it is about taking a step back and looking at the data from a distance, keeping it simple, and getting down to the root of the issue. That helicopter view is the role I have taken, moving from weekly measurements to quarterly figures. It’s not just about short term numbers, but about how to realise that growth in the long run.”

Dave highlights the discussion between sales activation and brand building: “If you focus on quarterly results, you can bet that a lot is invested in short term channels. You may win the battle, but you won’t win the war. You have to grow a brand, you can’t do that in a three month or quarterly cycle, you do it over an extended period. It’s a different approach, and that’s something I’m trying to bring across, for one through the lessons of Byron Sharp. Mental availability and the collection of associations people have when relevant decisions need to be made. These category entry points can differ greatly per country, from the weather – it’s raining – to public transport being less reliable and needing to be on time. We are now actively looking into this with a third party. When you look at the traditional way of measuring marketing impact, I gather information from three tiers. Firstly, results should always be measured in business metrics, which relates to the growth of our passenger and drivers base. Second, the connection to the brand through brand equity, penetration, salience, and consideration. The last tier focuses on channels, campaign metrics, a certain incrementality or ROI. The most important thing is that you should always prove the impact on your business metrics. The best case is when you can connect those three tiers; an increase in drivers or passengers, growth of the brand and a healthy contribution from channels to ROI. That is what I’m trying to do with our latest Beat Tesla campaign.”

Profitable

Start-ups often take time to become profitable with investments made during its first few years, Dave comments: “The same goes for many platforms. I always use the ‘telephone’ example from the book The Business of Platforms: phones are fantastic when everyone has one. However, it becomes difficult when only 10% of the population has a phone. You need to pass a certain tipping point, to what extent can you connect A to B? Passengers and drivers, buyers and sellers, developers and app users. That is why I want to focus on penetration and create a dominant share. There are a few countries where we made these steps, but in others, the profitability is unsure. Especially from a marketing perspective where we spend and invest in the brand, it remains a challenge.”

Dynamic market

Dave finds a lot of inspiration and motivation from competitors: “In 2017, Let Go joined the market that was dominated by Marktplaats, launching a mobile-only product and introducing tools like image recognition. That was one of my biggest sources of inspiration to start thinking about our positioning and differentiation. At Beat, we are the challenger brand with the likes of Uber and the fast-growing Chinese DiDi. That is the kick and inspiration for me to challenge. It’s a fast-paced and dynamic market and when you do something in that space you can see the needles move.” Next to that, Dave gathers a lot of inspiration from science: “The fact that consumer’s decisions are not as rational-driven as we first thought, but more subconsciously made, is something I find very inspiring. Us marketers can be much more effective by using nudging and being more implicit to influence people’s choices.”

Looking ahead, Dave shares how his role comes down to contributing to certain choices or priorities, and creating insight into whether they will be feasible and profitable. Dave elaborates: “We know that we can make the impact with investments, but it relates to the choices you make and the business model you have. Ride-hailing has existed for 10 years and is also developing. Beat is in an exciting phase to discover how to create an edge over the competition. The role of marketing will be to have users connect to that purpose.”