GE Ep 63: How Lua’s CEO Built an Enterprise Messaging App That Boosts Open Rates from 20% to 98%

michael defrancoHey everyone, today we’re talking to CEO of Lua, Michael DeFranco – a 26-year-old entrepreneur who grew up with two entrepreneurial parents. He has a really interesting story to share. He’s worked with the Brooklyn Nets and the Super Bowl by providing an enterprise mobile messaging app, and he’ll explain its differences from WeChat and WhatsApp.

An Entrepreneurial Environment in Childhood Instilled a Work Ethic for Success at Age 26

Michael grew up in a home where his parents were building their software company out of their basement. He says that being surrounded by intelligent business conversations and life-changing decisions from such a young age inspired him with the confidence that he could build something someday as well.

He saw a work ethic in his parents that he never saw in anyone else, and the only life he’s ever known is the startup life.

He was doing some work for Hurricane Katrina when the idea for Lua struck him: he noticed that while it was really easy to send information from one computer to another, most of the field workers remained unconnected, creating a need for a mobile-first enterprise communication system.

Separating from Consumers & Optimizing on Analytics

While apps like WhatsApp, Zoko and WeChat dominate the consumer mobile messaging space, Lua provides a secure network with backend analytics so companies can better understand their communication pathways and workflows to figure out places to optimize their business for a better ROI.

For example, one of their first clients was a stadium that was able to use Lua’s analytics dashboard to drive a substantial increase in their revenues. By studying their communication patterns, they saw that their sales and ticketing offices communicated well with each other on game days, but the marketing department was being left out of the loop.

Because the marketing representatives were the ones making real-time decisions to drive in customers, they were the ones who needed to know right away about the different specials being run and other data. Once the pattern was corrected, ticket sales increased.

Growth Everywhere listeners can get a two month free trial of Lua by following this link.

Unique Customer Acquisition & High-Profile Leads

Michael says he and his team had to hustle for their first customers: cold calling, networking, using LinkedIn, and working with channel parters and resellers to get their product to there and tested.

But once it started getting in the hands of some higher-profile clients (like the Super Bowl in February), referrals came really easily. Michael says this is due to a unique feature Lua offers: real-time customer service built into their app. As soon as the Super Bowl was over, for example, happy users who wanted to take Lua with them to their next festivals could go to the app’s customer support and ask them how to do it.

An Early Market Shows Proof of Idea

Micheal admits that it’s a very early market for his idea and concept, but he’s convinced it’s the way of the future.

Though the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon got a lot of people excited about the new worker productivity possibilities, Michael said that the BYOD proponents were ignoring one core thing.

“I think what they expected was the dramatic increase in productivity that the PC brought to the business,” says Michael, “yet people forget that the PC and the laptop came with enterprise tools: Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Outlook… If you’re providing devices to your company without a mobile enterprise strategy around software, I think there’s something missing there.”

In a recent conversation with someone who runs an organization of 30,000 people on WeChat, Michael feels his thesis about mobile enterprise software was proven because, at the end of the day, even though the servers weren’t secure, this person felt it was the best way for him to get his business done.

“People are really excited with what comes next,” says Michael, “and I think something like messaging yields results in 24-48 hours.”

What Makes Enterprise Messaging So Great: An Incredible Open Rate

The thing that makes a mobile enterprise messaging app so much better than email is the open rate and effectiveness of communication between a company’s employees.

Rather than getting a 20% to 30% inter-company email open rate, the nature of Lua provides a 98% message open rate, which is clearly more conducive to the productivity business owners want to see.

Growth Everywhere listeners can get a two month free trial of Lua by following this link.

Business Growing Pains

“If you need to change, make sure the team around you is changing with you.”

Michael points out that sometimes in business, you have to put aside your personal relationships and do what’s best for the company. For example, he said he had a great marketing team when Lua was reaching out to work with small and medium-sized businesses, but once they started aiming for mid-tier companies, their strategies and messaging hand to shift quickly. At the time, it was better to get a new team of people who already knew what they were doing in that space rather than waiting on the current team to learn and get up to speed.

Tried & True Productivity Hacks

Hesitant to sound like he’s making a sales pitch for his own product, Michael suggests not using email internally within your company: to find a solution that reduces the amount of back & forth between your employees and simply prompts action.

He says that your email inbox should be for external communication, and increasing the efficiency of communication between your employees in and of itself is a productivity hack.

He also says to focus on your own happiness, to find a sense of spirituality to believe in or a sense of peace that exists outside of the success of your company, so you can stay stable through the ups and downs.

Recommended Reading

Michael recommends reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to learn more about the fear of death and fear of failure. He says once you overcome the fear of dying, the fear failing in a startup is virtually eliminated, and that just one page per day can transform your outlook.

A Two Month Free Trial of Lua

Growth Everywhere listeners can get a two month free trial of Lua by following this link. See for yourself how well it improves business communication. 

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About Eric Siu

Eric Siu (@ericosiu) is the CEO at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that focuses on paid advertising and content marketing. He contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and more.

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