Andrew Kamphey has been involved in the creator industry for more than 15 years. During this time, he has started several projects related to creators and influencer marketing.
This is the story about one of those projects that didn't take off: Creator Growth Lab. We want to know what went wrong, what were the lessons learned, and how those learnings improved the way he tackles new ventures.
How did he come up with the idea to build Creator Growth Lab?🔙
He had a side hustle where he would grow people's Instagram accounts. He got his clients anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 new followers every month. Three years ago, Instagram started announcing policies that he knew would make that method not last. This is a natural thing with growth hacking. First, it works really well. Then something changes and it does not work anymore.
Creator Growth Lab helped Instagram creators to grow by themselves. They could log each day their growth tactics and measure how many followers they gained and their hashtag performance. Every single day you could go to the Lab and see your growth. Then figure out which was the best one. Optimize it and grow more.
How did he build it?⚒️
He had a monthly income from his clients. Every dollar he made, he put into Creator Growth Lab because he wanted to go fast. He quit his job in December 2018. Gave himself a month to mock a prototype. After a month, he realized he couldn't build it fast enough. It was going to take him about a year to figure out how to build it and then three more months to actually build it. He took all the money he had from his agency, and he used it to pay off one designer and one programmer.
He found a designer in Bali. And then he found through a friend, a Vietnamese programmer. His friend became an ad hoc Product Manager and they became a four-person team. It was fast. Within 30 days of working remotely, everything worked exactly how he planned.
What were his key levers to start growing it?📈
Initially, he had a dozen users that were paying him to grow their accounts, who he thought would also use this Lab. They were paying him between $100-$200/month each. It got 50 new user signups in the first month and the next month another 50 user signups.
He used his newsletter to promote Creator Growth Lab to his existing audience and got a dozen signups from that.
He sent direct emails to creators he knew because he had worked in the influencer marketing industry for five years.
What were the biggest challenges he had to overcome?⚔️
Signups weren't a problem. He ended up getting 50 signups per month for four months in a row. The challenge was to get active users. It took a while to get to the aha moment. You needed to use it each day for a week or two weeks before getting the aha moment. That's painful. Users will never get that far.
How did he realize the project was not going in the right direction?📉
Three months after launch, either lucky or unlucky, Instagram cut the number of actions you could do. That killed most growth hacks, but the product still exists. He could keep working on it. But looking back the actual problem was people didn't use it. He made a bunch of videos to explain how to use it. It was very complicated. Users needed to first decide to do growth hacks and then try to optimize them with the app. Not many people know 50 growth hacks.
He had been doing a bunch of automations on his client accounts. All of their actions were literally taken down to zero for 30 days. Within one month, he went from 12 paying clients to none.
He didn't charge them for Creator Growth Lab, it was free to sign up. He would charge later once he figured out who was it for, big mistake.
He did have the idea of Pro Accounts. Initially, it was created for individual users. He talked to a model agency that had thousands of models that were going to pay for using it. Could have been $9,000 a month. Then another person, a growth hacker, wanted to use it to manage 100 accounts. Their clients also left because of the change in Instagram policies.
In the end, how much money did he lose?💰
In total, he paid around $5,000 and never made a penny. The silly thing is that it doesn’t feel like he necessarily lost the money. Because he had been self-funded, never went above his means. Only put money into it he was making through social media.
From all your takeaways he learned from this experience, what advice does he have for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?🗣️
🍂One of the most important things was that he talked to users, but he was not listening to them. He had so much hubris and very little humility because he had been successful at helping people grow for five years.
🍂He went into Creator Growth Lab thinking he knew everything. You don't know anything. Even if you think you know everything you don't.
🍂He spent a lot of time educating creators on why to use the product. Every successful creator will tell you that they grew by making good content. Creators want to create. He had no competitors. No one was trying to do this, that’s a warning sign. It ended up being not needed.
🍂You need to talk with users, not just tell them about your product. It opened his mind. When he gets on the phone with a user he's not teaching them how to use the product. He gets on the phone once or twice a week with his newsletter readers and asks them about what's going on in their life. Just chatting with them.
🍂Your solution might not pan out and doesn't mean your business doesn't work. It doesn't mean you're not successful. It means that solution didn't work out.
🍂Figure out who your tribe is. Find them. If you talk to people for enough time, keep trying different solutions, and keep asking for their problems, you'll figure out a solution. You always have something to learn.
What are your favorite startup resources for makers and entrepreneurs?📚
🍂The Dip by Seth Godin. Winners quit. This book tells you to stop what doesn't work for you. If you work the muscle of quitting you can get to what works faster.
🍂The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. When talking to users, he realized he didn't have to go to them with a solution. He went to them pretending he didn't know anything about their problem and listened to what they had to say.
If you enjoyed it perhaps like or retweet the thread on Twitter
How I scaled my business to $47.5k revenue at 90% profit margins in 13 months
Long time lurker, but I wanted to share with you my experience in the last 13 months of building my biz (I quit my job at the end of June 2019 and immediately started working on my company).
So as the title implies, we’ve been able to grow our company to near $50k revenue a month at essentially 90% profit margins (proof here) (I included that since I know r/entrepreneur has a hard on for cash flow and hates when people talk about revenue without profit haha).
Anyhow, this post isn't going to be just jerking myself off, I'm just going to tell you exactly what I did in terms of client acquisition, strategies, tools used, hires made, and everything else to give you insight on how I made this happen.
And also, I don't want to give anyone this false expectation that hitting nearly $50k a month is normal to do in a year. My UNFAIR ADVANTAGE is that I'd been in sales and digital marketing for 7 years prior at startups. I already knew (more or less) how companies scale from 0 to a million, because I literally was the director of growth at a company that went from 0 to 2.5M right before starting this recent company of mine.
That being said, one thing that should make you feel good is that I had less than 7k startup capital needed. This was totally bootstrapped from savings I had from my previous role. And to date, I've spent 0 money on paid ads, brought in 0 additional funding, had no one come in to take equity in exchange for help. This is totally done grassroots.
Anyhow, I run an online program which combines private coaching, a group mastermind, supported by a learning platform that teaches my clients how to implement certain tactics and strategies.
I have both retainer and project clients, but typically customer LTV is between $5 to $7k. So it's a high-ticket productized service.
So with that being said, this probably won't be relevant at all if you're doing stuff like e-comm, brick and mortar, the "sweaty startup" type thing. This is ONLY going to help if you're selling an expensive online offering (imagine online consulting, maybe agency services, perhaps a more pricy SaaS/software product). I'm not offended if you just skip this post if this no longer relates.
The reason why this is possible is because I spend under $750 per month on client acquisition per month (my costs consist only of some software tools I use to manage biz dev + a little bit of payroll)
On the fulfillment side, I primarily do coaching/consulting + manage my learning platform. This productized service model is very scalable and costs me nothing out of my time doing the coaching + the costs for the tech that support my learning platform (under $100 a month).
Anyhow, with that being said, I wanted to show you the 4 distinct stages of growth I experienced that helped me scale.
Stage One – 0 to $7k per month
So, in the beginning, I was totally reliant on Linkedin cold outreach.
First step was optimizing my profile so it was not just a janky online resume, but more like a landing page (with sales copy, testimonials, content, etc).
That way, if people visited my profile, they would clearly get what I do and how I help.
At the time, I was serving primarily SaaS companies and agencies, and I figured Linkedin made the most sense.
I set up an automated campaign that reached out to 100 connections per day, everyday (minus weekends).
Now, I think it's important to be a bit cautious with automation.
The two main concerns are breaking Linkedin's terms and getting your account frozen, but also having spammy reachout which annoys people.
With the first problem, I solved it by using a really specific tool.
First off, the tool is NOT a Chrome extension (since those are the ones that get you in trouble). Also, it was a private access only tool (which I was lucky enough to get invited into). The team who built it doesn't actually market it at all, meaning it's user base is much smaller than the other tools which are actively growing and marketing, so it really flies under the radar.
The second problem is (in my opinion) the more important one. How to avoid being spammy.
The way I got around it is that with Linkedin, my automation is only used to connect and start dialogue. I don't do ANY selling or pitching with the pre-built multi-step campaigns I have. The sole purpose of the outreach is to get the prospect to just respond to me.
I do this by asking interesting questions, commenting on industry trends and challenges, relating my own experience in the space, etc.
Because of my conversational approach, my campaigns did quite well. Here is just one of the many campaigns I built, but the numbers are quite similar through my other campaigns.
The thing is, the campaign's outcome is that the prospect responds. No meeting has been booked yet. Meaning I still got to take it from there to a call booked.
So what I try to do is engage in dialogue, establish rapport, identify fit and prospect problem alignment, and then I pitch.
Here's an example of the conversation flow that I use to take a dialogue through to meeting – broken up into a few sections since the convo is too long to screenshot at once.
So when you replicate the initial automated conversation campaign, those 100 new connection requests turn into between 10 to 15 conversations (as shown in the metrics above).
And then, by manually managing the DM's, being personalized, I typically turn a 25 to 33% of them into meetings booked in the calendar.
So this usually meant I was booking 3 to 5 calls a day.
At that point, it was just jumping on the call to close the deal.
Stage Two: $7k to $16k per month
So Linkedin was great, but there was a very clear ceiling in terms of pipeline generation because you can't send more than 100 connection requests per day (or you'll get in trouble with Linkedin).
With Linkedin alone, I was having a hard time breaking five-figures per month.
So what I did was I started messing around on Facebook groups, and sharing content.
Facebook groups are really cool because it's just a collection of like-minded people hanging out, sharing advice, and asking for help.
So I went and joined around 30 FB groups that I thought were a good fit in terms of audience.
It was as easy as typing in "SaaS", "Growth Hackers", "Consulting and Agency Owners", "High-Ticket Coaches", and letting FB point me to the most engaged groups.
Then, what I did was start sharing helpful content in those groups.
The key here is you CANNOT sell or pitch. If you do, the admins of those groups will remove your posts.
So instead, I just tried to help, and avoid talking about my business altogether.
This is just the preview, but each of these posts are about the length of a blog post (1500 words-ish).
And although they are written like a case study, they DO NOT sell my offer or even talk about what my product is at all.
Most people don't really write this long on FB, but that's why I think people really engage. I'm documenting my process as much as I can, and people tend to see value with that.
Naturally, what happens is people who are interested will start adding you as friends, DMing you, and being very open to conversations.
Facebook added an extra 15-ish meetings every week on top of what Linkedin was doing.
I actually found this to be easier to sell than on Linkedin, since I was approaching people on Linkedin totally cold.
As soon as I started doing this, I never went below five-figures per month again.
Stage Three: $15k to $29k
So the problem at this point was actually that I had too many sales meetings in the calendar from Linkedin and Facebook.
It's a good problem to have, but I was probably spending 4-5 hours a day managing my DM's, content distribution, engaging with people to book meetings.
Between working with clients, doing sales calls, and the rest of that work, I was working 80 hour weeks and working through the weekends.
It wasn't sustainable.
So my main goal here was to start removing some of the workload.
First thing I did was a created a webinar which helped me pre-sell my offering.
Prior, I was doing ALL my sales on a phone call, which often meant I'd need to jump on multiple calls to build enough trust to close.
But with a webinar, I could actually make it part of my buyer flow that they consume the webinar first, which will teach them my concepts, the things I help them with, etc.
This made it so that people entered my call already 50% of the way ready to buy.
My sales cycle immediately went from on average taking 2 to 3 calls, to now only taking 1 to 2 calls.
Another thing I did was really start using my Facebook group.
Technically, I began my own Facebook group even in stage 2, but I wasn't properly utilizing it.
But the cool thing about a FB group is it acts like an email list, on steroids.
It's the best way to nurture prospects, keep them warm, prime them for sales, etc.
But unlike an email list, it's a real dialogue. There's a community feel. It's more interactive. You can use a larger variety of formats (FB livestreams, text, video, etc).
Over time, I built nearly a 2000 person FB group where I consistently engage, add value, and once in a while promote a product launch.
You can see here I've highlighted a couple things.
First, the group is large because I promote it, BUT ALSO because FB's algorithm will just drive new people to your group organically after you reach a certain size and engagement (1000 is the sweet spot). So it really is free traffic.
Second, I can sort my content so people can self-select the stuff they want to learn about, and consume. It's a better user experience for them.
Finally, I can tag my own content, funnels, and products in the announcements, which help me passively get meetings booked and deals won.
So this simultaneously makes it easier for me to close deals, but also generate meetings.
And FINALLY, I also hired a person to manage my appointment setting.
Before, I was getting bottlenecked because of all the messages and DM's that I had to do manually.
So to get rid of that, I brought in someone to book meetings and converse for me.
Now, to do that, I actually needed to create a really good script which would help my setter appropriately mirror my voice and way of speaking.
And importantly, I needed them to get the "flow" of the conversation, and how to disqualify poor fit leads and bring good leads into the calendar.
So to summarize, the webinar and pre-sell campaign helps me shorten sales cycles.
The FB group helps me passively generate more leads while nurturing and warming up my leads (also shortening sales cycles).
And then my appointment setter helps offload my time spent on booking meetings.
Now I can spend more time with clients and on sales calls.
This system is what helped me scale to around $30k per month.
Stage 4: $29k to $47.5k
So this stage was actually pretty simple.
All I did was increase my pricing and restructure my offer.
To be honest, the entire time, my offer was underpriced at $3-$5k.
I was just scared of charging more because I was fairly new in my business and didn’t want to get told “No”.
But by this point, it had been more than a year serving my clients.
I knew what I did would provide results, since I now had so many testimonials and proven use cases.
Once I felt confident in the value of my offer, I just started selling it for between $5 to $7k.
And lo and behold, my closing % didn’t change at all. We were still able to win the typical 5 to 8 clients a month, just at a higher ticket.
In fact, not only did it not hurt my closing %, it actually helped me bring in better clients who were more motivated to work with me.
One warning I do have for you though is if you increase your pricing, it better be justified by the quality of your product.
I didn’t make this decision till I was 100% confident people would get an ROI.
And EVEN THEN, when I increased pricing, I spent several weeks just working on the product to upgrade it so I could give my clients a better experience.
Anyhow, by doing this, I increased my monthly revenue significantly without generating any more leads than in my prior months.
So, I think the biggest thing is just that systems and process are really important.
Doing things manually doesn't scale.
But people misconstrue that as "organic doesn't scale" because organic is thought to be quite manual.
What I've learned is that you can build processes that take the manual components in organic and remove them.
But I do want to set a MASSIVE disclaimer. Yes, I manage to do this in 13 months. BUT, I would not call myself an overnight success story.
Prior to building my company, I was an enterprise sales rep for 2 years. Then I was the director of sales at another startup for 2 years. And then I served as the head of growth at yet another startup for the year following.
Without those 5-6 years of developing my skillset in marketing and sales there, I wouldn’t have known how to do what I do now. Those years of working at companies were a prerequisite to my growth today. Me saying 13 months is in reality 7 years when you think about how long it took me to acquire the skills I needed to build a profitable company.
Anyhow, feel free to ask any questions below!
How to Be Productive at Home while Working and Studying Remotely
by Adam Jacobs
Has your job recently moved to remote? It’s not easy to make the transition when you’re used to your regular 9 to 5. It doesn’t help that with working from home come distractions.
You need to work but the TV makes for good background noise and you do have a little laundry to do. Resist these temptations. If you don’t, you’ll never get anything done.
You don’t want to burn yourself out either. We can teach you how to be productive at home and keep yourself perfectly sane. Check out this guide to find out how to optimize your workspace and keep distractions away.
Take Regular Breaks
When working from home, it can be tempting to try and burn straight through it without taking a break. You control your schedule and the faster you get done, the faster you can do something more fun. This isn’t a good idea.
If you don’t take regular breaks you’ll burn yourself out after a day or two. Set a timer on your phone and get up every twenty minutes or so to stretch and walk around at least.
Don’t Work Where You’ll Be Distracted
You need to have a room set aside that is for working and working alone. You wouldn’t do laundry and watch Netflix at a normal job, would you?
We hope the answer is no. Once you’ve found an ideal space, shut your door and set one important ground rule for the rest of the people you live with. A shut door means do not disturb.
Avoid Working in Your Jammies
Since you’re not working in a room full of co-workers and supervisors, there’s nobody there to tell you not to wear jammies. While your favourite pair of bed shorts are comfortable to work in, wearing them will keep you in an “at home” headspace.
Get up, brush your teeth, take a shower, and eat breakfast like you would when getting ready to head to a normal 9-5. Doing so will put you in the “work” headspace and the routine will keep you on a productive schedule.
Optimize Your Work Space
Keep your space organized and tidy so you can find everything and be as productive as possible. Consider springing for a comfortable office chair that you can work in for hours in. Invest in a standing desk as well to give your back a little break throughout the day.
Put a few plants in your home office. Plants will make you feel calm, they clean the air, and being close to nature will make you happier.
How to Be Productive at Home and Avoid Getting Distracted
Making the transition to working at home can be a difficult process. If you don’t know how to be productive at home, you could end up getting distracted and not get any work done. Follow these tips and we promise that you won’t run into quite as many problems.
Adam Jacobs is the incredibly busy Managing Director of Bubblegum Casting, Hunter Talent and children’s clothing brand Byron Babies . He works with some of Australia’s biggest brands, media properties and agencies to secure talent for work in Television, Film and Modelling roles. He hopes you’ve benefited from reading this.
The post How to Be Productive at Home while Working and Studying Remotely appeared first on She Owns It.
A Bigger Truth About Restaurant Food Delivery
I was listening to Dan Primack’s podcast on Pro Rata and he was interviewing Senator Klobucher who is now publicly and vocally speaking out against Uber purchasing Grubhub and has tried to mobilize against this.
Her argument is that if Uber buys Grubhub (which itself once merged with Seamless) it would mean that Uber Eats / Grubhub would control half the market and that with DoorDash the two together would control 90% of the market. I think that’s a largely flawed fight to be picking and of all the uses of Senator Klobuchar’s I could think of some much more productive fights to be having.
For starters Uber itself has had to lay off 27% of its workforce due to the pandemic and has been severely impacted financially from the crisis with no immediate respite in sight. Its core business was already struggling to become profitable, so having tertiary businesses like food delivery that can deliver needed profits would be welcome to their financial stability. And the market would still have DoorDash and PostMates duking it out as well as the potential that players like Instacart broaden their business one day or Amazon gets into food delivery.
Even more likely is eventual technology disruption where drones deliver foods and make it hard for existing car delivery services to compete. It won’t happen right away but I’ve seen some innovative companies doing exactly this in places like Australia where they are taking a more liberal approach to allowing drone deliveries. Therein lies the advantages of free markets and competition and if we really believed it were that easy to buy off your largest competitor and be a monopolist we’d all be surfing on AOL TimeWarner portals.
But the broader issue that hasn’t garnered much press attention is how the restaurant industry itself is being transformed and what tools a modern restaurant will need to compete. What is the Shopify of the restaurant industry? I have some compelling data that suggests it may just become ChowNow.
We know that the restaurant business already operates on thin margins and many struggle to survive. So when delivery services came along many were willing to pay the fee to try and increase business. It was only about 10–15% of their actual total revenue per month so for many it wasn’t a battle worth fighting — they just put up with the food delivery company fees. Customers were happy and restaurants focused on their in-store business.
The problem for the restaurants is that the more successful the “aggregators” of customer demand become over time, the less power the restaurants themselves have individually. This will largely be true whether you have 2 strong competitors or 5 because unless a delivery company can make a profit it won’t continue to stay in business.
The delivery companies own the customer relationship and can drive traffic to the most profitable restaurants for them. Obviously if you have a great restaurant brand with differentiated food people search for you by name but for many people looking for pizza, sushi, Mexican food, Thai food, whatever, you might go with the choice put in front of you if it’s being recommended or delivered more quickly. The delivery companies also own many of the assets like the photography so they can make certain options look much more attractive.
So just like when Groupon came out many small merchants welcomed the uptick in traffic, without owning the customer you lose the most valuable asset — the ability to re-market to your customer base and encourage them to become more loyal and more frequent customers. You lose the ability to up-sell and cross-sell products. And just like with Groupon the small businesses ended up having many unprofitable customers.
At Upfront we always took the approach that we wanted to back startups that enabled merchants to own the customer relationship and to increase profits by becoming excellent at marketing and serving ones most loyal customers.
So several years ago we backed a company called ChowNow that enables restaurants to offer self-service ordering for pick-up or delivery and the restaurant owns all of the customer information and relationship — ChowNow is simply a SaaS enablement product.
The company has done well over the past several year but never really captured the same press mindshare as the food delivery companies because when a company shows up at your house you get to know that brand rather than the tech that enables restaurants.
Covid-19 has changed all of that. Whereas pickup & delivery may have been 10–15% of a restaurant’s business before it’s currently 100% and when it’s your entire business the thought of paying huge commissions to a third-party delivery service becomes much less attractive. So while many restaurants knew they eventually needed to invest in better order management software, many had been putting it off.
But just as many product or apparel companies were happy selling at Amazon, Walmart or Nordstrom in the past and have lately realized the importance of Shopify and serving customers directly — so, too, are restaurants. Enter ChowNow.
What data do I have to make the case?
- ChowNow now has 17,000 restaurants using its SaaS platform for take-out and delivery and is adding more than 2,000 / month right now (and trending up)
- 10 million diners now use the ChowNow ordering platform vs. 24 million for GrubHub, so like Shopify while they built the customer base slowly and with capital efficiency they are now rivaling the bigger players in footprint
- Last year they were serving 50,000 customers / day through their platform and did approximately $500 million in GMV (the value of the orders placed), this year they are on track to do $3 billion (with a B) and expect to end the year at a revenue run rate that may top $100 million (yes, I asked for permission to publish these numbers).
If you want to see a short spot that outlines the importance of the restaurant industry arming itself with better software tools to serve and market to their customers you may enjoy this 60-second video that makes it clear why it matters. It speaks volumes to why we all love our local restauranteurs and want to see them survive …
Or if you want to see the argument laid out clearly by a customer, look no further than Motorino Pizza in NYC who posted this note that appears before you enter their website:
Proteus, the Shape-Shifting and Possibly Non-Cuttable Material
Silence is Stupid, Argument is Foolish
How I scaled my business to $47.5k revenue at 90% profit margins in 13 months
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