Building a successful growth hacking business is no easy feat. That’s why I wanted to look at some of the lessons we can take away from someone that has done just that, founder of Dux-Soup, Will van der Sanden.
I sat down with Will last week for a chat and quizzed him on running a growth hacking business.
Firstly, what does growth hacking mean to you?
Will: Growth hacking is really all about using existing systems in new ways for customer acquisition. This could be any system, used in any way. It isn’t important if the system wasn’t designed to support your objective. It’s more about combining systems and the data that is in them, and finding an innovative use case.
It’s all about working smarter. Growth hacking does not invent new sources of data but simply applies creative thinking to how data can be used. Dux-Soup is a growth hacking tool that uses different sources of information with the goal of building a relationship with someone.
It’s more than lead generation; it’s effectively part of a multi-channel communications model. The reason this works is that people are receptive to different methods of contact – email, phone, LinkedIn message, etc.
Growth hackers are very goal oriented and use a clear metric to measure the effectiveness of what they are doing.
Why is growth hacking grabbing the headlines?
Will: The reason why growth hacking is getting a lot of attention now is that lead generation is becoming harder. To get that all important advantage, you need to find new ways of achieving your goal and beating the competition.
One way to differentiate yourself is in how you approach your audience. Doing the same thing as your competitors is unlikely to yield significantly better results.
But by applying the latest growth hacking techniques, you will be doing something innovative in lead generation, giving you a priceless competitive advantage. Our customer RJS did just that and was able to turbo charge its recruitment business and achieve rapid ROI.
Growth hacking is agile and flexible and can deliver results much faster than other marketing channels. The investment level can be small if you are using a tool like Dux-Soup. This gives you the chance to try something new. If you are tracking success metrics, when you find something that works you can scale it up and if not, change it up.
You have established Dux-Soup as a leading growth hacking tool for automated LinkedIn lead generation. What has contributed most to this success?
Will: One of the most important success factors is that we are genuinely a customer centric company. Everyone is committed to delivering the highest standards of service.
We work hard on our customer support. This is reflected in the feedback that we receive. We aim for a quick response and crucially we don’t differentiate between people on the Free or Paid versions. Great support is great support after all!
We also pay a lot of attention to the User Experience. How can we make it as easy as possible to carry out tasks, in the fewest clicks and this applies to everything from installing Dux-Soup to using the features for common use cases.
We have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time from a technology point of view. As online lead generation and social selling becomes mainstream, more and more people recognize how LinkedIn automation solutions can solve a specific problem - how can I be more efficient at using LinkedIn for lead generation?
We also listen to our users when it comes to feature requests. We operate a features dashboard where users can upvote features. This ensures we develop our product in line with what our customers actually want from the platform.
But you can’t just rely on feature requests. You also have to anticipate where the market is going and have a vision as to where you want to take the product. The automated messaging features that we have built into Dux-Soup Turbo are a great example of this.
Did you have to overcome any challenges or setbacks?
Will: I didn't have any particular expectation when I launched Dux-Soup. But it wasn’t my first development project and I already had enough ‘failures’ against my CV! Fortunately, we have been successful at meeting and anticipating customer needs.
One challenge was around 18 months ago, when our growth curve had started to plateau. In order to address this, we’ve invested more in customer focused marketing. We launched our first customer testimonial program and now have loads of detailed use cases showcasing the ROI that is possible with Dux-Soup. We relaunched our webinar program and changed the timing so that it was more accessible to the West Coast of the USA.
As the product and user base has grown, we have tried to address any areas before they become a challenge. We’ve changed our server environment twice – this is invisible to our customers but our infrastructure now supports our business better.
What skills are vital for building a successful business?
Will: You need bags of determination to make something work as well as it can and also cope with any challenges that come along the way. You need to be flexible enough to accept that you won’t always get everything right first time, and sometimes there might not be a market for something that you have spent time developing or building.
Developing resilience to be able to put any hiccups behind you is vital. You also need to be able to pivot your strategy if something isn’t working quite right.
A strong work ethic is a must particularly when the going gets tough. There are plenty of times I’ve had to work through the night to get something done.
How important was getting the pricing strategy right?
Will: We have always used a subscription pricing model. When we launched, the competitor products were insanely expensive, and offered a poor user experience and limited functionality.
The Free edition of Dux-Soup allows people to get started on smarter lead generation with no cost and therefore no risk. This helped us grow the customer base in the early days.
The Pro edition is still several times cheaper than competing products so that gives us a natural advantage. And the premium Dux-Soup Turbo edition offers superior high-end features that are not available in other tools.
The customer journey is often to start with the Free edition and then progress to the more advanced features that are in Pro and Turbo.
We also made a smart move by using the Google Chrome Store to fulfil sales as their platform took care of the customer and payment authentication. This also meant that we had an extremely simple onboarding process for Free users and upgrading to Pro or Turbo takes just a few clicks.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs that might have an idea for a growth hacking tool?
Will: To start with, learn how to code! That way you can create a prototype of any idea yourself without being reliant on other people.
Running a small business is time consuming and requires you to learn lots of new skills from marketing to finance, HR to legal. As your company grows, trying to do all of this yourself is a false economy. It also takes your focus away from sales, product development and strategically planning how to grow the company. That’s why it makes sense to outsource as many of these activities as possible as soon as you can.
If you need access to the market, you might want to consider partnering with an established company that can open doors for you.
What about advice for a company that isn’t doing well?
Will: First, take a step back from the business and cast a critical eye over all aspects of the company - to see if you can determine what the issue is.
There could be many reasons why a product isn’t successful. The features may not be unique. The user experience may not be what the customer is looking for.
Talk to trusted customers and get an external perspective on how useful it is to the people that you're trying to sell to. I've seen it myself many times when you develop tunnel vision about an idea and it is easy to get disheartened if your product is not automatically getting traction.
Finally, put in place a plan to address any issues you find and review this on a regular basis.
Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see the growth hacking in five years?
Will: Well, five years is a very long time in the world of software, technology and marketing! However, I can say with confidence that growth hacking will become even more well established.
There may be a convergence between one to one hyper personalised marketing and growth hacking in a way that is so subtle that people are not even aware of it.
We could see Artificial Intelligence features automatically combine software and digital marketing channels to create a form of one to one salesperson that uses personalised messaging for timely and relevant offers.
Thank you Will, hopefully our readers will find some useful insights and tips from the answers you have given. I’d love to hear from anyone that is using Dux-Soup or working in growth hacking and wants to share their experiences too. Just leave a comment below.
About the author
Will was interviewed by Adam Osman who is Head of Marketing at Dux-Soup Adam is passionate about using the latest marketing techniques to help companies and brands grow. With two decades of experience in marketing technology products for international companies and startups alike, Adam leads the effort to spread the word about how Dux-Soup can benefit companies looking to turbo charge their LinkedIn lead generation.