Written by toomaime
Last Updated 🗓 a month ago
Building a growth marketing agency
Insights from the founder of Bell Curve
Hey Neal, we have so many questions about growth marketing for you but, first of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are working on?
I’m an engineer and a marketer by trade. I’m also a travel and language addict. I’ve been to 40+ countries, and have studied 10+ languages.
I studied Mechanical Engineering due to an obsession with cars. Ultimately, however, I realized I wanted to build my own companies, and taught myself web development. I freelanced as a developer and a content marketer for 5 years. I wrote web design articles for Creative Bloq, Webflow, .NET magazine, Creative Market, and David Walsh.
About 2.5 years ago, I co-founded Bell Curve, a growth marketing agency. We’ve been lucky enough to help grow Microsoft, Envoy, Streak, Perfect Keto, Framer, Imperfect Produce, and various Y Combinator-backed companies.
Eventually, we decided to teach founders/companies to do exactly what we do instead of doing it for them, so we started Demand Curve, which offers growth marketing training. Demand Curve was accepted into Y Combinator this summer.
I tweet about growth, entrepreneurship, and anything else really at twitter.com/NealOGrady.
How did you obtain your first users for Bell Curve and Demand Curve?
In two ways primarily. Networking and content marketing. Three if you count referrals from customers.
We were lucky when we started Bell Curve in that we already had a network of founders looking for growth help. Our first customers came from that network.
My co-founder also spent a ton of time creating his guide on growth. It’s been a constant source of leads for both our businesses for two and a half years. It also helps seal the deal on a lot of our leads as it demonstrates that we know growth.
For Demand Curve, we threw up a landing page, linked to it from the homepage and Julian’s guide, and started pitching it on sales calls.
So let’s talk about landing page design - what do you think are the most important elements for a good landing page?
Great question. A landing page is one of the most important parts of any online business. It’s often your first impression. It informs people what you sell. And let’s them buy it.
A landing page needs to answer these questions in order to convert visitors into customers:
- 1. What is the call to action? Tell them what they need to do to convert.
- 2. What is the product? Tell them what it does and the problem it solves.
- 3. Is it right for me? Tell them exactly who the product helps. Hopefully that’s them.
- 4. Is it legit? It should look professional and established, not like a phishing site or a Flash site or Wordpress template.
- 5. Who else is using it? Leverage your social proof by listing your biggest customers and press coverage.
- 6. How much does it cost? Not saying pricing is a big reason why people bounce.
- 7. Where can I get help? Make it easy to contact you so you can clear up any issues that may be keeping them from converting.
A lot of companies mess this up—even big ones.
For Growthhacklist, I found it quite hard to rank for some keywords - what would you say are the most important things for a good search result?
The most important thing nowadays is being the best resource to satisfy the user’s search query. If someone has looked at five results before clicking your own, reads for a couple minutes, and then stops searching, Google will assume you solved their search query and rank you a bit higher the next time.
Great content is king. And great content is shared organically.
The other is doing keyword research with tools like ahrefs. Find keywords related to your business that have decent volume (a few hundred per month at least) and a lower keyword difficulty (<50). Or those where the highest ranking articles are very recent. These will be the easiest keywords to rank highly for.
It’s still important to include keywords in the page, get high quality backlinks, and have a compelling page title and meta description. But they are minor compared to the above two points. Being excessive with keyword stuffing, or getting/buying bad backlinks, is a sure-fire way to get penalized.
I recently read in an article “Proper user onboarding leads to more money in the bank” - What are the key aspects for a good user onboarding flow?
That’s absolutely true. You’re only getting started once someone purchases. You want them to stick around and keeping purchasing over and over again—and start referring their friends.
To do that, they need to know how to use your product and understand its true value. They need to be handheld to the “magic moment” where they truly get your product and start to love it. An onboarding flow is how to do that.
One of the best ways is to offer product demos. Show them how to use it and answer all their questions. Another is to have the UI show them how to use it. Or even force them to do the most important things that will help them realize your product’s value as soon as possible.
Twitter is a classic example. They force you to follow people in the onboarding flow. They’ve determined that following at least ~10 people, especially big name celebrities or friends, vastly increases the likelihood someone will stick around.
A lot of companies just dump you into the dashboard.
Let’s switch to another important topic- email marketing - can you share some tips and tricks for good drip emails and cold emails campaign.
Some of the most important aspects of emailing include:
- Make it look like you wrote it personally. Use their first name. Reference something specific to them—for cold emails, create custom blurbs for each person that get inserted into the email template. Try using casual language, emojis, or even inserting a common typo or grammatical error.
- Segment your audience. Only email people about something that is relevant to them. Segment people out if they don’t need to see your email.
- Provide value. Don’t waste people’s time by saying “hey, we got press coverage,” or “upvote us on Product Hunt!” Always offer value. Give them a coupon, invite them to a free webinar, or send them great content.
- Have a clear call to action. Book a call. Sign up. Buy now. Make it very clear, and have only one.
- Experiment. Insert images of you wearing a shirt with their logo photoshopped on it. Send a video of you showing your product in action for them. Make a landing page customized for them. Try an extremely short and or an extremely long email.
One revenue stream for a lot of indie makers is sponsorships - how do you find paid sponsorships for a project?
Generally a lot of research. I don’t really trust many of the paid services that claim to do it for you. I’d suggest:
- Search social media for relevant keywords and hashtags. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Find people in your niche with decent audiences sizes and high engagements (a lot of followers with few likes per posts means a lot of it is fake).
- Search for communities, blogs, forums, podcasts, newsletters for your niche. Contact the people who run them (generally listed or use a tool like Clearbit to find their contact info).
- Ask your current customers (offer a discount or gift card for their time). Find out which sites or apps they frequent, people they follow, and newsletter they’re subscribed to. Contact the people who run them.
Luckily you don’t need to do this often since there’s only so many.
Last questions - What advice would you give someone to obtain his first 100 customers?
In the long run it depends greatly on the business type, and how much your product costs.
But one thing you can be sure is that you’ll probably be doing things that don’t scale well. And things that are free/cheap.
In all cases, step one is talking to potential customers to make sure your product/idea is something that people want. After that, I recommend:
- Leveraging your existing network. Contact everyone you know who might be interested. Ask them and others for referrals to people who might. Consider paying for referrals (when they close).
- Cold calling. Hop on the phone, walk into businesses, knock on doors, or email people.
- Producing your own content. Write articles, shoot videos, and record podcasts in your niche. Promote them on forums, social media, and to ask newsletters to include them.
- Guest blogging, doing interviews, or going on podcasts. Find blogs and podcasts in your niche and ask to be their guest. Don’t frame it as being good for you. Frame it as offering your expertise to their audience.
- Answering questions on forums, Facebook groups, Slack groups, and Quora. Find questions related to your niche and answer them, and link to your product in a non-spammy way.
Definitely not things to do at scale, but good ways to get started.