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What is Growth Hacking?
Vlad: Alright, guys. Welcome to Cofounders Connect, where we connect co-founders with resources in the community and awesome entrepreneurs to help them out. So, in this episode, we’re gonna be talking to Josh. Your last name, is it Fechter or Fechter?
Vlad: Fechter, Josh Fechter and Houston. Your last name’s Golden, right?
Vlad: Yup, very easy. It’s Golden, last name, and we’re gonna talk about their story, how they started BAMF Media. These guys are rock stars. I have been on their Facebook group for quite a while. If there’s one thing that Josh knows how to do, it’s content marketing. I’ve read a lot of his stuff. So, we’re gonna get into them and how they started out. So, yeah, so tell me, guys, what is the story? What are the hidden gems you guys hide when you tell people about that up and coming of this growth hacking agency?
Houston: So I’ll start with Josh.
Josh: It all started with a community, and then a lot Houston went into how the agency part started, because community started a while before agency. Houston, I would say, is a lot more business minded than I am. I’m very artistic. I love writing. I consider myself a writer above everything else. Community started actually as ten growth-hackers, it was called San Francisco growth-hackers. It’s a testament to how good we are at growth-hacking. [inaudible 00:01:29] allowed is guides, on how to growth-hack there, and it turned out that I was the only person that was actually going to produce this. Everybody else just didn’t do it. So I just did this almost everyday for a couple of months, and used it at [inaudible 00:01:43]’s house, writing about how to actually drive traffic to the group.
Vlad: The West [inaudible 00:01:46].
Josh: Cole emailing like 50,000 people with really relevant emails or was doing an inter-messaging [inaudible 00:01:55]. Very specific founders and marketers do well[inaudible 00:01:59] and then [inaudible 00:01:56] from there, through word of mouth, and start doing live, in-person events in San Francisco, and then as soon as I want to expand to LA, Houston hit me up, and he was like, “Dude, I want to [inaudible 00:02:13] open first at BAMF, at live events.” And I was like, “who is this guy? I just know he’s in the Facebook group, and he posted a guide about ChatBox.” So, I was like, “well, he did post a guide, so I trusted him.”
Houston: My strategy worked. I literally did most of the guide a day before I reached out to him.
Josh: It was perfect timing.
Vlad: I’m gonna write a guide right after this. Awesome, guys. Great, so…
Houston: We’re basically the San Francisco growth-average group, started out with one of my first 100 members in that group, even though I didn’t live in San Francisco, but I remember joining it because I was trying to join every other group I can find.
Houston: Most of them all were complete crap, and full stammers, or just like nobody was putting out any actual content other than Stan, but obviously I was seeing this guy Josh pop up every single day in my feed like, “this is crazy, he’s giving away all of our secrets. What are you doing, man?” Like, he’s going be doing our growth-hacking, and all of this is mainstream, and so [inaudible 00:03:11] messaged like, “hey, man, you probably shouldn’t tell everyone about these growth hacks,” then I eventually came around and was like, well, we’re like, “this is a total paradigm shift in the entire way people look at growth-hacking.” These aren’t just secrets, these are things that we wanna provide to everybody and help them scale their business, right? So, as Josh mentioned, we wanted to host the first BAMF LA meetup, so I wrote a guy on ChatBox and then reached out to him, and within a week he was down here in LA, and we had a pretty small little meetup at a Chinese restaurant here in Venice.
Houston: Yeah, it was really awesome, it was maybe like 15 people, just here in Venice Tech, kind of growth-hacking community here, and yeah, at the time I was working at another agency, and I kind of hit a wall there, when I was managing 16 clients and I was a head of growth strategy there, and really Josh had actually just strategically left his last job as well, and I was like, “perfect timing. Josh doesn’t know what he’s going to be doing next week. Why don’t we both quit our jobs right now, and start an agency? We’ll call it BAMF Media, and he’s smart. Oh, man.
Vlad: I mean, you guys have done a phenomenal job with your group. Right now, I see a lot of content, a lot of people engaging. So when did that transition come from San Francisco Growth-Hackers, right, that’s what it was originally called, to when you were like, “okay, I’m gonna call this BAMF.” When did you take it to the next leve? As a growth-hacking agency, you guys are very unique because you started with a community first, I think, which is huge, versus most business owners; they have the product or business first, then they build the community. So, how did you go about building that community? Did you think about that? Like, hey, I’m gonna build a brand first, or did it just naturally come together?
Josh: Yeah, my intention was never to start a business, and I think that’s why it’s live when we did start business. My intention has always been towards just helping founders out, and teach them the best growth-hacks on the Internet, and then it changed to ‘Badass Marketers and Founders’ actually as a joke. I was one of the inventors for Autopilot, which is one of the fastest growing [inaudible 00:05:31] companies, and I was like, “what can make marketers and founders just sound better, right?” And [inaudible 00:05:39] were badass private, and I was like, “oh wow, it’s hilarious, because that also stands for BAMF.”
Vlad: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: In just a couple seconds, I just changed the name just like that, just because I thought it was funny, and then the next thing I said was, “this would be hilarious if it turned into a company one day.”
Vlad: It’s funny. I mean, it’s a great name too, and when you changed your Facebook group to BAMF, then did everyone just come flocking in? What really spiked up the membership in the community? Like, what really made that big difference for you guys?
Josh: I would say consistency, because most of the people that come to the community now are just purely through referrals. People just view us as the best Facebook group. I got invited to the Facebook Community Summit by Mark Zuckerberg’s team, which was really cool to be basically be part of that. It’s around 100 groups that got to hear and change their mission.
Josh: And no other group just has the consistency that we do in terms of posting every day, and trying to post something that’s really good everyday.
Vlad: That’s great, and now that you’ve got that community, I think it puts you in that fantastic position, as a growth hacking agency, where you can go in, right, you’ve written all these guides. So, I’ve had the same thing, where we were writing blog posts on our website, and sometimes my co-founders or me, I’m like, “hey, should we really give that piece of content away? Maybe this is the golden nugget.” What is your mindset on that and maybe that’s changed or what are your views on agencies and companies just giving out all their secrets?
Josh: So I would say Houston and I have different views on this, to say the least.
Josh: So, here we got an abundant mindset, because after reading this book called “The Organized Mind”, and…
Vlad: Organized Mind. Okay.
Josh: And you put out material into the world, whether it’s in regular form or video form, it removes space from your head. You’re no longer thinking about it, and then it gives you creativity to come up with new things. But you’re taking a risk, right, because you don’t know what that new thing is. You just have to hope that it’s better, right? So, if I put a growth-hack out to the world, the chances of me coming out with a new one increase exponentially, right? It’s not space, that’s very creative. Now, Houston, on the other hand, and especially with other agencies, we can get worried because some of these can be saying, “hey, here’s exactly how we do our service for you, right?” And then people say, “oh, why are we gonna pay you if you’ve written a whole guide on it? We can just follow the step.
Houston: Yeah, it’s definitely like I’ve really come around, as I mentioned, one of the first things I’ve messaged Josh before he even knew who I was, it was like, “stop giving away all of my secrets.” Obviously one of my secrets, because he already knew them, so other people never go back and [inaudible 00:08:22] as well, and I definitely switched my mindset to be a lot more towards being transparent, how to have an abundant mindset, and from an agency’s perspective, we do wanna be a little bit more careful than we used to be, potentially. We are creating a ton of internal guides for how we operate our business, and how we operate our services, and whenever we come out with a guide that’s for our internal operations, I’m not really like, “cool, an awesome new guide! Let’s give it away for free to everybody,” whereas Josh would probably be like, “oh, this guide is awesome, let’s give it away!” Right? And then, I think, in the same token, you’re like, if you give away how you do this service in such a way where you show how much of an expert you are in it, then the clients are gonna see that, and they’re gonna be like, “well, these guys clearly know how to do it. I can either follow their 30-page guide, or I could just hire them to do it”.
So, at the same time, the percentage of people that are actually gonna follow through with it is very small, like maybe one percent, and then the rest of the 99% are just gonna wanna reach out to us to have us do that for them.
Vlad: That is a fantastic point. The same happened to my agency, we just do SEO. You guys obviously give away the best growth hacking tips. I would teach people, I would do tutorials, and I would charge a small fee, right, for the small people that can’t afford my services, but then the more you teach them, the more of an expert you become, and then, you know, they’ll tell all their friends about you, they know you as the expert, so if they have any other questions, or a new viewpoint, they’ll tell that to you, and then also they became client’s mind, right, whoever I’ve taught, because it’s like being a fitness trainer; you give someone a exercise regiment. It’s really hard for them, very few people have that level of execution time, especially now I take it you guys are moving up the pipeline with your clients or your growth-hacking agency. You’re dealing with bigger and bigger companies.
Houston: Every month that they get, the clients get bigger, our team was getting bigger. Our services are getting more refined. It’s really been amazing to see the progress from just being us to Josh being the ultimate hype-man, riding all day on [inaudible 00:10:46], generating…
Houston: Causing tons of leads, and then closing those deals, and literally there was a point where I was just a student for the first three months of the agency, and I was having to do strategy email, social media ads, PR, B2B happy. I was doing everything myself, and then one by one we start to hire people to fill in everything, and now we’re at almost 30 people, and it’s really remarkable.
Vlad: That leads us right into the next question. I’m looking at the list we’ve got, and so yeah, how do you guys go about-so we’ve got a team of nine here, I’m not at 30 yet, so I’d love to take your wisdom and your nuggets, that you’ve learned about how to hire a high-performing team, right? What do you guys look for?
Houston: Yeah, so I wanna say one more point around giving that content away for free before you move on to how they hire the most badass people. What’s really different about BAMF is that until literally this week or maybe into last week, we’ve never run a single ad. We never paid for any search engine marketing or social media ads. All of that content that we’re giving away for free created an insane amount of word of mouth. So, the community, the books that we released for free; all of that allowed us to not have to spend a dollar on advertising our business, which would’ve been more like throwing money away at that point. We’ve been generating all these leads just from the content that Josh shows on [inaudible 00:12:17], as well as the books and the content that we get off reading the group, so as far as if you are an early stage agency or an early stage founder, and it’s not really scalable, or within your budget to be paying $100 or $200 a week, and trying to go the paid route to [inaudible 00:12:39], then just using your knowledge, using your expertise to give away valuable content for free is gonna be definitely a much more scalable path early on.
Houston: And that was like our ultimate growth-hack, was the content and giving away so much value for free.
Vlad: Yeah, that was a great growth-hack I think a lot of people overlook. So, yeah, so sure, there’s gonna be I’m sure there’s small starting up co-founders that have to roll up their sleeves, and there’s gonna be some bigger companies watching this as well. So tell us more before we go into the how you guys hire; what makes your marketing unique? How has it improved overtime, and what separates you guys as a growth-hacking agency? What is a growth-hacking agency? We have some clients that, especially the really big ones, they’re not even in the market at all, they don’t know anything, we have to educate a lot of them. So, tell us more about that.
Josh: I think they’re [inaudible 00:13:36], I’ll let Houston talk more about the service side. I’ll talk more about the people side. So, first, if you don’t have the right people who have a growth-hacking background, then it’s very hard to even have the services in the first place, right? So, a lot of people that we brought on early on were growth-hackers. We defined them in our group, as people who were posting bots and do guides, and it always stayed on the cutting edge of technology, and saying, “wow, look at how this interacts with this, and how I just created this guide. Now, everybody can do it, right?” And they’ll bring on those people early on; made a huge difference. Especially with some of the growth-hacking services that we’ve had in place, that were just okay, when they came on board, they became great, because they came on board, and said, “hey, I love to add my nuggets of wisdom, which is using these tools and these [inaudible 00:14:24] to make your growth-hacking even better.” And then those services were such as like, “you do your growth-hacking, PR hacking.” Houston can talk more about that.
Houston: Yeah, so definitely what makes us a growth-hacking agency and how we differentiate ourselves from a traditional marketing agency is that X-Factor, right? We offer services that they don’t offer. We’re still the best and the most badass at all the stuff that they do, like social media advertising and email, and website design, and the stuff that people expect from a digital agency, but we also do stuff that they don’t, right? Like, advanced chatbots. We make some of the most advanced chat-bots that I think have never been made to this point as far as like Facebook Messenger, with hundreds and hundreds of different sequences and we use marketing automation, and artificial intelligence platforms to help inform the data that drives our marketing. We offer PR hacking. So, as far as our PR service, we generate insane results, we get all of our clients in PR top placements and the average placement for a PR placement that we get is a website that has 40 million average monthly visitors.
So, that’s just the average. We’re also getting the niche PR placements as well, but our approach is not like a traditional PR agency, that’s based on existing relationships, where the PR agency will reach out to the people in the press, and then see if they’re interested about writing about the client and that agency kind of owns the relationship, right? We actually create the relationships at scale, using technology, using advanced personalization techniques, and using data to find everyone that’s writing about a certain topic in the last month or something like that, and I think that our use of technology, our use of non-traditional strategies and our creatives are outside of the box approach is definitely what gives us the X-Factor. It makes us more of a growth-hacking agency. We’re also not afraid to break the rules. If a client comes to us, they often are wanting something completely different. They’re wanting an agency that’s afraid to have the word “badass” in their name, right? So, they often come to us looking for something that they know they’re not gonna get anywhere else.
Vlad: On the edge, yup. That sounds great. So, you guys also obviously create this community, and it easily puts you at the forefront. I’ve read some of the guides, and some of the posts on this Facebook group, and they’re very insightful, so that constantly gives you guys at the front of the stream. So, speaking, keeping on the edge and making sure you’re always up to standards; so how do you make sure all your employees are up to standards? How do you make sure your team is in tip-top shape? Let’s get on that side. What makes your team so special?
Josh: So one of the things that we decided to do off the bat is not to hire any junior people. Everybody we hired was very experienced. We’re talking about people with five plus years of working experience, and we hired so far only one junior person, and he helps us with some sales processes, right, so it’s not really direct client work, and I think that was hugely beneficial to us in terms of ramp-up time, but granted, we’re taking a bigger risk because we’re paying bigger salaries right off the bat, right? And so when you’re a new agency, that can be very difficult if your contracts are not 12 months long, right? If not a year long, let’s take it at only three months, and you’re paying bigger salaries, then it puts you in this unique position where you have to show up or we’re gonna shut down, right? So, you do that, and it’s just basically having to trust ourselves, and the people that we are hiring in terms of their experience to show up every day, that our clients are gonna stick with us, [inaudible 00:18:29].
Houston: Yeah, I’m gonna say a couple points on hiring; at the start of the community and I would say more than 30-40 percent of the people we’ve hired have actually come straight from the community, and use advantage when we have already infuriated a group of all the top growth-hackers, and we aren’t looking for people with the most traditional experience; someone who is a senior in ChatBox may be have only been doing Chat Box for a year and a half, two years, because Facebook Messenger, platform, has only been around for two years, so a senior chatbox person is gonna be pretty young, and I do think that as far as what we look for in an awesome candidate for BAMF, is someone who has an extreme bias towards execution. We don’t want people who are sort of high in the sky, they don’t like to come up with ideas. We like people who are extreme executers. When people come to us, that’s what they want. They don’t want us to just present them with a plan, they want us to present them with a plan and tell them how we’ve already done it.
Vlad: Yeah, something that already works. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like the community. Coming back to that community, I think that gives you a huge advantage, because that’s all anything really is, right? If you take a look at any big company, they’ve successfully built a community out there. So what would some of your tips be out there for companies or people here that are trying to build communities around themselves, right? Because, you know, in the marketing industry, that’s kind of my thought process when it comes to marketing; the best people, they build communities around things, and once you successfully build that sustaining community, it just takes care of itself. Now that’s what’s everybody’s trying to do, so what would some of your tips be?
Josh: Well, one of the funniest things I see is that we get asked all the time, “can you build our community for us? And we’re gonna appoint a community manager.” And I’m like, “that’s not how it works. How it works is you have the leader of your company as the person who shows up in the community.” And you see us with the best communities, especially if you look at Facebook groups, it’s always the founder, right? It’s never his assistant. So, whenever they say, “oh, teach my assistant!” I know, I just laugh, I’m like, “this is not how it works, right? Starts with the person who has the most passion about it.” And if the person has a lot of passion, they’re willing to show up, and they’re not looking at it on a timeline or in a business sense, so they’re not saying, “you know, I’m gonna do this for two years, make a lot of money.” Then that’s where the community becomes…as I would say, you need authenticity where it can grow very quickly, because people start trusting the leader, and they start trusting the content, and they don’t feel like they’re going to get spammed, because the founder of that community has no reason to spam them. He knows he wants the community to be there for the next 20 years.
So, to him, how to get their short little win of posting something that has direct sales in it in the beginning when starting it? It makes no sense whatsoever. So to one of our reasons that people really liked our communities; we didn’t sell the community for almost a year and a half after it’s spent. Not one post that asked people to pay us money, and I only asked for money once I quit my job in Autopilot, and we had to bootstrap our agency, and I was like, “well, we’re in a tough place, you know, let’s rock and roll.”
Vlad: Yeah, yeah, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Houston: And I think another point that I wanna make is the distinction as well, so Josh started the community with no goal of peddling a business, and it was really all about the people, and all about actually creating that ethos and that ecosystem around the content, but after you actually create a business, you need to make sure that that ethos is also present in the culture of the company. So, Josh is building this giant community that’s low community, and my personal passion has been, “how do we actually build the community and a sense of culture like within the walls of this office?” That’s something that definitely- if you’re trying to build a community for your business, definitely listen to Josh when he says, “you don’t want to be selling anything. You wanna just provide a value.” But also, you wanna look internally first. What do you align with? What is your team aligned with? What is everyone that’s in the room gonna be passionate about? So that everyone can be involved in the greater community, and that it perfectly reflects your mission as a business and as a [inaudible 00:23:27].
Vlad: That’s great advice, guys, that’s the kind of stuff I think about myself as I’m building this company. Did you guys create a list of values that you wanted to be known for about first? Did you first get to five employees, then said, “okay, guys, we’re gonna have a group activity together. You know, especially for these companies that are looking to do it internally and externally. That’s something you pointed out, I think, that I haven’t personally thought about a lot either, but you gotta do it on both sides, not just your clients, but also internally. So, tell me about the internal side. Did you guys come together for day one?
Houston: Well, first at the office, we had a giant whiteboard of this whole place, and we started writing down, “alright, we gotta do this.” We just started writing down these words and phrases and things, and some of them definitely stuck around, and some of them I can’t remember at all. I had a picture of it somewhere, but…
Josh: As far as the risks.
Houston: Yeah, “Kill Them With Kindness” is one of the things all the agencies say. We’re always gonna deal with difficult clients and frustrating situations, and we just wanna always be a positive person in the client-side. Even when they’re going through rough times, like maybe their business isn’t making the type of revenue they want, or they’re just having a bad day, and they’re trying to take it out on us. We just wanna always reinforce that positivity, and always kill them with kindness, as we like to say internally.
Houston: Then, we let people [inaudible 00:25:02], just kind of get shit done mentality, and extreme execution mentality. We don’t want people who are gonna be like, “well, it didn’t get done, because I was waiting for someone to do this, or I was waiting for you to teach me how to do it.” Like, we want people who are gonna-if they have a problem they don’t know how to solve, they’re gonna be resourceful, and figuring it out on their own. So, those are definitely just some of the most important values that I personally preach a lot. It’s like no-excuses, we want [inaudible 00:25:37] resourcefulness, kill them with kindness.
Vlad: And what about you, Josh? Is that something you talk to Houston about, together, about these two values, or are there any you want to add on, or?
Josh: Yeah, so kill them with kindness is actually meant for me, because I have a tendency to get a little bit angry.
Vlad: I would never guess that. Okay.
Josh: And I am a very nice person, but some people, especially early on when you’re starting an agency, like I was very used to people, I guess, understanding my experience, but also you got a company and you’re starting with day one, and you’re dealing with clients that don’t know anything about you, right? And I just boosted that, I was like, “man, I’m used to everybody knowing who I am, and understanding my experience,” and some of the stuff they would ask me and tell me to do, I just maybe wanna rip my brains out, so…and so Houston-that’s his role-and I was like, “okay, stay calm.”
Houston: It started as a burn-no-bridges, and then I decided kill them with kindness is a more pro-active way of going about that, instead of burn-no-bridges. But yeah, I mean, everyone has a rough day, but we are obsessed with what we do, and we wanna be the absolute best at it, and when a client or a prospect doesn’t see the quality, or they’re just trying to deny the quality, yeah, it’s pretty easy to get worked up. There was one time in particular where this client was trying to get out of their service agreement, and we have given them all those discounts up-front, because they signed a longer term agreement, and I was just like, “man, we gave you everything, and you try to get out of the contract”, and he started yelling at me, and I was not happy or having it, because it was kind of a huge load of BS that he was throwing at us. Results were amazing, and we were more than over-delivering on everything, but then Josh was like, “man, I’ve never seen you like that, dude. Remember what you told me.”
Josh: Yeah, I slid it back on him.
Houston: And then, I think, ever since that moment where Josh is like, “dude, remember, man.” And I was like, “shit, that was supposed to be what I say to you”, and ever since then, I’m like, oh, I always put my emotions in the back seat, and it’s really all about empathy and understanding where they’re coming from, and if they’re taking it out on you, it’s probably not because of the work that you’re doing, it’s probably because it’s something else, and there’s been times since then, where if there’s ever a question around maybe we missed to deliver a whole, because of XYZ, and the client’s not happy with it, I will be happy to give them an extra month of that service, just to prove that we’re gonna over-deliver at every step.
Vlad: Wow. Yeah, that sounds very powerful for your company. So, yeah, and then the other value was resourcefulness, right? What was the resource for? What was that?
Vlad: Relentless resourcefulness. So, relentless resourcefulness…so tell us about that, right? Because, I think as a growth-hacking agency, right, versus a traditional advertising company or whatever. A growth-hacker is very resourceful, very cost-effective, cost-efficient, so could you maybe talk about one, maybe some campaigns you guys have done, right? Where a traditional company, a billboard, would not be able to accomplish those goals, and then number two, before that, you talk about how you got to the relentless resourcefulness. Tongue twister for me, but how you got to that value?
Houston: Yeah, we may be really influenced, just to me it means like, you literally will not give up until you find the solution. Someone who’s relentless is a maniac, so you could use the word relentless in a negative sense, for sure, or it’s like, people who are relentless, maybe they should just give up on something. Well, if you’re relentlessly pursuing your girlfriend or somebody like that, maybe not the best use of the word relentless there, but a relentless resourcefulness is kind of like, “when there’s a will, there’s a way,” and if you want to get something done, you’re gonna find a way to do it.
Josh: A great example would be you’d look for people…they take responsibility for their actions, right, and when we go to them during team meetings, they don’t say, “hey, Melanie, Victor, or whoever it is, didn’t help me out with this, so that’s why they didn’t get it on time.” Like, they’re not the person who blames others, they’re saying like, “Hey, I figured out a way to do it on my own to meet the client’s expectations. It might not have been the most perfect thing that they wanted, but I got it done.” And people with those types of mindsets. Whenever we hear something in our office blame somebody else, we always take them aside. It’s our biggest pet peeve. Or say, just make an excuse on something you feel is out of your control. Look for someone that has a very strong what-they-say, [inaudible 00:31:16], and says, “I am responsible for my actions, I am responsible for my clients, and I’m going to meet those deadlines one way or another.”
Vlad: Yeah, both of those values sound fantastic for a growth-hacking digital agency. Growth-hacking. So, yeah, obviously you guys don’t do any ads on the sides of buses, I take it, right? Or any billboards. Can you go more into the specific types of services? Right, you mentioned PR-hacking, PR-jacking. Can you go more into those services and kind of what clients get out of that?
Josh: Yeah, we want to talk about PR-hacking, [inaudible 00:32:00].
Vlad: Yeah, or whatever services you guys have. Maybe you have a new one, or one you used to have.
Growth Hacking Strategies
Josh: So, we had this client and still have them, they’re called GirlCrew. It’s one of the largest woman organizations, and it came to us wanting to launch, I believe it was in 20 cities in the US, and they’re backed by Facebook, and LinkedIn, and they didn’t have a business model when they came to us, and we had to basically build up their entire business model. [inaudible 00:32:30] had a lot of experience doing hyper-local marketing, which helped, so we knew what their finals would look like, we need what the ads would look like. The PR side was definitely playing up to people who were very strong supporters of women, and during the time, there was also #MeToo campaign going on, so playing that angle a little bit and understanding, “hey, what is trending right now?” Right? And then being able to reach out to people that see all of that are relevant, and I think the fun part about PR-hacking in general is that it’s so time-consuming finding journalists, emails, scrubbing data that even a lot of people can’t reach out to people [inaudible 00:33:13], just the amount of time it takes them. You’re talking about two months later, and they’re like…you know? It’s not even worth it, right?
So, how do you make those possibly so efficient to the point of where it takes you a day to set everything up?
Josh: We never would do that for clients, so if you’re doing the same thing it takes people two months to do, and do it in a day or two, and I guess I could talk a little bit about the results, and see what strategy we can paint.
Growth Hacking Techniques
Houston: Yeah, um, GirlCrew was a great case study for our PR-hacking service. On our first email blast, we emailed…our emails are extremely personal, because what I said, we will find bloggers that are writing about women in tech, so that was our first category, and then we’ll personalize the email to the point it’ll be like, “hey, Julia! I loved your blog post on Refinery29 about women in tech, and how 2018 is gonna be the year they shattered the glass ceiling, blah-blah-blah, and I thought it was an amazing post, and wanted to reach out, because we’re also trying to do the same thing.” So we always lean with stuff where we’re kind of flattering the journalist. We’re letting them know that we’re enjoying their content, that we actually read their content, and we always start with that before we are like…the next thing would be “I’m the CEO of GirlCrew, and I would love to talk with you these four or five interesting stories, and then one of the really cool things that the CEO of GirlCrew did was she switched her gender on Tinder, so that she can match with girls that were just looking for other girls to be friends, and would just send them messages, saying, “hey, looking for friends? Just download this app.” And that’s where they got their first couple thousand users.
It was literally the founder kind of just growth-hacking Tinder by switching her gender, so that she could make friends, and find some people to go out for drinks still. Yeah, it’s a pretty hilarious story, and when we reach out to people in the press, we always wanna have something that’s really unique, that really stands out, and it’s never anything that’s like, “GirlCrew recently raised $200,000 from ex-investor press release”. No one cares. No one cares about press releases, they don’t help you build relationships with anyone, they don’t drive much traffic, they’re not interesting. Instead of leading with the kind of content that you’d see in a traditional press release, we always talk with our founder to reverse engineer some interesting stories from their experience along the way, and that’s definitely something that we don’t see from traditional PR agencies. I can tell you the ultimate growth-hack that we did for our PR ad. How many people are going to listen to this podcast? ‘Cause..
Vlad: So our co-founders connect meetup group has 3500 members, our Facebook has 1000, and yeah, so…yeah.
Growth Hacking Marketing
Houston: This is top secret knowledge, except for the people listening to this podcast and might read the transcript, but yeah, about a year ago, I started doing the PR-hacking service for some of my side clients, and one of them was a musician, and wanted to get a million plays on her song on SoundCloud. It wasn’t a bad musician, but there was no way she was going to get a million plays. It was actually a pretty good song, but without much marketing dollars or anything, how are we gonna get a million plays? And I was like, “I think we can figure out a way.” So, I thought, “what is the most viral thing on the Internet?”, and at the time, the most viral thing on the Internet was Trump, and the other most viral thing on the Internet that has always been viral on the Internet was cats. People love cats.
We got all these fake emails and started emailing people in the press, saying that we’re Lucy and that Trump just sent us a cease and desist, and we didn’t know what to do, and then we really needed their help to get this story, get some coverage so that we could hire a lawyer and all this stuff, and literally within…we woke up the next morning, and we had gotten emails from the Hollywood Reporter, the Observer. The really Jimmy Kimmel studio reached to us. Fox News, CNN, every single place that we’d emailed had gotten back to us, saying they wanted an exclusive on a story. We basically gave the exclusive to all of them, and then they all posted it thinking they have the exclusive on her.
Vlad: That’s impressive, that’s awesome.
Growth Hacking Agency
Houston: We had driven about ten billion users to this website, and it crashed when it first got like 500k to [inaudible 00:39:43] within like an hour, and then I redirected the website to the Wayback Machine, which is like an Internet archive, and I actually crashed the Wayback Machine, so I literally crashed the entire backup of the Internet, so when we say we like to break the Internet, that’s kind of one of our catchphrases, like boom, let’s do it. We’ll break the Internet. Like, we actually broke the Internet with this campaign, so…
Vlad: That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. Well, sadly we got about ten minutes left, so I just got a couple of questions. So, yeah, so you talked about what constitutes a growth agency, what makes you a unique agency. What’s the biggest misconception clients have about you and your field, that you just wish they knew from day one, you’re like, “man, I wish, you know…like, you just read all this stuff, so we wouldn’t have to talk about this.” What are those misconceptions?
Josh: So, one is that growth-hacking is magic, and that happens overnight.
Josh: Growth-hacking is really just a set of intricate processes, that are built on top of each other, and you’re talking about maybe a 30-page guide of processes, right? So, it’s not magic, it’s just something that’s very complex, [inaudible 00:41:00] simplify it as much as possible to move faster, right? And so when they come to us, they’re like, “well, we want results day one.” We’re like, “it doesn’t really work that way. There’s still a lot that we have to go through, and it’s going to take a little bit of time.” And the fact that people want results immediately tends to also shout out that they’re not going to be the best client.
So one thing that we’ve also seen is that people come in and say, “we just want execution. We don’t even want you to understand our business first, just execute,” can also be a very bad client so we don’t take on. We don’t start with any company before we fully understand their business, their target demographic, their analytics; otherwise, it’s just a complete mess, and them just saying, “go execute”, then saying, “hey, how come all this messaging is off?” Well, you didn’t even give us time to actually understand who your target customer is, right? [inaudible 00:41:51] analytics. Otherwise, we would know. So, I would say those two things, especially, is one is you can’t execute immediately, that’s just entirely false, and two is growth-hacking is not magic, it’s just very complicated marketing, using a lot of cutting edge technology.
Houston: Yeah, I would completely agree. It takes time and clients that come in that want results immediately always are gonna most likely be misaligned from a long term stand-point. Yeah, I couldn’t say it better than what Josh has said. It’s not necessarily magic, it can look like magic when you see the results, because those results, they’ll usually happen overnight.
Vlad: Yeah, I agree, it takes a lot of work, takes a lot of research and experience. Great, that was a great tip. What three tips would you guys give for co-founders, because the co-founders connect podcasts to better connect to their partners, prospects, or the public?
Houston: I would say definitely, you can’t find a co-founder just going to co-founders-meet.com, or something like that, right? And to be honest, finding the right co-founder is the hardest thing in business. If you don’t get it right, your business is doomed from day one. I’ve gone through numerous startups that have failed, Josh has gone through numerous startups that have failed, and to be honest, we took a risk on each other. We had met for three hours, and we’re like, “this is gonna work. This is gonna be awesome.” I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to everybody, but we had had enough experience and we had enough of a connection, where from the get-go, we could see the value that each of us could bring to the table, and I think that’s so important in co-founders that each of you bring something very, very different to the table, right?
So, Josh basically brought a huge audience in a community and the ability to be a content machine, and I was like bringing in all the processes and the services, and the ability to execute on the agency side, and I think having that really clear power balance where we both are bringing everything we can to the table without pulling each other back in any way has been absolute key to our success, and I would say if you have any hesitation about someone that you’re considering to make a co-founder, you’re most likely making a bad mistake if you’re gonna go with that, so…
Vlad: Yeah, that’s a fantastic tip. I feel bad for you, Josh, you gotta top that.
Houston: I love you, bro.
Josh: I think it was really funny, so I remember being…I think I was in Houston’s apartment and he was showing me some of the stuff he was working on, and all I could think about was, “wow, this guy’s a genius”, and he just knew so many things that I had no idea about. A lot of it came to just sending proposals, services, growth-hacking data, especially data, and there was a lot of stuff that I always looked at as the missing piece to everything I did. I was, like, “wow, this is just everything I need” but I just-I’m never gonna do that, right? And I just knew that, and it was just easier than looking at some of the stuff I did. It’s like, I had sort of the same feeling, right, and that’s when the magic really happened. It’s clips. I think it was cool working on very similar projects, just in different realms. Like, I was working on Chrome extensions, he was working on Chrome extensions, and both had to do with growth-hacking, and it’s very unique to find people who are doing that. I know maybe like five people who are working on growth-hacking Chrome extensions right now. They live all across the world, right?
So, to find somebody who lives just one city over from me that’s doing that is already a huge positive signal right there. Granted, it’s someone who has starter experience, especially early startup experience had failed. Like, I’d been through so many startups that failed, that I’m the one who understood what it was like, and understood what taking our risks meant, right, and to deal with a very high pressure situation where what happens if your largest client turns and you have to hit payroll, right? So, being very courtesan of that and not letting that get you at the end of the day [inaudible 00:46:45] and bog you down. Like saying, “hey, we’re gonna crush it, we’ll figure it out, because that’s what we do,” and being able to find someone with that mentality is very, very rare.
Vlad: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with you guys, it’s pretty clear that your success is definitely not an accident, or a misconception of some kind of what growth-hacking is, it’s definitely a lot of hard work that I’ve learned here, and it took a lot of-it’s a lot of wisdom, too, you know; that’s been a great tip for connecting with people. If you have that slight hesitation, you gotta listen to that. I think a lot of times people, they don’t listen to that, second guess themselves, that’s a lot of headaches. I’m definitely gonna remember that one. Uh, yeah, so two more questions; so, second to last is what do you think is the easiest thing people can take advantage of in business that they don’t to succeed and I think you guys kind of hit upon that a little bit already, right, in terms of giving out the value, but yeah…
Houston: Yeah, I think that’s definitely one of them: giving out the value, not holding out to that content that’s the most secret, but for me personally. I mean, the number one easiest thing that you can do to make business connections; just shoot people emails. Don’t spam them. Send ten emails a day to your ideal prospects that are totally personalized, and so many people are just like, “I don’t know why I don’t have clients, I don’t know why I don’t have any partners”, or whatever, it’s like, just do something about it. Get on LinkedIn, start messaging people. Use hunter.io and find people’s emails, and then actually get in touch with them and start building those connections and don’t just kind of sit around and wonder why you haven’t made any connections like out of thin air. Growth-hacking isn’t magic, it’s actually just strategically connecting and building relationships at scale. I think a lot of our growth-hacking services are all about “how do you create relationships with people at scale? Whether it’s PR, or B2B, or partnerships.” And yeah, that’s definitely the number one growth-hack; it’s trust, put yourself out there, whether it’s content or trying to get in touch with people. Don’t ever hold back on putting yourself out there.
Vlad: Wow, so I take it you agree with him, Josh, as well?
Houston: Yeah, I agree with him, and just at another point, I think the one thing founders miss the most, especially when starting a company is just selling before they build, and even how they have a service in place. Like, getting someone to sign a service agreement before you even know how to deliver it. That’s how we started BAMF Media, we started with a membership community that I’d really start that off a proposal that for an agency that made it look like a membership, and then I end up figuring out how to deliver a search back at him, that became sort of fundamental growth-hacks, like techniques that we used in our services today, which is hilarious, because at the time, I was just desperate and I was desperate enough to be like, “okay, I’m gonna start selling anything on the back-end”, and it worked. And everything who told you you should do that, nobody actually does it. And then, as soon as you do it, and it works, you’re like, “oh, no wonder why everybody says you should do it.”
And it’s just getting over that fear of rejection, and feeling like a pest, right? When people think about sales, they think that they’re pesting people and they’re upsetting them. It’s actually not true. What you’re doing is you’re actually trying to provide value for people, right? And, they buy it on the day based on your promise, that you can actually give them the solution that they need, so I think sales is really where everything starts, and as we like to say, sales does cure all agency [inaudible 00:50:50].
Vlad: Wow, that’s true. Well, last question, guys, the easiest one, I like to think, or maybe the hardest, you tell me. If our co-founders in our community wanted to help you out, or connect you with one thing, what would it be and why?
Houston: Well, if they need help with marketing, they should just connect with us directly, or if they know anyone, we would really appreciate a referral.
Josh: Yeah, I would say; no, referrals are always great. Another thing would be just to read our content that’s out there on ProductZine. We put out several blogs during another book coming out tomorrow; it’s entirely free, and you’re talking about over 600 pages, tactical information to help startups grow. So many people ask me all the time, they’re like, “hey, what do you think about x? What do you think about y?” And they clearly haven’t read any of my books, right? So I just keep referring them back to my books.
Vlad: That’s awesome.
Josh: Read my material before you keep asking me questions, you know. So, that’s the reason that we write it, so that’s a great place for them to start, and if they feel like they have any questions after that, then reach out to us. We’ll start there, and if they don’t think they can do it all, and they want us to go faster, that’s not a worry either.
Houston: Yeah, Connect is listed on LinkedIn too.
Vlad: I love how Josh flipped it back to how he can provide value, right at the ask. Good stuff right there.
Houston: Perfect combo.
Vlad: He is that guy. Yeah, so talk a little bit more about the referrals, right, and maybe also referral partners of yours, right? So, what’s an ideal referral? You’re like, “man, I would love to do business with this type of client”, and then what’s an ideal referral partner, like “man, these guys would be great referral partners.”
Houston: Yeah, so ideal referral partner; if you think of one that I just talked to about two hours ago, they are a video production agency in San Diego, so they do a ton of creative services, but they’re not necessarily a competitor, right? They’re not doing the social media and the growth-hacking that we’re doing, but they’re working with the same exact kind of client that needs those nice video assets, so that’s a perfect referral partner. Someone who works with the same type of client in a non-competitive way, and then I’ll also say like a perfect type of client that we would love to work with would be an e-commerce client. We love e-commerce, it’s the most scalable, we can trap all the data from our ads directly to revenue, and dollars that are coming in, so dollars going out, dollars coming in, and then if we find something that works, we can scale it from there, and have a really long-term successful relationship with that client.
Sometimes, if it’s a startup that just has…maybe they’re a mobile app, and they’re [inaudible 00:53:38] a million dollars, and they hire ten people, and they have 100k marketing budget. That can be a really big client, too, but if there’s not a really solid business model or revenue model at that mobile app, then they’re just gonna be, you know, we’re getting all those downloads, and it’s never gonna be cheap enough. It’s gonna be like, you know, we gotta get these [inaudible 00:53:58] 50 cents, and it’s like “Cool, we did it, but now we have 50,000 users, and you’re out of money.” That could be an issue, right, but as long as we’re atleast positioning them in a place where they can go ahead [inaudible 00:54:12], but I do love e-commerce, I think it’s the most scalable for online marketing, and we do love also working with crowd-funding campaigns that have good enough budgets, editor polls. We’ve been doing some stuff around ICOs lately, which has been very hit-or-miss. However, some of these are really, really cool. I’m excited, that all these new legal challenges around marketing ICOs has been crazy. Unless it’s like the absolute best ICO that you’ve ever seen, please do not refer us anymore ICOs.
Vlad: No ICOs.
Houston: Let’s get on like a real scenario. I don’t think so.
Vlad: Okay, great, awesome! Well, thank you guys, so much. Thanks to Atlas, actually this is Atlas-work-based. It’s a great sponsored podcast as well. So, yeah, thanks guys, and we’ll link all of their descriptions and content down with this blog-post. See you guys later! Thank you.
Houston: Well, awesome, man. Thank you.