When I first met Amit Mehta he seemed like a humble easy going guy who is pretty good at affiliate marketing and copywriting. Little did I know this guy is an absolute bulldog when it comes to building real and sustainable businesses, he built a PPC online classroom business which made $6M in the first year of operation! He built another company called Boost to $12M in 18 months, the stories he has to tell are unbelievable.
Not only did I start a 10XGrowthHacker.com with him but I had to invite him to the blog to share his story of building a company from 0 to 12M in 18 months and then going bust!
Without further ado here is Amit!
As you read this entire article, you’re going to discover how I grew my last company, Boost, from zero to 8-figures in 18 months for our flagship product.
|Get a free PDF copy of Amit’s best selling book: From Zero to $12M to Bust!|
This landed us on #646 on the Inc 5000 list – damn close to Inc 500!
Before I delve into the nitty gritty details of exactly what I did, let me give you some context:
You might read an article like this and get the impression that the founders achieved effortless success.
But that’s almost never the case.
It certainly wasn’t for us.
We got kicked in the shins. Punched in the gut. And occasionally knocked out cold.
It took us 2.5 years before we develop and launch our app.
Those 2.5 years, my business partner and I were on the 7th level of business hell. It was a maelstrom of flat out bad decisions and sometimes just bad luck.
Yea we were naïve.
Here are just some of the horrors we faced:
- Got ripped off by a professional conman. He promised us a finished product. Instead we lost $125,000 with nothing to show for it. L I’ll talk about how to prevent that from happening later in this post.
- We were barely scraping by selling a whitelabel product on Adwords.
- We almost went bust on 3 separate occasions.
Lost sleep. Panic attacks. I even developed some serious health problems as a result of the chronic stress. It took me years to fully recover.
What got me down the most was the impact it had on my family.
My wife would wake up in the middle of the night. Drenched in sweat. Heart racing. This happened for weeks on end.
How did we escape the 7th level of business hell and skyrocket to the Inc 5000 list with a staggering $11.6million in revenues?
I’m about to reveal 5 game changing growth hacks that transformed my business from a timid kitten to a ROARING lion.
The first hack I’m going to reveal is really a foundational principle upon which your entire business is built. If you don’t have this right, you’re dead in the water.
Hack #1: Laying Your Foundation
I remember when I was a child. My parents were having their second house built.
We’d drive by each week to check the progress on the house.
I noticed the builders were spending a LOT of time building the foundation of the house.
For months on end all I saw was the foundation of the house. Then all of a sudden they started building the rest of house and it came together REALLY fast.
I always thought to myself: why the heck are they spending some much time building the foundation of the house?
Years later I realized that the foundation of the house is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.
If your foundation is built wrong, then you’re in deep trouble.
This holds true for your business too: the foundation you build your business upon is everything.
I’m not just talking about your service or app that you’ve created. I’m talking BEFORE that.
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Do you know your top competitors? Do you have a deep understanding of their product offerings?
- Are you familiar with all the complimentary products and services in your vertical?
- Are you following the top influencers in your vertical?
- Do you have a profile of your ideal customer? Do you know their deep emotional pain points?
Having a DEEP expertise of your vertical is crucial, because this is your FOUNDATION.
If you did not jump up and say ‘YES’ to all 4 of the above questions. You’d better get busy.
If you want to launch an app in the marketing automation space (just an example), then you’d better learn everything you can about this space before you even hire a developer to code your app.
That’s what I love about Dibbr (a company I’m advising). The founders spend a year digging DEEP and educating themselves on the entire marketing automation space.
They signed up as customers for the competitor’s products in the market. They reached out to the CEO of companies in the space and started developing relationships.
The developed a deep understanding of who customers in this space are. They identified their greatest emotional pain points.
They even started offering a “do it for you” service before they began development of their app. This allowed them to test the waters and gain a deeper understanding of their customer base.
Before my business partner and I started Boost, we also had a deep expertise of our market.
We had successfully promoted PC optimizer products as affiliate for years.
We knew the market extremely well as a result.
What turned out to be really helpful was our knowledge of how to sell PC optimizers using Google Adwords. This allowed us to start making sales and gather data on how our product was performing immediately.
What’s more, because we had promoted our competitor’s products as affiliates, we know exactly what we were up against!
Here are some resources that can help you gain a deep understanding of your market:
I ran criminallyprolific.com through Google Display Planner. This is what it returned:
Some really useful demographic info. Plus a list of sites in the same niche!
|Get a free PDF copy of Amit’s best selling book: From Zero to $12M to Bust!|
Understanding Your Customers / Clients
Interviews – This is SCARY right? I know actually having to talk to people in your target market?
If you want to know what will actually motivate your prospect to buy your product or service, then why don’t you just ask them!?!
Hack #2: How to Avoid Getting Conned & Jaw Dropping Insights from Users
How to Avoid Getting Conned by Developers
Earlier I talked about how we were taken for $125k by a professional con artist.
This guy promised us the moon and instead delivered a shit sandwich.
Instead of having our own PC optimizer (as the conman had promised), our company was on the verge of going bust.
We were hanging off the edge of a cliff by 3 fingers.
Fortunately we had success selling a whitelabel product through Adwords. This kept us afloat.
After about 6 months we managed to scrape up enough cash to hire another set of developers to build our flagship PC optimizer product.
This time we did things right: we had our attorney draft a legal binding contract with fixed payment terms.
We outlined 5 milestones. They’d only get a payment after they delivered a milestone.
And they would NOT get the final payment until the project was complete to our satisfaction.
We also spent a month working with our new developers to create a functional spec detailing the entire app.
It detailed all the use case scenarios. The user experience. What users would get with the free version versus the premium version.
Everything was spelled out in excruciating detail.
Based on this functional spec we agreed on a fixed price $50,000.
Here’s the big takeaway…
When hiring outsourced developers for a large project, doing a “per hour” deal is just too risky. Instead set it up as a fixed cost, milestone-based project with a strong binding legal agreement backing it up. This will protect you by:
- Minimizing your risk,
- Getting your project done in a reasonable time period,
- Making sure you don’t get cheated.
No conman will sign such an agreement. I reveal more critical pitfalls you’ll face as you grow a company in my bestselling book.
I’ll show you how to grab a free copy later in this post.
These Sneaky Little Devils can Kill Your App
By May 2012 we finally had our flagship product ready to go live. We worked night and day to get our app launched on Adwords.
After 2.5 years we started getting users and sales! It was an incredible feeling.
Within 2 months we started making around $15,000/month in gross profits.
It was a pittance. After paying our 2 full-time developers, support, and server costs, we had very little money leftover.
I had a gut feeling something was wrong.
We had promoted PC optimizers as affiliates and made way more money than this. It didn’t make sense.
We decided to split test our PC optimizer against top competitors.
We signed up as an affiliate for our top competitor and sent 50% of our Adwords traffic to their app and 50% to ours.
You can guess what happened. That’s right. We got CRUSHED.
For whatever reason our app was converting at a half the rate of our top competitors.
To give you some context, here how the sales process worked – it’s a freemium model:
- User hits our landing page and downloaded our app to help optimize their PC performance
- User installs the app
- User runs the free system scan
- After the free scan, the user fixes issues in 2 categories (out of 8) for free
- User is then asked to register the software
- User hits the registration and cart page
- User pays for software and receives their license key to activate full version
- Once the software is registered, users can repair all registry issues and fully optimize PC settings
We had analyzed all of our top competitors and modeled their user experience and application flow as closely as we could.
Good artists copy, and great artists steal. 😉
We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. Not yet anyways. We had an alpha product at this stage.
In desperation we did try to change the flow of the app and add in different elements. It made NO difference in our conversion rate.
Ever try to ride a bicycle blindfolded?
Probably not, right? Unless you’re CRAZY.
Sadly a lot of startups are doing exactly that. They’re riding blind by creating a product or services without input from users.
That’s exactly the mistake we were making!
So we finally decide to get actual user feedback using a kick butt service called usertesting.com.
We had 10 people actually go through our entire sales process, just short of paying for the premium version of our app.
What we discovered SHOCKED US.
4 out of 10 users could not complete the system scan.
They encountered a bizarre error that never showed up in our thorough QA process.
We realized this: Real users will encounter errors that you’ll never see when testing your app on clean virtual machines!
We setup a bug-tracking tool called Mantis that allowed us to track and get reports of actual bugs and crashes our users experienced.
Within a week our developers repaired 99% of the bugs our users were experiencing.
Our app was now BULLETPROOF
We expected our sales conversions to shoot up.
We were jaw slacked. Our conversions barely nudged.
Cracking this puzzle was a major breakthrough for us because it gave us an incredibly deep insight into this market.
It was shocking and surprising.
More about that later!
Hack #3: Shocking Insights on User Experience
Hunched forward with our heads down we continued to push forward.
We just spent a solid 2 months hacking the user experience of our app only to discover we had serious bugs that were demolishing our conversions.
We jumped up and down with joy. After all we had just made a huge breakthrough that should 2X our conversions. Right?
User feedback saved the day again.
We ran our app through usertesting.com again. Although users didn’t face any bugs this time, they suddenly didn’t trust the app.
They didn’t believe the scan was real.
My business partner asked his wife. She said the scan seemed too fast. Scan results didn’t feel real.
We compared our app versus a couple of our top competitors.
There was one clear difference: our system scan was SUPER fast. It literally took seconds to complete. Before we had fixed all the bugs in our app, the scan took several minutes.
Our competitors took 2-3 minutes to run their system scan.
We were baffled. Could a fast scan time really kill our conversions??
So we did something CRAZY.
We deliberately slowed down our scan. Instead of taking seconds it now took minutes to run.
We took our new “slow scan” build live with our fingers crossed.
I’ll tell you the results in a second.
Here are some critical takeaways:
#1 You need to continually get feedback from users. Especially after you’ve made a big change in your app.
As we discovered, even fixing bugs can change the users experience.
Don’t worry you’re not annoying people. The folks you take feedback from will become your biggest fans.
TIP: Find some influencers and journalists to get feedback from. If you win them over, they’ll shout from the rooftops about your app.
That alone can be a game changer for your business. 😉
#2 Find the competitors that can buy a black lambo with cash and make them the benchmark from which you compare your product’s performance.
Unless you’re product or service is super innovative and disruptive, you’re bound to have a competitor you can benchmark yourself again.
Study that competitors as if your life depends on it (because it may!). Buy their products/services. Sign up for their newsletter.
Study EVERYTHING they do.
So what happened when we slowed our system scan down?
Our sales conversion jumped by 2X.
It wasn’t time to pop the Champagne bottles just yet. There was another eye-popping breakthrough that would catapult our business to the stratosphere.
After we implemented this next growth hack and scaled up our traffic, we could have bought a black lambo with cash. If we wanted to.
Hack #4: How we Doubled our Customer Order Value
Now that we had massively increased the sales conversion for our PC optimizer, we thought we had our app nailed.
But we eventually discovered there was still massive room for improvement. We discovered some other breakthrough that would double our app sale conversion again!
I’ll get into that a little later.
This hack is about how we doubled our customer order value.
At the time we were making a paltry $35 per sale.
We stumbled upon something amazing our top competitors were doing.
They were working with call centers that provided PC tech support.
After a customer purchased their PC optimizer product, they would be asked to call a 1-800 number for assistance in registering the software.
Not only would they get support, but they’d also get a free diagnostic of their computer. Afterwards customers were offered a technical support package to repair and help keep their PC running clean.
Our competitors were getting a cut of every sale the call center made from tech support sales.
It took us sometime to find a reputable call center. Yea, there were a bunch of scammy ones, especially out of India.
We tested several call centers and carefully monitored feedback from our customers.
We found one call center that our customers gave rave reviews of, and stuck with them.
This call center relationship ended up doubling our order value. They handled our customers and technical support.
Our order value doubled from $35 to $70 per sale. It was a pretty sweet deal J
There are 2 important lessons here:
#1 If you’re not offering upsells or cross sells of additional relevant products or services to your customer base, then guess what?
You’re leaving a TON of money on the table.
Here’s a secret: the best time to pitch additional offers, is right after a prospect has just purchased from you.
There’s a narrow window for this. If you wait too long to offer your brand new customer an additional offer, it won’t be nearly as effective.
Don’t have anything extra to offer them?
You always have something additional to offer them.
If you’re a SaaS company, you can offer your customers (who signed up for the monthly plan) a fat discount if they purchase the entire year upfront.
You can white label a complimentary product or service and upsell/cross sell that to your customers.
And if it converts really well, then guess what you’re next development project is going to be. 😉
That’s right, create your own version of this product and dump the white label .
#2 We didn’t discover the call center revenue model. We just become an active participant in the industry through:
- networking at events,
- spying on top competitors,
- closely following and reading top blogs, and
- constantly looking out for new companies, products, and services that could help us achieve our goals.
No business is built in isolation. Attend industry events, analyze what your competitors are doing. Also, keep your eye open for trends and breakthroughs.
Hack #5: The Magic Behind Touch Points
Every get sick and tired of hearing about ‘lead nurturing’ and ‘touching your customers 6-8 times before you can expect them to buy’?!?
Bring to mind those endless stream of cold emails you get from b2b companies: “Sorry to bother you again. But do you have 10 minutes to jump on quick call to see how we can improve your lead generation efforts?”
After Boost hit Inc 5000 we got flooded with cold emails from b2b companies and private equity firms.
They’d keep emailing. And emailing. And emailing.
I finally gave into the idea of using touch points with our prospects and thought: “what the heck. If it doesn’t work. We’ll just stop doing it.”
After a lot of trial and error we struck gold. We managed to double our sales conversion – AGAIN!
Before I get into exactly what we did, let me give you some context:
Our prospects were people that had actually downloaded and installed our software.
The absolute best way to reach out and “touch” our prospects was through the software itself.
So here’s what we did. After every maintenance scan we had the following lightbox pop up:
This little lightbox doubled our sales. We had people installing the software and buying 2, even 3 weeks later!
- It points out the pain point: unresolved issues that you need the full paid version of our optimizer to repair;
- Nice bullet points and professional product box reminding users of the benefits of upgrading;
- A clear call to action: “Address All Issues with Full Version” and “Purchase Now”;
- Risk Reversal: 60-day money back guarantee.
Only around 10%, maybe 20%, of your prospects will buy your product or services immediately (depending on the market).
Other prospects will wait until they buy. And a lot of them will need one or more touch points before they buy.
The lightbox highlighting the 4 points above made all the difference for us.
Before we just ran maintenance scans of our optimizer ever so often hoping prospects would get the message and buy.
This doesn’t work. You have to be super clear in your communications
Remind them why they signed up as a user for your product of service in the first place.
Remind them what incredible benefits you have to offer.
And most importantly: ask them to buy (in a cool and friendly way).
|Get a free PDF copy of Amit’s best selling book: From Zero to $12M to Bust!|
Why Did These Growth Hacks Produce Such Remarkable Results?
We fanatically focused on the following areas:
#1 Getting constant feedback from users.
Even after bug fixes. Because every change you make to your app and sales funnel will affect your users in some way.
#2 A/B testing in different ways to improve our sales conversions.
We tested. Tested. And tested some more.
Until we were blue in the face.
My business partner and I spend half of our time with our feet kicked up dreaming up ideas to improve our sales conversion rate.
We got obsessed with growth hacking every component of our business: landing pages, product flow, even our cart and order pages!
Within a 18 months our conversion rate skyrocketed by 5X.
We discovered some really crazy stuff.
Stuff that I have not even disclosed in this post.
It all worked together to skyrocketed our sales conversion.
Having a higher conversion rate allowed us to profitably buy more and more advertising.
When we started, no one would give us the time of day. We were nobodies.
Just by consistently growth hacking, we went from nobodies to super stars in our industry.
Realize this: higher conversions allow you to outspend your competitors. You can afford to buy more traffic and leads.
When your conversion rate gets high enough the ENTIRE marketplace will tilt in your favor.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing cold emails for b2b leads, or banners ads to directly sell a consumer product. If you convert at a higher rate (and lower cost per acquisition) than your competitors, what do you think will happen?
You guessed it. You will completely dominate. Even if your product is a commodity like ours was.
Work frantically day and night to improve your sales conversion and order value, and watch what happens to your business. If you do it right, you’ll quickly transform your business from a timid kitten to roaring lion.
We launched our flagship product in May of 2012. By the end of 2013, we generated $11.6 million in revenue – in 2013 alone. We took a hit the following year, but we still had a $10 million run rate.
You beat it can happen that fast.
Unfortunately for us, our company faced a sudden, and terrifying death that I would not wish on my worse enemies.
Something that I never would have dreamt of happened. It left a trail of blood and carnage a mile long.
I tell the whole story in my book and reveal how to avoid 9 hidden traps (“risk hacks”) that can destroy your business.
Download a free PDF version of my bestselling book, From Zero to $12 Million to Bust! Inc 5000 CEO Reveals How to Avoid These 9 Hidden Traps that can Destroy Your Business.
As you read this book you’ll discover:
- Why falling into this trap can lead to the infamous business partner default.
- Why confusing what type of business you have can leave your company cash-strapped and on the verge of bankruptcy.
- Why fast growth and quick success can be your greatest enemy.
- How to avoid entrepreneurial ADD & develop a strategy to obliterate your competition.
- Little known tricks for turning your company into a cash flowing machine.
- When to, and when NOT to, use this leverage instrument.
- How to turn your company into an impregnable ship.
- A common and easy to avoid mistake that can cost you millions.
- And much more!
After you download and read the book you can start applying the growth hacking tips I talk about in this blog post. Please let me know it goes!