Growth Assembly: The Three Keys of Effective Lead Generations
On this week’s episode of fjorgecast, Tim speaks with Simon Thompson of B2B lead agency, Growth Assembly. Simon brings a unique perspective to the show, as he came to the United States from Australia to start his marketing businesses. Tim and Simon touch on lead generation, content marketing, cold email outreach, LinkedIn outreach, and more!
Announcer: Enter the creative world of fjorgecast. Explore a variety of transmit creative landscape. Getting insider knowledge and invites from the industry’s best. Here is how to present fjorgecast, your host, Tim Barsness.
Tim Barsness: Thanks for joining us on fjorgecast. I’m Tim Barsness, founder of Web and Mobile Development Team Fjorge and today on our show, we will be talking with Simon Thompson about his B2B lead generation agency, Growth Assembly. Welcome to the show, Simon.
Simon Thompson: Hi Tim, thank you very much for having me.
Tim: Glad you could make it. Can you tell us a little bit about Growth Assembly?
Simon: Certainly, Growth Assembly is a B2B lead generation agency which came about as a result of working in our other agency, Content Kite which I can get into the details of how that came to be, but they are more or less related. Content Kite is more of a content marketing agency and inbound play whereas, Growth Assembly focuses more on cold outreach and outbound lead generation.
Tim: Okay. Tell us a little bit about, Simon, how did you come to found Growth Assembly?
Simon: Certainly, like I said our first agency was still is an agency called Content Kite and that’s a content marketing agency. We’re focused on creating blog content for mainly database brands, technical agencies, app development companies, web development companies and custom software development companies. That agency was running for about a year to 18 months before we started having some conversations with a couple of our clients. The ones we had good relationships with would ask us how are we going about getting our clients and we would just talk shop that way.
It became apparent for the contacts we were getting clients through, in the beginning anyway, called outreach methods. Sending cold emails, using LinkedIn, that kind of thing. This picked a lot of curiosity of some of our clients and they said, “Well, would you be interested in helping us with that for a dollar figure.” We said, “Sure. We can run through and have a look at your systems and see what you’re doing with copywriting etcetera, etcetera.”
To cut a long story short, we ended up doing that for clients who were agencies and consultants mainly. Then rather than bringing that offering into Content Kite’s offering, it just became apparent that it would make a lot more sense to separate that as a separate brand and create our own outbound lead generation agency and that’s how Growth Assembly came to be. It started off working with agencies and it’s now expanded into the greater database space.
Tim: Makes sense. Let’s talk a little bit about, Simon, what in your background led you to found two content agencies, content companies?
Simon: Yes, sure. As you may have learned, I am Australian. I was living in Australia as of about three years ago. I was in the corporate world. I was working for a company called Mi9 which is a joint venture between Microsoft and one of the major TV broadcast networks in Australia called Channel 9. In that role, I was working a lot on content strategies for really major brands like L’Oreal, Nissan, BMW, Mondelez, Nike and really major content projects.
It was a really good place to be. Loved working there. Learned a ton about content and strategy and that kind of thing, in general. But one day, I just decided to work at the entrepreneurial bug basically, and I decided to move to the States. I had no referrals or professional network of any kind so I really just got started from the ground up because it was just something I wanted to do, start my own business. I also wanted to move to the United States and try my hand there. To cut a very long story short, we went through our fair share of struggles and growing pains, but here we are.
Tim: You moved to the United States and started a company at the same time?
Simon: Correct. Yes. [chuckles] I did that with a very naive view of how simple that might be to do. I just thought I was smarter than everyone else who said that starting a company is really hard and figured,”No, they just haven’t thought about this and the other. I’ll be able to do this, piece of cake,” and that certainly turn out to not be the case in any sense of the word. It has been a learning experience. We are out of the woods now, but I’m sure any business owner knows. It’s not so simple especially when you move to a new country.
Tim: What did you learn in the first six months of founding Content Kite? What were the things that you wish you would have known before you came over here?
Simon: Yes, great question. In sense of our offering, not a great deal. We centered the offering basically around what I did already know. The main thing was how to get clients because working in the corporate world when you have pretty established relationships with the agencies that are working with these brands, you don’t have to do any of that stuff. Their relationships are pretty established, you just plug in and and put great ideas in front of them.
That’s not the case when you start your own business especially when you have no professional network or referrals or anything like that. So yes, I was just really naive about how simple the process of getting clients would be and in a roundabout way, this looks back into how Growth Assembly came to be because we tried everything to get new clients. I found that a lot of it just doesn’t work or not the way we were doing it anyway, but we eventually nailed it down to these three or four things that we’re consistently working to get clients, and that was, by far, the biggest learning curve for us.
Tim: It sounds like the first six months of the year was a little humbling. I’m curious, what helped you get over the hump and helped you become successful in your new venture?
Simon: Yes, it was essentially dialing in this system for cold outreach. When you don’t have any referrals or a professional network to get started, you don’t have conversations so you can just start with people you already know. You have to start cold. We didn’t have the resources or the expertise to go down the paid routes or the paid acquisition routes. It was really about just getting the systems dialed in for cold outreach which if you’ve done any form of cold outreach that entitles expertise around targeting who you want to go and find and reach out to. Then there’s also a copywriting component, but I think, most importantly, it’s just the systemization of the entire process.
It’s one thing to start reaching out to people in whatever medium you do whether email, LinkedIn or the phone, but getting that process in place and just making it a repeatable thing that happens whether you like it or not was really, really important for us because in some sense, there is always going to be a numbers game component to it. It is something that you need to do repeatedly. I think that was probably the number one thing for us, just getting the system in place to make sure these things were happening.
Tim: Absolutely. I’ve heard you say, we, a few times. Did you have a co-founder?
Simon: Not in the very beginning, but very soon after the beginning. So, yes. Currently, I have a business partner, Monica. She’s great, but in terms of our roles, Monica’s involved with, essentially, the creative side of the business and I handle business development and strategy and that kind of thing.
Tim: Got it. Very cool. Let’s go back to when you were in Australia. How did you end up in a content role to begin with? Were you a Journalism major or you’re Marketing major?
Simon: No, my first job out of college was working for a print publication which isn’t the most exciting form of media. It’s a print publication for construction and architecture companies so not particularly exciting, not really what I wanted to do, but I saw this new way of doing things rather than just running advertisement, just running editorial. I did learn about content marketing that way you could put valuable content in front of the right audience and bring an audience in that way.
While I wasn’t at the particular company that I wanted to do that with, I did like the idea and there are a few roles in between that role and my role at Mi9, but they all revolved around this idea of putting valuable content in front of the audience that you want to attract and then by giving value that way, then the idea is that those will eventually gone to buy. I just like the idea of content marketing and that form of marketing as opposed to the more– here’s an advertisement, buy it or not, that kind of thing.
Tim: Got it. Makes sense. Let’s get into how Growth Assembly does B2B lead generation so effectively. I’m curious, what does your process look like?
Simon: Sure. We drill our offering down into three main areas. Like I said, that was based on us trying just about everything in terms of B2B lead generation. What we’ve got it down now is three areas: one is cold email outreach, the second is LinkedIn outreach and the third is this concept of of borrowing an audience which ironically is what I’m doing now. The idea here is that you put yourself in front of someone else’s audience as opposed to building up your own audience.
The idea being that the more value you give to that audience makes you a more appealing person to work with. We can go into each one of these individually, but those are the three we use and I guess, our secret sauce is more creating processes around these tactics and setting them up so that one of our clients can– we can consult with them and then they can run it themselves.
Tim: Got it. Do you always use all three of these approaches or just mix and match based on who the client is?
Simon: Yes. Not always. Quite often, we will only do LinkedIn outreach or only cold email outreach. It depends on the client we’re working with and who their audience is.
Tim: Can you compare the effectiveness of LinkedIn versus that of cold email?
Simon: Yes, that’s a great question. It’s just in the current moment in 2017-2018, it’s significantly more effective in terms of open rights and reply rights. It’s just people more inclined to open those messages and their email. I think cold email has just become a very crowded channel. It does still work. Although, the bar has been raised as to what you need to do there, but LinkedIn is definitely more effective at getting leads with all the variables thing the same.
Tim: What’s a typical reach out to conversion rate that you’ll see with LinkedIn?
Simon: Conversion rates to close business or to late-
Tim: Even to let’s say, the next step is to get a meeting. What percentage of people will respond and say, “Yes, I’d like to meet.”
Simon: From about 100 outreaches to 100 connections and we can go into what’s involved in that connection message, but to give you the short version, it’s a very soft connection message. It’s not a “Hey, this is what we do, buy my stuff.” But from 100 of those, you should have about 30 except the connection and out of those, you should have about 10 writing back and saying, “Please tell me more.” That’s a generally good response, right? 10 leads potentially getting to the fund from 100 outreaches.
Tim: Notably much higher than pretty much any other channel, right?
Simon: Definitely, certainly more than cold email. Yes. I think just the notion of that notification staring you in the face of LinkedIn without that red dot is just– inclines people to open their message.
Tim: Tell me more about borrowing an audience.
Simon: Yes, sure. Like I said, one particular way to do that is via a podcast, but another way of doing that might be public speaking or a cold webinar. The general idea here is rather than build your own audience over a 6 to 12 months and create a lot of content and build up on a list of thousands and then you can go and market to them, the idea is that you find someone else with a similar audience that you would like to get in front of. They’ve already done a lot of that legwork for you and you just put the valuable content in front of them.
Now if you’re thinking, “That sounds a little sneaky,” or whatever like they’re doing all the work and just getting in front of them, it really only works as a lead generation channel if you’re putting so much value in front of that audience, it’s a joke. Most of our clients that we’ve worked with will hesitate with the channel because they’ll say things like, “We can’t give away that much free information, that’s like our secret sauce.”
That’s always a battle that we end up having, but it really only works when you give away as much value as possible. Yes, some people will take that information and run with it and implement it themselves, but the types of customers that you want to work with would as in customers with money as a start-up would much rather just outsource it to someone that they know can do it. The idea being that if you teach someone how to do it, then you position yourself as a person who knows how to do it.
Tim: Sure, absolutely. I’m curious in your LinkedIn outreach, what does the content typically look like?
Simon: Sure. The outreach message, we usually start with a very soft connection message so not selling anything at all. It might be like, “Hey, I noticed you do this. We do this. I thought it would make sense to connect.” Sometimes, we do not put a P.S., “By the way, if you are interested in achieving exquisite result, let’s see if we might be a right fit,’ but often, we won’t even put that. The idea is just to get connected and get a conversation going.
There’ll always be something in there that, in some way, picks the interest of the person on the other ends. The idea is and this is really important and where it probably differs a bit from cold email is just to start a conversation because I think, LinkedIn just has a far lower tolerance for spam for want of a better word. It is more about relationships and starting conversations and just starting much slower. Obviously, the LinkedIn profile has a lot to do with it because people are always going to look back at that before they engage with you so that is another big piece of it, but to answer your question, start a conversation.
Tim: It’s interesting that you mention the profile. I think that makes sense, but might not be immediately obvious. I guess, I’m curious. Have you seen LinkedIn and be more successful with specific industries or is it across the board?
Simon: Yes. For things like IT, marketing and advertising, in general, bigger industries tend to do better and I think that it’s just because they’re bigger as in bigger on LinkedIn, it means that the audience is more active on LinkedIn. It’s generally more of a white-collar job place. It might not work if you want to reach out to trades, jobs, construction industry, that kind of thing, but it’s more for the IT sector or the marketing sector and that kind of thing.
Tim: Sure. It makes sense. You mentioned that LinkedIn is fairly sensitive to spam and I think that makes sense. I’m curious, do you have to be careful with the volume of messages you’re sending.
Simon: You do. Most of the information out there will say don’t send any more than 200 connection messages a day. We start with around 100 and a large part of that is, yes, to avoid the spam place on LinkedIn, but also, if you’re starting 10 sales conversations a day, that’s a lot to keep up with.
Tim: Yes, right.
Simon: We generally say it’s very important to be quite astute when responding to leads. If someone comes back to you and says, “Hey, tell me more.” You’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re waiting a week to get back to that person. There is a lot of research and diary out there to show you that if you get back to a lead within five minutes, your chance of converting them into closed business is something like 10x. We generally don’t send anymore the 100.
Tim: When you’re reaching out on LinkedIn, are you doing it as the person you’re working on behalf of?
Simon: Yes. In the start of an engagement with a client, we’ll run it for them just to give them an idea of what the prices looks like, but then eventually it moves to more of a consultation where they can handle it themselves or if they want to they can outsource it to someone else who can run those [crosstalk]
Tim: Got it. So, long-term, your goal is not to manage their LinkedIn profile.
Simon: Correct. Yes, for a number of reasons. Many of which you can probably guess why. There’s a privacy component to that as well, but yes, long-term, we don’t want to have too much control of that person’s profile.
Tim: Sure. Let’s dive into a couple of new stories here. Our first new story of the day is from the Growth Assembly Blog titled B2B Lead Generation: Ultimate Guide for Agencies, Consultants, and Freelancers. Simon, can you tell us a little bit about your article.
Simon: Sure. This is a very, very long-form article so that 11,000 words, we wrote it as our pillar piece when we started. If you check out that article, it essentially goes through everything that we do. This goes back into that concept of content marketing where the more value you put in front of someone, the more likely they are to see you as an expert etcetera, etcetera.
We wrote that very much with the intention of holding nothing back. If you were to read that entire article, you would have our entire process from start to finish and there’s no reason that someone couldn’t read that and go on implementing that from start to finish. It covers those three things that I went into before: cold email outreach, LinkedIn outreach and the concept of borrowing an audience and go through exactly how to do that.
Tim: If there were one takeaway that you’d want people to take from your post, what would it be?
Simon: Probably, if you were just getting started with outbound lead generation, start with LinkedIn. It will be the main one and then utilize the instructions that we’ve got on there to get started. I think we mentioned this in the blog post, but if you implement the tactics in that guide today, you can have a lead in your inbox today. It’s not something that you have to build up further.
Tim: Totally. Our second article from entrepreneur.com entitled Three Reasons Local Online Lead Generation Beats Offline Lead Generation Everytime. Can you explain to us why online beats offline?
Simon: Sure. Well, I can’t speak too much to offline lead generation just because we don’t really specialize in it, but you have the power of scale and everyone’s on the internet whereas, offline may include things like direct mail. You’ve got to print things. You generally got to spend a lot more money with offline than you do with online.
Tim: You also mentioned you don’t do local lead generation. I’m curious how local compares to what you guys do.
Simon: We don’t do local mainly because there’s not a big enough pool to work with, our businesses to reach out to. Like I said, there is a bit of a numbers game component to what we do and that just goes into this old advertising adage of a right message, right person, right time. We could get the right message and the right person correct, but the right time is where the numbers game component comes into it because the perfect message to the right person isn’t going to get you a closed deal if it’s not the right time for that person.
That’s where the numbers game comes into it. When you go with local businesses, you tend to reduce your pool of available businesses significantly. For local business, we tend to use inserts, it’s probably better off going with something extremely targeted like PBC to the local area or Facebook local ads or potentially cold calling, that kind of thing. That’s what the main difference.
Tim: Sure, got it. We’re out of time so that’s it for the day on fjorgecast. Thanks for joining us on the show today, Simon
Simon: Thanks very much for having me, Tim.
Tim: It’s been a pleasure. You can find Simon at growthassembly.com. Thank you to our listeners for joining us as well. You can download episodes of the program by going to fjorgedigital.com/fjorgecast or subscribe in the show on iTunes, Stitchers, SoundCloud and iHeartRadio.