As I see it, content marketing and business growth go hand in hand.
So when Noah Kagan announced SumoCon, a full weekend of business growth strategies, I was in.
After listening to 16 growth experts share their stories and their best advice, I felt both affirmed and challenged. Here are my biggest takeaways.
Top Business Growth Strategies from SumoCon 2016
Below are my summaries of the presentations, plus my biggest takeaways. Be sure to share the quotes that stand out to you. Then take a minute to follow these folks. They all lead by example, so you’ll learn more business growth strategies simply by following what they’re doing.
Growth by Acquisition
Hustle isn’t the only way to grow a business.
What if, instead of creating something new, you acquired an existing business with growth potential?
You’d have immediate traction: paying customers, name recognition, metrics showing you what works and what doesn’t. Instead of starting from zero, you can simply take the company to a new level.
Justin recommended emailing customers of your new acquisition with a simple question. “What feature could we build that would make you absolutely ecstatic to pay $500/month?”
Come to think of it, you don’t need to acquire a new company to ask this question. The answers would give you a slew of smart ideas for growing your existing business.
“My price, your terms. Your price, my terms.” @jwmares #winatnegotiation
This is the key to negotiating. If you get your price, be willing to let the other party set terms. If they get their price, you should push for your terms.
If the other party wants to set the price and terms, you might want walk away.
How to Break 7 Figures and Finally Scale Your Business
To kick-start growth, you need credibility. And for that, nothing beats a case study.
Jake’s advice? Find your best client and make him the face of the business. Use his story to show new clients what you can do and what their outcomes could be.
Here’s how to create a funnel that converts.
Create a “super offer.” In his case, it’s a book. Give away so much value that it’s a no-brainer for your prospects to say yes.
Get your message right. Find the emotional reaction your customers care about. The best way to do this is to talk to them. In person, if possible. Wherever they get really emotional (as in “red in the face”), that’s the message.
Test. Pick your best channel. Prove it. Then expand.
Scale distribution. Think big. Your goal is to 10x distribution.
“To grow your business, you can’t be IN it. Get out of fulfillment as soon as possible.” @JacobPuhl
Also, you’re going to have different challenges at every stage of growth.
- Up to $200K, your challenge will be mindset. You need to get your head in the game and remove limiting beliefs.
- From $200K to $1mil, your biggest challenge will be marketing. Make time to talk to your customers.
- From $1mil to $5mil, your biggest challenge will be HR and finance.
How We Grew from $100k to 2mil in Revenue in 18 Months
There are 3 stages of business growth:
- Stage 1: You’re an Unknown
- Stage 2: People kinda like you
- Stage 3: “Please, take my money!”
Obviously, you need to get to Stage 3 as soon as possible. Lack of sales is the biggest reason businesses fail.
But if you do what everyone else is doing to get sales, you’re going to blend in. So take what’s working and tweak it 10% to make it totally unique.
Always give people a way to pay you more. If a large percentage of your customers are buying at your most expensive price point, you have room to raise your prices or create a more expensive tier.
Everything Is Easier with Attention
To get attention, you only need to ask two questions:
- Who do you want attention from?
- What actions could you take to attract their attention?
Here are a few of the strategies Liam shared.
The blip on the radar. Visualize a radar, circling nonstop, blipping every time it sees an object within its circumference. The idea is to be a consistent blip on people’s radar. For me, Neil Patel springs to mind. He’s everywhere. All the time. You should be too.
The disruption. Send an email to the person whose attention you want. But don’t be heavy-handed. A good formula is 4 simple lines:
- Introduce yourself.
- Make a statement that they will find intriguing.
- Quickly establish credibility.
- Ask if they have time for a call.
Four simple lines. But very effective if you keep the focus on them, not you.
The Almanac. Create a library of content that keeps people coming back to your site. I immediately think of Digital Marketer for this one. It’s content marketing on steroids.
“Leave breadcrumbs everywhere and make sure all roads lead back to you.” @freelancelift
What I loved most about Liam’s presentation was how creative it was. He made a beautiful slideshow and gave every list item a fun name. Things like “power of the crowd,” “the chaser,” and “the not-so-dark art.”
Your content can impress when it’s plain and simple, but the same impressive content can wow people when it’s packaged in a cool design.
The 10 eCommerce Commandments
Always remember that optimization is cheap and acquisition is expensive.
LTV + AOV > CA
Lifetime Value + Average Order Value [is greater than] Customer Acquisition
eCommerce businesses are like SaaS companies in that they both experience a lot of churn. That being the case, you need to adopt some SaaS-style customer engagement strategies.
Ben recommends an email indoctrination sequence for each product as well as one for your brand. I love the flow he suggests.
Product Indoctrination Series
- Thanks for buying
- How to use it
- A success story from another customer
- Logical upsell offer
- Ask for product feedback
Brand Indoctrination Series
- Welcome to [your brand]
- Why we’re different
- Invite them to your FB group
- Testimonial/selfie request
- Purchase reminder (If their purchase was consumable, send a coupon when they should be running out.)
Know who your best customers are. No more than 3% of customers are often responsible for a fourth of revenue. Identify those 3% and reward them. How’s that for a simple, thoughtful business growth strategy?
“Surprise people who already love you and make them love you more.” @ben_hebert
A 6-Figure Side Project: Doubling Revenue in Half the Time
While Tommy was working full time, he started a side project, ClickMinded, to provide SEO training for startups. He now has 7,000 users and has reduced time invested from 20 hours/week to 2 hours/week.
For him, the secret was automation. Teaching live on weekends simply isn’t scalable. Since putting his course on Teachable, he’s regained his weekends and has doubled his revenue.
The apps he uses most include
- Bookkeeping: Bench.co
- LMS: Teachable
- Entrepreneurship information: Dynamite Circle and eCommerceFuel
- Automation: Welcome Mat, Zapier, and SumoMe
“Raise prices aggressively.” @TommyGriffith
Tommy recommends updating your courses once a year and tweaking them every 6 months. Not a bad idea for keeping things fresh.
One last thing. Silly is a fantastic presentation style. Tommy made his presentation so laugh-out-loud funny, I doubt I’ll forget him or his stories.
Using Direct Sales to Grow ConvertKit to $365K in MRR
Nathan used to write books, develop apps, and work on his business, ConvertKit. He did all of it well, but growth was sideways.
After a chat with Hiten Shah, co-founder of Crazy Egg, everything changed. Now, he’s buckling down on ConvertKit, with impressive results.
Nathan’s business growth strategy?
Always look for expansion revenue, especially if you’re in a business where churn rates are high. But keep in mind, the way you expand depends on your type of business. So, for example,
- Baremetrics would expand by creating more revenue.
- HelpScout would expand by generating more users.
- ConvertKit would expand by signing on more subscribers.
Some experts recommend avoiding tasks that don’t scale, but Nathan disagrees. You may have to do things that don’t scale to enable channels that do scale.
Don’t let yourself get distracted from your highest priority. If you want success, you need to focus on your “one thing.”
By the way, this is something I talk about a lot in my coaching, but Nathan’s story was a good reminder. Focus. It’s the secret sauce.
Why Working with Influencers Is a Game Changer for Your Brand
Fun things can happen when you’re an influencer. Jane has enjoyed free cruises, home make-overs, and other perks simply by creating native content for her target audience, Austinites.
She listed 4 types of influencers:
- Content creators
- Traditional celebrities
- Thought leaders
- Micro-influencers (which is what Jane calls herself)
If you want to become an influencer, a narrow focus is going to be key. You need to be known as THE influencer in your space. (She only targets Austin.)
If you want to use an influencer for a campaign, you’ll need to give them free access to the services or products they’re going to promote. Then sit back and watch the magic happen.
The influencer will create content around your brand that’s engaging and entertaining. Keep in mind, it won’t look like advertising, and it will fit into their normal flow of content. But you’ll probably get a huge engagement boost.
One of the keys to influence is storytelling, and Jane’s work is the perfect example.
Her content tells a story. It’s emotional. It’s gripping. And the quality is amazing.
Seriously, we need to stop creating junk content just to say we’re doing it. Raise the bar on your own content and you may not need to hire an influencer. You’ll become one.
Raising Money without Selling Your Soul
As the founder of Teachable, Ankur has done his share of money raising. Here are his tips.
Know in advance the terms you’d like. Be clear about what you want.
How much do you need? Set two numbers: the ideal number, which is what you really want, and the public number, which is one-half to one-third of the ideal number. The public number is the one you share publicly.
Use standard paperwork. If an investor wants custom terms, exit.
“Trust is built in 3 ways: transparency, social proof, and design.” @ankurnagpal
B2B Marketing: How to Attract Leads with Minimal Effort
To attract leads, follow this 4-step process.
Discover your value proposition. Make it a sound bite and use keywords that people are searching for.
Build a lead magnet. Make something with these 6 qualities:
- Shares “secret knowledge”
Plan your tracking. You need to track the metrics that show your ROI. Figure out what they are and set it up in advance.
Distribute. Use both organic and paid channels.
“In lead generation, your goal is to turn apathy into interest.” @DistroDom
Unusual Marketing Ideas that Will Help You Stand Out and Sell More
“To succeed, you need to forge your own path.” @mijustin
A few ideas for forging your own path.
Anti-marketing. When something is popular, create a counter movement. Do the opposite.
Swag. Create t-shirts, mugs, and other cool stuff.
You’ve got real mail. Get real. Send a letter, a sticker, a postcard. Just make it physical.
Make something people want. Like the Sleep With Me podcast by Drew Ackerman. People want a good night’s sleep, but they have a hard time stopping the chatter in their brains. This podcast is so droning and boring, it actually puts you to sleep. Find the big problem that needs solving, and solve it.
Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. There’s a problem you can solve simply by being yourself. But you need to boldly develop the uniqueness of who you are.
Says Ackerman in a MentalFloss interview, “One scary thing for me is, like, ‘How boring am I really?’ Because I think [the show’s success stems from] some natural aspect of being myself.”
How to Hire Rockstars, Self-Starters, and A-Players
“If someone watched you work, would they get excited?”
Before you start hiring, Charlie recommends you clarify 3 things.
Decide on a brag-worthy mission. If you want people to go to battle for you, you need to have a mission they can care about. Give them a good reason to follow you, and they’ll be 100% in.
Define the specific tasks needed to do the job.
Test applicants with free work or by having them teach you something.
Charlie’s comments about mission apply as much to your customers as to employees. If you have a brag-worthy mission, you’ll develop a community of people who love you, your brand, and your products.
Set a mission that people want to be a part of. Your customers will help you succeed if they believe in you.
Put Your Content to Work: How I Get More Traffic than Companies with 7-Figure Content Budgets
Neville wins the award for the most dramatic entrance. He motored in wearing a sumo costume. Way to go, Neville!
And in true sumo fashion, he shared actionable tips for attracting tons of traffic. Here are a few that stood out to me.
Free Google Doc template. Easy to make. Easy to share.
Treat content creation like product creation. Figure out what people are searching for and create content to show up in that search.
A calculator. Hire someone in Upwork to create it. Offer the results in a spreadsheet, then ask users to join your list.
All too often, we limit our ideas for lead magnets to written content. But there are lots of opportunities if you think outside the box.
Not a techy? Not a problem. Hire a freelancer for anything you can’t do yourself.
How to Crush SEO in 2016 & 2017
Dwell time is a strong signal to search engines that your page is worth ranking well.
- If people search and click on your page then stay for a long time, that’s called the “long click.”
- If they leave right away, that’s “pogosticking.”
To succeed in SEO, you need to focus on the long click—which means your content needs to be readable and valuable.
Use words and phrases that make people read the next line:
- There’s a catch.
- What’s the real story?
These phrases should be one-liners, not integrated into the next paragraph. That keeps the eyes moving down the page.
“For business growth, you need to be strongly associated with one thing.” @Backlinko
Brian’s one thing is backlinks, and with such laser focus, he was able to grow his business quickly.
So there it is again. Focus is quite possibly the #1 business growth strategy.
How to Write and Market a Bestseller (and Why You Should)
Most experts push the idea that a book can be written in 2 months, 1 month, or even over a weekend.
And they’re not totally wrong. I’ve done it. Two books written for clients, both in 2 months. But during those 2 months, nothing else happened. I lived and breathed those books.
So I appreciate Taylor setting more realistic expectations: 9 months to a year. For a book you can be proud of—and that you launch with your health and happiness intact—the process shouldn’t be rushed.
He breaks the book-writing process into 3 phases.
First draft. Expect to spend about 2 months on your draft. You need to define and validate the idea, write a proposal to nail down your value proposition, then write a bad first draft. (First drafts are always bad, so don’t let that slow you down.)
Tension through narration. Don’t wait till the book is done to promote it. Create community around it while you’re still writing and editing. This builds anticipation and excitement around the launch. Ideas: syndicate the writing of the book or create a Facebook group and get feedback on the title, cover, etc.
Eyeballs and urgency. When you launch, you need to build awareness. To gain traction, compress your efforts into 1-2 weeks. You’ll get more awareness from a tight timeline than from spreading the promotion over months.
Success happens when you create a recognizable product with a 10 to 20% tipping point innovation.
So ask yourself what the tipping point product is in your business. On the front end, it could be your book.
In software, Jason Cohen wrote Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review.
In consulting, Tim Ferriss wrote The 4-Hour Workweek.
And Ramit Sethi wrote I Will Teach You to be Rich.
For agencies, Jacob Puhl wrote How to Get New Dental Patients.
None of these guys were well known when they wrote their book. Now, they’re industry names.
The takeaway? Write the fool book.
I attended Noah’s breakout session as well as his keynote presentation. In both, his point was simple: growth requires action.
From his breakout session:
“Do it NOW. Now is always the best time to do anything.” @noahkagan
“Allocate time for thinking about your business. I schedule 1-1/2 hours twice a week.” @noahkagan
“Do a job yourself before hiring someone else to do it.” @noahkagan
In his keynote, Noah itemized 3 ways to grow:
- Save money
- Sell more to existing customers
- Get more new customers
It’s easy to get distracted from what really matters.
More than once at SumoCon, I was reminded that we need to focus—which is funny because, for me, focus is easy. What’s hard, I realized, is focusing on the right things.
Let’s go back to a comment by Bryan Harris. The #1 reason businesses fail is lack of sales.
Building your influence is good. Writing a book is good. But making money is what keeps you in business. That’s probably the best place to keep your focus.
Find the business growth strategies that are right for you, and make them your highest priority.
Noah’s keynote was less of a presentation than a challenge to earn back the conference fee by cutting costs and making sales. And of course, this was the one day I didn’t bring my laptop with me, so there weren’t many actions I could take at that moment.
Unable to default to busy-work—which is probably what I would have done—I thought about my future plans for my business. Why future? Why not now?
What growth tactic are you putting off that you could start doing right away?