Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses.
Uh, joining me as an entrepreneur, who’s discovered how effective LinkedIn is for building relationships, but also for marketing and growing sales. And he created a tool that will allow you to do that. Now, when I say that, I imagine two things go through my audience’s head. Number one is, wait, Andrew, didn’t you already interview other people who did this.
Aren’t there tons of apps and software that do this, and we’re going to show you why expand is different. I feel like w what they do is I think they use the term growth hacks on their side, or they have these collection of hacks. Oh, Yeah.
They’re basically used for these really clever automations that go beyond what you’ve seen before.
Number one. So that addresses why, uh, we’re going to be talking to Stefan here today. His software is different and number two, The thing that goes through your head is probably the same thing that went through my head, which is aren’t all these LinkedIn messages and automation just really annoying on LinkedIn.
And I’m going to ask him about that. I should introduce him as Stefan smolders though. Apparently in the U S they pronounce your name. How Stefan, um, would you prefer that I call it I’ll call you Stefan. I kind of feel like if, if in the Netherlands it stay fun, I should go with your name the way you like it pronounced.
Stefan: Yeah. But I think it meant say that audience, if you keep on going with stuff
Andrew: You’re basically telling me Andrew, the market is always right. If the market calls me Stephan, then go with Stephan or, or you tell me to pronounce it. Stefan. Stephan. That’s what you told me before. All right. So we’re going to do it. And we’re going to find out about your software to the LinkedIn automation tool called expanded.
Thank, and we can talk about it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first will host your website, right? It’s called HostGator. Go check them out at hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re creating content, you should be selling it to and member full will allow you to do that later on. I’ll tell you why you should go to dot com slash Mixergy.
All right. Let’s let’s talk. Uh, let’s talk numbers first revenue wise. Where are you guys?
Stefan: Um, we are at 6 million, the annual revenue at the moment,
Andrew: Dude? This has grown. Since you talked to our producer, it was like 5 million. When you talked to our producer. Not, not too long ago.
Stefan: Yeah. And it was, I think six, seven weeks ago or so.
Andrew: Yeah. Profitable
Stefan: Yes. We make a profit of a above 200 K per month
Andrew: and no outside funding or outside funding
Stefan: and now we are fully bootstrapped
Andrew: who owns a company.
Stefan: me. Am I about, uh co-founders. So we are at the 300.
Andrew: Three. Co-founders unbelievable. This is impressive,
Andrew: I like how nonchalant you are about it. Yeah. Thanks.
Um, the thing that I’ve got to bring up right away is I go on LinkedIn. I stopped checking LinkedIn messages. I feel like on all the other social networks, when I get a private message, it’s useful.
If I go on Facebook and I get a Facebook messenger messages, somebody that I know chances are Instagram is becoming more and more useful. Twitter can’t search it. Their product kind of is, is a little out of date that way, but the messages are usually from people who are valuable worthwhile. I go to LinkedIn, it’s always, Hey, first name.
We should be connected or first name since we are connected. Maybe they’re more sophisticated. Now they say Andrew, since we’re connected here on LinkedIn, I thought you might want to see this blog post that I wrote. Or since we’re connected here on LinkedIn, I thought you might want to do a demo call with me, dude.
Connected you on LinkedIn. Doesn’t mean I want to get on a fricking phone call with you. I didn’t even know we weren’t connected. How do I stop it? So there’s this frustration, I think in the LinkedIn community, that there’s automation tools that are pumping out this stuff, ruining the network and we as marketers, maybe shouldn’t be in it.
What do you say to that?
Stefan: I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s an interesting topic to, uh, to discuss for sure. Um, as we all know, the platform is growing with with more than 700 million active users at the moment, and everybody wants to get in touch with each other. But, um, I agree as well that people are a little bit overwhelmed with full inboxes and actually the platform became a bit of more to spend, right?
So, uh, it’s of course, about people who are using third party apps to do a mass outreach. But I think the good thing on all of this is that, um, LinkedIn’s answer at the moment is that they try to crank down the amount of requests people can send. They have to solve the spam problem before people are leaving the platform.
So it means that it will slowly separate the mans from the boys and the ones who are not able to adopt
Andrew: won’t they won’t they be separating the automation tools? Is it isn’t it, the automation tools or w, or what you’re saying is Andrew, the bat automation tools that are annoying people. And that, that send out messages that are unwanted, that are spam. Those people are what you call the boys. They’re going to be basically booted off the network one way or the other, and the people who are sending useful messages that are thought through are going to stay on.
And that’s what you mean by separating the men’s men from the boys. Is that it
Stefan: Th th that’s what I mean. And Ethan, of course it has to do with the automation tools to make it a bit more easy for people to use it. But at the end, it’s just a tool and it’s the strategies behind. So actually the full year put in which will bring the results
Andrew: don’t you think that they’re going to boot all automation? Don’t you think that their goal is if people want to communicate, it should be one-on-one. If they want to do any kind of automation, they should be buying ads. and at some point, LinkedIn will figure that out. And then that’s all that’s going to be on their direct messages and ads. No automation.
Stefan: Um, I don’t think it’s, it’s, it’s going that way. It’s always a cat and mouse game because let’s be honest what we’ve built. It’s not illegal. It’s not forbidden by law, but it’s officially against LinkedIn’s terms and policy to use third party app or, uh, let your profile managed by inferior. in the beginning I was a little bit angry and scared as well.
That bill gates will came after me one day. but there’s also with doing things really right. There are tons of recruiters out there who are still operating manually and also spending people, um, it’s the art of outreach to do it the right way. And if you do it with them and tool, which is safe and not obviously on LinkedIn, then I think with the right strategy, there still a place for people to use Mussafer is such kind of a third party.
Andrew: Okay. No doubt it is working. And some of the things you told me before we got started, and then I saw when I researched you before we got started are amazing. I could understand why marketers want it. And so I want to know how marketers are using it intelligently and then figure out how you built up this business to such phenomenal growth.
So let’s about one, one of the automations that you use so that I get a sense of how works.
Stefan: the same approach we use to boost expanding without doing traditional marketing and actually set our first group. we scraped audience of our competitors on Facebook.
Andrew: You’re saying you go to your competitors, Facebook groups, right? And the thing about Facebook is there are all these amazing communities, but if you try messaging them on Facebook, Facebook will boot you. And frankly, even if they don’t boot you, if you send one or two messages to people in the group, it goes into their other inbox.
And so it disappears. You don’t get to reach them All right. So you say I’m going to start with the Facebook group. I’m going to see who’s in my competitor’s Facebook group and then take it from there.
Stefan: Yeah. And then I conferred to the, uh, the email addresses that belongs to the people into LinkedIn profiles. So it actually ends up in a CSV and after the CSV is cleaned up, I upload it. And I use actually that audience to approach people by one-on-one messages, Sterling.
Andrew: And linked it. So what you’re saying is you grabbed their names, you put it into expanding, expanding, finds them on LinkedIn, and then using LinkedIn’s messaging. You reach out to them one at a time and we’ll find out what you do to help convert them into your customers. But it’s a sh it’s a shock to me that LinkedIn even allows you to, it’s impressive, by the way that your software will find them on LinkedIn, but it’s a shock to me that LinkedIn will allow you To do that.
And how effective is it?
Stefan: To be honest, um, the books and it was one and a half year ago that we tried this strategy. First time we booked more than 40 calls per week on average for a LinkedIn profile we used for this ProTech. And the second step we did was that we wrote an interesting. Block and block about everything we did, how we achieved it.
It’s messages. We use how we connect the dots to enrich these email addresses with LinkedIn profiles, the approach itself. And of course the results we gained from, uh, from the sequence. And after that, we created a really amazing post on LinkedIn or maybe ask people, and nobody has said a LinkedIn messaging is there, nobody’s replying, but if you want to get great results and book 40 appointments with a 70% acceptance rate and leave a comment and we will shoot over and really investing in depth guide.
And of course, normally only my ride to France and for colleagues will like or commented on such a boss. So what we did is that we used, um, uh, engagement bot to boost the post to the marks. And therefore we use Lampo. I’m
Andrew: What is it? What does that mean?
Stefan: Yeah, limbo is an engagement port. You pay actually five USD per month per port.
They have lots of different audiences where you can drop your posts and then people which are also in the same pot, they will automatically in the beginning and engage with that folks.
Andrew: I’ve heard about this. You’re talking about these pods where it’s a few people who are all on the same topic, who agree that they’re going to comment on each other’s posts. And so you joined one of these little communities and you, where you had to pay to be in the community. And then you said, here’s a post, can you please go and support it?
They supported it by liking it by commenting on it, which then told LinkedIn, this is a popular enough post that other people should see it. And then it helps you get more, more people seeing it. Right.
Stefan: Yeah, it, uh, it, it gains actually more attraction. And, um, it does end the early days that we did that such kind of, uh, uh, boats. Um, so we gained some on or first polls, more than 160 gave views and 3000 comments, which means that as a next step with three simple clicks, we could scrape and import all the people engaged with our own posts in expanding.
And we use these people to follow up and shoot them over the guide.
Andrew: Got it. And so when they commented, they then got a message from you on LinkedIn, with the guy that they were promised, but it also allows you to start a conversation with them on LinkedIn, because now they’re commenting or they’re, they’re getting something of value in, in the chat and you can start, I’m consuming a warmup sequence and then a follow up and get them on calls.
Is that right?
Stefan: Uh, that’s a, that’s correct. And of course the link we share with the guide, we did some retargeting in there. So if people click on the link, they’re going to visit it, they’re going to
Andrew: Got it.
Stefan: And maybe some of them sign up straight away, but the ones who are not ready for it yet, they there’ll be born to buy, uh, some retargeting ads.
Andrew: That’s really powerful. Now, do you have to use a separate LinkedIn account for that? Or can you use your personal link?
Stefan: At that time point, I used my own LinkedIn in account or the ones from my lovely colleagues.
Andrew: Okay. And now your LinkedIn account, is it still working?
Stefan: Uh, now LinkedIn is not that the muse with me as a founder of the party at Saturday, they decided more than one year ago to do remove it, uh, similar as they do with all the founder of the party.
Andrew: So if you’re, if you’re not allowed to be on LinkedIn with your own name, if I use your software, am I going to be booted from link?
Stefan: Um, no, to be honest, we never have any active user on our system, which gets slapped or banned by LinkedIn, uh, because of using exponent.
And by the way, what you’re talking about on some of it on Facebook is not just allowed, but they create a way for software vendors to do it and to automate it. So for example, I invested in a company called ManyChat. One of the key parts of their software is that if user software and somebody comments on your Facebook posts, your Instagram posts, ManyChat automatically sends a direct message to them.
And they work very closely with Facebook. They’ve actually, they’ve had really tight relationship with Facebook for years. So I can see the value of this. Maybe there’s hope that at some point, LinkedIn will say, we want some automation on here. We see that there’s a need for it. We’ll partner with a few companies for it.
And maybe open this up to you.
Stefan: It’s not sure that that’s.
Andrew: You smiled at me when I said that, almost like, like, oh, naive, Andrew, you have no idea. It’s not.
Stefan: No. Yeah. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s maybe on the longterm it’s we are definitely here to stay. So it means that that we are not using any official API to connect our software to the platform, to keep everything set. If we build it in the cloud, we have tons of safety measurements built in. So LinkedIn wants the text expanding.
Um, but it means as well that if you operate, uh, like a real human and use it with a normal behavior, because that’s actually the main problem that everybody is spending in Chubb. And most of the people use of course the party. But let’s say that LinkedIn cracking down the amount of requests. Maybe you noticed it as well to 100 requests per week.
And in comparing to before to more than 700 requests, people are able to
Andrew: Connection requests you’re saying is what you still, Yeah. they used to allow a lot more connection requests. Okay.
Stefan: So it means that if you want to sort of five with your outreach on LinkedIn, that you have to came up with better strategies behind to get the same results out of 19 requests per day, in comparing to the 100 words you could send before.
And that’s actually where came in, because of all the clever features we’ve built in, we can personalize almost everything and give you the opportunity to target your audience on a much more clever, right than only running and simple sales enough search with just two basic filters, such as location or for acceptable and a job title.
Andrew: Okay. I think what I want to know also is like how you’re getting around links. LinkedIn’s um, like LinkedIn’s protection against stuff like this that you’re not on my desktop. A lot of these plugins work a lot of, uh, your competitors work as plugins. I have to keep my computer on. I have to keep Chrome on.
I have to use their Chrome plugin and then they just work in the background, which is a sensible way to work. Then LinkedIn can’t detect that software’s being used. Really. It just looks like I’m sitting at my computer. It happens that it’s not me typing at the computer. It’s the plugin typing into LinkedIn on my computer.
Essentially. You’re not doing that. How are you getting around their, uh, their detection software?
Stefan: it means that if you sign up, uh, for example, you can, uh, assign your LinkedIn account or actually any LinkedIn account you want. If you put in the login credentials, and then the second step of the registration, we ask you to select and country, and we will provide you instant from our proxy provider and dedicated country IP address.
And as long as you use X family, we will only use that specific IP address to manage and run your profile.
Andrew: wow. So now for, as far as LinkedIn knows, I’ve got my same consistent IP address. It’s in my country. Got it. All right. Let’s figure out how you ended up over here. Okay. Let’s go back. Used to work at a company called lead express. I’m on lead Express’s website. Right now. What they do is it says, uh, it I’m translating from, uh, from Dutch, but it says, recognize companies that visit our website and extract sales opportunities and marketing information from it.
So basically what they did is they allowed businesses to say, Who is coming to my website and based on IP liters express would tell me, so if I had lead express on my site, I might notice that I don’t know someone from, uh, Airbnb is coming to my site. People from Y Combinator coming to my site, maybe from first round capital.
And then I could reach out to them and say, Hey, you should be on Mixergy, or you should buy a membership for your, for your community. That’s essentially the way that they work. Right. And then there was a problem that your customer would call you up with that led you to fi found your own company expanding.
What was the problem? What did they call you up?
it’s it’s, uh, I think now six years ago that we found it, uh, uh, I was also one of the co-founders of that software. Uh, it only coffers in Dutch and a local database, but it’s actually a similar intellect intelligence software. Like our work roles, lead forensics, lead feeder, very indentifying indeed website for instance.
For a lot of small business owners. It’s, it’s nice to see who’s visiting the website, especially if nobody is filling in a form or contact, uh, contact information. Um, so that is a lot of failure and potential. If you see it, but a lot of small business owners, they are actually struggling with what’s the best and most effective way to follow up.
So one of the most ignoring and common things, people came back to me. I, Stefan, it’s a really cool software. I really like it. It’s a nice dashboard. You are really a cool guy. You’re always helpful, but yeah. It’s nothing for me because I can’t get appointments from him. And then I asked, well, what are you trying to do?
Yeah, I, I, I tried to call so Rebecca before, Hey Andrew, it’s definitely here. I saw some of your colleagues visited my website. Can you please forward me to him? I really don’t know what you’re talking about stuff. And so it ends up and that was constantly happening. So I challenge myself somewhere around four years ago to try and find an re actually a new way to do acquisition.
One of the first things I did, I do to LinkedIn with a profile with eight connections, not updated, not optimized, and to push myself a bit more. I thought let’s subscribe myself for the sales navigator version. And actually I asked immediately in love with all these filters and I could set them and easily find my website visitors, and I couldn’t find my target on the end.
Andrew: Wait, how does, how does sales, So
sales navigator is that premium product that LinkedIn has. We use it at Mixergy. If I want to find founders of interesting companies with a lot of, uh, a lot of, a lot of employees here in San Francisco, I could plug that into search. I get their names and then I will go and find their email address to somewhere else and message them that way.
That’s the way it’s used. Sometimes often it’s used by people who are trying to hire that way. What, what, what were you doing with it?
Stefan: I was also using these kinds of filters to define my, uh, ideal customer profile or to find back the company names from people who are visiting
Andrew: Oh, because your software lead express based on IP address was able to tell you who, which companies were on your site. So you’d go to sales navigator and you say, all Right.
only people who are on my site or they’re in the sales or marketing department. I know the company name let’s go see who works in the sales and marketing department at the company name.
And then you said, what, what were you going to do next with that?
Stefan: Exactly. That was what I did. I made one huge mistake and the finding and the target thing. I specialize myself in. That particular, uh, subject to be the best in it. But the mistake I made was that after founding these people and trying to approach them and connects with them, I was only talking about myself.
Hey guys, I’m Steph and I’m that cool guy. I can help you with anything. And it does not cost that much money. So do, do you want to be my friend? And as you can imagine, people who are not amused with these kinds of overenthusiastic approaches where I did not ask any question. So what I did as a next step, I was going back to the drawing table and I spend it all the available time I had for the upcoming three months in learning more about how to start conversations, how to engage with people.
And actually, what are the best questions to ask, to keep people engaged?
Andrew: Specifically on LinkedIn or in general on LinkedIn. So you said, look, I now can see who’s been on my website. I know that they’re at least interested enough to have come to my site. I want to start a conversation with them and eventually sell to them. I don’t know how to do it. I’m kind of creeping them out and I’m definitely not getting the response I want.
So you started to watch YouTube videos. You told our producer, you would go on growth, hacker groups of Facebook, and you just started looking for ways to get into conversations. Did you figure it out? Did that work for you?
Stefan: Yeah. After a couple of months, uh, in became my number one lead gen in terms of appointments, I could book. So I thought let’s help some complaining customers from my previous lead espresso front to help an execute exactly the same steps for them, optimize the profile, finding the target audience and approach people and seeing right.
Um, I did that for more than five people are actually exactly five people and I go. Also great results for them and a lot of appointments. Um, but it became too time consuming with two left hands and I can’t put anything myself. I was
Andrew: it all manually, but let me, let me understand this. When you were finally figuring out what to say to people, to get them to respond to you, what was it, what worked for you?
Stefan: instead of approaching myself or a bit too overenthusiastic, um, I needed, I found out that I needed to a bit more research about them, who they are, uh, what they did. What’s their focus on, um, understand a bit better, which questions I had to ask.
Andrew: Also customizing it to them doing the kind of thing that I would do, like looking somebody up on Instagram and seeing that they like rollerskating and then saying, Hey, you know what? I was just roller skating with my kids yesterday and starting conversation with that or including it in your conversation, is that what you’re talking about?
Stefan: Yes, for
Andrew: Oh, that’s incredibly manual, but it works. It definitely works. And then you started looking for clients who needed that kind of work. So what you would do is you would do research on them, you would say, can I get you calls with your clients? They would say, well, this is working for me. I kind of like, you sure. Then you would do the exact same thing that we just talked about, finding people and then manually looking them up and then contacting them on behalf of your client. Am I right?
Stefan: That’s totally true.
Andrew: Okay. Any, would you say that you’re not a developer? What kind of automation tools were you using at that point? I imagine that what you were doing at that point was just sitting down with a spreadsheet.
Stefan: It was indeed an Excel sheet. And as you can imagine, it wasn’t doable to manage a lot of people’s accounts. So I thought let’s be clever and try to find in software, which could automate some repeated tasks on LinkedIn. And it was actually the first time that I dive into this gray LinkedIn automation space somewhere around four years ago.
And I found tons and tons of third party apps from Dixie to linked helper to Midland. And they were all Chrome extended. And I tried out all of them. And to begin, they run indeed on your desktop and you need to open everything to keep it running. But one of the. This advantages I find out is that most of these ones are designed for single user.
So people would actually want to manage a one profile. We want to run one campaign. And one of the most frustrating things by using these tools. Maybe you recognize it from your own inbox on LinkedIn as well. That it’s very hard to keep track more properly off your LinkedIn inbox, because if you’re approaching a lot of people, people will reply.
You can’t find these conversations back from a proper rate and definitely with such kind of a third party ads, which are Chrome extended. That is still hard to do the second this at founders of using these tools wasn’t that the automation was not that advanced. It was possible to do. Connection request.
And then I need to upload the list again from people which were accepted to send them a follow-up message. So there was still a lot of manual tasks I could not, uh, keeping track of metrics is, uh, I could not manage more profiles on the seamless array because as soon as I run to run a split test, to see which campaign performs the best I needed to all be more routers to keep everything running and, but five customers and two campaigns per profile, you can imagine that then, then drives us sessions was a bit too much.
And if my work day ends and I close everything and I operate in a different time zone, then I stopped fully.
Andrew: Okay. And so that’s when you said, look, I’ve got a service here. It’s not supported by good software. I think I’m going to shift and create software that does this right.
Andrew: software to reproduce defin.
Stefan: Yeah. From agency perspective. So I saw myself as an li yeah,
Andrew: sorry. As an agency, you didn’t imagine someone like Andrew who needs to connect and get clients himself using you. You want it specifically agency. I wanna understand why agency, why didn’t you decide to go after it?
Stefan: In the beginning. Um, I actually, indeed X family is built from my own frustrations to manage more profiles from a seamless way. And I must scared as well. After I found out that it was officially against LinkedIn’s terms on policy, too, lose people’s profiles, which pay me a lot of money each month to manage it.
And most of them, they did not even know at that time point that I used the third party app to run activities on their account. So it was actually a no go for the long run because some of these tools are, gets by LinkedIn in the past. And we all heard the horror stories of people who are losing their profiles by using such kind of tools.
And it wasn’t able to manage more profiles, fully automated. Even if I sleep, if I close my laptop. So after a while, I could not move forward this way with my agency. After five, six months, I was still with the same five customers and a lot of headaches. Uh, it was that time consuming and it actually did not do everything I wanted.
So from frustration, I shared all these things with my technical co-founder Glenn, and as a real magician, he just said to me, let’s build our own tool. Let’s make it real safest tool, build it in the cloud so that people not have to deal I’m very anymore about safety, that they can run more account, maybe 100 accounts for their customers on an easy way.
And let’s put in all the features you need from agency perspective.
Andrew: My understanding was that part of the reason why you went for an agency was you started going after individuals. You said, I can show you how this works. And you realize you had to persuade them to do two things. Number one, you had to persuade them that LinkedIn marketing in the first place made sense and that they should do it.
And number two, you had to persuade them to do this in an automated way. And that combination of persuasion, persuasion, persuasion, persuasion, just meant that you weren’t closing as many sales and that they weren’t experienced enough to get the results they were looking for. Am I understanding that right?
Stefan: Yeah, that’s a bit of a right. A direction. And in the beginning, when we were building expanding, uh, after, uh, releasing our first internal data, after five, six months, we try to use our own software to approach people. We all approach people in the Netherlands and that our old people, which we are on LinkedIn, but we’re not used with automation.
So we booked a lot of demo calls. Um, we first had to sell them link. Second, we had to sell them automation. And if we sold automation and also expanding, we needed to on how to use such kind of software, it bits tactics with which strategy. So it was too time consuming to scale. And because of these outcomes, we decided to do a step back, do not focus ourselves on the local ditch market.
But, um, yeah, we prepared everything to launch globally because I could imagine that there are maybe globally hundreds and thousands of people who are also managing more accounts or customers. I can’t like I did before. So that was the main decision to go for agencies, grow takers and actually enterprise organizations who are, uh, managing more accounts in their departments.
Andrew: All right. Let me talk about my first sponsor. And I’m going to do it in relation to expand, expanding the sponsors, HostGator, where people go to get a website. Imagine someone’s listening to us right now, who hears your story And says, I like expanding. I think I could use it. I don’t know what else I want to create, but this could be the start of my business.
Imagine then they go and create an, expand the account. They learn it, they experience it. And then they say, what they’re going to do is basically expand the, as a service, which means they will go to businesses and get them clients using LinkedIn and maybe only get paid whenever they get a client or prospect to schedule a call with, uh, with the company.
Right? What, what is that called? What’s that service called?
Stefan: And that’s done for you service.
Andrew: done for you, service a digital agency. Then they start contacting people and saying, look, your software is very similar. It is competitor, but it’s better. Your competitor has all these Facebook groups. What if I just go and you know, I’m going to use a specific example, infusion soft, right?
There are a bunch of people who do better email marketing than infusion soft. Imagine they go to one of the email marketing companies, email software companies say, look, infusion soft has all these, I hate Infusionsoft groups on Facebook, or how do I figure out Infusionsoft group on Facebook book your software better.
I’m gonna do, I’m going to get all their names. I’m going to contact them on LinkedIn because it’s a professional relationship. I’ll understand if they’re I’ll message them right away and say, do you have any issues with infusion soft? What do you think of infusion soft? When they start to complain? I could say, well, I happened to yeah, no another company that would be better.
We’ve switched to them. You should switch to them. Can I get you on a demo call with one of their people? And if you like it, you can use it if not, no problem. And they do that, on LinkedIn as a service for these email marketing companies. What do you think of that?
Stefan: I think that, uh, that’s actually ingrained. Right. And maybe personalized affiliate approach, right?
they do. They offer expanding as a service. They offer. Booking leads as a service and they do this for email marketing, but they could do it for anything, right. They just look for any business that feels like, uh, like they could identify with maybe it’s all software companies that have fewer than 10 people, right?
Imagine that software companies, fewer than 10 people, they use expanded to reach the, find them to send messages to them. And then to say to them, you know, I think you’re more of a hustler than your bigger competitor. And you’ve got more interesting features in your competitor. I will go into and get your competitors.
Uh, customers I’ll send them messages on LinkedIn. And if you give me a Calendly link, I will book them directly on your Calendly link. And you could S or someone on your team could close sales, but you just pay me whenever I get somebody to book on your Calendly link, right? That’s a service.
Stefan: That’s definitely in. Great. Ready to go for
Andrew: All right. So here’s what I’m going to say, whether it’s that idea or any other idea when you launch it, you’re probably going to want a website. And the reason that I suggest that you go with HostGator is because HostGator is inexpensive, it’s it works. And it’ll scale with you. And frankly, if you’re ever unhappy with them, you could always take your site and move it somewhere else.
Because HostGator works with a lot of open source platforms. Like the one that I use, which is WordPress, so easy to set up, easy to work, phenomenal, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, because when you use that URL, you’ll be supporting my work here at Mixergy. And because they’ll give you the lowest price that they have available when you use that URL, host gator.com/mixergy.
Alright, now you finally have this thing working. You’re your co-founder. How long did it take you to create, uh, did it take him to create the software for the first version?
Stefan: Yeah. He promised me to go to done in three months. And at the end it took six months, six months for the first.
Andrew: Okay. And meanwhile, you’re funding the whole thing or living just because of your previous business. Right.
Andrew: Okay. Uh, what was it called? It was called lead express. Finally, six months in, he gets the software up and running. Do you have, do you have customers ready to go and use it?
Stefan: straight from the beginning. You mean, um, B approach our lead Xpress users to give it a try, uh, and, uh, uh, it helps you to help them to, to, to, to follow up the website visitors on a more consistent and better. Um, and actually there, we found out that it wasn’t pressing for them and they were interested and they were using it, but they were not all that familiar with LinkedIn.
They were all, so not that familiar with using automation and also these people were struggling with what I have to send. Um, so they. Of the 99% of all the people on LinkedIn who are sending the boring, outdated, frustrating messages you receive in your inbox each and every day.
Andrew: okay. Wait, let me pause. They were actually willing to pay you for expanding in the first version, the one that was built in six months, they were,
Andrew: many customers did you get, who were paying customers within say the first month or so?
Stefan: We got a couple of hundreds of people, which we offered the software to use it the first month for free. And, uh, it was a bit of a buggy because we have to learn more about LinkedIn. We actually talking to him black box. So we have to understand how they react and things change. And, um, after that we convinced 50 people to buy a yearly subscription.
And, um, that helped us, uh, to gain about a 50 K USD, which we,
Andrew: 50 P about a hundred people signed up for the free version and then 50 of them ended up paying
Stefan: yeah, I think a little bit more than 100, I think 165 around the 200. Yep.
Andrew: Okay. So 25% conversion rate that’s solid. And then you ended up with 50,000 us dollars from that because they paid for an annual subscription, which then allowed you to continue to invest in the business.
Stefan: Yeah. First thing we did was we, uh, we rent in the, in the, in workspace, in office, um, with the, the, the seven people we had at that time point colleagues and the rest of the money we use to prepare our global launch.
Andrew: Okay. And when you looked at the first version and the response that it got, what are some of the problems that you came up with? What did you see that you didn’t expect? What wasn’t working? You said it was
Stefan: Yeah, it was about the delivery of, uh, the messages, because we found out that if LinkedIn has just running some small changes in their CSS, that our boats need to know and work around to go over that. And that was constantly happening, especially in the beginning. So messages faster, not all the connection request deliver, uh, because some changes on LinkedIn side now.
Andrew: and from the beginning, was it like SAS, not a plugin, but software that operated in cloud.
Andrew: It was from the beginning. And that was important to you because of the issue that you faced when you were trying to manage a lot of Chrome browser tabs. Okay. And then you said the other issue was that they were just sending out boring messages.
Well, you know, before we even addressed the boring messages, what could that first version of the software do?
Stefan: It’s good. Uh, scrape people read different search types. So we could upload and CSV folded LinkedIn profiles, which you could use as an audience. And you could run in search in LinkedIn sales navigator or running basic search. Copy that, search you around pasta, the next funding. And then we retreat all the people telomerase and all search into.
Andrew: And then would it automatically send messages to all of them? Or I guess first it’s like linked, uh, connection requests,
Stefan: Uh, yeah, you could build two different types of campaigns. Uh, if you want to approach new people which are not connected yet, then you could add them to connect the campaign. And that first starts with a connection request. And if you decided to go after people which are already in your network, then you could assign them to message your campaign.
All right. So that’s what you had, and I could see why people wouldn’t know what to say. By the way I happened to open up my LinkedIn messages, just to see what the messages look like. Here’s one from Ronak, uh, prereq. Dear, sir. I hope you and your family are safe and doing well. You can have an, you can have a excellent team of dedicated developers or team to maintain your web slash mobile app.
Bring new idea to life, or need a virtual assistant to work for you. Then I can help you. My hourly rate is affordable and I believe in long-term relationship, please let me know your queries and we can discuss them. Look forward to your reply, best regards Ronak. Um, and then this is not the first message from him.
Ronak has sent me messages since November 9th, and then again, uh, November 11th of last year. And then again, February, just no it’s November from pre it just continues and continues. This is the type of thing that you’re saying. People sent out hopefully a little bit more, are more elegant than that. What do you do to combat that?
When somebody has a tool and they don’t know what to do with it, what can you do?
Stefan: Yeah, it’s all about, uh, education. I think one of the things, um, we did is using our software as a main instrument, or actually as a main tool in our own toolkit to grow extra money. And what we did, we wrote down all the strategies we execute. So I, can you be created in that guys to explain the strategy, to explain people how, and I’m a rich, very scraped.
The people wait, two messages. We use how we
Stefan: how we integrated at all to the results we got from it. And we started avidly to do a manually master, uh, distribution, uh, all these guides and, um, all these articles. And slowly we became the CNN for LinkedIn lead generation.
Andrew: So people started coming to you and seeing what was possible and to learn how to do it. And some of them would become customers. And whether they found you through these articles or elsewhere, whenever they were customers, they could go back to these articles and learn how to do it.
Stefan: Definitely. Yeah.
I’m going to talk about my second sponsor again, in context of this second sponsor is memorable.
What they do is allow anyone who’s a content creator to start selling membership, meaning like access to your email newsletter. Or if you’ve got a podcast, you can sell a different episodes. If you have a website you can have access to, you could sell access to a certain side of the certain part of the site or chat community.
You can sell access to that. The reason that I’m talking about member full is because I think a lot of content creators don’t realize that there is that there’s an audience of people who want to support you, who are willing to pay for extra content. And you don’t have to use these bigger software players to, to sell your content.
And I’m talking about something like sub stacks, subs tech is wonderful, but they then connect with your audience. And I’d rather always have a direct connection with my audience without having, uh, without having them or someone else in the middle. And what memorable does is creates your software that you could do yourself.
In fact, since we, since I like to talk to my guests within these ads and shoot around ideas, here’s my idea for someone who’s listening to us. Imagine if someone does not have content business right now, one idea that I would have for an email newsletter. And I would probably start with an email newsletter or podcast.
Those are two fairly easy things to put together. And then they require subscriptions from people. You know, even if it’s a free subscription to email newsletter, there’s an ongoing relationship, a free subscription to my podcast is on. Okay.
I would call it pushing the envelope. And all I would do is talk to marketers who are now on the edge of what’s possible, who are going further than most people think or understand could be done, right?
Like what you guys are doing with expanding it’s further than most people know is even possible. Right? There are tons of different people and tons of different tools for doing this. If I were starting today, I would want to learn new marketing techniques. And then I would do this. I would write a newsletter or do an interview series with people.
And, uh, with people who are doing this about tools that are used for this, and then the paid version is that’s the free version that brings people in and it makes them go. I can’t believe this is possible. Andrew just keeps opening up my eyes to these new things. The next thing I would do is I would sell how to guides, where I would say here’s a step-by-step guide to doing this thing that I just described.
Here’s a, step-by-step a guide to pushing the envelope, so to speak. I think the free stuff is what brings people in and opens up their eyes to what’s possible. The paid stuff usually needs to be the here’s, how you can do this. I showed you what’s possible now pay and you get to see how to do it. And that becomes an exclusive piece of content.
All right. The way I think about it, listen to me, people. If you’re thinking about content as a product that you can sell, I highly urge you to do it. Get started today. You may not be great at it when you get started. I wasn’t, I was terrible at it, but in time you get better and better. And the software to use to allow you to sell to your audience, sell membership.
So community sell access to your email newsletter. So whatever it is, the software that allows you to do it is memorable. You can go right now, try it for free. By going to member full.com/mixergy that’s M E M B E R F U l.com/m I X E R G Y they’re Patrion company, which means that you can count on them.
Great software, great people behind that business. Thank you, member full for sponsoring. All right. I see. Now what you did, you created content. Things are starting to work out for you and then your CTO’s Facebook page gets pulled your Facebook page, get extra your LinkedIn page and his LinkedIn page gets pulled.
How do you feel when that happens? Your whole business depends on them and now.
Stefan: Yeah. And it’s all set for a couple of months. We just. Achieve the K MRR. So it was less too loud with all our own investments. I got my mortgage on the line. I keep it a secret, uh, for my ride to down, make that
Andrew: Your wife didn’t know that you took out a second mortgage.
Stefan: Oh, she was actually, uh, she did not know it. Uh, so it has to be almost about that.
So there was no way for us. Um, we knew that it was high-risk investment in an specific industry with, in terms of competitors. I think there are more than 400 competitors out there. Rich can automate some tricks for LinkedIn. And we came in there as a new kid on the block and we were going double down after that, on this rooting content on all the channels and all other rays and.
The result of that was that we slowly became the real CNN of LinkedIn lead generation hack strategy ex uh, tactics, and more than 50 K unique visitors per month on, on the blog. So we received tons and tons of inbound subscribers from people who want to travel out to sulfur, um, and executing all these strategies we shared in the community.
Andrew: Where are you writing all of this?
Stefan: Yeah. Or,
Andrew: Where’s the CA the CNN of LinkedIn marketing is what you call your content.
Stefan: yeah, you can find that all on our, uh, website and the block section.
Andrew: So from your blog, you’re people are finding you and people are seeing what’s possible. All right. And so when you got kicked off of LinkedIn, your personal profile, did you freak out? Did you start to say maybe this whole business is going away? Maybe I’ve let my wife down. Maybe I’d let my customers down or I w I would, at that point, I go, I think I’m stuck here.
Stefan: was a bit, I was a bit scared. I mean, we discussed with our founders, what can happen next? Um, and actually really decided to go. To to go, even, even, even, even faster, with more effort on trying to grow the business. Because the simple fact that if I analyze the situation, if LinkedIn want to crack down our automation tool, they have to pay a 400 K to start a lawsuit, but they have to do it more than 400 times against all the competitors.
They never did it on the competitors, which accessed for a longer time. So in my believing, it was not that common that these things should happen. And if you are looking back now, then LinkedIn LinkedIn’s main number one, problem is the spam. And, and, and, and let’s, let’s be clear if they try to crack down on expanding or they bring us to a, a lawsuit.
We say, sorry, uh, we pay some money. And tomorrow we pop up with bait on the, because we own the technology and it will not solve this.
Andrew: Oh, you’re saying if they shut you down with a lawsuit, you closed down the business. You take a brand new name, same software, you start over again.
Andrew: Okay. And then your customer lists though, has to stay with that company. Doesn’t it. And then you start over with new customers or you bring your customer list over.
Stefan: we should bring our customer lists,
Andrew: Got it.
Stefan: it does not solve LinkedIn’s problem because it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s fighting and fighting and everyday.
Andrew: just have a chilling effect. Just the fact that they would take maybe two of the biggest ones, maybe one of the smaller ones and Sue them. And then everybody else freaks out, take a few users and Sue them. And then all the other users who are using software automation start to freak out that.
Plus frankly, this seems like a tech issue. I can’t believe that they can’t solve it with, with technology.
Stefan: If they really want to do it, I’m definitely into believing that they can do it. But we also have to keep in mind that everybody who’s using third party apps, such as expanding, that they also pay for and sales navigator subscription on their
Andrew: Oh, got it. So now LinkedIn is making money off of all of your customers. I pay a hundred dollars for expanding, but I also have to pay, what is it? $59 for.
Stefan: a 6 59 59 front sales nav
Andrew: 59 for God. It, so they’re making money off of people who are doing this. They have less of an incentive to shut it down here. Here’s what I think is going to happen.
You tell me, let’s just riff about the future. First of all, I think this absolutely makes sense. The open rates are what the conversion rates are, what they’re high, give a sense of the numbers
Stefan: Um, if I run a great campaign, I achieve for sure 70% acceptance rate and then 55 reply rate as a minimum on each and every campaign we run in our team.
Andrew: today. And then, and then it’s more than that. It’s also the ability to connect with people who like your content right now. If I post a, um, if I put up a blog post on LinkedIn, a bunch of people thumbs it up, you know, give it the whole, the, the, the like button would in whatever flavor, LinkedIn, whatever they flavor, they decide to pick on LinkedIn.
It’s great. I feel an ego boost. I might scroll through the list and understand who it is, and maybe see a face or two that I know, but I’m not following up with them and saying, Hey, you like this other one, can I show you this other thing that I’m working on? Or you like this post. You should be considering signing up for my service and I could do this for you, right?
Your software expanding allows me to do that. So I get the value of it. Here’s what I think is going to happen. I think at some point, LinkedIn is going to get very envious of, uh, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. And they’re going to say, we want our own LinkedIn InMail. They’re going to rebrand it. Cause mail stinks as a name it’s going to have to be in chat or something.
Right. They’re going to make it into, uh, a communication platform or, or maybe it, it might even be part of teams or something. Right. And then they’re going to say, this is not going to take off. People are not going to keep their alerts on for it, unless we get rid of all the unwanted messages. And then they’ll go on some kind of crazy deletion process and Sue process and everything.
And they’ll stop everyone who’s doing it. Here’s why I don’t think that’s going to be the end for your business. I think that they will eventually open up channels for software to reach their audience because it’s helpful to have some automation for businesses. And second, I think that you always have other ways of reaching the audience.
Like you could still scrape people from LinkedIn using sales navigator and then go enhance it with email addresses and let your customers reach the people they want on regular email, right?
Stefan: Exactly and it’s, uh, to jump in here. That’s also one of the things we are working on right now, LinkedIn, maybe you’re familiar with the SSI score, the social selling index. Only one of the four pilots or the social selling index is about connecting and messaging. It give you actually an, an overview about how healthy your profile is and how your behavior and LinkedIn size is valued.
It’s actually a ranking from zero to 100 as a marks in the post.
Stefan: 90% of the people, they are social selling index score is less than 70, which means that they did not do spend enough attention to double or three buyers. And if you go a bit more in depth there, then LinkedIn, once two became and healthy and then brave user to do more things than only connecting with people.
They want to connect with people, you know, but LinkedIn also wants it to go on to create events, actually host events on LinkedIn, especially since the COVID has kicked in. It’s a great opportunity to online, engage with people and find your audience to an event you’re
Andrew: I didn’t realize they were in there encouraging events.
Stefan: Um, yeah, you can host your own event on LinkedIn and then engage and invite, uh, people on the platform itself.
Another thing is that if you scroll through your timeline, it’s full of valuable content from people in your first and secondary connections. LinkedIn also wants you and push you to create on a consistent and more frequent lead rate of valuable content in terms of videos and policy shifts and every kind of, of, of, of, uh, content you can post.
And if we summarize all these things, one of the things LinkedIn. To avoid spam because they say now enough is enough. Now, if you want to use the platform in the same way as you did before, there is actually no place anymore for you, because you do not understand it. So people ask who came out of their comfort, sounds change their behavior.
And one of the great opportunities is, is that you, if you’re, for example, create a new tenfold, LinkedIn, you can use the X fund event in fights to invite and engage with people to join and attend your event. And as I mentioned before, LinkedIn ones that you own. In-fight people you’re not. So exactly the people who are joining your event, that’s the right audience to approach afterwards.
If you’re going to create content on a consistent way on LinkedIn, we are building at the moment and event, sorry, and, and, and, and, and content collateral, which will help you to produce content and only, also posted automatically on LinkedIn. And if people are engaging with your content or at all people’s content, you can easily.
On a button and import all the people were engaged with all these types of content and use these ones as an audience. And other funders of expanding is that if you’re going to search right hashtag on LinkedIn, in your basic search bar, you can search post for defense, for groups of people and so on and so forth.
But if you’re going to search for buying hashtag event about topic, which met actually your business approach, and you can attend that event and expand the real, enable an option and give you an option to create people were also attending that event. And it was these ones as onions. So I think it will change a bit more to become unhealthy usual and try to find people on all the rays, then only messaging and sending and sending and
Andrew: you’re saying is LinkedIn has these behaviors that they’re trying to encourage. And what expanding is going to do is use its automation tools to help its customers do these things that LinkedIn is trying to encourage and do them better than any than anyone could do. It manually like create events for people who are, who are similar to them, like post content.
Okay. All right. I get
Stefan: we are currently building and we will release it next Thursday, the 8th of July and bedtime and, and, um, only channel approach, which will give you an opportunity to build out fonts and in-depth sequences with F L statements and also a native
Andrew: in the messaging or for more than that, so I could do if then if they liked three of my posts, then send them this message, that
Stefan: Yeah, let’s save it in an editorial. We can design our own sequence. We start with people who are attending and specific event. Just as an example goes, they match the, uh, the same topic as our own approach. They invest time to join that event. So they might be interested in similar things in industry. So we use that as a starting point.
Then we go into visit these profiles as a first step, and then we can set them trigger that there’s people are visiting back, that we can, for example, like their latest posts. And from there, we can follow the profile. And from there we can send a connection request and we can use.
Andrew: so only if they, you automatically will see if you automatically go to their profile page after they came to the event, then if they come back to my profile page afterwards, then you can, it triggers the Next action. Okay. What’s the next action.
Stefan: Next section should, uh, should be, for example, to realize one of their latest posts.
Stefan: And two days later, we gonna follow the, this
Andrew: So now this person sees me in my life a lot in their life a lot, and
they’re more likely to follow me.
Stefan: yeah. And then as a next step, we can say, okay, we want to send a connection request. And in that connection request, we can use hyper customized variables. For example, the title of their latest posts, the amount of people who liked that post, Hey Andrew, I was really amazed by your latest post about boom, a topic.
It that’s, it
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stefan: were engaged with it.
Andrew: All right. Let me ask you this. If I were going to use this say to promote my podcast, I wanted to use expanding. It seems like one thing I might do is take an interview that I did write an article about it.
posted on LinkedIn. Then maybe anyone who likes it, I might go and visit their profile.
Then if they visit my profile back, then I might follow them or connect with them on LinkedIn. And if they say, if I do this several times in a row, and they’ve liked maybe three of my posts about interviews, I might email them and say, I’m doing a live interview event. I thought you might like this.
Here’s the link. And now I’ve got a live event that they could then invite other people to. And then I could get all the people who’ve come to that live event and follow up with them with something else.
Stefan: Let let’s make it a bit of a
Andrew: specific. What could I do.
Stefan: Yeah. A bit of a more spectacular. We’ve built a native integration with a market leader on hyper-personalization it’s high price. It’s the toolkit to personalize everything there in the
Andrew: Eyes. Okay.
Stefan: It’s fully integrated with X in the new version of expanding. You can also connect your SMTP.
So in the sequence builder, after connecting, you can also say, okay, after connecting as a next step, I want to send an email. And in that email, I just want to say hi. Hey Andrew, with the personalized shift of myself. Write your name in it. Hey, I’m just here. If you, uh, want to have a coffee chat, and if you click on that shift, animation and email, it will forward you to personalize landing page on your own website, where you explain people, why they should book and call that you are.
Everything is personalized because of high price with that. Hey Stephan, thanks for visiting my page. This is the best way. And this you will achieve. If you book a call with me, I will give you a lot of value and so on and so forth. My company name you can include and that’s done because of we have all the information from the specific LinkedIn profile and the company at address of the LinkedIn.
Sorry of email.
Andrew: I see this hyper I S e.com hyper personalized your sales outreach, and two extra conversions. I have no idea. These tools exist even. Oh, look at that. And then, so they allow me to create a custom landing page with variables and exp expand. We’ll fill in the variable information,
Stefan: That’s true.
Andrew: dude. This is like a whole world of marketing out there that I had no idea about.
I knew obviously that there’s LinkedIn marketing. I had no idea this existed.
Stefan: reduce having a simple email step off of people connected. It’s such a personalized landing page. I booked a 43% more than most on top of only the LinkedIn, uh, outreach.
Andrew: Freaking, Hey, I like the, how this works with Infusionsoft, which I don’t love, um, with many chat with I, which I do love. So you’re saying I could also connect with them on multiple platforms, not just LinkedIn, not just email,
Stefan: Yeah. And that can be done through the new version of X family. There’ll be an email include as well.
Andrew: I think we’re going to publish this interview after that’s launched so that people can go and try it. As soon as it’s launched, this is phenomenal. This is, this is really powerful. I could see how it would be annoying in the wrong people’s hands, but I could also see how, if it’s really thought out, if it’s, if it’s something that’s used with care could be incredibly powerful, especially for high price sales, right.
That, that involve a phone call. All right now. I think that everyone who’s listening is now going through their head either saying, ah, this is not for me or say now, how do I use this? What’s like, what’s the tool? What do I think? How do I sell it? Here’s the thing. By the way I get no commission from there. So I’m not going to, we, the two of us, we’re probably never going to talk again, maybe 10 years from now.
We’ll message each other. So this is not like me selling your software, but I’m saying if anyone wants to go and see how expand he works, they should go to expanding.io, the images and everything on top look nice. But I would scroll past everything and then go into that bottom section. Where is it? It’s about a third of the way down.
That starts with growth hack. Number one, growth hack number two, not because these are the things you’re going to want to do, but it’ll show you what is possible, how you can see who’s on Facebook in a group, then get their contact information, then message them here. Then send them that like all that, if then not if this, then that, but this, this routine is really interesting to see and how it all works together.
So if we talk again in three months, maybe sales will be 6 million. And if we talk again in a year, sales might be even more than that.
Stefan: Uh, yeah, we definitely set our targets for the next year to go for a 10, 10, 9 refu. Okay.
Andrew: That’s uh, I could see how doable that is. This is interesting and exciting. And I think the big lesson for me is obviously start doing things on your own manually. And if they work, see if you can turn it into software, which sells. And the other thing is that there are these interesting pockets of innovation around marketing and everywhere else that we’re just naturally prone to say, ah, it’s not for me.
And what you did was you said, no, this LinkedIn thing is interesting. I don’t need affirmation from all these other, I don’t need, I don’t need Seth Godin to write a book on about how great LinkedIn marketing is before I have permission to go and do it. The fact that Seth Godin doesn’t even know about it and other people aren’t, or maybe even turning up their nose at it is an opportunity for me.
And you jumped in there. You said that, and you created the software and, and a business around it. Congratulations. All right. Thanks so much for being on here and thank you all for listening. And I want to especially thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you like this idea, you decide you want to create a digital agency using expanding, or frankly, have any other business idea that needs a website go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
And the second, when you’re ready to actually sell memberships, and I’ve had one for years here at Mixergy and expand your revenue beyond advertising, I urge you to go check out member full, and if you use my URL, you’ll get to use it for free it’s member, full.com/mixergy. All right, thanks so much for doing this interview.
Stefan: To be honest.
Andrew: Thanks, bye everyone.