2015 was full of changes for RightHello. Hard work that resulted in 300% revenue growth, allowed us to learn a lot about how a proper B2B start-up should work.
RightHello was founded in January 2014. Inspired by Aaron Ross, I had a plan to supercharge outbound sales for business around the world.
It’s important to learn from your success, but also (or – in particular) from your failures. In 2015 we all learned a lot about startup growth, but it doesn’t mean that there were no hiccups along the way – hiccups that could’ve killed us, but we managed to grow past them.
Here’s exactly what learned from our 2nd year of dynamic startup growth.
Startup growth – lessons about entrepreneurship, teamwork, marketing and sales
–>Aggressive planning does miracles.
There’s a chance you won’t achieve jaw-dropping goals, but they will give you a powerful motivational boost. If you have 10 closed deals mid-month, and your monthly goal is 60 – you start hauling ass and re-focus on your priorities.
And if you’re aiming for more, but end up achieving 300% startup revenue growth in a year, it’s still nothing to be ashamed of.
–>Evaluate business performance
To do it right, remember that you have to pick metrics (or KPIs, Key Performance Indicators) that give you a real outlook on whether your business is growing in the right direction.
To see it, you need a “North Star” metric. Supplementary metrics and legitimate indicators of performance for each in-house team are also important – but you can’t lead the whole company to achieve multiple goals. There’s only one “North Star” metric for startup growth, and it’s individual for all startups.
Remember about context – metrics themselves are nothing if you don’t fully understand them. If you’re doubling (tripling, quadrupling) down on product development to have an MVP ready in a month instead of 6 months, the most important indicator of your success won’t be profit increase in that month, it’s simply product completion stage.
–>Negative goals, ie. “avoid sth” instead of “achieve sth”
This is something that helps avoid internal struggles in startup teams. Look for things that steer you and your team away from priorities.
Recognising these things and planning against them will allow you to fix problems before they arise. A simple, actionable plan will help you stop shooting yourself in the foot.
–>Great people are everything, and I mean their human side, not just their portfolios
Hire people for their character and guide them towards expertise. Hiring 13 new people in 2015, we paid the biggest attention to their character – are they as eager to grow as we are? Are they willing to learn? Do they need a challenge in life? Do they have street smarts?
The most basic level of streets smarts that a startup requires is googling all your questions before wasting someone’s time to give you an answer that pops up on the first page of a search.
–>Get comfortable with delegating
No-one can do your job as good as you, right? WRONG.
People will have a different approach, others will mess-up at first (which is natural when you’re learning). Very few will do exactly what you would’ve done.
Let people do their work, and guide them towards reaching their goals instead of enforcing your own methods. You’ll never reach the “right moment” for delegating, it will always feel uncomfortable – so stop waiting for it, and let your team show you what they can do.
–>Always scout for potential candidates
We had a huge HR problem at the start of 2015. The only salesperson left for another job. Good salespeople are super hard to find. Recruiting them on a deadline is completely excruciating.
If we’d taken 2 hours out of each week to have coffee with 2 salespeople, and ask if they could imagine RightHello being part of their future career – we’d have a spreadsheet full of contacts right now.
Instead Bartosz had to focus on recruiting + maintaining sales, and work overnights between 2015/2016 to make sure we have a sales team at all in 2016. Pure pain.
Marketing – Inbound
–>Create various content, and then create more of what works
We published 37 blog posts this year (2 guest posts included), and 242 answers on Quora. It paid off with quality sales leads, and community appreciation – even if we don’t have hundreds of comments or shares, a lot of people have shown gratitude for our advice, in private emails or in person.
Our first lesson was that for a B2B startup, content creation doesn’t have to be a very tricky challenge – just create more of what works. We tried different content, and then measured what worked best – ie. delivered more leads. In our case – answering questions on Quora, and running our blog.
–>Don’t waste time on content creation
Articles in our industry aren’t supposed to be novels. We think of them as if we’re actually talking to someone and responding to one specific question, or solving a specific problem. Our most converting blog posts were the shortest, most specific ones. They also took the least amount of time to create.
The third lesson is a hack for content creation – give yourself 20 minutes each day to dump ideas and drafts of content. It’ll all add up:
- after a week you’ll have a blog post or a few Quora answers ready
- after a year you’ll have a book’s worth of content
Dump ideas – you can always have someone on your team edit them, or even outsource the editing. Plus, writing everyday might help you regain your peace of mind.
–>Remember the Pareto
Create a 100 great articles/Quora answers, but expect that 20 of them will generate a lot of leads. The other 80 is just as important, however not every article (no matter how great) will deliver leads. But they are part of a system that will allow you to generate leads from the 20 most effective articles/answers/whatever.
My most popular Quora answer was written for fun. One day I woke up to it having over 300k views, and generating 400% more visits to our website for 2 weeks – but it was completely unexpected.
Marketing – Outbound
–>The bigger your sales team, the more complicated outbound marketing gets
We’ve generated 2,5 times more leads for our sales duo in 2015 than in 2014 (check out – tips to improve sales performance). If you don’t think fast and organise everything in clear processes from the start (which we luckily did), you’ll end up in a clusterfuck of pain.
To avoid lead and deal “leakage” – automate, measure, iterate, improve. Write things down (build knowledge base).
–>Don’t chase one target market only
You’re not looking for the holy grail. If a target market isn’t converting to clients then just let go, define a new one and try again. Switching just one vertical can change a lot – like changing target location from UK to France, but still looking for the same industry, type of companies, etc.
If you need more leads I think we could help – go to this link and sign up through our sexy contact form.
–>Sell to abroad markets sooner than you feel comfortable
It’s scary – language barriers, timezone issues, etc. – we know it. We preach starting with your home market first, but going abroad quickly is another good move if you want to grow quicker – lern how to get more sales.
You’ll find your most converting target groups sooner (your first target abroad might not work out, you’ll have more time to iterate before leads in your home market dry out). We started early and in 2015 managed to acquire customers from 3 different continents.
Thank you’s and future plans
Surround yourself with awesome people. When you do that, giving huge value in return comes easily.
That’s why I want to give a huge THANK YOU to our team, clients, advisors, investors, friends and everyone that supports us.
You build this company.