Saas founders would agree that bootstrapping your SaaS to 7M ARR is no joke nor a walk in the park. Most of the later realized successes are often a result of hard work, total time input, and, most importantly, patience. The journey is always bumpy, with a lot of mistakes.
In today’s episode, we host Stefan Smulders, Founder of Expandi. He is currently Scaling his SaaS bootstrapped to $10M ARR. He is a real-life coach for aspiring SaaS entrepreneurs, particularly those who choose the bootstrap approach. He is as honest as he can be about his experiences, including his successes and failures as an entrepreneur.
How many Failures has he had before starting Expandi? The journey wasn’t as smooth as he had thought; his success wasn’t overnight. It took him about 8 years to build the project to success after plenty of failures and lessons learned. His first try at managing a business was a failure in which he blew 500K VC money. He has also tried his hand at running a service company, where he experienced remarkable success. Their company was among the pioneer software companies with liquid content and dynamic pages based on IP addresses. He first sought to leverage the power of social media through LinkedIn to help with the acquisition of his agency company.
How did he know Expandi would be a success? As an agency owner, he felt confident with the tool he developed that helped with managing his clients. As he couldn’t go without his own tool anymore he knew this was going to be something else.
How has he managed to stay bootstrapped for a long time? Since Q1 2019, they have bootstrapped their company through increased mortgages and hiring with their own market. During the global launch, they avoided the conventional marketing of paid advertisement. Instead, they sought about 300 data users from their previous software project Lead Express. They earned about 40 appointments from marketers on websites using IP tracking software. They offered discounted annual subscription fees to the 300 data users, of which 60 of them converted. They were able to break even after 4-5 months and remained profitable.
What are the Challenging aspects of bootstrapping his company? The first 15 months were the most challenging before breaking even. His young family was dependent on the income from the company. Also, the company’s growth has recently hit a plateau in different areas, and he was still trying to figure out what to do next. In fact, he has contemplated quitting on various occasions because of financial challenges and a lack of experience in uncharted territories of the business.
What would he do differently today? Stefan reckons that he would document processes and map out staff responsibilities to ensure the seamless running of things at the company.
What are some of the elements for the success of Expandi? He cites 3 main success factors for his company. While they entered an oversaturated market, they were able to appeal to clientele seeking to leverage their safety tools in speeding up processes and growing their revenue. Second, they differentiated themselves by presenting Stefan himself as the company’s brand ambassador, which managed to earn the customers’ trust, who were afraid of dealing with non-human avatars that were commonplace with other companies. Third, they designed strategies to leverage LinkedIn and applied them to Expandi while presenting the client with a simple, clear breakdown of the working of their tool. They avoided spending funds on traditional marketing by employing conventional alternatives such as posting on LinkedIn, retargeting, follow-ups, and seeking feedback that helped generate leads.
How did they Provide value to the end-user through differentiation? He utilized influencers in the form of top agency owners, partners, and affiliate marketing. In doing so, he was able to set up Expandi as an authority because the big players across industries were using his tool.
Advice to SaaS beginner earning 10k MRR – You should seek to leverage your personal brand and build connections through LinkedIn events and affiliate providers. It would help to seek to generate more lead magnets by demonstrating value in the solution on offer.
Advice to SaaS founders earning 1M ARR – You should seek to get many people into your eco-system to experiment with different strategies and processes. This network building will help in better marketing and revenue generation.
- (0:30) Introduction of topic and guest expert
- (1:35) Why you need to listen to Stefan
- (2:16) How many Failures has he had before starting Expandi?
- (06:35) How did he know Expandi would be a success
- (07:40) How has he managed to stay bootstrapped for a long time?
- (12:12) Did he consider raising funding when money started running out?
- (13:37) Challenging aspect of bootstrapping his company
- (17:38) What would he do differently today?
- (19:56) Elements for the success of Expandi
- (24:26) Providing value to the end-user through differentiation
- (28:05) Advice to SaaS beginner earning 10k MRR
- (29:47) Advice to SaaS founders earning 1M ARR
- (30:54) How to reach Stefan on Social media
Why should you listen to Stefan?
00:30 – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode on the Grow your B2B SaaS podcast. In this podcast, we will discuss all topics related to growing your SaaS. No matter in which stage you’re in, the best way to learn is to hear from other founders who already are at a level where you want to grow towards the challenges they had, how they overcome those, and the learnings they have along the way.
We will be talking to Stefan Smulders today, the founder of Expandi. They’ve been growing fast, especially in the first months. They went from zero to 7 million ARR under three years. The most amazing part for me was they did it fully bootstrapped. They also call him Seven, which stands for zero fee money, zero paid marketing, and 7 million in arr. Stefan has been sharing his knowledge already at big events like SaaStock, SaaSOpen and is actively sharing his journey on LinkedIn.
01:22 – Joran Hofman
We’re more than happy to have him on the show today. So, without further ado, welcome to the show, Stefan.
01:28 – Stefan Smulders
Many, thanks Joran. It’s an honor to be here and highly appreciate this great introduction.
01:35 – Joran Hofman
If people are not convinced to listen to you today after this intro, I haven’t seen you on LinkedIn yet. Could you explain in your own words, why should people listen to you today?
01:44 – Stefan Smulders
I try to be a great inspiration for especially early-stage bootstrap fast founders. I walked the talk myself and I built in public and share all my learnings and especially all my mistakes, as it looks now like an overnight success. It contains years of grinding hustling, failures, and lessons learned, and I try to share everything as honestly as possible about my journey.
E-book discussed: https://expandi.io/from-zero-to-saas-hero-ebook/
Number of failures before starting Expandi
02:09 – Joran Hofman
For the people listening, I would definitely recommend starting following Stefan on LinkedIn because he does share a lot. This is, I guess, like one of the things I wanted to ask first about the failures, because a lot of sales founders want their project to run off like yours, right? Definitely not the case for everybody. 70% of startups fail in the first five years. How many failures did you have before starting to Expandi?
02:29 – Stefan Smulders
To be fully transparent here, and I think it’s all the listeners. Quite an important question to know. Usually, people aim for to share only the good things, right? And the successes that take off. The expanded journey looks like an overnight success. It actually is the project itself because it took off really fast, but it took me at least eight years of lessons learned failures. My first project was also with my current SaaS co-founder Glenn. We tried to build a health app. We took $500k VC money and we burned it before we launched. So that was a pity one. I was, let’s say my mid-20s, my first experience with driving and managing a business and it turned out really awful from there. I experiment a couple of times with service companies so that’s a managed agencies that provide a managed service. Were quite strong at some point because one question actually kept me always triggered and it was more that if a website has 100 visitors how it could be that only two or 3% take contact and somehow that question never let me alone.
03:38 – Stefan Smulders
It was the start of a side hustle from a project called Lead Express where we built a similar software like your previous employer Leadfeeder, where we could identify website visitors based on IP. I think technology wise was maybe the first one who were able to build liquid content and dynamic pages based on these IPS. We actually only had a local database and were not that much focused on the most important part, it was the data itself. To enrich it so, long story short, I think that was quite an interesting journey but I also found out, due to multiple reasons, that it was more nice to have software for a lot of our users. I think we pushed it to maybe thousand subscriptions as a side hustle which became afterwards our main project. At the end all people wanted to engage with these identifications.
04:33 – Stefan Smulders
I saw some strange things happen that people call to the reception and you’re on it’s. Stefan here I saw maybe per accident some of your colleagues visited my website, came forward me to them I have no clue what you’re talking about, Stefan. It ends up and after a couple of times they start blaming me as a provider. It’s not working, it’s not perfect for us. Yeah, I think I defined it more as a nice to have software maybe also due to the incapabilities of a rich database, a very small team, a side hustle. Especially that triggered me to think about ways to do acquisition on a much more modern way. From there I jumped on LinkedIn as a newbie, never ever used it for commercial purposes was the beginning of an agency where I helped sea level decision makers like yourself to do a better job on LinkedIn and book engagement and create engagement and book appointments.
05:26 – Stefan Smulders
After managing X amount of accounts, the two left hands, one Excel sheet was running out of time and I thought let’s be clever and searched for ways to automate at least these repeated tasks. From there on, four years ago I stepped into a world, it’s called LinkedIn Automation. Not even aware about what’s going on there. That is a gray area at that time point as there was a huge burst around safety and people who want to leverage these tools and on the other hand, nobody want to get problems with LinkedIn a bunch of crappy tools. I think we all used them in the past or leveraged some of them due to a lack of features. I was stuck again in managing multiple accounts in one admin. Not possible. Out of frustration, I shared it again with Glenn, and Glenn came up with medical ID to just build a thing ourselves and built in all the features you need, from agency perspective, or at least to manage more profile seamless in the cloud with an intelligent architecture that was the first footprint towards our expanded journey.
06:26 – Stefan Smulders
That whole journey from what I just shared to at least seven, eight years before we started on the expanded project.
How did you know Expandi was going to grow and be different?
06:33 – Joran Hofman
Interesting, you both say they kind of come from a service background, right? Or an agency background where you first helped clients and then you develop something. It’s interesting because you say you have 1000 subs at the previous company, right? How did things were going to be different with Expandi?
06:50 – Stefan Smulders
To be honest, I really felt, as I was leveraging such a tool myself as an agency owner, that if I could make it, at some point I found a tool which came closed at that moment to the beginning tool of expanding. I thought, I actually can’t miss this tool, but if I can’t manage my clients in this tool, then I’m stuck. Then I don’t know what to do. Actually, from that moment on I was so confident that if I could make it better, should be a huge demand for such a tool from that moment on. Very confident that it would be possible to take off and make a lot of people happy with it.
07:31 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, it’s going back to the term eat your own dog food, make sure that you use your own tool. Exactly what people are struggling with. I think that’s the key here.
07:39 – Stefan Smulders
07:40 – Joran Hofman
You’re still bootstrapped?
07:42 – Stefan Smulders
How have you been able to stay bootstrapped?
07:42 – Joran Hofman
I mean, you have been growing fast, of course, which means you have been selling a lot of subscriptions and money coming in. How have you been able to stay bootstrapped like all this time still?
07:51 – Stefan Smulders
It was challenging, especially the time before we launched. For example, we decided to put effort in this project from first quarter of 2019 and similar as a story you shared before the episode that if your coder says it will take an X amount of time, you can extreme it. That was the same with Glenn’s anto session in that time. We promised within three months we have a Beta running and in the meantime, I was preparing all things for a Beta pilot and it took four months five months. Six months and were only hiring some debts. From our own money and we increased our mortgages and to get some extra to bring some extra money on the table. With extending it each and every month, it also became a bit of a more tight towards the moment that we needed to launch it. We actually did not have the money to do it.
08:44 – Stefan Smulders
I could not even think about traditional marketing or paid advertisements. We wanted to launch it globally, as we found out in our beta that on the local Dutch market should not be realistically take off that well. What helped for us was that we had 300 beta users, and we found them on a cool way. As from our previous project, Lead Express, I was so confident that people really liked that software. I also struggling with best ways to follow up that I thought, okay, some of our competitors, these customers, they must have the same experiences as we detected. As a provider of an IP tracking software. I use built with I scraped I think from Sales feed and all of IP tracking software their customer based on the tracking script. I approached all these marketers from these websites with this approach to ask them the specific question they all confirmed and we booked, I think at least 40 appointments in our bedside using expanding full of bugs.
09:42 – Stefan Smulders
But we showed that it worked. It took me 20 minutes to convince them that LinkedIn was the best channel to go to. I need to convince them another 20 minutes. By the way, you also can automate all these repeated tasks. After I convinced them one week later during the pilot or the beta, they came back. Do you have a feedback on what to send us people not engaging? I thought if we want to scale this year, it’s impossible. We did a step back, we analyzed the situation and we concluded on the fact that we need to launch it globally. We actually need to find steps. We were already in laugh at LinkedIn, were using automation tools but so we moved a bit in that direction and to make that happen, we offered all these 300 beta users annual subscription with a reduced price point and additionally to help them build sequences which we use from our previous agency experiences.
10:36 – Stefan Smulders
Around 60 of these people, they took advantage of that offer. We gained around 55K, if I’m not mistaken. That helped us to rent an office in Hangover before were working in the garden, one of our co founders with a bit of heater and it was quite cold when we started in February. The extra money helped us to think and prepare some growth tactics to launch it on the global market. Hacked as well, if it took two or three months longer, were running out of money it was 100% sure. Somehow these things came close on time together. After we launched it was exactly on 15 November 2019 that we plugged in our stripe account. It took off really fast and I think within four or five months were break even. So actually that went really fast. From that moment on, we always stayed profitable and in the beginning very lean and we thought inexperienced founders.
11:41 – Stefan Smulders
That was quite good at that time point and maybe it was somehow but in the next growth stage, we faced so much challenges by identifying that we and nobody in the team had skills or walk to talk before to grow it from a starter to a skill or to help make that transition at that time going really well. And it helped us to stay profitable. Almost immediately became profitable, let’s say like that.
Why Expandi did not raise any VC money
12:09 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, really nice. Especially in the early stage because you mentioned Lead Express or before Lead Express, you took funding, right? You burnt that money pretty quickly in that phase, I guess at the early stages, have you ever thought about raising funding? Funding because the money started to run out.
12:27 – Stefan Smulders
That question somehow. I think if I analyzed it and I did it already a couple of times, I think maybe that mistake, that failure, which emotionally felt really hard for me at my mid 20s, that I never wanted to put myself in such a dependent situation again. Maybe due to that happens, I think it triggered me that much to try to do everything possible on my own. Maybe that was the beginning of that. It helps with that mindset to push it bootstrap, no matter what, grinding hustling and keep going. Maybe it makes a stronger mentality and also the awareness of, okay, it’s nice to take money, but if it goes wrong and I experienced both sides of running a business in my early 20s, mid 20s with fee money, which was totally messed up and now without any help doing a bootstrap. I think that experience created these insights and something I never wanted to go back to.
The most challenging part of bootstrapping to 7M ARR
13:31 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, that was really good learning. We, I guess, like, zoom out, what do you think so far has been the most challenging part of bootstrapping? Expandi.
13:42 – Stefan Smulders
You should say it’s. Maybe in the beginning, with no money coming in to support your family by extending and then working. Eight months before we launched it on the project, up until the moment we became break even, it took maybe 15 months or so from scratch to build, to launch, and to break even. So you should say that. Somehow it always felt, okay, that’s really a tough situation with a young family and a very small kid and not actually be able to support properly your wife somehow. I think last year or one and a half year ago, we grow up onwards to 6 million. There we reached plateaus on different areas. I had no answers, I guess mainly due to an experience on my side and for my other co founders. Actually from that moment on to change all these things. It felt way harder than I was not even thinking anymore about the hustling, the grinding from the early days.
14:41 – Stefan Smulders
To turn that situation around was maybe the most challenging from my side, especially as I analyzing the situation. I built all of a list with 20 successful Dutch SaaS founders who were ahead of me, some who exited and ten directors of Dutch VCs just to share my story. I think at that time point we made three hundred K net profit each month and I really felt depressive. I had no clue what to do. I thought about quitting mainly because I had no answers. I never walked to talk from that stage. I found out I’m more early stage startup founder like to do things with the growth hack mentality. I was never measuring things, it was just my good feelings and most of the times they were in the right direction and it was a small thing to adjust them and took things off with experimenting a lot on that side.
15:29 – Stefan Smulders
After we became bigger, more people in the company, we needed to build and process the structure, create teams, manage these people and that were actually all the things I was not capable. I did not liked it. I felt really worse. I wanted to escape. That was actually for me the hardest part. It took really long to talk about company foundations, cultures and of course we took some help to think about these things. That whole process from starting to think about and hiring the right people and if you’re close to a hire that they took another job and that we did not position ourselves the right way, it’s managing all these people and it is really definitely that part.
16:15 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. It’s really interesting because you have 300 gain net profit and that is the most challenging part. It’s not actual the money part, it’s not even the growth part because you were selling really fast, but it’s more the things you’ve never experienced before.
16:29 – Stefan Smulders
Of course, in my case, definitely by far on number one. You get forced each and every time to step out of your comfort zones to try to find solutions. People rely on you and on my other co founders. You need to team up and you need to bring in the structures and try to contribute until the moment that the people are there and that they become self supporting. It was a relief. One and a half year later, let’s say right now that we have such a great people in the company that I stepped out of the daily operations also to not mess with all these processes. Things for me also changed a lot as now I’m building more the brand. Why? To be more visible, do a lot of things outside of the company and that feels really like fish in the water. Confidence to see that things keep running in expanding.
What would you do differently growing your SaaS if you could?
17:25 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, it’s the Hustling in the early days but then in a completely different way where you can kind of just show your face everywhere, make sure the brand keeps growing. Processes are in place within the company itself, I guess. Yes, I think I kind of know the answer right now already. If you could go back and do things differently, what would you do differently?
17:47 – Stefan Smulders
Yeah, we face in a later stage, maybe after hitting 1 million run rates or so, that the processes and structures became way more important. Documenting things, creating clarity for people. In the beginning everybody was wearing multiple heads, way too many people were very flexible, they were grinding, they were working a lot. But everything relied on specific individuals. With the knowledge now I should document these things better. I should try to create a process as a clarity, map out an outline on a sophisticated way, what people need to do, what are their responsibilities. That’s one of the first things I should do. Definitely different.
18:30 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. Like really creating processes from the beginning so people know exactly what to do. Again, you probably wouldn’t do it too early as well because that grinding part that’s of course really important to kick-start things right? Or would you already put it somewhat in place at that time?
18:46 – Stefan Smulders
Yeah, it is a chicken and an acre situation. First you need to try to find traction and then you want to get feedback on the things you’ve built and then you want to find the right channels and scale in these channels if you get some traction. Maybe it’s also organic journey based on the speed and on the feedback and on the quality of the product that will rapidly change things, especially in these six months up until a year. On the other hand, you’re doing so many things yourself that maybe earlier start to document these things, to be able to hand it over to other people. Otherwise you very fast start creating their perception that nobody else can do it and that’s impossible. Only you can do it. It’s quite hard to teach other people to do it and then you keep doing it, or other people for example.
19:37 – Stefan Smulders
It’s just a bubble and it’s very hard to come out of it.
What has been the biggest drive behind the success of Expandi?
19:41 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. And especially not only for yourself. If people would leave then you want to have that knowledge somewhere. If somebody else steps in then they can take over without having to figure everything out themselves. We talk about things you would do differently what do you think has been the biggest driver for the success of Expandi?
20:00 – Stefan Smulders
I think it’s actually three things. If I break it down. We stepped into a market which was at that time point more a gray area. It’s by the way, not illegal bit of our law, but somehow LinkedIn, if you look at black and white in the terms on policy, they were not that amused with third party apps on their platform and there were already a bunch of them. We joined quite an oversaturated market with tons of tools which were able to do at least a trick on LinkedIn. Maybe not all that advanced, but at some point everybody, especially all our US friends, they wanted to leverage these tools because they were able to speed up things, they were able to make more money, they could reduce time efforts. On the other hand, there was at some point a huge bus around safety as some crappy tools, the most spammy ones they called, cracked down by LinkedIn due to some changes they made on the platform.
20:57 – Stefan Smulders
I think in reality maybe a handful or a couple of handful of people lost their profiles. The bus was as it looked like four years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people did that. I took advantage of that bus and I thought if safety is the main priority and the most important thing for everybody, let’s just pronounce ourselves as well. Safest tool. Of course we did some good jobs on building an intelligent architecture, making it cloud based, working with these dedicated IPS. In the beginning I was just praying and begging that it did not fall apart and I kept screaming and screaming or be the safest tool. Nobody can beat us, LinkedIn can find us. I think that was one of the main drivers. Apart from that, due to the fact that maybe all these providers were scared for Bill Gates that he should come there and spank all of them and crack their tools down.
21:49 – Stefan Smulders
I thought if he want to find me, if you want to go after me, he will find me anyway. It makes no sense to hide me. Let’s just do the opposite and try to make myself the face of the brand and be always available and show that we are a reliable company that people can engage with. We provide a demo one one calls and I think especially at that point of time, it was an eye opener for people. It can be different. It feels really safe because oh, that’s real people behind the company. I’m not talking to an email address, to an avatar. I don’t have to wait two days. They have a high quality past support. I think that is definitely second driver number two. The third one by far is that all these providers at that time point they were only pronouncing on their site ten x here come leverage use our tool.
22:37 – Stefan Smulders
We ten x your results. Nobody was explaining how to do so. We started heavily with designing out of the box strategies to leverage, LinkedIn and use them with real profiles. Our own profiles in expanding. And the best performing ones. We took them apart. We broke them down with the how. What did we exactly? The why? What were the results? Which messages we use, how we connected the dots, the proof screenshots from 40 appointments we booked. We started to distribute these ones as playbooks. Because at some point we became the CNN from LinkedIn lead generation and we gained so much traffic towards our blog and people appreciated it. These strategies were really working so well because we executed, we got these results ourselves. It was obvious that other people should be able to achieve close to the same positive results that helped us, without spending money on traditional marketing to drive with a lot of manual distribution.
23:40 – Stefan Smulders
In the beginning they were not even sale optimized, but were doing posts on LinkedIn, we asked for a comment, we showed the GIF, we followed up on all these people to share the links. We did the small retargeting on it, we did it in Facebook groups where our audiences were, we did it for example, on Indie Hackers with IP addresses. We upfronted manually on Growth Hackers, on Seth we wrote Cora answers every day. All these efforts because at that time, when it was a full time job for a couple of people, included me, that distribution part helped us to make that one of the main drivers of generating leads. And up until now. It’s now more structured, more organized, and way more better ideas behind. It’s. Still our number one driver for generating new business.
24:25 – Joran Hofman
I don’t think you mentioned it yet, but I think the biggest thing is here, you’re actually trying to provide value towards the end users, so you’re actually showing them how to walk through your tool, how to actually get value out of it, without not always, of course, showing the tool, maybe within the playbooks, but showing them exactly what do they need to do? Here’s expanding here you can use us to do exactly this automated.
24:50 – Stefan Smulders
Yeah, and to stand out of the crowd. I understood really well that it would make sense to team up with Micro influencers with top agency owners, which were our main audiences. I tried to become friends with guys like Rowan Chowby. India’s most followed growth hacker with Houston Golden. It was at that time point, I think together with Josh Fetcher, they were on the agency side, top notch with Kosman’s team from Sales Process, from guys I tried to become friends with partners and I could always in every conversation mention these guys are using this oh, by the way, these guys are using us. As well. Oh, by the way, these guys. Behind the scenes, it created a lot of awareness authority. I managed even to get Houston do a testimonial on our video testimonial on our homepage. I wrote ebooks with him on the COVID with Rowan Chowby on the COVID But at that time point, that really helped us to establish a brand and to make expanding an authority in this great niche more an established company comparing to the other ones, which were more suspicious and not transparent.
How Affiliates Helped Expandi to Grow to 7M ARR
26:02 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, because there was one question I wanted to ask you. As you now mentioned, I think we consider these more partners, right, where they really helped you to grow and you leverage them with veritas. We build an affiliate management tool. How important have been affiliates and partners for you really to grow expandi, mainly.
26:21 – Stefan Smulders
Due to what I just mentioned, to build up awareness authority. If you are backed by these big bowlers, these huge names are using this. That’s more from the micro-influencer and the partner side. Before we launched, we met our current CMO. Max served in a huge Russian-speaking online community with Ukrainians, mainly Ukrainians and people from Belarus and Russia based on legion tactics strategies. He became a really fast and very important affiliate for us, which also himself made quite a decent amount of money out of mentioning expanding and use it in the processes he shared with his audiences. He was the first one, and I think until now, we have hundreds of affiliates. There are a couple of challenges, but that’s more tool related. It’s always the hardest part if you don’t have dedicated person who is, I should say, maybe the best words possible, who’s on it to push it forward.
27:22 – Stefan Smulders
Because signing up for an affiliate, that can be done within a couple of minutes, as but motivates people to keep going and to provide them with the right set of information or deliverables, that’s the second thing. It’s quite an interesting business model, especially as we paid out already hundreds of thousands of affiliate commissions so far.
27:44 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, what I like about it, and as you mentioned, it’s an interesting business model because you don’t pay anything out before they actually generate money for you. It’s always cost.
27:53 – Stefan Smulders
It will be rewarded after the transaction in the subscription is made.
Advice for founder growing to 10k MRR
27:59 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. We are coming to the end. I always like to ask these two questions like, what kind of advice would you give other SaaS founders in these two stages? Starting with somebody who’s growing to 10k MRR.
28:13 – Stefan Smulders
Yeah, I would keep it quite simple. I think right now, at this moment, a perfect time to leverage a personal brand, to build our first authority, to leverage your first degree connection. To do that, I should host the LinkedIn event. With all the knowledge you gathered until the moment where you are right now, you exactly know all the. Pains from companies like myself who are leveraging affiliate providers. I should think about talking them through these pains in a life event and follow up boosted heavily by leveraging your first degree connections, which you actually 90% of the time do not approach anymore after connecting with them and follow up on all these people after showing your expertise in a live session. I should think about lead magnets where you show on a practical way, how you solve pains, or especially more important, how you’ll be able to make more money for them.
29:03 – Stefan Smulders
I should think about giveaway strategies. As your personal brand is growing, more people will opt in for that and the ones which worked for me and still working really well. I hit three viral posts only in the last four weeks, only on LinkedIn, and I’m not even talking about Twitter, for example. Within giveaway strategy, I provide a lead magnet with pure value, with practical information and bombs people can tell you bombs people can use and leverage to make more money. I should focus on that. If I see what attraction it gets right now, then only doing that should help you to get in phase of the right audiences. You want to serve nice.
Advice for founders growing to 1M ARR
29:44 – Joran Hofman
When we take it one step further so for founders who actually went past ten 10k MRR and now growing to 1 million ARR, what kind of advice would you give to them?
29:55 – Stefan Smulders
The mistake I made was from that moment on that I was not even thinking about the structure and the processes and not even working in a CRM. I think if you leverage the IDs, I see how to reach ten K. You have a lot of optins, you have a lot of people you actually need to get them in your ecosystem. That’s what you want, right? To get them in your ecosystem, it can be with systems. So, for example, a CRM or a marketing automation tool to round up this question, to focus on building out in community in a safe place, to put people in your ecosystem, to ask a feedback, to experiment with different strategies, with tactics to involve them in maybe features based on their input. You go and build or prevail with as the next steps, simply by creating a community and implementing more systems which will help you to do a better job on systematic marketing approaches.
30:49 – Joran Hofman
Nice. That comes down to the processes you talked before.
30:53 – Stefan Smulders
30:53 – Joran Hofman
You said lead magnets. We talked about a lot of things already today. I know you have a lead magnet which is called From Zero to SaaS Hero.
31:03 – Stefan Smulders
31:04 – Joran Hofman
Which people would definitely need to check out? Where can they find more information about how we did everything and documented everything in this ebook?
31:12 – Stefan Smulders
Maybe the most easiest way is that I to share a link with you and that you added to the episode that people can pick it up from there straight away (here). For the ones who got enthusiastic about my journey or want to follow me, hear more about my failures and learnings, I share all these things on LinkedIn. Stefan Smulders. It’s my profile. And on Twitter. For the ones who want to leverage or consider LinkedIn as an interesting channel for lead generation recruitment, I should recommend to just go to our expanding blog on our website where we share pure value bones and tactics and strategies and give people ideas on what you can do and how you can leverage LinkedIn these days successfully. That hopefully gives at least some inspiration and ideas that it is way more than just sending a connection request and spam people with the follow up messages to book an appointment as that is currently not working and that’s fine anymore.
32:08 – Joran Hofman
No, I can definitely agree to that and relate to that. Thanks again for coming on the show. I guess like, any final thoughts before we close things off from my end?
32:17 – Stefan Smulders
I think to keep up the good work. I see you lately everywhere. I guess working on your personal brand is taking off really well. Leverage that. Good to see you hosting such a great podcast.
32:30 – Joran Hofman
Yes, thanks. Yeah, I can definitely check off the one where I’m present everywhere. I’m building a personal brand. Thanks again, Stefan, for sharing your knowledge. We will add all the links and everything related, to what we discussed today in the transcript and in the show notes, so you will find everything there. Cheers. Thanks.