It’s the Summer of 2013.
I’m working away at trying to build an online magazine, working tirelessly to acquire more unique visitors to the site.
Our audience was growing significantly month-over-month but we weren’t making any money. My co-founder was working a full-time job and I was bartending on weekends to pay the bills.
To be honest, it was a pretty dark time. I was full of self-doubt, wondering if what we were doing was worth the time and effort.
Then everything changed.
During the middle of the month, a person who’d been following our magazine reached out to us asking if we could help market his business. In that instant, we pivoted from a magazine to a marketing agency.
Our first client, who’s still with us today, came on board for $1000/mo. That’s obviously not enough to support a company. But, it was still a ton of cash for a company that was previously making zilch.
So we stayed on course, working our part time jobs and running the marketing for this client.
$0 to $400K In Sales In 24 Months
Within 60 days, they had experienced a 30% increase in leads against the previous year – what we were doing was working. Our client, who has a wide network of subcontracting companies underneath him quickly introduced us to several more clients.
Within 90 days we had amassed 5 clients and $4000/mo in revenue. When you do good work, people will talk about you.
Once we hit this plateau, myself and cofounder Michael Prempeh quit our jobs and devoted 100% of our efforts into the company.
From that point on, we have been able to grow our marketing agency to $400,000 in sales in 24 months.
Some of the driving factors behind this will be explained in the points below.
1) Doing Quality Work is Often The Best Sales Tactic
We put a lot of pride into the quality of our work, constantly trying to tell the best brand stories possible for clients. This has driven a business sales funnel that is 90% dependent on referrals, and it’s working.
2) Being Selective In Clients Drives Quality Referrals
We were told early on to be selective with our clients, and it’s been one of the best things we’ve done. Within our first 90 days, we fired a client that was demanding 75% of our time but only contributing to 10% of our revenue.
Though counter-intuitive, cutting revenues can sometimes be pivotal to company growth. It does a few things when you drop a bad client, (i) it increases your general mood and (ii) gave us more time to put into our top clients.
By doubling down on our best clients, they returned the favor with driving quality referrals.
3) Referrals Are Golden
As we started to work with different clients, we made it a mission to create relationships with everyone working on the project.
Not only did this give us a deeper understanding of our clients, it also put us in positions for referrals when employees left the company for other career opportunities.
Here is a real life example of this:
We started working with Client A, gained the trust of their COO and had a great time collaborating on projects with them. Shortly after, the COO was offered a position at an emerging software company in the same industry that we’ll call Client B.
Once there, knowing our capabilities, and equipped with a bigger budget, the former COO was able to contract our services to the fullest.
Our commitment to quality work with client A, led to a contract that was 3X the size with client B.
This story has seem to repeat itself every four to six months as we continue to grow.
4) Every Team Member is In Sales
Every team member at Cave Social has brought in at least one client. It doesn’t matter if it’s our creative director, SEO specialist or content manager, they all sell.
What I mean by this is that everyone on our team has got our elevator pitch down, and understands why we do what we do.
So when our team members are at a cocktail party or visiting an old friend, they don’t just talk about what they do for a living, they’re proud of what they do for a living.
It’s important to note that we don’t have any sales quotas for team members, these are done off their own accord because our they are behind the company vision, 100%.
5) Work Life Balance Isn’t Real
Bootstrapping a business with little to no capital takes serious effort. With that, social activities often have to play second fiddle to work. We’ve had to sacrifice plenty of weekends for the business.
There’s no way around it, building the business has to be top priority in your life until you have hit break-even and that’s when the game really starts.