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How do you raise $100,000 in one day for a product that doesn't exist yet?

David runs a successful digital marketing agency and was given the impossible task of raising $100,000 for a product that didn’t exist yet with a marketing budget of only $5,000.

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Key Takeaways

Identify, experiment, personalize, and scale!

Understand the Market

Start with a series of customer interviews to understand what’s actually going to resonate.

Experiment With Everything

They created over 3000 different marketing experiments to see what worked.

Create Customer Segments

David created 40-50 different segments to market to because they would each perceive the product in a different way.

Scale With Referrals

They saw 28% more “hot leads” from their KickoffLabs referral campaign.

Interview Bio

David Blinov - Founder - The F Company

David started his first online venture when he was 16 in school where he enlisted his classmates to build an affilaite marketing company with him. He's worked in digital marketing since and recently decided to turn all of this practical digital marketing experience into an agency that helped other people succeed and bring their products to market.

The F Company is an award-winning B2B Growth Marketing agency based in Helsinki that has tripled sales year after year. They help companies grow online through experiments, data and marketing technology.

Check out the full case study from this podcast on their site.

Full Transcript

Josh: I'm talking to David Blinov. I heard about David because we have a search for KickoffLabs that runs, like most business owners probably do. And it pulled back one of the Reddit posts he made, and the Reddit post was titled How We Made $100,000 in 24 hours Without a Real Product.

Josh: We've got a lot of customers that would like to have that kind of success. In his brief introduction to the post, David says he's a digital marketing agency owner out of Helsinki, Finland. And they started this preorder campaign in 2017, and now they've made over $100,000 in one day. And so I want to talk about the things leading up to that, the campaign itself, and then how the sales were generated along the way. So thanks for coming on the podcast, David.

David: Thanks for having me, Josh. This is really exciting. I love your tool and I love what you're doing. And you're to trying to help business owners get fantastic results. So I would be happy to share my experience with you and your listeners.

Josh: So I listed a brief overview of the success you guys had, but you had some points in the post along the way. So you're obviously, the post is also a promotion in and of itself, but how did you define success and what successes have you achieved to date with this campaign?

This was the first project we ever did. We wanted to show the world what's possible with innovative marketing technolog and with some innovative thinking.



David: Well, you know, as you've mentioned some, I'm a digital marketing agency owner and we're now about two and a half years old. And funnily enough, this particular project that we're talking about today, this was the first project we ever did.

In total the campaign has raised about 150k!



David: And it was something that was used to kick off our agency, so to speak. And in a way, we had completely free hands to do whatever we wanted. And we treated it is one large experiment. So we wanted to show the world what's possible with innovative marketing technology, with some innovative thinking. And despite having a very small budgets in a very limited amount of time, we were able to get significant results for our first client at the time. So we made 100,000 in the first evening, essentially. And in total the campaign has raised about 150k. And so that was a big success for us and we sort of built up the agency based on that. We don't necessarily do crowd funding projects anymore. We kind of moved away from that. We are a B2B growth marketing agency now. But that project still remains one of my favorites. It has a special place in my heart.

Josh: That's great. And so let's go back a little bit, and I'd like to dig into your background and how you got to this point before the project. So have you always been an independent, like an agency owner? Or have you, did you evolve into that after working somewhere else?

David: You know, funnily enough I've been doing digital marketing my entire life. And I started my first venture, online venture, when I was 16. I was still in high school and I employed a bunch of my classmates. We did affiliate marketing, promoting software, promoting different products online. And because I was just a teenager, I had no idea how anything worked, to be honest. I had no idea you had to pay taxes on your sales. So I would essentially pay my classmates in an envelope. I would bring an envelope to school and I would feel like this successful businessman, in a way. And that's where it all started.

David: Just turned 30 couple of days ago. So I've been doing this for about 13 years. And this is my first digital agency. At some point I decided to turn all of this practical experience into a business where I would help other people succeed and bring their products to market. And so far that's been going pretty well. So our agency is growing quite quickly. We're tripling our sales year after year, and things are good.

Josh: That's amazing. And so you say this project is sort of the first one that got the agency started. So let's go back specifically into this project. Did the client come to you? Did you know them? How did you source the client to begin with?

David: You know, the client came to us. I was introduced to the client by a mutual friend of ours, and we went for lunch, we went to a restaurant for lunch. And I remember that particular meeting, because we had a napkin between us, and he took a marker out, a marker pen, and he started drawing a concept of a product on the napkin. And so it was kind of like in the movies. I personally love wristwatches. I had my own little collection at home. And I get really excited about the concept of designer smartwatch.

David: So it was a smartwatch that was supposed to be created by a famous Finnish designer. And there would be no smart functionality to speak of, but it would be all about the design. You could change the watch faces and you can change the straps to fit your outfit, to fit your mood.

David: You wake up in the morning, you don't have to start thinking about which watch you should wear today. One watch was supposed to fit every life situation, in a way. And that was as much as we had at the time. We had a napkin with a drawing of the product. And obviously the person, the client had a little bit of money to invest. It was a really limited amount. Our ad budget was €4,000, which is about $5,000.

Josh: Yeah, it's not much.

David: It's not a lot at all, actually. And he had a couple investors lined up, but the investors told them that they would not invest unless he launched a successful preorder campaign and actually managed to prove in whichever way that there was a market for this product. And he came to me and he said, "Look, we have a little bit of money. We have this idea. We can make a couple of renders, 3D renders with a designer, what can you do? Can you help me prove to the investors that this is actually a viable product?".

David: And I saw this as an opportunity to try out new things, do something a little bit different. And if it works out, then we have the first case for agency. And I was employed somewhere else at the time and I was just playing with this idea of starting a marketing agency. So this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Josh: That's great. And it probably helped that you were passionate about the space, especially since you were going to be doing it on the side while you were employed, right?

David: Definitely, yes. And I was just really excited about the product. Thought it was a brilliant idea and I kind of ... The company order managed to get me really fired up about it. So I was ready to work on it without sort of any guarantee of success, really.

Josh: So in the post you talked about a three-step growth marketing model. And so could you walk us through what that means to you? Because every agency has their own process and methodologies, and so I'd love to walk through your process, at least the ones you used for this campaign here.

You start by getting a really deep understanding of what's really going on with your product or your market.



David: Yeah. So we are a growth marketing agency. That's what we do. So we focus on innovative technology, we focus on experiments, we focused on collecting and analyzing a lot of data. So we came up with a three-step process that we sort of refined through the years and now we arrived to the model that I described in the Reddit post where, as a big picture, you start by getting a really deep understanding of what's really going on with your product or your market.

David: Because what I've noticed in my experience is that what marketers think the problem is, most of the time is not the actual problem, it's just a symptom. And the actual challenges lie much deeper. So when we approach our marketing projects and client project, we always start with very in-depth research and analysis. We dig very deep into the data. We do interviews with their sales team, their marketing team, and their customers to try and understand what is actually going on. That's the first step.

The second step is trying to understand what is the best way to fix that challenge. And we do it through experiments.



David: The second step is trying to understand what is the best way to fix that challenge. And we do it through experiments. It's a growth marketing agency, experimentation is the core of what we do. And so what we do is we come up with a number of hypotheses for how this challenge can be solved. And depending on your business, it could be 10, 20, or a hundred different experiments that we can run.

Just some landing page experiments!

David: We run them one against another pretty much at the same time. And we collect data in this ongoing mode and we turn off the experiments that underperform, they don't reach our KPIs. And then we focus our remaining time and resources on the ones that's worked really well. And the end of this cycle, it might be weeks, it might be months, you're left with a number of experiments that actually perform better than the others.

Josh: Now I want to stop you for a second. So you're talking about running these experiments, and in the post that says you ran 3,000 marketing experiments, testing channels, messages, visuals, calls to action. So when you're saying experiment, in this case, you're kind of specifically talking about seeing how a specific pitch with a combination of those things in an advertising channel worked, right, for the product?

David: Absolutely. And I think this particular campaign is a little bit different because as a starting point, we didn't have a product, we didn't have a market, we had no data, we had no materials. Essentially we had no idea of what we would be selling and to whom. And one of the reasons we needed so many experiments, in this case 3,000, is because we wanted to test every possible hypothesis and every possible scenario in a very short period of time to understand who the buyer personas would be and what we should tell them.

Josh: So how did you run 3,000 experiments on a budget of $5,000?

David: That's the question. Obviously we relied a lot on marketing technology, and we did have very limited budget for marketing tools. We're talking literally hundreds of dollars. And within that budget we had to build landing pages, we had to generate traffic and we had to nurture the leads using some marketing automation tool. And then obviously we had to create some type of referral program as well. And we went with, the tools from went with were Instapage for landing pages, we used AdEspresso to create ad copy variations on Facebook and Instagram. We used Autopilot as a sort of lean marketing automation tool. And then obviously, the reason I'm here talking to you, is because we used KickoffLabs to run our referral program.

Josh: So how did KickoffLabs fit in with those experiments as you scaled it? Because KickoffLabs comes in when you talk about step three. So once you've run all these experiments and you're figuring out what message works the best and what combination of landing pages and advertising works the best, you say, "Okay, now we're going to really scale this up to grow a list and to grow an audience for the product." How did KickoffLabs fit into that for you?

David: Yeah. Just like you said, KickoffLabs comes in at sort of the latter part of the project where, after a couple of weeks of running multiple experiments, thousands of experiments, we knew exactly what the message should be and who we should target. And we managed to collect about 3,000 leads with our $5,000 budget. And as we were running these experiments, just to give you an example, we started by launching 18 different websites. People usually start with one, we launched 18 different pages that had completely different messaging for different demographics. And we had two and a half thousand different ad campaigns that we launched through AdEspresso.

David: But then after a couple of weeks of running those campaigns, we narrowed it down to just three different sites, websites, and about 10 different ad campaigns. And we we used data of course to show us what's the best message, the right time, and the right demographic.

David: So throughout this process we managed to generate several thousand leads. And of course that's really good. They were engaging, they were engaging with our content. And they were excited about what we're doing. So at that point we felt that the probability of success is pretty high. But the problem was that we kind of ran out of budget completely at that point. And we still had a couple of weeks until launch. So we started thinking what else can we do to engage our audience better? What else can we do to sort of increase the probability of success? And then someone referred KickoffLabs to us and we decided to try it out.

David: So the way we approached it is we used the data from our marketing automation tool, which was Autopilot to identify the leads that engage with our content the most. So we looked at who is more likely to open our emails, click the links, engage with our social media content.

We launched a campaign with KickoffLabs where we created a referral program... if you were to refer let's say 30 or 40 people to us, you could get a free watch. With KickoffLabs, you can do it in one or two hours and that's essentially what we did.



David: And we created a list of couple of hundred people that clearly loved our product the most. And we launched a campaign with KickoffLabs where we created a referral program. And we offered people an opportunity to share the product with their friends. Everyone would get their own personalized personalized URL that they could share with their friends. And when their friends would sign up on our landing pages, these people would get points through your system. So your basic referral program. And depending on the number of points, you would get certain benefits, certain perks. So ranging from five or 10% discounts to a free product. So if you were to refer let's say 30 or 40 people to us, you could get a free watch. And KickoffLabs of course made it very easy for us to set this whole thing up because it does sound pretty complex, but with KickoffLabs, you can do it in one or two hours and that's essentially what we did.

Josh: That's great to hear.

David: And the end result was fantastic. Thanks to KickoffLabs, we actually managed to get 28% more hot leads than before with essentially $0 investment, apart from the KickoffLabs fees of course. So the return on investment was fantastic. So we managed to get about a thousand extra leads thanks to you guys.

Josh: So sort of like that last boost of like we've got a couple more weeks. We've got these 3,000 people, how can we turn that into 4,000 people to stretch the budget we had further?

KickoffLabs had the best return on investment out of all the tools because you guys got us the cheapest leads and those were all high quality hot leads.



David: Absolutely. Absolutely. So compared to everything else that we had done at that point, KickoffLabs had the best return on investment out of all the tools because you guys got us the cheapest leads and those were all high quality hot leads.

Josh: That's amazing. I love hearing that. I'd love to also get into the success afterwards. Because you weren't selling the product on KickoffLabs. So after the KickoffLabs campaign to the point where you said you were able to get to the point where you get $100,000 in 24 hours, what did that look like? How did you market it? How did you do the launch of the Indiegogo campaign, and how did you promote it throughout the Indiegogo campaign?

David: I think the bulk of the success comes down to the fact that we rely so much on data and experimentation. So because we didn't have a brand to begin with, we essentially had to learn as we go along about what are the features that people care about, what are the messages that people care about the most? And as we were collecting this data, we realized that we have several distinct groups of people in our lead database. Some people cared about the design of the product, some people were more interested in the story behind it, who are the people who came up with the concept? Who's the famous designer who designed it? Some people were more excited about the hardware because it was made of premium materials. It was really beautiful.

David: So as we were collecting this data, we realized that we should talk to people in different ways. So the messaging for those 4,000 people should be completely different. And essentially we used that data to personalize the messages, the lead nurture messages that we would send them using Autopilot. And as we were nurturing them in preparation for the Indiegogo campaign launch, we were essentially building a unique hyper watch brand around every single individual out of the 4,000 leads that we had. So if you as a person care more about the design, then all the messages you would get from us would be centered around the design.

Josh: So you were going into extreme personalization here.

There would probably be 50 or 60 different segments that perceive the product in a completely different way.



David: The personalization was indeed extreme. So I would say that out of the 4,000 people there would probably be 50 or 60 different segments that perceive the product in a completely different way. So essentially we didn't have a single brand, but we had 50 or 60 different brands built around those people.

Josh: Do you think that's how products have to compete today? Is just segmenting down and saying there's not just one national ad campaign that fits everybody, that there has to be really targeted campaigns that fits how the individual person sees the product?

David: Absolutely. I think in my experience people want to get more meaningful and personalized messaging from brands today. Of course depending on what you do, you don't necessarily have to go to these extremes. The reason we did is because we didn't have a brand to begin with. And we're essentially sort of, we had this lump of clay that we were shaping into whatever we wanted it to be. But as we realized that people have completely different needs and interests, we used that data to our advantage to sort of communicate the things that people actually care about.

David: Because if you don't care about the hardware of the watch and they only care about the design, then why should we be telling you about the hardware? And we use that information to our advantage and to communicate to the people building up to the launch. And if you look at a case study that I posted on Reddit, and actually if you go to our website to see the full case study, you will see how the engagement, what the engagement chart looked like.

David: As we we're leading up to the launch, we were talking to people more and more and more. And they were getting more and more excited. And as the launch took place on the 9th of May, 2017, we quite literally had hundreds of people sitting at home with their credit cards ready to buy the product. Because there were so excited and they felt that the product was built around them, they felt that they had a role in the development of this product. Because we actually, we built a tight community on social media around those leads, around those people. We asked them for feedback on product development. We were completely transparent about the marketing of the campaign that we're about to launch. And essentially those thousands of people that we had, they felt like they were a part of the team. And they felt like they were a part of creating the product, planning the features, and marketing it.

Josh: That's, I'm really glad you brought that up because I saw that line in the case study that they will buy it if they feel like they helped create it. And I talk to our customers a lot about that because a lot of people come to us and say, "Well our product's not going to launch for one, two, or three months. What should I be doing to advertise to people during that time?" And I said, "Well you're not launching for three months because you're still working on the product, right?" And they say, "Yeah." And I say, "So if you're still working on the product, would you like to have customer input on that process?" They're like, "Yeah, that'd be great.".

Josh: It's like people would love to help and they would love get engaged and they'll be more connected to you if you start doing some surveys on social media, if you start getting them, asking them questions. Once they like your brand, they'll actually be much more engaged. So I'm glad that was part of your campaign because it's something I tell people a lot of like it's a great marketing activity and it's something that's useful for you as a brand to get that feedback while you're building the product.

David: Absolutely. And a common mistake that people make, especially when launching products on crowd funding platforms, is that once they generate the lead and once they managed to get some interest from people, they kind of leave them be until the product is launched. And in some cases that can be months. And most of the time the person forgot about you completely by the time the product is ready to launch.

Josh: Absolutely.

David: We wanted to to avoid that mistake. So we made sure to keep people engaged the entire time. And just like you said, a great way to do it is to make them feel like they're involved in product development.

David: One thing we did, actually, that same data that we used to identify people to send to the KickoffLabs referral program, we also used those same people to create sort of a secret community around our product. So we used engagement data and we identified 40 or 50 of our biggest fans and we created a closed community on this mobile chat platform called Telegram. And we invited them all there and we talked to them on a daily basis. We used them for product feedback. We invited them to our office in downtown Helsinki to help us test different features of the campaign, different features of the product. And those 50 people were our biggest fans in the world. They literally felt like they were a part of the company. They were part of creating this marketing campaign.

Picture of the KickoffLabs referral campaign

They told their friends, they told their families, they were the ones who, they were the first ones to buy to watch as well.



David: And then when the campaign went live, they were the ones who told all their friends about it. They told their friends, they told their families, they were the ones who, they were the first ones to buy to watch as well. So essentially the lesson that we learned is that you should identify your biggest fans and then give them an outlet to express that love. The people already love you. So give them a way to share that love with the world. And KickoffLabs was an amazing way to do that. And we're very happy that we found you guys.

Josh: Oh, thanks. And you're absolutely right about the engagement. And I love that you guys use Telegram and created the channel and got them engaged. Is this still something you do and recommend to your current clients?

You should identify your biggest fans and then give them an outlet to express that love.



David: It really does depend on the product. We don't work a lot with launching new products today in that same way. We mostly work with established companies at this point, so that that tactic, perhaps, would not be as efficient. But we always recommend to keep communications personalized and meaningful because when people feel connected to your brand, when they feel engaged, they're much more likely to talk about you and they're much more likely to buy your product.

Josh: Cool. This has been really educational and it validates a lot of what we've seen other successful customers do. So I really appreciate you taking the time. But before you go, I've got sort of our fast five questions at the end of the podcast. So first thing that comes to your mind is probably the best answer. So how do you personally get in the work zone?

David: How do I get in the work zone? I like to stay fit, let's put it this way. Because I've noticed that especially as a business owner and as an agency owner, there's just so much to do and so much to sort of wrap your head around at all times. It's really easy to burn out. And since I've been keeping track of my personal health and personal fitness and exercise and sleep, it's just really helped me stay more focused.

Josh: Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. Self care as a founder, especially as the owner, because you get pulled in so many different directions that you have to be able to sleep, you have to be able to concentrate for hours at a time.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. And the sleep has made such an enormous difference. I have to say, one of the products that helped me personally the most is called Oura. It's a ring, it's a Finnish company actually, and it measures your sleep sort of in a very, very deep level. It helped me understand that I don't actually sleep nearly enough. And a lot of people think that seven and a half hours or whatever you're getting is perfectly fine. But collecting the data about my sleep really helped me understand that I should be sleeping more.

David: And since I've started making these changes in my life and just sleeping 30 to 60 minutes more every day, I've just been so much more productive.

Josh: That's a great life hack. So what's your favorite vacation destination?

David: My favorite vacation destination? You know, it's a funny thing that Finns have. Finns really do love their solitude and their summer cabins. So we do have a relatively large country and a very small number of people. So everyone has this secluded spot where to go for a couple of weeks at a time and to just disconnect and to be alone with nature. So it's something that I really enjoy and it helps me a lot to sort of stay offline just for a couple of days. No internet, no laptop, no work. And just be alone with nature a little bit.

Josh: That sounds great. That's a lot of people I think could go for that as well. I know a lot of people in this space that love to do just personal retreats where they just, they focus on themselves and what they want to do personally for the next year and how the business fits into that, so I think there's a great parallel there. Your favorite book or podcast?

David: My favorite book or podcast. If we're talking about podcasts, I really love Marketing School by Neil Patel. You know the guys managed to produce I think one episode per day and they'd been doing it for a couple of years now. And I always say that if you listen to all of the podcasts, and I think they have about 600 of them, you're going to be ... You're automatically going to be a top 5% marketer, if not top 1%, because the advice they share is just extremely practical. And most of the time it's really up to date. They talk about innovative methods, innovative tools. So I have a ton of respect for Neil Patel and if you want to become a better marketer, definitely check out Marketing School.

Josh: Cool. And let's see, something you've learned in the last year that you didn't know before.

David: Something I've learned in the last year. Wow. For us, when we hire new people in our agency, I would say that half of the interviews focused on the person's ability to learn. I do personally feel that being able to learn stuff quickly is the most important skill a modern marketer can have, simply because the field is changing so quickly. There are new tools to learn all the time, new methods. So I would say that something that I've learned personally is the ability to learn new things quickly. And it's something that I'm practicing all the time by keeping my mind open, new strategies, new tools, new experiments, and trying to implement new things in my client projects as quickly as I can.

Josh: Yeah, I think that's a great skill. I know, me personally, one of the things I love about being a founder and running the business is you get to choose where you play in. So I wanted to learn how podcasting works. So this year I said, "I'll take over that initiative and start this out. And if it works out well and I feel like I've learned something, I can hand it off." But otherwise then I can pick up something else and learn how to do that, too.

David: Exactly.

Josh: Cool. So someone you look up to, business or personal.

David: That's a good question. Someone I look up to. I have to say, I know it's going to sound weird probably for your American audience, because you guys are based in Seattle. I do look up to Barack Obama quite a bit. Not from the political standpoint. I don't really care about that. It has nothing to do with me. But just on a personal level, I've seen him speak a number of times in person, and I do admire the way he manages to sound convincing. I admire the way he sees the world, I would say. I admire the way that he always manages to sound, how should I put it?

David: When you hear him talk, it feels like you've known him forever and it feels like he knows how to make people feel good. And I really appreciate that skill in people. And it doesn't have a lot to do with marketing, but I look up to people who manage to express themselves in a very pleasant and logical manner. And so I think he does that really well.

David: If we're talking about marketers, I've mentioned Neil Patel already, but I do have a ton of respect for the guy. He managed to grow from this sad sort of anonymous blogger a number of years ago to being this digital marketer phenomenon. So if you're into digital marketing, I really do recommend you look him up.

Josh: Absolutely. Yeah, it's a great podcast and I think you're right about the education you can get from listening to ... I've only listened to a few, but I think you're right about the ... It's amazing they've been doing it daily for so long.

David: It's unbelievable.

Josh: I can't imagine it. So thanks again for coming on. For anybody listening, there were a couple of references to the case study and to the Reddit post, and so in the show notes we'll post links to both of those things, both of those things and ways to contact David. So how should people reach out to you if they have any questions or they want to get in touch with you?

David: Well first of all, check out the case study on our site. We really put some time and effort into it. It's really detailed, has a lot of detail, a lot of screenshots. And if you want to reach out to us, if you want us to help you with your marketing and take it to the next level, and then there's contact information on our site and we would be more than happy to talk to you.

Josh: Absolutely. So I will let you know when this goes live, and hopefully it can get you a little additional boost, maybe not as effective as the product was in the first place, but we'll see how it goes.

David: Perfect. Thanks a lot, Josh. This was fun.

Josh: Yeah, thanks a lot for coming.

David: Cheers.

Josh: Cheers.

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