Chapter 12: Growing

Growth is a long game. You’ll be best positioned to grow if you do a little bit every day, both for your personal brand and your websites’ brands.

It’s far easier said than done. Everything you’ve done up to this point has immediate cause and effect. You post an ad and get clicks. You develop a feature and release it. The turnaround times are fast and feel good.

Growth tactics aren’t like that. The results come weeks or even months later, and it’s usually not one activity that creates the impact. Growth happens when you consistently cultivate it. It’s the accumulation of dozens or hundreds of discrete activities.

That’s what makes growth so powerful and yet also so frustrating. When you’re committed to growth, you’re not susceptible to any single points of failure because there aren’t any single points of failure. Your growth is the cumulation of months and years of work.

Conversely, you also can’t count on an any single activity to move the needle. Silver bullet thinking will only leave you frustrated and confused. Don’t fall into that trap.

Here are three broad tactics you can do every day to maintain slow and steady growth of your web application.

Cultivate a following

Bryan Harris, the founder of VideoFruit, tweeted, “It constantly amazes me how big of a cheat code having an engaged email newsletter is.”

I’ve experienced this myself but I had to earn it slowly with Toofr. Having cultivated the list over four years of registrations, I now have over 24,000 engaged readers of my Toofr newsletter. I could have grown faster if I already had an email list of my own personal followers. I could have used that list to test landing pages, get early customers, and intros to potential partners.

I now use my Toofr list to foster adoption of my other businesses. My first two Inlistio customers came directly from promoting to my Toofr audience. That’s how tactically your businesses can play off each other when you have a following to use as leverage.

A few pointers on using Twitter

It all starts with whom you follow. If you follow everybody on Twitter, then your feed is bound to be a big bumbling mess. If you want to get good at Twitter, then you should probably start over, unfollow everybody, and start following again, very strategically.

Pick a couple of topics that are professionally relevant to you. Going back to the cannabis business example, you might use Google to find the thought leaders in the cannabis ecommerce space. Who are the CEOs and founders of the most innovative companies in that market? Look them up on Twitter and follow them.

Search Twitter for relevant topics and see who’s asking the most interesting questions and giving the most thoughtful replies. Follow them. Before you can start engaging, you need to get a higher signal to noise ratio in your feed.

Once you’re following between 50 and 100 carefully chosen people, you can begin to participate. Like tweets, reply to the ones where you can add to the conversation. It will take time but people will notice.

Do this for a year and you will start your ascent. Do this consistently for two years and you’ll be someone whom others will follow for tips and insights.

LinkedIn is great for business

The news feed on LinkedIn has recently evolved into another must-use platform for thought leadership. Like Twitter, it takes weekly if not daily attention. Anyone can publish long-form articles that will get automatically promoted as notifications to your network. You can also publish shorter-form posts with public comments and likes.

LinkedIn’s feed is automatically curated by the people to whom you’re connected and the content that they liked. It’s a great way to get industry news, updates from professional contacts, and distribute content.

LinkedIn is a major source of referral traffic to all of my companies. I post a regular report on Toofr’s growth and finances and try to keep my connections updated regularly about my other businesses as well.

People respond well to it and I can tell it has a cumulative impact. Many people have commented or messaged me privately saying that my posts continually pique their interest in what I’m doing. It’s as though each piece of content adds another pixel to an increasingly focused picture.

It’s not the rule of 7, it’s the rule of 700

With so much competition for attention, not just within platforms but between them as well (Twitter and LinkedIn, for example), Ogilvy’s idea that you need to reach a consumer seven times before they’ll remember you feels a bit antiquated. Today it might as well be The Rule of 700.

That’s the attitude you should have when it comes to building your personal and business brands. Seven hundred LinkedIn posts, seven hundred Twitter posts, seven hundred blog posts. In other words, it doesn’t stop. It’s not a week-long or month-long activity. It will take you several years to write those 700 blog posts.

Might as well start now!

Start search engine optimization (SEO) from Day 1

Even before you launch publicly, before you actually want to attract customers, and before you have your second page ready:

Launch the homepage.

Pick two or three obvious keywords for your site. Assuming you’re not alone in your market, the keywords you optimize for right now should be the ones that show your biggest competitor in the #1 result slot. With any luck, within a year you’ll be right up next to them at #2. That’s a fine place to be and you’ll get your 100 customers in no time.

I cannot understate how important it is to start your SEO campaign as early as possible. I mean this literally. As soon as you can put up a homepage, do it and be smart about the words on that page. You should have those keywords in <h1> tags, in the <title> tags and in your <meta> descriptions.

The thing to remember is the earlier you start, the faster you’ll see results and benefit from the free traffic Google will send to you. It’s just like what the financial planners say about saving for retirement. The difference between saving in your twenties and saving in your thirties is night and day. The same goes for SEO. Don’t wait until your product is developed to get your landing page up. Start building SEO right away.

As bootstrapping entrepreneurs, there’s no better price for high quality traffic than free. You can tap into this fountain by thinking about SEO from Day 1.

Get familiar with SEMRush and Moz

SEO, like online advertising, merges data science, website development, and writing. The two leaders in the SEO analysis category are SEMRush and Moz. Moz has a huge following and hosts the leading conference in this market but many people prefer SEMRush. Here’s why you need to subscribe to one of these services:

  • Ongoing SEO audit of your pages. They will constantly scan your pages to make sure you’re doing all the best SEO practices.
  • Track your positions over time. Instead getting your search page position manually, let Moz or SEMRush do it for you. They’ll dive deep into the results pages, tracking the top 100 results for each keyword.
  • Survey the SEO battlefield. SEMRush tracks the organic search positions of your competitors too. It produces a report that shows which keywords your competitors have that you don’t. This data forms the basis of any SEO strategy.

Start a blog on your website

At some point you will run out of landing pages to produce. You can only have so much static content on your site. Once you’ve produced them, optimized them for keywords, and linked to them from elsewhere on your site, you’ll need to create more content.

Where do you put it? On your blog, of course. Write one piece a week and syndicate it on Twitter and LinkedIn. Choose your blog post topics using your SEO reports. Do it regularly, and over time (months not weeks, remember?) you will see the results.

If writing isn’t your thing, you can easily hire a writer to do it for you. You can work with one directly if you’re willing to go through the hiring process on a site like or you can use a service like Scripted and have the process managed for you. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just get it done.

Contact new prospects via email

Organic traffic is the best traffic, but a close second is email marketing. Cold email marketing has believers in every industry and at every stage of business.

If you’re new to the idea of marketing to people you don’t know by email, it’s not as difficult or as sketchy as you might initially think.

In the early days of each of my businesses, I reach out to people, directly and one-on-one, without the use of software. I pick people on LinkedIn who match my ideal customer profile and use Toofr to get their email addresses.

I then craft a message that directly speaks to their business. I do a fair amount of research on both them and their company. This process doesn’t scale but it does help me develop a template that I can use at scale. When I first start, though, I begin with a blank slate.

Every business that uses email marketing will ultimately need fresh content written from the ground up. You can google for top performing email templates and pick out some patterns you might incorporate, but there’s no one-size-fits-all here. If you want to maximize the opportunity in this channel, do the legwork and build a template one email at a time.

When you do decide to scale it, there are a bunch of services that will help. Companies like Gmass, PersistIQ, Sendbloom, and YesWare plug right into your Google Mail account and will send your templates at regular intervals, allowing you to follow up automatically with your prospects if they don’t reply. When they do reply, because these services are tapped into your inbox, your prospects will get pulled out of the sequence automatically.

It’s a wonderful way to grow your business and get some early momentum. I stand by the technique and you won’t have problems so long as you follow these rules:

  • Don’t misrepresent yourself or your product.
  • Include a functioning unsubscribe link.
  • Be targeted, concise, and respectful.

If you follow these rules, when a prospect declines your offer, they’ll do so politely and thank you for reaching out. The positive replies will be elated. They’ll say they just walked out of a meeting about this problem and then your message came down from the heavens and landed in their inbox.

Like SEO, email marketing has a cumulative effect. You’ll want to continually refine your sequences (commonly called “drip campaigns”) and subject lines to maximize open and response rates.

You should start email marketing as soon as you have a functioning registration form. If you send a dozen messages a day then you should see results within a week or two.