In 2015, Alessio and Stefan partnered up to start building LeadsBridge, an all-in-one lead generation platform that helps companies collect more leads online. It started super simple: a WordPress website and an app that interfaced with Facebook’s API. After 3 years of hard work, they were able to achieve +$150,000/month. Read this interview to understand how they built it, their marketing strategies and the mistakes committed during bootstrapping their business.
What is your background? What are you currently working on?
Hi! My name is Stefan, I’m 33 years old and I live in Italy.
I am the CEO and co-founder of LeadsBridge, an all-in-one Lead Generation platform that helps companies collect more leads online. Through our technology, we already helped more than ten thousand small-medium businesses and enterprises to collect over 25 million leads.
At the moment, my main focus is to grow LeadsBridge on the Sales and Marketing side.
What’s your backstory? How did you come up with the idea?
Well, I always loved doing business. I started to work from a very young age as a door-to-door salesman first and then helping companies with their marketing strategies. Then later on, in 2006, I met the Digital Marketing world and since then I’ve built my entire career on it, driven by an inextinguishable curiosity for all of its facets.
As I went deep into it, I started to specialize in email marketing, marketing automation, and lead generation.
I used to partner up with professional across many businesses, from mechanics to wedding planners to psychologists, who wanted to monetize their skills. They brought their knowledge to the table, and I helped them sell it online, for example by helping them to make videos and create paid courses.
One day I met Alessio with the same intention to help him out. He was a very talented developer and since we were a good fit, we decided to partner up. This time though, we decided to do something different.
Instead of selling his skills and teaching other people how to code, we decided to develop a few projects together. We started by solving a few problems that many marketers were facing in their businesses.
Our first project did really well and in a matter of months, it was already generating $10k/month. So, we decided to invest also in another project on the side. Since I had been in the market for a few years, I knew that one of the major pain points of marketers was connecting Facebook Lead Ads to their CRMs. So, we built LeadsBridge to solve that problem, starting with a very basic MVP.
I knew it had the potential to help many people, but I couldn’t anticipate its success. Soon it became our main focus of interest, and we kept investing in it in proportion to the traction it was generating.
Two years and 1M$ in revenues after, it’s still growing strong.
How did you build LeadsBridge?
Well, it all started with by paying attention to the needs of the market.
I was reading different influencers blog and I observed the great enthusiasm around Facebook Lead Ads. Despite the hype, people were still worried about how to sync their leads with their CRMs and ESPs. We did a very brief market research, gathered feedback on our idea and then started working on it. We didn’t need massive validation since we approached the project as a side business.
Still, we worked our asses off for three months during weekends. In the beginning, it was just the two of us, the co-founders. We started as simple as everyone else: a WordPress website and an app that interfaced with Facebook’s API.
We didn’t have any particular obstacle on our way. After the first marketing campaigns, we started making sales. We only invested a few bucks in advertising with an almost immediate positive ROI. As I mentioned before, the project had traction from the very beginning and so we started bringing in more people.
Looking backward I can say it was the perfect process to bootstrap it to where it is now.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
A solid content marketing strategy and then Google Adwords. Facebook Ads are very helpful too, but what really made a difference for us was creating highly converting landing pages and then using Google Adwords to promote our content.
Also, we have always been very flexible in our strategy, discarding what didn’t work and doubling down on what did work.
Another important aspect of our marketing strategy was to establish partnerships. Building a network of partners of the same industry helped us reach great visibility and get traffic at scale.
Last but not least, the Intercom Sales Chat. I know that many people still look at it as a simple helpdesk tool. But it’s much more than that. It’s what allowed our sales managers to make visitors comfortable to talk with us, book demos to discover our products and ultimately becoming new customers.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
Our greatest challenge has been the lack of a structure to meet the exponential growth of the project.
As our revenues started to grow significantly, we realized that very small decisions could have very big impacts on the entire business, both in positive and negative terms. We had to structure LeadsBridge as a real company and be mindful about our weaknesses. Something that helped us immensely was looking at the metrics and taking our most important decisions based on that.
For example, we started crossing the website data (Google Analytics) with our MRR, cash flow and churn. Then we started to pay closer attention to the multiple touch points data instead than just to the last one, in order to understand better our sources of conversion.
On another level, we started optimizing every single step of the workflow of our micro-teams, from developers to marketers, since managing a remote team is extremely challenging.
Last but not least, keeping on crafting the best plans for our customers had a huge impact on our revenues. When we started split-testing multiple solutions and implement new ideas faster, we gained more feedback and we started to control our business better, which benefited both our revenues and customer satisfaction.
Which are your greatest disadvantages?
The greatest disadvantage has been entering a market like the Martech and Adtech ones, where competitors are very similar in their value proposition and it’s super hard to stand out.
The hardest part about that, is to reach the right target audience by breaching through the noise and make them perceive that you are actually different than others.
In this regard, one thing we did successfully was to offer an outstanding customer support to our clients. It might seem too simplistic, but it made - and still makes - a huge difference. Contrary to many customers support out there, we implemented the best practices of never say: “I’m not able to help you”, but finding a way at all costs, until the customer says “I’m good, thanks”. Plus, we do that in the shortest amount of time as possible, because you are going to lose tons of customers if you just leave them hanging.
Thanks to this and other strategies, we were able to differentiate ourselves enough from other big players and get a slice of the cake too.
During the process of building & growing LeadsBridge, which were the worst mistakes you committed?
Well, we made a lot of them!
One time we started an ad campaign with our landing page down, and we lost a lot of money.
Another time we messed up with the check-out page, and so we lost again lots of clients and money.
Then we launched products that were very hard for our clients to adopt, so we had to design everything again from scratch losing hundreds of hours of work.
But hey, I am so grateful for all the mistakes because we learned so much from them and they fueled our growth.
If you had the chance of doing only one thing differently, what would it be?
For sure I would grow the team much faster.
Obviously, there is some resistance to hire new people when you grow your project. It’s hard to trust others and delegate responsibilities, but so far it has always paid off greatly, giving us a great boost in terms of talent, creativity and results.
If I could go back in time, I would do that sooner. We would have grown at least at double the speed!
Apart from mistakes, what are other sources of learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
One important advice I would give to anyone who is about to start up a project is: don’t do it without an analytical background and some proper marketing skills.
It’s going to be hell otherwise. These skills are too important to start any sustainable entrepreneurial endeavor, so make sure to have them or hire someone who does.
As a resource to check out, I would recommend reading "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries, which is very practical and inspiring. On a similar page I would suggest to check out the work of Pieter Levels and his new book “Make” on how to bootstrap profitable startups.
On a broader perspective, a very important book to read in my opinion is “Exponential organizations” by Salim Ismail, which really breaks down how today’s most impactful companies grow so fast without the need to increase their assets in a linear way, but simply leveraging the exponential technologies available.
In addition to that, to keep up to date with the best articles and insights on digital marketing I would highly recommend to check out the GrowthHackers community - whereas for sales and negotiation a really nice source of inspiration is the TV show “Shark Tank”.
Where can we go to learn more?
We hope to see you there!