Guest of the day:
Vuk Vukosavljevic, Head of Growth for Lemlist.
Previously worked as Marketing Manager at Shyft, a fast-growing start-up in San Francisco that has transformed the relocation industry by replacing antiquated processes with the innovative technologies that meet the expectations of a 21st-century consumer.
Lemlist is an email outreach platform that allows you to automatically generate personalized images and videos.
What will you learn?
- The difference between marketing automation solutions
- Why email personalization is so important
- How to grow a list of users with a budget-sensitive marketing
- Why warming-up of your domain is important
- Tips from Lemlist team on effectively organizing your remote work
Michael: Your company Lemlist is based out of Paris. Your seven people now all work remotely. You have been two years on the market. Are you guys investor-backed?
Vuk: No, man. We're bootstrapping from the first day, early days till this day.
Michael: If you were to explain it to my mother who is not tech-savvy, what is it that you guys do?
Vuk: We help you sell online if I'm explaining to my and your grandmas, but if I'm explaining to let's say a beginner entrepreneur and investor entrepreneurs, we're gold email tool that helps agencies, small businesses, sales teams do email outreach in a personalized and automated way.
Michael: Nice. And you guys started back in 2017. It's been two years. Would it be possible to get some of the growth numbers from you?
Vuk: Yeah. So Yom recently published an article. In terms of ARR, we have already passed 250 ARR. I would say like closing in on 300 now
Michael: How many monthly subscribers do you guys have?
Vuk: So right now we have I would say like, 300, 400 paid users as I recall, but like recurring users after a trial and everything, I would say, maybe over a thousand.
Michael: And who is your targeted audience because the cold email space is kind of very competitive. So a lot of folks offer very similar solutions. So I know that the guys from outreach.io, they target high-end companies with $10,000, $20,000 monthly subscription. Companies like reply.io target folks that have a few hundred bucks to $1,000. So what is your niche there? So who is your targeted audience?
Vuk: So when we started, it was usually small businesses and start-ups, and let's say freelance entrepreneurs, but as the product and the company evolved, I would say there are a couple of niches that we target. So obviously those are sales teams and agencies. I would say medium-sized, but we kept a couple of big clients as well besides Lemlist is an example of a company as well. But besides sales and agencies, we also target growth teams, SEO agencies, recruiters, and everybody who has the potential to use email outreach as a growth channel.
Michael: And so what are the top three Lemlist features or advantages that the other tools just don't have?
Vuk: I would say personalization. So when you are able to personalize images, use dynamic landing pages and do all kinds of customizations in your email outreach to make it more personal, personalization at scale is number one. Number two is probably automation. You're allowed to put a lot of repetitive tasks on autopilot. That's not, I would say like a competitive feature, but it's an important feature nonetheless. But another competitive feature is the warm-up. So we are able to automatically warm up your email domain, your email address instead of doing it manually, you can do it ethically and by doing that you're able to boost your email deliverability and landing the primary tab
Michael: So that will increase the standard score as well as the conversion rate or the stats for the campaign, right?
Vuk: Correct, correct. Especially for the businesses that are just starting up.
Michael: Do you guys have numbers for the stats that your campaigns had before you added the warm-up feature, or you had that from the very beginning?
Vuk: I mean, it was a funny story because it started as a couple of our users in the community said that they was looking for ways to do it automatically because they saw a drop in email deliverability. I can't give you numbers as a whole, but individually, like when we compared users, you will probably get temporary blocks from Google, you'll see our open rate is around 20, 30% even below that. And usually the thing with the email deliverability, people say, oh my subject line is not good. But what in reality happens is that your prospects are not seeing your emails. So after you warm up your domain, it usually takes between two weeks and a month. You will see your open rates rising and like a check that we suggest is like an aim for 50 plus. So if you're about 50 plus open rates, that's a good sign that your email deliverability is healthy.
Michael: Okay. Interesting. We actually at Belkins do a lot of that stuff manually. So whenever we get a new domain, we have a dedicated person that just sits in the mailbox sending some emails, checking, and doing that very manually every time. We actually noticed that before May this year, before Google launched their very serious spam policy or something, you could use a new domain and you can wrap it up very quickly, like a few days and that's it. But now it takes more time. So the ramp-up period is stretched. So interesting, I've never actually heard about the automation tool that does the warm-ups and that's great that you have that kind of feature.
Vuk: Don't do it manually. Don't do it manually because we know how time is limited, and that's probably the most fierce competitor we all share. Don't do it. Come to Lemlist and we'll set you up and you'll be golden like. It really works like a charm.
Michael: Right. Right. So do you guys use your own tool and outbound and cold emailing to bring it in your clients?
Vuk: Of course. Especially in the beginning. Nowadays it's kind of a little bit more sophisticated as we attack different customer profiles, different audience profiles in different ways. We send a lot of female outreach campaigns when it comes to backlinks and pushing SEO and organic traffic above and in specific spaces like lead gen agencies and bigger sales team, we do a lot of outreach.
Michael: Did you get Zendesk to serve clients by cold email?
Vuk: No, it's different because we're connected through our HQ office, which is station F so connected through events and in person, let's say.
Michael: Okay. What's your current kind of marketing distribution in terms of the division of the pipeline? What percentage goes to outbound and what percentage goes to the inbound, in terms of getting new leads per month?
Vuk: It's difficult to say on top of my mind because I deal with a lot of numbers, both ours and from our users, but I would say that right now if we say free trials and users coming to the top of the funnel, organic is our biggest source. We're spending a lot of time distributing our content and getting in touch with people through various communities and groups, so believe it or not, organic is really coming strong and increasing. It should because of our efforts. And so we're happy because of that. But besides that, I would say like 10 or 15% come from outreach, 40% organic and the rest are referrals, social media, and retargeting.
Michael: Understood. So since you guys are kind of bootstrapping, you probably have a few platform sources in your packet that are not expensive, budget-wise. So can you recommend some kind of top five platforms or tools for new entrepreneurs to utilize to get to the level of where you guys are, and not spend a lot of budget on that?
Vuk: It's a subjective question. It depends on what you're trying to do. If you ask me right now in terms of this KPIs in Q4 and where we want to go from this moment on, the SEO tool, it's not the cheapest tool out there but I think it's the best in terms of giving you the backlink and everything since organic is like I said, the huge push at the moment. Whereas a lot of time and even for things like for distribution, following your competitors, getting content ideas. If we're talking about SEO, it's a free tool that gives you a pretty good overview of search intent and the keywords and volumes and difficulties, things of that nature.
Besides that, I think Phantom Buster is an amazing tool. Phantom Buster, I will give you an example. It's an API tool that if you want to, for example, search shadow growth titles, or shadow growth people in San Francisco and use that as your audience in your email outreach, you can go to Phantom Busters, scrape all the LinkedIn profiles automatically, and put them in Lemlist then should the campaign. So Phantom Buster is masculine for me personally, I like Profit Well. It's a free tool that deals with KPI checks. So I like to measure the main KPIs all the time. So Profit Well is a cool tool to know if you are performing well or not.
Michael: So what are the main KPIs for you guys?
Vuk: Monthly recurring revenue.
Michael: Monthly recurring revenue. That's the only KPI that you're looking at?
Vuk: That's the main KPI, and then you kind of have secondary buckets based on what your role is. So for me as a growth marketer, I also want to see the number of free trials weekly, so the weekly levels. I also like to see the performance in terms of content. And I also like to see different channels. So if I'm talking organic referral, I want to see where my conversion is coming from. And I always look at trends, not numbers as standalone numbers. So I would say that yeah.
Michael: And you look at that data in the tools you mentioned for KPI. So you basically built integrated analytics, forced it into one place, and look at all those numbers there. It is automatic, right?
Vuk: Yeah, yeah. Most of them it is. Sometimes I stay an hour longer at the office and go through Google analytics and Google search console, for example, automate that sound with data studio. But it's impossible to automate everything. You sometimes have to do some manual stuff.
Michael: So you mentioned that ICO, how many columns do you do per month? How many blogs do you do? Just blog posts and Quora or what kind of content do you guys do?
Vuk: So most of the time we publish like really in-depth. I call them epic articles because they're really long and the biggest priority is to make them actionable because the world already has a lot of theoretic content. If you can make something actionable and practical, people can read, and then okay, I can do this. Boom. That's really cool. So we do, again, depends on the month because when you're bootstrapping and you are small and lean, days are different. A lot of things happen that you cannot anticipate. So I would say like two or three articles a month. And then we have a specific distribution model. I talked about it in one of our YouTube videos. When we create an epic piece of content, there's a lot of micro units that we can create and distribute across various channels. But yeah, two or three articles and two videos per month, but feels really super structured along with some guest posts. That's about it.
Michael: How long have you been doing this kind of content? Three articles, two videos. For the past few months?
Vuk: I mean, the numbers vary. One month we can publish four, the other one we can publish two because we went to some conference or spent some time testing our channel, but I would say since I joined full time - it was March - we spend a lot of time publishing content. So every month from March until this day, that was the drill.
Michael: And how did it impact the organic traffic that your guys were seeing from the website? Is it doubling every month that you're doing the content, or it's tripling?
Vuk: It started slow since we were spending time on different things, like for example, support. It was a hassle for all of us and we wanted to do support because I really think that marketing people really need to do support for a couple of months because only by doing so, it's a boring task but by doing so, you cannot get into your customer's shoes. So we were spending a lot of time on support. Then another person joined in June, took over the support. So when we kind of freed a little bit of that time, we saw, I would say like now we're growing a thousand visits per month and we're growing slower than that. And conversions went from like 30% from organic went to 40, 40-something I think since the last time I checked.
Michael: Amazing. So that's a very good conversion by the way.
Vuk: Not 40% conversion. I mean 40% of total conversions are coming from organic traffic if you can make it clear. In the case of SEO, there's a lot of work to do. There's a lot of Google positions to gain and I would say we haven't done anything spectacular yet, but numbers are healthy and revenue is going up and that's the most important thing.
Michael: It is. It is. So you are a team of seven people. What are the other six people doing?
Vuk: Yeah, so you have Guillaume, obviously the CEO. You have two other co-founders, the Lescroart brothers, Francois and Vianney. I considered them both the CTOs honestly. They are working on the product. And besides those three, the original crew, you have me and Guillaume. Guillaume is more support/sales and I'm in marketing/growth, and the last two people are not involved in Lemlist per se. They're involved in other tools. We have a couple more tools in our garage, the land by our family. So they are working on two separate tools as growth and marketing people.
Michael: And I know that you guys all work remotely, right?
Michael: And can you give me an idea of the three things about why remote work sucks?
Vuk: I mean, I couldn't say it sucks. In terms of answering your question, I think it sucks because you're alone. Most of the time, you're either at your home office or you go to a coffee place. So sometimes you kind of miss your partner in crime, like sitting next to him, then you just like do really mean it. I think that's the only thing that really sucks. Yeah. Other things that people don't really mention like my mind is drawn to other things. I never really suffered from that. I kind of go and choose a song here. But I think that's probably the only thing that really sucks. But you know remote, you can make it work if you do it in a clever way and you do something that you like.
Michael: Right, right. What kind of tools do you guys use to communicate and to stay updated about what's going on? And do you have any specific processes like daily stand-ups, weekly check-ins, monthly meetings that last for a few hours? So how does it work for you?
Vuk: We have a lot of processes and I'll probably take two or three minutes to walk you through them. But the whole point is we kind of wanted to make everything work from the beginning so we can have like a big company is coming in and kind of collaborating with us on different outreach campaigns. And then we realized that our processes - I don't want to sound like bad - but our processes are much more advanced and we are so small compared to the business stuff. So we have the way we communicate in Slack, so blessed like five message messages out of the blue. There's only one message, one thing. And we use threads a lot. So we don't bother other people on Slack unless there's a need to. So there's like a Slack process, then there's a process of the meeting. Our team meeting where everybody joins in never lasts more than 30 minutes and it's never about micro things. So we discussed only macro. It took us one or two meetings to get accustomed to the flow, but we'll keep it really, really, really lean. And then if I want to talk to you, we take it offline and there's a process of the way we talk about a specific project. If it's a project that involves different people, there's a Slack channel for that. If it's a process that involves one-on-one, there's a process for that. So yeah, there's a lot of ways. We try to be as fast as we can. So one-on-one meetings never last more than 15 minutes because if you can't agree on things in 15 minutes.
Michael: Well, you know we actually have a very similar process in terms of using the Slack and the threads and communicating with those folks that work remotely. But we also realized that sometimes when you spend a week or two weeks away from the office, and we usually use to work in one office where about 75 people right now working from one office, we realized that still the communication level, we lacked some kind of communication there. So we have a discord, a gaming platform, gaming tool for voice chats in place and all the team has to do score and all, everyone is on mute. But if someone wants to go to the sales channel or just out of the shadows, he can just click on the bottom and talk and someone will listen to him. So it's like a game or seals to play. It's basically the same in terms of working some kind of thing.
Vuk: It makes things more efficient, right?
Michael: It is. It is. Yeah. Because sometimes when you know you're bored or you want to not because you don't know what's going on because the developers or the product team are doing some crazy shit that you don't know about and you are a designer or you are a salesperson. You want to see what's going on there. You just get in and chat because when you ping a message, sometimes you ignore people because you are so busy with something or you are doing something else, so that actually helps us to increase the efficiency there, and we actually read a lot of case studies and talked to a few folks about those that worked remotely. I get lab and anodic folks and they've never mentioned something like that. So we say, okay, maybe this is something new that we will utilize and then we'll tell other folks about it.
Vuk: Yes, 100% and I'm really happy that that's the case both with you and us because in my previous company when I joined there were 10 employees at the very beginning and then we grew to more than 100 people and we didn't set the processes right. So it was a mess. Marketing and sales communication until we figured it out at such a larger scale, it was a mess. Right now we have this process where when only Guillaume and I were doing marketing. So we had the process, the way we communicate and the way we do things. Sometimes we kind of just made them more agile when other people joined and we all live by the rules.
Michael: So what's your secret sauce by the way? What would you recommend other entrepreneurs in terms of those that are bootstrapping, those that want to do numbers, those that want healthy numbers? Why are you guys make it happen while you're growing and you're making things happen and others are struggling or suffering? So what's the mindset that should be there? What kind of processor what's the secret sauce there for you guys?
Vuk: It will come off as a cliché, but it's passion and tenacity, really and just stay the course. Test things, see what works, see what doesn’t. You can read my article about email outreach stats and see my campaigns and then check your campaigns and see that those are totally two different stories. So every project is different. Every audience is different. You just have to test things and have enough patience to go through the roadblocks. We're all struggling. Even the companies that have big numbers, there's always another challenge, another obstacle, another problem. Everybody's struggling, everybody's winning more or some have not won yet.
Maybe some won't win at all, but you kind of figure it out. You try again. And I think the most important thing is that you just need to figure it out. What kind of company do you like? What kind of colleagues do you like? Guillaume and I work good and then we're able to probably achieve those numbers because we're pretty much the same. We think alike. Our strategies align. When you don't align, meetings are longer. There is more friction, and I think like I would say, just figure out what you like to do. And once you figure out what you do, you just have to test. So I can tell you let's do a retargeting. Let's put a Facebook pixel and let's set up a retargeting. And you can say, Oh, Facebook ads don't work. And I can ask you why. And then if you don't show me that you actually tried it, I'm going to try. I'm going to use my own salary to try it. I think you've just got to see if it works and if it doesn't, you learn something and if it works, you can take your team out for a Friday drink.
Michael: True, true. I agree a hundred percent with you there. So then my last question is what's your big game? What's the long-term target that you want to achieve? What kind of companies do you want to go after? What kind of numbers do you want to achieve? What kind of league do you want to play?
Vuk: You're asking about Lemlist or me as a person?
Michael: Yes, Lemlist, the company.
Vuk: Interesting question. I mean if you asked me that a year ago when I met Guillaume and now I think answers will kind of differ. But ultimately I think what we're trying to accomplish is next week we have a target of reaching 1 million ARR. So that's kind of like something feasible in a year's time frame. I would say if we accomplish that, we would be really happy. In terms of where the products will go in the future, it's difficult to say because technology is just changing so fast. So the warm-up feature that we discussed, there was a user that came into our community and said, I wonder if we can all create a pod and help each other, warm up each other's email addresses. Then we were like, let's take a pause for the cause and stop what we're doing and see if we can make this a feature. And we stopped one feature, we kind of built that feature and then we released it because our users needed it. And then on the secondary, it became our competitive feature and we have users signing up just to use warm up. They don't send cold emails at all. So I think it's difficult to say, but in terms of something feasible, I want 1 million ARR this time next year.
Michael: Okay. So basically you want to grow x 4, right? So you want to quadruple.
Vuk: Yes. In terms of numbers, that's the deal. In terms of I would say some branding, if we can continue to develop the brand the way we've been developing it with our language and tone, if more people just come in and then send me a message on LinkedIn or Facebook and say, Hey, I checked your content, used your tool, loved it. It works. We crushed it, or I checked your content. I didn't use your tool but I still love the approach. I think in terms of branding, we would love to become that. So people who were obsessed with the last thing and pushing good content out, and on the sales side, yeah, quadruple our numbers.
Michael: Amazing. Alright, so is there anything that you want to share that I didn't ask you? Is there anything on your mind that stood out and say to everyone that can read this or hear this or listen to this?
Vuk: I don't like giving advice because I'm still young and I consider myself a practitioner. I haven't done shit yet. I'm just trying to be the best I can. But in terms of the message, I would ask them a question, what's your obsession now? What channel has grabbed your attention? What hack did you learn or what failure did you experience? Put it in the comments. I'm the one who reads all comments. I read every single post. So yeah, I'm still learning. So I would learn from all of them.
Michael: Are there any companies or specific people, individuals that you are following and you are interested in learning from?
Vuk: My friend always teases me with that, but I'm a big fan of Gary V obviously, just because I don't know if he speaks the truth for me, and I kind of paid attention a lot, especially like a year or two ago. Now, I think I've learned a lot from him. And so since he's pushing similar messages, when you figure out the message you kind of, okay Gary, thanks now. I'm going to go and do my own. So it was Gary V and I really like, since I'm in SEO a lot, I really like Rand Fishkin from now Spark Toro (previously Moz), and I liked Ryan Stewart from WEBRIS. I think those two, I don't know those guys, but they can do some cool initial SEO work. So I'm a big fan of them too.
Michael: Alright, I appreciate sharing that. And are there any kind of blogs or platforms or resources where people can read more in both marketings, digital marketing, growth hacking? Are there any kind of blogs that you are following, newsletters that you subscribe to?
Vuk: Yeah. So besides the ones, the three kinds of influencers I mentioned, I liked the interviews a lot. So I spent a lot of time reading interviews from Melanie Perkins, the co-founder or founder of Canva. I just like interviews. I'm the guy who reads biographies a lot. So I just like to get inside...I try to get inside people's heads and kind of wander around and see what makes sense or what doesn't. But I cannot single out something I read religiously. I kind of have the Morning Brew newsletter, when I can. Occasionally I just Google stuff and find the content at times, but most of the things that I am interested in the podcasts and things of that nature.
Michael: Well Vuk, I appreciate you sharing all of that. It was very inspiring. I definitely picked up a few names that I will be following myself. You guys are doing a great job. You're growing fast and actually our Chief Marketing Officer who set up this meeting, she actually follows you. I've never followed you guys, but now definitely I'm going to follow your LinkedIn, going to follow your blog, and we'll see how you guys are going and we'll be looking into what we can learn from you as well. So I appreciate you.
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