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This episode of Ecoffee with Experts features Jonathan Aufray, CEO of Growth Hackers, a remote digital marketing agency with a client list from all across the globe. Dawood got Jonathan talking about the concept of Growth Hacking and how it can help entrepreneurs build and run successful businesses. Watch for some great insights.
The goal of growth hacking is to test, learn and use cost-effective digital marketing tactics to help grow and retain an active user base, sell products and gain exposure.
Hello, everyone. Today we have with us Jonathan Aufray, CEO at Growth Hackers. Jon, welcome to the show. Thank you for taking out your time today.
Thanks for having me today. And it’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Well, Jon, I’m excited to get started and ask you some questions about what you do, get into those, and learn from you. But before all of that, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and what you do at your company.
As you probably can hear my accent, I’m originally from France. I don’t live in France for more than 15 years right now. I’ve been based in Taiwan for the past 10 years. I created Growth Hackers, a digital marketing agency in Taiwan, six years ago. We have clients from all over the world, but usually small and medium businesses, mostly from the west. So what occurs in the West is North America, Western Europe, and Dubai. And I always include Dubai as the West because the West to business is very westernized in Western Europe or the US as that’s what we do. And it’s been six years since we created Growth hackers. And now, we have more than 20 team members. We are spread out all around the world. Some people in Canada, some in Europe, some in Taiwan, and some in the Philippines, Dubai, and Croatia.
Right. You were already remote, even pre COVID, so it must have been easier for you during the pandemic.
For me to change anything. I have been working remotely for five or six years, I will say. And so the thing is, I was the first remote, and everybody in COVID joined my crew; everybody became remote, but I was used to it, so it didn’t change anything for me
You have been working remotely for six years. How do you ensure that the company culture everybody understands that? How do you ensure that while working remote, any specific things you do to keep everything in lieu?
So first, I think it’s really important to stay positive and to care about the people you work with, whether they are your partners, colleagues, team members, or clients. You always want to know a little bit more than just work. So asking the personal question is okay, but you don’t want to get too personal. You don’t want to know too many secrets. If I’m stressed or one of my team members is stressed, sometimes it might not be my fault, or it might not be as customer’s fault or even anything to do with Growth Hackers. It might be something personal. Unfortunately, you might be stressed with your children or with COVID or because there is a war. But it’s important to try to be open-minded and make them feel confident to share things with you without going too deep. So I think this trust has to be built from the beginning. And usually, when I hire people, I make that clear in the job interview at the beginning. I always make it clear that people need to treat each other with respect. So not only me with them or them with me but as a team. I don’t want people to be a family because they have families. But in a way, it is like a group of people helping each other. If something goes wrong, we always try to find a solution together.
You also ran a news website in Taiwan for some time, peanutsdaily.com. A very good domain to own. Tell us more about that experience.
Oh my god. You remember Peanuts Daily. I created it with Irish friends six or seven years ago, and it was a hobby. We worked for six to nine months to create it. The idea was that Taiwan’s biggest newspaper is called Apple Daily. My Irish friends and I wore the worst suits, and the news was not good. We wanted to make fun of them so we Created Peanuts Daily. The goal of Peanuts daily was to be a kind of Taiwanese version of the onion. The onion is in the US, like CNN or Fox News. The idea was really to hold us, and we were writing one article every week. I was learning web design in WordPress, and he was a designer. We both wanted to improve our skills and that’s how we got the idea. We were doing it for an experience.
Do you still own that domain?
No. When I created Growth Hackers, I think the domain was there probably for a year after, but we didn’t try it. As soon as we created Growth Hackers, I was too busy with my real business so that I couldn’t take care of Peanuts Daily anymore. But what I remember is, when I created Growth hackers, someone from Taiwan, had joined Growth Hackers, and he told me something unusable to Taiwan that he had heard the year before. It was fake. So I told him that it was from Peanuts Daily. And he was; Oh yeah, it’s a newspaper from Taiwan. I was like, No, that’s fake news. That was my news. I can’t remember what it was, but sometimes, as with the Onion, people think it’s true. And they share it on social media. I remember a few times we wrote a few fake articles and people thought it was true or something.
You started Growth Hackers in 2015, right?
I can’t remember 2015, or 16? I think it was six years ago. So I guess it was 2015.
2015 or 2016. At that time, did you start with Growth Hacking as a service? Because you have a list of services under your belt. Did you start with Growth Hacking initially? Or did you start with multiple services?
Okay, the idea is before we created Growth Cycles, we still had Peanuts Daily but I was working in a Taiwan startup that was accepted in the incubator in Taiwan and then an accelerator in the UK. And what I was doing there were Growth Cycles it was aware user acquisition, getting downloads, getting active users, and everything. And the thing is, when I was in the incubator in Taiwan and then the accelerator in the UK, I found that I was working with a lot of other startups with a lot of great tech founders. They could do a great product, a great app, whatever. But then no idea about user acquisition, generation retention, etc. So the thing is, although the startups were coming to me for advice, I was working at my startup for 60,70 hours a week.
And on top of that, I was a part-time consultant for 10 other startups. So my week was a bit mentum, and that’s why I decided to create Go Cycles with my American co-founder when the idea at the beginning was to add a Taiwanese startup. So is that how we started. So the original idea was to add 1000 startups to GoCycling lead generation user acquisition. And that’s how we started in 2015 or 16. And the thing is, we pivoted almost right away. I will say almost three months after we completely pivoted. Why for two reasons. First, the Taiwanese startup ecosystem is so small that we knew everyone already. There was not much growth potential there and so as a lot of startups we knew were very early stage. So they wanted advice, but they didn’t have any kind of budget, in the end, you just worked pro bono for a few months. But I needed to feed myself and my wife. So that’s how we pre voted and why we created Growth Hackers because the idea was recycling. But actually, we cannot be pivoted to Ghost marketing and more for small and medium businesses. And this morning, big medium businesses, as I was saying, as we’ve been able to call in the West, mostly, so Western Europe, US and some of the countries,
So we have already mentioned, Growth Hacking so many times, it would be great if you could explain to our viewers what exactly is Growth Hacking? And also is there a particular framework that you follow?
Growth Hacking? It’s an interesting question. I have my definition, but every Growth Hacker you will meet will have their definition. It might be different from mine, to be honest. So I can tell you what I’ve heard sometimes, and I’m telling you, that’s not Growth Hacking. I have people who are entrepreneurs, or marketers or whatever they contact us and they think they know what Growth Hacking is, as they’re telling me, oh, you put your line of cards in my app. I will get millions of users, or you launch a website and do some tricks, and we’d get millions of customers. I would tell them is if I knew that line of codes, I would not share it I would use it myself all the time as that would be so easy. So no, Growth Hacking is not a magic formula or magic bullet that you can just apply, and it’s going to be a billion-dollar company. That’s not how it is. Growth Hacking is a process. It’s a process of testing and learning and testing and learning. But the thing is, is not only digital marketing. Digital marketing is only one part of Growth Hacking. It makes the link or links, product developments with marketing. So 10 or 15 years ago, when I started my career in marketing, I was working for a big company. And pretty much the product department was making a product and it was telling the marketing and sales teams to sell it, to market it. And in marketing, you get data and you get feedback from customers. I returned to the product department and told them the customers wanted something a little different, a new feature or something. He did something that amazed me. He said no, that’s not my job, my job was to do marketing. I always thought there was no link between products and marketing before. Growth Hacking marketing made that link. You market by doing a lot of testings, you gather data, you gather feedback, and from that data in the feedback, you improve your marketing, that’s one thing. You also improve your products. You will now be making your products more user-centric. You will pivot your products one way or the other. And then you can test your products again and test your marketing again. So I think for me, Growth Hacking is between digital marketing and traditional marketing. It speaks to following developments and data analytics, creativity, and two opposites as a combination.
Tell us your favorite client story.
My favorite client story? The good one or a bad one. A good one. I have a couple, but one of the clients I started to work with, she’s French. I started working with her six years ago and we still work together. So that’s a good story. She makes videos of parents and kids with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. She’s teaching those kids how to learn faster than the parents, be patient, and adapt their teaching to their kids because they learn differently. And when we started to work together, so five or six years ago, I think she was making one or two sales a month, if I remember. And now she makes 30 or 40 sales a day. So the growth curve has been kind of insane. Of course, it took time. It was not a magic formula. It didn’t happen overnight. She has been so nice to me. We have worked together since I created Growth hackers like a split image.
Also, I wanted to ask, how do you maximize website visitors into conversion? You know, like, what are the best steps or strategies one should follow?
So, it depends on what website causes convergence. First of all, if it’s a website about affiliate marketing, people click ads as they go to buy products on Amazon, then the goal is to have inks that people want to click, and of maybe the best lessons or the best coffee machine, and then each coffee machine will go to a link. So that will be for navigating with affiliate websites. For, let’s say, e-commerce websites, that’s different. What you want to do for E-commerce websites is make the customer journey as easy as possible. For example, I work with e-commerce owners, and it takes me maybe 10 or 15 clicks just to buy products. I’m like, “That’s impossible, you will never make a sale”. I’m struggling to find the products. So it’s not it’s late. It should take you two or three clicks maximum to add to the cart, pay, and it’s done. So E-commerce, from my experience, is making the customer journey or user journey as simple as possible. You don’t want to complicate things at all. For b2b, it’s again very different. Because for b2c, you can make a sale right now. For affiliates, you can make a sale right now. For b2b, I honestly rarely make a sale within a day. It takes weeks, if not months, or even years sometimes. It’s a few months to sign customers. So what you want is to get people’s attention and get people’s emails. So there are different ways. First, you want to make it easy for people to contact you. So have like, free consulting, free coaching, one-hour video class, whatever, they click it, so eases the contact form or the mail you may exchange like a video course, for the email or you only lead magnets works well. It could be an ebook. It could be, as I say, a free course or something. Don’t give something for free that is too bad or too crappy. Like I know on our website, we got an ebook. It took us months to make it, and it is huge. When people download it they tell us, yes, that’s a good detail. We might not sign them because some customer doesn’t know we worked a lot on it. Sometimes I see websites that make an amazing cover for an ebook. It feels the cover is amazing. But the book is three lines, and it is to teach to do this and that. The customer is like, “oh, my God, I gave you an email to give me two tips that I could have found on Google or something”. So if you give something for free, don’t give your worst product; give something good, give something valuable. And if people like what we give them for free, they will be willing to pay twice for something because they know it will be good.
What are your thoughts on cold email outreach as a lead gen tool, mainly for b2b?
First cold email is only for b2b. For b2c I would not recommend it. For b2b, you two things, first of all, before the EU for Europe, you have to be very careful because of the GDPR policies. In Europe, they like to make laws. France would not make laws for anything. So you have to be very careful when you do a code that respects the GDPR. It’s very important. For other countries, you can do it as is no problem. It works. Your b2b works. Coding mellow culture outreach for b2b works. But the only way it works is if you don’t send dozens of emails. You need to send one or two or a few dozens, but very personalized. For example, if they would send you an email, I would buy your services, your junk. But if I say I would, I’ve seen that you were born in North Carolina, and then you moved to Australia, opened your business, and sold it to a UK company. I need your advice on this. While you’re going through together, this guy did some research to know who I am. So maybe I can answer it. So b2b cold out, which works, but it needs to be personalized. You need to know who you’re going to, don’t say, Dear Madam and it is going to Mike, is it not going to work?
No. I agree. So we recently were doing a test on email marketing for an agency partner. And like you said, this is what we did. We tried doing testing of personalization. And we only personalized like the first two, three lines. And after that, we just use automation and some parameters here and there to make it look personalized for that client. But the first two and three lines were 100 people personalized. And we were amazed to see the results we had, like around 80% open rate and almost like almost 20% reply rate. So you’re correct; personalization in b 2b does make a difference. What do you think about chatbots?
chatbots? I’m not a fan. But it was very popular two, three years ago. I think it faded away because there was AI, and many people thought it was there, but it’s not yet. I think chatbots are the future if AI becomes good. I don’t know, if it’s like an Excel form with a formula, it doesn’t go that far. People know when they speak to a chatbot versus a real person because a chatbot is not that good yet. If entrepreneurs or marketers use chatbots, automated or AI chatbots. I will advise making your chatbot funny. Tell your chatbot to say, hi, I’m a chatbot, honest and transparent, and I’m retiring. People will sell if a chatbot is funny and is not trying to be human. So I will make your chatbot funny or do less until maybe when AI picks up a little more. It might be better intuition and experience, but I’m not convinced by chatbots yet.
Also, when you talked about growth hacks, I think you said it’s not a magic formula, a magic that you just press this button or just insert this line of code and this will work. But from some experiences working with b2b and doing some tests here and there. I also believe that partnerships are a very good growth hack, find it, especially in b2b find good partners where you can have shared audiences.
B2b and b2c, I would say, actually books. Business development partnerships it’s as good for b2b and b2c. To be honest, it is as good. A year growth cycle? I don’t know but it’s good. What you want to do you want in b2b. For example, if let’s say you bought an e-commerce Store about, I don’t know flip flops or anything, but you only sell flip flops as the best one, then you can partner up with someone who does swimsuits, then, because if you buy a swimsuit, you might be interested in flip flops. If you’re interested in flip flops you might be interested in swimsuits. And then you will make a package or a discount. If you buy a swimsuit, you get three flip flops. If you buy flip-flops, you get a discount on the swimsuit. And both can use it to target a community of both. So I think for b2b If you can find a company or partners with the same target market, but different products, but similar. That’s a great way this works as given in the example for b2c, and for b2b, it is the same thing. For b2b as a marketing agency. For example, if I do SEO, and someone else is doing, Tiktok ads, for example, that could be good because someone interested in Tiktok ads might be interested in SEO, and you, so that works as well.
Jon, what is attraction marketing? And how can it be used to enhance one’s Legion efforts?
So attraction marketing, I think from my knowledge, it’s another useful word for inbound marketing. So the goal is to attract, not to pull the audience or push the market. So for example, push marketing will be Facebook ads or Tik Tok ads or whatever. The tool is for pulling people towards you. So it’s mostly through content. But content is, our actual cold email is not attraction marketing. Cold email is outbound marketing. Still, content marketing is so broad because content marketing could be a blog post, a video shared on Instagram, or a billboard outside. That is a part of what content marketing is in a way. The thing is, attraction marketing is to attract your audience with content that brings value. It’s not me sending you an email, again saying; buy my services. I am sending you an email or a blog post saying five ways to create a business today. I don’t sell you anything. I will just give you the information. So it’s creating content with a lot of value. And that’s how you attract leads,
You’re talking about content, and content marketing is the next big thing. You have to create quality content to let your content marketing work. If yes, what is the best way to do it?
It should be outsourcing shouldn’t be outsourced. It’s really. It depends on what kind of content is being produced. Because if you want to share inside stories of your companies, or if you want to share user-generated content, it cannot be outsourced. But some content needs to be outsourced. If you want to educate people in your industry, you might not have the skills in-house, and creating content takes a lot of time and research a lot of skills. I will recommend Outsourcing some types of content. I will say broadly related, industry-related, niche-related outsourcing because you will find experts outside that are more experts in your niche or your industry, even if you have worked in this industry for many years. But if it’s content about your brand story, personal story, or project itself, I would keep that content in-house. You can always get some outside help, outside perspective; a prime example, let’s say you want to create a video about your team. So, of course, that’s in-house, but you might need a video editor professional, and you don’t have one house. So you might need to outsource some of the content just to make the video a little bit nicer or a little bit better. Maybe even having a video screenwriter who can help you. But at the end of the day that will be done in-house. So I will say it depends. But if it’s really about your brand or your product, it’s better to do it in-house and add a little bit of help from outside, but if it’s industry-related or broad enough, I will say getting outside apps will make it better, and much more faster, also more cost-effective. Because whether it’s a freelancer or an agency or an expert or an influencer, there is so much more experience in creating that kind of content, which will be faster and cheaper for them to create it.
Any particular links in the Growth hack that you have come across that you can share with our audience?
It’s not something I use, but I know it works. I use something I support, and I know it used to work up to five years ago, maybe on Instagram. I know it works very well on LinkedIn. There is a tool called the LEM pod. I don’t know if you know Lemlist. Lemlist is the code team at Lem Pod. It is like a LinkedIn pod. For example, we are in the same part with the ten marketers. And that we will all lockout our content. And with our content, we get more exposure. I don’t use it, but honestly, I don’t need it. I know some people who have been using it and got very good results. Pods on LinkedIn to boost your exposure. That works well.
Well Jon, thank you so much for your time. We are short on time, but before you go, I play a little rapid-fire in the end, so I will not let you go before that. Are you ready?
Ok. Let’s go.
Describe yourself in three words.
Happy. Positive. Stubborn.
If a movie was made in your life, what genre would it be?
If a movie was made of my life what Gender would it be?
What genre would it be? Would it be suspense, a thriller or a funny movie?
A funny movie. Definitely.
Last book you have read?
Oh my God. The portrait of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray Portrait.
Are you a morning or night person?
I am not a morning person. I am a night person.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I want to go to Brazil. I have never been there. But I would go there.
I have played football since I was five years old.
Well, Jon, thank you so much for your time today
hank you very much for having me. It was a real pleasure.
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