Ronan Galvin is the co-founder of Kickstagram, one of this year’s Small Business ICON finalists. Ronan chats with Clate and Scott automation and how it simplifies things, and how he was able to use it to grow his client base without over-scaling his sales team.
Scott Martineau: Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Small Business Success podcast. This is Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: And this is Clate Mask. We’re cofounders of Infusionsoft, and today we’re excited. We’ve got Ronan on the phone. Ronan with Kickstagram. How are you doing, Ronan?
Ronan: I’m doing good, guys. Thanks for having me.
Scott Martineau: Well we’re excited to spend a little more time with you today. We just came off an amazing ICON, where you were one of the ICON finalists for the year. And so hopefully we’ll talk a little bit about that today, as well as your business. Maybe tell – for the listeners who haven’t been to ICON and don’t know what the ICON finalist competition is all about – you want to introduce it to them?
Ronan: Yeah, yeah. It was my first time attending ICON as well.
What I found most beneficial about attending ICON was that one, it was a lot of people who were – a lot of small businesses in the same position as me, myself, or Kickstagram, if you will, and it was three days of obviously learning things about not only Infusionsoft and how to use it to its best ability, but also small business and business strategies. And I think the biggest benefit that me and my cofounder – and we actually brought a whole team out there – for us was being able to network with other entrepreneurs, to share war stories, to see what’s working in their business and how we can apply what they’re doing, and at the same time letting people know about what’s been working for us and how they can apply it to their business.
Clate Mask: That’s awesome. I love every year at ICON. That’s one of the things we hear. We hear business owners get to come together and learn from each other. You guys were awesome, because you were up on stage and got to teach people a bunch of things about what you’re doing.
But yeah, it was great for us to see the finalists – Kickstagram and what you guys are doing, Ronen, was really fun to see. But I think the –
Ronan: Thank you.
Clate Mask: – thing that I love about ICON is it’s this small business growth conference. All of these people are coming together. They usually feel alone out in their worlds, trying to do their business –
Ronan: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Clate Mask: – wondering if they’re doing the right things – how they can do things differently. You know, I hear – I just love seeing our customers there and to talk about how ICON gives them that shot in the arm to learn a bunch, network a bunch, understand what they can do to improve their business and their life. So glad you got to be a major part of it this year.
Ronan: Yeah, no, thank you. From day one obviously it was great. Like I said, as far as the networking and meeting other people, like you said, who are in the same position – because sometimes you do, you know – you’re not always coming in contact with other founders or business owners.
I think it’s been about two or three weeks since ICON. You know, I’ve had a call about every other day with people that I have met at ICON in business development or talking strategy on some things. So it’s been awesome.
Scott Martineau: So I want to talk more about your business, but first I want to take us back to a moment in your ICON Finalist presentation. A lady in the audience, she’s like, “So tell me about your strategy for split testing,” I think is the question she asked. And I thought your response was fantastic. You’re like, “Uh, yeah, we’re not really very good at this. We just kind of do the basics and it works. So we don’t really split test. But we do the basics and you know, we’re like seeing the results,” and that’s what you were sharing. So I’d love to just hear a little bit more about that. There’s a lot of users of Infusionsoft – and I would generalize this to small businesses who are trying to do sales and marketing – and they see all these fancy, fancy things they can do.
What’s your advice to those who are kind of in paralysis, looking at fancy?
Ronan: Yeah, it’s kind like you said: the analysis by paralysis thing. Or paralysis by analysis. When I was kind of first starting out there was always kind of the shining-object syndrome, where you’d see a new tool or hear about something and then you’d want to go down that path and try and implement it. You know, you’d implement it for about a week and then it falls down the wayside before something else pops up, right? When it comes to Infusionsoft specifically, like you said, there is literally so much that you can do with it, but you’ve got to walk before you can run. And right now, that's where we’re at. And so it’s like once we get that really solid foundation – you know, we can just know the app by the back of our hands – and it doesn’t take us time to do or to set up those campaigns and do the simple things, yeah –
– then you can get into the trickier stuff – you know, level two. And then you go to level three or level four when you’re comfortable. You know? And so right now, instead of just being, “Oh, we don’t know if this is the right email,” or whatnot, it’s kind of just saying, “Hey, look, let’s send this email, get the feedback, and then go from there.”
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Ronan: Ultimately the whole key is to get more business, drive more sales, and things like that. And then [audio drops out] see over the ledge [audio drops out] to work on optimizing it.
Scott Martineau: Yeah, that is so key. A lot of times people fall into the trap of saying, “Let’s get this bad boy – let’s think of all the potential options that we could,” and they spend all of the energy and none of the learning happens until you’ve invested far too much probably in the wrong things, you know?
Clate Mask: Totally.
Ronan: Yeah, yeah.
Clate Mask: A little bit earlier I was talking to the Infusionsoft University class that’s here for a couple of days, just learning and working on Infusionsoft.
You know these are customers – about 50 customers that are here at our Chandler office. And we were talking about this exact issue. And one of the guys was like, “You know, I’ve been using the software for awhile now, and I use it for a whole bunch of really sophisticated things, and it was really hard for me to get to that point. And I realized that I’m missing the basics of the – just the basics of automated follow-up – following up with leads, converting them into customers, welcoming new customers, long-term nurture.
Ronan: Yeah, yeah.
Clate Mask: He’s doing a bunch of really cool ninja stuff with the automation, but he’s like, “I think I’m one of the few that figured out how to run without walking. And I need to start walking.”
Ronan: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s true.
Scott Martineau: Maybe to just make it concrete for the listeners, what’s one strategy that you implemented that you were – you know, a simple strategy that sort of surprised you in its results?
Ronan: I mean, the most basic thing that we needed, that helped us the most once we brought on Infusionsoft was the marketing automation post-purchase.
So once a client signed up, they were able to get an email from their sales rep saying, “Hey, thanks for signing up. This is just to let you know we’re working on getting you set up.” And then it would get passed and they said, “Hey, and by the way, your account manager is going to be reaching out to you.” And then about a day later or the next morning – I think at 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM – their account manager would get an email directed them to schedule an appointment, to set them up with an onboarding call. And that sounds very, very simple now, but you should have seen us –
Scott Martineau: Before.
Ronan: Before, right? And so it was just like, “Okay, yeah, I signed up five people yesterday. Now I’ve got to go and send or craft an e-mail to all five of them, and then I have to make sure that my account manager in the next office follows up with them to schedule an appointment.” Otherwise they’re going to end up calling me back and saying, “Hey, I never heard from my account manager.” There were just so many cracks and leaks in the system that are now filled.
That’s kind of like the biggest thing. So it’s just a smooth, smooth process.
Scott Martineau: The thing I love about automation too – now that you’ve done that, it frees you to go – maybe either put the time in some other place, right? Or, you know, you can even come back and say, “Hey, now that we’ve done the basics, let’s add a little.” Like have you added any adjustments to that campaign since you created it, or is it still running?
Ronan: Yeah, good question. So once we kind of got over that hump, now we’re saying, “Hey, you know what? It would actually be great if they could watch videos on top, or prepare for some videos,” so it’s like, “Hey, while we’re onboarding it, please check out these videos, and here’s a quick reminder of how this service works and how everything is going to happen.” So then by that time they get the onboarding call, they already kind of know or have a good foundation on how to optimize their Instagram account and things like that. And then the onboarding call has turned more into a 20 to 30-minute discussion with their account manager on different strategies or questions –
– rather than the onboarding call is just the account manager saying everything that they could have watched in the video. It’s been a big difference.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clate Mask: That’s so awesome. You’re doing a great job of kind of illuminating an issue that we talk about all the time, or illuminating a benefit that we talk about all of the time related to automation, and that is, when you – you don’t realize it when you have a broken system. You don’t realize how much time it’s taking, how much mental energy it’s taking, how much churn is happening in your business because you’re dropping the ball and then finding the ball. Like you said, you’ve got all these cracks in the foundation that you’re constantly patching up. When you put an automated system in place, then it frees you up and now you get to have conversations that are more strategic. Now your people are having conversations about the account for the customer and ways they can optimize it, which ultimately translates into more sales revenue for your business and more success for the customer.
And when you don’t have the automation in place, you end up scrambling on a bunch of things and you just – you can’t grow the business in a systematic way.
Scott Martineau: And it’s better for your customers, right?
Clate Mask: Yeah, totally.
Scott Martineau: Because they feel communicated with and they feel prepared. All right, awesome.
Clate Mask: Thanks for sharing that.
Ronan: No problem.
Scott Martineau: So give our listeners just a quick background – maybe the 30-second synopsis of why – you know, where was the idea born for Kickstagram, and what is it, and what have you grown to today?
Ronan: Yeah, good question. So I think we started roughly with its inception in maybe late 2013 or 2014ish, right when Instagram was really starting to get popular and at the same time Kickstarter was starting to get really popular. And actually taking a step back, my cofounder Casey and I, we were doing product development and sourcing and development from China.
So people would launch Kickstarters and successful fund them and then they would need a large purchase order to be manufactured. Because oftentimes it would just be their prototype or their sample. And they would contact us to do that for them. We would go to China and help them with a 1,000-unit order or 10,000 units or whatever the case may be. And then they would deliver their product. At that point they needed help selling online, and you know, we obviously had a selfish motivation. Because if we could help them sell online somehow, then our purchase orders would get bigger. And one time we had an account – it was Original Grain, which is a watch company – and we were on their Instagram one day and Casey, he’s sitting right next to me on the couch, and he was engaging a lot on Instagram. And long story short, we said, –[0:12:00]
– “This would be great if we could do a lot of this necessary but painstaking work if it was automated,” and that’s kind of where it started. So we eventually were able to build a software that automated a lot of the engagement on Instagram, and we started out by targeting Kickstarter clients, just because we were kind of in that space. And we’ve since expanded to almost every industry or any business that really has an Instagram or wants to utilize Instagram as a marketing channel. So now I think we have about 720 customers.
Scott Martineau: That’s awesome.
Clate Mask: That is so great. Congratulations.
Ronan: Thank you.
Scott Martineau: And tell us about your team. What does your team look like?
Ronan: So we are based in San Diego. We’re actually right next to the Petco Park. So if you guys ever want to catch a game, you’ve got a standing invite to the Padres. Unfortunately they’re not very good, but it makes the tickets a little cheaper. We’re right next to the ballpark and we’re a team of eight.
So we have about three sales reps, three account managers and me and Casey. And then we work with a couple freelancers who help us out with say graphic design or copy writing and things like that.
Scott Martineau: Right, right.
Ronan: Ultimately as we grow we would love to continue to build out – you know, to have an in-house graphic designer, an in-house copywriter. But those are all kind of nice-to-haves. Right now the most important thing, when growing the business, is obviously sales, and then once they sign up, managing those people.
Scott Martineau: Right.
Ronan: So that’s kind of where we focus a lot of our resources right now.
Clate Mask: Got it. So if you kind of take a step back and look at the progress you’ve made – you know, where you are in your business right now – do you see any points where you feel like, “Okay, this was a key pivot point for us?
A key thing that we discovered that helped us to get to the success level where we are today”?
Ronan: Yeah, when we first – I’m sure you guys have heard it a million times – it was Casey and I doing everything – so the development, the sales, the account management, the customer service, the billing. Literally everything. And then once we were like, “Hey,” – we weren’t making that much money, but we were like, “You know what?” We didn’t take any money for a while, a salary to pay ourselves. “Hey look, we’ll bring on a sales rep. If they can sign on 20 or 30 accounts a day, we’ll be able to cover their salary.” And the best thing about a subscription business is presumably they’re going to stay around for the next month. “If we keep doing that, look.” And then we kind of just, using simple math – again, just keeping it simple – we were like, “Okay, that takes a lot of time away from us.” And then the poor sales rep –- her name was Lizzy – she would sign on the accounts and then have to manage them too.
And then after a couple of months, she did a great job of signing them up, and she was like, “Hey guys, I can’t handle all of these accounts.” And I’m like, “Okay, I guess now we have to go back into the piggy bank and hire an account manager.” You know? And then it became very clear-cut and we’ve just duplicated that.
Clate Mask: Sales rep for an account manager, and grow the business with –
Ronan: Yeah. Just being able to delegate tasks. I think a lot of people, they look at, “Oh my God, a salary of $3,000.00 or $4,000.00 base,” or whatever the case may be. “I can’t afford that.” But if you look at it more like, “Look, I have to bet. I bet that this person will cost me $3,000.00 to $4,000.00, but she can maybe hopefully gain me in the long run, giving a lifetime value or a retention of four to five months, with 30 customers – you know, you just kind of do the simple math of like – yeah, ultimately it’s a risk, but if it does work out, it’s going to be beneficial to help grow the business.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Have you had any cases where you hired the sales rep and it didn't work out? Or has it always worked with the sales reps you’ve hired?
Ronan: No, we had one sales rep who was on with us for about a year, and he actually took another job at his church. That’s what he was most passionate about. It was bittersweet, obviously, but at the same time, it was what his true passion was, and so it’s kind of like, “Hey, if the Lakers called me to go play on the team, I’d be gone as well.” So it was hard to argue.
Clate Mask: Yeah, that’s a little bit of a sore spot right now since the Lakers just leapfrogged the Suns in the draft lottery. So we’ll stay away from that one.
Ronan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Clate Mask: The reason I ask that question is – what you articulated in hiring a sales rep – I think there are so many business owners who see that and they want that to happen, and they’re the default sales rep and they’re trying to wear – you know, they’re wearing ten different hats and trying to sell, but they don’t have enough time to sell.
And they know that, “Man, if I hired this sales person, yeah it’s going to be some dollars out of my pocket, but if it works, it’s totally worth it.” And the reason I asked is because I think a lot of people have the question, “Well how long do I let it go before I know that this is going to work and I should go ahead and do it?” And it sounds like even though he left after a year, you’ve had the good fortune of sales reps that are making it work, which is really great.
Ronan: Yeah, yeah. Again, it is one of those things where we’re like, “Okay, well we’re paying her X. If she signs up X amount of clients just in the first month alone, she’s going to be able to cover her cost.” Right? So we’re like, “Hey, this is a pretty safe bet with a pretty low quota.” You know? So then it was kind of like, “Well I’m pretty sure,” based off the numbers that we were doing, just ourselves. And if she was to focus on it full time, I think she’d be able to clear that cost. So we were like, “Okay, that makes sense.”
Clate Mask: I think it’s important that we kind of deconstruct this a little bit. Because you’re four for four on hiring sales reps that you would keep –
Ronan: Yeah, yeah.
Clate Mask: – which is an awesome batting average for business owners that are hiring their first sales reps. And so while I’m drawing something out, maybe you can think of, is there anything else that has helped you bat a thousand on adding sales reps? Because if you can do that, it’s fantastic. But while you’re thinking about that question – what you’re laying out in the math is the fact that you had a recurring revenue stream. You had a model that if the sales rep could make that sale, it didn’t take too many. You felt like it was pretty doable for them to be able to get that recurring revenue stream that would justify the investment that you’re making in the sales rep. That it was only a certain amount of months that you would have to essentially finance the salary of the sales rep before the recurring revenue was paying for the sales rep itself.
So you know, that’s a great point for our listeners, because it’s a lot easier to build – to hire a sales rep that’s going to be successful on a recurring revenue service or subscription –
Ronan: Yeah, totally.
Clate Mask: – than it is on a one-time sale, where every month you’re like hoping and praying that that sales rep is going to make the sale that’s going to prevent you from having to pull the dollars out of your pocket, your salary, your bank account, your second mortgage – fill in the blank – to make it work. So I think it’s cool that you laid that out in terms of the return on investment that you needed to get on a recurring revenue basis from your sales rep. Is there anything else you can look at that would cause you to get an incredible four for four on your batting average?
Ronan: The one thing, if I was to do it again – I guess looking back from the first sales rep hired to most recently the fourth is – the first sales rep – and again, ignorance is bliss. We were like, “Hey, come on, do sales with us. Just pick up the phone and call.”
And there was no training manual or scripts or processes. It was kind of just like you assume that they can – you assume that they know what you know, which, no fault of their own, they don’t. But the most recent one, we were saying, “Hey, here’s the training manual. Here’s the scripts; here’s your rebuttals. First week you’re making this many cold calls as training.” And then you kind of ramp up their pipeline. So now instead of she’s having two to three months of figuring it out and kind of wading through the fog, if you will, she’s enabled now to kind of hit the ground running. So definitely like putting that training in place. And it also helped us – like being able to just – “Okay, the script. What does this script actually look like? Or if someone asks this question, what is that answer?”
Clate Mask: Yes.
Ronan: You know? And being able to put that down on paper and –
Clate Mask: Actually having a sales process that you can move a prospect through.
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Ronan: Exactly. And you would just assume – and I’m almost hypocritical, because I don’t do it for everything, and I should – but you know it’s like, when you start putting processes down on paper, it’s like, “Well no, it’s not an if statement or unclear.” It’s like, “Here it is. Look at the manual, and this is how it should proceed.”
Clate Mask: I think you’re calling out the number one reason why the first sales rep or an early sales rep in a business fails. It’s that the business owner has a sales process, but it’s wrapped up in their head. They’ve never taken the time to get it out, deconstruct it, and be able to teach it to somebody. So they’ll say things like, “Man, give me a prospect and I can close them. Why can’t the sales rep close them?” But they’ve never taken the time to create that process, get the script, understand the art that they use to actually move the person through the buying process. It sounds like you now have that in place, which is great. [Audio drops out]
Scott Martineau: So Ronan, we’re –
Ronan: – that we were able to do the last –
Scott Martineau: Oh sorry, I think you cut out for a second and I talked right over you. Go ahead.
Ronan: Oh, I was going to say, it was cool just being able to onboard these last two sales reps and train them and do role-playing and have them listen to their calls and things like that. And now you hear the sales reps and they’re all saying the same thing –
Scott Martineau: Awesome.
Ronan: – and answering the same way. There’s just that consistency, rather than having one person say one thing and then there’s mixed messages being sent if they do sign up to the account manager, saying, “Hey, I was promised this,” and then another sales rep is promising another thing. So it’s really helped throughout that whole business – just that training.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Scott Martineau: Love it. We’re out of time, but I want to ask you one last question, and that is, for our listeners here, as you think about sort of like the most important characteristic of a successful small business owner, what would you say that is, in 30 seconds? Thirty seconds or less. Boil it all down.
Ronan: I would definitely say just having the ability to be flexible. You think everything’s going to work out one way – I’ll tell you, two years ago – we’ve had to take a left when we though we were taking a right, and we go under when we should be going over, and things like that. I’m sure you guys have seen that picture of what success actually looks like and what you think it’s like, and it’s just a straight line, and then the other one is what it actually looks like and it’s just a –
Scott Martineau: Hairball, yeah.
Ronan: – mess, yeah. So just being flexible. Obviously everyone gets frustrated or down sometimes, but it’s like you have to take it day by day.
Scott Martineau: Love it. Well Ronan, congratulations on your success and your ICON finalist, and thanks for being a part of that competition and –
Ronan: Thanks for having me.
Scott Martineau: – I appreciate your time today as well.
Clate Mask: Yeah, thanks, Ronan. Keep up the good work.
Ronan: Okay, thanks guys, have a good one.
Clate Mask: We’ll see ya.
Scott Martineau: All right, you too. And we’ll call this a wrap for The Small Business Success podcast. Thanks, everybody.
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