I believe it is better to start small and then expand once you situate yourself in the market. We tried to do both at once as a means of standing out, but in reality not everyone needs both functionality.
David Schneider is the co-founder of NinjaOutreach an all in one Prospecting and Outreach tool which was created to streamline the process of connecting with influencers. He also runs a business blog called Self-Made Businessman, and he can be found on Twitter @ninjaoutreach.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Ninja Outreach all about?
NinjaOutreach is a blogger outreach software for digital marketers and small businesses interested in growing their presence online.
Previously, this would have required several different tools to find the leads, extract the data, and outreach to them. We do this all in one, and do it much faster. NinjaOutreach collects an immense amount of data from a variety of sources into a searchable database, and allows people to email customized templates from within the platform.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I am 27 years old from Boston Massachusetts. I graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and worked at Capital One as a business analyst for two years.
Afterwards I left my job and went backpacking around the world for two years with my girlfriend. During that time we started numerous businesses such as buying and selling websites, advertising, and SEO, and were able to replace our previous full time income. For the last four years I have been developing my skills as a digital marketer, and in June 2014 I partnered with two other digital entrepreneurs and began developing and marketing NinjaOutreach.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Currently the only project I am working on is NinjaOutreach.
Of course within that there are many projects like marketing, lead generation, and development.
However, after a year of messing around with a lot of different side projects and not having them go very well, I’ve committed 2015 to focusing on the one project I truly believe in.
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
In about two weeks we will be switching from a desktop app for Windows only to a web app, and I believe that will open us up to a whole new market of Mac users and simply people who don’t like desktop apps. I estimate that this will not only double the number of sign ups we receive, but it will also have a material impact on our trial to paid conversions.
I can’t imagine anything more critical for us than this, as well as growing our database.
From a marketing perspective I think the channels we are going after are solid, and we will continue to leverage content marketing as a long term strategy to grow, supplemented with other channels like direct outreach and paid advertising.
Q: How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life can be complicated. If it is a simple idea such as a new marketing channel, then I like to start by writing out all of the processes and understanding what can be outsourced and what I need to do. I will then prioritize the different steps and get started.
If something is more complex, such as transitioning from a desktop app to a web app, I like to break it into manageable pieces so that it does not become overwhelming.
Q: What’s one trend that really excites you?
I really love the growth in blogging, as well as quality content creation and content promotion. More and more there is quality information being put out there and people are taking their blogs more seriously. As a result brands and businesses are coming around and looking at online audiences as effective markets that they want to tap into. Naturally this trend bodes well for our blogger outreach software.
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
We’ve made a lot of mistakes at NinjaOutreach, but the top 3 are:
Starting with a desktop app – At the time we already had designs and code ready for a desktop app so we decided to plow ahead. We also believed that 90% of people use Windows, which may be true at an aggregate level but in our target market it is more like 60%. As a result we are not an option for almost half our target market, which has really slowed growth in the early days.
Trying to do outreach and prospecting before launching – I believe it is better to start small and then expand once you situate yourself in the market. We tried to do both at once as a means of standing out, but in reality not everyone needs both functionality. If we just focused on one we could have been quicker to market, gotten paying customers and feedback, and then added on outreach down the line.
Over promising – We have had a poor habit of over promising and under delivering. This has particularly been the case with development, since we have completely underestimated how long certain development aspects would take, and as a result made promises we couldn’t keep and likely lost credibility.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business, and what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?
We have tried a little bit of everything, though we tend to focus on just a few channels. Marketing can be overwhelming and requires a lot of focus.
Content marketing has been great as a means of getting organic traffic to our website. This means blogging, guest posting, and trying to get product reviews, interviews, and podcast invites.
I believe this is an excellent long term strategy and fits very well with our target market. My advice here is to start early because it takes months to build up an audience.
Direct outreach via email and Twitter have worked well. My advice here is to take the time to personalize your outreach by really engaging with the person before contacting them if possible.
We have done cold outreach too and it can work, but outreach where you comment on the persons’ blog, follow them on Twitter, and write a personalized email always performs better.
Paid advertising via Google Adwords, Facebook, and retargeting with Adroll. My recommendation is to get started with a low dollar amount just to see what the rates are and as your tracking and conversion rates improve, you can up the spend. This is especially true if it is your first time, because you can blow through a lot of money quickly if you aren’t careful.
Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur – and why?
Patience because entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs and a few loops. Patience and emotional fortitude are critical to not drive yourself crazy during the process.
Focus because no matter how skilled you are, if you spread yourself too thin you won’t accomplish anything of significance. Stop with all the side projects and focus on the one thing that matters.
Networking because you shouldn’t work in a box. Leverage other people – their skills and their network to propel yourself forward. It’s like a short cut. It’s also a lot more fun.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
We use quite a few tools, including:
- Skype – Free calls to friends and family
- Google Docs – Write, edit, online docs with teams
- Trello – A Trello board is a list of lists
- Evernote -The workspace for your life’s work
- LeadPages – Mobile responsive landing pages
- Aweber – Email marketing software
- Hootsuite – Social Media Management
- WordPress (CMS) – Blog Tool, Publishing Platform, and CMS
But I think my top 3 are Google Docs, Skype, and Aweber. I know they aren’t very sexy tools since they are pretty common, but to be honest they are uber important to our business in allowing us to communicate with each other and our customers. Since we are a virtual team this is paramount and we all need to be available and easily accessibly to our customers and partners.
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
My top three books are:
- 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Although I have read and enjoyed many books, I found these to be particularly inspiring and really caused a shift in my own mentality and how I want to live my life and earn my living.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”
I do this quite a lot and its a false comparison. Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone started at 0, more or less. Focus on yourself and what you have to do and don’t let
other peoples’ achievements take away from your own.
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?
- Please Do!
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- CrunchBase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/ninja-outreach
- Twitter: @NinjaOutreach