Wild haircut? Check. Five o’clock shadow? Of course. Extraterrestrial attire? You better believe it. Though strange to some, at least on the surface, these are the most apparent aspects of London-based growth hacker Vincent Dignan. Yes, it’s all out of the ordinary, but as one of the youngest, most accomplished growth hackers on the planet, when he speaks, entrepreneurs listen.
Fortunately, here at Kickstagram, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with growth hacking’s most off-the-wall genius. Though sporadic at times, Vincent’s words were nothing but pure digital marketing gold. Don’t believe us? Check ‘em out for yourself:
When somebody asks you what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
I make people’s lives better. I do this through teaching and giving them the skills they need to grow their own companies. I help them achieve financial freedom and find investment money for their startups.
I go through processes that are actually quite simple once you know them, but due to the amount of terrible information about marketing and entrepreneurship on the Internet, it’s hard to find the good stuff.
I’m kind of on a mission to help people, as I myself once needed help. Three years ago, when I was on welfare and benefits, pretty much until the day I was given a check for a quarter of a million dollars to start Planet Ivy, my first company, I would’ve loved to have known all of this stuff.
I could’ve done a lot more, a lot faster.
So yeah, I’m someone who helps other people. I train people. I train companies. I write books. I do webinars. I give a lot of talks for free around the world—all this to help as many people as possible.
Are you a growth hacker? If not, what kind of title would you associate with yourself?
Yeah, I mean I’d definitely say that I’m a “growth hacker.” I know that people feel differently about that title, but yeah—I’d say it fits what I do for a living.
How did you get to where you’re at today?
I first began by getting traffic on Planet Ivy. I did this by calling up every university in the country, and asking them if they wanted to write for me—their writers through their student unions, I mean.
So I started to get a lot of great content written, and then I would seed that on social media and social news sites. Using a data-driven approach, I’d monitor which sites would generate the most traffic, and do so consistently.
With that, every single month, I was building a brand that would have more visitors and page views. Once we had a million page viewers in one three-month period, I then looked for investors.
I gave a pitch at Google Campus in London, and someone who had just left Facebook wanted to be an advisor for my company. She asked if I wanted to be introduced to investors, and I agreed.
That’s how we got a quarter of a million dollars.
On the day I signed the checks for that money, I was still so broke that I spent the morning temping at a company—that was the last job I ever had.
So what was Planet Ivy, exactly?
Then, we saw more opportunity in scaling out all the stuff we’d learned, and we very quickly started to get a lot of customers, and yeah—it’s been growing since then. After that, I got booked to talk at South By South West V2V 2015.
To prepare for that, I gave some talks in London. At South By South West V2V, I was voted “Best Talk,” beating out veterans, millionaires and people who’d sold companies.
This year, I’ve given 45 talks in America so far, and I’m about to start my third coast-to-coast American tour. That’s really how I’ve been spreading the word, and my new book actually just came out on Indiegogo—it’s made $80,000 so far. It’s called Secret Sauce.
What do small businesses need to focus on to grow their businesses online?
Finding the sources that will get them traffic the quickest. Focus on those, and then over time, work on the harder ones. If you have access to a lot of emails, start with email marketing. If your product can easily get to a lot of influencers, start with Instagram.
If you are quite confident and outgoing, start with public speaking—although, for basically everything, I’d start with public speaking. It’s the number one way to find new clients, especially if you have a small number of people paying you a high-dollar value.
Also, if you’re looking to get a lot of users for a startup, it’s a great way to get a lot of feedback really quickly—like in day one, before you’ve even gone public with it. The whole room has to listen to you, whereas with networking, you’re randomly bumping into people all over the place.
Facebook groups can get a lot of early traffic, too.
Find all of those Facebook groups in your niche, look at the admins on those groups, click on their personal profiles and find all of the groups they’re in. Anything with over 800 members and fairly good engagement should do the trick.
Or, create your own Facebook group—at some point, I’ll set up a step-by-step on how to do this. I’m setting up my own Facebook group, first.
What else is there? Oh yeah, downloading all of your LinkedIn contacts’ emails and reaching out to them. Reaching out to family and friends, asking them for referrals—they’re the people who are most likely to help you out. Making sure you’re personal Facebook is your professional Facebook, and then using that as your first network.
How does Instagram work for small businesses? Is it a viable platform?
Absolutely—it’s definitely one of the best places to grow your company. I recommend finding the one person who will absolutely love what you’re doing, follow all of their followers and then look at the hashtags those followers use.
What you want to do is find the things that they’re talking about, and use those in your posts. Once you’ve followed them and they start to see your content, they’ll follow back and tag their friends in your posts.
If Instagram is a serious channel for you, I’d recommend getting shoutouts from influencers until you reach 3,000 fans. Using Ninja Outreach or Audiense, you can search most public profiles on Instagram, and then reach out to people via direct message, sending them a picture comment. In your comment, ask them if they do shoutouts.
If you sell a product, Instagram is great, because you can do affiliates. Give them as much as you can stomach—like 80 percent of your margin, so that they feel like they’re getting a good deal. The whole point of e-commerce is build an email list.
Right from the start, you don’t really need to make money—simply cover your costs, and give everything else to the affiliates. If your affiliates give you lots of traffic and you build an email list of people who’ve bought from you once, they’ll be much more likely to buy from you again.
The two best posts on Instagram are “Tag someone who _______” and Double tap if _______.” By having these, you encourage people to engage. But again, you need at least 3,000 followers before you can start doing things like this.
And what about you? Would you say that your latest book is your main focus right now?
Yes, Secret Sauce is the main thing I focus on right now. I’m unique in that I’m not that motivated by money. I could do more—I mean, I run a marketing agency and we have quite a few clients.
Someone else does most of that stuff, but yeah—I’m mainly just increasing my network, giving talks, meeting people and good things keep coming to me.
I have somewhat of a plan, but it’s all about working smart, increasing your network and having a good product. I’ve never even had a product before, so this is fun. It’s a good time to be me.
You’ve said it before—why do you consider “Secret Sauce” so controversial?
It goes against most information on the Internet—this is very toxic for most entrepreneurs. People are incompetent. When you go and see someone speak, they never actually give away any valuable information. They give away little bits, implying that they have the answers, and then they want you to hire them.
They never actually ever give away what I do—this is how you do this, this is how you do this, use this piece of software, do this thing five times a day, or whatever. All they want is for you to hire them. And likewise, blog posts are about slowly building a community, yet bloggers want you to hire them to speed it up—the information if terrible, though.
We give the information, and people dislike it.
Not because it’s wrong or inaccurate, it’s just that—it’s not the way that other people are doing it. It gives you a lot of unfair advantages. Secret Sauce is about tipping the scales in your favor and getting all of these unfair advantages. None of this is against the rules, but it’s kind of not done.
So the whole book is about how you’d massively get more emails, get in touch with more people, grow your Instagram, grow your Twitter, etc. Most people think you need to pay for that privilege—we don’t think so.
Why should you? These are open platforms. There are literally no rules on how to use them outside of their terms and conditions, which we never break. But people tend to use them one way—that’s the problem.
For instance, when did it become a thing to not talk to strangers on Twitter? Where did that myth begin? So we tell people, “Well, if you want to speak to a journalist, an investor or you want someone to buy, send them a tweet.” It’s such a foreign concept to them! I mean, Twitter is a public network—it’s not Facebook where you have to be friends with someone.
It’s just little things like that, that really work.
Your fashion sense is very unusual—what’s that all about?
I find that being usual is unusual. Difficult to answer the question why, because we as humans don’t know why we do things. Our subconscious drives us, not our conscious mind.
So, when someone asks you why, like ten different thoughts come up, and then you just choose whichever one suits best. I hope other people like it—I’ve got a new look coming for this summer, too.
- Note: Though the link was already included within the body of this post, for more information on Vincent’s new course, Secret Sauce: The Ultimate Growth Hacking and Marketing Guide, visit his Indiegogo page here.