How to build a company with a turnover of $ 35 million without a single seller. The story of Rand Fishkin

Original author: Alex Turnbull
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10 years ago, this man founded a small seo-agency with his mother. Today, his business has a monthly turnover of over $ 30 million; he is the author of the world's most respected search engine marketing blog, investor and mentor for IT startups. And his official position is called "The Wizard."

It's about Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, a multiservice that combines 12 SEO, web analytics and content marketing tools.

In this article, we have translated his interview , where Rand talks about how to attract customers if you hate to sell; about fighting depression, how to build a super-efficient corporate culture without money and psychologists, and what a millionaire’s salary is.

How to start a startup without knowing anything about business processes

When Rand and his mother Gillian Messig founded SEOMoz in 2004, they knew nothing about running a business.

“We had absolutely no experience how to make sales, how to get and retain customers, not to mention how to create a viable financial model and attract investment. And when the service was launched, they did not consider the indicators of outflow, MRR (level of monthly revenue) and other analytics. Duplicate payments did not know the concept, although there was an understanding that regular customers were needed, that they provide the main income. In other words, we were complete amateurs. "

At the same time, you should not take Rand's initial experience as a guide to action and rush into a startup with the head in the hope of learning everything “in combat conditions”. Yes, complex processes can be mastered on the go, but today the base is accessible to everyone.

Beginning entrepreneurs have dozens of resources at their disposal to avoid "childhood" mistakes. By the way, Rand himself generously shares his experience: he maintains an authoring blog for startups and every week releases Whiteboard Friday video podcasts with selected cases and search marketing chips.
In addition, he recommends joining one of the business accelerators, where it is much easier to grow a working model, to find mentors and investors. This allows you to remove many painful moments.

The main thing is to find a mentor who will be really interested in what you do. At the same time, you should not spam mentors with calls in the spirit of "Hello, I'm the new Zuckerberg, even cooler ... give me money or take me under the wing."

Rand emphasizes that the right people will come on their own, at the right time, if you are a fan of your work and give the world value. Everything comes naturally. This applies to mentors, and investors, and partners.
So in 2011, Moz received a vital amount from a well-known entrepreneur, venture investor Brad Feld. Because Brad’s wife accidentally read an article about finding a large amount in their blog and sent it to her husband.

The lightest and hardest things in business

Each entrepreneur has his own strengths and weaknesses. Rand belongs to the type of “artists”: the easiest way is for him to come up with ideas, to help people through training. But managerial tasks are his weak point: "I just hate" resolving "conflicts between employees." Despite the fact that Moz has a wonderful corporate culture due to sincerity in relationships. Rand notes: “If people in a team behave differently than in ordinary life, this is terrible. I would never want to work for such a company. ”

Another thing Moz founder can't stand is sales. How so, because business will not survive otherwise? The trick is that Fishkin and his team built a base of 25,000 paying customers ... without a single seller.

How to attract customers if you hate to sell

While Rand really did not want to sell, he knew that it was necessary to somehow make users pay for Moz products. He found a solution in the Moz distribution ... for free. Namely - in the model trial.

Service can be tested free of charge for 30 days. As a role model, Rand took Survey Monkey (a service for conducting online surveys), which reached a millionth turnover thanks to the ability to create a free account (freemium model). Users quickly "sit down", achieve some results and switch to paid tariffs with steeper chips.

I don't care if you pay us, I care whether we help

This philosophy has allowed Rand Fishkin to be recognized by thousands of marketers. The average annual revenue per user is $ 1300 with the cost of attracting less than $ 100. Despite the fact that the Moz team does not focus on sales.

The ideal for Rand is NASA’s lunar mission: “I compare web analytics with travel. It’s as if we are sending a man to the moon and returning him back. One big goal makes it easy to solve short-term goals. ”

How to Get Out of Depression

In 2013, Moz lost $ 6,000,000, and Rand began to have health problems. All this led to severe depression. At the same time, others consoled: “Calm down, in essence, everything is in order. Look what business you built, blah blah blah. ”

The entrepreneur admits: “I just hated these conversations, it was not so much easier for me. One friend of mine expressed much more sincerely: "Yes, here you screwed up, I understand how terrible you feel, but you can fix it."

It’s better to admit in time that you are in complete shit than to continue to smile sweetly as if nothing had happened

This is not easy, but such a position is the beginning of recovery.

How to create a lively atmosphere in a team

Experience in dealing with depression came in handy for Rand in his work: “I preach openness in relationships. At Moz, we talk about topics that are banned by other companies. In my team, a person can directly say that he has problems, and we always find a way to help him.
We also regularly gather for informal meetings, where everyone can talk about personal experience in anything. One woman once admitted that she was a transsexual and shared the details of a sex reassignment operation. “I want people around me to feel safe without fear of judgment.”

To create a wonderful corporate culture does not need a lot of money. Little things decide

The head of Moz says: “Guys can easily come to me on weekends to watch TV, we have picnics, and after work I can fight my colleagues at CounterStrike.”

How much does the owner of a TOP company earn?

According to Rand, until 2006 he wrote out a check for $ 750 every two weeks. When finally he was able to afford to set a salary, it was $ 34,000 a year. And only a few years later he reached an annual income of $ 120,000. At such moments, many owners rush for a luxury car, a new home and other pleasures of life. And Fishkin bought a damn beautiful and comfortable ... pan. “My wife and I love to cook, and I decided to please her. I still recall with warmth this incident. ”

Comment by CEO Alexander Alimov

Most of Rand’s experience “hooked” the moment with the choice of the company's SaaS promotion model. At the start, we also used freemium and trial. Largely because this is the standard SaaS path, everyone does it. After they “filled the cones”, they came to the decision to refuse them. Psychology and the degree of complexity of the product play a role here. If this is not a simple organizer or cloud storage, most users never get to "poyuzat" service, putting it off for later. And that which is postponed until the opportunity, as a rule, is never done.
It is interesting to know your opinion on this matter, share your experience in the comments.

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