Vincent Dignan has launched two websites that get over a million visitors a month, was accepted into Techstars, and was voted best talk at SXSW 2016. In this episode he shares many of the insights from his upcoming book “Secret Sauce.”
→ He is a growth hacker, international speaker, and author of a growth hacking book
→ He was on welfare a few years ago and started learning how to create viral content
→ Within 6 months he had 300,000 visitors a month and a year later he had 1 million visitors a month
→ He got into Techstars accelerator, raised 2 rounds of funding, and got to 2 million visitors a month
→ He transitioned into running an agency, and public speaking, and he won Best Talk at SXSW B2B last year
→ He is currently on a 100-day world tour and his book is coming out soon
→ He believes that everything he’s ever done comes back to writing and content is the core of his approach
→ His approach to work is based on the power of words
→ He oversees other people’s words, creates viral headlines, and writes copy that people want to read
→ He is moving toward the information marketing space
→ He works two full days every 24 hours, gets 8 hours of sleep, and uses a schedule that includes working, eating, exercising, and napping
→ He is asked about how long he can maintain this schedule, but he does not mention a specific time frame
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV, Bronson Taylor. And today I have Vincent Dignam with us. Vincent, thanks for coming on the show.
Vincent: It’s beautiful to be here.
Bronson: Yeah, we’re excited to have you. Now, Vincent has made quite a name for himself as a growth hacker. Through his international speaking engagements, his work with startups. He has a growth hacking book that’s coming out soon, and his story is full of ups and downs and, you know, tricks and tips that we can definitely learn from. So I’m excited to have you on here. The first thing I want to dig into, though, is a few years ago you were actually on welfare, which is, you know, a unique situation to be in and now to be someone traveling internationally speaking about growth hacking. So walk me through that journey a little bit. What happened?
Vincent: I was unemployed and unemployable and I had the idea to create something where the writers would be stars instead of musicians. So I thought, well, what with this need to be successful, it would need a lot of writers creating content, and I’d need to understand how to make viral content. So that’s what I started learning. I learned where to get traffic, how to write great copy and get that seen. I Within six months we had 300,000 visitors a month. Within one year we had a million visitors a month. And this is now paid marketing. To this day, I have actually never done any paid marketing. I think if you’re starting out, pay traffic is for losers. Pay traffic is for when you’re scaling up and you have a real business. There’s so many ways to get free traffic and free community that everything apart from maybe e-commerce, you just don’t need it. So yes, I lost my magazines. I got into Techstars accelerator, I raised two rounds of funding and we got to over 2 million visitors a month with those. I saw more potential in running an agency and running a growth hacking company. So that’s what I began. And then I began public speaking. Last year I won Best Talk Assault by Southwest B2B, and this year I’m doing a 100 day world tour and my book has raised $99,000 in preorders. It’s out in about a week.
Bronson: Nice. There you go. So is content really the core for you? Does it all come back to content the way you see the world?
Vincent: Absolutely everything I’ve ever done. It all comes back to writing.
Bronson: What kind of writing? What are we talking about here? Are we talking about BuzzFeed sensationalism? Are we talking about longform, in-depth truth? Like, what is it we’re saying here?
Vincent: Well, we’re talking about words. It was Planet IV. It was overseeing other people’s words and then creating great headlines that I’d go viral with the agency also, like we did a lot of Twitter stuff and some Facebook stuff. And that, too, is creating great headlines which open the curiosity gap that get people to click through with the book. The same thing. You know, we we are creating copy that people want to read and then we have my talks, know I write things down, then I go and read them out loud. And now as I move towards the information marketing space, yeah, it’s been the power of words all the way through. I still think in terms of a marketing device, copy is really underrated.
Bronson: Mm hmm. Well, that’s awesome. You know, you have so many projects you just listed out. I don’t know how many. How do you stay productive given all the things that you’re currently working on?
Vincent: So I. I work two full days every 24 hours. I get up. I get up at 10 a.m.. I work. I eat well. I eat oatmeal. I work. I go for a run. I come back. I have a second lot of work. I have a lot of work. I have a nap at 530 P. Then I get up at 6:00 and it’s like a brand new day. And then I work till 2 a.m.. So yeah, so I always have 8 hours sleep, but the trick is to do two days in one.
Bronson: Gotcha. So how many years do you think you can keep that up for? When? When do you crash and burn? What year?
Vincent: I crash and burn fairly regularly every three, four or five weeks or so. And at that time, I do reading and learning. People say I’m too busy to learn and I really feel like I really feel like that’s true. But when you burn out, you can’t do anything. So that’s the time to stack up your webinars and your reading where you can learn and take the odd note. So that’s, you know, that’s how burn out slots it into that and eventually you get bored of being burned out and reading and then get back to working.
Bronson: Yeah. Now if someone’s just starting out trying to learn about traffic growth, hacking, that kind of stuff, do you think the key is to focus on content copywriting, that kind of stuff, or do you think there’s a better in to learning this world?
Vincent: I think I think whatever you’re doing, copywriting is really, really essential in marketing. Like, if you want to do anything technical, you’d have to be able to learn how to code. But yeah, copy. Being able to copy right is great. Basically, you could do just about anything if you study the works of Dan Kennedy. He is just phenomenal in terms of coaching, selling, copywriting, marketing. I discovered him recently. He is better than anything I’ve ever read. If you really study what he did and duplicate it, you could literally add a month of reading. Go out and start an agency which would probably be better than most. I mean, most agencies are terrible. You would have incredible insight into how to improve companies. So, yeah, my advice would be to study David Kennedy if they were starting out.
Bronson: No, he’s he’s one of the heroes of copywriting for a reason, for sure. Yeah. You know, in your talks that you give I’ve seen some of the online videos on YouTube and you kind of rapid fire go through hacks that people can use. You go through tools that people can use to get traffic or learn from the visitors or whatever. Share some of those with us. What are some of the hacks or tools that you’re currently top of mind in your world?
Vincent: I like my you know, my all time favorite is audience. Audience, we’ve been asked this has a great search capability, but basically everyone on Twitter and Instagram, so you just tap in your keyword. So founder, entrepreneur or musician drama or whatever it is. And it will bring up all of those people on both those platforms. So you can then start to reach out to those people, follow them, you know, if they influencers, you can start to build relationships with them. But that’s just a very easy way of getting in front of a ton of influencers or customers pretty much overnight without paying. Because Twitter and Instagram, it’s not like Facebook where everything’s paid to play by very open platforms. Secondly, Charlie, if you have someone’s email address, you can find all the public information about them on the Internet. So every blog post or their company news or their LinkedIn for when you have a meeting with someone, you can say, Hey, I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. And they’re like, What? That’s my team. We should definitely work together. Like, Yes, what a coincidence. I don’t really like the Pittsburgh Steelers. I just thought that they did that. So it’s a good for dates. When you get your ten to date, you ask for a letter written by and then find out what they like. Email Hunter is a major secret source. You go on that site, type in any company’s website and it will find you all the public email addresses of people who work there. So a lot of my friends who run businesses with code email swiping, copywriting, they have their virtual assistants in Philippines that will have them a list of LinkedIn or LinkedIn search terms, and their virtual assistants just click through to sites using the Google Chrome extension and grab the emails and then bring them back to them. That’s a major way I code emailing is incredibly rife in San Francisco. Org I mean on the very edges of the can spam act but it’s it’s just I mean if you dare to put your email address on AngelList or Crunchbase, you’re going to have a bad time with code emails. They just never stop. Since I was in Techstars. Like raising money with an angel. Yeah, that would be the Fed to the full story. But when you start a company are generally lower in the power balance than whoever it is you email. So if you email someone, they may not get back to you. So revamp is a gmail tool. If you email someone and they don’t reply, remember or email them every four days forever. So you’re guaranteed to get that response. So that’s a really awesome tool. What else is there? A startup list? That dot com is a cool way of getting in front of a lot of early influences and getting a lot of good backlinks to your site as well.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s awesome actually. Use some of those tools. I use Email Hunter probably every week if not every day. And actually they just change the name of yesterday to Hunter. I don’t know why he dropped the email, I don’t know why. And now they’re logos of Fox. So.
Vincent: I mean.
Bronson: Maybe he’s positioning himself for something bigger than email. That’s my guess. But I don’t know. You know, you’re kind of at the cutting edge of growth, hacking and growth. What are the trends that you see in the next few years, the next five years? Where is this all going? Are we going to reach a point where people are blind to content or they don’t want it? More are going to reach a place where cold email dies because everyone stops dealing with it because they’re overloaded. Like what happens next? You know what I mean?
Vincent: So I think I think growth hacking is going to become more mainstream. It’s going to be more integrated into traditional marketing. And I really believe that Internet marketing and selling information is going to be an incredibly large niche. If you think about Ty Lopez, he is the only in summit market to come anywhere near the mainstream. So, you know, Tony Robbins is the performance coach. But in terms of like an Internet marketer selling information that popping up everywhere they are, we all in these Facebook groups, these six figure coaches, if you do what they say, you will earn six figures. Now, 80% of people won’t do anything no matter what information they get. But it’s very straightforward. People have such blind spots that any coach can point them out. So coaching, Internet marketing, it’s going to grow in this space. Massively new growth hacks will be found, but ultimately the act of selling information will empower millions and millions of people out of poverty. It will cost to the mainstream with more creative people doing something similar. We’ve kind of seen it with the rise of Patreon that’s not quite Internet marketing and the selling information. Traditional sense is more about donation and kind of informational service as a service model. But yeah, I’m a big believer in Internet marketing is something that’s going to be massive in the future. It’s such an incredible business model. The margins are so high, the appetite so high. I’ve been hearing coaching and niches like that are the fastest growing in. A world now. So I really see a lot of people going that way. I also see a backlash from. So you’ve already started to see an equity crowdfunding. There’s been no exits, no accident, a couple in the funding room. But like in the UK we have I won’t say names but there’ll be many exit. So people would be like this startup thing is not working. Likewise, all the people who have been trying to build the next WhatsApp, there haven’t been that many big exits and to a certain extent it’s good if you can raise some money and have some fun. But I really see a new generation of entrepreneurs creating revenue generating businesses because it will just it will just be a generation of jaded people eventually go startups didn’t work. I’m basically talking about the entire world outside of San Francisco, a little in New York. But like literally, everyone is starting companies because wages have not gone up since 2008 across the board and few new jobs are being found. They’re going overseas and they’re being automated out, you know, customer service jobs and stuff, but not.
Bronson: You know. Seriously, you’re saying worldwide that startups will become things to make money, not things to exit, because it’s going to be real meat and potatoes. This is how I feed my family now. Yeah, I got a bunch of investors, and I need to have a unicorn.
Vincent: Yeah. And I think that will. That will pay it down to everyone. Like the growth hacking tactics will kind of become mainstream. There’ll be more and more people like me in practices. I mean, I think Nigeria is the most entrepreneurial place on Earth right now. Probably smartphone growth in Africa has many people who don’t even speak the same language are exchanging money through their phones. It’s it’s a massive sea change. And yeah, people are going to get fed up of having raised $2 million and already taking home $30,000 a year.
Bronson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you think about it like, you know, these funded companies are using growth hacking to try to get an exit. But imagine what happens when a small startup that’s focused on revenue implements a couple of growth hacks. All of a sudden they’re making 100 a year and not doing anything that fancy because they don’t need to make 10 million a year for this thing to work. And so the economics, the equations are so different, but the growth hacking power is all the same no matter who’s wielding the sword. So I think you’re right. If the little guys get it, they have a lot of ability for earning potential for themselves.
Vincent: Yeah. And basic things like funnel optimization and understanding the the money’s in the back end companies that have it. So you know what I mean by that, right? Most companies focus on getting more customers and where the real money is increasing lifetime customer value.
Bronson: Yeah. So let me ask you this. You know, you mentioned Dan Kennedy. You mentioned the money is on the back end. You mentioned coaching. It seems like you’re being very influenced by the IAM world. Is that is that a new thing or are you kind of being exposed to this now?
Vincent: Yeah, you’re right on both counts. I hadn’t in America that much before this year. I spent the whole year soaring like 75% in America. Yeah. And I went to Tai Lopez Mansion Party. Firstly, I was like, my smell, the level of. I was like, wow, there’s a movement going on here. I you yet to have 400,000 followers to be in the door. So it was an incredible event then. My didn’t actually spend time trying to get the phone numbers of the Instagram models in bikinis. I really spent the whole pie talking to some Thai team and some of the Internet. MARQUEZ And just in disbelief what they could do, like the politics, guys have like $1,000,000 launches every month.
Bronson: Yeah. Do you do you see a disconnect? Because this is something I’ve thought behind the scenes that there’s startup world and marketing and there’s Internet marketing, world and marketing, and they very rarely touch each other. But when a startup gets it and they actually understand a little bit of what Internet marketing is all about, it’s kind of like having a superpower. At the same time, though, Internet marketers push such crappy products, they have no real lifetime value. They have to do million dollar launches because they kind of fizzle out after another launch. And there’s some kind of, like, hybrid. That’s magic. Real product, real startup, real team also knows all the Internet marketing tricks about the back end and the funnel and all that stuff. You put it together, you’ve got a juggernaut. One of the other, it’s kind of like a Yeah.
Vincent: And I mean, that’s literally what I’m doing right now. I, I’ve, I’ve made a lot of money from helping startups grow, getting lots of traffic, but I’m growing that community is growing at social channels. But now I’m, I’m, I’m tending to bring more of the, I am knowledge to big businesses. And I like going and doing consulting because these big businesses, they actually have the machinery to do it. So I can go in, I go, right, we’re going to build this funnel over two or three days and they. Go. Great. All right. We’re going to go in, execute that check back in a month for a stoplight. This sounds great. How are we going to do it? You know, like when a when a big company has somebody you can come in and give them. I. Yeah. Strategies on top of growth hacking strategies. Yeah, it’s. It’s phenomenally powerful. Yeah. And it was only like in being in L.A. a lot this year that I realized what was going on with it. And that’s the thing. It’s at the start of its journey. You know, people are jaded with startups. The whole idea of a startup bro in San Francisco is really played out, you know, the backlash against startups. But I am people. They stay real quiet and they make a heap of money. Yeah, they make. They make, like, exit money every year. The best ones.
Bronson: Yeah. No, absolutely. You know, it’s interesting, I never thought about this, but growth hacking is almost the name for wins like big businesses. Understand? I am a little bit it’s almost like it’s okay to like integrate growth hack. Yeah. Even though they wouldn’t say I want to integrate internet marketing best practices, you know, it’s almost like it’s the Trojan horse for a lot of new ideas. They’re okay with growth hacking. Maybe that’s wrong. I don’t know. It just seems that way.
Vincent: Yeah, I had good growth hacking, like especially the stuff I know a lot of big companies are scared to bring on. They kind of like the entertainment value, but there’s so much stuff that goes towards Gray Hat about. But this isn’t the stuff I even really mentioned in my talk. Not because I’m not providing value, but just because most people. And off the backs of spam. And I tell people this at my talks, but they still have a very fixed mindset about how business should be, where the great stops just trample all over everyone else’s dreams. You know, Airbnb, whatever. Facebook, privacy. Yeah. The day that they change the world around them rather than trying to change for the world.
Bronson: Yeah. No, absolutely. What do you you know, you see a lot of people doing growth hacking, trying to do what you do. The labels thrown around, you know? Yeah. What do people get wrong in growth hacking? What is it that people are doing that you’re just like, this is insane. It makes no sense.
Vincent: At company level. I still focus too much on the way things look and not getting the traffic. In fact, even even if we were doing growth, I.
Bronson: Say, look, you mean the design of the site or you mean just, okay. So there’s still worry about esthetics, not traffic.
Vincent: And how they look. We shouldn’t send 20 tweets. A day will look bad like that. That’s a worry at a very basic level. But yeah, a lot of the growth hackers are technical growth hackers. So they will set up an incredible Google Analytics funnel with absolutely everything played out. For a company that gets 25 visitors a day, like you missed the point. You should you should have focused on bringing traffic and most great backups can’t get organic traffic. They they’re like, how should we grow fact step one right. We’re going to need to spend $20,000 on AdWords and Facebook ads. And it’s like, Guys, have you really progressed since putting an ad on a bus or in the subway? You know, it’s like it’s more measurable now, but you kind of miss the point if you don’t do something like secret sauce and growth hacking can be anything. It can be, you know, getting a big influence to come on your board and consistently post about you. It’s really as broad as ideas, growth hacking. To me, it just means having a secret sauce, a competitive advantage. It’s a very broad tab. I if I had to get more specific, I would say it leans on the fact that we’re all addicted to our screens and that’s how it precipitates.
Bronson: Yeah. Now for sure, you know, you talk about getting organic traffic, don’t focus on optimizing the funnel if you’re getting 25 visitors a day and you talked earlier about content, you know how to get traffic. You’re getting tons of visitors a month. Walk us through that. Like, what’s the actually do? Is it put up a blog and write sensational headlines? Is it tweeting 30 times a day like, you know, someone watching this? The complaint I’m going to get is going to say, okay, what should I do? Like you gave me some high level. You had a nice talk with Vincent. What should I do after watching this? And what’s your answer to that?
Vincent: Well, firstly, the age of blogging is dead. The age where you would put writing on a website and get traffic from Facebook, Twitter, and Google has gone. Twitter. No one no one looks at the home. They still check their interactions, but no one looks at the home feeds at that traffic just month on month. Google is harder than ever to rank with more content and facebook hate external links and will block them versus all other content. So let’s say you’re a B2B company looking for coaching clients. My solution would be build a Facebook group. Let’s say you want to build a community pre-launch for a product. Build a Facebook group. I guess the number one piece of advice I give to companies, freelancers, entrepreneurs right now build a Facebook group. Facebook massively pushing it because it’s the only area of Facebook where you meet people outside of your own network and Facebook. One job is to eat Twitter’s lunch. So Facebook groups show up in a lot of people’s feeds. You can add all of your friends into a group in one day. So that group has 5000 people in it in the first day. They don’t get to say yes or no. Like to do a Facebook page. So straightaway, that group has a lot of eyeballs and they set up to be relevant eyeballs. But you can still have a few people who fill out the group at the very start. Then you need to post free three times a day into that group of relevant content. If you don’t know what to post, go on Reddit. Look at your subreddit for most upvotes of all time and then cut those into about 700 wet articles or 500 white articles by three of those a day. That outrageous value. Then you’ll start getting engagement in the group. Tell people in the group not to do external links or their posts or get shown to a lot of people. And then you start to get a community around your idea and then you’ll have people who will want to buy your stuff when it comes out, will want to help you when you have an AdWords problem or whatever it is. We’ve grown traffic and copy Facebook group for. I did a post about traffic. My friend Charlie. I told the Post about copywriting 0 to 6600 people in three months. That’s a big asset to not to spend zero time on. And it’s a completely part time project. Me and Charlie are both working on two or three other companies. Age is just something we oversee, but now we have a thousand true fans for our launches. You know, I want to have some fun and do an event about Harambe by the gorilla brutally shot dead in Cincinnati Zoo. So I just create a Kickstarter, put a link in my group and sold $5,000 worth of tickets. So when you have that community, you can start to do fun things with that. So whether it be to be and you want customer feedback or whether you are looking to create a six figure coaching business, a Facebook group is how you enroll people and because of reciprocity, you give out a lot of value. People will keep coming back. So like virtually every company starting out on day one. Yeah. Have a Facebook group.
Bronson: No, that’s exactly what I was looking for. You know, what do we do with this insights? That’s awesome. All right. This has been an incredible interview. I got two final questions here. It’s the the two questions that always end with. The first one is, what are you working on as soon as this interview is over and you just have to tell me the truth, whether it’s walking your dog, making lines, taking a nap, having some amazing meeting to close a big deal. What do you do when when you hang up on this?
Vincent: My parents just cooked me dinner, so I’m going to eat that. Then I have I think I have a coaching call with someone. I have. I gave a talk on crowdfunding this morning, so my inbox is blown up with people looking for slides. So I’m going to have to reply to those. I will read some Jay Abraham stuff. I got a new one of his sort of things that I’m really excited about. Yeah. And then I might pet my cat. Yeah. Stay up till 2 a.m. really.
Bronson: For your second workday and then do it all again tomorrow.
Vincent: I was I woke up about 5 minutes before this cool.
Vincent: Like topic.
Bronson: Final question, what is the best advice you have for any startup that’s trying to grow? Maybe it’s something you’ve already said. Maybe it’s something new.
Vincent: Great, great, great question. Yeah. I’ve read that chemical revenue stuff.
Bronson: Although they try to grow revenue too. I mean, it’s, it’s relevant.
Vincent: I, I could give many growth hacks at building a Facebook group on a practical level audience of finding influencers. But honestly, I would. Dexter Abraham has a website called Note Taking Nerds where he like, you know, Russell Brunson has a, I think a 20 CD set on how to build a funnel. You don’t have time to do it, let alone that may not be the right one for you. So, Dexter Abraham, he he buys every single one of these by all the big shots that he summarizes them into, like ten word documents. I would spend a month reading all of those. They are the best thing I have ever read because they were like $20,000. That is super VIP courses that he summarizes for you.
Bronson: I didn’t I didn’t know that existed. So I want to go after this and start writing book.
Vincent: It’s the best things I’ve ever read a business. So yeah, I would tell people to do that. And it’s, it’s shocking the things you learn. And like a lot of people are shocked by what I say my thing, they’re not shocked because it annoys them. They’re shocked because it’s true, but it’s kind of amoral, if that makes sense, the way people actually are. This is how we want them to be. We want to think well of people. We want to think high minded of people, but we have the realities of people disgraceful. And yeah, like people like.
Bronson: I say, we end on that high note. Well, seriously, Vincent, it’s been great having you on. Here is definitely an episode that I think a lot of people are going to watch and listen to and love. So thank you again for coming on Growth Aqua TV.
Vincent: Cool. Well, yeah. I mean, with this thing hit me up in the traffic and copy group, you’ll get a lot of cool stuff on Facebook.
Bronson: Awesome. Thanks again.
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