Reading list: Growing your company online in 2020? Here’s the resources you need now. [Bonus: our book highlights]

Last year at doopoll, we became completely obsessed with building the company using scaleable methods. Here's a list of resources we devoured while fostering that focus.

In this post, you will learn

Last year at doopoll, we became completely obsessed with building the company using scaleable methods. 

We built a pretty great company on the basis of direct sales alone in the first three or four years of the company. But in 2019, for us, it was all about finding a scaleable model. 

And I’m happy to say that we achieved it. 

We acquired loads of new customers and managed to increase product usage by several hundred percent across the year.

So I wanted to share with you how we gained the knowledge to help us build our own system for growth in the business. 

What follows is a list of resources, books and websites that we lived and breathed across the last 12 months. 

I would heartily recommend each one of these things (as well as about a million others than I’ll save for a future post). 

If you’re growing your business or setting growth as a goal for 2020, here’s what you’re going to want to immerse yourself in. 

Books

One of our company principles is to read widely. The idea is that when you read widely you compound the knowledge that you’re acquiring from your day to day life. 

Reading books helps us to go deep on a topic for a week or two and then apply the principles we learn to our day to day week. 

Here’s some books we’d recommend if you’re growing your company online.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

A lot of people I know first became aware of the idea of growth marketing because of this foundational book by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. 

The whole thing centres around a systematic approach to growth that the authors call the Bullseye Framework.

The idea is to set small experiments in growth in a progressive manner in order to rule out poor growth channels as quickly as possible. 

It’s the Sherlock Holmes approach basically. 

Here’s a couple of quotes from the book that I highlighted: 

Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.
You can think of your initial investment in traction as pouring water into a leaky bucket. At first your bucket will be very leaky because your product is not yet a full solution to customer needs and problems. In other words, your product is not as sticky as it could be, and many customers will not want to engage with it yet. As a consequence, much of the money you are spending on traction will leak out of your bucket. This is exactly where most founders go wrong. They think because this money is leaking out that it is money wasted. Oppositely, this process is telling you where the real leaks are in your bucket (product). If you don’t interact with cold customers in this way, then you generally spend time on the wrong things in terms of product development. These interactions also get you additional data, like what messaging is resonating with potential customers, what niche you might focus on first, what types of customers will be easiest to acquire, and what major distribution roadblocks you might run into.
As Paul Graham said in his essay “Do Things That Don’t Scale”: A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don’t. You build something, make it available, and if you’ve made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don’t, in which case the market must not exist. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off…. The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually.

Here’s a link in case you want to buy the book

Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Look. If you’re entering the world of growth marketing and sales frameworks, you’re going to have to swallow your pride and occasionally read a book that doesn’t align with your style. 

This was my feeling when I read Predictable Revenue. 

It turns out, it was really useful to me and my co-founder Steve in thinking about how to structure our lead generation work. 

Here’s a few highlights that I thought were good: 

In high-productivity sales organizations, salespeople do not cause customer acquisition growth, they fulfill it.
Do your executive team and board know how much new (qualified) pipeline the company needs to generate per month? (This is the #2 most important metric to track, right after closed business.) Is the “new pipeline generated per month” number tracked at the board level? Is there a common language, common definitions, for "prospects," "leads" and "opportunities"? One of the biggest problems is usually mis-communication and misunderstanding of terms and metrics between executives and directors. At least if your executive team and board are aware of the pipeline gap — the amount of pipeline required to hit your results, and likely places it will come from — you can begin to be more realistic in both your goals and plans to execute on those goals. You will also be less likely to break trust with your team and investors by missing your goals as a surprise, i.e., without really knowing why.

Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page

The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building by Matt Mochary

Even if you’re not the CEO in your organisation, there’s no reason you shouldn’t behave like one of the best CEOs out there. 

This book is full of highly practical insights into how to grow personally and inspire growth in your organisation.

Here’s a link to buy this book if you’re into it

This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by Yancey Strickler

Curve ball here. 

Not strictly about growth but really about building a responsible future. 

There’s a whole category of books about responsible growth and I think that’s really important. 

In this one, Yancey Strickler, former CEO of Kickstarter, details his ideas about why the world has gone a lot wrong (spoiler alert: we’re obsessed with financial growth at the cost of everything else) and then outlines his ideas for building a better future. 

This book changed how I view the world. I think Strickler’s ideas will become foundational for the world in the next 30 years

Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page

Want some snippets here? Right this way friend

Thirty years from now—2050—will be the first time society will be led by the Millennial and Z generations. Two groups notable in many ways, including for being the first to grow up after the internet. These generations show a strong dissatisfaction with the world they’re inheriting. In a 2014 poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, just 19 percent of Americans between the ages of nineteen and twenty-nine called themselves capitalists, and less than half said they supported capitalism.
Matsushita named five spirits to guide the company: Spirit of service through industry Spirit of fairness Spirit of harmony and cooperation Spirit of striving for progress Spirit of courtesy and humility Almost eighty years later, many of Panasonic’s offices still began their days by reading these spirits aloud.

Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth by John Doerr

Foundational for people growing companies is the idea that ‘What gets measured gets managed’. This is true of everything from customer satisfaction to staff productivity. 

And it’s this book that really explains the system that the most well known companies in the world (including doopoll, obvs) are using to drive growth. 

We use a set of objectives and key results to ensure that we’re measuring our progress against a series of objectives. Everyone in the company has sight of these and is encouraged to focus their work around trying to move the needle on the metrics attached to each objective. 

If we all work towards the same goal, we’re going to make a lot of progress. 

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.

Websites

Julian.com Growth Guide

One of the things that spurred us on to really double down on the strategies that we were looking at for growing doopoll was Julian Shapiro’s growth guide. It is comprehensive, up to date and full of deep insight into how to use growth channels to their maximum potential. 

Shapiro is one of the cofounders of Demand Curve (see below) who run a very popular training course and an agency which counts Microsoft, Imperfect Produce, Perfect Keto, and hundreds of others among its clients. 

Here’s a link for you

The doopoll guide to customer satisfaction

In Autumn 2019, we launched our guide to customer satisfaction. I truly believe that customer satisfaction is one of the highest leverage opportunities for you to grow your company. It is easy to scale customer satisfaction and you’ll find that as you manage it carefully you’ll:

  • Gain competitive advantage
  • Create referrals to grow your customer base
  • Reduce churn
  • Decrease cost of acquisition
  • Increase lifetime value by inspiring repeat customers
  • Boost overall revenue

Why would you not take 1 hour out of your week to read this really well written (if I do say so myself) guide to customer satisfaction

Growth Machine

If you’re looking to leverage search and content marketing as part of your growth strategy, there I would recommend two places. One of those is Benji Hyam’s blog Grow and Convert and that’s really great for seeing in depth content that you won’t have read elsewhere.

But if you’re just getting started and you want to get your head around the fundamentals of this topic, there’s the Growth Machine blog written by Nat Eliason and his team. 

Unlike a lot of other content and search people, Nat’s work is authoritative, accessible and not at all shady. Every word that he writes feels like it needs to be there and I’ve learned heaps and heaps from it. 

Would 100% recommend. Here’s the link.

Indiehackers

Not for everyone because a lot of the info refers to startups. 

But the Indiehackers community is run by Courtland Allen, who has a great radio voice (see their brilliant podcast for reference).

It’s a community of people who are running profitable internet business sharing how they manage and talking to each other about the challenges they’re facing. 

This kind of information is invaluable – and it’s all free on Indiehackers.

ActiveCampaign blog

I was surprised late last year when an Irish guy cold emailed me from Chicago to offer to demo ActiveCampaign to me. It was his first week on the job and he got me at just the right time: we were looking for a more targeted way to handle our email marketing in doopoll.

What ActiveCampaign does is help you build out profiles of your customers and mailing list subscribers by allowing you to integrate data from other sources.

But the real mastery of ActiveCampaign is the inclusion of an extensive automation builder that you can use to automate a huge amount of your marketing work. 

They also have a really useful blog for growing internet businesses. Here’s a link. 

Hubspot blog

I don’t personally use Hubspot. We use a mixture of Pipedrive and ActiveCampaign to achieve the same purpose. 

But what I do do is reference the Hubspot blog on a weekly basis. 

They’ve invested heavily in creating great resources and it really shows. 

I’d share my favourite articles from there but honestly, they’re pretty much all my favourite. Even the ones that recommend SurveyMonkey and don’t recommend doopoll (Hubspot, if you’re reading this, you hurt my feeling but I love you anyway.)

Put your hands up… if you want a link.

Neil Patel’s blog

Neil Patel’s probably one of the most widely referenced marketing people on the internet. His website provides loads of useful free tools including an SEO audit tool that you can use for free. 

His articles on internet marketing are really long and full of interesting tactics that you may not have considered before. 

Here’s a link to Neil’s website

Quick idea for you

Benefits of surveys to your business

Oh, hey, while you’re here, you should take a look at this other post on the benefits of surveys to your business. It’s an amazing opportunity for growth. Here’s a snippet of that: 

On average, 47% of respondents leave an email address at the end of a doopoll survey. That is way above the industry standards. But it has tangible benefits. 

  • Imagine that you survey 1000 people and 47% of them leave an email address. That means you grow your mailing list by 470 people. 
  • Now let’s say you have a customer lifetime value of £100 and around 1% of your mailing list signups purchase.
  • 4.7 people from your 470 strong mailing list will buy and have a lifetime value of £100
  • Your survey has an ROI of £470 which is not bad for the time it took you to sign up to doopoll, create a few targeted questions and send out a mailer to respondents. 

Courses

Demand Curve Growth Program 

One of the best investments I have ever made in our company is to pay for the Demand Curve Growth Program. 

In short it’s a 6 month long program which takes around 4-6 hours a day out of your day-to-day. It costs £4,444. 

Seem like a lot of time and money? 

Well, I promise you that it’s worth it. 

We’re coming to the end of the program now and I can tell you that we have seen: 

  • An increase in revenue which we can directly attribute to the help we received as part of the program
  • A refined brand message 
  • A clear strategy for growth
  • All the knowledge we need to run growth without paying consultants or hiring additional tem members (this alone is ROI on the hefty course fee)
  • A paid advertising strategy and implementation which would have taken us months to get right if we hadn’t had our hand held through it

If you do nothing else this year to build your knowledge of growing an online business, let it be this one thing: sign up and pay for the full program.

Check out this video introducing the course

Before you go

And that’s the list of things I think you should read and digest if you’re just getting started with growing your business online.