The key to whatever you’re doing is to measure it because that’s when you know whether you’re improving or not. LinkedIn lead generator Stapho Thienpont helps clients build strong personal brands. In this episode, Nathan Hirsch interviews Stapho about setting your business goals, measuring them, and then creating a strategy to accomplish those goals. Stapho also shares some tips on hiring and running an agency as well as some marketing advice for people that are growing their own agency.
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Growing Your Agency By Setting and Measuring Your Business Goals With Stapho Thienpont
My guest is Stapho Thienpont. Stapho, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. We’ve been trying to book this for a while and I’m happy to see your face. It’s a great face and I’m happy to be here.
Where are you located or where are you?
I’m in Sofia, Bulgaria, but originally, I’m from Belgium.
For those of you that don’t know, Stapho used to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu full-time. He lived in a gym, he slept on the mats, and he traveled around the world to fight. Then he wanted to stop beating up his friends all the time in training, it was time to level up. He moved back into his mom’s basement and learned everything there was to know about social media content, LinkedIn automation, networking and lead generation. His agency gets people five qualified sales calls per week, turned CEOs, founders into LinkedIn thought leaders that get hundreds of followers, thousands of leads, and hundreds of thousands of views per month. I’m excited to talk about all of that, but first, I want to take a gigantic step back. What were you like growing up as a kid? Were you an A-straight student? Were you a rebel? Obviously, you got into jiu-jitsu, but did you have any idea that you were going to be an entrepreneur?
I was a nerd and I didn’t have many friends because my parents split up and I would live at my dad’s place during a part of the week and in my mom’s place out apart. I wouldn’t have so much of a social circle. I was always interested in watching Brazilian, all sorts of fighting stuff, I love to watch that. I love figuring stuff, maybe video games or some random stuff I found in a book. I was always obsessed with looking at something and figuring out how to break it down to its core components.
Talk about being a fighter, what was that lifestyle like? I can’t imagine it, I’m sure other people couldn’t. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
You can imagine it like this, you wake up and you’re definitely not rested because you’re always tired. You have to train, let’s say, 9:00 AM first time, you’re fighting half of that time, you’re wrestling your friends and they’re all international competitors. After training, you have fifteen minutes to catch your breath and then you have some physical training after that, maybe weightlifting, gymnastics, cardio, all this stuff you don’t want to do. By the time it’s 4:00 PM, you’re going to do your pre-training, you’ve got to find somebody and do some techniques until your body is hurting, then you do the actual training, the second real session of the day, half of that you’re fighting again, it’s painful, everything’s hurting.
You probably feel guilty if you don’t do another session, so you probably do a second session of the day and then after that, you might do some more drills. You practice technique and you do that six days a week. You’re continuously in pain but you learn to not listen to those signals. When you cross the boundary, you’ll know and you’ll take a little bit of gas of the battle. Apart from that, you learn how to push through the uncomfortableness of doing stuff you don’t naturally want to do at the moment to achieve the goal that you do want to achieve eventually.
Sports and business go hand-in-hand. I wasn’t a fighter but I did wrestle for years, I played baseball and there are elements of team and hard work and getting over failure. All that stuff applies to business too, would you agree?
100%. Wrestling and jiu-jitsu is similar, it’s like peanut butter and jelly. You know exactly what it’s about if you’ve wrestled.
Hire sooner rather than later, but know what is it that you need from the people you’re hiring.
You spend a lot of time on the mat. You’re in your mom’s basement, why did you pick marketing and how do you even begin to learn all that, all there is to know?
First of all, in the beginning, it was important for me that I would be location independent. The second thing was, I wanted to do something that plays with my natural strengths and my natural strengths are psychology and understanding people, as well as building systems. I felt marketing was a perfect mix of system building and psychology together. That’s why I picked marketing. How I got started was I figured there are good books out there. What I’m going to do is read a book and I’m going to break down what I learned from those books and post about it online. I made a Facebook group and I would read a book and share what I’ve learned in the book. Automatically, people started to believe that I was good at marketing and I was like, “I’m taking this from these books.”
The fact that I was reading and synthesizing the stuff, it started to bring inbound leads to me. People wanted to work with me. I started a little project here and I did a little project there, and then I got into a close-knit secret society almost of people who were good at LinkedIn. I started learning from them and that’s how I started to specialize in LinkedIn content and LinkedIn lead generation. The marketing seems interesting to me and I will just read and practice, and then roll with the punches and see how I can use this to get better and also turn it into some company and turn it to the agency that I have now.
Talk to me about year one of growing your agency. What did that look like? Was it you? Did you have a business partner? Who was your first hire? How did that come to be?
I did the marketing for a year and a half before I started my agency, more like freelancing and whatever. Me and my Cofounder, Sonny, The Marketing Family, we started this company together. We moved from Belgium to Sofia to start the company because taxes in Belgium are ridiculous. Also, the cost of living for an entrepreneur there, if you don’t have funding, it’s difficult, so we moved to Sofia to start. We randomly met this girl and she was like, “I want to work for you guys.” I’m like, “Sure, you could work for us.” It turned out to not be a great hire. I don’t think we’ve vetted her on the right qualities. She had some mental issues that made it hard for her get up on time, to stay focused, to do the day-to-day was difficult for her. We had to let her go. When we hired our second guy, it has been a great win. The second guy we hired was phenomenal and is still with us. The main thing we learned from that situation is I still don’t care about the resume so much, but you’ve got to not just take anybody that comes at you.
Even though we were a tiny agency, we should’ve still been like, “What is it that we need from somebody? What is the mindset that we need from them? What are the level of alertness and the level of insights and pro-activeness that we need?” Try to figure out during the interview like, “Is this person a good fit in that way?” That’s the biggest lesson that we’ve learned. We figured, most of this LinkedIn stuff, we invented ourselves. We’re not going to hire somebody that knows how to do this stuff, which doesn’t exist. We started to learn, even if we got to teach them the skills, which is quite easy to teach some of these skills, still we got to have some other stuff, be a present for them to be a good fit with us.
Can you talk about the structure of your agency? I know there are a lot of different ways people set up an agency. Some people have other people interacting with clients. Other people, the owners are the only ones interacting. You use in-house and freelancers, you’re a client at FreeeUp. How are you structuring everything?
We’re always working on improving our mix and structuring it better, but the basic premise is the stuff that needs to happen all the time are constant costs and are constant labor, maintaining automation, for example, we always got to do that for that. For that we have people in-house working full-time. We have four people working full-time. The stuff that has more variability to it, let’s say content creation, editing videos, which is what we use FreeeUp for. Social media managers, those kinds of people that we need them for this many hours per project, those people we have externally and those are our freelancers that we use.
The reason we do this is because we want to be able to predict how much money we’re going to be making, but also when we lose a client or something, we don’t want to have this person working for us and we don’t have the work for them, or we don’t have to pay them. We don’t have to keep somebody if we don’t need because it’s frustrating for them and it’s frustrating for us. That’s why we have our core people in-house and the people they would need per project, those are all freelancers. That’s how we’ve structured it so far.
You’ve got this business that’s location independent. How are you managing? How are you communicating with all these people among different projects, different clients?
My original goal was to be location independent, but we’re not location dependent at the moment. We have our office here in Sofia. Me and my cofounder, we work in the office and our main guys, they will come here sometimes, especially for meetings and stuff but most of the time they’ll be somewhere else. We do all our communication both with our clients and with our team members, we do everything in Slack, and then we use Notion and Trello for project management. We make big points of whatever we do, being sure that we can turn it into a dashboard so that even if there are 10, 20 people working on a project, we can look at the dashboards and be like, “These are the numbers. What needs to change?” If the outreach needs to change, the outreach guy is going to talk to the outreach team and fix it. The communication is on Slack, but getting insight into what everybody’s doing, that’s all Google Sheets and Databox, which is great, or SHIELD Analytics.
What other tips do you have about hiring and running an agency with real people?
The key to whatever you’re doing is to measure it.
You should probably hire sooner rather than later, but you’ve got to know what is it that you need from them, and you don’t have to fall into the trap of thinking, “I can’t hire somebody full-time,” or “I don’t have enough work for somebody full-time. I can’t afford it.” You should look at, what are the tasks that I’m doing or that my team is doing that would be easy for somebody else to do, the results could be better or it would be more efficient? You should take those tasks early on and outsource them to people from FreeeUp for example. That would be my tip, do it sooner rather than later.
I want to talk to you about LinkedIn. I post on LinkedIn and I get hundreds, sometimes thousands of views. I’m definitely not getting millions. What is the key to LinkedIn? Can you share some strategies that work for you and work for the clients?
For me, the key is whatever you’re doing, measure it. That’s the first thing. If you’re not measuring it and you don’t know if you’re improving or not, it’s going to be frustrating and you’re going to think with your ego, and it’s not going to serve your business goals. If you’re doing content on a personal profile, I would use a tool called SHIELD Analytics that I use a lot. Databox for measuring LinkedIn company pages and for outreach, you’ve got to use the CRM, and that’s important. Measuring what you’re doing and the results they’re creating, that’s the first part, but then the second part is, you’ve got to have a specific goal.
I was talking on a discovery call and I asked him, “You’re talking to me, so clearly you want to up your LinkedIn game, but why do you want to up your LinkedIn game?” He was like, “We want to increase our following.” I’m like, “Why are you trying to increase your following? If you want numbers, you can buy some followers.” I’m like, “What is it that you want?” They were like, “We’re first to market and we want to position ourselves before our competitors start positioning themselves. If he gets to be first now then in the future, they’ll be seen as a rip-off.” Now you’re talking, we can make a strategy to accomplish that goal. Set the clear goal, but be a little bit more technical so I’m not spending all this vague stuff.
What you’ve got to do is to be connecting to your ideal customers or your ideal target audience, the people that either should buy from you or that should see your content one way or another. You should be connecting with those people at scale, at least 20 to 50 people a day. You’ve got to be connected with them. When you post, they’re going to be the ones that see it. You’ve got to post content that is specifically adjusted to your ideal audience and to your ideal customer, and you write about stuff that you know about and that they care about.
You’ve got to do something to make sure that content gets seen. You make a little group within your company, within your friends’ group, your peers, to all like and comment on each other’s post so they can get more reach. Since you already have the right people and your audience, it is going to be driving your business if the copy is correct. At the same time, you’re not just connecting with these people and your ideal target audience, you should also be talking to them by liking their stuff, commenting on their stuff, and also messaging them.
Ultimately, you’re probably trying to drive sales. What you’re going to do is talk to these people, make sure that they’re qualified, give them value, and then ask them to come on a discovery call or similar. Those are some of the main points. Make sure that you’re reaching out to the people and your ideal target audience, create content that they care about. Make sure that there’s engagement on that content. Make sure to build those relationships and get people away from LinkedIn onto a sales call, onto a discovery call, at your email funnel, download your eBook, whatever. Don’t just stay on LinkedIn and don’t forget your goal, which is whatever it is that you’ve set your goal as, but don’t lose track of it. As soon as you start posting and you start understanding how to get the engagement, you’re going to get a little bit addicted to getting those likes, getting those viewers, getting those followers. It’s easy to be spending eight hours a day on it and getting zero ROI or revenue from it. Always stay close to the goal. That would be my advice.
Any other overall marketing advice, or advice for people that are growing their own agency?
My advice would be this. All of that stuff they teach you at business school, doing market analysis, figuring out your persona, looking at your competitors, do it. It’s easy to be like, “What I’m going to do is hustle 24/7. I’m going to watch Gary Vaynerchuk all day.” I love Gary Vee, don’t get me wrong. “I’m going to watch Gary Vee and I’m going to comment on a million things. I’m going to do all these things.” You should probably do those things, they’re great tactics, but start with your basic marketing framework. Sit down, do the strategic work, understand your customers, understand your competitors, understand your product, and start from there. Don’t be like, “I’m going to do YouTube. I’m going to do this and this now.” That’s all good, but don’t start there. Start with strategic work.
This has been great. Where can people find out more about you and what are you most excited about?
They can reach out to me on my LinkedIn profile or in my Facebook group, The Marketing Family. Our website is not online, but in the future, you can reach out to me there too, or you can email me at [email protected]. What I’m most excited about is I’m passionate about creating systems. I’m passionate about making systems that are used internally to generate leads for our clients, that may go better every single month and then maybe release a course about it. At the very least, I want to improve my fight result, that’s what I’m most passionate about at the moment.
Thank you so much for coming on. This was great. Have a good rest of the day.
- Stapho Thienpont – LinkedIn
- The Marketing Family
- SHIELD Analytics
- The Marketing Family – Facebook Group
- [email protected]
About Stapho Thienpont
Stapho Thienpont used to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu full time, so I lived in the gym, slept on the Matt’s and traveled the world to fight.
Then I wanted to stop beating up my friends all the time in training so it was time to level up.
So I moved back into my mom’s basement and learned everything there is to know about social media content, LinkedIn automation, networking and lead generation.
Now my agency gets people 5 qualified sales calls per weeks and turns CEOs/Founders into LinkedIn thought-leaders that get hundreds of followers, thousands of leads and hundreds of thousands of views per month.