How I Created A $5M/Year LinkedIn Marketing Automation Tool

$400K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
20
Employees
Dux-Soup
from Amsterdam
started July 2015
$400,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
20
Employees
56.3K
alexa rank
62
followers
3.6K
followers
market size
$7.5B
avg revenue (monthly)
$147K
starting costs
$20.8K
gross margin
83%
time to build
12 months
growth channels
Email marketing
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
MailChimp, Instagram, Twitter
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
37 Pros & Cons
tips
6 Tips
Discover what tools Will reccommends to grow your business!
social media
productivity
Discover what books Will reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Marketing Automation Platform

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Will van der Sanden, Founder, and CEO of Dux-Soup. Dux-Soup helps business owners and sales & marketing professionals accelerate business growth by generating more leads with LinkedIn.

We offer a LinkedIn automation tool that offers the benefits of:

  1. Huge time savings by automating top-of-the-funnel LinkedIn outreach activities such as visiting profiles, sending connection requests and follow-up messages.
  2. More closely targeted LinkedIn campaigns with our automated tagging feature – allowing you to segment your LinkedIn prospects to run different campaigns to individual lists.
  3. Running LinkedIn activity straight from your CRM system (e.g. Hubspot, Pipedrive) for centralized management of marketing campaigns. Also enriching your CRM with LinkedIn data through our 2-way integrations. Dux-Soup allows you to download LinkedIn data and email addresses to CSV also.
  4. Multi-touch & personalized LinkedIn drip campaigns for lead generation and ongoing nurturing strategies.

All of this can help businesses to scale quickly, spending more time on converting leads rather than generating them. Business owners and top sales performers can be much more efficient.

We currently have over 70,000 people using our LinkedIn automation tool and a revenue of nearly $5million. Dux-Soup customers include small business owners and lead generation agencies through to sales and marketing teams within larger corporates.

We have some great examples of how customers have achieved huge results with LinkedIn automation. I find our customers very inspiring and love to hear how they are driving their own businesses forwards with Dux-Soup.

We are one of the longest established LinkedIn automation providers and have earned a strong reputation for our speed at bringing new features to market and our highly responsive customer support service – which our users appreciate.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My inspiration for Dux-Soup actually came from my wife. She was finding it exhausting to generate leads for her publishing company. Compiling lists, extracting data from websites, and emailing them - all manually - was so time-consuming that it really wasn’t very efficient.

She asked if I could help devise a way to do this better. That was my challenge and where the concept of Dux-Soup started –so I guess I ultimately have my wife to thank!

The interest in LinkedIn scraping was much greater than I anticipated, so I started exploring the competition on the market. I felt that the products out there were charging too much and giving too little value.

I should probably explain my background at the time. From a very young age, I was interested in coding and would try creating tools that were useful to people, just playing around really. I naturally went on to become a software developer and worked in the UK for enterprise mashups. That is taking data from multiple sources and combining them create something of value (which helped me to look at this particular problem from a mashup perspective).

I left my professional career and created my own product called Swivels Script - a technical solution where you could script automation in the browser. But people couldn’t really get their head around it and as a result, it was difficult to sell.

In the early days of going it alone, I found it hard to make products that were easily useable by the mass market– something that I have improved on greatly!

That was where I was when my wife came to me with her problem, and so I started to work on a way to help her.

The idea was to scrape data from online platforms and converting it into a usable format for her, ready for lead generation and social selling.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Because of my background, I knew that I was capable of developing a solution fairly easily. I started writing scripts that would scrape data from sites like Yahoo, Yellow Pages, and LinkedIn.

Once done at a basic level, I started showing them to people, initially hoping that if I could make myself self-sufficient then that would be a nice first step to monetizing the business.

The interest in LinkedIn scraping was much greater than I anticipated, so I started exploring the competition on the market. I felt that the products out there were charging too much and giving too little value. So, I saw the gap in the market and put my effort into developing the market-leading LinkedIn automation tool.

My motto from the beginning has always been to listen to my customers. They are the ones that are investing (not just money but also their time, which can be even more valuable) in our tool.

This was a process of me sitting down and coding, but whilst trying to put potential customers front of mind, something which I didn’t have much of an understanding of at the time.

It took 6 months of development to produce the first version of Dux-Soup that I was happy could be released and used commercially. This was in July January 20162015 and was only the very start of what the tool can do now.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Having learned some things about the high level of technicality with Swivel Script, and the resulting difficulties in monetizing it, I decided I wanted to make the Dux-Soup as easy to adopt as possible. I wanted it to have a clearly defined purpose, and a simple 2 or 3 click pathway to install it and start by using it.

I created a short explainer video that had a very different look to where we are now with our branding.

how-i-created-a-5m-year-linkedin-marketing-automation-tool

The website was also built as a 1-page site which encouraged, first and foremost, people to just try it out. No frills, no fuss, or clever user journeys – just everything pointing to our free starter edition.

This is a model which remains successful to this day – we still have a free starter edition that people can just download and try instantly. We also try to make the user journey as simple as possible. Our website looks very different today though.

how-i-created-a-5m-year-linkedin-marketing-automation-tool

The free edition naturally has limited functionality, and the gap between this and our paid versions is increasing. Our Pro and Turbo ‘paid’ subscriptions are being enhanced on an almost daily basis as our customers request new features and come up with ideas - ideas that we love to hear about and turn into reality.

I launched the Pro version in 20167/86 to allow me to try and earn revenue from the tool. I wanted it to be accessible to everyone, including individuals, and so at $15/month it really is within the realms of individuals that can’t get it funded by their business.

Finally, our Turbo product launched in 2019, adding API functionality so that businesses could integrate LinkedIn outreach into multi-channel lead generation strategies, and benefit from enhancing their CRM data with LinkedIn information. Most of the development now is on the Turbo product, as this is where our advanced users are asking for more and more functionality.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

My motto from the beginning has always been to listen to my customers. They are the ones that are investing (not just money but also their time, which can be even more valuable) in the Dux-Soup tool. If you give them what they want then they will not only grow with you but also be your best salespeople, telling their friends and colleagues. This model works very well for us even today to grow our user base.

Of course, we have had to develop as a business, beyond just me, and I have expanded with a technical and support team that is great at communicating with customers and helping them with their questions. They also host our webinars to share tips on how to get better use out of the tool, as we feel it’s important that our customers are always getting more value.

We have a marketing team also that are constantly provides regular pushing out content, videos, and webinars to help our user base. Content is aimed to improve our user’s knowledge of the tool itself, but also deliver more general lead generation thought leadership – on messaging, LinkedIn search techniques, strategies that are getting top results for users, and much more.

They also focus on raising awareness via social media, ads, collaboration with influencers, and more targeted campaigns.

I like the idea that this tool can be as low cost as it is because people can use our resources to teach themselves how to use it. Our support team is easily contactable for any user that needs advice or help, and very responsive to our users.

But our more advanced users can have very specific requirements for more around building Dux-Soup into complex lead generation workflows tasks. For this, and so we do find that they may need help or for those who just want some hand-holding, our technical experts offer one-to-one sessions to guide customers with specific requirements or to help those who just want more hand-holding.

In terms of growing our customer base, we regularly work with influencers who will evangelize our product to their audience. The most successful ones are passionate about the tool, so we tend to look within our user base for these.

We run a really popular webinar program and invite guest presenters (again typically users who offer a wider view of how to successfully use LinkedIn for lead generation). Our webinars get over 2000 registrations now. An example of this is shown below where we got 2170 registrants.

how-i-created-a-5m-year-linkedin-marketing-automation-tool

YouTube is working well for us and we have over 10,000 readers of our blog every month. Our website attracts over 30,000 users each month showing that people like to consume content and do their research.

All of this, plus ongoing product development work really hard to keep our users coming back to learn more and enhance their use of our tool.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

On the 14th of June 2021, we rebranded the business.

We felt it was time for a more modern, vibrant, up-to-date identify that properly represents how Dux accelerates lead generation for our users.

Dux is now flying – to show that lead gen can truly take off when using Dux-Soup. As the most trusted and proven LinkedIn automation provider, we absolutely stand by that.

The capabilities of the tool are advancing every day too. For example – we have inbuilt conversion analysis (in our Dux-Dash) to help drive more successful workflows and better results, and new native integrations into a growing number of third-party systems - to allow Dux-Soup to become part of a multi-channel approach.

how-i-created-a-5m-year-linkedin-marketing-automation-tool

You can see how our logo has developed and read more on why Dux-Soup rebranded.

how-i-created-a-5m-year-linkedin-marketing-automation-tool

We are working towards more advanced customer acquisition attribution modeling - understanding exactly what content is consumed before someone becomes a customer. We know that customers either tend to buy instantly or after around 12 visits to the website. We’re trying to understand what content works the best for faster acquisition.

Then there’s churn rate and trying to reduce this to as low a number as possible.

We have to be responsive to whatever changes LinkedIn is making. We have recently seen a reduction in the number of connection requests that LinkedIn is allowing some users to send, and so coming up with strategies for our users is important to help them see ways to continue to use automation techniques.

We have just finished currently working on our Hubspot integration which is due to release imminently. Our most requested feature, plus we’re getting more pressure-demand internationally for different languages to be available so there’s always work to be done. It’s just a case of prioritizing it!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The key thing I've learned is that timing the release and functionality of your product with up-and-coming trends really helps to get the word out. It's important NOT to be ahead of the curve by too much. If your product is too 'out there' your prospects just won't get it, and you will be fighting an uphill battle explaining the benefits of your product.

The second big lesson is to keep an open mind and not to be purist about what your product does. If your initial product isn't getting traction with the market or customers, blame yourself. See what barriers to adoption exist and remove them. Once you've done that, and your product really is delivering value, you should see adoption go up.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use lots of platforms, I’m a great believer in technology and automating as much as possible to save time and resources. Slackis a great collaboration tool within the business, where we can all stay in touch in real-time.

Then for marketing, we use Mailchimp, GoToWebinar, and FirstPromoter for our affiliate scheme. We also use Google Analytics and Tag Manager to understand how our main marketing tool, our website, is performing.

We use Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Ads, and Instagram. The list is ever-growing really.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I try to keep up to date with news and technology mostly. In reality, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I like resources such as The Register, Wired, and other tech sites. My team is also a good resource as I am not a big follower of social media so get the more relevant news internally.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

I would say if you have an idea you just need to go for it. It’s easy to spend too long thinking about ideas and reasons to delay launching a business, but once you actually get started you’ll work a lot of things out as you go.

It helps to discuss your ideas with other entrepreneurs, business leaders, and influencers in your field.

And don’t forget to listen to your customers and take feedback on board!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re continually growing, but I tend to use specialist providers for more project-based work.

I have recently recruited an additional member of the customer service team in line with our growing user base, but I’m sure there will be more expansion needed soon - there always is with a growing business.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Will van der Sanden,   Founder of Dux-Soup
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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Neha Shelar
3 months ago

I truly enjoyed it! Great points. I would add that marketing automation tools like Aritic PinPoint or Hubspot are a facilitator and that there is a marketing dimension to their effective use. Nicely done.

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