Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Christopher Panteli, the operator of Linkifi, a turnkey link-building agency. We launched Linkifi in January of the previous year when I was still employed full-time at a fish and chip shop. Encouraged by our swift customer acquisition through word-of-mouth, my business partner and I decided to fully commit to our enterprise.
Our flagship offering includes 5 and 10-link HARO link packages, wherein clients simply complete an onboarding form and leave the rest to us. Our job is to secure them five or ten of the highest quality links via HARO by responding to press requests.
Over the past six to eight months, our business has seen substantial growth, with our monthly revenues now consistently exceeding US$50,000. This success affirms our decision to concentrate on Linkifi and fuels our determination to continue delivering superior link-building solutions to our clients.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My journey is quite intriguing. I graduated from the University of Liverpool with a degree in Economics before taking over the family's fish and chip shop business, a venture I was engaged in for about 13 years. Gradually, my enthusiasm for the food industry and its business model began to wane, prompting me to explore the realm of online businesses.
My interest was particularly piqued by blog income reports, showcasing immense earning potential from online properties. This led to the inception of my personal finance website, which quickly gained traction, and I was earning $1000 a month within a few months.
Recognizing the potential to grow this site, I launched an active link-building campaign, my first being a guest post campaign. The campaign was a success, building approximately 50 links within 12 months, leading to a significant surge in traffic and corresponding earnings.
Around this time, I met my future business partner, Nick. He outsourced some of his guest posting campaign work to me, while concurrently observing the links I had built myself via HARO for my finance website. Nick proposed that I could provide similar services for his clients.
I accepted his proposal, and we quickly realized the high demand for this "done-for-you" reactive PR link-building service. Within a few months, we established our business name and model and began acquiring clients mainly through word-of-mouth.
The business took off once we aligned ourselves with influential figures. The positive results we delivered to our initial pool of clients and their excellent feedback reassured us that we were on the right track. We knew that scaling our operations and increasing our visibility in the market were the key steps needed for growth.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Over time, our product has undergone several revisions in terms of setting expectations, deliverables, and pricing structure. Yet, the core offering remains consistent - a set number of guaranteed HARO backlinks with minimum metric deliverables within an advised timeframe. The smaller packages typically require two to three months for delivery, while the larger packages may take a bit longer.
Originally, we launched the product as a subscription-based monthly campaign, but tracking became challenging due to the absence of the right operational tools. Consequently, we shifted to a fixed-number link package model, offering 5, 10, and 20-link packages. This adjustment made management significantly easier.
As our business evolved and we developed more efficient systems with automation connections, primarily using Airtable, we could reintroduce the monthly campaigns. We now open these campaigns a few times a year, and this strategy has proved quite successful for us.
Continue to learn and test your ideas; give away your services or products for free to a select group, gather feedback, adjust, and retest.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our business was launched unobtrusively, growing organically over time. I constructed the website, and despite not being a coding expert or a WordPress whiz, I managed to make it functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Our main challenge was integrating a payment platform and an affiliate program. We chose to use ThriveCart, a decision that significantly streamlined our processes. It has been instrumental in processing and tracking sales, managing our affiliate team, and promoting Linkifi’s services.
To maintain this seamless integration between ThriveCart, our website, and our ad campaigns on Facebook, tracking was crucial. This became an essential progression from our initial business launch to our current status.
We ran a highly targeted first campaign with our inaugural major influencer, which required meticulous work. Our affiliate links, payment methods, automation systems, and onboarding systems needed to be all functioning correctly.
The automated triggers from our email provider, MailerLite, and the Google Forms for onboarding were particularly essential during the promotion by our influencer in his newsletter. It was vital to ensure that the discount code was functional and that the website was fully operational for this significant Linkifi launch. Although there was a hiccup with the influencer initially forgetting to include the discount code, causing sluggish sales, he quickly rectified the error.
Once the discount code was included, we saw a sizable influx of customers, marking our first successful promotional campaign. We did not have to seek external funding for this campaign, relying instead on the income we had generated from our initial clients. This strategy proved effective, paving the way for our continuous growth.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our most successful customer acquisition strategy began quite straightforwardly. We reached out to influencers in our space, offering them free links to provide a taste of our services. We then politely asked them to promote us to their audience through our affiliate program if they were satisfied with the results we delivered.
This proved to be a tremendously effective strategy, as it allowed potential customers to witness first-hand proof of our capabilities and deliverables from an influencer they already trust.
The combination of a warmed-up audience and genuine case studies showcasing the results of our packages significantly bolstered our client base. However, one drawback of this approach is the inconsistency in client acquisition over time. Instead, we experience significant influxes of customers during campaign periods.
As a result, we've dedicated a significant portion of our resources to email marketing. We offer a valuable free opt-in tool – a metric database for those who pitch HARO on their own. This freebie leads to an upsell of our HARO MasterClass course, where we reveal our full agency strategy on HARO link building, teaching customers how they can do it themselves.
The course is followed by a 12 to 15-email sequence packed with valuable information on HARO and the eventual upselling of our packages. This strategy has proven quite successful, and we've further leveraged it by running Facebook ads directed toward the initial freebie, guiding leads into our funnel.
In addition to these strategies, I have also attended numerous conferences, which have contributed significantly to our business growth. Engaging in casual conversations at these events often leads to insightful, actionable tips that can drastically change the trajectory of our business. The networking potential these conferences offer is invaluable for client acquisition.
Finally, we put a lot of emphasis on client retention. We provide discount offers on our client portals and regularly exceed expectations by over-delivering our links. Even after a client's campaign is completed, we continue to build additional free links for them. We notify them of this added value and invite them to consider another package with us, thereby maintaining great customer relations beyond the end of a campaign.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our journey so far has been highly profitable, with an emphasis on keeping costs low as we scale up. As the number of tools, system automation, and staff increase, costs inevitably rise.
However, we maintain a healthy margin of 60 to 70% on our packages. All of our sales are instantly processed through the ThriveCart payment link, and each package has a set deliverable timeframe.
Our operations run smoothly. HARO inquiries come through daily, which are sorted by our department based on relevance. These relevant queries are then handled by our pitch writers who craft researched and edited responses. These responses undergo another round of editing and fact-checking by an editor before being sent to the appropriate journalist.
As for our plans, our short-term goals focus on continuing our growth and customer acquisition. Long-term, we aim to break into new markets and heavily promote our digital PR offerings. We also intend to put great emphasis on client retention while introducing additional courses and packages as we continue to scale and grow.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the most valuable lessons we've learned is the power of providing free samples of our service or product to influential individuals in our sector. The combination of organic influencer marketing with case study results greatly appeals to potential clients.
This strategy immediately entices them to purchase, given the trust they already have in the existing influencers and the demonstrable results that can be presented.
We've also learned the necessity of robust backup systems in the face of automation failures. While our automated scripts and codings are extremely helpful when functioning correctly, they occasionally fail.
To counter these mishaps, we've developed detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These allow us to adapt efficiently to changing scenarios and maintain our operations regardless of unforeseen technological glitches.
Another pivotal decision we've made is the implementation of a flexible pricing structure that allows for discounts. This approach not only enables us to offer markdowns at opportune times but also provides us with the capacity to propose our services at reduced rates to other influencers who may not have a large audience.
Offering these individuals a discounted version of our services gives them a taste of what we offer, thereby encouraging them to promote us organically with verifiable results.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We utilize an array of tools to optimize our operations. WordPress serves as the foundation of our website, while Airtable, in conjunction with Zapier and custom-coded Google scripts, streamlines our processes. T
his combination enables us to directly pull HARO emails into Airtable and manage all our activities. Further automation in Airtable assists in assigning domains and metrics to the relevant publications and queries, which is crucial for our business.
Moreover, we use Notion, a multifunctional tool, along with Google Forms and MailerLite, our email service provider. We handle payments through ThriveCart and Stripe, ensuring a smooth transaction process for our clients. As for our social media marketing, Twitter has proven to be one of our most effective platforms.
When it comes to hiring, platforms like Job Rack and Workello have been highly successful for us. Lastly, Google Workspace serves as the backbone for all our internal communication and email management, proving indispensable to our operations.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
As an ardent podcast listener, I've found invaluable insights and inspiration from several sources. Alongside my business partner, I've particularly benefited from a few main podcasts. First among these is the "Niche Pursuits" podcast, currently hosted by Jared Bauman, which provides a wealth of information for diverse online businesses.
The "Authority Hacker" podcast, hosted by Gael Breton and Mark Webster, is another exceptional resource that delves deep into the realm of online business. Lastly, I've greatly enjoyed the podcast by Doug Cunningham, which, along with "The Side Hustle Show" podcast, has sparked numerous inventive ideas and provided invaluable inspiration.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My foremost advice for budding entrepreneurs is to identify and engage with proven professionals in your desired field. These experts often share invaluable insights through various platforms like social media or newsletters, providing you with a clear understanding of the industry, profitable markets, and potential directions to take. There is a wealth of free knowledge at your disposal, and leveraging it can drastically improve your start-up journey.
I also strongly recommend attending industry-related conferences. The networking opportunities they present are priceless - meeting new people can spark innovative ideas and provide practical advice worth thousands.
Continue to learn and test your ideas; give away your services or products for free to a select group, gather feedback, adjust, and retest. Ensure that there is a genuine need for your offerings, then focus on systematizing and scaling your operations.
My primary advice is to keep persevering and invest the necessary time into your venture. When I began, I was managing a fish and chip shop, working 12 hours daily, and still devoting additional hours in the morning, evening, and weekends to my side business.
Success often requires sacrifices, and despite some social media narratives promoting a few hours-per-week ventures generating thousands of dollars, my experience underscores the need for hard work and dedication to cultivating a prosperous business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We're currently in the process of hiring for several key roles within our company. However, we have yet to advertise for a role that will be critical to our growth phase: a Social Media Manager. This full-time role is intended for a candidate with a proven track record and a passion for showcasing our case studies and results. Their main responsibility would be to boost our presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms, making this a potential position we'll be looking to fill in the near future.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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