On Starting A Marketing Automation Agency
My name’s Taylor Ryan, originally from Washington DC but now in Copenhagen (Denmark) for the last 5.5 years. I consider myself a growth hacker, serial entrepreneur, and total startup junkie!
Over the years I’ve founded numerous startups in between consulting for both large corporations and startups around the world.
Right now, I’m the founder and CEO of Klint, a digital marketing agency that focuses on building rapid growth through marketing automation for our customers. Klint has customers all over Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East.
I’m also the founder of ArchitectureQuote, (an innovative platform disrupting the market for architect deal flow), and Growth Secrets (a growth hacking masterclass and online learning resource for anyone that wants to scale their business).
If you think I sound crazy busy, you’re definitely not wrong!
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Being from Washington DC, I’ve always been surrounded by ambitious people with something to prove. They say New York’s the place everyone goes to ‘make it’. I’d challenge that.
You have to really love and believe in what you do if you’re going to stick with it.
Building a strong business outside of the major “hubs” or in a foreign country, or during a pandemic should mean you can make it anywhere.
But despite being from the highly political environment in DC (or maybe because of it), I actually wanted to get a Ph.D. in clinical research within neuroscience.
Majoring in psychology at George Mason University gave me insights into the mind and why avoiding academia, in the long run, was the right path for me.
Throughout college, it became increasingly obvious that I was supposed to be in business, and since clinical psychology naturally lends itself to consumer behavior, experimentation, and the “why” behind decisions; that became my personal selling point when trying to get hired.
There are so many parallels between psychology and marketing when you think about it. I never thought I would use so much psychology and reference psychology principles as part of my growth hacking course - but here I am. Sometimes it’s the abstract yet relatable stuff that really helps the audience understand the ‘why behind the why’ of a lot of marketing work.
While trying to get my “foot in the door” in the DC Tech scene, I met so many dynamic people that inspired me and encouraged me to pursue entrepreneurship. Even though my financial situation wasn’t so solid, I co-founded my first startup in 2007.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
Well, it wasn’t all smooth sailing! That startup I founded in 2007 was on the doorstep of the great recession. In hindsight, founding a home remodeling business during the midst of the great recession wasn’t a great call.
My next venture was in the production of tangible products that could be upsold to spas, beauty salons, and tanning centers, and that got me a lot closer to understanding that people would buy a product before it was “ready.”
Winning a $4.3M government contract brought me closer to the type of success I’d imagined happening at a startup. After we delivered, my cofounder and I found ourselves still struggling to get traction with a product that targeted job seekers.
It turns out people without a job don’t like paying top dollar for a 40+ hour course. There’s also just too much red tape to get government offices to give out grants for this type of thing, much less move on anything in under 6 months.
The highs and lows of the startup founder lifestyle were addictive. There’s always a dangling carrot in the world of entrepreneurship. We’re all surrounded by stories of rock chip-like growth.
Building a mobile app targeted at a niche market
It wasn’t until a year later that I dipped back into being a startup founder. This time with a mobile app development firm.
We were building apps for other companies while trying to get our product off the ground.
Trust me when I say, building a product with a team split between client work and your product is insane. It’s both the hardest way to grow a company and the smartest way to learn quickly.
We were able to use client work to test different features, UX, tools, campaigns, and growth hacks on our clients. We took the learnings and directly implemented them into the product.
Working on so many different projects gave way to my passion for understanding playing with all sorts of technology and the desire to test everything.
This is a concept I’ve held onto over the years. This is why my growth-hacking agency focuses on growth-hacking, digital marketing, and rapid experimentation.
Ultimately, we built a product that nobody would use, and had we done a bit more user testing ahead of time, we would have known that.
In and out of the fire
Like many other start-up founders, I experienced the financial hardships that go with the shortcomings of an unsuccessful start-up.
Reluctantly, I went back to corporate America. It was a surprisingly hard transition for me.
Once you’ve experienced how fast things can move in the start-up world, it’s nearly impossible to go back to the slow ways of old businesses.
You quickly forget that everything comes down to permissions, long unnecessary meetings, strange personality clashes, and outdated perspectives on everything.
Going from being your own boss to being a team can be tough. But admittedly, I learned a lot in the next few years that really helped me in the long term.
Meet-ups and networking to get better
Within the first few weeks at my corporate job, I realized I had made a mistake.
However, I made a pact with myself that I would stick it out for as long as I possibly could until I was certain that I was “good enough” and had found something worth pouring my heart into.
Nearly two years later and I was attending two to three meetups per week. I was absolutely determined to become an expert at my craft. At the same time, I was becoming disenfranchised with my lack of “real” opportunities.
If this sounds like you, events and webinars are by far one of the best ways to force yourself to learn and network on a weekly basis. You can gain an edge just by showing up.
Next stop Copenhagen
I needed a change of scenery BADLY. An old friend was getting married in London in the summer. So I took all my vacation for the entire year (10 total Days) to visit.
Most people might not realize, in the United States we’re getting shafted on vacation days.
My last stop before coming home on this trip was in Copenhagen. I was here for a mere three days and it gave me culture whiplash.
The city was beautiful. The people were pleasant. And It turns out there are places that give you a little more work-life balance and they’re not destitute as a direct result.
Every full-time working resident gets a minimum of 25 paid holidays.
When you’re running your own companies you don’t get holidays. I’d never taken more than a few three or four-day weekends in my life.
Sold. I was ready for a change. I spent the next 4 months applying for jobs, doing video interviews, test projects, and connecting with hundreds of people.
I only needed one job offer.
It eventually came in the form of a late-night email that asked me if I could be in New York the next morning for an in-person interview.
Big troubles in little Copenhagen
I came over here for ahead of SEO and Optimization role in a venture-backed software as a service (Saas) startup.
Everything seemed really exciting when I got in. It felt like the “startup scene” I had dreamt of.
Strangely enough, I found myself in the same position of working too many hours just like I had done in the past.
Moreover, my style of growth-hacking and digital marketing that had served me so well seemed to rub people the wrong way. There was a massive disconnect between how to scale in Scandinavia and what was commonplace in the United States.
Using data to back up my hypothesis before running a growth hack was irrelevant in most cases. According to my colleagues and senior management, my tactics “didn’t feel right” or were “too far-fetched.”
As I progressed into new opportunities leading the marketing departments of multiple start-ups, I found myself at odds with less experienced founders.
Despite driving more conversions, revenue, and automating countless processes on a shoestring budget; the management team didn’t share the same principles behind what growth should look like.
What was worse, I watched inexperienced founders making amateur decisions that directly affected me.
I guess I eventually came to terms with the idea, “if I was going to work for someone who did stupid things regularly, it might as well be me.”
Starting a business in the cover of darkness
Starting in mid-2017, I held gatherings for like-minded marketers and people interested in building their own websites and companies on the weekends.
At first, it was just at the dinner table in my apartment.
It grew, so we started going to the coffee shop near my apartment.
Then before long, I was bringing people to my employer’s office on the weekends.
After running my first in-person digital marketing masterclass, I was able to bring everyone to a co-working space on Saturdays or Sundays (And many times both days).
To be fair, had I just quit my job earlier, things would have scaled MUCH faster.
One day a week and a few hours after work just aren't enough.
Klint = A Growth Hacking Agency
I was fired a few short weeks after I told the founders of my last company that I had been building my software for architects ArchitectureQuote on the weekends.
Having pitched the company several times to investors and at competitions, it was just a matter of time.
Within the same month, I founded Klint on the last day of September of 2019.
The name came from the Danish word for a “cliff.” Basically, I’d been building enough companies up from the ground up, that I figured it would be a great business model.
We started working full-time in the same co-working space I had been using on the weekends. The team doubled. Then doubled again. And again.
Just a handful of months later, the pandemic hit.
Growing in a pandemic
Things were progressing at breakneck speed until the March 2020 lockdown.
It was bleak for everybody.
Things looked really uncertain for us when it hit. We lost half our clients in a matter of weeks.
Since we were too young of a business, we weren’t able to get any help in the form of government grants for small businesses (in Denmark).
We moved into a smaller co-working space that eventually closed up and we scrambled to find another space at the last minute.
While we all spent lockdown in less than desirable situations. I focused on my craft, processes, optimizing, and continuing to get better. The average workday hinged on 14+ hour days for a long time. This is not something I would recommend anyone doing.
We lost some key players. Gained a bunch more over the months.
Just two massive contracts separated us from the other agencies that were going out of business.
Overall we managed to stick it out and the business has been growing a lot lately.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our customer base continues to evolve. Our online presence both locally and internationally has expanded.
Over half of our customers are coming from outside of Denmark.
One of the most powerful things I’ve stopped doing is trying to convince customers that don’t understand digital marketing why it’s a “good thing.”
They say history repeats itself. And in my case, I must seem pretty ill-fated to build startups right before global recessions.
The world fell apart. And yet we’re still here.
For an agency that was just getting off the ground, it was a bumpy 12 months following the pandemic lockdown. I’m proud to say we made it through and have been profitable for quite some time.
As a digital marketing agency, we can service clients anywhere in the world.
As our reputation and digital footprint grow, we’re increasingly being contacted directly by potential larger more scalable customers, rather than the other way around.
I’m currently focused on strengthening the partnerships we have while expanding the range of marketing automation services we offer.
We’re currently in the process of building our own marketing automation software, that might even develop into a business of its own. Yes, another startup! So watch this space.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I would say that one of the biggest areas in which I am working on my personal development is learning to rely on others. As the business grows, I am increasingly finding that there is simply too much work for me to manage alone.
Being the boss is always a double-edged sword. Part of it is forever wanting everything done the way I’d imagine it should be done.
This means I tend to micromanage processes. Learning to accept the learning curve of people you hire (you hired for a reason), is an ongoing process for me.
Having been in the startup scene for nearly 14 years already, this is one area that the majority of startup founders also need to work on if they are going to make it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
As an agency focused on automating as many processes as possible. This means we’re going to rely heavily on automation tools to avoid manual repetitive tasks as much as possible.
There are tools for everything. I literally cannot count the number of tools we use daily.
For every project and function within marketing, we use at least a handful, and typically projects have multiple steps requiring numerous marketing tools that are interchangeable depending on the needs of the client.
We’ve gotten really good at building out marketing tech stacks for our clients.
As I said earlier, we are even looking at building out our own martech tool for outreach.
Check in with me on linkedin if you’re interested in using hiring data to automate sales processes.
If anyone reading this is unsure about what parts of your marketing you need to prioritize to start driving revenue. We’re happy to collaborate to build out a marketing plan using a blend of growth hacks, processes, and marketing to get it right from the start.
Check out some of our blogs on the different types of tools available. Here’s one of our latest: 21 Webinar Tools for a Successful Business
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Although I think it can be a little polarizing, I take a lot of inspiration from Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s a real pioneer in the start-up space in my opinion.
Listening to marketing books on Audible during my commute has been great. Highly recommended for anyone with a longer commute.
Otherwise, I’m always keeping up with industry blogs and discovering new tactics. It really depends on when you check in with me.
More recently, I’ve been consuming a ton of material from places like Content Marketing Institute, Backlino, Facebook Groups for Marketers, Facebook Groups for Entrepreneurs, and Reddit. I think in an industry as fast-moving as digital marketing it’s important to stay up to date on industry trends.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
I’d say the most important thing I’ve learned is to be patient. Nothing happens overnight as much as we would all want it to.
Hard Work Pays Off:
It takes a big-time commitment to do this stuff and there will surely be setbacks. You have to really love and believe in what you do if you’re going to stick with it.
Find the Process: Too many people want to reinvent the wheel when they set their minds to a new project. I’ve found that getting a framework in place and building around it using things that exist in the while makes things scalable and repeatable.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re regularly advertising for our latest openings of both Paid and Unpaid positions at Klint on a popular Danish startup platform.
For certain unpaid positions, we accept remote internships, and for others, we prefer you to be in the office. I think we have a lot to offer if you’ve got experience in growth hacking.
We’re always on the lookout for amazing talent even if just trying to get your foot in the door and get a firm grasp of all things digital marketing.
For paid positions, we are typically looking for people with a defined skill set within a particular field of digital marketing. Someone who can really own their projects.
Unpaid positions typically get involved with multiple areas of SEO, email marketing, social media, outreach, and amplification, copywriting, plus a lot of the tools and hacks we use to make it all possible.
If you’d like to learn more don’t be shy to email me at [email protected] or reach out directly to me on LinkedIn.
Where can we go to learn more?
Take my digital marketing online course. It’s priced nearly 90% below other similar courses. Check out some of the Growth Secrets’ testimonials from back when I used to teach in person.
Does your company need help with real growth? Contact us and we’ll work with you to radically improve your digital marketing. Check out KlintMarketing.com.
I’m working with a ton of large organizations and accelerators teaching innovation and digital marketing. Learn more about my public speaking and workshops at TaylorRyan.io
You can find a ton of recorded video material on everything from growth-hacking to building teams for startups on my youtube channel.
Follow Klint Marketing on LinkedIn for insight into everything from our day-to-day operations to the campaigns we produce for our clients and much more.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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