AJ Brown has many stories to tell - but this one takes it from 0 to 3M without any funding and just pure hustle, marketing and coding!
Portland - the place were the eccentric people live - and make it livaable!
Selling to CMO's - Top Down Sales
Finally Attribution that CMO's can use...Based on data.
Alright, so we are today joined with my friend AJ Brown from Lake Oswego near Portland lot of the company called leads are x. So, AJ, tell us about leads are x
AJ Brown 03:58Yeah, sure. Thanks, seven leads or x has been around for about five years. We are on marketing and marketing attribution software company.
04:06Whole ideas to help marketers connect the dots between their advertising programs and the business outcomes that they want to track things like customer acquisition sales products on completions contact my sales people. So it's pretty basic.
Vivek Bhaskaran 04:20Awesome and marketing attribution has been like a holy grail for a lot of people for almost 20 years now, you've been human hacking for almost 20 years
04:30A couple of interesting things I know about do that I want to let my let everybody know you are actually a developer programmer and a marketer. I mean, what do you not do.
AJ Brown 04:39Oh, come on.
04:41Yeah, no, I've always developed. I started writing code when I was 15 a long, long time ago and I just it's a passion.
04:47I sit down, I lose three, four hours and don't even know what happened so often I'm watching TV in the background but typing co different fingers. It's just comes natural to me. I don't know why I think it was just born crazy or different
04:59So I just kind of dig it marketing came along the way, only because I could walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time. And somebody said, hey, I'll do
Vivek Bhaskaran 05:06That you
05:07can walk and chew gum.
AJ Brown 05:10On stage and become a marketer.
Vivek Bhaskaran 05:13So, so, so how do you begin to Margaret, just go up on stage and just stop talking. Is that is that the simple advice really much just open your mouth.
05:22A little bit more in terms of revenue numbers like I know leads are actually doing really well from a revenue.
05:26Perspective. Tell me, tell me how you got how much you guys are making where you grew up.
AJ Brown 05:31Yeah, you know, we've been growing pretty good. We, as I said, Get started five years ago. We're totally bootstrapped we closed last year just about 3 MILLION BUCKS.
05:389 million. Yeah.
05:40Thanks, about a million of that was EBITDA so
Vivek Bhaskaran 05:43Well, very good. Well, one of those guys actually prints money for a living.
AJ Brown 05:46I love. I guess I don't
05:47Know, I think I didn't take it a bonus checks for myself. But that's the
Vivek Bhaskaran 05:51Issue. I mean, you can buy a Ferrari three times over with a million bucks. So it's all right.
AJ Brown 05:55So maybe you can teach me how to do that.
Vivek Bhaskaran 05:58You know, just take the content that go into Wells Fargo transfer business.
06:05Put in the random number and put it in the submit button. That's not what I do. I'm telling you.
06:12It's great. So, so tell me a little bit like you know you know leads are actually, you know, how's your revenue distribution you
06:18Guys are making 2 million bucks girly, and I love it that you've kind of got got here. How's your revenue distribution revenue concentration
06:25And move on, unless you know how did you get the break. How did you get, do you get a few, big customers and then kind of latched on to them. I did you get some everybody I know has some sort of like a an accelerant that comes in, somewhere along the way. So what was your actual read
AJ Brown 06:41People you know when I started this company in April of 2015 I put an ad on Angel List.
06:48For a sales hack.
06:50And one of the guys responded is Jeff Keenan
06:53You wanted to give it a shot part time but he said he wanted to be my co founder
06:58So we talked INTERVIEWED EACH OTHER. And we said, yeah, so he became my co founder, that guy put us on the map. Within a year just got great beta customers early
07:08paying customers as well and you know you got our big whale. One of our biggest accounts ever that pays a lot of money for us and just took off so
07:17I think just having the right team really rough things together. We worked well together from day one.
07:23And and that made all the difference. Yeah, the customers came along, they paid good money. They like the product. Don't get me wrong, that's important too, but it starts with people. My book god
Vivek Bhaskaran 07:31And so, so, in your case, you had the engineering, you had marketing and you've got the sales guy in is that what else
AJ Brown 07:37Yeah, I was horrible at sales. I'll be the first to say I've tried doing it before you know I walked past the clothes. I don't ask for enough money. And I talked to the wrong people. So sales was always a weakness for me in my career. And that's, that's why I put an ad on on Angel List.
Vivek Bhaskaran 07:51Got it. So you can walk and chew gum, but you can Juggle, juggle the boss wants
07:59Somebody to help you out. That's awesome.
AJ Brown 08:02In the last five years. So I'm good now.
Vivek Bhaskaran 08:03Absolutely, absolutely. And so
08:06Don't don't mean some kind of interesting. Tell. Are you are some interesting kind of sales and our marketing hacks you guys have done that have like really kind of that I've that I've had is that I think that comes to mind.
AJ Brown 08:18You know, everybody when they think about marketing, they think of these big expensive grandiose programs that position your company and talk about your brand and you know those things are all important. They're good. But we need sales. We just need leads. We need people
08:33Wanting to see a demo of the product.
08:35Period. And when you break it down to that level and just kind of say, how do I get a Demo request.
08:41You think about things differently. And you don't spend as much money and you don't worry about the big messaging, yet you just go out and find a few customers.
08:48So you can do that. And in a lot of ways. It just takes a little creativity and kind of that mindset that says I'm going into my own garbage for a while until I can do the more fun kinds of things that I might want to do as a marketer.
Vivek Bhaskaran 08:59Right, this is true for more bootstrap companies, then kind of venture funded companies. Yeah.
AJ Brown 09:03For sure, for sure.
Vivek Bhaskaran 09:04There's a necessity is the mother of all dimensions. And so you kind of have to hustle harder.
AJ Brown 09:10If you have no cash you're working, you know, every hour of the day trying to do a consulting gig on the side to pay for this. You got to find a way to get those customers are going to be very more much more practical.
09:19Or with your decisions, I think.
Vivek Bhaskaran 09:21Got it, got it. I don't mean is there is there is there a magic behind the name. I really love the name by the way, these are X, kind of like, you know, it's going to prescriptive. We give you a prescription on how you get your leads. We know that tradition. I mean, I, it is really
09:34Resonates really well. But how did you come up with a name for it just, you know, you know, you wake up in the morning and you're walking, talking, and chewing gum and said, like that's the fucking there.
AJ Brown 09:43Yeah, I'm not so sure it's the best name, you're the only guy that's ever told me you understand it. So your
Vivek Bhaskaran 09:51Prescription
AJ Brown 09:53That's what I got it.
09:55I got it. When I came up with it. I thought our X prescriptions. What's a prescription for better leads. I get it.
Vivek Bhaskaran 09:59Yes, you know,
AJ Brown 10:00The original name of the company was leads and bounds and a good friend of ours that you know wrong came up
10:07He said, called leaps and bounds. So I did.
10:09I built the company around that I put it out there. And guess what happens when you Google leaps and bounds.
10:14Google says, oh, did you mean leaps.
10:16And bounds. Of course of course it corrects it so nobody could find my company with that name. It was a student. Thanks.
10:26I thought about what we do. We help people find leads and it's the
10:29Prescription for better leads because you're trying to attribute your success and get the methodology that works best to find more leads and that's how leads Rx came about, but
10:38I've had people say they really hate the name didn't understand it, they think that they can come to us and buy leads, they think we're lead farm.
10:44To like, you know, give me $1,000 and I get
10:47Email addresses kind of thing. So it's not the best.
Vivek Bhaskaran 10:50It's not, that's fine. I mean, I think, again, branded, I think, look,
10:54You're a marketer, you can you can read me but it's it's it's portable. It's quick, it's small. I mean, I do love that fact that it, but you know what I
AJ Brown 11:01Always wanted a name like yahoo or google. Right, right. So those things are there freaking
11:06Man, it's just, yeah, it's a stupid name.
11:08But people want to say it. It's two syllables and people love love that kind of stuff. Right.
Vivek Bhaskaran 11:12Right, right. Got it. And these are founders with you. I helped me understand you are fully remote. Right. Do you use startup remote you're fully remote her presenter mode from day one. How's that working out.
11:22No, not that
AJ Brown 11:23You know, we took an office space but
Vivek Bhaskaran 11:25For years is
AJ Brown 11:27Three and a half. So we are you know shared we workspace. Of course, you know, with what's going on in the world right now. We all are still working from home, as we have been since about three, four months ago.
11:38The other we work building is great. It's, it's got a nice vibe to it, you know, high energy people walking around ping pong balls flying in the air free beer.
11:45It's a great environment to kind of start a small company because even though there's only, you know, two of us at the first moment.
11:52And then now there's 15 it's still feels like a big company because there's 200 people in the building and everybody kind of likes that.
11:59That said, it's not cost effective anymore. If you do the math, they're, you know, they're charging us. We know easily 10 times more money than we should be paying for for space and this area.
12:11So we just were taking new office space as soon as possible. Got it.
Vivek Bhaskaran 12:14Makes sense. And are you guys are you guys planning on high out in Portland, Oregon area, are you guys planning on somewhere else. What's the
AJ Brown 12:22Mecca.
12:23It's a magnificent thing. And there's no Silicon Valley anymore.
12:29It's all here.
12:30Why worked on their pay the high prices. What do you got garbage in the streets human feces on the sidewalks.
Vivek Bhaskaran 12:39You've done this GMO
AJ Brown 12:41Craft Beer crack
12:42Pastry Kraft Foods craft coffee.
12:45Everything is genuine up here.
Vivek Bhaskaran 12:48to Seattle.
AJ Brown 12:52This is life Rx up here.
Vivek Bhaskaran 12:54We go live Rx so
12:57Some ROM told me something I've common friend around told me something I want to bring this up.
13:02Apparently you are one of the older guys at HP building the portable computer out of Corvallis, is that true like you're the first guys built like a portable computer with an HP back in, I guess, early 90s, maybe late
AJ Brown 13:15You know, I had nothing to do with the development that project is I was on the marketing side, but I was the guy that wrote
13:21Firmware demo systems for it. So we demo that product at at Epcot Center, the day they opened
13:29And so I had to take that calculator out was a basically a calculator that could feed over the internet wasn't an internet at the time that over telephone lines to a backend server. So it was the first time you could take a portable calculator really a computer is this big
13:43But my hands about 12 inches big and type into it remotely enter orders and sales and that stuff will be pipe back to your server somewhere else and and go into your big computers and it's pretty revolutionary at the time.
13:55But I didn't develop it. I just helped to market it and sell it.
13:57Through demonstrations and stuff.
Vivek Bhaskaran 13:59And the what I understood is that you out. You kind of were having a conversation somewhere. And it was a general overview order to pull it from the Wall Street Journal
14:07Wrote about it, tell me that story, man.
AJ Brown 14:09I know if I want to tell that story. That's not a good story.
Vivek Bhaskaran 14:12A good story. It's a fun
14:15Game. This one happens
AJ Brown 14:18I know it's true. Yeah, I know when I moved to move to the Bay Area Silicon Valley. I was having lunch with a friend of mine. She was down from the Corvallis division of HP visiting
14:27And she was one of the developers on that product and we were talking about talking about the specs and chips that was using and the firmware and everything else. And we had a late lunch that day at a local fish market.
14:39And the next week there was a story in the front page of The Wall Street Journal about how trade secrets were lost over the lunch table.
14:45This reporter was sitting behind us the whole time listening.
Vivek Bhaskaran 14:49The same kind of experience here in the Bay Area. I've lived here in the Bay Area for some time and you know sometimes you go into the Starbucks and everybody's talking about blockchain. And that's it. And I know you can you can see it is fine, you
AJ Brown 14:58Can pick up any secret you want
AJ Brown 15:02That's reason number two to move to Portland. Go ahead.
Vivek Bhaskaran 15:04Okay, fine. Alright, fair enough. Fair enough. In terms of leads are X. Oh, where do you see the trajectory. Are you guys looking to sell looking to grow looking to kind of keep making a million bucks a year. I mean, what's wrong with that.
AJ Brown 15:16Yeah, you know, to be honest. I'd love to be part of something bigger. I think this is the right time. We're up into the right with our growth.
15:22The numbers are great. Our team is absolutely brilliant. Our customers love us. You know, why not, why not merge with something bigger. I think attribution.
15:30Look at my career and I've got 45 years under my belt in the software industry. I have never seen a market take off as quickly as this. And it's not just because I'm part of it are
15:39Our got started five years ago. Really is rapidly moving. And I think that's cool. But, you know, analytics, have never really had their day in the sun. It's always been a nice to have feature.
15:50We had customers call us up during the pandemic and say we can't get rid of your solution. We have to keep using it. Can you cut the price for three months.
15:56Now, had a chance to get rid of it right but they didn't. So I think now it's time to say we're. How does analytics fit into the methodology of our day to day business practice as marketers
16:05How do we become better marketers and measure the performance of advertising based on its capabilities to drive business.
16:11Why are we paying for ad impressions. Why are we paying for clicks, should we be paying for conversions. Shouldn't we be paying for the success of that ad
16:19And that's what attribution is going to open up the door for it might involve black blockchain.
16:23It might involve just a dense visualization techniques certainly marketers have to learn a few new things like what a linear regression is and standard deviation
16:31And as silly as that sounds. A lot of people don't get it. So let's go do that and build that out and you know bootstrap I can stay this way for another five years probably and do great.
16:40But I think we can absorb that market a little faster. If we merged together with the bigger entity and
Vivek Bhaskaran 16:46You're looking to merge. Are you looking to capitalize using got a private equity, are you going to get venture funding what's kind of what's what's what's kind of varies ahead.
AJ Brown 16:53You know, we're looking at raising money now and whether we raise
16:57You know, a small round like a $10 million round or or bigger round and kind of sell the company in that process all of those options are okay with me.
17:05I'm all about just making sure this thing lives on book. I'm a single guy never married no kids, this is it. This is the legacy
17:12And we all get a point in time where we can say that, and I'm sure hoping that whatever company decides to come together with us in this process that we just make this thing. Great.
Vivek Bhaskaran 17:21Have you talked to guys like HubSpot, and other I mean obviously marketing automation teams that are already selling it to CMOS. Is that how you look at it like you know somebody who's selling into a CMO can add add this to your to the portfolio.
AJ Brown 17:33You know, I think there's some strategic strategic investor out there somewhere that would really want to get on board with this.
17:39The HubSpot and marketa was the world. They're interesting because they focus on marketing automation right automating what marketers do
17:45It's kind of like taking away their job, a little over making their job easier at a task level.
17:51What we do is very, you know, left brain oriented. How do you understand marketing, how do you analyze it. How do you look at the numbers. How does that change the way you buy media.
18:00How does it change your budget for Google versus Facebook. It's a different kind of audience within the marketing group that both marketers, but they're different people.
18:07And it's not that the HubSpot to the world don't understand what we do they, do they attempt to solve part of the problem. But I think there's a better fit for us out there than
Vivek Bhaskaran 18:16Just getting more into the kind of strategic marketing arm of the organization, every time.
AJ Brown 18:21Every time the CMO is involved in the purchase decision and I was on a call one time.
18:26Several demo calls but one in particular stands out as a national mortgage company and the CMO is on the call. She had probably five or six of her team members on the call with her.
18:35And we're doing the demo, I'm doing the demo. And there's one slide that I showed her one page in our system called the return on ad spend report.
18:42Basically says you spend this in marketing and you got this in revenue. And it shows you a breakdown by channel she interrupted says agent that's exactly
18:51What I need to show my CEO and my board of directors and you could just hear this prideful tone, and her voice that said, I finally have some way
18:59To show that my team is working effectively.
19:02That what I'm doing is right, and nobody can fight the analytics right everybody thinks they can do marketing because it's sort of psychology psychological base right
19:09What are consumers want. Well, let's talk about that and you getting the staff meetings with your peers and your boss and everyone says no, I think that adds to change, you should change the had to say this instead.
19:18Will screw that they didn't go to school for that they're just making it up numbers don't lie. And that CMO was so happy to have found our software. And it occurred to me it's sea level software.
19:29It's used by the marketers, but the consumption of the output is really at the sea level see our OH wants to make sure you're spending money right
19:36And getting sales in the door, the CFO wants to know how much it costs to get more customers CEO says are you doing your job. That's what makes it work.
Vivek Bhaskaran 19:43So it's a fully adopt on marketing sell really radical you go all the way to
19:47As high as you get you can go as you as you got and then you can you can do a demo and
AJ Brown 19:51convince them that this and that was one of our secrets.
19:53You know, early in the day. Sorry to interrupt you there man but
19:56It really a day we when we went out to find our first customers. We only talked to CMOS. They took the call. They got on and saw the demo. They made the purchase decision now.
Vivek Bhaskaran 20:07It's an important point, like a lot of companies like really need to know who the
20:11Right target audiences know start marketing.
20:14Like within marketing yo operational marketing strategic marketing and even look at any other business like you know trying to sell to the CEO or whatever it is. There's an operational guy in the strategic guy.
20:22And then really kind of refining that to the point where
20:25You're really selling to the kind of strategic person or you're selling to the it's not that one in one is good or better. He's just like you have to understand really well that that's within that space that's that's the person you're selling to and then train up tailoring that that's
AJ Brown 20:37One of the business mistakes that marketers make is they target the wrong person. You got to target the person with the pain point that who has pain.
20:45Go solve that pain and you win.
20:47So nice when when
Vivek Bhaskaran 20:48People inbox. Thank you so much. That was quick and dirty and fast. And thank you so much for being part of this little show and that's about it.
20:58Good, thank you. All right.