We’ve all heard of those incredibly inspiring overnight success stories. What we often don’t hear, though, is that these overnight successes typically are the result of many months or years of effort, setbacks, and a continued determination to achieve success. It’s often a breakthrough – an a-ha moment or a crucial tipping point – that skyrockets a company’s growth from relatively unknown to a smashing success, seemingly overnight. These breakthroughs that lead to rapid business growth are often earned through significant research, effort, and iteration and are driven by not only a desire to succeed but also a willingness to reshape thinking and explore new possibilities.
Business breakthroughs that lead to rapid growth may involve a shift in content marketing strategy, a pivot to a new market or business model, or capitalizing on unique market conditions or circumstances that make it necessary to adapt in order to survive. They may involve innovative uses of social media, advertising, or search engine optimization, or they may be as simple as discovering the perfect combination of ingredients for the secret sauce. In other words, business breakthroughs that can lead to rapid business growth come in all shapes and sizes. To learn more about some of these inspirational stories and breakthroughs that led to rapid business growth, we reached out to a panel of business leaders and marketing professionals and asked them to answer this question:
“What’s your favorite example of a specific breakthrough that led to rapid business growth?”
Meet Our Panel of Business Leaders & Marketing Pros:
Read on to learn what our experts had to say about their favorite examples of major breakthroughs that have led to rapid business growth.
Jeff Neal is a project manager for a local commercial roofing company.
“We reached a big surge in online leads when we set up our Google My Business page. This helped us get into the map pack for local search queries, which really helped our business bring in new leads and was a nice relief for our sales team.”
Robert Johnson is the Founder of Sawinery.
“Marketing is a vital team in any business. One vivid example that happened recently is the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee drink called Charli. Charli D’ Amelio is a TikTok star with over 93 million followers who loves to feature her daily iced coffee drink in her videos. Dunkin’ Donuts’ marketing team did not waste any time and came up with a drink named after Charli. A regular iced coffee caused Charli’s followers to line up like crazy just to buy one. Thus, this new drink named after a popular social media personality resulted in rapid sales growth for every Dunkin’ Donuts branch. Sometimes it does not matter what you sell; it all boils down to how it was presented through various marketing strategies.”
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Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the most admirable home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on his website, providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.
“My most favorite example of a specific breakthrough that caused rapid business growth is gay-owned businesses who use their sexuality as leverage for growing their businesses and expanding on ideas. They use their sexuality as a proposition to strengthen their core and improve the way things are done.
These gay-owned businesses support the livelihoods of and give jobs to people in their community who are victims of corporate stereotyping. By doing so, these companies enable members of the LGBTQ+ community to speak up and voice their stance that they deserve a place on the corporate ladder as well, and that their sexuality should never brand them. This raises diversity in the business sector, causing rapid growth thanks to the positive publicity they receive.”
Carol Tompkins is a Business Development Consultant at AccountsPortal.
“My favorite example of a specific breakthrough that led to rapid business growth is the addition of an instantaneous messaging aspect to WhatsApp. Adding this messaging aspect to the app is what led to its rapid growth across continents. Initially, the app was simply intended to let a user’s contact see the status of the individual when they were unavailable. It was not a direct hit, but once the instant messaging bit was added, then the app really took off.”
Jerome is the COO of Fenton.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to rethink our customer experience journey. We are a brand that is bringing transparency and accountability to the jewelry industry. Previously, we focused on mostly offering physical appointments, allowing our concierge team to create personalized, unique experiences for each of our customers (which is at the core of our brand values). However, the lockdowns forced us to reimagine this process and to begin offering customers a virtual appointment option, which customers could book on our website.
We went live with it the day the lockdown was announced in the UK, March 23rd. Due to the nature of our products, many people would hypothesize that jewelry needs to be experienced or felt before someone will make a buying decision. However, interestingly, virtual appointments broke that barrier to conversion. Since offering the virtual appointment option, we have seen an increase in our conversion rate by 20%, along with a decrease in the time it takes to make the purchase decision (70% make their decision within 10 days, which is pretty fast given that these are big-ticket items). Both have had a significant impact upon our revenue and the speed at which the business is growing on a month on month basis.”
George Pitchkhadze is the CMO at Thrive Cuisine.
“Our biggest business breakthrough that led to rapid business growth was targeting 0-volume keywords. We have since become the fastest-growing vegan blog on the web – with a DR39 and 70k monthly visitors – by doing one thing differently.
The trick: In the past, we would only target keywords if they had at least ±10 monthly Google volume. Around the time I came onto the team, I discovered that over 1 in 5 Google searches have never been made before. So, I figured…why not start targeting 0-volume keywords? Even now, if you go to our website and analyze our SEO, you’ll see we rank for many keywords that, statistically, have 0 searches per month.
The surprising results: In short, 0-volume keywords actually do deliver traffic. One example is the phrase, ‘where to find chia seeds in grocery stores.’ When we were writing an article on the subject, the keyword had 0 traffic on Google. Over time, this grew into several hundred Google searches per month, of which we get 200.”
Daniel Carter is the founder of Zippy Electrics. He provides in-depth guides and reviews on a variety of electronic riding gadgets on his blog. He also enjoys his 25-minute morning commute aboard his own trusty electric scooter and shares his passion for cool rides with his two teenage sons and readers of his blog.
“I own a cafe shop with my wife. However, my wife is the one who manages it most of the time as I work in human resources in the finance industry. At first, as an old couple, we tried to stick with the traditional idea of just letting the presence of the shop attract the customers passing by on the streets. Then, we opted for the use of social media to market our business, and it works pretty well.
Through various social media platforms, we can reach a great number of prospects to offer our products. Now, we are offering delivery to customers around town and it positively affects our sales. Also, we came up with the idea of accepting customized cake orders as lots of our customers showed their interests in our products after we posted them on Facebook and Twitter. So, indeed, this breakthrough helped our business not just to grow but to expand in offering more products.”
Guiseppe is the Founder of a new bootstrapped tech startup called Contapp. It’s the smarter and more convenient way of digitally managing and utilizing business cards, while helping reduce paper waste globally. Their COVID-friendly app is available to download for free in the app stores.
“With the disaster of COVID hitting the world, there has been a major need for technology to keep us connected with colleagues, teams, and loved ones. For businesses that depend highly on face-to-face meetings or exhibitions, this had a huge negative impact on the way they generated more leads.
Speaking for my tech startup, Contapp, we managed to turn this disaster into an opportunity, in the form of a mobile app for business. Managing printed business cards has been the bane of my life as an individual, and I know many share this frustration as well. They’re difficult to file, require manual processes, expensive, unmanageable and they’re not good for the environment.
Contapp was launched in the app stores at the end of February 2020. In March, COVID hit the UK. As a bootstrapped tech startup, this was either going to destroy the business before it had even started, or place Contapp as a must-have business tool during COVID. Luckily for us, users identified that our platform is a user-friendly alternative for digitally managing and exchanging business cards, while maintaining high hygiene levels.
Our growth has been completely organic, and we’ve focused on the foundations of Contapp: bringing added value to our users and using their feedback to develop Contapp, while reducing paper waste. In fact, the third quarter for Contapp has been record breaking, achieving a combined download growth of 1,299% with a spend of $0 on marketing.
Bearing that in mind, COVID has certainly been the breakthrough for Contapp, as we’re seeing an increase of users on a daily basis, all around the world. We’re seen as a solution to a growing problem, the spread of germs that are related to business cards and also a smarter way of managing your printed business cards, in digital form.”
Ottomatias Peura is the Chief Marketing Officer at Speechly.
“One of my favorite examples of rapid business growth comes from a specific breakthrough that DTE Energy had in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. DTE was floundering, as were many other businesses during that time. The recession could have ended them. But since 2004, the CEO of the company, Gerry Anderson, had slowly been formulating a model of changing the company culture by strengthening the company’s commitment to its employees.
Instead of laying off his employees during the recession, which by any business metric would have been a wise thing to do, Gerry decided to keep his employees and reiterate the company’s commitment to them. He told them despite the challenges the company was facing, he did not intend to lay them off. He also told them the company needed them to work with extra focus, diligence, and effort if they were going to survive this crisis.
This pledge of commitment among the DTE leadership created a tremendous trust and loyalty among its employees. It fueled a passion and drive among them that not only brought DTE out of that crisis but also brought them renewed success and rapid growth that continues up to this day.”
Trond Nyland is the Founder and CEO at Cordless Drill Guide.
“According to Google Trends, interest in DIY met an all-time peak comparing the last five years. This is solely due to lockdown. I am a silver-linings kind of man and will seek optimism from any situation. I have been woodworking and doing carpentry since I was a teenager and regard myself as a tool expert. During the lockdown I decided to create a website and share my knowledge with others.
With people buying online or with restricted time to buy a good tool, they are using the internet to find information. Researching a tool myself, I realized that there is no one site dedicated to cordless drills. I consider a drill to be the most versatile tool in your arsenal when it comes to demo, renovation, and in-home repairs on your Sunday morning chore list. Discovering a highly sought niche in the market that you can fulfill is that fastest road to success.”
Swati Chalumuri is a personal finance blogger, freelancer, and a millennial mommy entrepreneur at HearMeFolks.com. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Referral Rock, CEO Blog Nation, and Databox Blog.
“As a beginner, armed with my business plan, I was convinced that success was determined by my wits and hard work. I handled my blog like a newborn baby and kept everyone at arm’s length. Soon a new reality hit; not only was the growth slow, but I couldn’t catch a break or even have any ‘light-bulb’ moments. So bad was the burnout that I almost gave up. To get back up, I decided to ask for help.
I started small, a writer here and a website developer there. Soon, it became clear that I had been spending too much time on implementation rather than coming up with new ideas. Since then, I outsource time-consuming tasks to able resources. This leaves me with time to consult fellow entrepreneurs, consultants, and peers in the industry. The gambit paid off, and my platform is now backed by a sizable remote work force. And the best part is that their work earns me more than what I used to when I was a one-man-army. Besides, my productivity has increased, I have more time with my family, and my blog now runs 24/7.”
Kevin Miller is the founder and CEO of The Word Counter. He is a growth marketer with an extensive background in SEO, paid acquisition, and email marketing. Kevin studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google for several years, is a Forbes contributor, and has been a head of growth and marketing at several top-tier startups in Silicon Valley.
“In less than a year, we’ve gone from 0 to 30,000 unique visitors per month. We rapidly grew our website traffic and increased conversions by implementing a good SEO strategy that relied on high-quality content plus in-depth keyword research. We did the leg work and used keyword research tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs. This allowed us to identify hidden opportunities and then capitalize on those opportunities by creating high-quality, keyword-informed content.
We frequently use original research and data in our content. The data is fact-based and usually displayed in visual charts that tell a story. This makes it easy to convey the findings, and it is differentiated from normal text. The uniqueness is the key, and it must add distinct value.”
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, as well as the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future.
“The breakthrough that was key for me and helped me grow my business was when I began to network with others in my industry. I had been struggling for 18 months on my own, not knowing what I was doing. Then I began connecting with an online blogging community. This was a great opportunity for me to learn and meet others, and it really accelerated my online growth. I also went to conferences to meet with people in person. Connecting with others is what really helped my business take off. What I learned was that collaboration is better than competition.”
Jason Lee is the Chief Information Officer with Healthy Framework.
“Our business is heavily driven by content. In our early days, the temptation to rely exclusively on metrics to drive the direction of our content seemed like the best path forward. And while data is incredibly important, content still needs that personal touch. When we made the decision to take a step back from a 100% data-driven approach and look a bit more holistically at what our readers wanted, it was night and day. The lesson? Utilize the data, but don’t let it get you away from what you do best.”
James Pearson is the CEO of eVenturing, one of the fastest-growing websites in the small business space.
“Airbnb’s breakthrough is one of my favorite success stories. Chesky, Gebbia, and Blecharczyk saw an opportunity to earn money because of a specific problem, fully-booked hotels, and lack of bed space. Their creative and brilliant solution: air mattresses for people who need lodging and breakfast. To book more clients, they built a website that became a flop. So, they started selling cereals to finance their startup fund. At the same time, they started selling their idea to other people on how to make money by renting their apartment.
After having enough money to build their business, many investors rejected their idea. Yet, one firm saw its potential and invested $585,000 in their business. That’s when an $80 air mattress per night turned into a multimillion-dollar company. This story is familiar and relatable for all types of businesses. We all walk through our business journey with no money, drowned by rejection, and consecutive failures. Yet, it’s our determination, persistence, and hard work that makes us rise above adversities. Also, when no one believes in what you do, you only have to convince one person that you can make it: yourself. Once you do, you will be unstoppable in reaching for your dreams.”
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Paul Bonea is the founder of Perfect Data, a data-driven digital marketing agency with a focus on CRO, technical SEO, and marketing automation.
“One of our clients in the WordPress space had reached a plateau in terms of revenue. The company was generating a healthy amount of free users, but couldn’t seem to properly convert them to paid customers.
The breakthrough came when they switched their payment processor to a more modern and capable one. With the old payment provider, a customer had to click on the Buy button, which was redirected to another site to type in payment details, followed by a verification page, and finally, order confirmation. After switching to a new payment provider, customers would now receive a modal popup while still on the page, submit their payment details, press Confirm and immediately be redirected to a download page. This simple feature integration increased conversions and revenue by 30% and gave the business enough financial bandwidth to focus on a new line of products.”
Kevin Lee is the CEO of JourneyPure.
“My favorite example of a breakthrough is when The New York Times made the decision to build The New York Times Digital, when it was already well-established as one of the leading print newspapers of its time. A digital newspaper was a different business model due to the fact that most content on the website was free (compared to paid print subscriptions), it was updated 24 hours continuously throughout the day, and videos and color images could be embedded into content.”
Edgar Arroyo is the President at SJD Taxi.
“My favorite example of a specific breakthrough that led to rapid business growth is Ryanair. It was a pioneer as a low-cost, no-frills airline in the highly competitive airline industry. They prioritized operational efficiency as they targeted a market of consumers who were comfortable with no-frills service and strict baggage allowances, bringing down their cost per seat and cost per passenger dramatically.”
John Ross is the President and CEO of Test Prep Insight, an online education company.
“From the outset, following the launch of our business, we struggled mightily to get any traction. As an online company, our success relies on customers finding us, and we couldn’t get any search traffic. We struggled for months on end to grow our web presence, but to no real avail. Then one day, we decided to double down on our venture and try advertising with Google.
It was an instant success. Our traffic went through the roof (as did our ad spend), but we finally got the breakthrough we needed. Following that move, we experienced tremendous growth, and also started getting the organic search results we needed to wean off Google ads. That decision was a pivotal moment for us and ultimately led to our breakthrough. I’ll always remember that.”
Holly Winters works with Ashore, an online proofing system built for high-velocity creatives that increases approval ratings by 50% by automating the approval process and improving the quality of feedback from approvers.
“The biggest problem in the software industry isn’t bugs, shoddy development, or even security – it’s denial. Broken software doesn’t stay that way because no one knows how to fix it; it stays that way because no one is willing to fix it well. If the product wasn’t built right, updates and tweaks are just bandages on bullet holes.
We had to face this (rather rude) awakening with our company’s software solution, Ashoreapp.com. After looking over the feedback from our users, we realized the product they wanted wasn’t exactly the product we made. Sure, we could add all of the features and dress it up like it was, but that’s no way to build high-quality software; we had to start from scratch.
We rebuilt our app from the ground up, implementing every bit of documented user feedback and enabling new features that skewed toward enterprise (i.e., offering our users full white-labeling). The results were incredible; we experienced massive business growth almost immediately. Today, Ashore manages the approval process for nearly 10,000 creatives, a feat that would have never been possible if we had just ‘fixed the issues.’ Sometimes, a breakthrough is knowing when to burn things down and start from scratch.”
Charlie Camisasca owns an eCommerce Consulting business called The eCommerce Boardroom. The eCommerce Boardroom is the intersection of his expertise in eCommerce and Consulting. It is a platform for teaching new entrepreneurs to take the leap and helping existing eCommerce business owners manage and grow their companies as effectively as possible.
“I learned two striking things that contributed to the idea for my brand new business: There is a massive online community of aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs, and eCommerce is really, really complex.
First, the community. I can’t tell you how many eCommerce Facebook groups, blogs, podcasts, forums, and influencers I’ve followed or subscribed to. And each one represents a community, often tens or hundreds of thousands of people that are just trying to ‘make it’ in the world of eCommerce. Truthfully, I have been encouraged by just how engaged, supportive, and helpful these communities are. But the sheer number of people who are starting an eCommerce business is enough to overwhelm any newcomer to the space. After all, aren’t all those people technically my competition?
Second, the complexity. Starting an eCommerce business is hard. But scaling one? That’s even harder. There are so many touchpoints: systems, platforms, tools, and service providers that all work together to make the business tick. With many touchpoints comes much data. And with much data comes confusion.
If there was an ‘Aha Moment,’ it was when I listened to a podcast that interviewed Tobias Lütke, one of the founders of Shopify. I can’t remember if it was Tobias or the Interviewer who called Shopify the ultimate ‘pick and shovel’ play in eCommerce. In case you don’t know, this phrase comes from the California Gold rush. Who is guaranteed to make a killing in a gold rush? The people selling the tools (picks and shovels) needed to mine the gold. Today, eCommerce is a gold rush.
After listening to that interview, I did a quick Google search. As it turns out, there are over one million active Shopify stores and more than two million active sellers on Amazon. Amazing! That’s when I realized that although Shopify might be the ultimate ‘pick and shovel’ play, it can’t be the only one in town. The lightbulb turned on. Instead of viewing those massive online communities as competitors, I saw them to be potential customers. And instead of feeling overwhelmed by the high degree of complexity involved in scaling an eCommerce business, I began to see this as an opportunity to coach others. And so, the idea of a SaaS/consultancy hybrid for eCommerce entrepreneurs was born.”
David is the Co-Founder of Wilbur Labs, a San Francisco-based startup studio that identifies big customer pain points and builds businesses to solve these problems. Since 2016, Wilbur Labs has built and invested in 13 technology companies, including VacationRenter, Vitabox, Joblist, and Barkbus, and plans to launch several new companies over the next year.
“2020 has been a year full of several unpredictable challenges. At Wilbur Labs, we have leaned into these trends and focused on pairing real-time data with automation to drive rapid growth.
Ordinarily, historical snapshots are a great guide for growth strategy. In the course of a global pandemic and everything that has happened this year, that is not the case. Historical data is worthless and not a good predictor for what is happening now or what will happen in the future. The value of real-time data and automation has skyrocketed this year because of the importance in understanding what is happening now, versus what happened yesterday.
Since the beginning of the year, each Wilbur Labs portfolio company has worked on building dashboards with real-time metrics on every facet of each business to ensure that decisions are being made on the most relevant data possible, such as current customer preferences and cancellation trends. Though trends are smoother now than they were in March and April, we are still seeing rapid customer behavior changes happening on a daily basis, and real-time data loops have directly contributed to greater marketing efficiencies.
In addition, customer behavior and audience interests have been constantly fluctuating. For the first time in modern history, we are seeing trends, like global eCommerce adoption, that ordinarily would have taken five years instead occur in five weeks. With such rapid change, it is impossible for manual processes to keep up. By utilizing automation wherever applicable – and connecting it to the real-time data – we have been able to ensure that our portfolio companies are maximizing every opportunity available to them.”
Dr. Pooneh Ramezani
Dr. Pooneh Ramezani is a medical doctor of 20 years and co-founded Dr. Brite in 2015 with her sister, Dr. Paris Sabo, also a medical doctor. When they saw the need for sanitization in 2020, they created a line of premium essential cleaning products available to the public.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we pivoted 180 degrees and began producing essential sanitation products to the mass market. That was a very challenging pivot, as our company was an oral care company. We saw the need, and instead of procrastinating, we viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and executed on it right away.
We grew our business and customer base astronomically in a short period. Then, we nourished the customer relationships and made it a priority to take care of each new customer we had acquired.
The biggest challenge was that the supply chain had been affected by the pandemic, which caused a deficit of raw ingredients and packaging material for our products. Our director of procurement had to work extremely hard to source resources, and we had to pay a premium to get everything we needed in our facilities to fulfill orders. It was difficult, and at times impossible, but we did it.
One tip that I can offer to other business owners is to take every opportunity that comes your way and execute it immediately. Don’t wait, and don’t procrastinate.“
Yaniv Masjedi is a tech industry leader and a business leader at Nextiva, a large telecommunications enterprise with over 1,000 employees.
“Nextiva experienced an increase in engagement rate when we started using animated videos for promoting our site content on social media. We created animated texts for more cost-effective production rather than making videos with characters speaking a dialogue.
Here is the particular engagement rate increase we experienced on three social platforms:
- LinkedIn: 113% increase
- Twitter: 94% increase
- Facebook: 43.5% increase
The increased engagement also translated to higher traffic from our social media channels. Using animated videos, particularly animated text, led to a more established social media presence that helped distinguish our content from our competitors’.”
Max Harland is the CEO at Dentaly.
“Dentaly had a breakthrough when we cut overhead business costs by automating labor-intensive tasks. Human resources is an expensive overhead expense. SaaS software and tools curb costs by automating repetitive tasks. Now, we’re using SaaS for accounting reconciliation, invoice processing, data gathering for analytics, and other duties as well.
In the past, we would have to hire administrative staff for $10 per hour, but automating these tasks will only cost as much as $50 for the whole month. The savings are massive, but it doesn’t compromise output quality since machines are more accurate than humans.”
Vinay Amin is a Health Expert and CEO at Eu Natural.
“My favorite recent example of a breakthrough which led to rapid business growth has been in the Fintech industry – in particular, the Fintech currency-exchange platform TransferWise. The breakthrough came in the form of a new concept behind sending money overseas. Instead of actually sending currency across borders, TransferWise developed a concept of keeping funds stored in banks in various countries, so as to receive payment in one currency and pay it out in another. This enabled TransferWise to offer a valuable, in-demand service to millions of people, and as a result, TransferWise reported a 70% in its March 2020 fiscal year. The customers benefit, as does the business – a brilliant breakthrough indeed.”
Gilad is the founder and CEO of Huan, a company that makes smart tags to keep pets safe.
“Collaborating with non-profits (pet rescues) has been our biggest business breakthrough. We make smart tags for pets which allow their owners to find them via our smartphone app should they go missing. After we started production, we were getting great feedback from our customers, but we were still relatively unknown in the pet world.
As a pet owner, I have always supported pet rescues, so we decided to donate our smart tags to local pet rescue groups. This really got our name out in our local pet community, and within a few weeks we saw a rapid increase in inquiries about our product, leading to a big boost in sales.”
Akram Assaf is the Co-Founder at Bayt.com.
“SpaceX was an ordinary space technology startup, and nobody believed they could compete with worldwide government institutions like NASA. That was true to some degree, and SpaceX was on the verge of failure. The big breakthrough was the successful development of reusable rockets. All of a sudden, the price of building rockets has dramatically decreased, and it led to rapid success.
Today, SpaceX is one of the most popular names in space technology. Their breakthrough has transformed the entire industry. Commercial space travel doesn’t seem that far away now. It just goes to show how a single breakthrough can change the entire industry, and perhaps even the world. We’ll have to see what happens in the future.”
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