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How we used a competitor to get our first 300+ sign-ups ... (until we received a cease & desist)

One of the things I love about coming up with growth campaigns for Salesloop.io is the scope for getting creative.

While much of the day-to-day focus is on executing marketing or outreach campaigns, many of which are inspired from the success stories I write about on scalecuts.com, sometimes you stumble across an outlier campaign that is entirely of your own making… and that you know has all the ingredients of an exceptional story.

And leveraging a competitor to get your first 300+ signups – definitely falls into that category!

Firstly, a little context, Salesloop is a sales automation tool, primarily focused on allowing B2B sellers to use Linkedin to target their ideal customers – and reduce the many hours of manual prospecting that outbound sales usually involves. What sets us apart is ease of use and the ability to use data as a trigger for a sales campaign, meaning you can:

  • Copy a Linkedin search or Sales Navigator URL of your ideal buyers,
  • Upload a list of company names and the job title of your ideal buyer,
  • Connect a website visitor software like Leadfeeder or Visitor Queue and specify the job title to target at the companies they flag

All the above help you to identify the Linkedin profiles you want to reach out to, before then allowing you to populate and automate a message to be sent to them. In short, we help you find your ideal buyers and message them on auto-pilot.

Now, what’s great about operating in the sales automation space, is that everyone wants an easy way to grow revenues and find new customers. Meaning lots of prospective customers.

What sucks about the space is the MONUMENTAL amount of competition:

Sales Tech Ecosystem

Which means its incredibly difficult to be heard above the noise, and as a result, the onus is on getting creative to get heard.

This story centres on one of our competitors Orca that had done a phenomenal job on their content marketing. They operated as a chrome extension / desktop app like many of our current competitors – which has drawbacks, a) you have to leave the tool running in the background (which saps laptop power), and b) these types of extensions have traditionally been much easier for Linkedin to identify and ban (leading to their famous prohibited list – which often impacts a users Linkedin account as well.

While our technology (PLUG ALERT!) is completely cloud-based and capable of using advanced IP technology to safeguard customers Linkedin accounts, Orca was still a legitimate competitor having identified their customer niche and executed a really solid content strategy that had them ranking on page 1 of Google for “sales automation” & “linkedin automation”.

So I was pretty surprised when I encountered this on their main page:

Orca Front Page

They had shut up shop. Closed for business.

This intrigued me. So I did a bit of market research – analysing other competitor chrome extensions and found 11 (!) that had shut down or were no longer in business.

Many of these had operational websites, alongside high install legacy install numbers – creating a potentially untapped audience to promote into.

To highlight this in more detail (then we’ll get back to the story, I promise) – below is another example of a lead generation tool that shut down called Linkelead. By examining Users (essentially number of installs), and verifying the last Updated date – you can get a real insight into the operating activity & health of the business. Obviously check their website as well (if its listed) – if it doesn’t load, then it’s a prime candidate.

Orca Front Page

Anyway, back to our story with Orca – this turned out to be an especially suitable use case to target for a number of reasons:

  • They had recently shut down operations yet were answering emails via their @useorca.com email domains (actually reaching previous company owners / chrome extension developers can be very challenging!)
  • They were redirecting traffic via their website to other projects, meaning they likely still had good website traffic coming in
  • They had an excellent blog on their domain which was no longer being monetised
  • They had a substantial email list of actual customers
  • And they had a number of social media channels, including Medium that ranked highly for sales automation content

I reached out to the founders who were open to discussions. They had shelved their work on Orca to focus on other startup projects and were open to selling their website – we went back and forth in the discussions and were provided access to their Google Analytics to verify their website traffic (which remained significant) however, couldn’t agree on a suitable valuation. The founders didn’t want to part with their website or social assets for less than a substantial 5 figure sum.

Unfortunately, it was just too risky to pay that much at the outset.

However, there’s always a way to make a deal work. They were open to the idea of a revenue share / affiliate partnership which would allow them to retain the website (and potentially sell it later), while allow both of us to monetise their website traffic.

That’s what we call a Win-Win:

Win-Win

And if the story had ended there, it would have been a beautiful, well-rounded, everybody wins partnership. But creating a SaaS business is rarely that simple.

Within 4 weeks of implementing the affiliate link above, a different Linkedin automation tool, lets call them MeetWinifred, issued a cease & desist via their lawyers to both Orca and Salesloop!

cease

Our first cease & desist 🥳 An emotional day

Were we surprised. Hell Yes.

The reason for this cease & desist?

Unbeknownst to us, MeetWinifred had purchased the technology assets related to Orca which had become the core of the MeetWinifred Linkedin automation tool.

The founder of that company initially felt that the Orca founders had sold their software twice – however, this was quite easily resolved as Salesloop is a cloud-based solution (meaning you can set and forget your Linkedin automation campaigns) in contrast to the original Orca tech that requires users to use a desktop app which is continually open in the background.

For reasons I’ll never quite figure out, the MeetWinifred team left the incredibly valuable blog & social collateral on the table when purchasing the underlying tech – which likely could have quite easily been thrown in and created enormous additional value.

While the competing SaaS never had the rights to the website & social channels, it spooked the Orca founders and thus ended the mutually beneficial relationship between Orca and Salesloop, although not without getting us our first 300+ trial signups.

receipt

A solid partnership while it lasted. And a pretty decent story too!

Thanks for reading. If you like content like this, sign up for my email newsletter at www.scalecuts.com which I send out every few weeks.

Additionally, if you're looking to sell B2B, then try out our sales automation tool Salesloop.io. Indiehackers can get 25% off all plans for 6 months using code 25DISCOUNT when you check out 😉

  1. 10

    Whenever I think "growth hacking" is no longer a thing, this kind of article comes along and I'm left in awe. Leveraging dead competition is really something I haven't thought about yet. Nice one!

    1. 6

      Thanks for the high praise. I previously read an article about repurposing dropped domains for affiliate marketing, so that gave me the idea to chase this 👍

      1. 2

        I was going to mention that. It's pretty common practice in the affiliate space, but I hadn't heard of a strategy like this in SaaS. Nicely done!

  2. 6

    Great write-up 👏👏

    This should feature on @csallen growth bites email - leveraging chrome apps that have gone out of business!

    1. 4

      Thanks Martin. Bet you liked the MeetWinifred alias as well 😂😂

  3. 5

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing...and kudos for thinking up your win-win agreement w/Orca before the C&D!

    1. 1

      Thanks! Worked like a charm .. wish it had lasted longer though!

  4. 5

    You never forget your first cease & desist. Great article, I can't believe that MeetWinifred hadn't realised the value of the traffic and content from Orca.

    1. 4

      LOL - had many cease & desists? Not planning on getting any more ourselves in the near future 😉 Absolutely agree on the website value - SEO ranking is a gold mine

  5. 4

    every should get a cnd in their life. grows chest hair. lol.

    1. 3

      We sent a C&D letter to one of our competitors back in 2017 and guess what they did? INGORED IT.

      1. 1

        lol.. guarantee they crapped themselves though !

  6. 3

    Interesting article. Thanks for inspiring me to create an chrome extension for our audio/video transcription tool gglot.com and our automatic translator of websites conveythis.com
    I did a quick research and didn't find any great competing options. So our tools will come handy!

    1. 1

      👏 Glad it provided inspiration 👍

  7. 3

    Very creative growth strategy. Kudos!

  8. 2

    Nice one John, this is a great story and shows the value of sticking your neck out to find an interesting spot above the noise with a fraction of the effort required. Always on the lookout for those opportunities!

    1. 1

      Thanks Daniel - worked out nicely this time ;)

      Really liked your article on Customer Problem Stack Ranking. Going to DM on Twitter shortly.

      1. 1

        Nice one John, looking forward to hearing from you 👊

  9. 2

    Wow, well done.

    2 things:

    1/ Do you have an HQ version of the image of the SalesTech landscape?
    2/ I'm adding Salesloop to my toolbox right above MeetWinidred in the LinkedIn Automation section (https://www.coldiq.com/tools#linkedin)

    Keep up the good work!

    1. 2
      1. Yep, downloadable here: https://smartsellingtools.com/

      2. Awesome! What a super resource, love the trainin guides as well. We're building out our data triggers, so your technology lookup section is very much on our hitlist :)

      Hopefully in the next 6 months or so we'll transition into your omni-channel outreach section as well :)

      Before you add us, you can also sign up to get an affiliate link if you'd like? Link here: https://www.salesloop.io/affiliates/

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