Steve Daar is the author of Profit Hacking, which is a book about increasing web traffic, conversions, and customer lifetime value. He's also the founder of Conversion for Good, which helps its clients increase their website conversions (and make more money).
In this interview, Steve shares his story, his key success factors and habits, online marketing and grooming tips, and more.
Can you give us a brief overview of what you do?
Steve: I am an author and founder of a company called Conversion for Good.
My book is called Profit Hacking, and it's about how to get more traffic and visitors to your website, how to convert more of those visitors into leads or sales, and then how to increase and maximize lifetime customer value from those leads and sales after you get them. And then economics or monetization.
My company, Conversion for Good, focuses on the conversion side of it. We help websites turn into more effective “salesmen.”
What is your back story, and how did you end up launching Conversion for Good and writing Profit Hacking?
Steve: I was a finance major in college, and I graduated with a bachelor's in finance. At the time, I didn’t think marketing was for me - I thought finance and accounting were the important stuff.
But I got into a career in finance and very quickly saw an opportunity to do something better and serve the clientele that hired me.
So at the age of 23, I started my own company. It was specifically for school teachers to help them get access to better retirement and financial information - and put them into better plans that will help them save more money, have more flexibility, and just be better set up for a secure retirement.
But I didn't know anything about marketing, so my company really struggled because I had no sense or capability of being able to get the word out, get in front of the right people, and then be able to get my messaging really strong so that they could understand what the value was. And so I started learning every day about marketing - and a lot of it on the web, so how to get traffic, convert traffic and monetize it.
By the time I was pretty good at it, I lost all my money running a business that was operating at a loss. And so I was in debt and I got a job at a marketing agency in Chicago called Rise Interactive. While there, I got to manage over $1 million in traffic for Fortune 500 companies and then started working on their websites to increase their conversions.
So I got a lot of practical application and I still kept learning – I never stopped growing my knowledge database. I got a lot of hands-on, real world experience and did some good work, got some good results for big companies.
And after doing that for a little bit, I felt ready to leave and give myself a second shot at entrepreneurship and so that's when I launched Conversion for Good - and later that year I wrote Profit Hacking.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced early on while building your career, and how did you overcome it?
Steve: I truly believe that everyone's biggest challenge is themselves and their own mindset, and being able to set themselves up for success from the very bare essentials. Just their thoughts, their language, their words and what they believe about themselves, and what they're capable of.
And to stay focused and to stay hungry and to stay focused on what is that they want and not let setbacks or failures or obstacles or other people's doubts or fears or worries get in the way of them continuing to move forward. Constantly moving forward in the direction of their goals or their vision. So that's big.
But then, another thing was just getting the first couple of clients. What I started out doing is I did a bunch of stuff for free. I did a lot of free consulting to get some testimonials - and then I would ask people 'Hey, do you know anyone who fits this description?' and I would say the type of clients that I wanted to work with,
After showing that I can do good work and getting the first couple handful of interactions and referrals through service and giving, I was able to then have some case studies and some results.
And I was really - and still am - very conscious of growing my network and meeting more people, and not being afraid to ask is a big thing too. Being able to ask for what it is you're looking for, what you need or what you want without fearing - then being able to accept and receive was a big obstacle too.
What 2 or 3 factors would you say helped you go from where you started to where you are now?
Steve: The first one is connecting with people and growing your network. No one does anything completely by themselves. No one's an island.
And when I say connecting with people means in a whole bunch of ways. Finding people who have already done what you want to do, and try to either reverse-engineer what they did. Or to know them and meet them and hopefully have them be willing to guide you a little bit or tell you a little bit about how they got to where they were.
But also, when you meet people that have a really open, loving attitude and allow for anyone to be your teacher in some way, and being able to be open to how you can serve them and vice versa.
And not even just serve, like how you connect with them on a really human level and accept and appreciate and love them. So other people are a huge, huge factor.
And then, two – getting really clear on what you want. Doesn't matter how good your aim is if you don't know what target you're shooting at, it's tough to hit.
So taking some time to really write down what it is that you want and where you want to go, because then the actions and the goals, and the system and the sequence – the things that you need to do, the right actions and the right order and the right frequency - will come more clear if you understand where you're going.
If you have a lot of focus - and especially if it's fairly simple - you know exactly what you want. So, for example, you want 10 clients and you know the types of clients that you want to work with and you know where to look, and you know how many conversations you need to have in a month, or in a week or whatever to be able to reach that goal.
What are some key habits that you have instilled to help contribute to your success?
Steve: So, I'll be honest. I don't think I have the greatest work habits, and it's something that I'm working on. It's something that I'm excited to be really dialed in about. Because if I've been able to get this far with not the world's best habits - to then have those ingrained, I think there's more room for growth.
But I would say that I've had some really strong personal habits, and it's just about taking care of yourself. And if you're not taking care of yourself, everything else is going to fall apart eventually. Especially if you are your business and you are the key person.
So… how do you take care of your health - your physical health, your mental health, your spiritual health, your emotional health?
And just make sure you're on a solid foundation to be able to go into your work or your day, your life, your relationships from the healthy, solid, strong place and that it gets better over time.
I'd say some of those habits have been reading, writing and journaling thoroughly, trying to understand yourself and what's going on. Exercise, definitely. Some meditation. Those are the habits that have worked for me.
When you first started your business, how did you go about getting traction for it?
Steve: I turned 26 right around the time when I left my job and was going to start the current business that I'm on. And so, I said okay, I'm going to do 26 hours of consulting for free - and I reached out to my network and to people who I knew were well-connected and offered service.
I ended up doing probably like 60 hours instead of 26. But it was by doing a lot of things for free, and following up with those people and really being focused on giving first.
And then asking for the things I needed help with if they were happy with the consulting that I did or the work that we did together.
What is Profit Hacking all about?
Steve: Profit Hacking is really the book that I wish that someone gave me when I started my first business, the one for teachers.
At the time, I really had no idea how to attract traffic or eyeballs or get the right targeted people to come to the website. I didn't know how to turn a visitor into a lead or a sale or a subscriber or a phone call, a meeting.
So conversion, and then how to best work to provide the most value to the customer, to the lead. And in exchange, be able – I don't like the word 'extract' – so if you're giving the most value and you're giving or providing them with more and more levels of service, or you're solving more of their problems, you're also receiving it in return. It comes back in the form of money.
In this case, customers pay money in exchange for goods and services, so how do you best serve your customers and clients and in multiple ways, so that your business can profit as greatly as possible.
Profit Hacking is about increasing profits, increasing revenue, getting more customers - and it's the three levers that you can pull to grow: more traffic, more conversions, and better monetization.
If you could give entrepreneurs 1 online marketing tip, what would it be?
Steve: It really depends on where they are in their business. And where they want to go, what type of business they're in. I mean there's a ton of different factors.
The one thing that I would say is, when you're working online, you have access - more so than at any other point in history - to all of the data and information possible. And you're able to target people really specifically, and so what I would recommend is getting really clear on what is going on - on a deep level - and understanding how are people interacting with your site or your offer, or with your business and leveraging the analytics tools and the things where you can look at how people are really using their site, or what types of people are really responding well and which ones aren't, and then being able to survey them or talk to them and figure out why some people resonate with more and why some don't.
The number one tip is to 'get out of the building.' It's a “Lean Startup” term. And so it's easy online to just kind of hide behind your computer and know that, okay, we're not talking directly to these customers; we're just putting up a website, putting up these offers and maybe putting up ads.
But to be able to use the tools of the internet (as well as old-school stuff like meeting people in person), doing user testing or getting people to be open to filling out surveys and talking over the phone so you can figure out why the things that are working are working, or why the things that aren't working aren't working and really understanding and getting in the heads of your customers – that's going to give you insights that are impossible to get just by looking at raw, analytics data on Google Analytics or something like that to be able to understand how to really better serve your visitors and your customers.
Switching up to grooming – what are your thoughts on grooming and its effect on success?
Steve: Well, a lot of people will judge a book by its cover. And maybe that's not the way they're going to look at you forever, not the way they're going to judge you for all time, but if you want to put your best self forward, that usually involves looking your best. Taking care of yourself, dressing well.
I know for the first time in my life I got some custom-tailored clothing the other month, and it fits me really well, looks really good, and it feels good to wear it.
Don't be someone and dress or groom in a way that isn't you just because you think it's going to be more impressive. But at the same time, find something that works for you but makes you feel really good and makes you look good cause it will help.
If you can provide the audience with just one grooming tip, what would it be?
Steve: I'm a pretty low-maintenance guy with grooming, but I would say that it's worth the money to get a good haircut.
So if I get an expensive haircut, then I'm now like committed. I'm more likely to do something with my hair, and it'll look better. Getting a more expensive haircut from someone who's really good - someone who knows what they're doing - makes it look better.
How can people follow you and find out what you’re up to?
Steve: Go to Amazon, look up Profit Hacking and read the book if you're interested.
And from there… I'm not an incredibly active social media user, but you can follow me on Facebook. I'm really probably the only Steve Daar in the world.
Or you can go to ProfitHacking.com and join the email list where we offer some additional bonuses, some guides that go deeper than the content in the book and provide continued updates.
Step Up Your Game
Thanks to Steve for the interview! If you own or work for an online business, definitely check out Steve's book, Profit Hacking.
And if you're interested in learning from other "Men of Inspiration," check out these interviews too:
- Neil Patel, Entrepreneur & Blogger
- Kevin Lavelle, CEO of Mizzen+Main
- Ryan Michler, Founder of Order of Man