The Growth Ramp Origin Story

Best looking marketer

Jason Quey, founder of Growth Ramp and jokester who ranked this page for "best looking marketer."

“Woah! That was easy...” 

A little too easy. 

I mean, if everyone could start a business and get paying customers for less than $1, we’d all be rich, right? 

So, why then are business failure rates so high?

The year was 2011. As a newly minted college grad, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be an agent of change. Like most my age, I wasn’t stoked about clocking in-and-out of a 9-to-5 to earn a paycheck for a job I had no desire to work for.

Sure, I’m grateful for each job I’ve had. And many of those jobs were necessary stepping stones for the work I'm doing today. But I knew God created me to do so much more.

There was only one problem.

I also faced the same haunting question many of my peers could not answer. “So, what are you going to do with your bachelor’s degree?”

How I turned $0.50 into a 6-figure dropshipping empire (almost by accident)

With a Bachelor’s of Science in Biblical Studies, most assumed I’d become a minister, not an entrepreneur. (Yes, it is rather ironic I got a “BS in BS” degree to become a pastor. I digress.).

Sure, I enjoyed dabbling in business ventures. From lemonade stands to smoking fish, entrepreneurship ran in my blood. But no one sat me down and said running a business was a valid career choice. So I went to college to pursue a career in ministry.

I was confident my 4-year Bible degree was not a waste of time or money. Yet while I enjoyed doing ministry, nothing seemed to fit.

After graduating from college, I worked as a part-time caregiver. One day after my shift, I reflected on my side-hustle selling footwear on eBay.

My business plan was simple:

  1. I’d find a pair of name brand shoes on clearance.
  2. I’d buy a handful of their products.
  3. I’d list them on eBay at full price.

While I made a tidy profit, it wasn’t without its hassles. First, not every item I bought would sell. Second, I did not always have the option to return the unsold inventory I bought. Third, from time-to-time, I overlooked listing a pair of shoes in my store.

As a result, my closet filled with shoes I could not wear.

That’s when a thought hit me.

What if I sold the shoes first?

No one cares if I own the product or not. All a customer needs is a promise they’ll get a product that solves their problem. Once the package arrives on their front porch, what happens behind-the-scenes is trivial.

All I had to do was create a system to make sure each item I listed made a profit. With a treasure trove of coupons, rebates, and clearance deals, the sky was the limit to creating a high-growth business.

For 10 cents per eBay listing, it was worth putting up five pairs of shoes. After all, people spend 8-to-10x more on a cup of coffee. Worse case, I’m out two quarters. Best case… well, the sky’s the limit, right?

I launched the business in October of 2011. In 2012, I made over $217,000 in revenue with a profit margin hovering around 40%.

Why profit without purpose provides validation, not meaning

If I were brutally honest, I often cringe when I read motivational quotes, superficial words, or other cheer-leading tips. 

But maybe this is precisely why my eBay business felt purposeless. Let me back up a bit...

Three days after adding the eBay listings, someone bought a pair of Nike shoes. Once eBay and Paypal took their fees, I made the easiest $19.50 of my life. It then became a matter of finding profitable products, posting pictures, and watching the money flow in. As they say, the rest is history.

I began putting systems and procedures in place. In time I began to scale my business by hiring a couple of friends and family members. Although I never read The 4-Hour Workweek, I had an automated lifestyle business. I had the luxury of working when I wanted, for as many hours as I wanted.

It turns out an automated business isn’t nearly as satisfying as lifestyle bloggers would lead you to believe.

It turns out that once you get past survival mode, what we seek are:

  1. Challenges which allow us to learn something new and invigorating.
  2. A mission that goes beyond technology and our personal lives.
  3. A sense of personal satisfaction in the work we do.

Don’t get me wrong. 

Money is necessary to raise your family, to have the freedom to do what you want to do, and support the causes you believe in.

But once you have enough money to take care of your needs, you need something else to help you push through difficult times. Your purpose… your why.

So if money was no longer an object, would I still chase this dream?

Discovering untold truths about high-growth startups

Flash forward to 2015.

I landed a marketing gig doing influencer marketing for another content marketer. Opportunities opened up for me to do freelance work for companies like:

  2. Inman News
  3. Yotpo
  4. Maptive
  5. Orbit Media
  6. Klientboost
  7. Elumynt
  8. MyCrowd
  9. Codeless
  10. And many more.

The work was mentally challenging. Several days I thought about giving up and throwing in the towel (I still do from time-to-time). I can’t even recount the number of days I prayed to God if this was really what He wanted me to do.

But as they say, sometimes the hardest times in life lead to the greatest moments.

These experiences gave me a peek behind the curtain of how high-growth startups think. From high-tempo testing to data-driven marketing, I was on a relentless quest to learn what made startups more money faster. I constantly chased bigger and better wins. 

As baseball Hall-of-Famer Babe Ruth once said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” (Yeah, I know, I included a motivational quote… they aren’t all bad, as long as the quote fits the message).

Eventually, I thought I had what it took to grow and scale a startup. Instead of getting paid a part of the profit, I could do the same work and write my own paycheck. 

After all, how hard could it be to go from idea to scale?

“What if I build a product, spending all this time and money, only to find out that no one actually cares about it?”

One of my greatest fears was to spend months (or years!) researching and creating a product that no one wanted.

So before I hired a developer to write a single line of code… 

...before I went to Namecheap to buy a fancy domain name…

...and before I spun up a new site on Wordpress with a cool new logo, I pre-sold the product to validate demand.

I reached out to 150 people. After interviewing everyone who responded, I found a common problem they shared. Next, I wrote how I would solve the problem in a Google Doc, got their feedback on the offer, then pre-sold $3,306.

All this happened before buying a website or writing a single line of code.

After the pre-sale, I worked with my brother to develop the product. We launched our MVP the day we promised to our early customers.

Within a couple of days of launching my MVP, I learned another ugly truth.

Marketing a product with product-market fit is different than marketing an early-stage product., Yotpo, and my other clients had product-market-fit. This product did not.

Without product-market fit, I was spinning my wheels in a vain attempt to scale my startup.

I wrote articles that each brought in 100 to 1,000 (or more) visitors. But none became a customer. When content marketing didn’t seem to work, I began to test LinkedIn sales prospecting. Then when LinkedIn flopped, I was off to test the next marketing channel.

Try as I might, nothing worked.

With no new customers and my brother moving to Cambodia, we chose to cut our losses. It was yet another adventure chalked up as a learning experience.

But the thought of why I could not get traction still haunted me.

Why was I able to do so well for my clients, but couldn’t turn a visitor into a paying customer?

I knew statistics were against a new product succeeding:

  1. 72% of new products introduced in 2009 to 2014 failed to meet their revenue goals or failed entirely. [1]
  2. In 2010, the rate of product failure cost U.S. companies $260 billion. [2]
  3. Roughly 75% of venture capital-funded startups launched from 2004 to 2010 failed. [3]

I thought with a good product, some marketing, and a little elbow grease, we could beat the odds.

We could become more than another statistic.

Turns out, I was wrong. Dead wrong. 

But that failure became the motor which fueled my passion to answer one simple question...

What can a startup do to improve their odds of success?

The mission: To eliminate the business failure rate.

"God never intended true humility to be a fabric softener for our aspirations. We aren’t to be ambitious for our own honor or glory. But we are to be ambitious for God’s honor and glory, radically so."

"Dreaming and doing things for God is the evidence, the effect, and the expectation of genuine faith." - Matt Perman, author of What’s Best Next.

In 2018, a friend recommended I read the book “What’s Best Next.” The author’s words struck a chord: If God has created me for a specific purpose, shouldn’t I do my best to understand what that purpose is? Then in understanding that purpose, to do everything I can to achieve that purpose?

To understand my life goal, Matt Perman gave his readers two questions to answer:

  1. What would you do if you had all the money you needed and could do whatever you wanted?
  2. What would you do if you could do only one thing in the next three years?

After praying and wrestling with these questions, my life goal became clear. I wanted to equip the Church locally and globally by using my skills in business and marketing. As part of this life goal, I wanted to teach others how to start a business in foreign countries to support disadvantaged people.

Thus the haunting thought reared its ugly head once again. I needed to understand what made early-stage marketing so different.

To teach others how to start a business, I needed to understand the system of creating a sustainable business. 

After all, not every serial entrepreneur was just “lucky.” What did Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and other founders know that the rest of us did not? What was their process for going from idea to scale?

More specifically, I wanted to understand the parts that make the system work like a well-oiled machine.

Since my background was in B2B SaaS, I began by hopping on the phone with this audience to find out their pain points.

As I talked to early-stage founders, I kept getting questions like:

  1. “What’s the right messaging I need to attract the kind of customers I want?”
  2. “How do I differentiate our product so we don’t look like every other competitor out there?”
  3. “Where do I best invest our resources to reach new customers?”
  4. “How do we establish our first scalable marketing channel?”
  5. “How do I turn visitors and trial users into paying customers?”
  6. “How do I get enough data from customers to know how to develop our product?”
  7. “How do I work on finding the right price for my product?”

These questions gave me clarity about what services I should offer my clients:

  1. Messaging and positioning.
  2. Go-to-market strategy and implementation.
  3. Pricing analysis.

I could take the principles I learned working for high-growth companies and apply them to early-stage startups. Sure, there would be differences. But using the 80-20 rule, I knew the majority of what worked would stay the same.

That said, I also knew positioning, pricing, and go-to-market strategy wasn’t enough.

At the end of the day, a founder doesn’t pay the bills with positioning, though good positioning will increase conversions.

Optimizing the price can have a major impact on a startup’s growth. But that’s not quite what early-stage startups need either.

And sure, getting 100,000 visitors a month to your site is great. But I also know marketers at later-stage startups getting more traffic than that with less than ½ a percent becoming a customer. Talk about an expensive, leaky bucket.

At the end of the day, you want more paying customers.

First, you need to get the right messaging.

Savvy copywriters will tell you the 80-20 of messaging is to talk to your customers. Then you’ll use their exact words on your website.

Then, you need to offer the right audience at the right stage of the buyer’s journey.

In 1966, Eugene Schwartz identified the 5 stages of customer awareness in his book "Breakthrough Advertising."

Our second approach to improve your conversions is by  targeting the 5 types of customers.

In order of most to least likely to buy, these are:

First, most aware customers.

These customers know your product, and he’s ready to buy. Now it’s your job to give him the best reasons to buy now - like time-limited offers and the most relevant testimonials. This customer might say, “I keep expecting to see a BUY NOW type of button.”

Second, product-aware customers.

Your customer knows what you sell and often what the competition sells. But she isn’t sure it’s right for her. At this stage, you need to position your product against the competition, ideally with a USP.

Most of your potential customers have not heard of your product yet. As a result, we find opportunities to educate comparison shoppers about your brand.

You know you’re talking to these customers when they say something like, “How does your product compare to say, {{big name competitor}}?”

Third, solution-aware customers.

Your customer knows the result he wants. But he may not know of your product, or that it provides the results he’s looking for. So he heads off to Google to find a list of products to solve his problem.

Solution-aware customers will ask questions about your product or product category.

They might say, “I know I need accounting software, but I’m not exactly sure what features I need to reduce my taxes.”

Fourth, problem-aware customers.

Your problem-aware customer senses she has a problem. But she doesn’t know what’s the right solution.

Customers in this stage are the 2nd hardest prospect to convert into new customers.

Traditional content marketing tends to target problem-aware customers. This is why many SEO and content marketing agencies will tell you it takes 6-12 months for it to "start working." Sure, content and SEO takes time. But you shouldn't settle for more traffic.

A problem-aware customer has never heard of your product category before. So she might ask a question like, “What exactly is web hosting? Why do I need it for my website?”

Fifth, unaware customers.

Your customer does not know of their pain, even though he has this problem. These prospects don't realize they have a problem.

Think of this audience as someone who has cancer, but a doctor has not diagnosed the issue. He may go to Google and search, “What are the symptoms of brain cancer?”

Once you understand the 5 customer types, it then becomes a matter of creating marketing campaigns for each stage of the buyer journey.

Finally, to improve your conversions, we help you position your startup.

What sets you apart from every competitor fighting tooth-and-nail for your customer’s attention and wallet?

Is it your…

  1. Price?
  2. Features?
  3. Tech stack?
  4. Patents?
  5. Money-back guarantee?

Those are all valuable to improve. But your better-funded competitors can replicate, imitate, and knock off ALL those qualities with ease.

What you need to improve your conversions is a unique sales proposition (USP).

One which is nigh impossible to steal. Why do I believe a USP is what you need? A USP helped:

  1. Anacin, a headache medicine for fast relief, increased their sales in 18 months from $18 million to $54 million. [5]
  2. GEICO experience the fastest market share growth of all auto insurers from 2000-2018. [6]
  3. Domino’s growth high and outpacing Pizza Hut and Papa John’s growth from 2013-2018. [7]

To create your USP, Growth Ramp will help you:

  1. Learn what the market and your customers feel about competing products.
  2. Discover how your product uniquely solves that problem better than the competition.
  3. Express that value in one bold and concise statement.

Now that we knew what to do, all that’s left was to create a system to consistently get predictable results for our clients.

Creating a predictable system to help you eliminate the business failure rate

Like in my eBay and freelancing days, I began to build a playbook to create consistent growth. I looked at what worked at the later-stage startups I did freelancing for. Then I figured out the first principles which apply at early-stage startups.

This included things like:

  1. Talking to customers to understand how to better serve their needs.
  2. Starting by doing things that don’t scale. Then creating a process to automate and scale what works and remove what isn’t working.
  3. It’s better to have a small number of customers love your product than many who are indifferent.
  4. Doing whatever it takes to get to product-market fit. Then relentlessly test new growth ideas.
  5. Working backward to find out what inputs we need to create the desired growth output.

Are you ready for Growth Ramp to help you from idea to scale?

What I’ve told you on this page is easier said than done. After all, “If information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” [8] 

The world of technology is fast-paced and rapidly changing. So too is the competition who are competing for your customers.

This is why we treat our agency as a startup. Yes, we have a system to create predictable growth. We also are constantly testing and fine-tuning our system to help you get faster results.

Want to see if your startup is a fit for our services? 

Then click the button below, fill out our application, and we’ll get in touch if we’re a fit.

Are you ready to get ahead of the wave and have your Positioning, Pricing, and Go-to-Market Strategy dialed in before others figure out they need to make the shift?

[1] Sarkar, Christian. “‘Monetizing Innovation’ – An Interview with Simon-Kucher & Partners’ Madhavan Ramanujam.” Marketing Journal. Simon-Kucher & Partners, July 3, 2016.

[2] Adams, Rob. “Market Validation: Why Ready, Aim, Fire Beats Ready, Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim.” Inc. The University of Texas at Austin, April 27, 2010.

[3] Gage, Deborah, and Shikhar Ghosh. “The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-Ups Fail.” The Wall Street Journal. Harvard Business School, September 20, 2012.

[4] Kelly, Kevin. “The Technium: 1,000 True Fans.” The Technium. Accessed March 4, 2008.

[5] “Reeves, Rosser (1910-1984).” Ad Age, September 15, 2003.

[6] “Just 3 of the Top 10 Largest Auto Insurers Grew Market Share During 2018 in the U.S.” CollisionWeek, March 27, 2019.

[7] “How Has Domino's Fared with Respect to Other Pizza Chains?” Trefis. Accessed May 7, 2020.

[8] Ferriss, Tim. “Derek Sivers Reloaded – On Success Habits and Billionaires with Perfect Abs (#128).” The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss, December 28, 2015.