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Ryan Welmans, cofounder and CEO at SoPro on social media and B2B lead generation prospecting

Agnieszka Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 24 November 2017



Learn how B2B prospecting agency SoPro uses social media to raise awareness and cuts through noise with Ryan Welmans




SoPro logo 150x150
Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there for SoPro?


Ryan Welmans (RW): I’m Ryan Welmans, cofounder and CEO at SoPro.  I glue the ship together and sail it in the right direction.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about SoPro

RW: SoPro is a London based B2B prospecting agency. We like to think of ourselves as the best B2B outreach model in the world.

We wanted to develop the unimprovable approach to prospecting, then bottle the magic and offer it as a service.  

Fast forward five years and SoPro is making headlines. Our experts help hundreds of businesses to identify and engage with qualified prospects, kickstarting the right conversations, with the right people, in the right businesses. That tends to be the first stage of any good sales process.  

We provide prospecting as a service. Very simple, very effective.

Photograph of Ryan Welmans cofounder and CEO of SoProSMP: Who are your target audience and why?

RW: From nervous startups to FTSE 100 multinationals dominating their sectors our clients come in all shapes and sizes.

The one common thread; they are all B2B. B2B firms often have great products or services, but sporadic sales pipelines.  

Establishing a reliable mechanic to market makes a huge difference and we fit the brief perfectly.  SoPro works as a standalone outreach channel, finding and engaging your target market at a consistent rate, under a predictable cost model.  

I would estimate at least half of our clients use SoPro to accelerate or support strategic growth plans.

We’re so radically different to the legacy sales model that dollar for dollar, I’d back SoPro as the most productive sales channel in more or less any business to business sales scenario you can throw at us.

SMP: When was the company founded, how many people work there and how is it funded?

RW: In terms of our vitals, as of November 2017 we are three years old, based in London, UK, 32 people and are founder funded.  

SoPro is wholly owned by G33K Holdings Ltd.

SoPro homepage image social prospecting

SMP: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at SoPro?

RW:
Customer traction is usually the #1 challenge for digi-tech startups.  On that front we’ve been lucky enough to be able to use the SoPro service, to sell the SoPro service, pretty much on an all you can eat basis.  It’s been quite an effective model and we managed to pull in a couple of hundred clients during our first three years.

We’ve noticed a bit of competition cropping up over the last year or two.  Nothing too scary, but we’re paying attention.  

To be totally honest the biggest challenge has been meeting an ambitious growth plan under the lean funding model we opted for.  We had a couple of early investment options before we took the decision to self-fund.  Anyone that has ever grown a business on an operating cash flow will understand the huge challenges it brings with respect to forecasting and financial diligence.  

Neither of our founders come from finance roles and frankly we are busy running the business so you can imagine the sleepless nights we’ve had remodelling profit and loss forecasts to support critical decisions such as new office premises and key hires. Fortunately, we do like a spreadsheet.

On a personal note, I hadn’t anticipated the impact that workload stress and long hours can have on quality of life.  Running a business can be immeasurably rewarding at time and a tough slog at other times.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

RW:
Signing our first paying client was a momentous day. And we’re young enough to still remember that.

That was when we knew we’d made the right decision to quit good jobs and start this adventure.  We wouldn’t become profitable for several months yet, but our confidence grew with every deal signed.

To this day I still see high fives in the office when the team sees a sales meeting booked for a difficult client on the back of our prospecting activity.  We love watching our work produce real changes in the world, we take pride in being responsible for our clients signing new customers and in many cases growing their own teams to support contracts that the SoPro team have been responsible for.  

I also get a buzz when clients leave us an awesome review online or pass a great referral when we’re least expecting it.  That actually happened this afternoon so I’m in a great mood.

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments (including social media)?


RW:
Finding the time to produce high quality thought leadership content is a challenge.  We don’t believe in content for the sake of content so we try to produce our own insights and experiential narrative based on real stats…

It’s a hard thing to do for a firm our size.  Then we look at inspirational brands like Hubspot who seem able to produce several incredible articles per day… literally every single piece is outstanding… and we think ‘How can we compete at that level?’

We don’t actually compete with Hubspot (we are a fully integrated partner), but that is the space we occupy and it can be time consuming and expensive just to have skin in the game.

If you think about it enough it actually comes down to time management.

SMP: How are you marketing your B2B lead generation service and what does social media have to play in doing so?


RW:
We use SoPro Social Prospecting as our primary outreach channel.  That keeps the sales team pretty stacked with meetings/calls and the close rates are quite strong.  Our typical stats look something like this:

  • For every 1000 prospects we source and engage, we generate 30-60 leads.
  • 50% of leads will produce a same-month sales pitch.
  • 80% of pitches receive a campaign proposal.
  • We close about 33% of proposals.  

So that’s four to eight new clients per thousand prospects engaged.

So there’s not too much mystery in it, we just have a methodical, disciplined and well supported sales process.  It’s also a great example of the service we sell.

SoPro homepage image the art of social prospecting

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media, social networks and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

RW:
Haha – okay you mean excluding the GDPR shitastrophe coming into effect in the UK/EU markets in 2018?

I would say the crypto-blockchain based decentralisation of just about everything is worth a mention.  It will definitely catch many large businesses unaware, (although perhaps not totally within the next 18 months).  I believe the scale and speed of technological disruption that blockchain mass-adoption will unleash will be unlike anything we have seen before.
 
We are talking about low cost technology that enables the radical decentralisation of every major industry on the planet, from finance to politics. A total shift in social power structures.

The movement is already snapping at the social tech scene, with decentralised social networks offering distributed community-managed platforms, operating totally free from the increasingly political corporate ecosystem.

And the best part is nothing is safe, nor should it be, you think you know about advertising?  Have a read about Brave’s Basic Attention Token or Synereo,  already laying the foundations of the Attention Economy. It blows my mind the speed these platforms are emerging, given their potential impact.
 
Earlier today, I read Kim Dotcom is launching a decentralised internet. What do you even say to that?

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media for the next 12 to 18-months and why?



RW replies with:

  • Increased censorship
    At the highest levels we are seeing political influence in corporate policy, the problem is more evident across the news-centric social platforms such as Google/Facebook/Twitter. That will likely get worse before it gets better.

  • Cross platform social identity mapping
    Social customer engagement strategies are (to a large degree) managed separately for each social platform in use. That is madness. A simple, ‘easy to integrate’ identity mapping solution would make centrally managed cross platform social engagement strategies accessible to every business.

  • Hybrid prospecting
    I suspect we will see B2C and B2B hybrid engagement models that operate far more cohesively across several social spheres, plus email, telephone and even physical engagement channel, all managed centrally under super-integrated potentially autonomous platforms. 

  • Advertising will continue to get smarter
    Audio capture, transcription and keyword based product matching is alive and kicking in modern home hub devices (Google, Amazon etc.).  Who knows, maybe our smartphones will start listening to us and advertising “more appropriately”.

  • AI driven autonomous sales processes
    There are several marketing automation solutions on the market, and whilst there is a level of maturity these tend to support email engagement, lead nurturing/scoring, drip campaigns etc., as opposed to simulating the kind of rich human to human personal engagement experience that delivers real results.  Social is not yet front and centre and I think it will graduate to play a big part in the future of sales automation. 

  • And one for luck
    Facebook and/or it’s video ad clients will realise mid-roll video ads do more harm than good.  With any luck they will be phased out completely.  Back the fires of hell from whence they came.

SMP: What are your top overall five social media tips and why?

RW replies with:

  • Attend your social profiles
    An unattended business profile is worse than no profile at all.  Treat your social presence with the same investment and discipline as your website.  It probably sees more traffic.

  • Seven great ways to stop pumping out trash
    Content for the sake of content is worse than no content at all.  You will lose followers and/or respect.  And you might never earn it back, even if “number four made you say OMG!!!”

  • Be the hero – not the Spambot
    As tempting as it might be to fire out 1000 LinkedIn connections and follow up with a 30 second micro-pitch, right after connecting, don’t be that person.

  • Inject a bit of personality
    Less brand authored content.  More personal content.  I don’t want to read boring.com’s latest insights into blah blah blah… I want to hear how Tony the lead scientist from Agricultural Insights Central figured out how to grow extra tasty tomatoes by adding vodka-jello and rapping to the seedlings. Oh and here’s a video.

  • Get your retargeting in shape
    Never leave social retargeting on the table. Retargeting is probably the most ROI performant subset of your display campaign activity. Perhaps not the biggest, but you can sort it in an afternoon, stop not getting around to it.

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that you’d like to share?


RW: SoPro are just getting started.

SMP: Best way to contact you and SoPro?


RW: I’m pretty contactable at http://bfy.tw/FCHy

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

RW: Green soup of indeterminable origin.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?


RW: Oh man, I’m going to hell.  

Okay I recently put an interview on hold to dive across a coffee shop floor to pick up and reunite a defecting £20 note with its owner.

SMP: If you weren’t working at SoPro what would you be doing?


RW: Trading crypto.

SMP: When / where did you go on your last holiday and why?

RW: Melbourne, visiting family.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

RW: Coffee, music, inbox.


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