Reading Time: 15 minutes
Morning once again –
Now I’ve written the story of Pearl Lemon – I’d also like to write the story of Pearl Lemon Leads and continue on that journey.
First of all – Pearl Lemon Leads is the lead generation side of Pearl Lemon. Whereas Pearl Lemon is the SEO side of the business – with Pearl Lemon Leads the focus is on outbound B2B Lead Generation
Something that I’ve always found exciting.
Looking back upon it – since it’s been around (a few years now) since maybe July 2018 – it’s definitely not been a smooth ride at all – and continues to be a journey I’m still trying to figure out.
Table of Contents
Needing More Leads
In the early days of Pearl Lemon – relying upon inbound leads to generate new business wasn’t a possibility for me.
That would require SEO – and at the start of Pearl Lemon – I needed to find an SEO team/individual I could build the agency around – let alone thinking about doing SEO for our own brand.
As with any agency, I suffered from the classic case of the cobbler’s shoes and didn’t have any time to work on our own SEO because well actually, I hadn’t identified the right partner to build an SEO company with – (I’ll put together another blog post going into this in a LOT more depth).
Therefore all of Pearl Lemon’s first clients were from outbound marketing.
Starting My Outbound Journey w/Upwork
This began with my putting myself on Upwork, optimizing my profile, and then beginning to pitch for work.
As I look back at the early days of doing outreach – i.e identifying jobs on Upwork, doing my best to write a decent application and then pitching – this is where it got me:
I treasure these early days – of learning everything I needed to know about client management – working with them directly and doing my best to get everything I needed to do.
As you can see from the dates, the work was relatively consistent and I was doing different projects every month and sometimes at the same time.
It wasn’t enough.
At this time Pearl Lemon was Purr Traffic and I still needed to generate more income to make this journey really work for me.
Going for LinkedIn Mastery
I wondered what would happen if I copied what I did on Upwork on LinkedIn. Could I also optimize my LinkedIn profile and also start doing some kind of outreach to win work?
The profile optimization certainly happened, and in time I developed a mini reputation as someone who knew a lot about LinkedIn:
And it was a couple of posts that I wrote on LinkedIn that happened to go viral that actually led me to success with the generation of some inbound clients that came as a consequence of my post being shared heavily on LinkedIn (i.e getting 1 million+ views).
Going Viral on LinkedIn
I still remember that piece – I wrote it about my mum’s wage at Morrison’s and how shitty it was.
Because of the nature of how heavily it spread – I got a call from someone at HQ at Morrison’s who tried to explain themselves away because my content had ignited such passion in my followers on LinkedIn.
Then in 2018, was when I discovered LinkedIn Helper and the world of LinkedIn Lead Generation, and in parallel, I landed my first couple of clients.
Daren, Claire, Stephen and Callum were my first notable clients.
But before I get to talking about how I tried to deliver for these folks, let’s talk about my own experiences with lead generation and acquiring clients in the first place.
Outside of Upwork in 2017/2018 – I still needed to generate more business, and relying solely upon Upwork just didn’t seem like it was going to get me where I needed to go.
Cold Email Anyone?
That was when I took to learning a little bit about the world of cold emailing and cold outreach.
I’ve always been a half-decent ‘Googler’ and I quickly started learning a little bit about automation and how best to send emails at scale – but not before I began with some manual messaging.
At the time, Nick and I had a design agency client who we were working with to talk through how they could increase their network and do their own outreach.
I’d been touted by Nick as a growth hacker type of marketing guy, and upon meeting these guys, the meeting went well enough that I got to doing some consulting for them.
I knew that they were nice people, good clients and that I wanted to try and capture more of those types of clients.
So at that stage – I did manual outreach, and messaging and prospecting with the introductions that Nick made for me.
Sending Out Manual Messages
Practically this meant –
- Gathering emails of design agencies and sending them personalised messages
- Following up and doing the same thing on LinkedIn
- Following up with prospects that we met at a networking event that Nick and I attended together and that I spoke at
And ultimately seeing where this took me.
I was met with some interesting conversations, but nothing that landed. It felt the case that if I continued down this route – maybe something would land.
What I didn’t see here though was scale, and a means to successfully grow (at that time) Purr Traffic.
So what next?
Well, I was beginning to get a sense of how to do B2B outreach as I’d landed clients via Upwork, landed clients from LinkedIn, and had started doing some outbound email – and whilst Upwork was becoming predictable, and LinkedIn seemed to be providing a couple of solid leads and then deals per month – it wasn’t I was growing rapidly.
I wanted to find ‘the way’.
Hiring Other Agencies And Freelancers
This was where I decided I would hire experts, agencies or individuals or otherwise who knew more than me.
After some searching, and some conversations, well – where attention goes energy flows – I actually began to rapidly learn about the process myself.
And in parallel I hired to begin with an agency called Bant.io.
That was my first introduction into how an agency managed lead generation at scale, and as such a wonderful experience for me, as both a client and also a ‘trainee’ of lead generation in general.
Over a couple of months they set up multiple domains, put together multiple email campaigns, shared with me the list of prospects they were going after (all founders of UK and Irish based businesses) and I actually landed one of my first clients through their cold outreach.
This was a client for SEO, which was exciting, and there were many other replies coming in besides this.
They also set up a remarketing campaign based upon people who hit the website – which was included in the package.
At that time I had no idea how remarketing worked, but looking back upon it – it was a clever (and effective way) to add value.
Ultimately, no more leads were to come from that experience with Bant, but a fair amount was learnt about the process of cold email, how the conducted tests and campaigns – alongside the realisation that they were more experienced than me – but the gap separating us was small.
I ended up writing the outreach messages for them because it became obvious that whoever had written them wasn’t a native English speaker.
I realised that once they set the process up, it was a matter of letting the campaign run and then letting me deal with the leads that were all forwarded to me.
And when the campaign wasn’t delivering – they would quickly set up a new domain and email and launch more emails to see if volume could fix the reply problem.
It was a straightforward enough strategy that made sense and was something I was sure I could replicate.
As I called it a day w/Bant, I also started reaching out to other cold email and lead generation providers to understand the market some more.
On both the email front as well as the LinkedIn automation front.
As I got to understand the market more, I realised that there wasn’t an incredible amount of variation within all of this, and as I asked the question ‘how does it work?’ and ‘can you walk me through it in detail’ – I got to know the market more.
In parallel with some voracious Googling, and after hiring a couple of other individuals this time – and getting mixed results over another 2-month period – I felt I knew enough to brand out by myself.
Going It Alone W/Cold Outreach
And that’s where I began to take what these guys were doing, and build in my own degree of sophistication.
I discovered Hesham (via Upwork), my Egyptian data miner who would provide me with B2B emails as well as lists from LinkedIn.
I went to Fiverr to develop lists from Yell, Yelp, and various other directories depending upon what I needed or my clients did.
I registered separate domains and tried to get my head around DKIM/DMARC/SPF and understand what all of these things meant in the world of cold email whilst I attempted to launch some campaigns myself.
In light of these newly acquired skills I was developing – in combination with knowing more enough about sales, it was time to put my skills to the test.
This began by slightly modifying my Upwork and LinkedIn profile to call myself a lead-generation as well as SEO expert.
An expert seems a stretch some might say, but expert is also relative, and I wasn’t looking to compare myself or work with other people who did outreach day in and day out, but rather service those who had no interest doing lead generation whatsoever.
HR Lead Generation (LinkedIn + Cold Email)
So my first couple of clients were won via LinkedIn outreach, Upwork outreach and Cold Email outreach which was great.
Claire was a HR executive who’d just struck out by herself – and I was running cold email as well as LinkedIn outreach for her in combination.
We’d identified a list from LinkedIn Sales Navigator that seemed to make sense to her. We’d modified her LinkedIn profile as best as I could, and then we’d begun outreach, whilst in parallel I asked Hesham to ‘mine’ the LinkedIn Sales Navigator search string URL to gather their emails.
So we’d send LinkedIn messages out to which Claire would respond, and then I activated a later email campaign to that same list as well.
It was great to work with someone who was very particular about her brand, her brand positioning and therefore the messaging we could and couldn’t use – which taught me alot about client expectations.
This campaign ran for around 2.5 months – but ultimately it was difficult to sell HR consulting as a service and whilst there was lots of interesting dialogue and some good meetings – nothing landed in terms of sales and that campaign came to a close.
Insurance Lead Generation (Cold Email, Cold Calling)
This was a gig I landed through Upwork for an Irish based insurance firm who were looking for another viable channel outside of PPC.
Now I needed to identify plumbers, electricians and the like who were in need of insurance.
What was interesting was that Stephen didn’t care at all how the leads were generated – as long as they actually were generated.
That gave me room to experiment and try and figure things out.
I bounced around between the idea of trying Facebook ads as well as cold outreach and ultimately decided to try cold calling as well as cold email.
To connect with plumbers, carpenters, ‘sparks’ and the like – I felt that I needed a more direct approach and wasn’t sure that Facebook ads would do it.
So (again via Upwork), I found a South African chap that I hired for $9 an hour called Richard (or ‘the robot’ as my buddy Luc laughed when he heard him on the phone)
I had never hired anyone for cold calling before so had no sense as to how this would pan out, and between him and the dozens of applications I got from Filipino based agencies, it felt like the native Englishman WAS the best option.
He focussed on takeaways – a notoriously hard market to penetrate in terms of getting hold of them and having them interested in insurance.
This was also where I learnt about VOIP calls, about FreshCRM/Freshdialer and becoming aware that this was a route to measuring and monitoring the calls.
Which, in hindsight were terrible.
And so I fell back on email. I managed to find a couple of good directories based in Ireland and with the help of the wonderful Hesham – I was off to the races.
Putting together an email copy and figuring out how to make this work was a lot of fun – and it was really great to see the process of cold email work for a second time and it started to generate daily leads.
It seemed promising at first, and initially Stephen was pleased with the results, but as it turned out – the plumbers and all weren’t lucrative enough for this to make sense.
It was the takeaways where all of the real money was – and finding the emails of these guys to run campaigns just wasn’t viable – so this campaign would ultimately come to an end.
Landing A Client Via Angel.co Outreach
As my sophistication with cold email seemed to grow, and I was able to generate regular responses – I also turned to my own outreach.
This time, I thought – how can I personalise cold email outreach?
I had recently optimised my profile on Angel.co following the same Upwork and LinkedIn methodology – and it appeared to be working here as well.
What’s interesting about Angel.co is that’s also a job board platform – and that you can go ahead and apply to jobs on the basis of whatever jobs startups post on the platform.
They also gave you the name of the hiring manager – whether that was the founder or an actual HR person…
And as I’d learned more about other scraping tools such as Hunter.io as well as Skrapp – I figured out how I could grab the email address of this same person.
Putting all of this together – I was then able to actually personalise cold email outreach based upon a recent job post that a company had listed (for example business development).
Once I applied this process, down to the point of putting the name of the role and date it was posted into the email copy – it truly started to become personalised outreach – and began to generate really good replies.
This was how I would land Callum – who wished to talk to IT Directors to offer ‘on-demand’ IT support to these businesses – which we commenced via LinkedIn.
Scaling My Own Cold Outreach
Once I’d discovered I could look at recent job listings on Angel and ultimately cold email them – I figured – well why couldn’t I do this on other platforms?
With the help of Khizzer, a Pakistani VA I found (that is still with me to this day), he began finding the emails for me using the process that I videoed for him so we were able to begin doing this at some scale.
In parallel I began to trawl the web to find out where else I could identify the name of the hiring manager alongside the job board and conduct cold outreach.
Soon this process began to really work as leads came in from Craigslist, Work In Startups and several other platforms.
I was in shock.
I’d figured out how to actually ‘do’ lead generation
Landing a £50k contract
As my sophistication grew – I then turned to Daren – who was an app-developer looking to land some big contracts through cold outreach as well.
Now I was getting good at the process side of the business.
With Hesham and a couple of guys on Fiverr to helping me build lists, understanding that I needed to validate the email lists (and finding a bulk email validator for this also) and meeting Abdul, another guy from Upwork who would help me with the DKIM, DMARC and SPF setup – I was at the early stages of building a team.
With Daren then, I tried my hand at writing humorous emails having taken some training around the power of humorous email copy and how much more effective it was than the standard emails.
I’d attempted this with Claire but she shut that down quickly – but Daren was more relaxed and off we went.
Calling him a ‘dorky web developer’ and ‘half decent triathlete’ seemed to work well as amusing responses came in and off we went to the races once again.
With this campaign, I thought it was a failed one as after the first month I didn’t hear from Daren again for several months – but as I’d later discover – he actually landed a 50k contract and got so busy he decided to put a stop to the outreach until much later when he could build a team.
A belated way to find out I’d had a victory
The next couple of months were a whirlwind of being in the trenches with my own lead generation as well as clients.
As things began to grow and clients had different reporting demands, or wanted to outreach to very specific people (revenue numbers, companies using specific technology platforms etc) and then had ‘DNC lists’ ‘do not contact’ as well as ‘suppression lists’ and the like – I had to adjust processes to deal with new layers of complexity – which came with all of the problems you’d imagine.
It was chaos, but it was also accelerated learning.
Not all campaigns would go as I hoped.
Some campaigns just bombed because we got no replies, other campaigns required new complexities that I was trying to figure out as I went along, but with EVERY campaign – I learnt more and I got a little bit better.
Teaching What I’d Learnt
They say that you should teach the things you’re learning to reinforce it, and learn even more.
This is exactly what I decided I would do with my new found lead generation skills as I launched a programme with the help of a course launch expert that would ultimately clear over $100,000 and help others learn the skills that I had taught myself over time.
‘Secrets of a six figure lead-gen consultant’ (which now I give away for free – check it out).
This helped me get better still and learn more of alternative tools I could use to build my outreach stack, and as the years have passed this has only increased.
Founding Pearl Lemon Leads In Feb 2019
With all of this, in parallel, Purr Traffic had become Pearl Lemon, and then Pearl Lemon had become SEO focussed, and having lead generation on the same site really didn’t make much sense in my mind.
So I ultimately decided to split it out, and separate this side of the business and really turn it into its own brand.
Pearl Lemon Leads from 2019-2021
So, two years have passed since the inception of Pearl Lemon Leads, and in some respects we went backwards from our roots to start.
I bought in a partner who didn’t have the same grounding that I did in lead-generation and was actually a graduate from my course.
That was great, but Pearl Lemon Leads was perhaps too early for him, and I naively (due to my own inexperience as a business owner) – left him to ‘hold the fort’ whilst I continued to grow the SEO business – which wasn’t without it’s own adventures!
We definitely scaled quickly, had some unhappy clients and ultimately 10 months went past and it got to the point where things between us were no longer working.
And then come Feb 2020 – we parted ways and I started again.
This time it went back to basics, working upon one campaign at a time, and rebuilding everything from the ground up with the help of Sam Vanmeter.
He was there for our very first new client from the ‘new batch’.
And since then things quickly improved and I whilst I’d made the mistake of not being involved in 2019, this time in 2020, I worked myself through campaigns and began to put together new processes, new reporting, and as leads began to pour through as our SEO kicked into gear – we could focus on clients more and more.
Omni-Channel Lead Generation
One of the late 2020 elements of Pearl Lemon Leads has been looking at the success of omni-channel lead generation.
Putting together LinkedIn outreach, with email or call follow-up and seeing how effective it can be.
This is what excites me about Pearl Lemon Leads.
We’re often given the campaigns from teams that are unable/unwilling/uninterested in launching these projects internally.
We’re selling consultative services, low-ticket projects, on-demand services and have been working with everyone from maintenance companies to tax firms, and everything in between.
And we’re not always met with success.
Some campaigns are really difficult – like selling to eCommerce companies via LinkedIn, software tools during Black Friday, Halloween and then the lead up to Christmas.
But as with before, with every campaign, we get better and better and more exposure to different environments and discovering what works and what doesn’t and driving forward for our clients success.
B2B outreach is the most difficult/valuable part of any business, and as we develop more and more mastery in this space – I’m excited for being able to take on campaigns and drive massive success and to also start brokering retainer/commission plus ultimately profit share deals.
And with being able to operate in any environment and sell any product (which is a HUGE challenge), the future is bright.
Especially as our sales function continues to develop – we’ll ideally by the end of 2021 be not only be able to generate leads – but take prospects right the way through to closed deals in certain campaigns.
That’s the story of Pearl Lemon Leads 😛