Growing Kaliber into a $800k ARR business within 10 months with Robert Lai (Kaliber Performance Marketing)

In this episode, Robert Lai (Kaliber Performance Marketing) talks about:

  • Investing in content marketing and LinkedIn as a way to grow organically
  • How Kaliber generated $800k ARR in 10 months
  • Generating content that adds value and is enjoyable to consume
  • Moving quickly rather than aiming for perfection
  • Building a culture of open communication with his team and his clients
  • Focusing on doing ONE great thing in his company and highlighting that one value proposition
  • Looking at fellow founders and celebrities as his role models

Podcast information:

About the guest

Robert Lai is the founder of Kaliber Performance Marketing. He started Kaliber after working in the paid marketing industry for years, managing upwards of $21 million per quarter in portfolio.  He wants to differentiate Kaliber from other marketing agencies by focusing on being a thought leader in the industry and operating on radical transparency as a way to build trust with his clients.

Find him here:



Books, tools, people, frameworks mentioned in this episode:

Robert Lai 0:00
And actually a lot of customers out there will find that it’s a breath of fresh air that someone company that they’ve hired actually wants to spend more time with. It was, in essence, there’s a lot of people out there under communicate. So I think that’s been sign up, I focused on from the get go. Make sure we over communicate because I’ve never ever had a customer complain that agency or consultancy has over communicate with them. I’ve only heard the other side, I’m quite firm on the communication piece.

Ricky Willianto 0:29
That was Robert Lai, the founder of Kaliber. Talking about why keeping an open communication channel is super important to build trust with your clients. He over communicate with his clients to help align expectations and build that trust. This eventually helps him get deeper insights into his clients, businesses and metrics, which in turn allows him to drive even better results for his clients. This is just one of the strategies Robert uses to help Kaliber reach 800,000 in ARR, within the first 10 months of the company’s life, listen to this episode of growth multiplier to hear more from Robert. My name is Ricky Willianto, co founder of revelry and the host of the growth multiplier podcast. Through this podcast, I hope to uncover the pathways, startups and companies have taken in their journey of growth, share some stories from the trenches, and hopefully identify patterns and hacks that can be replicated by businesses in Asia and the rest of the world. I hope you enjoyed the show.

Ricky Willianto 1:30
Hey, Robert, thanks so much for joining us. Just a quick introduction to Robert. He is a serial entrepreneur we experience across Australia, us and Asia. Robert has worked with companies such as iprospect, and Google and at one point was managing up to $21 million per quarter in client portfolios. He’s also founded multiple companies in Australia, and now in Singapore. And all of these companies have been very focused on helping companies other companies grow. Right now he’s focused on this company called Kaliber performance marketing, where he serves as the CEO. And he has built a team with an amazing track record of having managed more than us the 500 million in ad spend globally. Alongside that company has also started another company called Qore, which is an app tech that’s advertising technology solution targeting small businesses. So Robert, thanks so much for joining us. Before we talk about growth today, can you share a little bit about the genesis of Kaliber itself, and also where it is right now, as a company,

Robert Lai 2:28
I had the ambition to start an agency from the moment, I first worked at Google in Sydney. So I worked in in Sydney around 2014 and 20 2013 2014. And my sort of my job was to work with around 200 marking agencies, or small agencies helping businesses get online. From there, I really found that helps with my entrepreneur energy, I get very excited when I look at ways that different businesses run and operate and how they grow. And I feel okay, if I learn this tool for deep dive into this and make it a passion project of mine, I can then I can chase out these dreams and ambitions that I have to. So that sort of led me to work at all these different places. I’ve worked at iprospect. As mentioned, style, calm, which is on Google says I’ve worked at numerous companies and are working back at Google Doc. So that’s why I just left to start performance marketing. I see a huge gap within the Southeast Asian region. I think adoption of digital marketing still growing. And there’s some practices in this region that I just, I want to also change. So I want to make sure that things around lock in contracts, or all these things that might mess for businesses, especially last year when COVID hit and just not getting access or ownership to add accounts. These are things in which I’d be privileged to learn from the US market from Australian market. And I feel like there’s a huge gap to be able to be filled. Matt, why cow before performance marketing came about?

Ricky Willianto 4:04
Like how long has it been since you started, and now it’s company doing 10 months? Wow. 10. But you guys know,

Robert Lai 4:10
also where we’re just short of the one 1 million annual recurring revenue mark. So we’re currently at around 840k. And and I think we’ll be able to hopefully, next two months, we’ll be able to get past the seven figure mark.

Ricky Willianto 4:28
That’s amazing. So let’s get into that. Tell us a bit about how, or maybe not a bit tell us a lot about how you’ve managed to grow this business to like close to a $1 million ARR business in just 10 months. What are some of the things that you’ve done that’s worked?

Robert Lai 4:41
Yeah. Some of the things that we’ve done that works, I think so. I’ve been preparing for launch in Canada for last four years. I think that’s something that has definitely been a factor. One of the key things that kept me from moving into Kaliber was trying to understand culture, and how to motivate people in five the right people, and put the right people in place to succeed. So those are things that I wanted to learn, understand first. So working at different places like Google, all these big agencies, seeing how they operate, and seeing how they grow and seeing how they sign clients as well, things that I picked up. And from there, I have a very clear vision of what Kaliber I expected Kaliber to be, from the start. My ambitions was not to hire salespeople to help us grow. We invested in content first. So content marketing meeting, I would say has been sort of main drivers. For us getting incoming inquiries, big brands trusting us. So from the currently we work with a couple of unicorns, so that helps boost our revenue, obviously. But I think the most important thing, there is something around content trust, and our offering has led to them trusting us companies, even a year old. And that’s really allowed us to, I think that is going to be successful factor for us moving forward as well. So having more thought leadership out, there was sort of the angle that we’re gonna take. I think there’s many different agencies out there similar to how those different partners is different all the services businesses, it’s not, we don’t have a unique offering that sense of can you perform this task, but we try to make ourselves unique, we try to look a bit different. We try to hone in on what we do best. And from that, I think that’s helped us make the decision easier for some customers to trust us over some more established brands.

Ricky Willianto 6:32
Yeah, I think you’ve made two really good points there. One is I think about culture. And the other thing is about this very specific strategy around building thought leadership in Asia. I want to call Park this culture bit first, for later. Okay, and let’s go into the content marketing and your thought leadership strategy for now. What made you think that this was like a good way to grow, specifically for your business, right

Robert Lai 6:57
in Asia? First off, I’m very confident in my sales abilities. So that was the reason why like, there’s no salesperson, I get hired at silver, nice, confident attitude. But with that said, I am also conscious that as a consumer, I never put myself in to the clients prospective clients shoes. You know, everyone does Google, everyone does Facebook, everyone does LinkedIn, a government awards, everyone looks the same from the customer’s eyes. So I immediately need to differentiate myself, if I’m going to come into the picture, and try and catch catch your attention. I lead with content and thought leadership, making sure I had an audience for so as mentioned, I prepare for the last four years, I have prepared to build LinkedIn audience, for my own personal profile at 6000 connections. So new details like this, and the 6000, this 6000 connections within the markets are expanded. So those sorts of things I had pre planned and wanted to set myself up for the future. And then that at least gave me an audience in which I could push out content, the thought leadership, growth hacks, and all these things add value to a user’s day. And the idea that I wanted to put is not much putting out content for the sake of doing it. But making sure that add value, and that we resume. Why because everyone’s posting things, everyone’s got a webinar coming up, everyone’s got some sort of war that they want to promote for themselves. That to me is just nice. So I wanted to find ways to cut through the noise, provoke ideas, provoke thoughts, provoke engagement. And that’s where I saw content. Now filling in that void. Using content, I also try to tie that with graphics as well. So everything that we do, we try to make sure that we invested a little bit into artwork, and try to just cut through the noise, do things a bit different to what people normally accustomed to. And if we can do that, then they’ll capture our attention. And hopefully that attention leads them thinking of us in the future when they have a problem to solve.

Ricky Willianto 9:04
So I think content marketing is strategy has been proven to work. At the same time. There’s a lot of people doing it. And I think it’s very important for you to have a niche that resonates with your audience. How do you find that niche, especially in a market where there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of agencies who, who basically live and breathe and get paid to do this right for a living. So I’m sure they’re also doing a really good job creating content for themselves building your own credibility and thought leadership in the market. How have you been able to collect differentiate yourself?

Robert Lai 9:32
Actually, very surprisingly, I actually don’t know many agencies that create their own content, or do videos. They most of the times, even for myself, I find myself having to force myself to push stuff out there because we’re just, it’s in the agency’s nature or consultancy nature to be busy working on customers. Or sometimes they don’t have enough time to their website or their own social media profiles and stuff like that. So I took upon myself out of If we’re going to want to stand out, we need to treat ourselves as our own customer. It doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen web web design agencies with the worst website out there, and then doesn’t make sense. Look at your website, why don’t you start with your website first before you start servicing other clients, right? So these are little things that I just knew I had to change. And I actually think there’s the biggest opportunity. Why are so content marketing as opportunity, as mentioned, all the other agencies out there, they’ve got their own Google ads running. They’re bidding on keywords. But none of them are investing into for leadership, how to brand themselves. None of them are doing that stuff. So I thought that was the biggest way for me to sort of growth hack my way into an industry that is, it’s easy to start. There’s so much competition out there. That was the best way to differentiate myself. So yeah, there was there is a lot of competition in people offering services. A lot of them don’t offer services themselves. So that was the biggest gap.

Ricky Willianto 11:04
So when we talk about thought leadership and like generating content, it’s not easy for sure. It’s something that you need to do consistently. Can you share with us a little bit maybe, like what has worked so far? In like your content strategy, just because I think there’s so many different ways of going at this. What are some of the things that you’ve tried that work really well?

Robert Lai 11:24
To be honest, because it’s very difficult to measure the ROI on the content side of things? I actually don’t know what’s worse, well, I base things on feedback, right? Okay, even when you like a lot of people that see posts, we may not have liked it, they may have engaged with it, but they may still have taken value out of it. So the main thing that I actually picked towards is just making sure posts that we upload, add value, if it’s not insightful value, then at least be value in terms of pleasing to the eyes, something that I found interesting at bonefish, through humour, we try to make our case studies unique we try to make out when certain graphics or certain statistics that we show try to make them unique, we try to incorporate animation, because right now all the things are linked in a very still images. So these are just little details that we try to just try to do things a little bit more difficult, different add just a little bit more value. And

Ricky Willianto 12:21
how much time do you spend on creating this content? And how you making it scalable? Because I think creating insightful content is not it’s all just sit down and come up with all these new insights and the statistics. And oh, yeah, like 50% of people do this. So how do you make sure that you are able to generate these insights in a scalable way, and in a simple way for your business, and make sure that you always have a content pipeline that’s ready to go?

Robert Lai 12:42
Yep, take a look at I take a look at some entertainers out there that sort of use them as inspiration. So they add value to the audience through like things like blogs, when they cannot do a YouTube stock not do like a full blown video production, they do these little flags for the audience just to keep them engaged. So I get that. And we have a little bit of a culture within our team. If there’s anything worthwhile sharing, let’s just quickly write something up or do something with that, then we can put that together. If there’s a news article, sorry, there’s a new update, like iOS 14, let’s put something together and write something about that just really quickly, doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to add value needs to give some insight. And then that way, because it’s very hard to just sit there and come up with all these ideas. But sometimes ideas won’t follow us. So need that sort of culture, I think is so the answer to that question. Because in this industry that we’re in, it’s got, you know, endless amount of dents, there’s always changes happening. So that’s a good positive side of things to it. But there’s not much people out there trying to make sense of it. So and what that means for their specific businesses. So that’s what we try to take a look at.

Ricky Willianto 13:52
And, you know, we know that content marketing is just one of the channels you produce, like what has been like the biggest contributor to your growth in terms of acquisition in the past 10 months. Yeah,

Robert Lai 14:04
there’s been a couple areas, I think, eye contact has been one of them. I think hustle is something that’s new as well, the other channels that we use, so we use Google ads, we use Facebook ads, we use all that stuff that everyone else uses. Obviously, we practice what we preach since where we focus on these two channels anyway. And now but I think a combination outreach, commerce, all these things, none of these have stood out in terms of the channel outside of content, because I when I look at things, I look at the grand scheme of things. If I were to stop content, conversations with prospects who might not be as easy is that in my conversations are easier with people who have known who you are and what you do. Because then you can focus on the discussion of how can help. Just little details like that is I think, where content so content is king.

Ricky Willianto 14:53
Do you actually get a lot of people coming to you and say, Hey, I saw what you posted on LinkedIn. Let’s talk is that is that how you’ve been able to come? Bird and acquire customers.

Robert Lai 15:02
So that has helped as well as us messaging people on LinkedIn directly. After I’ve seen that they’ve seen our content for like maybe three, four months, in case you’re there, then that makes the outreach a lot easier to say, hey, let’s have a coffee. Let’s have a discussion. So to share with you, we’ve had we’ve had, we’ve been reached out by Prudential, we’ve been reached out to Unilever. So it’s not just random people that are reaching out to us, there are people that have reached out saying they want to work for us, too. So So lots of different purposes by just us, showing our colour. And showing a personality movie more has drawn the attention of big brands as well as prospective clients. So it’s really soulful boxes.

Ricky Willianto 15:47
I think the content piece, I’m sure it’s like a great initiator of conversations right? Now, once you get to sitting down at the same table with these people, especially companies like Unilever and potential, right? How do you convince them that like this 10 month old baby of a company is able to deliver what they need, that is another big feat to overcome as well. So share with us a little bit about like how you’ve done that

Robert Lai 16:10
these big companies eat these people that have been in industry know what the industry is like. They know that a lot of these bigger media agencies get kickbacks from all these media outlets, from media and whatnot, they all know that. And that is something that I try and address, I try to address all the problems with industry, and say that I’m aware of them. And that’s not what we’ve set out to do. We’re very transparent. So our two key values that clients respect is that we’re transparent and communicate those two things, you meet a salesperson at a big agency, if you’re a small customer, you’re just going to meet them at one time, and then you’re never going to see them ever again. It’s not very transparent, it’s not very good experience to sign up for something get, you know, broadened by something even be given something else. So a lot of these are large agencies out there, they hire like interns or fresh grads. And that’s something that we just don’t put in front of these customers know all the BS that’s out there. And that’s why I want to set the standard performance monitoring. So I think they aligned with a couple things, I think the biggest thing that they aligned with, or they’re attracted to, I’m not saying the cyber fortress customers. But what they’re attracted to, I think is the culture, right? And what we saw a stand for, I’m going to have a conversation with myself, I reiterate that and show how we are different. And then also show them our strategies, and how everything is as a synergy to it, and how we want to work with them. Once it gets the conversation stage, I feel quite confident that we have what they’re looking for. Because I’ve been in industry for seven years I’ve seen every time I worked at Google, I worked directly to consult agencies, as I worked with around 20 agencies of my career. And I’ve seen how all operate. So I’ve been blessed to see that. And I think I address a lot of the concerns that they have. And that’s a sign of a few of these big fish. Yeah,

Ricky Willianto 18:15
I think let’s talk a little bit about that as well, because we’ve been all around the world as well working in this field in this industry. And I think now you’ve settled down in Singapore. So how have you seen the Asian counterparts operate? What are some of the differences versus the counterpart in the US or in Australia or in Europe?

Robert Lai 18:34
Yeah, big few things that I see is definitely knowledge of digital marketing landscape. A lot of what that said, actually, a lot of companies in the US Australia is still very traditional focused. However, they do understand the value of online. But it also the awareness part towards knowledge is more not on how money is spent, or the metrics that that measure to other metrics that they measure, in. A lot of the countries with the US and Australia are more focused on gross profit, customer lifetime value and cost to acquire customer. Right? These are the things that I look at, in this part of the world. A lot of people still poor on the time I spend, they still get clicks, they still look at these four metrics, why which I think are still important, depending on what the objective is, however, to the grand scheme of things, there was limited budget, because the railways isn’t strong enough. But if you actually look at gross profit, all these things, there’s probably an opportunity to increase the gross profit number, obviously adoption of digital marketing as well as science to very behind just looking at how much is being spread by all these companies. Banks in America is spending maybe 10 million a year than ever on on their advertising expenses for just google per se, whereas companies here are spending on banks, your screen Between 90,000 to 500,000 a month. So it’s not quite the numbers of what the US system it’s, yeah, obviously the number of users you can reach is also a thing as well. But overall, the trust the digital the level of expertise in digital, I guess you also need the expertise to best confident as well, I better. I think, to tie, if I’m going to tie things down to one big difference I see is the metrics that we measure are very different. So I would say the metrics is the biggest gap, if you are able to see more if you’re able to track and understanding that gross profit is a number that we want to work more closely towards, then your spend will increase your trusted digital increase, because you’ll see the number in the bank account is considered. Yeah.

Ricky Willianto 20:51
So while they’re not really tracking the same metrics, as I guess, Australian companies, or like the US counterparts, how is the performance of those metrics? So how is like the CSE? How is the Ctr? Are they like comparable? Or are they like significantly, I guess, behind their counterparts in these markets.

Robert Lai 21:10
So the word we find out say behind, but not for the wrong reasons, behind because the CBC is a cheaper, version rate is probably higher, there’s less competition. And why I say the behind is because if you have a situation, you should double down and dominate the market. If the US company were to enter that way, well, why is it so I’m going to capture 100% of the total market, because it’s so cheap. In the US in Australia, competition is fierce. So to get any sort of market share, you pay a lot more than what the other person is paying just in terms of wanting to capture that that market. That’s a reason why I’d say it’s behind is because all metrics are very friendly. The numbers all friendly to people in this pile, well, if you sell a home loan, I mean, Hong Kong, Singapore is worth more than one and maybe the US or Australia. But I don’t see banks investing all that much into Google search, I see companies like Money Smart. And these other companies investing more than the banks, which to me doesn’t make sense, right? There only probably getting a $5,000 return out of a referral. Whereas the banks are getting a couple 100,000 out of an assignment like that. And the cost per clicks for assignment farmers in Australia is around $50 of cost per click over here is I think it’s nearing that range. But now, I think it’s more closer towards 20, between 20 to $50. But with that said, the level of competition isn’t that fierce. And I will just dominate all those searches, driving competitors out of out of the market. And just it’s a clear opportunity for them. But they’re not confident behind it. I think they were able to see things from us from what’s happened to us in Australia, I think they’ll feel a bit more confident getting more aggressive in these things.

Ricky Willianto 22:52
So give us an example of something that you’ve done, what you’ve done for clients in this region, and like know, the kind of results that you can expect working with with your company.

Robert Lai 23:01
Yeah, good question. So a lot of what we try to do is around personalization. So you know, with your clients that have much, say larger budgets, but if they have opportunity to scale, although it can be financially backed, if they start seeing the results, were able to, what we’re able to do is help them with a personalised user journey, and scale those campaigns a lot quicker, especially because it can be based in Singapore, they’re not going to stay in Singapore, they’re looking to expand into other markets, our region’s So, in terms of what we do, we try we take the very segments close to our campaign structure. This allows us to have great control on budgets for which key was well positioned ourselves for and focus more on market share rather than individual sort of KPIs and on clicks, cost per clicks and stuff like that. We’re more focused on market share. If there’s keywords or audiences and stuff that we really want to go after, we’ll go We’ll go after the low hanging fruit First, make sure that our customer gets good leads or gets good sales, and constantly find ways to reinvest. Looking at the next low hanging fruit channel with low hanging fruit channels, Google, then look at Facebook remarketing and b2b marketing. They look at prospecting look like audiences, so audiences and scalloway up. That’s a more broad way of describing what we do. But we try to onboard problems. So we’ve been self employed, we want to be more of consultancy, because what we really do is onboard the problems of the startups that we work with companies that we work with, and find different ways to scale, or each of them have very problems. But you know, what are the objectives? And are we working towards them? So that’s what metrics comes back to the picture. If they were pulling over metrics, and they’ve got different objectives, if their objective is to grow the amount of users but they focused on things like things like, return on adspend, or whatever it is. And that’s really, really aligned. That objective, as I mentioned, so we try to make everything aligned for us. And then we’re able to execute better as well reporting on the same numbers, those little details that sort of work with and what would you like to work with us when we need to communicate have those lines of communication. So we have slack channels, water and video conference with all classes that we have. So we have constant flow of communication, we need a level of transparency, so they need to give us all the information if they want us to onboard their problems. If they hide things from the q&a, it’s not very helpful to our overall course. So just details like this, I think help differentiate us a little bit. We’re not just there to perform specific tasks with answers solve problems. So yeah, I think that’s a differentiation.

Ricky Willianto 25:53
Tell us a bit about this different communication channels that you’ve been able to build with your customer? I think a lot of customers, in my experience, at least they tend to get a little bit more reluctance in adopting new technology to know like, oh, no even new technology just like a new workspace on select to chat with Robert on Kaliber. Now I have to create a new Slack channel. Now I have to instal this thing on my phone, like, how do you convince the customers when to get this and we feel value to them by having this tools at their disposal?

Robert Lai 26:21
Yeah, I start with us showing that we’re on the same page of dealing with their problems. And then we go into the solutions of how we’re going to deal with all the needs. So then buying into what we do, that will also include them buying and communicating with us being transparent with us, sharing with us all the problems and creating these open lines of communication. If we don’t have them, it’s up to them. But it’s not on us if they’re going to say that we’re not so successful when I’m talking. So I also leave it up to them as having if they don’t want to communicate that often. That’s fine. But whenever there are things that that lines open, so I just if they don’t have slack on they want to instal Slack, that’s fine. What else also option for us as well, has guidelines around WhatsApp, because I don’t want to stuff like that. But I already have

Ricky Willianto 27:19
enough of that. We only have enough of that exactly.

Robert Lai 27:23
But no, if they’re going to bind to everything that we’re going to do to them, they also need to bind to this aspect, they need to bind mutation. And actually, I think a lot of them will have a lot of customers out there will find that it’s a breath of fresh air that someone company that they’ve hired actually wants to spend more time with it was mother sense. There’s a lot of people out there under communicate. So I think that’s been sign up, I focused on from the get go. Make sure we over communicate, because I’ve never ever had a customer complain. That agency or consultancy has probably communicate with them. I’ve only heard the other side. Yeah, I’m quite firm on the communication piece.

Ricky Willianto 28:03
Yeah, it’s a good time for us to segue into the culture piece that you mentioned much earlier in the call today. And I think we you mentioned two things. One is transparency. The other one is communication. And I think you’ve applied that, not just within your company, but you’ve also collect communicated that those culture and those values to your customers, share with us a little bit of like how you come up with this things. And like why you think these highlight the values, or the elements or principles that’s super important, not just for your customers, but also for your company and your growth? Yeah.

Robert Lai 28:33
So there are actually four values. I came up with that because it defines my The first thing you’ve just mentioned, transparency, communication, the other two expertise and focusing on people. So that comes to personalization in terms of ads, but also focusing on their team’s themes focusing on the individual user, all these things. So actually follow from Google. So let’s focus on the user all else will follow. So that’s the four days that we have and how we came up with it. What I just shared I stole from Google, but I really resonate with that one. But the first two transparency, communication or expertise, when I worked with different agencies and worked at agency, every client I left wasn’t, didn’t leave just because it results. Next because I’ve seen bad results. I still say with that agency, despite the bad results. And then I was wondering why I had a relationship or a friendship and the art of silence and how they establish that they establish them through constant communication and transparency, a level of trust that they have. And when he communicated by himself, he wasn’t shy of doing that. He said look, and this is no small amount. We spent 320k last month and we you are in the mind’s eye, and but it’s also transparent, all the steps are gonna take and the customer is okay with it, too. You just lost the flow of money but they’re totally fine with that. Cause the trust is there, the communications and all the other aspects of it looking for are already there. And if you know a lot of clients out there, they’re very trusting that if I agree to everything that you said, and when you’re executing it, and we’re transparent about it, then now eventually the results will come. Because they also know what the testing that goes into the space as well. That’s the reason why we focused on those two things. So I looked at all the agencies that worked at all ages I worked with and why they lost clients always came down to break down communication. I don’t communicate enough, didn’t ask enough questions, didn’t ask of like, they stopped a lot. For example, a lot of clients thought, Oh, look, I generate you a lot of leads. And never bothered to ask for the quality of leads. And like Jayla Liza, could have came, they could have been spam filtering robots. They didn’t ask those questions. They just saw that. The dashboard. Hey, look, we’re doing fantastic. And they juggle the client pool. No, we’re doing horrendously, right in the universe, why? And they’ll walk. So a lot of these times. That’s the reason why I need the transparency aspect. Because communication is easy for me to establish. Let’s open slack. Let’s open WhatsApp. If you don’t share with me all the details, I also want to know what’s going on. So it’s a two way street. It’s also important for our team to understand what the client does. We work with customers in very sort of nice industries that are not so easy to understand. cybersecurity, cloud services, all those things we have a word can understand interpret. But we need that even more reason why we like to communication open, so that we can better understand what they what they offer, so we can better position their advertising investments to the ideal on the last one that I want to mention is expertise that wants to say that we’re not profit hungry company. A lot of the times, you’ll see a lot of companies out there. I use a Singapore as a good example, Singapore food culture, with food culture in Singapore, I think what I love about it is the whole culture. It’s basically a chef or professional, specialising in their one dish for 20 years. And that’s why food culture is so strong. And when you compare that to like a Chinese restaurant that has 150 items on their menu, which would you forbid, so I prefer to go to the centre, which I know that these people are experts at what they do. So the Chinese restaurant, obviously more profit driven, selling, trying to get someone in the door, selling everything on the face of Earth, rather than specialising in one dish, delivering good experience delivering something is memorable. And that’s why so the hawker centres also administers those two. So that’s the way I also look at the service industry and the way we do our stuff as well. So expertise means that we only focus on one vertical, who else we know how to do other things. We don’t offer that, because that sort of gives a notion that we’re just trying to do things for our own sort of, yeah, as for sort of values that we try to really stick to. There are

Ricky Willianto 33:07
two things that you mentioned that I want to drill down a bit into, and maybe contextualise in the, in this to the region of Asia, right. I think one is that idea of like transparency and communication. I think oftentimes, Asian customers, they tend to be a little bit more reserved when it comes to sharing information and when it comes to being open. So how have you been able to tackle that? That’s number one. The second thing is about that, like that expertise or that specificity of what you can deliver to the customer. Again, like in my experience, what I’ve seen may be very different for you. But I think a lot of Asian clients, b2b or b2c, they like the end to end solution. I speak again. So I think like what we call that Alcala, which is basically offer everything just because I think the clients value the convenience of just having to interact with one person who will solve everything every problem they have. So how have you been able to, I guess, combine these values that to me, I think can be very paradoxical with the inherent style of how Asians run their businesses.

Robert Lai 34:04
Yeah. And that’s something that we have had to overcome as well, to answer the first one in which our transparency aspects, I think that is saying that across every market, I think Europe is probably more strict on these things. And then Asia is, and we do everything in our power to make them feel comfortable with giving us access to things. And when they do give us something we make sure we show the reasons why. So for example, the first touch point that we’ll do is do an audit on ad accounts. Right? We don’t skip any details. We so I actually spent a good one to two hours, myself running through these audits, just to make sure as a tonne of them. And that leads to this conversation where trust is right. You’re not going to go to the next domain but ask them to do dentist work on you, whatever it is right. I even have an X ray machine and whatnot in the house. Who got to see the certifications. You don’t see that stuff there. So you To build the trust first, so we get them to trust us. When they feel like they can trust us, then we do ask for deeper questions, we ask them more sensitive questions around how much revenue they’re generating, what their gross profit margins are all these sort of details, if you’re not comfortable with sharing, that’s fine. share with us what you can to continue proving, proving to them. At that level, it’s a uphill battle, we need to keep fighting, because the more they are also able to see the value that you’re able to deliver by giving you more sensitive information, see what you’re doing with it, then they feel more comfortable with unlocking those doors. And he has those have to be there, I totally agree with why they’re there in first place, I’m going to give you access to a random company. But that’s also why I invest in content marketing to show we’re trustworthy, we have a brand around Kaliber, it’s not just a name and a random website we’ve got so unicorn themed trying to make sense, cells look friendly, for that reason to r&d. So the other piece around being a Why are we not a one stop shop, we want to we want to create a Hawker centre, rather than so I do spend a lot of time finding my partners, find my content partners like yourself that specialise in what they do, I bet their work. If they are a one stop shop, I don’t recommend them. Because frankly, you know, you can go to jack of all trades. But they have mastered those skills. Right, they can do everything, or they have massive skills. And I think in this industry, in performance marketing, it’s a big difference with someone that just knows how to get you online and knows how to get the results online. So that has been the way that we’ve been able to differentiate, yes, it may be a little bit more troublesome for you to have meetings with different people. But that said, you’re also getting the best you can find. And if that’s the case, I think they’re over to overlook some of these things. So I’m just want to get online, I understand that there’s lots of people out there that you can hope to get online. If you want to get results, you need to invest into that and work with partners that can do that for you. And that’s how we position ourselves.

Ricky Willianto 37:10
Nice. So let’s move into the quickfire round. I think this probably will not be quickfire because I have a couple of things I want to drill down based on what you say. But let’s start. Okay. So the first thing is, what is the one metric you care most about now

Robert Lai 37:24
and why gross profit. So we mentioned this on before, I want people to move away from reporting all the time and spend and focus on metrics and ties closely with their bank account.

Ricky Willianto 37:34
And like the you also can’t use this as a Northstar for Kaliber itself.

Robert Lai 37:40
Yeah, so I want people to move on to the lifetime value and cost both by customer by gross profit as a starting point. So this is saying that we come in, and if it’s ecommerce client, we’re like, sorry, this roller stuff means nothing to me. How much profit are you making? And if we care about profit more than they do, they’re going to realise that okay, this has been a problem. Why is it that this, this marketing consultancy cares more about our profit than we do? Right, so we try to make Google

Ricky Willianto 38:14
Okay, how do you like coalesce the idea of growth with gross profit, though, because I think in the days of crazy VC funding, and people like busy raising money, I think that’s like the last thing many founders have on their mind, like focusing on gross profit, but how do you, like, you know, marry the two ideas of focusing on growth, across profit and also growth?

Robert Lai 38:34
Yeah, so that’s good, you’re completely right, that needs to be it depends on objective so that if it’s ecommerce business, they’re in there, we’re pulling up on adspend. That’s the worst, gross profit doesn’t even go into acquiring users deciding to close to that. So return on adspend, I can spend a lot and I can sell 5000 volts, and y returns 1,000x. But now, you can’t scale, a shirt spending $1 a day sort of number, right? So you need to be able to work things out. And that way you can make more profit. So you know, if you’re spending a million dollars a month, and your return on adspend is far lower, it’s 2x. But you still have if your gross profit margin, you’re still profiting a million from that. That’s the way that I want people to look at things. So graduating from iOS to gross margin. They are focused on user acquisition and return towards lifetime value. Or you can purchase what what is the most you can pay for customer and how can we use different strategies to fit in there that we’re constantly going to grant whilst we’re also constant growing user base and making more investors happy. So a lot of what we try to do and our sort of pricing structure also moulds what investors are looking for. is very out. Our customers will happy to spend more if the singer results in Ambassador When we charge our customers, we try to line everything up with what everyone’s objectives are. If it was both the users and we’re all on the same page, let’s grow users and pay the money that’s needed to get that level scale.

Ricky Willianto 40:13
Yeah. Oh, that makes sense. I think ultimately, you want to align everything with the metrics that you measure with what this company is for, what are you building towards? I think that is a very important aspect to look into is determine what metric to

Robert Lai 40:26
focus on.

Ricky Willianto 40:27
Next question, what is the one software you swear by? As a growth expert?

Robert Lai 40:32
Yeah, I will say Google Analytics. Now, it’s not an easy question to answer. But there’s lots of software’s out there. But in terms of swear by, as a performance marker, I think Google Analytics is so the source that everyone needs to deep dive into understand invest in creating dashboards, investing everything that’s in the works. To have a better understanding of all businesses in 2021. Online, there’s no chance that you’re offline, given the choice. You need to understand every touchpoint everything that’s happening, not just looking at what returns you’re getting, but looking at how people are interacting with your website, how much time they’re spending, what pages they’re visiting, how you can create more landing pages, how people are answering the website, all these things are super important for you to understand and give us feedback.

Ricky Willianto 41:17
And what’s your favourite growth strategy or hack? Something that you’re using now that you’re like, this is amazing. I’m going to use this forever for everyone for all my clients.

Robert Lai 41:25
Okay. This one’s a corny one. But the answer is feedback. Feedback is super underrated is the best strategy for that’s why I use Linux as well right to get feedback. ask for feedback in every essence, I think there’s not and be very non bias with how you ask your feedback done positive school, never has a question is is for me to ask, what are your thoughts on this rather than Is it good. So these are things that we need to be conscious of, I think it’s good to get negative reviews, it’s good to get good to understand where you can make improvements. Positive feedback is given if you’ve done a good job about means you’ve done a bad job. So feedback is by far the best growth strategies out there. I think every tool that’s a software that’s out there is based off of giving you more feedback.

Ricky Willianto 42:16
Yeah, yeah, good point. I think there’s a lot of people who’s very scared of asking feedback, especially when they haven’t done a good job. And it’s only avoided just because they Oh, no, I don’t want to have a negative review on my site or about my business. But I think that’s probably where you learned that that’s kind of a way to face the reality of what’s wrong, and you actually get to fix it.

Robert Lai 42:36
Exactly. And make things better. That’s right, yeah.

Ricky Willianto 42:39
What’s your favourite go to resources for growth, you can choose a book newsletter or website. For me,

Robert Lai 42:45
I look at growth a bit different. I’m always trying to grow as an individual, not just that I know what’s needed to help grow your business. And that’s because I asked for feedback for charity overmind with that, but I would say, right now I spend more time on LinkedIn, obviously posting myself but mainly looking at inspiration of how other people were themselves. And now there’s lots of little micro influences. on LinkedIn, I’m seeing what they’re doing to engage users to promote themselves or their business. And that’s my go to resource for growth. I use blinkist, to read sort of books, but in bite size content website and use that as a find site, you still need to deep dive into all those websites with those was Google. But in terms of go to resources, I don’t know what else to inspire me with. So I go to LinkedIn to look for inspiration.

Ricky Willianto 43:36
And I guess it’s kind of like connected to the last question, which is, who are some of the growth mentors or role models? 16. If you have anyone in Asia, it’ll be great.

Robert Lai 43:44
I think a lot of inspiration from my sort of fellow fan appears, I don’t have a very specific one. So look at people like what you’re doing, or what my other peers are doing within this realm and how they’re growing their businesses. For overall personal growth. I’ve always looked towards sports, stars, celebrities, all those people, not just from the lens of what ever achieve, but more so the work they put into get to where they got to Roger Federer, even people like Justin Bieber, more recently, people to choose, I can tell you that much tread

Unknown Speaker 44:18
carefully, Robert.

Robert Lai 44:22
Even more recently, actually, as well. So I’m not looking at obviously, it’s easy to see the success either see how much money they made, but that was good to also see as a public, the challenges are very public to what goes in the mindset what goes into them being able to continue to deliver, continue to nurture that audience continue to expand this post as especially I see for us, our businesses, our canvas, we develop the skills to be able to push our business forward as far as what was 4000 Roger Federer curvy by the court is a canvas and you see all All the work that they’ve done, put onto that court, and all the practice for that stuff. So we see the end result. But I’m more interested in how they got there, how they stay relevant when I think 49 or something like that, or close to it, and still top three or five in the world, like it’s insane. Young people out there that can’t break through, because he’s, so why is it that he’s so good? Why is it that sort of ties all the way back to fundamentals? So I like to learn by understanding fundamentals. So I think a lot of those fundamentals, we can break down, like you mentioned, favourite growth strategy to name 1000 tools. But feedback is the one that I write down, because fundamentally, that’s the one that now is what we’re looking for, when it goes to all these tools are more into the growth mindset, rather than just how to grow. How is easy to answer. in that mindset, and attitude, that’s not so easy. Yeah.

Ricky Willianto 45:58
Yeah. I think there’s a lot of parallels between what you said about, you know, celebrities, sportsmen athletes with what we’re trying to do, as founders, I think people see, it’s like, this is what they’re calling like survivorship bias. You only see what survives, you don’t see like the battlefield of like, caucuses, officers that did not make it never made it into the world. And it’s funny, you mentioned like fame, because over new year, I had I was scooped by my friends for eight hours about why like, all these Kpop singers are very, are amazing. And we’ve put Like, a lot of work. And it’s not about the art. It’s not just about the talent is about the tears, the sweat, blood that they have to spill to get ready for family. Exactly, yeah.

Robert Lai 46:36
Insane. It’s like to get to where they are, is crazy. And that’s something that we always use fun to do. Where as we’re starting from nothing, there’s a million other styles out there, my 9% are going to fail. So how do we break into a 1%? That’s where so learn from these guys. So like how, what is it mentality that’s different, at least in the 1%? Because I feel like everyone has the ability to dance or like a lot of people out they can dance or sing. But what is it that makes them so much more different? Lots of people can pick up a tennis racket, but what makes Roger Federer so much more different. These look at these guys. Like not all of them are super talented. But they work. I think the fundamentals all those things are just on point. So what gravitated me towards? No,

Ricky Willianto 47:27
thanks for that closing remark, Robert. And I guess Finally, one last thing, which is, what is the best way for people to reach out to you and who are the kind of people you want to reach out to you?

Robert Lai 47:39
Anyone that I’m quite active in the mental space, I’d be quite fortunate to have Korean, which has worked at Google works in New York City, and I work in Singapore. So I’ve, if it’s career related, or if it’s work related, or anything I can do to help inform its marketing realm or anything. Just hit me up. I think LinkedIn might be the best way, email, sometimes things and it’s been told that I’m trying to read email lists. And since I am on LinkedIn here now you can reach me via LinkedIn.

Ricky Willianto 48:11
Sounds good. That’s a wrap. Then Robert, thank

Robert Lai 48:13
you for having me.

Ricky Willianto 48:14
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Check out other episodes to hear more growth stories and hacks from experts who have been there and that that you can find our show on iTunes, Spotify, or via our website See you next time.


About Growth Multiplier

The pursuit of growth is never-ending for any business – from a small startup all the way to a large global corporation. The Growth Multiplier podcast examines pathways, strategies, and hacks companies have explored and tested in their efforts to scale up their businesses. 

In each episode, host Ricky Willianto – co-founder of Ravenry – speaks with CEO’s, growth hackers, product managers, and marketers all around Asia to find nuggets of wisdom and insights from their journey multiplying growth. 

Ricky and his guests discuss viral marketing, community building, pricing strategies, channel development, and also company culture and people. Growth Multiplier explores not only replicable successes, but also phenomenal failures that we all can learn from.

Growth Multiplier is produced by the team behind Ravenry.

Other Growth Multiplier episodes

Building a mental health startup in Asia with Joan Low (ThoughtFull)

In this episode, Irzan Raditya talks about how he’s built into a leading B2B SaaS Startup in Indonesia. He talks about the importance of being laser focused on your vision, why he favors collaboration over competition in a market that relies on personal relationship, and why he thinks distribution trumps product market fit.

Ethical and sustainable design with Sebastian Mueller (MING Labs)

In this episode, Irzan Raditya talks about how he’s built into a leading B2B SaaS Startup in Indonesia. He talks about the importance of being laser focused on your vision, why he favors collaboration over competition in a market that relies on personal relationship, and why he thinks distribution trumps product market fit.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more interesting insights!

Send us your feedback!