067: Ben Lee on productizing the discovery process

Ben Lee is the founder and CEO of Neon Roots, an award-winning agile development agency.

Interestingly, the majority Neon Roots’ revenue does not come from actual developing, but rather from their discovery program, called Rootstrap, which guides entrepreneurs from the vaguest idea of an app, to a development-ready prototype.

Ben dives into how Rootstrap took on a life of it’s own, why discovery is so important, his untraditional sales team and other insights into how he’s built his business.


Highlights of this episode:

[2:20] Ben has to wear pants at work now, but he did work with Snoop Dogg’s management company before moving to his new location in West Hollywood, and he talks about random run-ins with celebrities

[4:55] He and his co-founder started Neon Roots to challenge the traditional agency model, and actually practice what is preached about agile methods, lean startup, etc.

[6:00] He discusses the bloated, risk-avoidant and unhappy lifestyle common in the service industry, and how he ditched it to start something new- pioneering AR/VR before the market was ready

[7:15] Story carding and discovery was a way to qualify clients, manage expectations, and truly aligned interests- and was incredibly successful

[10:27] How the Rootstrap offer evolved, and how it was influenced by Ben’s background in hospitality

[13:50] He discusses the psychology that goes into the Rootstrap customer experience

[16:00] The Rootstrap Swag Box is a powerful component of the whole experience, triggering positive emotions, and taking on a life of its own as a storytelling mechanism- whether it’s for a 23 year-old first time entrepreneur or Tony Robbins

[19:10] Competitors talk about the Swag Box

[19:37] Discovery and other engagement activities after kickoff are all about providing value to the customer

[21:45] Rootstrap has built a reputation among VCs, from whom they get a lot of deal flow

[22:13] Brand grows in thought-leadership

[23:30] He doesn’t hire sales people, but many former participants sell for him by simply sharing their stories

[25:10] Offering free advice over the phone for young entrepreneurs who aren’t yet a good fit is great for building relationships, which have resulted in referrals several years later

[29:20] Embarrassing sleazy sales guy vs the former participants who aren’t sure their confident enough for sales

[30:39] The sales cycle involves less commitment, or going on dates before you get engaged

[32:35] They (over)deliver so much value that other agencies resell Rootstrap

[33:05] Rootstrap vs ongoing consulting, and why many Rootstrap participants don’t convert because they don’t have an internal dev team or they need help fundraising

[35:18] The solution to a hybrid agency is proper siloing. Going forward, Neon Roots will be doing more creative stuff, which can happen because the service side is completely separate- plus Rootstrap Studios in Uruguay

[40:40] Ben gives his words of wisdom to agency owners to build their way up and increase sales

[42:25] You can reformulate lean/agile methods to any industry/business


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This episode is sponsored by Outbound Creative

Outbound Creative helps agencies and consultancies win their dream clients through eye-catching outreach campaigns. Learn more at OutboundCreative.com. 

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