Sabri Suby, Founder, King Kong
Sabri Suby: King of the Jungle
The founder of Australia’s fastest-growing digital marketing agency, King Kong, tells us what it takes to dominate the digital landscape and conquer the competition.
Just outside Sabri Suby’s office in Melbourne, a gong has been struck. It echoes throughout the open-plan office space (even surrounding businesses can hear it) as his employees begin to stand and clap.
Welcome to the jungle. This is the headquarters of King Kong, Australia’s fastest-growing digital marketing agency. As an office tradition, the sales team bangs the gong to signal the acquisition of a new client. But for founder Suby, it’s so much more than that.
“That’s something that I think is really important … not letting those small little wins ever get old,” he explains. “It’s a victory. … That’s kind of what we’re all in it for, right? To get new clients and change people’s lives.”
Last year, King Kong raked in $7 million in revenue from its digital marketing campaigns, and this year, its ambitious team of 42 direct-response copywriters, funnel hackers, designers, coders, SEO specialists and more are aiming to top that.
The team’s intense sense of drive comes right from the top—Suby is obsessive about his work, pursuing his goals with a fierce intensity. He can craft copy that’ll have you forking over your cash, make old-school, long-form sales letters look avant-garde, and weave battle metaphors into a conversation like you wouldn’t believe (a habit he attributes to his copywriting background).
“[Digital marketing] is probably one of the most … hyper-competitive industries on planet Earth,” he tells Foundr. “The waters are bloody with competition. It’s just—the marketplace is drenched with blood of how competitive the space is.”
So yeah, Suby does not mince words. His directness is one of his hallmark traits, in fact, along with his work ethic. The secret to his success is really no secret at all—Suby has been hustling since he was a teen.
From Humble Beginnings
Raised by a single mother in the small Australian beach town of Byron Bay, Suby witnessed firsthand the importance of work ethic. His mom worked three jobs, but still came home in time to cook healthy meals for his sister and him.
At 17, Suby began his foray into the business world as a telephone salesperson, working out of an old shipping container with 16 coworkers.
“It was a full boiler room,” he recalls. “The hum of production was almost deafening in there.”
For the first two to three weeks, Suby struggled. “I absolutely sucked in the beginning,” he says. “It was kinda like a cold slap across the face, into the front lines of capitalism.”
But he decided to use this time as an opportunity to master the art of selling. Soon, he was the company’s top salesperson, traveling all over the world for various sales jobs. His excellence in sales followed him to every company he worked for thereafter. Eventually, he decided the next stage in his professional development would be to attend college and pursue a degree in business and marketing.
To fund his education, he took a part-time job selling Google AdWords for a company. One day, when a prospect called asking if Suby’s company could help him rank in Google search, Suby told him, “Yeah, I can help you with that.”
The problem? Suby didn’t even know what search engine optimization was; he was just eager to make the sale. When he got off the call with the customer and told the business owner about this, he replied, “Well, you better figure it out.”
And he did. Suby dove deep into research about SEO, and soon enough, he was offering SEO services within the business he was working for. But then he started thinking he could do a lot better than the company he was working for, and considered starting his own gig.
Over summer break, Suby started cold calling to get his first clients. By the end of the break, he had a sizable business on his hands. For him, it just didn’t make sense to go back to school to learn how to do business when he already <had a business. So he dropped out and refocused his efforts on building his first digital agency, growing it to about 16 people and $1 million in revenue.
He later sold that agency and went on to start other ventures, including a sports group-buying site with Australian Football League football clubs.
“I had some good exits and some were failures,” he says. “The fundamental problem that I had to solve in all those businesses was how do I get new clients.”
The Man Who’s Made 1 Million Cold Calls
Landing new clients would prove a challenge for the young Suby, who decided to build a digital marketing agency from scratch when he spotted a gap in the marketplace.
“There was just no one talking about return on investment or anyone talking about the real KPIs,” he says of the digital space at the time. “They were all hiding behind these intangible vanity metrics.”
That’s when Suby launched King Kong. Recently married and having poured money into his wedding and a few startups, he returned to what had worked so well for him before—cold calling. Using the $50 in his VoIP account and a computer his wife had bought him, Suby started making a hundred cold calls a day. Within a couple of days, he’d landed his first few clients. He says he once calculated that over the course of his career, he’s made more than a million cold calls.
“You learn a lot about human psychology and what makes people buy and what doesn’t,” he says.
And therein lies one of the keys to King Kong’s rapid growth. Suby favors action over theory, preferring jumping into the trenches and getting his hands dirty to staying in and reading a business book.
“When I was starting out in digital marketing, I went through the typical paths of what everybody did,” he explains. “You know, you go out and buy all the courses, you read all the blog posts, and listen to all the gurus, and go to the seminars. And I did all that stuff—and it left me being broke, right? And then that was when I just started to put all of that stuff to bed and really just went back to the stuff that I had learned in the trenches in actually making cold calls.”
Getting People to Take Action
With his own tendency toward taking action, it’s no surprise Suby excels at direct response marketing, a type of marketing designed to elicit a response from the prospect. Think calls to action like “click here,” “book now,” or “schedule your consultation.”
While at first, Suby got distracted by shiny objects and the latest courses in the internet marketing community, he eventually returned to his roots as a salesman, and that’s when he started to have breakthroughs.
But while he had mastered the art of cold calling, Suby realized he could only make so many calls in a day. How could he scale his business? What he was doing was working, but he decided to find a way to multiply his efforts with an army of salespeople and a selling system. “That’s kind of the key ingredient to what has allowed us to grow so fast.”
King Kong’s Competitive Advantage
Take a look at King Kong’s website and you’ll notice something unique: it pairs great copy with polished design. While Suby admits that the old-school model of black text long-form copy on a white background still converts well, it can repel a lot of people too.
“They see that and their spam detector just goes through the roof,” he explains. “They won’t even consume the copy that’s on that landing page because they arrive on these long-form landing pages with yellow buttons and red circles around them and arrows pointing everywhere, and it just kind of elicits this response in themselves where they’re like, ‘Oh, yuck! That’s a spammy sales letter.’”
The number one rule in direct response copy is to get people to read the copy, Suby says, and that won’t happen if the page looks spammy.
“What I feel that we do better than anybody else in the world really out there in partnering direct response with highly polished design is having that combination of both,” he says, “where the page actually looks good, and … you see it, and it looks credible immediately. And then you’ll actually go on to consume the copy and read that sales message. And that’s where all the magic happens.”
So what can you do if you want to hone your copywriting skills? Study successful sales letters.
“You’ll start to see patterns in successful sales letters and see what’s working and what’s not,” Suby says. “But ultimately, you also need to write. That’s how you get better.”
Whether it’s an agency or a freelance or consulting business, a service-based business has a host of benefits: high profit margins, low overhead, no need for startup capital, the list goes on.
“You’re not going out there and getting molds done up and buying container loads of product and then having to stock that product in a warehouse,” Suby says, “and worry about fulfillment and returns and cost of goods and depreciation on those goods. And there’s a lot of different things that can get involved with that kind of physical product business, where they don’t exist in the service-based consultancy model.”
It’s also a great business model if you want to be location independent. “A lot of people that are freelancing are working from all around the world in coworking spaces or by the beach or in their hotel rooms,” he says.
When it comes to a service-based business, you can take one of two paths: operate as an individual trading your time for money or, in the case of an agency, create something much bigger than yourself by building a team and creating systems to get the work done.
“That’s the kind of path that I’ve chosen to go,” he says. “And I’m not saying that’s necessarily the right one. It all comes down to what’s right for you. What is your why at the end of the day? Like, why are you doing this stuff? Why are you getting out of bed and what kind of life do you really want to design for yourself?”
Creating an Environment for Success
“I’m always trying to surround myself with positive reinforcements,” says Suby, whose office walls are adorned with framed advertisements that were responsible for generating millions of dollars.
“By having these pictures on my wall, I understand that, whatever that next level that I’m trying to get to, I’m only one offer or one ad away from really having that breakthrough.”
Suby’s mornings are thoughtfully designed. He gets up early to start the day focusing on his aspirations, watches videos or listens to music to pump himself up, and then hits the gym.
“When I wake up and my feet hit the ground, I’m like, ‘I am ready to go. Let me at ’em!’ I’m like a hungry dog on the back of a meat truck.”
Suby’s intentional living extends beyond his physical space. He is extremely careful about what information he consumes, too, making sure to do an audit of the person behind the content before he decides if he’ll dive deeper into their work. While Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,” Suby sees another side to it.
“Having a bad idea and getting misinformation is like a mind virus,” he explains, “that can go in and erode any other stuff that you’ve worked so hard to build and can kind of plant seeds in your mind.”
The 2 Biggest Challenges Suby Has Faced
Of course, Suby’s path to entrepreneurship hasn’t been a smooth or easy one. He points out two major challenges: finding quality talent and getting in the right mindset.
While he has an amazing team now, he had a tough time recruiting talent in the beginning. “Getting that first team member is very difficult because you’re obviously selling the dream on this big business that you’re planning to build,” he says. “And meanwhile it’s just you and them sitting in an office, and … they need to really believe in you and buy into the vision.”
When his first couple of hires didn’t work out, he was back to square one, having put all his time and energy into training people who would no longer be working for him. While he was down about that at first, he realized what he needed was a funnel and a system for attracting, hiring, and training new recruits.
“We know as we scale our revenues, we need to scale our team members,” he says. “So we’ve got a whole recruitment funnel and a learning management system where we train our team members and take them to King Kong Academy to really get them up to par.”
His next big challenge was developing the right mindset. “I’m a big believer that success is 80 percent mindset and 20 percent mechanics,” he says.
While many business owners waste their energy on the little administrative aspects of business, like setting up email autoresponders and choosing the right payment gateways, Suby allocates his energy elsewhere. “I schedule in meetings with myself to get motivated and to get fired up, knowing that that’s 80 percent of the game.”
At the start, Suby says he was probably working 18-hour days, selling by day and doing the work by night. He accepts this as the price every successful entrepreneur must pay, and this fact of life informs his actions.
“I am very, very conscious that every minute that I am in my office and I am working, that I am away from being with my daughter, for instance. And so I make a very conscious effort not just to, like, sit around and be checking emails and doing mindless stuff that isn’t having a super-profound impact on the business.”
He’s able to stay motivated because he remains focused on the purpose and goals of his work, things he thinks every entrepreneur must know. “When things get tough—and they will get tough—you need to have those things that you can look at that are gonna keep fuel in that fire and keep you going.”
His best advice on achieving success as an entrepreneur? Do the work.
“There’s a lot of different factors that come into being successful and being a successful entrepreneur,” he explains, “but the only one that you can really control is your work ethic and the amount of work that you put in. And I think that if you really exercise that muscle and just get it really, really strong, that’s something that you can just take into any business and in any market and just crush it.”
Dominate Direct Response Marketing With These 3 Elements
For Suby, successful direct response marketing breaks down into three elements. Get them right, and you’ll have new clients beating down your doors to work with you.
Every sales transaction, Suby says, is “essentially the exchange of value for some type of currency.” So answer the following question clearly in your marketing message: If the prospect gives you X number of dollars, what value will you provide in return?
“The offer is the tip of the spear,” he says. “It is the heart and soul of your marketing message, and that’s something that I see not even the best copywriters in the world get.”
To conquer this, Suby created what he calls “the Godfather strategy,” which is, essentially, crafting an offer they can’t refuse. While many businesses labor over writing the “perfect copy,” they neglect the importance of the offer at its core. Suby recommends stepping back and asking yourself, “What would be an offer so incredible that I could offer to my marketplace that they would not be able to refuse it?”
Throwing in freebies and bonuses for customers who purchase from you is a common marketing tactic. But does it work? And how many bonuses should your offer include?
A transaction takes place when value exceeds price. Because of this, Suby says, you need to stack however many bonuses it takes (there’s no set number) to get there. “Stack that value so high … the money that you’re asking for that value is a pittance of what that perceived value is in that person’s mind.”
Does your business have a guarantee? It absolutely does, says Suby, whether you realize it or not. He walks his clients through the process of formulating guarantees this way: What would happen if one of your clients called you today and told you they’re unhappy with the service you provided? What would you do? You’d probably work with them until they were happy, or offer them a refund. That’s it—that’s your guarantee.
“Most businesses have a guarantee—they’re just not advertising it,” Suby explains. “They’re not using it as a competitive advantage to suck in clients into their business.”
And if you’re an agency, a guarantee is even more important. Why? Many people have been burned by agencies, and Suby says when he started out, he could feel the buyer resistance. A guarantee helps reduce the risk for a prospect, increasing the likelihood that they’ll become a customer.
If you want to get serious about direct response marketing, these are three of Suby’s favorite resources:
- Breakthrough Advertising
- The Robert Collier Letter Book
ATTENTION: Suby has partnered with Foundr to teach an epic new online course, “Consulting Empire.” If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business, whether you are a consultant, coach or freelancer, Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in this new online course. We only open enrollment a couple of times a year for a limited time. Get on the free VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when we re-open!
- The main reason King Kong has scaled so fast and how it stood out from the competition
- How Suby was able to transition from one-person consultant to multimillion-dollar agency
- The #1 rule in direct response copy and how to merge compelling copy with beautiful design
- 3 ways to dominate direct response marketing
- Why you should start a service-based business and who this business is best suited for
- The two biggest challenges Suby faced in his career and how he overcame them