Chris Out: “Create a touch-based digital value ladder”

Understand what works by continually increasing the number of experiments you run across the entire customer journey. Digital offers the possibility of measuring across the entire customer journey. Therefore you get the possibility of knowing which initiatives work and where customers are hooked to your company. A company like Slack knows that after 2,000 messages, a […]

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Understand what works by continually increasing the number of experiments you run across the entire customer journey.

Digital offers the possibility of measuring across the entire customer journey. Therefore you get the possibility of knowing which initiatives work and where customers are hooked to your company. A company like Slack knows that after 2,000 messages, a customer is hooked to the platform. Running experiments when somebody is addicted to your product or service, and making that digital journey as easy as possible, is a key factor in unlocking all the possibilities of a digital transformation.

As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Out.

Chris Out is the author of the forthcoming book: Structuring for Extreme Revenue Growth: How to quickly monetize your biggest business opportunity. He co-founded, built, and exited the largest growth marketing agency in The Netherlands, RockBoost, and has consulted hundreds of entrepreneurs on strategy, growth levers, and the right next steps to take to profitably take their company to the next level.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My background and studies are completely different from what I’m doing right now. I started studying law where I dropped out after one year. It took me a couple of years to figure what I thought that I wanted to do. I eventually completed a bachelor’s degree in Business economics from the University of Amsterdam while working a couple of days per week for a secondment agency where I learned the “business of selling hours” and how service-based businesses work.

I always wanted to live and work abroad, so in 2011 I got the opportunity to learn online marketing while living in Shanghai by working for an Australian company. During my education, I had zero experience in online marketing, but I leveraged my network to learn how to get a position in online marketing quickly.

In that period, I was able to massively grow their online sales in the UK market while being the less experienced one at the job. Looking back, I see the pattern that started, and that’s reverse engineering what’s working and using as much automation as possible to reach my goals.

After working for that company, my ego started to play up. All my friends had a master’s degree, and I didn’t want to stay behind. I applied from China for an auditing position at KPMG. A couple of months later, I started my master’s at work at the Corporate Clients departments, where I learned the dynamics of big corporations and how to consult them.

I caught the entrepreneurship bug, and after one year, I quit my job to become an entrepreneur.

With my first company, I made all the mistakes that you can make as an entrepreneur. Resulting out of those mistakes and the trend that I noticed in the US, together with two co-founders, I started the first growth hacking agency in The Netherlands. We became internationally recognized, won multiple awards, and grew the agency group’s team to 80+ people in a couple of years. In these years, I started to speak internationally and traveled the world sharing my knowledge around growth.

In the summer of 2020, I sold my shares, and I ventured into my latest business, where I help companies transform so they can monetize their biggest growth opportunities.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We’d built a platform for a full year where consumers could watch tv commercials in return for a discount at webshops. We spent thousands of hours while looking back, and we could have known that the idea wasn’t viable within one day. The people that we tried to sell to didn’t experience the pain that we wanted to solve.

I learned the hard way that when you don’t start a business from pain, it’s tough to create a successful business. Since then, it’s one of my first questions when trying to grow a business:: Whose pain are you solving?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve always been devouring books and online courses to learn more about entrepreneurship. Years ago, when I started with my agency, I would say that Ramit Sethi had a massive influence on my journey. His courses on how to consult, building an online business and growing as a person changed my journey.

When I was searching for mentors, all of the ones that resonated with me had the same mentor. This person, Jay Abraham, is where I learned the most fundamental growth principles.

Meeting Chris Winfield in 2017 in New York really accelerated my journey. He encouraged me to trust myself and to really go all-in on my dreams. During that meeting, I shared my biggest growth goal for those 90 days. To increase our monthly recurring revenue by 30% in 90 days. He shared his top-20 list strategy with me, and he told me: “Chris, you will have reached that goal after 45 days”.

After 44 days, I texted Chris that I’d reached the goal. From that moment, I changed how I take action, and the business grew massively.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A book that made a huge impact on my business was: Pitch Anything from Oren Klaff. It’s all about how you can sell in high-stress situations with unfavorable power dynamics. The tactics and strategies made me aware of the “game” during negotiations and pitches.

A strategy from corporates is to make you “feel small” by initiating beta traps when they’re buying from you. When you understand this game, you know what you can do to flip this and make them want to work with you, even at full price. This alone resulted in millions extra of revenue.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

In 2010 I created my personal mission statement, which is: “I inspire and enable people to grow into the best version of themselves.”

When starting my previous company, it was all about enabling growth. After my exit, I’m even more conscious about the type of companies that I work with. Are they “Doing Good” for the world and solving problems, or are they just in it for the money.

With my current and new businesses, I want to keep the focus on “More Life.” A strong value of mine is freedom, and when we can enable people to feel more freedom, they can also create more good for this world.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

My main goal is to create an international bestseller for my new book this year.

For years people have been asking me to write a book about how I approach growth. My exit gave me the opportunity to write this book, where I share the structure that you need to follow to grow your business, monetize your biggest growth opportunity, and impact the world.

In my consulting business, I’m working with leading brands and entrepreneurs to help them digitally transform and grow their businesses. I’m still learning every day, which makes it very exciting.

Later this year, I’ll start my podcast with already some really interesting and influential guests that have confirmed to join this conversation.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is a buzzword, and people tend to make it more complicated than necessary.

“Digital transformation is about constantly transforming your business so you can serve your customers in the best way possible while levering the opportunities from technology and digital selling to maximize your return on investment.”

On a practical level, it means that you need to have a relentless focus on the customer and their needs and constantly experiment with how you can serve them in the best way possible. It’s also important to know where adding a digital layer to your business will increase the value of your business.

When you break it down, you’ll have two words — transformation and digital. Before you can transform digitally, you first need to transform people. They’ve got to think and operate in a new way with new mental models. The world of digital is all about reducing friction for customers and solving the pain as quickly as possible.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Companies that are working in a “traditional industry” where a lot of face to face contact applies, high barriers of entry, and still a lot of manual activities are performed. Those industries are ready for disruption, and they can either do it themselves, or a combination of startups will do this.

Companies that don’t have a digital layer in place yet. When you’re only selling physical products like washing machines, which “digital experience” can add this layer, you get more insight into customer information and usage, so you can create the best solution possible.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

My previous company helped to digitally transform the supply chain of a large food logistics company. We’ve built software to digitize delivery processes and return handling. This was previously handled manually, and by doing this digitally it made a substantial difference on the operations, as also client satisfaction.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Digital transformation is, in its essence, a DNA change when your company hasn’t started as an online or software as a service business.

A key part of digital transformation is to run a lot of experiments. Experiments can go wrong, and that’s where it gets complicated. How is the failure culture? Concepts from the book, Mindset — The New Psychology of success help with frameworks on how to get people from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset that you need to embrace failure.

I’ve always used the concept of quick wins before big wins. Teams need to get momentum to see that the transformation works. It’s important that you’ve got the measurement systems in place to quantify the impact.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

I’ve recorded a video with five tips to get your digital transformation to the next level.

1.) Understand what works by continually increasing the number of experiments you run across the entire customer journey.

Digital offers the possibility of measuring across the entire customer journey. Therefore you get the possibility of knowing which initiatives work and where customers are hooked to your company. A company like Slack knows that after 2,000 messages, a customer is hooked to the platform. Running experiments when somebody is addicted to your product or service, and making that digital journey as easy as possible, is a key factor in unlocking all the possibilities of a digital transformation.

2.) Use digital to remove as much friction as possible for your customers.

In my previous company, we digitized manual processes that customers felt as tedious, which are now run automatically. A simple example: Are people filling in forms with the information they already provided somewhere else? Within a supply chain, this is extra work, and extra work is extra costs. When you let a (potential) customer do this step double, it’s extra friction. This might be another reason why they don’t convert and give their business to your competitor.

It’s all about starting from pain and friction that your customer perceives and removes that as much as possible.

3.) Create a touch-based digital value ladder

More companies should use a value ladder, where they are offering their customers in a strategic way, a series of different products that move from low to high in terms of value and price. High growth company Sendcloud, an all-in-one shipping platform for e-commerce, has the entire customer journey digitized for their low-priced services. Once a customer moves up the value chain, they get more human touch, while perceived value and prizes increase.

This principle can be applied to a lot of other businesses. Try to deliver your cheapest products as digitally as possible while reducing the human touch as much as possible. When products and services become more expensive and less standardized, increase the human touch.

4.) Digitize what can be digitized, but keep the human touch where necessary.

One of the mistakes that a lot of people make is that they try to digitize areas of their business where the most value-added component is the human touch. The best digital transformation enables people to do more themselves while leaving room for the human touch. Dutch scale-up Quin is a perfect example. They are transforming medical practices and using digital to get as many insights from patients upfront, so the time with the doctor is used in the best way possible.

5.) Use no-code tools to solve your digital challenges; only when that doesn’t fix it, hire a developer.

A client of mine spent three months building an application while connecting three out-of-the-box tools could have solved the same problem. These tools could have been set up within a day, instead of three months. This would also be a fraction of the costs. Many tools can be connected to each other by using Zapier, also called the glue of the internet.

When you start with your digital transformation, try to leverage as many out-of-the-box tools as possible before you start building your own. This no-code movement is applicable for the transformation of existing processes, as well as for releasing entirely new concepts.

A perfect example of this is No-Code MVP, where you can quickly build and validate your startup ideas.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Innovation is driven by a certain type of people. People that are more risk-seeking and want to be at the forefront of this innovation. Having those people will help you inspire the rest of the company when innovations are tested and handed over to the business.

Most innovations don’t die at the innovation stage, but they do once the running business starts working with it. So protect your innovations and give them a soft landing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Take the leap; the next opportunity will reveal itself automatically.”

During my life, I’ve made a leap before the outside world thought that I was ready: Going to China, starting a growth hacking agency, becoming an international speaker, and now with my book.

I’ve learned that when you take the step and go for it, the way will reveal itself, and I keep following this mantra every day.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I write regularly on my site where they can also download my latest growth lever cheat sheet, which can definitely give a boost to digital transformation. I’m also updating the progress of my book.

I also love to connect on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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