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Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Andrus Purde and I’m a marketer and a tech entrepreneur, namely co-founder of Outfunnel. Outfunnel is a sales-centric marketing automation tool that helps businesses save time and resources. While there are hundreds of marketing tools out there and while many of them are very good, they are often very hard to integrate with sales tools and workflows, and that’s the problem we’re tackling.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The story of Outfunnel started in a couple of different places.
As a marketer, I’ve been using various marketing tools for 10+ years and throughout this time I’ve noticed things that were not quite right or things I would solve in a different way. I often felt like there was an opportunity here for a tool that fit actual marketers’ needs better.
At the same time, in the 7+ years I led Pipedrive’s marketing efforts, I noticed that our customers didn’t have a simple way to plug marketing automation into Pipedrive. It seemed like there was an opportunity there, too.
And, last but not least, I had been looking for a startup idea to pursue. After more than 20 years as a marketer I wanted to try something else, and being an entrepreneur in a familiar field seemed (and still seems) like a good idea.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
When I started out I had too many ideas about what Outfunnel could do for customers. And as I had failed with a couple of other startup projects before, I thought that speaking to a large number of companies in a short while would be a good start.
So I set out to do 100+ customer development interviews before I single line of code was written. (I’ve documented the process in this post). This helped to clarify the most important aspects of marketing for relevant target audiences and guide our decisions on what features should go into our MVP.
Early on we were a team of three, so there was little need for the process. We’ve since grown in terms of people, ambition, and complexity, so we’re more methodological now. For example, we have a system for prioritizing development tasks, and we have a monthly meeting where we review feedback from customers and reasons for churn. What hasn’t changed, however, is starting with speaking to customers and involving potential users to test the features as early as possible.
Describe the process of launching the business.
What process:)? Launching was more about hustling to get our first features out and to get the first companies to use the product with real data.
As we’re gearing up to release the next version of Outfunnel in the next couple of months, we’re quite a bit more systematic, and we can lean on our experiences of releasing new products and features in companies where we’ve worked before. Eg. Pipedrive.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Outfunnel is a marketing automation tool in essence, and most people in our target audience know what a “marketing automation tool” means. Using marketing lingo, our audience has a high category awareness. This means that our marketing doesn’t need to create demand, but rather harvest demand. Every day tens of thousands of marketers look for marketing tools, and our job is to make Outfunnel findable and to make it stand out.
As such, we’re focused on channels where people in our target audience look for new solutions: searching on Google and searching on relevant marketplaces and directories, for example, the Pipedrive marketplace. We’ve also invested in content marketing and speaking at events to build awareness and trust.
As a side note, I’ve written about my thesis for startup marketing planning in case anyone is pondering what channels to invest in.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We now have more than 100 paying customers worldwide, which is great, considering the fact that a year ago we had just started writing the first lines of code.
We have SOOOO much work ahead though, and we’ve barely gotten started. While there are excellent marketing tools out there, there is also quite a bit of irrelevant marketing (read: spam) and missed sales opportunities, both of which could be improved if it were easier to align sales and marketing. So the future looks bright but more than that there looks to be a lot of work to be done.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve always been a big fan of focusing on one thing. Getting Outfunnel has exposed me to new areas like product management, fundraising, legal work and organizing work between different functions. But I feel that while the breadth of my work has greatly increased, I’m doing my best when I don’t try work on everything that seems to need my attention and focusing on one thing at a time instead. Keeping the main thing the main thing, if you will.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a combination of Pipedrive, Mailchimp, Outfunnel, and Calendly to build a lightweight and super affordable marketing suite (covered here in more detail). We also use Ahrefs and Buffer to help our content marketing efforts.
Since our business is subscription based, we couldn’t function without Chargebee and Braintree to manage subscriptions and payments.
And we’re heavy users of Slack and Github, as many startups probably are.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Talk to customers. Talking to customers is a great idea, no matter whether you’re looking for the next Big Idea, need help with prioritizing feature ideas or are simply looking for inspiration on what content to produce.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! We’re currently 5 people and we’d like our 6th team member to be a capable designer.