Last weekend, Pipedrive crossed its 100,000 paying customer mark. One hundred thousand is a big number, a notable milestone and a cause for celebration. We’ve received good feedback and reviews throughout our existence, but there’s nothing that better proves that you’re doing your job well than having a hundred thousand customers pay for it. Thank you, team members, said customers, investors and friends!
Instead of an Oscars speech, we figured we’d look back at the beginning of our journey and try to pinpoint the main principles that got us to where we are today. To crystallize the learnings for ourselves and make them available for everyone else who’s interested. So here you go: here are the four most important things that got us from one customer to 100,000.
This next sentence might sound like a cliche, but, as with many cliches, it’s also true: Hiring the right people is fundamental to any business, and nothing proves it better than Pipedrive’s journey from 2020 to 2023. Following the Vista acquisition in 2020 and the acquisition of email marketing automation provider Mailigen, business was booming. Soon enough, our employee count reached 700, then 800 and then 1,000. Along the way, we opened new offices in Prague and Berlin.
Despite the expedited growth, we haven’t compromised any of our values when looking for new Piledrivers. Each of our individuals is a team-first, teachable person who is internally driven, reaches for greatness, doesn’t ruin other people’s days and doesn’t use excuses but takes accountability. Our new C-level leaders are living proof of these values, from our CEO, Dominic Alon to our COO, Peter Harris, our group chief marketing officer Heidrun Luyt and our chief product officer, Shaun Shirazian.
People are fundamental to a business, but so is a solid product, especially in our industry. The CRM market is crowded, and we’d still be hunting for our 10th customer had we not got some things right (in addition to making many mistakes, as all startups do).
Our founders had felt the pain of using sales management software after more than a decade in sales and sales management.
This meant, in practical terms, that we knew we could and should have fewer features than competitors as long as our product eased the pain better. For many CRM users, the biggest pain is needing more control over the many valuable but not yet closed leads, needing to be more organized and missing out on sales. So we focused on building the best sales CRM we could and put many seemingly important features under the hood or aside.
It wasn’t (and isn’t) always easy: While juggling between your day job and your startup project, it’s hard to say: “No, you can’t do that with our software” to a potential customer, but we quickly learned to ignore all one-off customer asks. We treat feature requests as “pain sensations” and really pay attention to those that are asked several times. Even then, most end up at the bottom of our feature build list, which is not to say we ignore what customers say. For example, over the past few years, Pipedrive has introduced a few add-ons to supplement our customers’ marketing needs. So far, this includes:
LeadBooster: A powerful four-in-one lead generation toolset
Campaigns: Allows users to create and send customizable email campaigns with pro templates
Web Visitors: Helps users identify which organizations are browsing their website
Smart Docs: Centralizes the entire documentation process, from trackable quotes to proposals
Once we had built and launched Pipedrive, we were thrilled to hear that we did indeed ease the pain of our customers, but some months later, we weren’t too happy about our growth. In month four, our revenues barely covered our hosting costs, and we were growing just 10-20% per month. It was only after we managed to get our product into the hands of the right users that our revenue growth graph took a much more exciting angle.
Our product was the same, the only difference was that it was now used by more influencers, thought leaders and others who are asked for software recommendations. We tried numerous things to achieve that, but the following two gave the most tangible result:
Applying to incubators like AngelPad, YCombinator and Seedcamp to meet people with unbelievably big networks. We applied and talked to many, got invited to AngelPad in the end and spent three months among entrepreneurs and mentors, most of the time pitching and talking to people.
Running a good deal to get cost-conscious techies aboard – our AppSumo offer worked very well.
“Well, isn’t it already?” This was the reaction we had to someone’s feedback eight months ago. As we soon found out, it wasn’t. We confused people with loads of content and provided several calls to action, including “Sign up”, “Choose a package”, “Read about features”, or “See a live demo”.
We then put most of the text from the front page onto other pages. We removed as many hurdles from the registering path as possible – even the package selection page had to go. We figured that if people like the product, they can be bothered with settings and details later.
AB testing showed that these changes tripled the conversion rate from visits to sign-ups.
So, there you go, what got us to 100,000 paying customers was addressing pain, getting the product into the hands of the right people and making it easy to sign up. Sounds easy, right? And this is not to say time invested in going the extra mile in support, sending phenomenal emails, blogging or other activities is a waste of time. We tried many different things to get to where we are today and almost all of them contributed to our growth. It may be different for most other companies, but we’re sure you’ll agree that the journey to discover them is exciting.
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