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Back in December, we had a super interesting chat with Andrus Purde, Head of Marketing at Pipedrive.

We talked about early stage marketing strategies for startups and how to get “findable”.

Hi, Andrew! So first, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself, what you do and what’s Pipedrive?

I’m Andrus, I’m from Estonia, and I’m the Head of Marketing at Pipedrive.

Pipedrive is a sales tool that helps small teams get organized and close more deals.

The CRM market seems pretty fragmented, there are a lot of other CRMs out there, how do you handle this from a marketing standpoint?

It is definitely a busy market. Most of them are much better funded than Pipedrive.

From day 1, what helped us is to focus on helping small businesses.

Although we have some big teams as well, at Amazon for example.

Do you feel like this focus on SMBs came along when you looked at the composition of your signups or is it something that had always been part of your DNA?

The focus was not to please people in executive suits. We help the people in the small teams to get more sales done.

This different starting point has guided most of our marketing efforts down the line.

I know there are a lot of marketing frameworks, but I believe you have elaborated your own framework. Could you tell us more about that?

Yeah, I did write my own. I call it the Two-Hedgehog Model. A reference to Jim Collins and the “Hedgehog Concept” he popularized.

As a backstory, if you take a hedgehog, it does only one thing really well: it closes to protect itself.

So, the premise is to do only one thing and do it really well.

If you focus on only two things and do them very well you’ll have your early stage startup marketing priorities sorted.

For example, there are a few things a startup needs to get right early one.

First is: focus on getting referrals. Which means: getting a great product out there and then working on triggers and incentives to encourage people to share the product with their friends.

So, in the early days, we should not focus on the marketing per se but in the product instead and the marketing driven from the product (aka the referrals)?

Absolutely. Plus, the marketing can help with the customer development and eventually the product.

Marketing can also work on the messaging so that it’s easy to refer the product.

However, it does not make sense to build the referral program too early on. Simply because you don’t have anyone to refer your product to.

So, you should wait to have volume.

We waited two years before actually starting a true referral program here at Pipedrive.

During those two years, we used the experience from our founders to build the best CRM software for small teams.

Marketing helped with the messaging and create triggers to share the product with their colleagues.

This was our first hedgehog.

The second one was to be findable.

Either in Google, or in app stores, or whatever channel is dominant for you.

At the time people were finding new products from their friends or via Google.

At Pipedrive, in the early days, all we could afford was my two hand on the keyboard.

We wanted to do paid search but we did not have the funds. So we started with SEO by necessity.

In an ideal world, you should have a budget and some funds to really test channels. Moreover, there’s no one-size-fits-all, being findable is a subtle combination of SEO, PR, partnership and Paid marketing.

We are in the same situation, paid search is way too expensive at the moment and we started doing SEO by necessity. Maybe it is wiser to wait for funds to experiment new channels?

Yes, even if you do a lot of SEO work, when you’re in a competitive market, it’s still hard to get on the front page. Even on paid search actually.

The first keyword I focused on seriously with Pipedrive was “Sales pipeline management software”.

“CRM software” was really expensive, and this one was still relevant to the product.

One other thing that worked really well for us, when it comes to being findable, is the Chrome Web Store.

It was a new channel and people were starting to look for software there.

We were among the first CRM software there and we got a lot of traction and signups from there.

Even though the traffic was not that qualified, it was really helpful in the early days, we were getting enough sign ups from that source.

Long story short, there are always some new channels, every year you have opportunities like that to exploit early on.

But don’t you think the Chrome Webstore is not that relevant anymore, that this channel is so crowded now that it does not drive so much traffic anymore?

Yes, definitely, but at the same time new marketplaces and app stores have popped out.

There are new platforms more relevant for us, specialize in SaaS software. We have been testing those smaller ecosystems and it’s been great so far.

And every month there’s a new platform launch where you can be findable.

Speaking of platforms, what do you think of SaaS comparison platforms such as Capterra or G2Crowd for example?

Yes, we tried I think all of them. Some of them are hugely profitable, and we would like to put more money in those platforms but we can’t, due to the limited volume.

There are other platforms where I feel the traffic is a bit less qualified.

However, I’ve been talking to other marketers about this and, apparently, it can really depend on your vertical. There’s no one size fits all.

I’d recommend to test them all and see which one works best for you.

But again, if you’re just starting out, you would recommend doing it right? Those platforms require having at least some budget to get significant results.

Actually, I have advised to some startups to test them even early on.

But as you said, it’s probably not the first thing you want to do since you need reviews to get ranked properly.

So, you should probably not start with this.

And outside of the Chrome Extension channel, was there any big hustle or launch that had a significant impact on your growth?

We did not do any big launch or hustle that impacted our trajectory.

We launched Pipedrive in Estonia, at the time we had an MVP and a small growth.

Then one of the founders had pitched their way into AngelPad and made contact with Appsumo.

So we had an MVP but in the hands of people in the Valley not in Estonia.

The growth started to change because the product was in the hands of influential people.

So having a great product is half the job, the other half is putting it in the hands of the right people.

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