How We Built An Email Outreach Platform With Over 20K Users
My name is Andy Cabasso and I’m a co-founder at Postaga.
Postaga is an all-in-one email outreach platform that helps businesses, marketers, and sales teams to increase their search traffic, get press coverage, and generate leads.
Postaga’s platform helps with every aspect of doing cold email outreach, from prospecting to finding relevant businesses, journalists, bloggers, and podcasters to reach out to, to then finding the right contact people and getting their email addresses, to building and sending them personalized email sequences.
Our customers are marketers, agencies, business owners, and salespeople.
Since we launched less than 2 years ago, we have 20,000 users today.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Years ago, I used to run a digital marketing agency with my current co-founder.
We were roommates in college and ended up, years later, working together to build a marketing agency.
We started it, scaled it, and then sold it in 3 years. From that agency experience, my co-founder and I had run into this problem.
All of our clients wanted to rank better in search results, but to rank better in search meant you needed other websites to link to yours. It’s the single most effective component of search rankings that we have seen.
But, to do proper link building means, manually finding relevant websites, getting the contact details of the right people, making sure the email you found is a working address, and then sending them a personalized email and follow-up emails if they don’t reply. That’s incredibly time-consuming. Also, the other processes we saw agencies doing were not very scalable and necessitated using many different tools.
So, that’s why we built Postaga.
To validate the idea, we pitched other agency founders we knew, our target market for this product.
To me and my co-founder, the idea seemed like a real no-brainer. We saw a problem, demand for a fix, and no solutions in the market that seemed dedicated to solving it.
At the time we started building Postaga, I had just left the company I had sold, so my co-founder and I were ready to start something new together.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and building your first product.
Building Postaga has been an iterative process.
We got feedback from potential customers on what the most important features for them were, and we set out to build an MVP that had all the bare necessity features we would need to go to market.
The initial MVP was focused on outreach just for one use case - link building.
Our initial target market was digital agency owners, so we wanted to build a product specifically for them and help them build links for themselves and their clients.
But, as we saw that our users were having different use cases, we added more features and functionality aimed to help them do outreach for things like digital PR and sales lead generation.
How Postaga looks today is much different than it first looked when we were in beta and we first launched.
As we built it, I did a lot of research and testing, using Postaga, to do cold outreach to marketers to see if they would be interested in trying out Postaga and giving us feedback.
We got a lot of great input on everything from our onboarding process to the workflows in the software, and how that aligned with the marketers’ pre-existing processes for cold outreach.
The first version of Postaga was very much focused on “cold email outreach for link building and SEO” - but through our beta, we saw that people were using Postaga for all sorts of cold outreach. So, we iterated and added more features geared towards cold outreach for sales and PR in addition to link building / SEO.
One example of an area where we got a lot of good feedback from our beta testers was the onboarding process. We did screen recordings and had calls with our beta users and saw that our vision for how users would get set up did not line up exactly with how they were getting acquainted with our platform. This was a problem because if people can’t easily get through onboarding, they won’t use the product. The feedback they provided was especially invaluable.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our main launch came from Product Hunt.
We knew from the beginning that we were going to launch on Product Hunt and this would be our big launch event. In the meantime, while in beta, we were getting a lot of feedback from potential customers that helped us better refine the product and fix issues with our onboarding process.
It was important to us that onboarding be able to run smoothly because if we happened to be successful on Product Hunt, we didn’t want the website to crash.
While preparing for our Product Hunt launch, we studied other successful companies that did Product Hunt launches. We would go to Product Hunt, look at the top-ranked products for the past few months, and study them. We spent a few months preparing for this launch. We tried to reverse engineer what other companies had done and also did cold outreach to other founders to ask them for their advice on doing a Product Hunt launch because we wanted it to be successful.
With all the pieces in place, we launched Product Hunt in May of 2020, and it was way more successful than I could have imagined. All that planning and prepwork was worth it.
We went #1 for the day on Product Hunt and #2 for the week. In the first week of our Product Hunt launch, we had 1,000 new sign-ups. We got press coverage, interview requests, and pitches from investors.
One thing I would strongly recommend is for any business owner to listen to your customers, and regularly interview potential customers that you would want to work with.
My co-founder and I had been bootstrapping Postaga with the proceeds from our previous business sale. And we were not looking for investment funding. But, we came across an accelerator program, TinySeed, that intrigued us.
TinySeed is an accelerator that invests a small amount of money (pre-seed kind of money - $120,000 - $180,000 in most cases) for a small percentage of equity, and their program comes with mentorship from successful founders and investors as well as networking.
That part - the mentorship and networking - interested us, because we thought that it could help us scale our SaaS business faster than we otherwise would be able to on our own. So, we applied to the program in early 2021, got accepted, and entered the accelerator in May 2021.
To apply, we had to fill out a lengthy application. We had to create a pitch deck. Then, we had interviews with the TinySeed team.
The interviews were a bit intimidating since we were talking to Tracy, Rob, and Einar - people whose work we had admired.
At the end of the interviews, I felt uncertain whether we would get selected. We were asked tough questions during the interview about our roadmap, competitive landscape, and what we were focusing on. I thought we might have been too early or not the right fit.
But, surprisingly quickly after our last interviews, we got the invite.
And the program was extremely helpful for us.
Besides the cash, which has been useful for us to invest in the business, we got access to TinySeed’s mentor network, to be able to get feedback from people whose input we wanted. We got input from UX experts about onboarding, digital agency owners about SEO and content marketing, and experts on positioning and pricing.
Ultimately, I think this advice was especially helpful because it helped us to avoid potential problems or pitfalls that we weren’t able to see on our own, and set us up on a better trajectory.
Since joining the program, I’ve been asked about what can make your business stand out. I think the most important things are - having a team of experienced founders, having some traction, and being able to demonstrate the potential for your business in your target market.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For growing a business, we have found a few successful channels.
For one, content marketing and SEO. It’s not rocket science. We research topics using tools like Ahrefsand then write blog content geared towards people who might be good potential customers in the future. After publishing, we work to build links to that content so it can rank better on Google. Once it starts ranking, it sends people to our website.
You might get unsolicited advice as you build a business, whether it’s from friends, family, colleagues, customers, partners, etc. People can be very quick with negative feedback.
For another channel, cold email outreach. At Postaga, we use Postaga every day to promote the business and get in front of potential customers. Some of that outreach is focused on sales, reaching out directly to businesses that could be a good fit for Postaga. Other parts of that outreach involve reaching out to bloggers and podcasters to get them to cover the business and promote us to their audiences.
If you are doing cold email for the first time, I have a lot of cold email outreach recommendations to share.
If this is your first effort at cold emailing, I have to be upfront and say that it will probably be bad. The prospecting or email copy might be bad, and you may not get anything to show for all that effort. But, I can tell you confidently that you will get better over time.
One piece of advice is that with cold email, the people you are reaching out to have no idea who you are. They may be getting tons of cold emails every day. So, you need to: 1) stand out in their inbox; and 2) give them something of value. These two things will make it much more likely that you get a response.
Another resource that has been helpful for me in doing cold outreach is Charm Offensive. Basically, by using humor in your cold emails, you can stand out and get a better response rate, and that’s been my experience.
Lastly, we also have built up a Facebook Group that has attracted 1500+ people interested in learning more about cold outreach. It’s a free community (and we plan on keeping it that way), and we use the group to share outreach ideas and recommendations, and also find collaboration opportunities among our members because there can be a lot of overlap in what people are working on.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we have over 20,000 users and a team of 9 people.
Since we are in growth mode, we are constantly reinvesting our proceeds into Postaga to scale the business quicker.
We’re a fully remote team, with members in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
In addition to offering our SaaS software, we also have a done-for-you outreach service, where we have a team that can do cold outreach for your business. This has been particularly popular for businesses that want to do cold outreach, but just don’t have the time and resources to do so in-house.
Moving forward, we are looking at growth, both for our done-for-you service as well as the SaaS business.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing I would strongly recommend is for any business owner to listen to your customers, and regularly interview potential customers that you would want to work with. We were introduced to the Jobs to Be Done framework, which I strongly recommend, to better understand customer motivations.
Beyond that, I think it’s very important to have mastermind groups, to be regularly interacting with other founders that are either at a similar level to you or further along. The advice they can provide can help you think your way out of problems, and also introduce you to new ideas, products, or services that can help your business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use ClickUp for project management. It’s how we organize our projects from marketing to operations. I have used many different project management tools over the years (Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Podio, Ora), and ClickUp has been my favorite.
For cold email, we use Postaga. We use it for everything from PR and press outreach to link building to sales and partnership outreach.
For internal communication, Slack is our go-to.
For SEO research, Ahrefs is my favorite tool.
For appointment-setting, I am fond of SavvyCal. It has a nice interface and it makes scheduling easier because it lets the user overlay their calendar to see where there’s a free overlap to schedule a time that works for everyone. It reduces friction to get appointments made.
For our sales CRM and marketing automation, I’ve been using ActiveCampaign for many years.
And for meetings and webinars, I like Zoom. It’s pretty simple, and most people know how to work with it. Before that, I was using Google Meet, but it had some issues. I’ve tried other platforms for webinars that have more webinar-specific features than Zoom, but it’s been suitable for our needs.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Startups for the Rest of Us podcast with Rob Walliing has helped get advice on growing a bootstrapped or mostly-bootstrapped business.
How I Built It podcast with Joe Casabona is another great podcast for building a small business.
Influence by Robert Cialdini was an important book for my marketing education, to learn about marketing psychology, what motivates people, and it gave me ideas for how to create marketing copy that relates to these motivations.
My last recommendation is the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s about having a business operating system to be able to run your business more efficiently. It discusses things like metrics and KPIs, your short-term and long-term goals and how to make them happen, and managing your business week-to-week.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Find mentors, in particular, mentors who have found success where you want to succeed. Ask them for advice regularly. This can help you avoid future pitfalls that you don’t know about.
Related to that, form a mastermind group with other founders to be able to get feedback on your business and talk through problems. Preferably, form a mastermind with people who have a good deal of experience. If they are more experienced than you, that’s a real win. Then you can learn a lot from them and get some great advice. If you are in a mastermind group with people who are just starting out with their businesses, you may find that you are all guessing at potential solutions to your problems, with no experience to back up those ideas. That can be dangerous.
Next, this may sound obvious, but I would suggest trying not to be swayed by the feedback from people whose opinions you know you should not be listening to. You might get unsolicited advice as you build a business, whether it’s from friends, family, colleagues, customers, partners, etc. People can be very quick with negative feedback. Or, people can be quick with feedback relevant to their own specific needs. But, if you don’t trust their counsel, don’t let that advice deter you. Don’t take feedback too seriously from people who do not understand your target market.
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