Category: English

How Pipedrive reached 50,000 paying customers

Pipedrive art

Earlier in the year Pipedrive crossed the 50,000 paying customer mark, an event we celebrated with cheap champagne insightful stats. I thought it’d be a good idea to follow up my “how Pipedrive got to 10,000 customers” post.  A couple of things are exactly the same, some have lost their relevancy and there are several new themes.

What follow are my observations of things that got us from 10,000 to 50,000 customers, in no particular order, but leaving the most important thing last. Note these are observations of a marketer, if you asked one of our product managers, sales leaders or investors to write the post, you might get a different post.

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Time is your enemy, at least when it comes to referral programs

One of my three operating theses is: market products that don’t need marketing. This is not due to laziness, at least not entirely, but due to my belief that this way you get to work on more interesting problems.

Relating to the “no need for marketing” idea, I firmly believe early stage technology companies should focus on word-of-mouth and recommendations as part of The Two Hedgehog marketing framework. Here’s an important piece of information to keep in mind when you’re designing your referral program: timing matters.

Pipedrive lesson: user age is the most important factor in referral schemes

And I’m not talking about their time on Earth but time since signing up to your service. Pipedrive’s product analyst Andres looked at usage of our tell-a-friend program in relation to almost any conceivable feature usage or user characteristics. Time since signing up is the most important factor to consider.

Pipedrive time to refer

The biggest volume of invites, both successful and unsuccessful, are sent out during the first couple of days since signing up. Which makes perfect sense because users are still in the discovery phase and learning about any referral programs in the process.

Which would mean that there will never be a better time to set up some messaging and triggers around the referral program.

There is another peak around day 30 for Pipedrive that coincides with the end of the trial period for must users. I’m 99% confident this is not organic and is caused by us encouraging triallists to visit the billing page where we present information about our tell-a-friend program among other things.

Bonus factoid: the probability that an invite is successfully accepted increases with each new invite the company/user has sent. That is, the more invites someone sends, the higher the probability of success, or vice versa.

What about the rest of the iceberg, or “true” word-of-mouth?

Any referral programs are usually just the tip of the iceberg and there are magnitudes more old-fashioned people-to-people referring going on. The above was data from Pipedrive’s referral program. Is the same true in the true “organic” word of mouth?

Potentially. I ran a study some years back and asked a sample of 291 Pipedrive users when would they be most likely to recommend the software. They claimed that this is not during the first days but during the first couple of months. Which may or not be true. We might study this next, so there may be a sequel to this post.


A hundred years ago products and services spread because they were good, not because they were marketed well. Focusing on referrals is not only efficient and effective, it’s also a step towards these olden golden days where we work on earning recommendations, not “hacks”.

PS. Pipedrive is growing fast and we’re hiring. You can see openings our jobs page and we’ll be adding new ones soon. If you would like to work with me/us, get in touch.

10 highly practical startup marketing tips

10 traffic sign

Sounds like clickbait, right? A “listicle”, questionable facts loosely stitched together only to get you to visit. But what this really is is ten solid, if I say so myself, marketing tips based on almost a decade of technology marketing.

I wrote them down because each of them has proven valuable in conversations with people that are marketing startups in one way or another. Here they are, in no particular order.

#1. Talk to lots of customers in a short period of time.

Talk to customers” is the piece of advice that has probably the lowest ratio of awareness to real usage ie. everyone knows it and no-one seems to do enough of it. Let me one-up this: speak to a couple of dozen of customers in a short time at least once when you start working with a new company or customer group.

I spoke to nearly 40 customers in 3 weeks for an hour each about 1,5 years ago as part of a customer persona exercise and while the result was useful, the process of having gone through this was even more useful. This dramatically increased my ability to create connections between Pipedrive’s offering and our customers. I can now relate new features we announce to specific places in the day-to-day of customers. When I look at product usage stats or market research slides, particular pieces of these conversations spring to mind and help to bring data to life. (There was also the practical added benefit of finding three really insightful case studies for our blog.)

And here’s a practical tip. The answer to the question how many customers should I talk to is: keep talking to more customers until the stories you hear back start to resemble each other. If you have a homogenous user base the right number may be 10, but in most cases it’s safe to aim for 25 or so.

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From hand to hand combat to a Bond villain – how you evolve as a startup marketer

I’ve worn so many different marketing hats it’s surprising I have any hair left. But heading marketing of Pipedrive from zero to more than 30,000 paying customers, and from writing copy for the first marketing site to managing a team of 15 on two continents, gave me a front row seat on how your role as a marketer evolves as the company grows, and the opportunities you will miss if your behaviour doesn’t match the phase company is in.

I’m not a fan of military doings but weirdly there is no better analogy to the evolution of marketer’s role than war. I must stress that this does not mean I treat customers/users as enemies – in fact, I’d like to think the opposite is true.

how you evolve as a marketer
This image will make more sense when you reach the end of the post. Alas, it won’t become any prettier to look at.

Stage 1. Hand to hand combat

Back in 2010 Pipedrive had an idea, a multi-skilled group of founders, one hired engineer, a lot of enthusiasm and … not much else.

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The Two Hedgehog Model, perfect for marketing early stage startups

One thing that doesn’t hold you back in startup marketing is the lack of options for models, frameworks and opinions on what to spend one’s time on. There’s Dave McClure’s AARRR model. The Bullseye framework. The “Throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” approach. The list goes on.

So why this post? If you have little data and time, as many early stage startups do, these models don’t help you focus on the 1-2 things that can make a difference. And so many spread themselves too thin between too many channels.

I think there’s a simpler better model for early stage startups. (It’s so simple in fact that you might already be using it and I was the last person on Earth to stumble upon in it.)

Two hedgehog marketing model
The Two Hedgehog marketing model, focusing on Recommendations and Findability

About a year ago I did a customer persona exercise for Pipedrive and spoke to about 35 customers for an hour during an intense two-week period. (Something I recommend any startup marketer to do). One of the slightly off-piste questions I asked was: how did you first hear about Pipedrive? Most people replied “from a friend or colleague” and other said they searched the hell out of the internets. I dutifully marked down the answers and continued my persona work.

Only some months later it hit me. What I had gotten from those good people was not just an idea of who Pipedrive’s customers were but a highly practical marketing model.

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Keyword Research for Startups – or One of the Two Things Every Content Marketer Should Do

Keyword research. These two words sound about as sexy as an empty milk carton in a windy car park. But, unlike said piece of packaging, keyword research is insanely useful. It  helps to identify big content marketing wins without relying on trial and error only.

And the good news is that on early stage startup scale it relatively simple and quick to do.

Keyword research is based on 2nd grade mathematics. The more monthly searches a keyword has, the better. The less competing blog posts and pages are about the same topic the better. And finally, the more relevant that keyword is to the service or product you want to promote, the better.

High number of monthly searches + low competition + high relevancy = content you should be creating.

Let me give you a Pipedrive example here. Which one of the following 4 keywords would you start producing content for?

Keyword volume

“customer relationship management” sounds like a huge opportunity, and “sales pipeline report” kind of pointless, but it might be a mistake to start by creating content for the former and dismissing the latter.

Here are the same keywords with some additional information:

Keyword volume full example

You’ll notice that “sales pipeline report” and “sales quotes” appear to be less difficult/ competitive terms. But more importantly, when you factor in relevancy to what you offer, the picture changes completely.

While “customer relationship management” is a popular search term, people who type it into Google have very different motivations. It probably includes business students doing some homework, secretaries trying to decipher whether the email they just received should be deleted or forwarded, my mom trying to understand what does the company I work for really do, and many others. Very few of them are CEO’s thinking “I should probably get a new sales tool so let me google the dry conceptual term for the thing my team does every day”.

On the other hand, if you’re searching for “sales pipeline report” and I’m offering sales pipeline software with built-in reporting (see what I did there?) you’re kind of looking for me. I really want to reach you and the 89 other monthly searchers that are putting up your hand.

And if you put the three things together, it becomes evident that more often than not you shouldn’t probably focus on chasing high-volume generic keywords but the less popular and more relevant ones. Long tail keywords, as they’re called.

This is especially true if you’re an early stage startup with a relatively new and content-light site. It’s very unlikely you’ll start ranking for popular keywords in your niche before you run out of money. For a fresh startup 30 qualified visitors in 1-2 months is much better than 1000 visitors in a year.

Humble beginnings of Pipedrive content and SEO efforts

With Pipedrive we started with a blank sheet, zero search traffic and, characteristically for a startup, no money. Here’s what Hubspot’s now shelved tool called Website Grader (its current incarnation is Marketing Grader) showed me:

website grader

This is not a screen shot cut off at the wrong place. We really did rank for no keywords at all.

I drooled over keywords like “crm software” or “best sales tools” but a few evenings of reading the Moz blog and other resources quickly taught me that going after them wouldn’t be the best possible start. I decided to tackle the very long tail term “sales pipeline management software” first and some weeks later we were on the first page of Google. Even more importantly we had people coming to the site and signing up. I didn’t know I was doing keyword research at the time, but it worked and so we moved on to trickier keywords.

Here’s the Website Grader report a couple of months later:

website grader 2 months later

Today Pipedrive ranks for many more than the 5 keywords shown above. Our small and growing team has put a lot of effort into producing and promoting content, finding linking opportunities and improving our landing pages to get there. Effort that has been pleasantly productive thanks to the keyword research we have done on a regular basis.

Guess that was enough background. So how do you do keyword research?

Step 1. Compile a mega list of search terms that are even remotely relevant to what you do

The first step is to map all keywords people may be searching for when it comes to your domain expertise. In Pipedrive’s case this is:

  1. keywords that directly describe what we do (eg. “sales crm” or “sales pipeline tool”)
  2. keywords which kind of describe what we do or describe part of what we do (eg. “sales dashboard” or “sales tracking”)
  3. keywords that people use when they have problem related to the thing you do (eg. “how to manage sales” or “how to define sales stages”)
  4. things only vaguely related to what you do (eg. “best sales books”)

Possible sources for compiling your keyword mega list:

  • keywords that are driving traffic to you, free and paid that you can see in Google Analytics.
  • keywords that are driving traffic to your competitors. I use SEMRush but SimilarWeb can also give you that.
  • search queries Google suggest and that you can see when you type in a word and a letter … and refrain from pressing Enter. For example in Pipedrive’s case “crm h…” gives this list

google autosuggest“Crm (for) healthcare” looks like a solid long tail keyword. On the other hand, “crm hobbies” are two words I’ve never seen next to each other, so it’s either a great or a terrible idea to write content for it.

  • keyword tools like and Google Keyword Planner
  • words that people search once they’ve hit your site
  • words that people use when they write to your support, comment on your blog, etc.
  • last but not least, brainstorming

Step 2. Estimate search volume

Step 3. Estimate keyword difficulty

I’ve lumped in the next two steps because you can get this data from the same source, at least partially. And this resource is Google’s Keyword Planner.

Now, because Google’s tool only gives you difficulty in Adwords context, I also get keyword difficulty from Moz and calculate a weighed difficulty based on these two sources.

Please note you can export a neat cvs file for all keywords from Keyword Planner in the end that lists search volume as well as keyword difficulty as Adwords team sees it.

Step 4. Assess relevancy, calculate Total Opportunity Score

The final step is the easiest and also the most important. Using any data you have about keyword history and and common sense (invaluable resource!) you add an index of relevancy. You’ll then get something I call Total Opportunity Score for each keyword you have thought of at that stage. 

Here’s a basic Google Spreadsheet template I’m using to do keyword research. Please note that  it can and should include more data fields such as current ranking in search results and the same for your most important competitor(s).

How to apply keyword research

It’s worth pointing out that completing this keyword research exercise doesn’t give you the authoritative answer on what content you should create, and in which order. If your content resources are limited, you’ll want to sense check and manually pick the keywords and topics you want to double down on. This way you can make sure you have a healthy mix of  relevant long tail keywords that can give you an almost guaranteed result within a reasonable time frame and higher volume generic terms that take more time to start ranking for, but can potentially be big home runs.

And finally, keyword research is not a “set and forget” type of things. Rankings and search trends change, new competitors and technologies arrive all the time. I don’t know what the consensus is on how often this should be done but I’d say at least once per year.

Happy keyword research. I’ll follow this up with a post about the other thing/process every content marketer should do.

PS. We’re growing our marketing team at Pipedrive (looking for Head of Content/SEO, Director of Performance Marketing, a copywriter, Designer / Creative Director, multimedia/video producer, a “sales whisperer” and a few others) so if you’d like to talk about marketing with me more often, get in touch.

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What happens when a post hits #1 on Hacker News? Here are my stats

My latest post about the Pipedrive story to 10,000 customers reached the top spot on Hacker News for a couple of hours. Here’s what followed numbers-wise.

The Hacker News effect

The post has been seen by 20,038 unique visitors to date, and counting. Counting in the sense that for nearly 3 weeks now, blog traffic has been 5-10 times greater than before.

I’m pleasantly surprised Hacker News traffic didn’t immediately die down and the site has sent a couple of dozen visitors per day ever since the post got published. Direct source has held up even better – I guess the link is making second and third rounds in various IM apps and gets found many an over-flooded inboxes.

Long tail traffic sources

Hacker News drove about 11,000 readers (47%) all in all, and that got many snowballs rolling. A further 35% of people got the link via IM or email aka “Direct”. 8% discovered my post via Twitter. The remaining 10% was split between more than 60 referrers where the “Hacker News effect” had trickled down; anything from mailing lists to RSS/”read later” apps to aggregator sites.

Traffic sources

More not-so-useful stats: according to SharedCount the post received 307 tweets, 47 FB shares, 184 LinkedIn interactions and 6 +1’s (the latter counts for appr. 70% of all Google+ users). So every tweet got me 6 readers and every FB share 2 readers. (Which cements my suspicion that optimizing for social shares is not very useful).

I also cross-posted to Medium some days later in spirit of experimenting, and several hundred more people have read the post there. I’m speculating that the total reach would have been bigger if I had skipped publishing on my blog and shared the Medium link on HackerNews as it’s a more trustworthy as well as faster site.

My medium stats

Any material benefits from the post? I hear you ask. Yes, nearly 2,900 people clicked through to and 48 have created a free trial account. I’ve also received a ton of positive feedback, a job offer, many hello’s from people I hadn’t talked to for a while and that feeling you get when your writing seems to resonate.

Bonus track. The “tricks” I used to rise to the top of Hacker News

I added the post to HN myself and pasted the link to 5 people. One of them turned out not to have an account, but he created one and upvoted nevertheless. Another (thanks, Jüri) replied back to me that upvoting a direct link is not kosher and that any upvotes should come via newest. (All this proves I’m a master content promoter.) Though I guess the  timing – noon’ish time in Europe, and it was deliberate – worked well because it’s probably more difficult to stand out once US starts adding their hacker-newsworthy links. Other than that I tweeted the post a couple of times and shared it on LinkedIn.

Pouring my heart into this post on a 10-hour flight and several evenings also helped. Guess there still is no better way to get traffic than to create decent content.

Discussion on Hacker News

How to get from 0 to 10,000 paying customers in SaaS

Short answer: great product, some marketing and a bit of luck. These things got Pipedrive to pass the 10,000 paying customers milestone earlier in the year. The longer answer is below. This is the post I would have liked to read back in 2010 when I had started working with Pipedrive founders. And I thought I’d get it out of the system as we change gears to target getting to the 100,000 paying customers mark.

Get tailwinds working for you – build a great product (with great support)

Pipedrive dashboard

Pipedrive could have grown to 10,000 paying customers without any marketing: by describing it as “it’s a piece of sales software” on an uncrawlable site without any design, without onboarding emails, without press mentions, without a single ad and blog post.

The main thing that got Pipedrive to first 100, 1000 and 10000 customers was having a great product. Our “inventory” back in December 2010 was: founders having a very good understanding of the pain in sales software, an MVP-level product used by 20 or so companies, plenty of ambition and no marketing budget. This wasn’t a lot, but because this included the critical component of having a product that solved a problem, it was enough.

There were two additional things that I’m lumping together under “great product” here: design and support. Both have earned positive feedback and social media shout outs from customers over the years. And I know that support is a completely separate topic but hey, this is a post from a marketing guy.

All in all, I’m not a sailor but marketing a great product is a lot like sailing with good tailwinds. You pick the best course, trim and continue adding sails and keep on adding engines that increase the speed (Add engines to a sailboat? Told you I was not a sailor). Whereas a mediocre product gets you a  motor boat that requires constant fuelling.

Get your product in the hands of the right people

As Pipedrive CEO Timo Rein has explained, having a great product and happy customers in the Baltics & Nordics wasn’t enough to get the company growing. It was only after Pipedrive founders had networked and hustled in Bay Area for months, graduated from Angelpad and expanded their early adopter reach with an Appsumo promotion that customers started to show up in any meaningful numbers. Call it an influencer strategy, opinion leader marketing or something else, you need to find a way to reach the people who matter in your industry.  And more often than not, this means doing things that don’t scale.

Invest more time in copywriting and brand than seems reasonable

Back in the end of 2010 we had a product that people in our immediate network found increasingly useful. We didn’t have a budget and company founders were running out of friends, clients and acquaintances to pitch Pipedrive to. We needed to start “marketing” as we were getting ready for a public beta launch.

Not having a budget forced us to look for ways to get the word out for free. One of the few things we could definitely afford was … words. More specifically, words we were planning to put into various kinds of emails and in-app notifications.

As makers of sales software we didn’t have to look very far. I wrote all emails as if coming from a slightly over-eager sales manager with some sense of humour and a questionable amount of taste.

For example, when you receive and activity reminder from Piperive, here’s what it might say in the footer


“Whether you think that you can or you can’t, there’s usually some wiseass that makes a motivational quote out of it.”

These quotes get tweeted more often than most automated emails. We also invested more time than is ‘practical’ into onboarding emails which have earned us tweets, email replies, write-ups in blogs and paying customers. So although we’ve invested more time into writing and tweaking these emails than is rational, the ROI on them is enormous. (If you’d like more examples, sign up to a free Pipedrive trial.)

It’s worth pointing out that not everyone likes Pipedrive’s tone of voice. But at least people notice, which is a good sign in communication.

Pipedrive humor quote

Customer comment about Pipedrive in NPS study reply.

Find platforms (before others do)

During 2011 Pipedrive got roughly 1/3 of new signups from Google’s Chrome Webstore. Not bad for the little amount of work required for the marketplace listing back then. As most competitors were slower to appear there, we enjoyed a period of very low competition there and so Chrome Webstore made a huge difference to the growth of the company at that stage.

Today the importance of Chrome Webstore has significantly decreased both in absolute and relative terms, but almost always there are new emerging platforms you can use to boost growth. In 2012-2013 it was very valuable to be listed on GetApp. While the volume was low it drove highly relevant traffic at high-ROI rates. It’s worth keeping an eye on and testing emerging marketplaces and directories. Which neatly leads me to the next thing that helped Pipedrive grow to first 10,000 paying customers.

Treat your marketing budget as an investment portfolio

Pipedrive has been managing marketing resources the way investment portfolios are managed. When you’re managing an investment portfolio for the long term and when you want to higher than average returns you want to find good balance between safe bets and experimenting with high-leverage bets that may flop or return money 100x.

In startup terms this means directing most of your resources to scaling things that work and following best practices. And depending on the business and stage you are in, setting 20-50% of resources aside for to testing new channels and “throwing spaghetti on the wall”.

Here’s an example of one of Pipedrive’s failed experiments: Sales Calculators has gotten Pipedrive about 2 new paying customers in about 3 years.  Sales Pipeline Academy on the other hand has worked reasonably well. And we’re still working on finding that web tool or piece of content that returns money 1000x.

It’s worth pointing out that because time = money this principle works equally well for allocating your budget and the time of your marketers and developers. More here.

Invest in content and SEO (and email)

In the race boat metaphor content marketing and SEO has been one of the larger sails, contributing a double-digit percentage of Pipedrive’s speed. In large part this is because we’ve been doing inbound marketing longer than working with other channels. And this in turn is due to the fact that producing content was one of the few things we could afford when we started out.

SEO is a very broad topic and there are great resources out there for learning the strategies and tricks. So there’s just one thing I’d suggest to everyone  – investing in keyword research as early as possible, and re-visiting it regularly. This doesn’t need to be complex – all you need to know is what keywords are popular and/or relevant in your domain and how difficult it is to get on Google’s first page with these. There are some free or cheap keyword research tools and methodologies out there, I’ve found that a combination of Google’s own Keyword Planner and search “autosuggest”, Moz and SEMRush does the trick on startup scale.

The return on keyword research is massive. Not only you’ll learn about the language you need to be using to drive traffic to your target group, you’ll gain valuable insight into whether you have a well-defined target audience at all. You’ll also probably discover some low-hanging fruit for landing pages or blog posts that will get you your first relevant organic search traffic. Google “how to build a sales pipeline” for an example of a long tail phrase that was easy to start ranking for.

And of course, if you’re going the content route start building a mailing list as early as possible. Work acquaintances, paying customers, freeloaders, churned customers, blog visitors, expired trial users – each of them can help you amplify that killer post you will write 3 years down the line. Unless you have a product that is inherently social such as Buffer, email is the best channel to help great content spread.

Find out your Life-Time-Value (LTV) per channel to know what to scale

Pipedrive started experimenting with a 500€ per month Adwords budget as early as there was a spare 500€ available. Despite having to turn off all paid advertising during some turbulent patches, by the time we had secured funding we had enough data to conclude that some keywords groups returned money in 3-4 months. We also learned that others that seemed equally attractive on cost-per-signup basis performed 2-3 times worse due to lower conversion to paid and/or higher churn.

Knowing what the LTV is from different channels and different ad groups taught us to scale some keyword groups and look beyond English language. This encouraged us to first start testing and now scaling our PPC efforts in countries such as Mexico, Russia and Brazil. Going back to the sailing analogy, this has added the Pipedrive race boat an additional little sail to trim.

Decide what you’re NOT going to do 

There was a time when I was trying to get company founders more active on social media. And to my great surprise I discovered it’s absolutely fine to ignore channels and techniques that don’t have a good fit for your company or audience. PR is another example of a channel we tried to get working and while there were some wins, the role of PR and social in getting to first 10000 customers was tiny. Same goes for guest posting, integrations, AB testing, onboarding emails, viral videos, tell-a-friend program optimization and many other things.

So the good news is that there’s no need to work on lots and lots of things. In fact it’s much better to decide which marketing channels and tactics to go “all in” with, to borrow a poker term, and which ones to park until you have more team members and/or money.

Localize – and make sure to “light the fuse”

Pipedrive translated the app and website to Spanish, German, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, French and Estonian pretty early on. While this worked well, it’s worth pointing out that it worked significantly better in some countries. Localization without communicating it locally is like adding gunpowder without lighting the fuse. For example, a prominent Brazilian blog mentioned Pipedrive in a post early on, and this in combination with a localized app and website sparked growth. Where we failed to get local coverage, the impact of localization was more modest.

Also, talk to people smarter than yourself

I tend to read a lot of books and startup / marketing blogs. Reading is useful but over the years I’ve discovered I get more out of 1 hour of talking to a fellow startup marketer than 10 hours of reading (reasonably well filtered) marketing blogs.

On that, it’s worth pointing out that almost everything described here was a team effort, mostly involving people from other teams while yours truly was the only marketer. And that during some point from 0 to 10,000 customers it’s also a good idea to start assembling a proper marketing team. Pipedrive is currently looking for a Digital Marketing Manager and Web Analyst, by the way…

Teaser: How to get to 100,000 customers coming (relatively) soon

Next up: a post about getting to 100,000 paying customers. It is difficult to say what date exactly and what the content will be, but I’m sure that apart from having a great product, very few things described here will still be relevant at the next milestone. What got Pipedrive to 10,000 customers is very different than the things necessary in the next phase. It involves more user insights and data, more processes, different channels and a shit ton of other things (it may even mean making email notifications less funny…). I can’t wait to read it.

Join the discussion on Hacker News

Everyday work humour

The thing with everyday work humour is that it doesn’t happen every day. Work mate James made me chuckle so hard recently I couldn’t help but share a recent exchange of emails.


I’m a bit of a word geek so when you sign up to a trial of Pipedrive and don’t log in for a couple of days we send the following email:

Subject: Can we help?

Every time someone signs up to Pipedrive and doesn’t immediately fall in love with it, our support lead Martin gets a little anxious. He refreshes the dashboard of our analytics widget every fifteen minutes and wants to give this user a call to ask whether everything is ok.

It’s been 3 days since you signed up to try Pipedrive (thank you once again!) and Martin’s analytics widget tells him you haven’t used the software too much. Did we not live up to your expectations? Any technical issues? Would you like help with getting started? Please reply to this email with any questions, comments or concerns.

We recommend adding a couple of deals, or importing your own data to get a sense of how Pipedrive can help you get more clarity over your sales results.

PS. Martin says hi.

Not punchline-funny but does the trick. This email has gotten a good amount of tweets, positive responses and, most importantly, new customers.

But one day we received the following reply:

customer responseWhat do you do? Get offended? Explain to customer there might have been humour involved? Compliment customer on his (highly unlikely but possible) super dry taste of the funny? Here’s what James replied:

james replied


4 Things That Are Broken with Internet Marketing Today – A Classic Example [Updated 24/2]

Update 24/2 : I got fooled. This post is about a Facebook ad for a nightclub. I kept seeing the ads and I examined the link later – it doesn’t link to Club Hollywood as one would expect but to a shady dating site. I wouldn’t expect meeting the love of your life on that site..

Rest of the post makes sense even with this ad being an example of a scam, not of a social media campaign, so I’m leaving it up.


I came across the following Facebook ad some days ago. At first glance, why make a fuss? People come across 3000+ marketing messages every day, there are many worse than this.

Club Hollywood Ad

But at closer look this ad is symptomatic of internet marketing in general. There are four five things fundamentally broken with this ad:


1. Bad targeting

Facebook knows my age (mid-30’s), but I haven’t specified things like my hometown and  relationship status. I haven’t “liked” the club’s Page. Surely an ad for a mainstream meat market vaguely in my geographic area, in English, is not a good use of anyone’s ad budget and my Facebook feed.

2. Zero authenticity

You’d think a nightclub would use a photo of a “local beautiful woman” here, perhaps even shot on one of their advertised club nights.

Not quite. When you do an image search on Google with that image you learn it’s someone called Mechelle Montes, and you learn that from a forum where guys with an IQ of a toaster are discussing MILF photos anonymously.

Local Beautiful Woman?

[Addition 24/2: Given the scam context, the photo makes perfect sense]

3. Irrelevant landing pages

If you click through you end up on a generic homepage which is sub-optimal to say the least. A hopeful clicker will find no reference to local singles there.

[Addition 24/2: I am almost sure I clicked through to the landing page when I first noticed the ad but I guess I didn’t. Lesson learned: will click on shady sites more often in the future]

4. Poor grammar

… is poor form, no matter what the language.

So this harmless nightclub ad is a caricature of internet marketing. We’re in a hurry and often spending money that’s not coming from our own pockets. So we cut corners on targeting, steal images or – on a good day – use tried and tested stock photos and treat copy as an afterthought. I, too have made these mistakes. (With the exception of featuring Ms Montes on my ads).

Decent targeting, some level of authenticity, reasonable landing pages and grammatically sound copy are not rocket science. They save marketing dollars and make internet a tiny bit better. How about let’s get them right more often?