Building a $2m ARR SAAS business that supports over 29,500 businesses
I am Sreedhar Ambati, Founder & CEO of EngageBay, an All-in-One marketing, sales, and support software.
EngageBay helps startups and small businesses do all their online marketing, sales, and support from just one piece of software. It eliminates the need for multiple tools, integrations, expensive installations, and maintenance.
With EngageBay, businesses can enhance their marketing, sales, and support processes with the following features & functionalities:
We started developing the product in 2017 and launched a public release in 2018. From then on, we have been growing over 4.5x over the last 2 years and currently, we are approximately doing $1.5-2 million ARR and supporting over 29,500+ growing companies around the world.
We are now a team of 20 people. Our company headquarters is in Mountain View, CA and the development center is based out of Hyderabad, India.
I am a serial entrepreneur and have been associated with startups for over a decade now. I have also started angel investing in 2017 and joined a small network of other startup founders based out of Hyderabad, India. We identify good startups and provide the much required angel funding, mentorship and assistance to budding entrepreneurs locally.
The opportunity: The customer buying patterns have clearly changed over the years. The Internet has played a huge role in this. Customers now want to research about the product/service themselves, read up blogs and reviews (inbound marketing), hear opinions of other existing customers (social media channels) even before asking the sales guy for help.
These changes in buyer patterns means the businesses now need to ensure that their customers receive an amazing brand experience across all the departments (marketing, sales and support) in order to keep customers happy and grow business.
Marketing, sales and support can no longer operate in silos. Period.
Keeping existing customers super happy is now as important as marketing to strangers and converting them to customers. It works as a whole.
However, to deliver such integrated and holistic customer experience requires an integrated marketing, sales and support solution – one which can be used across the organization where the data flows freely between various departments. In other words, aligning marketing, sales and support around a single view of the customer is the need of the day.
Such alignment also brings in additional benefits like – uniform user interface, smooth operations with no data leaks, one place for customer data rather than spread everywhere across dozens of systems, well defined goals and metrics, in-depth reporting across teams, team management, reduced learning time and of course reduced expenses.
The closest All-in-One system I found was HubSpot. It was a great tool and ticked all the needs of a small business. But it was super duper expensive and unaffordable, especially for startups or small businesses which typically have very limited budgets. It almost costs $10-12k just to get started let alone the scaling costs which grow with additional customers.
In my interactions with the startup founders, I saw a big need for an affordable integrated All-in-One tool, a single tool which streamlines all the marketing, sales and support operations and still be affordable for any small business owner.
Since there was nothing that fitted the bill, we decided to build our own platform EngageBay and price at less than $1 a day which makes it super affordable for business of any kind.
When I proposed this idea to team members who were working with me at earlier startups, they were excited too and saw the immense potential.
Since the team already had experience building successful SaaS products before, we set out to define goals and milestones and started off with the execution.
We first built the marketing piece of the software and launched on Product Hunt in 2017. We slowly started building our audience from there.
After the Product Hunt launch, we took the feedback from our early customers and polished the product. We also added a few missing features that the customers had asked.
We then offered a lifetime deal in late 2018 to get some more early customers who could use our system in real-time and help it grow. We priced at a reasonable $99 for a lifetime subscription of our software. That got us around 900-950 customers and got us some revenue into the system.
Word of mouth started spreading and we also started to spend on content marketing, Google and Bing ads, social media engagement (Facebook, Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn), and started growing further.
We kept growing in 2019 working on new features, taking customer feedback, and iterating the product. We were adding paid customers but the growth was slow. We bootstrapped all along and hence were careful to look at the spend and were very ROI-oriented.
We have grown considerably in 2020. Here are some growth stats.
Growth in 2020 primarily came from new customers acquired mainly via channels such as content marketing, SEO, influencer outreach, brand outreach. However, we were also super concerned about controlling churn from the start. From our past experience with SaaS companies, we realized churn is the single most worry for any SaaS company selling to small businesses.
When the pandemic hit, churn increased. A lot of small businesses were looking to save every penny. We reached out to such customers and offered them to pause the bill for 6 months. We were able to control a lot of churn.
I would have reduced the development time for perfecting the MVP and launched it earlier and iterated faster.
Initially, we relied heavily on part-time employees but later realised that we cannot create a successful startup just with them. Milestones were getting delayed and other plans were falling off because of relying too much on part-time employees. We realised we need committed people who spend all their time on this product and nothing short of it is unacceptable for a successful startup. When the whole team joined us full-time, things kept happening a lot faster and the growth came with it.
Invested in content development a lot earlier (while the product is being developed parallelly). Start investing in your content assets from day 1. It takes time to build the website domain authority and gain the confidence of customers.
Experiment heavily and experiment with all the channels with limited budgets to see what works for your product. Not all channels are created equal. Depending on your product/service, one may work better than others. You just need a couple of channels to see some solid traction. The sooner you figure out the channel, the better it is for growth.
Data is the new gold – website metrics, signups, usage, churn. Every startup should look at the data seriously and use it to draw insights and take decisions.
We use our own software EngageBay to run our daily marketing, sales, and support operations 🙂
Few people/companies we regularly follow and admire – Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot), Intercom team, Marc Andreessen (a16z), Jason Lemkin (SaaStr).
We also follow Neil Patel’s blog on SEO and Digital marketing. We have worked closely with most digital marketing influencers from the start. We have compiled a huge collection of quotes that helped us break the ice with the influencers. We then did video interviews and our product reviews.
We believe influencer marketing will be a top channel for growth for us.
Great books every entrepreneur should read: