📂 The First $1k MRR (& Beyond): Cold Email Studio

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This is The First $1k MRR (& Beyond), a series about how founders got traction for their startups, told by the founders themselves.

Product: Cold Email Studio

Website: https://coldemail.studio

Founder(s): Andrew Pierno

Launched: November 2020

Current MRR range: $10k – $100k

What does Cold Email Studio do?

Cold Email Studio does cold email as a service. It’s a productized service for VC backed startups looking to scale their outbound cold email efforts. We either take over the entire top-of-funnel for founders or help fill out the top-of-funnel so highly paid sales people can focus on qualified leads as opposed to lead gen.

How did you get the first $1k MRR for Cold Email Studio?

There were 3 things that existed before I started trying to sell the product. The landing page, the domain, and our hook (which hasn’t changed) which is “cold email as a service”.

I made all of this copy up based on some previous experience and then created a short loom video showing me scrolling through the home page talking about the service.

Here is the exact landing page I built in about two hours.

Notice the tacky self quote… it’s somewhat compelling, but still. I didn’t have anyone to quote and so quoted myself on why I thought the service should exist 🤣.

Now that I had a “product” (again, just a landing page) I needed to figure out who to target. There was a recent list of YC companies (check out https://ycdb.co) that had just come out and so I thought, hey, 'they would be a good market for this, why don’t I try them first'. I easily grabbed 100 or so founders and just individually messaged them with a very straight forward email. I didn’t even use a tool, just gmail, and copy-paste.

I sent out 10 of these and in the first 30 minutes, I had 2 meetings booked. Yes it was for a free offer, but at least I could get people interested via cold email. Never in my life had I felt such a strong product-market fit. To this day, this service reminds me what real product market fit feels like. You know it when you have it. If it’s not abundantly clear that customers are desperate for your solution, you ain’t there yet.

P.S. I still had to hop on the phone and convince them I was the real deal.

In hindsight, this offer was compelling. There was some urgency (choosing 4 out of 10 companies), and they had nothing to lose by saying yes.

In two weeks I had a full roster of people I was performing the service for (for free). That was it. I knew I had something within two weeks. It had the right message to the right audience at the right time. Most of which was luck. Of course I had to deliver on the service (and I did a bang up job for these first customers!).

After the initial free offers, I used the same list (YC founders) and instead of doing it for free, I started charging $500, then $1,000, then $1,500. Same exact pitch, just different price. Each time I increased the price, I grandfathered in older customers. We're still in that process of raising prices and still don't have much price objection. Eventually, each customer was put on a stripe subscription to auto-renew and they were effectively buying “credits” for the number of people we’d send out to on a monthly basis.

I finally put the sequence into a tool called MixMax to enable some better metrics on our outbound campaign performance.

If your outbound campaigns don’t have these crazy high open + response rates, don’t worry, out of the 3 companies I’ve bootstrapped passed $25k MRR, none of the others even came close to this!

We rode this process of emailing YC founders with this exact email offering (just changing the prices) to $10k MRR.

How have you scaled Cold Email Studio beyond $1k MRR?

  1. Continue to send cold emails (pausing only when we hit max capacity)
  2. Started getting referrals from other YC companies. (we crushed it for several of them and brought in large customers)
  3. We were somehow featured in a course on cold emailing
  4. Had one post on Indie Hackers go semi-viral that led to a Failory interview that also got us customers.

YC is an insular group. But once you’re kind of “inner circle”, it’s just a bunch of founders down to help each other. One company in particular (unprompted by me) added Cold Email Studio to BookFace (YC’s internal group) and wrote a nice review about us. We started getting referrals like crazy. To the point where we had to stop taking new people on and staggering their start dates.

We’re now currently at $30k MRR though sometimes in a month we can collect up to $50k with quarterly subscriptions. 70% of our book of business consists of YC companies. Most of those were referred to us by another YC founder. At this point, we have so many YC logos on our site, we can almost guarantee a new YC customer can chat with someone they know or have heard of. It’s a blessing and a curse, if we do well the referrals keep coming, but if we don’t perform, our whole golden goose could be at risk.

I still consider us as having never done any marketing. Sure we’ve done a ton of outbound, but I think we can still double from here just using the channel we know best … cold email!

For the record, we’ve done like 100 campaigns now and I can say for a fact that cold email can still lead to sales. It’s a low response channel, but if it’s not part of your mix, you’re missing out.

p.s. do you want 2023 to be your best year of growth yet? Let's make that ARR chart go up and to the right. Check out the Swipe Files membership →

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