OutboundEngine, the platform enabling independent professionals to nurture their customer relationships through automated, customized email and social media services, emerged from stealth mode today and announced it had closed a $1.6 million Series A investment round from top tier investors. One of the most sought-after investors in the valley right now is Mike Maples, Jr. and his firm Floodgate, which has deep ties to Austin. Austin Ventures and Silverton Partners also participated, which are the two top tier venture firms in Austin. Joshua Baer, noted expert in email marketing and Capital Factory founder, also participated in this round of funding.
Incorporating elements of marketing automation, social media, email and creative content, OutboundEngine looks beyond the do-it-yourself tools available to those types of businesses and offers effective do-it-for-you solutions, with industry-specific content and marketing calendars, and customized, relevant emails and social elements.
“Small businesses want to look awesome to their clients any way they can, including the opportunity to harness digital innovations in marketing automation and social networking,” said Mike Maples Jr., managing partner at Floodgate. “Outbound Engine provides a breakthrough approach for people who want to amplify their client relationships without requiring them to become IT experts. We think they are a great example of the trend toward empowering small business with powerful digital capabilities without requiring them to build IT departments.”
OutboundEngine, as a company, evolved from its original company, Promo Labs, which was founded in 2010 to provide SaaS sales and marketing tools to distributors of promotional products. The new company continues to build off of tools and resources Promo Labs developed for email and social media, but with the re-branding and re-launch, OutboundEngine will offer turnkey SaaS solutions for a wide variety of independent professionals who manage small-to-medium-sized businesses.
“While the number of DIY marketing tools continues to grow, the capacity for small businesses to effectively utilize those tools remains very low,” said OutboundEngine CEO Branndon Stewart. “We’re giving small businesses a proven way to grow their business and nurture their existing client relationships via email and social media without lifting a finger.”
According to Forrester Research, email marketing reached $1.7 billion as an industry in 2012, and marketing automation is booming, netting $3.2 billion in 2010. International Data Corporation (IDC) has projected the marketing automation market to reach $4.8 billion by 2015. Today, it’s almost expected that a small business will implement a DIY email service provider (like iContact, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Campaigner or GetResponse), and a small number utilize Facebook and Twitter, which are also do-it-yourself platforms. These platforms can be very effective — provided the business has the time and resources required to effectively do it on its own. However, working with outside partners to create content and roll out a marketing strategy can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, many independent professionals find nurturing their list of contacts — one of their most valuable resources — is a void in their marketing strategy.
OutboundEngine solves this problem in a cost-effective fashion. Using industry-specific content, highly branded email design, and relevant social elements that direct customers and prospects back to the business’ content, it allows businesses to build relationships with their contacts while combining automation and customization, and it gives those contacts content they value. These services address the needs of a huge number of professionals hungry for solutions.
“Social media tools have long been available for businesses to reach out to their customers, however, the ability to automate customer outreach in a personalized manner and on a consistent basis is a model that has not yet been tapped,” said Joshua Baer. “OutboundEngine has combined a SaaS platform with essentially a full service agency of professionals delivering customized content. This unique combination forges stronger customer relationships that enable independent professionals and SMBs to gain loyalty and grow revenues. When you build an ecosystem of talented engineers surrounded by a strong management team, its typically produces a strong product. OutboundEngine is in the right place at the right time – and I am pleased to be invested in such an innovative company.”
OutboundEngine will use this initial funding for technology investments, as well as expanding into select markets in 2013.