The life and death of DraftStudio, a cold email copywriting assistant

Learn about the creation and discontinuation of DraftStudio, a spintax generator. It was one of several SaaS bets made by Intro CRM as an agency.

We are officially discontinuing DraftStudio, a cold email copywriting assistant. DraftStudio helped re-write emails, generate spintax, and preview spintax for approval.

DraftStudio went into alpha in April 2023. We ended up with 59 users who used the product a total of 2,605 times. A little over a year later, we're shutting DraftStudio down. 

It was built on Glide, a low-code app builder. DraftStudio was one of several bets we'd placed in our previous life as a HubSpot and outbound sales agency. 

OutboundSync was the last, and most successful, SaaS product developed by Intro CRM. It was so successful that OutboundSync spun out into its own company and recently joined TinySeed, a B2B SaaS accelerator for bootstrapped companies.

Like OutboundSync, DraftStudio was born out of our agency work. It was built specifically for Smartlead and supported Smartlead's spintax formatting.

Why I built DraftStudio

The primary use case was saving myself time when shipping outbound campaigns for clients.

To give you an idea, you started an email with "Hey", it would generate permutations of that greeting (e.g. Hi, Hello, Hi there) that would be used in Smartlead.

The idea is that using more dynamic text improves email deliverability. And the more emails that land in the primary inbox, the better. But generating spintax manually is annoying.

Initial MVP/alpha release

We used Glide to provide some helpful things like saving favorites, copying spintax to your clipboard, and making it easier to use than ChatGPT's chat interface.

For the purposes of this blog post, I will categorize the MVP/alpha release as a ChatGPT wrapper product. Which means that it had a basic UI but the core function was to provide a front-end to ChatGPT prompts.

Thanks to Glide, the app loaded quickly, had a secure login, and had the basic features I wanted to build. Without hiring a developer. Here's what it looked like when we brought it to market:

The nice thing about Glide is that I was able to quickly build the concept and get it into the market.

This was possible thanks to the team over at LowCode Agency. While the product itself wasn't a breakout hit, we were able to get it into market and learn quickly. 

Adoption and traction

Initial users were acquired by organic LinkedIn posts and through my participation in several WhatsApp and Slack communities in the outbound sales space. 

Something about it did appeal to people. It even got featured by cold email expert Jed Mahrle in his Practical Prospecting newsletter. (Thanks, Jed!) 

The top 20% of users accounted for 89% of product utilization. You can see an entire distribution across the entire user base below.

DraftStudio product utilization

Within this overall utilization, you can see how each major feature was used by each user below:

DraftStudio feature adoptionHere's a pie chart with an aggregate look across the entire userbase:

DraftStudio feature utilization across users

While the product had thread major features (rewrite emails, generate spintax, preview spintax), it was the spintax feature that got the most traction. Generating spintax was the one feature I'd originally wanted the most, spent the most time building, and promoted the most. 

The rewrite feature numbers are inflated here as we tested different ways of doing this, including generating up to four variations of a single email, essentially overweighting the utilization number in these charts.

The preview feature was the weakest and something that needed a lot more work to get right. One way of doing this that I thought about was using a transactional email provider like SendGrid and sending copies of all those emails to the user to review. 

Top user feedback

Overall, DraftStudio was useful! It led to booked meetings and drove revenue.

I'm super grateful to everyone who took time to try the product, provide feedback, and use it for their campaigns. 

Top users were engaged, provided feedback, and were happy to share testimonials like the ones below.

"I'm currently preparing email copy and found your tool at the right time. The most useful feature for me is the ability to spin email text and then review it. It makes the whole process super fast. DraftStudio is part of my tech stack now :)"

"I've been getting a lot of value from using SpintaxBot so far. I'm happy to provide a testimonial."

"I tried DraftStudio with a sequence and it was amazing. It also improved copy quality.This will save a lot of time vs. manual work adding spintax, too."

Why DraftStudio didn't work

Like what will happen to many ChatGPT wrapper products, ChatGPT itself killed it. 

I always suspected DraftStudio wasn't enough to be a standalone product, let alone company, over the long-term. My main motivation in building it was building something I could use. And in this regard, it was successful. It saved me tons of time shipping campaigns.

For users, it was merely a nice to have. Just as many other potential users, the ones who didn't sign up, told me they didn't use spintax at all or used ChatGPT to generate unique enough emails that it wasn't required. 

I still think that there is a role for spintax. Deliverability data from Smartlead demonstrates that. And with Smartlead's direct ChatGPT interface, it still doesn't have to be manual. 

If you want to create bespoke spintax, I recommend using Smartlead's new built-in ChatGPT feature and taking advantage of prompt templates to save time. If you want to generate spintax programmatically, I recommend using Clay.

Thanks for reading

I spent many hours working on this product and it's strange to see that effort come to such a brief end.

Contrasting how quickly OutboundSync has taken off over a similar time period, I believe shutting down DraftStudio is the right call. We simply weren't that "pull" from the market. 

However I know that lessons learned here have already made OutboundSync better. I hope you found this post helpful as well. Thanks for reading.

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