🎯 How Attio built a shapeshifting product

The new-age challenger playbook

Read time: 4 minutes 41 seconds

Super excited for this one. For a number of reasons.

1. Attio is a happy sponsor of Strategy Breakdowns.

You’ve probably noticed over the past few weeks we’ve shared a bit about what makes them the most exciting startup in the CRM space today.

Lots of you have already started using the product. After today, it’ll probably be a lot more.

Attio is truly an engineering and design marvel, and not only is the solution an ideal fit for many of our readers, the product strategy is one that genuinely deserves its own essay.

When we started chatting about a full Strategy Breakdown on Attio, it felt like a no-brainer.

2. Strategy Breakdowns is a happy Attio customer.

Original plan: We wanted to get close to the product to experience their best-in-class onboarding, demo some key features, and really unpack Attio’s product strategy from the inside-out.

What ended up happening: We realised Attio is a perfect fit for managing our own sponsorship pipeline at Strategy Breakdowns. Now, we use it daily.

3. It’s our first ‘insider’-style Strategy Breakdown.

One of the drawbacks of analysing the strategies of extremely large, often publicly-traded, tech companies is that we are reliant on openly-available information to conduct our research.

This week, the team was lucky enough to sit down with founder and CEO Nick Sharp to nerd out on exactly how they are doing it.

Enjoy.

Tom

P.S. If your company’s strategy might make for an interesting Strategy Breakdowns essay, send us a reply and let’s collab!

How Attio built a shapeshifting CRM

Chess Move

The what: A TLDR explanation of the strategy

The powerful and intuitive CRM.

Everyone needs one. No one has one.

As a company choosing a CRM, you either:

  1. Choose a legacy platform that’s slow and expensive to manage, but will meet your complex needs as you scale, or

  2. Choose a challenger platform that’s simple and intuitive to get started, but you will inevitably outgrow its capabilities.

Simple enough for solo founders
+ powerful enough for enterprises
= the holy grail of CRM.

For Attio, this isn’t just a dream.

It’s their unique value proposition.

The best way to understand Attio is through a series of bets the company is making:

  • The most intuitive CRM with the fastest time-to-value wins.

  • A flexible data model is the only way to support the extreme customisation needs of today's businesses.

  • A product that grows with its customers retains them as they mature.

Boasting a contemporary architecture and an unmatched suite of modern features, Attio is a thought experiment that answers the question:

“What if you built a leading CRM from scratch 20+ years later?”

Nick Sharp

The early results are promising.

And they’ve raised over $30 million so far to accelerate their product-led growth.

💡

Strategy Playbook: Be simple for simple customers, and sophisticated for sophisticated customers.

Breakdown

The how: The strategic playbook boiled down to 3x key takeaways

1. Radically accelerate time-to-value

Onboarding to Attio as a new user is so frictionless and intuitive, it feels like logging into software you already use.

→ Sign in with your existing Gmail account

 → Answer 2 multi-choice questions about your intended use

→ Watch Attio magically create a populated CRM database, fully configured to your specific use case, with:

  • Every person / company you’ve ever emailed or had meetings with.

  • Every profile enriched with hundreds of data points around their website, social media, fundraising, revenue, employees etc.

  • Every record and interaction kept automatically up to date.

Wow moment #1.

It doesn’t take long to realise the data enrichment isn’t just for show - it instantly offers powerful utility out of the box.

You can quickly spin up reports, automations, and dynamically generated emails using any data point.

Each process is made even faster with templates and contextual recommendations.

This didn’t happen by chance according to Nick. He recalled: 

“We spent a lot of engineering effort in the early days enriching calendar and email history with third party data in a process that would accelerate time to value for end users.” 

Nick Sharp

Here’s a dashboard ranking our relative ‘Connection Strength’ with companies located in the US, with over 10k Twitter followers, grouped by estimated ARR.

This took around 100 seconds to make.

Wow moment #2.

In 3 minutes of onboarding, you’ve configured what would normally take 3 weeks.

In 3 hours of setting up dashboards, automations and workflows, you’ve saved yourself 3 months.

2. Win customers by design

There are 3 cohorts of CRM buyers:

  1. Customers without a CRM, who need to choose one

  2. Customers with a basic CRM, who have outgrown its limitations

  3. Customers with a legacy CRM, who are looking to modernise

Attio is rapidly expanding within all 3 cohorts simultaneously - a key driver being their extreme focus on designing the most thoughtful UX in market.

(For the product design nerds reading this - seriously, you need to spend a few minutes inside Attio. Thank us later.)

A few (light-mode and dark-mode) snapshots of Attio’s UX

Nick summarises Attio’s design philosophy

“We aim to make sure that the product is easy to use for customers that want it to be like that, but the power doesn't end, and it’s always obvious where you can find more.”

Nick Sharp

Category 1 - No CRM

Founders and new startups don’t have the time or need to configure a complex CRM.

Attio has zero learning curve because it’s thoughtfully designed to be “unapologetically software” - it leverages established conventions and patterns from tools they already use, to create an intuitive user experience over an unfamiliar one.

“If you’re a Google Sheets user or a Notion user, Attio is pretty much the only CRM that will work like those tools - it’s real-time, it loads quickly, and it works exactly like you’d expect”

Nick Sharp

Category 2 - Basic CRM

Businesses looking to upgrade CRMs have historically needed to trade-off usability with customisability.

They’d move to a legacy CRM to meet complex requirements, but grapple with archaic architectures designed 20 years ago.

With Attio, they get the simple, modern UX they resisted letting go of, whilst unlocking a dramatically richer feature set and the flexibility to support scale.

Category 3 - Legacy CRM

Legacy CRM customers are often hamstrung by lengthy integrations and workflows with steep learning curves.

Many hired consultancies to implement their CRM, but struggle to manage it after the engagement.

With a modern UX that makes sense to any end-user (not just admins or experts), Attio is notably easier to remodel, customise, and maintain.

3. Software created to be yours

The latest batch of hypergrowth b2b SaaS companies have evolved ‘product-led-growth’ into a new paradigm:

Customer-built growth: products that empower end-users to create their own solutions.

Unlike traditional vertical software which forces customers to conform to a specific way of working, “customer-built” tools let users build something that matches how they actually work.

Their design team challenges themselves to give “end-users the power to simply and quickly configure their tools so that they work perfectly for them.”

A product that fits your business. Not the other way around.

Attio does this in 3 ways:

  1. It’s built on top of a team’s existing data streams, so it comes tailored to your business out-of-the-box.

  2. Rather than shoe-horning users into opinionated processes, it automatically guides customers towards building user-defined workflows.

  3. It treats power-users as builders, offering them modern-day conveniences like real-time multiplayer collaboration, a command-K launcher, near-zero-latency search, and AI insights.

It’s clear within a few minutes of using Attio that they are totally unafraid of building the hard things.

Nick estimates:

 “We spend 50% of our time on really big bets that push the product forward, and the other 50% on things that will make our customers really happy today.”

Nick Sharp

It’s no surprise that so many solo founders and next-gen companies alike (including Modal, Replicate, and ElevenLabs) are adopting (and recommending) Attio as their CRM of choice.

Rabbit Hole

The where: 3x high-signal resources to learn more

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— Tom Alder and Alex McLelland

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