Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a chapter from “How to Get to $10 Million in ARR and Beyond” by Winning by Design.
As a start-up, the tech stack you choose is critical to supporting your company’s processes and growth. With so many products on the market, wading through the choices can be incredibly overwhelming. After all, there are thousands of technology solutions competing for your attention and budget, with more being launched almost every single day.
To help shepherd you through this process, we’ve put together some guidelines that will ensure you pick the right tech stack for your business at each stage of your business’s growth.
Finding the best tool stack your company’s stage of growth
When it comes to assembling the right tool stack, one size doesn’t fit all. Every business has different needs. That’s why there are so many tools out there with different capabilities and features. You need to consider where your company is on its growth journey and evaluate the market solutions that fit your particular phase. Below is a high-level overview of what you’ll need in each phase of your company’s growth.
Phase 1: Start-up
In the start-up phase you’ve only got a handful of sales reps, so you don’t want to bury them under too many sophisticated applications. Instead, do as much as you can with simple spreadsheets, and supplement that with just a couple of solid, hard-working tools.
Starting with Google G Suite will give you and your sales team cost-effective access to classic office productivity products. Once everyone’s familiar with how easy it is to share, edit, comment, and collaborate, you can start to introduce applications that either operate on top of, or integrate with, Google G Suite. These include tools that are often free (at least initially) such as:
- ZoomInfo will help you build the kind of high-quality database you’ll need over the next few years. It does so by providing reliable contact information for your target prospects based on the parameters of your choice. Meanwhile the company’s video conferencing tool, Zoom, makes it easy to conduct remote meetings via video conferencing.
- As more and more people start to visit your website, you can engage with those visitors by chatting with them. Consider using Drift (and the Drift bot) to quickly answer questions, book meetings, and gather insights.
- A trusted and reliable source of information, LinkedIn connects you with great personal contacts and serves as a valuable source of lead generation.
- Once you need to start doing a lot of scheduling and sending templated and scripted emails as your sales team gets off the ground, you might need MixMax. It’s a user-friendly platform that helps make email outreach as efficient as possible.
- If you need to maintain electronic records of your electronically signed documents and agreements, HelloSign and DocuSign make it easy.
- Taking care of financial transactions manually can result in lots of mistakes. Since accounting software Xero removes human error, it easily pays for itself over time.
Phase 2: Grow up
In the grow up phase, spreadsheets will no longer cut it. At this point, you need to start spending money on paid, advanced versions of some of your tools, while also looking at more sophisticated platforms. It’s time to consider implementing a lightweight CRM, and to look for ways to enhance your lead qualification with lead enrichment and analytics.
Here are some of the platforms you should consider first:
- Use HubSpot or Pardot for your marketing automation. Doing so will help you build landing pages, track content engagement, and manage your first newsletter campaign.
- Pipedrive is a popular CRM that easily plugs into your Google infrastructure, although some people might prefer to stick with Hubspot and use its CRM solution.
As you move from freemium to paid subscriptions, consider these tools:
- With a paid subscription to Drift you can start using playbooks per page, including campaigns, qualification, and scheduling.
- Paying for a premium LinkedIn Sales Navigator subscription provides advanced lead search and lead recommendations.
- The paid version of Zoom enables “Zoom Room,” a Zoom-equipped conference room with integrated audio and content sharing.
Now is also the time to start using your first outsourced services:
- An external accountant who can do your invoicing and chase payments using your Xero account remotely.
- Outsource finding leads by creating a step-by-step video on how you generate leads and then outsourcing the work to someone you find on a freelance platform like Upwork.
Phase 3: Scale up
By the time you’re in the scale up phase, you’ll have a sizeable sales team and will need a more robust toolset to enable the team to do more sophisticated work. You’ll be adding more sales reps at a much faster rate, so you’ll need to implement tools that give you more valuable insights and enable you to succeed across the entire customer lifecycle. Here you need to implement an infrastructure that you will stick with until you reach $50 million in ARR. That should include a:
- Customer database: Salesforce may be expensive and sometimes cumbersome, but it’s the most scalable and potentially most valuable tool for your business.
- Marketing automation system: You need a platform that provides detailed data on the amount of leads, where they came from, engagement with your company and what content they have consumed. If you’re inbound (applications) go for HubSpot, where as if you’re outbound (platforms) pick Marketo.
- Customer relationship management: Salesforce is recommended (see above).
- Customer platform: Using Zendesk (ticketing), possibly in combination with Gainsight or Totango will help you ensure customer success.
You now have different teams with diverse needs that require specific applications. It’s time to start prioritizing how you invest.
- Cloud-based tools like PandaDoc will help you create proposals, add terms and conditions, and use real-time updated customer lists.
- You need a proper phone system or a 1-800 line now. Consider a cloud provider like TalkDesk or NewVoiceMedia.
- You’re way past whiteboarding now. You need smart reporting from standardized dashboards and should consider using a solution such as InsightSquared.
At this point, add extra services to cover your weak spots:
- Tools like Chorus or Gong can improve sales performance by recording calls, providing analysis, and integrating with Zoom calls.
The bottom line
Your tool stack is one of the most important things you can invest in, so you need to get it right. As a start-up, you can sign up for freemium versions, but be prepared to move up or move on and to spend more money to give your sales and marketing staff what they need to propel your business to the next level. The right stack tool will determine how you grow, including how quickly and how successfully you do so.