March 24, 2021
VCs and founders have their pulse on what’s next, but remaining ahead of that curve and scaling efficiently requires more than just brilliant minds — it’ll take a strong company stack too. From customizing your CRM to managing relationships, defining where in your process you can leverage productivity tools is a must if you want to have an advantage over the competition.
That said, one-off software solutions will only get you so far. As with any good company stack, you’ll need to consider how all of these products work in conversation with each other to streamline your processes from start to finish.
And before you begin dreaming about proprietary systems to do the work of several tools in one, don’t ignore the investment required for development and maintenance. For many companies, the inefficiencies caused by a custom tool will far outweigh any benefits.
In Part 1 of this blog, we will break down some of the best off-the-shelf productivity solutions for founders to build their ultimate tech stack. And in Part 2 of this blog, we will do the same for Venture Capital to help build their platform and scale their firm. You’ll want to stay tuned for part two next week.
Building a strong company stack for growth starts with understanding your customer journey. Define the stages your customers go through and why they go through them — objectives and questions will naturally start to form.
To really dig deep, this process starts with utilizing business intelligence tools. How are potential users interacting with your site? Where are they spending the most time and when are they dropping off? This is where tools like Google Analytics, Tableau, and Mix Panel come in.
Armed with a clearer picture of your customer, you’ll be able to identify moments of friction that slow or interrupt the customer journey. Enter your tech stack.
With this in mind, here are three key stages all founders should look to identify tools within to grow their business — plus software recommendations:
Before you connect with new customers, you need to engage the ones you already have. Think of this as your opportunity to fix any leaks in the customer journey and move them along the path toward retention.
Email and other automated marketing tools can act as a nudge and bring users back to your product. So email options like Iterable or Klaviyo (my personal favorites) make it easy to segment your audience and send targeted campaigns, while push notification tools like Airship can further automate the process based on custom drag-and-drop workflows and capture customers beyond their inbox.
Don’t forget about engaging customers directly on your website either! Live chat tools like Olark and Intercom give a personal touch and easily integrate with your CRM. Add in-product activation tools like Appcues for personalized onboarding and tips. If your company uses Shopify or Big Commerce, there are many plug-ins available to further engage people onsite, such as pop ups and banners.
Now that your current customers are tended to, you can begin to turn your attention to those at the start of the funnel by focusing on traffic.
That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t leverage those existing customers to bring you new ones — in fact, earned traffic should be an easy win if you’ve successfully engaged this previous group. Let your biggest fans do the talking and a strong organic search or word-of-mouth presence will follow. For these needs, consider tools like Buffer or Sprout Social to automate your social media management and WordPress or Medium (Hi!) to share your valuable content and improve your site’s ranking.
In terms of paid traffic, Google Adwords is still the faster way to see results. You might also consider social platform-specific ad options like Instagram Ads or Facebook Ads. Whatever you choose will come down to your audience and where they can be found.
Once you’ve narrowed down your platforms, be sure to prioritize A/B testing to see what messaging gets your audience to come to your site and stick around. For paid social and search ads, tools like Smartly.io, AdEspresso, and Optimizely will make it easy to build out assorted campaigns and optimize them all in one place.
That said, you don’t want to get bogged down in campaign creative and messaging. Instead, leave that to the pros at Tube Science, Ready Set, and Narrative Ads. They’ll create custom, at-scale video ads that are conversion-optimized to make sure you’re seeing traffic from the right audience, fast.
Once potential customers are at your website, this is a perfect time to leverage landing page tools like Unbounce or Instapage. After all, what’s the point of spending all that time and money on content and advertising if you can’t successfully capture the lead?
Let’s talk about retention. Like earned traffic, good retention compounds over time and impacts all stages of the customer journey.
Having a strong CRM is a must for maintaining relationships with your customers. Founders can leverage our go-to, Salesforce, or consider options like Hubspot or Freshworks to manage customer profiles and help you grow existing relationships.
Similarly, support tools and help desks will keep those relationships secure when things go awry. Options like Zendesk and Vitally make answering questions and investigating customer health a breeze. Regardless of the tool you go with, it’s absolutely vital that you select software that matches your scale or you’ll risk unhappy customers.
And when it comes to payment, you’re in the home stretch — don’t let a bad user flow stop someone from becoming a paid customer. Payment should be painless and you should have tools on hand to identify when accounts are at risk for churn. Consider payment solutions like Stripe or Charbee to not only set up payment processing but also provide insight into the growth opportunities and lifetime values of your customers. Affirm is great if you have big-ticket order values and want to give your customers an option to pay in increments.
Last, but not least, as Faraday says, “AI is no longer a neat option for driving growth. It’s a necessity.” Faraday is an AI platform (that I have used in my past operator life) to generate the insights you need to work smarter and grow faster. For example, they can predict who your best customer cohorts are, and pinpoint the best locations for growth, whether you’re planning for brick-and-mortar expansion, billboard placement, or lucrative regions to target with digital ads. Essentially, they enrich your customer data with third-party data, giving you unparalleled insight into what makes your customers tick. Another tool that can help is 6sense, which similar to the above, allows you to personalize your message at scale.
Operations-wise, check out Skubana. They help companies deliver on their product promises so you don’t run out of inventory. And for forecasting, Boostup gives you higher forecasting accuracy.
Thanks for reading, folks! If you’re looking for even more support outside of tools and software, be sure to comb through the Alpaca VC Master Agency List. It’s our curated list to help you find the best contractors and agencies to help grow your business in every department.
Want even more tool recommendations and are curious about what other founders use? Check out these resources that are well-loved:
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