#gxmxp Series

Building a Marketing and Sales Tech Stack

Welcome to the 25th installment of #gxmxp! It’s time to dive into your marketing and sales technology stack and map out the purpose for each tool and how and where it connects into your overall sales funnel.

But first, what is a marketing and sales stack? It’s the technology that tracks and manages every step of the marketing and sales process, like a CRM, marketing automation, sales engagement platform, AdWords, Facebook Business Manager, Content Marketing Engines, and more.

It’s important to build a technology stack that is specific to your company, stage and current resources.

To function as a successful sales learning organization, every inbound and outbound market development activity needs to be tracked and measured.

A good sales stack can significantly improve sales activity effectiveness and amplify your limited resources, while a bad one can drain capital and go largely unused by your market development team.

Be Intentional 

You want to ensure that all of the tools you’re using to validate your hypotheses are implemented in a way that’s going to support your goals.

You know what your people resources look like for your go-to-market efforts from our Resource Review: People post, now it’s time to organize those people in a way that will position them for success.

It’s important that you build a market development stack that doesn’t compromise your goals. We’ve done a lot of work so far to validate many of your hypotheses.

The last thing you want is to have your big ideas dashed because you didn’t take the time to set up the right tools. Reverse engineer what you need to be successful and make sure the tools and technology you choose help you get there in both a time and capital efficient manner.

You may be coming into this phase with a lot of tools already. At the beginning of the #gxmxp, we looked at what you already have in the technology stack review.

Now that you know which ICP you’re focusing on, who’s responsible for that ICP, and what acquisition channels you’re going to use, you should reassess your existing tools.

Most startups fall on at one of two extremes: no tools at all with everything being captured on intense spreadsheets or far too many tools that are being significantly underutilized. Again, this is the time to take a step back and build the stage appropriate technology stack that will help you achieve your market milestones. Be intentional about it.

Is It Worth The Cost?

You’re time-strapped and your market development budget is extremely small. Some of these sales and marketing tools can be hard to justify from a cost standpoint.

Go back to your market milestone we came up with a few weeks ago. Figure out the level of effort it’s going to take to reach that milestone. What do you have time for? What must get done and what’s a “nice to have?” 

While cost is important, you should also look at your technology stack from a benefit and utilization perspective. It’ll help to have a system that keeps you locked into a practiced rhythm and that also includes automation (like reminders and automated follow-ups for tasks).

These features will significantly amplify your efforts and your ability to identify and win new business. You don’t have to be a sales tech expert to use these tools but you do have to have the bandwidth to put consistent effort into them.

When evaluating the cost of your marketing and sales tech stack, include an analysis of the cost to your business of the status quo.

Customer Relationship Management

So what tools do you actually need? For starters, you absolutely need a CRM. Spreadsheets just won’t work. They require too much manual effort that you don’t have time for during market development and they offer no additional value or automation for the time you put into them.

A CRM is the hub of all your marketing and sales activities and will empower you to manage processes, collect data and make informed decisions. A CRM is your single source of truth so focus your efforts here.

There are plenty of good ones out there that are cost-effective. Here’s a good starter list from G2, our favorite source for honest reviews of the tools you need across your entire marketing and sales tech stack.

Lead Generation

When it comes to lead gen tools, there are a lot of great ones for outbound email marketing. But think hard about if you actually need this right now. As great as automated email campaigns are, in order to do them well enough to actually get conversations going they require a tremendous amount of time and attention to detail.

Most people mistakenly treat email campaigns as a set-it-and-forget-it effort.That results in hundreds of unread emails.

A top-of-funnel email marketing tool can have wonderful capabilities, but there’s a stage relevance to it.

Right now your emails need to be created very thoughtfully. They need to be personalized and sent at the right time to the right people. This doesn’t require a robust outbound email tool because you’re most likely starting with your referrals.

You might need a couple of templates to get the ball rolling, but you’re not going to need a multi-email campaign for thousands of people. Remember, you’re only asking investors, advisors, colleagues and coworkers to put you in front of the right people to test and validate your hypothesis. And if you get yourself in the door, you don’t need any lead generation. 

When identifying automated lead gen tools you should also keep in mind just how focused your ICP is. Remember, there are probably only about 50-100 people you should be talking to right now.

Early stage startups should optimize for personalization not automation. Click to Tweet

When you’re early in market development, you want to optimize for quality of interactions, not quantity. Play a very high contact sport where you’re interacting with people at every stage. Automating your interactions removes you from the insights. It doesn’t bring you closer to them. 

In most cases, your CRM only needs basic email tracking and mail-merge gen lead features. Hold off on buying an advanced automation tool until the data confirms your ICP and you’re ready to scale.

Making Your Funnel and Stack Work Together

Take a close look at this graphic: 

The right side is a classic sales funnel. On the left, you have the types of tools that would connect to every stage of the funnel. These are very broad buckets that can open up depending on your marketing strategy. 

For the first part of this exercise, use this visual to draw the marketing and sales funnel that you created following our last post. Then, start identifying how you’re going to track every interaction in every section of the sales funnel. 

>> Pro tip: One interaction that’s often overlooked is tracking customer product usage. It’s usually an afterthought, but there are plenty of tools out there that can track how often people log into their demo or trial. 

As you go through this exercise you need to be acutely aware of who is managing each tool in your stack and verifying that they have the time and resources to properly leverage them. There is a fine line between must have and nice to have. Stick with the items you absolutely must have for now.

As you build out your marketing and sales stack, make use of of the Marketing & Sales Stack Cost Chart from the Resources/Downloads section. Add the name of each tool that you are using, or plan to use, to track customer acquisition, interaction, and engagement. For each one, include the following details:

  • Activated Y/N: Have you used the tool? Are you in the process of buying it? Is it off or on pause right now?
  • # of Seats: Include how many licenses you have for each tool. 
  • Monthly Cost: Simply put the monthly cost for each tool here.
  • Notes: You can put anything you want here, but the big thing you’re looking for is the utilization. This is where you’ll make sure you’re not spending money on tools that you’re not using. Have a frank discussion about what you’re getting out of it, and if you don’t have a good answer, get rid of the tool. You should also be looking for redundancy. Maybe you have an outbound email tool, but your CRM already has its own outbound automated email function.

Become the Customer 

Once you’ve filled this out, you can start purchasing and setting up your actual tools. Then we recommend just running water through the pipes. Start testing everything. 

Go through your sales funnel as a customer. Go to your website, sign up, and see what kind of email you get. Then, go to your CRM and see how it’s tracking those interactions.

We’ve found that people don’t spend enough time tracking where everything goes and if it actually makes sense. When these interactions occur it ends up creating friction and more work for the user which is the leading cause for these tools to go unused after the first few months. 

We recommend spending at least a few days sending a couple of fake leads through the system and making sure that you can track everything and utilize all the tools in a way that maximizes value in relation to ease of use.

This allows you to make fundamental structural adjustments to the setup as early as possible. Once you start populating real customer information into a tool like a CRM, a lot of effort is required to reorganize it, which deters most people from making changes (even if the changes are necessary). 

Knowing that you’re equipped to capture data that will inform your hypothesis will help your outreach be as capital- and time-efficient as possible.

That’s where we go next in #gxmxp: it’s time to start reaching out to the market!

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