Startups is all about doing more with less and with the least headcount possible. Fortunately, almost every problem you can think of has been SaaaSified for you already!
No matter what stage of startup you are at, there are amazing tools that can save you hours per day, automate repetitive marketing activities you otherwise wouldn’t do, and save you thousands on custom dev work. Screw that.
So the hack is knowing what is awesome and what… is a waste of your time. Spending days researching and testing tools is for n00bs (or nerds like me). Neither do you want to end up with a stack of expensive, unused software that collect dust as you wait to remember to cancel your annual subscription and burn out your runway.
In typical form, I’ve spent weeks researching and testing for you. I’ve bitten the bullet on your behalf to figure out what’s the best and most value. I’m going to keep looking out for awesome startups you can use and will report back on the best! Trust anything I recommend I’ve tested and have got feedback it’s the best (and not the most expensive).
I’m going to add more than one provider for some things. When you’re small (poor) one thing makes sense, if you’re growing, another will. I’ll add some notes on what’s best for you.
I’m not sketchy notice: I love data and testing things to expand my knowledge (so I can teach you). I’m learning about affiliate marketing atm so some of these links have affiliate tags. They don’t cost you anything, and will at worst, ensure you get the best discount where I can negotiate you a deal. If you buy something, the prices will be at or lower than their rack rate, guaranteed. Clicking on stuff means I get to see data. I also like money. Money is good.
I can’t overstate this enough: if you want to start marketing automation and don’t code like a boss, don’t research, just get this. I spent 2 weeks researching trying to be cheap. This is the simplest possible tool to kick off and is your single required, core tool.
Once you really understand stuff, you can check out Drip, but just get this to start. This area is complex and this makes it simple. It’s too simple once you get advanced, but bloggers who make $250k a MONTH still use it. It might seem expensive, but it’s not. Mailchimp sucks. Hubspot is a rip off. Infusionsoft is for when you’re bigger.
Just. Get. This. Now.
Do you know what landing pages are for? Whatevs, this goes to the top of your buy list for marketing automation 101. This single tool has saved marketers literally hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year. This is the basic tool to scale your startup, because it allows you to confidently roll out lead-generating campaigns in record time.
I hate the way the integration works with Convertkit (yes, you need both) as you have to press ‘Done’ each time… but otherwise it’s the best around.
Web hosting (Affordable)
Really, web hosting… you say?
Dude. Their customer care IS. THE. BOMB!
I was on Hostgator before and eh. I tried Siteground and my mind was blown. I’m on first name basis with some of their CS guys now. No joke. They go way out to help me make my site faster, editing htaccess files etc. I honestly couldn’t imagine any host having more awesome CS.
I spent what $100 or something a year for this? I’ve done them in with about $1,000 of help. I don’t know how that works, but these guys are amazing.
If you want budget hosting, this is it.
Cheap um, people
fiverr is a glorious place to get things done for $5 or more. From getting some cheap imagery to um, hacking stats on social media. There’s no end to the cheap and hacking things you can accomplish here with imagination.
Email marketing automation is the core of your stack. I recommended Convertkit as absolutely required for n00bies.
Once you understand flows, lead magnets etc, and can code a little, here is your go to. It’s a lot more dev friendly and you can do more advanced things (Convertkit has a ceiling on the first floor). It’s made by the dudes at Leadpages which I recommend strongly.
Accounting sucks, so get something that’s less sucky. Rod the founder is in love with accounting. Any founder could reach out to him for coffee to nerd out for hours, so long as it was just about accounting (I know). He’s that passionate and the product reflects it.
SEO (Keywords n stuff)
SEO is the bomb. Yeah, it’s work but you HAVE to do it to lower your CAC. This is the simplest tool around to figure out what keywords you should be focusing on. I um, still don’t really ‘get’ SEO so all the fancy tools are waaay to much work for me. This is simples…
Firstly, build your blog on WordPress. Secondly, if you haven’t stumped up a round of lager to buy a theme you’re a moron. I was that moron before.
Paid themes allow you to look like a pro. As usual I researched a tonne on this. I’ve bought this theme 3x. There are others verrry similar, but this theme has a way better visual builder. I can’t really code, so simple matters. None of the theme cos have great customer care and these guys aren’t an exception, but it’s the best I have found.
Shopping cart (Full feature)
Dozens of the BIG names in online marketing have had huge success using this checkout page platform (That’s how I know about it). Feedback is that it seamlessly integrates with almost any tool you might use and all the pieces of your funnel will play nicely together. I currently don’t use this as it’s too expensive for the mid package ($99) which has the features I would want to use, given my activities. I’m using Gumroad as a stopgap because I wanted out of EDD asap (A wordpress plugin) and it was easy to set up. Once I get my act together, I’m going to spin up SamCart. If you’re looking to have a more advanced site setup, this makes sense.
Shopping cart (Cheaper lifetime cost)
You need a shopping cart. There are lot to pick from. Some seem super as the initial cost is low. The big difference with this is you can buy a lifetime licence for $495. You might say wtf, that’s a lot, but if you are selling digital goods you’ll be shocked what other providers will charge over time…
Do you do any content marketing? Use Buffer and share across networks? Some extra click throughs for free would be cool, right? This is a no brainer.
I’ve tracked these guys for a long time as looked at the seed round. The cost isn’t much and it’s basically free traffic. If you have a few bucks, this is totally worth adding to your marketing efforts.
FML if I have to explain this to you, but the key to minimising a receding hair line from hustle is staying organised. Dropbox is your data’s home and how you share anything. You can start using this tool for free and upgrade as your library of digital assets grows. If you want to share large files with clients, this is your go to.
Talking to potential customers is not a bad thing. This is a hub for your customer interactions. Whack it up on your site and get yacking.
Leadpages is great, but if you’re working with a team and need a more advanced landing page solution, InstaPage is a go to. It’s designed to be highly collaborative, and it’s your best option to help optimize your Facebook Ad spend. Use this when you want to level up to the big leagues.
Web countdown timers
FOMO is a key part of sales. Why not do the same thing automatically?
This let’s you embed countdown timers in emails that are automatically synced with sales page timers on your site/leadpgaes to add urgency and get your buyers to take action, now! It’s not cheap so get it when you are making some $ already.
This is a secret tip. It changes garbled ugly links like www.something.com/sdf234kj23b4k23j4b234kjb into www.alexanderjarvis.com/prettylink. Neato. It doesn’t make sense at start, but it will sink in. Also, with the recent change on Facebook, this is how you can control info that is shared with links… now you know!
Marketing Automation (Big company)
Are you large and growing? Are you building a pro marketing stack? This is not cheap but it does a lot. If you’re ickly little, then move on. But… if you’re looking for bad ass functionality then this is where you go. There’s a reason a lot of the big boys use this, but you need to be up there to really get the benefit of it.
It’s lame, but everything starts with your domain. Crap. I actually basically wrote their tag line without thinking. Anyway. You need a domain…
It’s the fastest growing startup ever. If you have a dev team, then you’re using this already.
It’s a communication tool that can eliminate the pain of emails. The coolest thing is integrations. Ask your devs, they know (and pretend you do too).
Web hosting (Affordable)
If you want more control over your video, Vimeo makes sense. Yes, Youtube is way better if you’re looking for discovery, but there are a tonne of reasons why you will want this instead, um no ads and control over the video player for example?
This is a bit of a weird task management system but people love it. It’s really versatile. It maps things out into columns and you drag and drop tasks to stages. Check it out if you haven’t heard of it and see if you like it.
Automation and integration
Zapier makes stuff work together when it doesn’t normally do it! It’s kinda cray cray what you can do. Almost anything can be ‘zapped.’ If you wish every time someone signed up to one system and the email would be added to another database, this does it. Check out what you can do…
I hate expenses, or basically anything boring. I’ve lost tens of thousands as I just could not be arsed to submit receipts… so I do the lazy thing. Any company I help, I bring in Expensify. It means I get paid. It means you won’t have to spend dealing time with your staff bs admin. Highly recommended hack buddy