*Constant replies to messages and questions. Making sure the team is working toward the same goal. Reporting to investors and advisors. Reviewing that your product is awesome before having it shipped. Keeping everyone happy. Checking revenue & expenses. Trying to have a shred of a work-life balance.*
These are just a few things that startups and young companies deal with every single minute of their day. People who run companies simply want to grow the business, create success, and enjoy the benefits of their work; rarely do they want to manage the actual [internal] business.
We all wish that companies and teams were put together like a swiss watch; carefully placed, working in perfectly unison, without issue, or need for maintenance. This is why the emergence of platforms to serve what was previously a manual business function have exploded into the market. There’s pretty much a platform that can help you automate this, or scale that, so you don’t need to worry about the internal issues or the need to hire more people to complete the back office tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that these apps and platforms will eventually make me redundant (there’s always employment for a person that can make themselves redundant), but what is important is that you pick the right platforms and apps to work with your product, team, and other platforms and apps. I’m hoping from this post that I’ll be able to give you some great advice on how to find the right products that fit your needs and also keeps your burn rate low.
The Call For Resources
Finding the Right Products
Currently, there is no shortage of product marketing spent on SEO, so searching for “Accounting Tool” or “Customer Messaging App” will get you fairly far in what you are looking for. Some other tips and tricks you can use are…
Using Your Investors/Advisors
Your investors and advisors are an amazing resource when you are looking for new tools/platforms/apps. They normally know the landscape either from experience, looking at the market from investment opportunities, directly investing in the companies, and reviews of products that their other portfolio companies use.
Also, they can help make introductions to these vendors, help provide a discount, or even have a program that allows you to use the products for free or a super low rate.
Using Your Network
Normally, if you have started a company or are helping run a young company, you know a few other people doing the same. It’s great to be able to chat with them about their experiences, ideas, execution, plans, thoughts, and what they use to manage their company.
Getting referrals from from other companies is a great way to look into a product. Vendors love getting referral business (minimal acquisition cost) and generally, will be a little more ‘friendly.’ On top of this, the friend/company that referred you will probably get some perks from their referral (win-win-win).
Using Your Competitors
While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, it also provides an opportunity to crush your competition. Looking into what your competition is using to manage their business can be a easy way to find a short list of validated products to use. Some tools you can use to find this out are…
- Ghostery – Helps you find the tools that track your movement in a website/app
- BuiltWith – Find out what websites are built with
- Siftery – Discover products that are a great fit for your company
Reviewing The Products You Picked
Depending on the product you’re looking at using, there could be a few or many similar products. Which one is right for your specific business model and current stack of products or technology.
Get Some First-Hand Reviews
Very similar to the above of “Using Your Network,” see if anyone you know (or any degree of separation) can give you a review. People like helping people and maybe you can return the favor for anything you have used that they are looking to use.
*Pro Tip: I personally like to ask if there is anyone that is currently using your product that I could talk to about their experience and feedback.
Get Some Second-Hand Reviews
The beauty of having so many products is that you can find one that perfectly fits your business model. The beast of having so many products is the time and effort you need to find the best product. Luckily, there are now companies out there that solely help you find the right product. I strongly recommend using G2 Crowd. G2 Crowd is pretty much the ‘Amazon Reviews of Business Software’ plus you can actually receive Amazon credit for some of the reviews you provide on their site (finally get that ping-pong table).
Test Quickly and Try to Test in Parallel
When you’re finally ready to test out a product, don’t waste time. I totally understand that it’s almost impossible to dedicate a day just to test out a product, but the quicker you review, the quicker you can move forward. If you have a few you’re looking at, try to test them all at once. Most of the on-boarding requirements (data input, integration, api) will probably be the same and you can also batch all the tasks your engineering team may need to do as well.
*Pro Tip – I usually try to test out everything on my own (big fan of self-serve products), and I try not to waste time with scheduling a demo unless its really needed or you can do one of your own time; aka – video tutorial.
How Does This Fit With Your Current, and Future, ‘Stack?’
Almost every tech company that looks to use Visible always asks, “Do you have an API? Can I integrate my data sources with Visible?” and while we do provide integrations, the importance is that people want to make sure they do not need to do any manual, mundane tasks to make a product work. In a time where companies like Zapier and IFTTT are here to make our lives easier, I am also looking at the next level: Direct, Dynamic, Communication Between Products.
It’s important to ask if they integrate (or plan to) with other products you may want to use (now and in the future) that are in the same process or part of your business model. Saving time moving information back and forth means more ways to automate; ergo less time and resources to make your business work. Gone are the days of siloed information and tasks; If I only need 1/20 of my time to make sure my back office ops are running correctly so that everyone can get their shit done super fast and efficient, then I’m living the dream.
How to Get an Awesome Deal
‘The Worst They Can Say is No’
One of the adages my father taught me was, “The worst they can say is no.” So don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, promos, extended trials, or different terms. If you feel like something is out of your price range, make sure to give feedback into why you feel this. Companies always want to get more business and can sometimes be flexible with this (startups will take almost any amount of money you offer them). What is important is that you provide a valid reason and solid feedback so that they have some benefit from their discount.
Trading Apples for Oranges
We have seen this a few times with companies, where they actually trade services between each other. So if company X wants to use company Y’s product, and vice versa, they give big discounts or trade for free. This is quite rare, but hey, the worst they can say is no. 😉
Programs & Partnerships
There are many products that try to capture companies early so that they can capture users for their entire lifetime (from cradle to grave…or indefinitely). A big example of this is are payment processors (Stripe, Braintree, PayPal, etc) where they have special programs that give discounts/pricing to young companies so they can start using the product at a low or zero cost, and start paying higher/standard amounts once they reach a certain level. Make sure to see if there are special requirements to receive these programs or discounts.
If you have a direct connection to the vendor from your network, make sure to see if you can leverage them for discounts. If one of your investors also invested in this company, you could get a ‘friends and family’ discount, or added into a promotion program that you don’t, technically, quality for.
Conclusion: There are lots of options out there for products to use, and more are emerging each day. Make sure you take the least amount of time to get the most amount of information to make an informed decision, and run with it. A perk for those of you that have decided to read this far: Visible works with thousands of companies and we like to learn a little bit about each one. So if you have any questions about what platforms you’re interested in using, send us a message and maybe we can give some feedback or make an intro.
Enjoy Your Day, Go Create Something, and Make Someone Smile