Top Marketing Technology Stack Mistakes Made by Startups

Jameson Pitts
Managing Director
·
May 6, 2021

Every day I have the privilege of working with founders and entrepreneurs — tremendously brave folks who put everything on the line to create something new. But when it comes to organizing the stack of tools that power their growth marketing initiatives, many are making the same avoidable mistakes.

At Sangfroid! we’ve worked with early-stage technology and lifestyle businesses ranging from healthcare to entertainment and have honed best practices on the tech to roll out for each. Here are the top marketing tech stack mistakes I see startup teams make every day:

#1 | Lacking Instrumentation

By far and wide the biggest and most common mistake tech startups make is putting too little thought into their product instrumentation too late.

Instrumentation is the term for implementing tools and tracking to measure marketing funnels, product usage, and organize your customer data. Often I encounter the attitude that this is something to do after the product has been built and refined. We can fit that in right after next quarter’s feature release!

This attitude couldn’t be more dead wrong. In any competitive market instrumentation is key to finding a fit between your product offering and customer base. Imagine a pilot telling you they will turn on their flight computer after they reach the destination.

Photo by Andrés Dallimonti on Unsplash

In truth, I’m exaggerating a bit. Most teams do make some effort to track product analytics and marketing acquisition. However, too few do it in a scalable way. Consider a common product marketing analytics stack consisting of web analytics, ad attribution, product analytics, a CRM or live chat support solution, product walkthrough tool, etc. Each of these tools needs to be independently instrumented right? We need to add Google Analytics code to record e-commerce data, Intercom code to send an email after a product feature was used the first time, Amplitude code to see how sticky users are?

Not anymore. Our biggest instrumentation recommendation is to use a single Customer Data Platform for instrumentation. A leader in this space is Segment, and the primary benefit is after integrating Segment one time, you can simply connect Segment to all of the tools your teams want to use without baking API calls for each into your app code.

Segment offers this hard benefit of reducing dev hours and improving customer data organization, but the soft benefits are immense. Integrating a tool like Segment early forces your product, marketing, and engineering teams to use the same data and get on the same page about how you are targeting and measuring growth and fit. Imagine, each feature release has a single hypothesis about adoption and user benefits, measured by a funnel visible to all your teams.

In short, integrate Segment on Day 1 and it’ll save you thousands of hours. (Not sponsored, not an affiliate link.)

#2 | Poorly Chosen CRM

The next biggest martech mistake we see is startup teams operating without a CRM or with a CRM that is a bad fit for their goals.

Think of a CRM as your team’s operating system. A user or customer has a single record — it includes all their marketing data (clicked on a Google Ad for keyword #1), website history (spent 5 minutes on the pricing page 👀), app data (started a trial and completed several actions that indicate likelihood to purchase), case, sales or support data (submitted a ticket, interacted with a rep, met with your investor relations team). This brings your entire organization together and orientates you toward the customer.

There is simply no reason for any business with more than a handful of customers or users to be without a modern CRM. It’d be like not having email or a telephone.

Again, I’ve added some drama. Many teams have a CRM (or a web of Google Sheets or their app admin page 🤦‍♂️) but for whatever reason have ended up with a choice that isn’t likely to scale with their business.

My biggest recommendation is to choose a single tool that all customer-facing teams — Marketing, Sales, Support, Service, IR — will gain benefit from, instead of each team using their own tool and failing to connect the dots. (Imagine for example, Marketing using one tool and Support another — you’d never know that a particular keyword generates customers that send twice as many support tickets as another.)

Next, depending on your vertical, you will be able to choose between an industry-specific CRM and a general purpose one. Think, a CRM just for law firms, just for construction contractors, etc. I’d love to be proven wrong, but these are almost always inferior products simply because their small market share prevents them from developing features and integrations at scale. At Sangfroid! we like HubSpot for any marketing leading to a live sales cycle, Intercom for any mobile product, and of course the behemoth Salesforce for very large sales teams.

Photo by 贝莉儿 DANIST on Unsplash

#3 | Building Instead of Buying

Lastly, I encourage all startup and product teams to be as thoughtful as possible about all build versus buy decisions. Just because your team can build something, doesn’t mean they should. You’re never going to build a better scheduling API.

As a marketer, the most egregious example I see is companies building custom sites on Bootstrap or React. This has numerous disadvantages.

Tying a marketing site to a development cycle is often just clunky if nothing else, and makes it difficult to make even small changes. But marketing teams need to be able to constantly A/B test variations of the home page, nav, pricing page etc, and there are robust sets of tools designed to allow for this.

Our biggest recommendation is to separate the marketing site from the product (consider yourstartup.com and app.yourstartup.com) and use a low-code or no-code solution for your website. This is scalable for your marketing team’s testing and content marketing needs. We like Webflow for beautiful designs, and Instapage for PPC and testing.

That’s all, go forth being thoughtful about your customer data and engineering resources. Often times I see colleagues conflate software with the solution to a problem — rolling out a new HR tool doesn’t necessarily give you the HR policies you need — but when it comes to marketing, it’s a lot easier to get the plane off the ground when you and your copilot agree on which way is up.

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