My co-founders and board members often tease me for being frugal – I’ve been called out for creating my own slide deck templates rather than outsourcing them to a designer for $1000, or running around to print copies of a board deck the morning of a meeting, rather than paying Kinko’s their steep binding fees. And while I don’t compromise on giving my team the tools they need, I do ask that they keep a lean startup mentality. Particularly as startup funding overall dries up, I want to avoid a culture of wasteful spending. As a result, DataFox’s stack has a few surprises. Here are the five affordable tools that our sales and marketing teams use every day.
One of the team’s favorite tools, used to build and apply email templates and other frequently used pieces of text, is a $4.99 text replacement program called aText. It allows us to create shortcodes for our most common phrases, replacing, for example, the keyword “sales_valueprop” with a longer explanation of how our product is useful for sales reps. It doesn’t offer email tracking like other, more expensive products, but particularly in our early days, we saved a great deal of time using a tool that cost less than a latte.
If you’re using Salesforce, but don’t necessarily want to pay for an email outreach software, SalesforceIQ is a low-cost way to get most of the functionality. SalesforceIQ syncs your email and CRM, so that you can get data on your meetings, emails, phone calls, etc. as well as have an idea of how to prioritize your accounts. Their lowest-cost package costs $25 a month for up to 5 users; between aText and SalesforceIQ, you can get most of the way towards bigger-name outreach software functionality.
I came to tech by way of investment banking, and many of DataFox’s early customers were in the finance industry. It’s no surprise, then, that our nascent team lived in spreadsheets. We used Excel to monitor deals and identify new opportunities (if you’re doing something like this, Tomasz Tunguz’s sales dashboard template is incredibly useful). Obviously, this approach doesn’t scale, and we eventually invested in pipeline management software, but it met the needs of our nascent sales team.
One recent addition to our stack is the Priceonomics content tracker. At under $30 a month, this tool tracks views, social shares, and mentions of our content pieces. Combined with Google Adwords’ (free) keyword research tool, this gives us 90% of the functionality of a more expensive SEO product.
We’ve been using Google Voice to make and receive calls, and to get an emailed transcript of voicemails. Sure, it’s not an auto-dialer, but for an organization that was just getting started (and constantly adjusting sales strategy as we found product-market fit) Google Voice served our needs just fine. Oh, and it’s free.
A final note
As the CEO of a SaaS company, I fully understand the value of paying for good products. But I also believe in being frugal where it counts. I’m not saying that these products offer the same capabilities as their more expensive counterparts, but I do think that startups, especially in their infancy, can be creative with their tech stacks.
This mentality has also guided DataFox’s product development: we don’t want to be something that other startups decide can be done away with, particularly in lean years. As a result, we’ve focused on clearly communicating our value proposition and having a demonstrable impact on our customers’ top line. We’ve updated our tech stack considerably in the past year, and I imagine we’ll continue to do so as we grow. But I’ll always demand that the tools we use deliver value, and that the tools we build do so as well.