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Building a lean B2B startup growth stack

Growing a B2B business is becoming increasingly complex. The market is inundated with products thanks to the explosion of SaaS, it’s getting harder to leverage ad platforms and email, and identity management is Byzantine.

Today, a prospect is a lot harder to understand than a user. Tracing the thread connecting an ad impression to a website visitor, their business identity and a record in a CRM is really, really difficult.

It’s not easy to go to market as a B2B company, but it is easy to think that a new tool or platform will help you “fix” things. It turns out that the cost of implementing and managing a new platform often outweighs the cost of using what you have to better effect. It’s critical to implement tools according to the stage of a business.

I’ve spent years trying to understand which tools give you the most bang for your buck and which are just not worth the overhead. In the guide below, we’ll cover tools in four major categories that startups need based on their stage of growth:

  • CRM and data warehouse (your source of truth): A CRM is where you store data and records on people and the company, and take action. A data warehouse is where you aggregate all your data to perform analyses.
  • Third-party data sources (how you find/target people).
  • Analytics (how you measure your impact).
  • Engagement platforms (how you reach your audience).

We will not be covering:

We shouldn’t have to call it the “lean” B2B growth stack; it should just be the B2B growth stack.

  • Task management and productivity tools.
  • Team composition/communication tools.
  • Website, SEO and creative tools.
  • CDPs (because there is no good B2B CDP).
  • PLG specific tools (All of the tools below are relevant to PLG companies, but there will be other tools they’ll need that we aren’t covering).

Early stage (seed to Series A)

What should be in your stack

  • CRM: Hubspot
  • Data source: Apollo.io
  • Ad Platforms: LinkedIn Ads, Google AdWords
  • Analytics: Google Analytics
  • Other: Outbound email domain management (e.g., Lightmeter)

What shouldn’t

  • Salesforce: The Hubspot CRM has come a long way. It’s less customizable than Salesforce, but that’s a good thing because you shouldn’t waste your time on too much customization at this stage.
  • ZoomInfo: Go with Apollo. It’s cheaper and will let you access data to test outbound. Their new enrichment product allows you to do inbound enrichment as well. Caveat: If your target market is not digitally native, e.g., electrical contractors, ZoomInfo has significantly better coverage than Apollo.

Biggest early-stage mistake

Overinvesting in tools that correspond to a specific acquisition strategy without understanding if that strategy actually works yet.

For example, people spend $36,000 a year on Zoominfo because they’ve hired a head of Sales who says they need it. But you might realize six months later that it’s too premature to start building an outbound engine and you’re stuck with a hefty annual subscription.

Always test your way into things. In this case, it would mean starting off with a cheaper data provider like Apollo.

Midstage (Series B to Series C)

What should be in your stack