November 25, 2022

All software has a cost

"{Successful large company} is using {trendy new product}, we need to try it."

You're working hard on your startup but still struggling to gain traction. You see that one of your large, established competitors has starting using a new marketing tool. You start thinking...  "Maybe that's what we're missing?"

Before you sign up and spend the next few hours setting up the tool, let's stop and think this through.

If your competitor has just started to use this tool then it clearly wasn't the factor that lead to their current level of growth and success. And their relatively large size and scale means they are dealing with a different set of challenges than you. There's a good chance the tool is helping them solve problems you don't even have.

I remember a few years back when chat bots were suddenly all the rage. Established B2B SaaS startups began using tools like Drift and Intercom to automate elements of their inbound sales process, and many were seeing real benefits from them. Early stage startups took note and soon followed. They spent days building complex automated response paths, only to eventually realize that they didn't have the user base to warrant the time and effort they'd invested. If anything, a primary benefit of the chat bots – saving time and money by automating the customer qualification process – was the complete opposite of what the early-stage startups should have been doing. They would have been far better off spending that time jumping on calls and talking to as many prospective customers as possible.

As the founder of an early-stage startup your time is an incredibly valuable and limited resource. You need to remember that there is a real cost that comes with trying each new software product, even if it comes with a free trial.

Now, am I suggesting that you never try any new software? Of course not. But be intentional with your time. Seek out tools as solutions to specific problems you're currently facing. And don't use them simply because everyone else seems to be.

David Turnbull
David is the founder of Stirred, an independent growth consultancy. He has worked with bootstrapped and venture-backed startups across B2B SaaS and ecommerce.
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