If you are trying to monetise any digital asset or medium, you will need use some software to help you achieve your objectives. You might need simple analytics for your blog, or need to run a newsletter for your subscribers. These software are some of the simplest pieces in a growth marketing stack. As your needs become more complex, so do your tools. In this blog, we are going to focus on building growth stack for your digital product using open source platforms.
Marketing automation is a saturated space with dozens of software competing in each category. Some tools specialise in one category, while others cover several areas. Choosing platforms to build a growth stack is a difficult task. The process starts with understanding your requirements and then comparing different platforms and their combinations. You also have to keep in mind that there is an implementation effort involved in integrating the growth stack and your requirements might change over time.
Some examples of scenarios which might ensue: You like an analytics tool which is built for your niche, but you find out that it doesn’t integrate with the customer data platform that is already integrated in your product. You just built a mobile app for your software and your old marketing automation platform doesn’t support mobile push notifications.
Piecing together a growth stack and implementing it in your platform is expensive and time consuming. Subscriptions costs of different tools can be exorbitant and sometimes impossible to afford for startups who are just starting out. At Venturenox, one of our technology principles is to use open source software wherever feasible. Open source tools cost nothing besides their hosting and good projects have a community of developers and users which help the platform grow quick and enhance their features.
While we would like that, building a completely open source growth stack might not always be possible. While there are good open source platforms in almost every category, integration or feature limitations can mean you may have to use some proprietary platforms as well.
We will talk about all the major categories of growth platforms here and make our recommendations.
1. Customer Data Platform
Customer data platforms collect user events from multiple sources such as your mobile app, web frontend, backend servers, third-party tools and store the data in a data warehouse or stream it to other tools which might need the data. Without a customer data platform, you would have to integrate every tool you’d want to use individually. After the initial effort of implementing the CDP, starting to use new tools become easier. The CDPs don’t directly help you with any growth task, but provide the technology foundation on which to build the rest of your growth marketing stack.
The obvious industry leader in this category is Segment, however there are some good alternatives in open source as well. Our open source customer data platform of choice is RudderStack. Over past few years, RudderStack has grown quickly and has started to support many data sources and destinations. While there are some differences between the open source version and the paid versions, the core platform is the same.
2. Customer Analytics
While tools like Google Analytics are an obvious choice for visitor analytics, you need something more elaborate to understand how users are behaving in your product. The ability to consume and utilise custom events and drilling down to individual users using behavioural targeting are important capabilities. Creating cohorts, control groups and running experiments are needed for understanding user patterns.
The industry leaders in this domain are Amplitude and Mixpanel. An excellent open source alternative is PostHog. More than analytics, it also provides features such as session recording, feature flags and event sync with other tools and data warehouses. Using PostHog solves a lot of challenges and is highly recommended.
3. Customer Engagement
Once a customer starts visiting your website or signs up on your product, you will need to measure their engagement with your product and keep improving it. You can measure engagement using the analytics tool, but you need to have a way to reach out to them when necessary, provide education about your platform and send promotions to them. You would want to engage users who have been inactive using a channel where they will notice you. This includes in-app messaging, emails and push notifications. This is where customer engagement platforms come in.
The industry leaders in this domain are Intercom, Customer.io and ActiveCampaign. Unfortunately, there are no noticeable open source projects for customer engagement and you will have to choose from one of the proprietary tools.
4. Customer Servicing
Your customers are bound to face some troubles and you would need to provide them with a way to seek help. Help desk software with features like live chat, documentation centre, multi-channel messaging and chat bots can enable you in providing excellent customer services. Customer support representatives helping the users would need a full context about the user’s activity in order to deliver them a good experience. Tools with event tracking for customers and integrations with billing systems are very handy.
The industry leaders in customer servicing are Intercom and Zendesk. Perhaps the best open source customer service tool is Chaskiq. Featuring a modern interface, powerful integrations and automation capabilities, Chaskiq is a very capable tool.
5. Customer Relationship Management
In high touch products where sales representatives need to maintain high level of contact with the customers and manage their deal pipelines, customer relationship management tools come to help. CRMs have been around for a very long time and traditionally helped B2B companies in managing their tasks around customers, managing meetings, generating invoices, tracking payments etc. Unless your product is self serve with very low need for doing sales in-person, you will need a CRM tool.
The industry leaders in the CRM category are HubSpot and Pipedrive. There are several mature open source CRMs like SuiteCRM and Odoo. Unfortunately, none of the open source tools support third party event tracking. If you need to view customer’s event data within the CRM, then you will have to stick with the proprietary options.
6. Sales Engagement
Sales engagement platform help you automate some of the most repetitive tasks that sales people have to perform. They enable you in building workflows which can be used to reach out to potential clients using multiple platforms. Some of the common platforms are emails, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Some of these platforms also help you with associated tasks like email domain warming, email verification and integrating with lead generation platforms.
The industry leaders in sales engagement are Outreach and SalesLoft. For light weight use, you can also try Lemlist and Reply.io. Unfortunately, there are no notable open source platforms in the sales engagement category.
7. Data Exploration
The customer data platform can help you route all your customer event data to a data warehouse of your choice. There are several options available depending on your needs and tech-savviness of your team. Some of the industry leading data warehouses are Amazon Redshift and Google Big Query. Some open source alternatives such as Postgres and ClickHouse are equally good. Having all your customer data in a data warehouse serves the purpose of having a data backup as well as researching more on the data.
You will need to give your data analysts with a way to explore the data and run experiments. Depending on their skillset, they might want to explore using visual tools, run SQL queries or train machine learning models. Some good tools for providing access to data are Looker and Tableau. There are some excellent open source options for data exploration. Some of them are Metabase and Superset.
The growth marketing stack plays an important role in your startup’s growth. Venturenox has been helping its partners in enabling their GTM teams through technology. By leveraging our experience, we can effectively help your startup choose the right growth marketing stack for your product and implement it.