This is the first solo episode of The Digital Approach Podcast with Ryan Fowler where Ryan shares his insights as a quick start guide to understanding and creating your tech stack.
Not sure what a tech stack it's? It's the combination of software tools you use in your business to save time and create more scalability, even if you're starting out as one person.
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If you're going to do any form of marketing in the digital space, you're going to end up using software tools to help make your life easier, especially if you want to scale and grow.
It might be fine when you're starting out to email everybody individually, but that will become too time consuming and you will lose your customers. I’m your host, Ryan Fowler, and in today's episode, I'll be talking all things tech stacks with what they are, how they can help you, what I use and what to think about when starting to create yours.
This is going to be a very informative episode number 5 of the digital approach podcast. So let's get into it.
I'm going to start by saying that you don't have to get all of these tools for your business straight away. This is something you build over time. As your business grows, your tool kit can, too. There's so many ways to save time, automate processes and streamline parts of your business that I'm hoping, this episode will open your eyes too.
I personally LOVE automation and what you can do with it in any business. From simple things like a notification to really advanced use cases like automating full processes and contact programs.
As we get into the episode, it will probably get a little bit techy but I've tried to keep it as simple as possible so you can understand the reasons behind what I talk about without being overwhelmed. When you do start, you don't have to be a tech head to figure it all out, either. There is a bit of a learning curve, as with anything new, but it is learnable if you take small steps to understand it.
Also, before we get into the episode, I just want to say that if you’re already an early subscriber to the show, thank you! This is still a new show and it has been great to get amazing feedback from you, so thank you. If you want to connect even more from the podcast or ask questions with a group of other business owners, click the link in the show notes or search the digital approach podcast community on Facebook, it’s free to join and a growing community. Last little thing, if you head over to thedigitalappraochpodcast.com and scroll down the page, there is a button where you can send a comment, question or feedback on the show to me. I’ve had a couple of voice messages sent through already which is a joy to hear from listeners.
Alright, let’s start off with answering the question of exactly what is a tech stack.
When I shared in the Facebook community that I was going to be doing this episode, I had a message from someone to say they had to Google what a tech stack actually was before even knowing what question to ask.
This was a big indicator that I had to start this episode by answering this. So a tech stack is the combination of the software tools you use in your business to help streamline your systems, marketing, communication, time management and a bunch of other things. When they’re set up right, they can help you so much in keeping your business running smoothly.
I’ll give you an example. The base piece of software I ALWAYS recommend whenever I get asked the question of where to start is a CRM, or customer relationship management tool. I’m going to share my tech stack with you shortly for all the tools I use, but for a CRM, which is kind of my base that everything gets built around, is ActiveCampaign.
This program lets me store my customer information, save notes about my interactions with them, get email list sign-ups, create automations for my processes, run sales pipelines, send email newsletters and heaps more. It’s a great tool for a lot of what I do in my business.
There are a lot of CRM programs out there. The basic one a lot of people have heard about is MailChimp. This is good for storing customer names and email addresses and sending bulk emails, but that’s about it. You’ve got some mid range ones like Ontraport and ActiveCampaign, which most businesses will find more than enough features with. Then there are the old giants of the industry like Infusionsoft and SalesForce.
I’m going to cover what you’re looking for with these programs shortly. Whichever one you choose though is what is going to serve as the base of your tech stack where all the other programs integrate with. The rest of the tech stack is built from here.
You might be wondering now though, how can this tech stack help you?
Well, the programs you use have a plethora of functions. Instead of just thinking about the external, think about the internal as well. Your external use programs would be to help you collect leads, save time with marketing and processes by running automations. The internal would be things like project management tools to help with your productivity, job management tools, invoicing, team training or systems and processes.
When you start to look at what you do in your business and any manual processes you might be doing, there might be a way that could be made easier, or even taken off your hands completely, with tools.
Next to a CRM, one of the other tools I often suggest, and your accountant would too, is accounting software. I use Xero for my business and work with a Xero certified accountant and bookkeeper. This program also connects with ActiveCampaign, WooCommerce for my online store and a range of other tools I use. More on that in a minute.
By using this, I can make my invoicing, quoting & bookkeeping much easier because of how the tool works. At this stage, there’s a very high likelihood that you already have something like this in place. If you do, great. If not, I would highly recommend looking into it.
Alright, I’m going to share with you my tech stack and then tips to get you started when wanting to look at this for yourself.
I’ve been doing this for a while and have built this up over time so it might seem like a lot now, but it’s taken time to get to this level and I’ve added tools as they’ve been needed.
My base, like I mentioned, is ActiveCampaign. This is the CRM I use and recommend to most people. The reason I personally chose this is because I have an online store that runs on a program called WooCommerce, another part of the tech stack. I also wanted a tool that had the capability to keep customer information, their tags for segmentation so I know who my best customers are, the opportunity for different lists and the use of automations. It also has the ability to embed a website chat function, create forms, landing pages and heaps more. I won’t go too in-depth with it because coming up on the show, I have Barry Moore as a guest who is the founder of The Active Marketer and is ActiveCampaigns first certified partner for two episodes sharing some amazing strategies around this. There’s a link in the show notes if you wanted to find out more about the program.
I just mentioned WooCommerce for my online store which integrates with Xero to send customer details and an order invoice for my accountant to be able to see. It means there’s no exporting of data I need to do come tax time, it’s already there.
I won’t go into great detail for all of the rest of the software I use, but just know that I chose these for my business because they connect and work with each other very well.
The other tools I have are Google Workspace for hosting my emails, cloud storage, forms, docs, slide shows, spreadsheets & calendar. Zoom for hosting meetings, webinars, training & video strategy coaching sessions. Oh and Calendly to book those all in and send the information back to ActiveCampaign. Just a note on using a scheduling tool like Calendly or Acuity. If you need to book times with anyone, then getting a tool like this should go pretty high on the list. It saves so much time for me and the people that are booking in. No more going back and forth on timing!
With the online courses I have, they’re hosted on Thinkific. This is a great course building platform that’s very easy to use. It does lack one big feature that coaches would appreciate which is a one to one coaching area. I have contacted them about this as there are other platforms like Teachable and Kajabi offer these features.
For productivity and project management, I’ve been using Monday.com, which has an incredible amount of features. To create mind maps and plan automations, I use a program called Miro.
The last one I’ll mention is Zapier. This is almost like the saviour of any tech stack. You can use it to connect so many programs that don’t natively connect. It’s an excellent tool to have at your disposal.
If this all sounds exciting right now but you’re totally confused on where to start, it’s okay. I’m going to share what you can do now and then some actionable strategies to get you started.
If you’re brand new to this, start by looking at what you do each and every day in your business. What does your team do as well? Begin to jot down the different tasks you have. That’s number one.
Then looking at your marketing, customer journey and how you manage new enquiries, sales, support requests and how they’re managed right now. If you are wanting to create lead magnets and have the follow up process automated, then include that as well.
When you’ve got these written down, start to think about the ways they could be done with software. You might even find a way to have the tools help you manage everything in one place to begin with.
You can start researching the different tools available that can help with the specific needs of your business. A coach or consultant will have very different needs to someone that runs an e-commerce business.
Second strategy is to get a CRM. If you work with customers and clients in your business, having a proper way to store their details, make notes and regularly engage with them will help you build stronger relationships over time, meaning less customer churn.
As you can probably tell by now, I am a big proponent of ActiveCampaign and have put a link to it where you can start a trial in the show notes. This is the tool I would use the most in the business, followed closely by Monday.com. When you are looking for a CRM solution, make sure you look at how it integrates with the other tools you want to use in the business. If there’s no integration with the main tools you want, then you will have to use Zapier or find a different solution that does work with the tools you use.
Strategy number 3 to get you started is to create a roadmap of your tech stack. What I mean by this is that when you’ve done your research, chosen the programs you feel will work for you and then got a CRM, look at what you need to have happen in your business before getting the next tool or set of tools to work for you. Look at what you want to achieve and then what is the least amount of tools you need to achieve that. There’s no point spending money on a program or software you’re not going to use so plan ahead and be sure to get what you need as you need it.
And that’s it for this episode. There’s been a lot in this one but I hope you’ve got some great value from it. I really love talking about this stuff.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, could you share it with another inspired business owner you know? Copy the link and send it through to them. It would be greatly appreciated if you can.