The most important lesson I've learned in over 20 years of being an entrepreneur is that a startup isn't a genuine business until it starts generating revenue. But in today's digital world, just getting to revenue requires a heavy technical lift.
It doesn't matter if your startup is selling a software as a service (SaaS) app or a physical product. You might be building a two-sided marketplace or creating a subscription service. In every case, you need technology to support your business.
And if you build that technology properly, it becomes a huge competitive advantage.
No-code tools and platforms are a quick way to put technical infrastructure in place, potentially saving cash-starved startups months of execution time and thousands of dollars in software development. While there are a lot of options, from helper apps to full-blown development platforms, getting started on the path to revenue can be overwhelming.
I've built dozens of tech-based products and sold my own tech company, all based on a four-point foundation that I use every single time I get started. Now I'm doing it again, but this time, I'm only using no-code tools and platforms to get there.
Here are the four areas I built first on the way to revenue and growth.
Your users will become your customers.
You need a way for customers to interact with your product and your company. And you need to identify who they are, give them the incentive to come back, and the keys to get back in.
If you take anything away from this post, it's that you need to build your user paradigm first, and complete the entire user onboarding experience before you build anything else.
Your users will need to sign up, sign in, and sign out. They'll need a self-service method to create and change their own secure and strong password, plus any user preferences--those things they need to tell you so you can serve them better.
They'll need to be categorized based on their relationship with your company. Their role might be prospect, customer, partner, or they might even be employees, administrators, or developers. They'll need access to various functions based on one or more of these roles.
They'll need an obvious way to get help and they'll need to know their information will remain secure and private, even after they're done being your customer.
Your transactions will lead to revenue.
Once you've granted access to a user, the very next thing you need to enable is the quickest and easiest way for that user to purchase your product or service. It doesn't matter how "real" your product is at this point, complete the transaction paradigm next.
This means that outsiders coming in must be presented with your best first impression of what you do, how you do it, why they need it, what they get, and how much it costs. If you can get all that into one sentence, your next sentence should actually be a Buy Now button.
Here's where tech development gets fun, for me anyway. Collect the minimum amount of data you need to be able to transact. In some cases, like with business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, this is just credit card information and an email address or mobile number. At the other end of the spectrum, usually with business-to-business (B2B) companies, you might even need a contract, banking info, and purchase order or invoice numbers.
All of this is doable online through third-party providers like Stripe, QuickBooks, and DocuSign. You're just creating customer keys or IDs with those providers and saving those keys in your database.
Once you confirm payment, you need to ship the product. That might be as simple as changing the access of that user in your SaaS app, or it might entail firing off an order to a third-party provider like Shopify or Etsy.
Your communications will be the core of your company.
Not every type of transaction can be conducted through existing online services. Maybe when someone purchases your product, someone else needs to pack it and ship it, or even construct the product or execute the service. This is where helper apps come into play.
Webhooks are a plug-and-play version of application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow one software application to send or receive information from another software application.
Using built in webhooks, a no-code webhook manager like Zapier, or even Slack with SMS or email, you can instantly send a digital heads-up to whoever is responsible for the next step, along with the data they need to carry out that step.
With Zapier or something like it, you can create workflows to chain multiple steps together, and even route the action based on if-then logic without writing code. You can also use Zapier and Slack to route customer communication, like support requests or even orders, to multiple parties for a quick and efficient response.
Your tracking will enable growth and scale.
Every business starts with the notion of selling a product to customers and making a profit on that sale. The businesses that grow, scale, and succeed are the ones that capture the data around those sales, learn from them, and get better at them.
So you need data to tell you how to sell more products to more customers and make more profit on each sale. Every time a prospect visits your website, or a product is shipped, or a support call comes in, you need to capture that event and build ways of reporting those events in real time.
This process is more complex and is something you'll be perpetually changing and improving, which is why you save it for last. You might realize you're collecting data that isn't telling you anything. Other times you'll run an experiment and realize there's new data that is a lot more valuable.
Collecting data isn't just about website analytics and conversion rates, it's about how the prospect finds you, why they become a customer, how much they spend and for how long, and how you can build off each success to create traction and exponential growth.
Now that you're handling users, transactions, communications, and tracking, you've got the foundation for a no-code-enabled high-growth business.