B2B Consulting: Can Consulting Help You Build and Validate a Business Faster?


Maybe the most challenging part of the customer development process is being able to get enough face time with prospective buyers.

It’s challenging because it means:

If you can’t do that, your business will have a hard time gaining momentum.

Overcoming Inertia with B2B Consulting

“Speed of learning creates speed of growth.”Jason M. Lemkin, Entrepreneur and Investor

Now, what if there was a way to drastically cut the time it takes to get this information from organizations?

Although they’re often kept separate, B2B consulting and tech entrepreneurship don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, consulting may be the fastest way to learn about a market or a business opportunity.

In its simplest form, product-market validation means…

  1. Finding 5 early adopters in organizations;
  2. Pre-selling them on a standardized pilot project;
  3. Delivering on the value sold;
  4. Iterating on feedback;
  5. Reaching product/market fit;
  6. Leveraging case studies to attract additional customers.

Seeking out consulting engagements within a single vertical (e.g. construction, banking, etc.) allows you to do customer discovery while working, map the organization, build trust and relationships with influencers, and hone in on their specific pain points. All that while actually getting paid for work.

If your expertise is related to the product or technology you’re hoping to build, B2B consulting engagements give you a first crack at validation. Can you (at least) get paid by organizations if you solve their problem manually?

B2B Consulting: Can Consulting Help You Build and Validate Your Business Faster?
Can B2B Consulting Help Speed Up Product-Market Validation?

No Idea, No Problem with B2B Consulting

Once you’re in the organization, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, test hypotheses, map processes, and dig into their business problems.

With several clients in the same vertical, you’ll also be able to learn about the commonalities between client accounts, map the spending, and understand the rationale for selecting specific vendors or solutions.

Casual chats will help you uncover both explicit and implicit problems; the problems business stakeholders are aware of and actively looking for solutions for, and those they may not be aware of.

Keep your eyes out for the most painful problems, those with a high potential impact on the organization and a buyer with budget and buying authority.

B2B Consulting: Productized Services vs Technology Products

Whether you’re looking to turn your B2B consulting into a productized service – a value-added, systemized, “done-for-you” service, packaged as a product with a defined scope and price – or software, the key thing you’re looking for is repeatability.

Are there ways to provide the same value…

  • …to different organizations?
  • …to different departments within the same organization?
  • …in a repeatable manner – monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc – to the same organization?

Starting off with a service business will help you understand how to reach the buyers and create an effective distribution strategy.

In B2B, more proximity and face time with buyers and organizations means faster learning, testing and validation.

B2B consulting allows you to generate income, explore multiple organizations at once, and build relationships.

If your goal is to bootstrap your business and keep your costs low, validation through B2B consulting may very well be your fastest path to product-market validation.

More on B2B Consulting

Risk Identification: How Much Risk Are You Really Taking on With Your Startup?

“Startups are risky.”

This sentence may be one of the most dangerous in the business founder’s lexicon…

Each year, similar statements lead smart founders to create startups taking on absurd (or unexpected) levels of risk.

Although as many as 90% of startups fail according to certain studies, that number can be hugely misleading.

Risk levels and failure rates vary by industry, segment, experience level, and several other factors.

According to a study by the Harvard Business School (2008):

  • Serial entrepreneurs have a 30% chance of succeeding in their next venture;
  • First-time entrepreneurs have an 18% chance of succeeding;
  • Entrepreneurs who have failed before have a 20% chance of succeeding.

As you can see, starting points are not equal, just like risk levels are not equal.

Top-line stats about startup failures say very little about the risk level of individual startups.

Risk Identification: Fatal vs Recoverable Risks

The myth of the successful founder who comes up with an idea, sticks with it, and wills into existence a successful organization making little to no changes to his/her original vision is pervasive. It’s also more myth than reality.

According to a study by Harvard Professor Clay Christensen, nearly 93% of the products that ultimately became successful started off in the wrong direction. In startups, pivots are the norm, not the exception.

Going through the customer development process is one of the hardest things you can do.

To be able to keep your team (and yourself) motivated, you want to avoid dead ends and keep failing forward, ever closer to your goal.

You’ll encounter fatal risks, when there is no option but to go backward and change one of your business’s foundational assumptions.

Although founders with sufficient startup runway and motivation can always muster a pivot, fatal risks – like vision pivots – can cost you a co-founder, a funding round, or the will to keep going. They’re obviously best avoided:

Risk 
 Identification: The B2B Startup Pivot Pyramid
Risk Identification: The B2B Startup Pivot Pyramid

How to Do Proper Risk Identification for Your Startup

“You don’t want to create your own momentum; you want to ideally ride on momentum that already exists.” – David Cancel, Serial Entrepreneur.

Idealab co-founder Bill Gross founded over 100 companies in the last 30 years. Analyzing hundreds of startups using 5 key dimensions – idea, team, funding, timing, and business model – he found that the biggest factors influencing the success or failure of businesses were the Timing and the Team / Execution:

Risk Identification: Top 5 Factors in Success Across More Than 200 Companies
© The single biggest reason why startups succeed | Bill Gross

Creating a successful business means achieving success in many areas:

  • Timing;
  • Team;
  • Execution;
  • Idea;
  • Business Model;
  • Funding;

But also…

  • Market Size: Are there ways to expand beyond your original customer segment and grow the market?
  • Channels/Go-to-Market: Can you repeatedly reach buyers and prospects? Can you scale that process?
  • Competition: Can you create sustainable differentiation in the market?
  • Pricing Power: Do you have the ability to increase prices and capture additional revenue from existing accounts?
  • Recruiting Power: Can your business recruit top talent in the market?
  • Value Proposition: Is your value proposition sustainable in the long run?
  • Costs: Is your cost/revenue model sustainable long term?
  • Etc.

The more aspects of the business model are uncertain or unproven, the riskier the business. The riskier the business, the longer the path to success will be.

Although innovating on many factors at the same time can lead to great disruptions and innovation (Airbnb, Uber, etc), it’s not a requirement for success (Salesforce, Slack, etc).

There are no awards for taking on more risk than the competition. Proper risk identification and risk mitigation only help make your life easier.

Risk Identification & Risk Acceptance

The easiest way to minimize the risk of failure in innovation is to build off something that already exists, changing only a few key parts of the model while leveraging your unique competitive advantages.

However, for various reasons – be it ego, personal interest, ambition, etc – founders rarely do that.

For the writing of Lean B2B, I interviewed Martin Ouellet, the founder of recruitment software startup Taleo.

At the time of the interview, Taleo had recently been acquired by Oracle for $1.9 billion, and his co-founder, Louis Têtu, was already working on Coveo, an enterprise search solution.

Têtu had recruited several key employees from Taleo’s upper management and Ouellet had been invited to join the team.

Although Ouellet could have joined a business he felt was very similar to Taleo in terms of market, product, and dynamics, he made the decision to build something completely different: a gaming studio. He knowingly took on more risk, accepting that he would be able to re-use very little of his knowledge and expertise in this new venture.

To Ouellet, taking on a greater level of risk was a decision he wanted to make.

Although startups are risky, it’s important to do proper risk identification upfront, understand the risks you’re taking on, and work to test and validate risky assumptions.

Stay lean. Don’t let fatal risks surprise you.

211 Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for B2B Entrepreneurs in 2019

There are thousands of startup tools and resources out there, with more coming online every week. As a B2B founder trying to save startup runway and minimize time to product-market fit, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate what will help from the things that will distract you from your goals.

To help founders get set up with the best startup tools and resources, I put together a list of tried and tested tools, resources, and key posts, categorized by focus areas. You can refer back to this list as your business challenges change and evolve over time. Here it is:

Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for B2B Entrepreneurs

Essentials

  1. 57 things I’ve learned founding three companies by Jason Goldberg
  2. All the Startup Advice You Read is Wrong by Evan Williams
  3. Camels and Rubber Duckies by Joel Spolsky
  4. Creating Startup Success 101 by Steve Blank
  5. Don’t Build a Sexy Startup by Jordan Skole
  6. First, ten by Seth Godin
  7. How New Ideas Almost Killed Our Startup by Vinicius Vacanti
  8. How to break the rules by Dan North
  9. How to Start a Startup by Sam Altman
  10. Pivot, don’t jump to a new vision by Eric Ries
  11. The 15 Best Entrepreneur Books Founders Should Read in 2019
  12. The Long, Slow SaaS Ramp of Death by Gail Goodman
  13. The unprofitable SaaS business model trap by Jason Cohen
  14. Three SaaS Sales Models by Joel York
  15. Why We’re Only Just at the Beginning of SaaS by Tom Tunguz
  16. Steve Blank’s Startup Tools for more startup tools :-)Resource
  17. B2B / Enterprise

  18. It’s damn hard to build an enterprise company by Ben Sesser
  19. Sean Murphy on the first dozen enterprise customers by Gabriel Weinberg
  20. The Main Differences Between B2C and B2B Startups
  21. The Zero Overhead Principle by DJ Patil
  22. Why David beats Goliath by Scott Barrington
  23. 🔒 B2B Value Proposition Exploration Worksheet to evaluate various value propositions Resource
  24. 🔒 Buying Influencer Map to track an organization’s buying influencesResource
  25. 🔒 Early Adopter Evaluation Grid to assess early adopters and find advocatesResource
  26. 🔒 Hypothesis Test Plan Template to track hypotheses and assumptionsResource
  27. 🔒 Money Map Template to evaluate business spendResource
  28. 🔒 Problem Evaluation Grid to score business problemsResource
  29. B2B Startup Ideas

  30. B2B Hacks – Getting from Consulting to Scalable Products by Alex Cowan
  31. Domain Experience Gives Entrepreneurs an Unfair Advantage by Mark Suster
  32. Don’t Follow Your Passion: A Smarter Way to Find a Product to Sell by Andrew Youderian
  33. How to Find B2B Business Ideas in Your Workplace
  34. How to Find Good Business Ideas in B2B and in the Enterprise
  35. Startup Advice: Build for Your Unfair Advantage by Fast Company
  36. Slack App Ideaboard for Slack app ideasResource
  37. Y Combinator’s Requests for Startups for fundable business ideasResource
  38. Business Partners

  39. 5 tips for choosing a co-founder by Michael McDerment
  40. An alternative to employee options/equity grants by Jason Fried
  41. Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Business Partner by Neil Patel
  42. Slicing Pie for equity splits and partnership agreementsTool
  43. Name & Branding

  44. How to Choose a Startup Name that Reduces Marketing Friction by Rand Fishkin
  45. How to Name Your Company by Julien Smith
  46. Coolors to explore color palettesTool
  47. Logojoy to create basic logos for startup toolsTool
  48. Namechk for domain name researchTool
  49. Business Incorporation

  50. Startup Cheat-Sheet: How to Incorporate Your Company by Tyler Tate
  51. CooleyGo’s Incorporation Package for templates from DelawareResource
  52. e-Residency Visas for Estonian/EU incorporationResource
  53. Stripe Atlas for US incorporationResource
  54. US Patent and Trademark Search to validate the availability of a business nameResource
  55. Clerky for legal paperworkTool
  56. Gust Launch for incorporation packagesTool
  57. Recruiting

  58. How to Hire a Product Manager by Ken Norton
  59. The Key to Hiring for Startups is to Build Buzz and Attract Talent To You by Ben Yoskovitz
  60. What to look for in a UI designer by Ryan Singer
  61. People

  62. 10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I Learned by Ben Casnocha
  63. Indecision Kills Startups by Ben Yoskovitz
  64. Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham
  65. Why I Run a Flat Company by Jason Fried
  66. Fancy Hands for US-based virtual assistantsResource
  67. Fiverr to hire freelance helpResource
  68. Upwork to hire freelance helpResource
  69. Productivity

  70. 26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20
  71. Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham
  72. How to Hire and Why Transparency Matters by Keith Rabois
  73. Sorry. My heart says yes, but my schedule says no by Dharmesh Shah
  74. Sanebox for busy email and inbox managementTool
  75. TextExpander for quick text inputTool
  76. Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for Customer Development

  77. 🔒 B2B Customer Discovery Interview Script for an early customer discovery interview scriptResource
  78. Customer Development Toolkit for Cindy Alvarez’s customer development templatesResource
  79. Go-to-Market / Product-Market-Fit Checklist for quick market sizingResource
  80. The Business Model Canvas for the classic business model canvasResource
  81. The buyer persona canvas for a buyer persona templateResource
  82. The Lean Canvas for the Lean CanvasResource
  83. LeanStack to track business learningTool
  84. Market Research

  85. 4 techniques and 6 tools to find your total addressable market by Elie Casa
  86. Customer Development Hacks for SaaS Startups by Lincoln Murphy
  87. How to Calculate Your B2B Startup’s Total Addressable Market
  88. Sales Safari by Amy Hoy
  89. Three more ways to build a $100 million business by Christoph Janz
  90. Follow.net for competitive insightsTool
  91. Google Trends for trending topics and competitive researchTool
  92. Metrics

  93. Activate Tech and Media Outlook 2016 by Activate
  94. How to Choose the Right Analytics Platform for Your Business
  95. Excel template for cohort analyses in SaaS for cohort analysesResource
  96. Startup Metrics for Pirates (A.A.R.R.R. framework) for startup metrics trackingResource
  97. Amplitude for product analytics and retention analysesTool
  98. Hotjar for landing page heatmaps and feedbackTool
  99. Customer Research

  100. How To Write Great Surveys with Actionable Data Results by Ben Yoskovitz
  101. Kano Model – How to delight your customers by Lawrence Phillips
  102. Ask Your Target Market for online market researchResource
  103. MerchantWords for Amazon keyword researchResource
  104. Product Habits SaaS Early Access for an example of an early surveyResource
  105. Zintro to connect with expertsResource
  106. Delighted for quick net promoter score surveysTool
  107. Five Second Test to understand first impressions of a landing pageTool
  108. Google Alerts to monitor keywords and competitorsTool
  109. Promoter.io for quick net promoter score surveysTool
  110. Survey.io for Sean Ellis’s Product-Market fit surveysTool
  111. UserTesting.com for quick remote user testing of startup toolsTool
  112. Product-Market Fit

  113. 5 Ways to Identify Product / Market Fit by David Cummings
  114. Building the lean startup startupifier by Fred Lalonde
  115. Minimize your Time to Product/Market Fit by Andrew Chen
  116. The only thing that matters by Marc Andreessen
  117. The Lean B2B course to build products businesses buyResource
  118. Minimum Viable Products

  119. The Dos and Don’ts of Minimum Viable Products for B2B Startups
  120. The Next Feature Fallacy by Andrew Chen
  121. Noun Project for icon research and inspirationResource
  122. Pexels for free stock photosResource
  123. Stock photos that don’t suck by Dustin SenosResource
  124. Unsplash for free high-res stock imagesResource
  125. Carrd to build quick landing pagesTool
  126. Placeit to create quick product mockupsTool
  127. Ship by Product Hunt to build quick landing pagesTool
  128. Unbounce to build quick landing pagesTool
  129. Posts & Startup Tools for Investment

  130. 8 Questions on How to Prepare for VC Meetings by Ben Yoskovitz
  131. How investors use metrics to evaluate, pick, and reject startups by Andrew Chen
  132. It’s ‘Shocking’ That Startups Are Ignoring A $500 Billion Market by Julie Bort
  133. The Anatomy of a Fundable Startup by Naval Ravikant
  134. The Most Important Startup Question by David Skok
  135. VC Math by Homan Yuen
  136. We’re Raising $3.5m in Funding: Here is the Valuation, Term Sheet and Why We’re Doing It by Joel Gascoigne
  137. What should I send investors? Part 1: Elevator Pitch by Babak Nivi
  138. Pitch

  139. The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint by Guy Kawasaki
  140. The Greatest Sales Pitch I’ve Seen All Year by Andy Raskin
  141. Deckset to create quick decksTool
  142. Investors & Accelerators

  143. B2B Angel Investors to find angel investors in B2BResource
  144. Designer Fund to raise funding as a designerResource
  145. Innovation Nest to raise capitalResource
  146. 🔒 List of 50+ B2B VC Funds & Accelerators to find B2B-focused investors and acceleratorsResource
  147. Slack Fund to raise funding for startup tools from SlackResource
  148. Benchmarks

  149. 2017 Private SaaS Company Survey – Part 1 to benchmark sales and go-to-market strategiesResource
  150. 2017 Private SaaS Company Survey – Part 2 to benchmark sales and go-to-market strategiesResource
  151. State of Startups 2017 for overall startup benchmarksResource
  152. Legal

  153. Business-in-a-Box for more specific legal documentsResource
  154. Docracy for open legal documentsResource
  155. Startup Documents for free legal documents by Y CombinatorResource
  156. Earth Class Mail for postal mail managementTool
  157. Peter for a cool AI-based lawyerTool
  158. Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for Finances

  159. Financial planning for SaaS startups
  160. SaaS Financial Plan 2.0 for basic SaaS financesResource
  161. Runway to monitor cashflowTool
  162. Payment

  163. Gumroad to sell digital productsTool
  164. MoonClerk as a quick UI for StripeTool
  165. Podia to sell digital products and training materialTool
  166. Stripe to accept credit card paymentsTool
  167. Banking

  168. Silicon Valley Bank for payroll and regular bankingTool
  169. Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for Sales

  170. How to Persuade People to Accept an “Unfair” Offer by Dean Rieck
  171. How to use the 5 WHY approach
  172. Scaling outbound sales to 1M run rate by Greg Pietruszyński
  173. Use This 4 Part Framework To Write Cold Emails That Actually Get a Response by Dan Martell
  174. 101 Sales Email Templates You Can Use to Close More Deals for inspiration when doing cold reachoutsResource
  175. Stackshare to find the technology stack of businessesResource
  176. BuiltWith to find the technology stack of businessesTool
  177. Calendly to schedule appointmentsTool
  178. Clearbit Connect to find email addressesTool
  179. Datanyze to find the technology stack of businessesTool
  180. DiscoverOrg to find hidden people in organizationsTool
  181. Drift for live chat and automationsTool
  182. Email Hunter to find email addressesTool
  183. Gong.io for sales training and pitch monitoringTool
  184. Reply for sales trackingTool
  185. Siftery to find the technology stack of businessesTool
  186. Streak to send cold emails and as CRM in GmailTool
  187. Zoom Info to find email addressesTool
  188. Customer Success

  189. Customer Success: The Definitive Guide by Lincoln Murphy
  190. Managing Customer Success to Reduce Churn by David Skok
  191. User Onboard for product onboarding inspirationResource
  192. Totango for customer scoring and customer successTool
  193. Startup Tools, Posts & Resources for Marketing

  194. 100+ Effective Tactics to Promote Your Blog Content
  195. Startup Marketing: How to Find Your Customer Acquisition Channels by Ryan Farley
  196. Growth Is Good, But Retention Is 4+Ever by Brian Balfour
  197. Our Customers Love Us. Why Aren’t They Doing More For Us? by Brian Gladstein
  198. Niche to Win, Baby by Dave McClure
  199. Real Unfair Advantages by Jason Cohen
  200. Is It Worth the Time? to evaluate ROIResource
  201. Highlights | Content & Email Marketing Analytics for Marketers and Bloggers
    for traffic and email marketing monitoringTool
  202. Startup Growth Calculator to evaluate growth trajectoriesTool
  203. Startuplister to quickly promote a startupTool
  204. Pricing

  205. 4 pricing principles to never forget by Des Traynor
  206. B2B Pricing: Emotional & Economic Value | OpenView Labs by Steven Forth
  207. Data shows SaaS discounting lowers SaaS LTV by over 30% by Patrick Campbell
  208. Don’t Just Roll the Dice – A usefully short guide to software pricing by Neil Davidson
  209. How do I raise prices? by Jason Cohen
  210. How-To Price Your Software Product by Ben Yoskovitz
  211. Scalable Pricing: A Key Tool For SaaS Success by David Skok
  212. The Three SaaS Levers that Drive Growth and Keep You From Plateauing by Lars Lofgren
  213. Transaction Price to Transaction Quantity to evaluate business modelsResource
  214. Email Marketing

  215. 19 Email Testing Tools to Make Your Campaigns Successful Before They Start
  216. Goodbits for email copy and design inspirationResource
  217. Lead Magnet Bible: 29 Killer Bribes To Grow Your Email List for content upgrade ideasResource
  218. Lifecycle Marketing: 135 Email Examples, Inspiration and Best Practices for email marketing inspirationResource
  219. The messaging starter kit for customer engagement to create quick product onboarding sequences for startup toolsResource
  220. Intercom for live chat and email automation. One of my favorite startup toolsTool
  221. MailChimp for newsletters and email marketingTool
  222. MailMunch for email signup forms and lead captureTool
  223. Really Good Emails for email copy and design inspirationResource
  224. Customer Acquisition

  225. 30-day trial? 14-day? Freemium? Here’s why it probably doesn’t matter by Madkudu
  226. 99% Of Our Users Are Not Paying – And It’s Perfectly Fine by François Grante
  227. Freemium Summit Recap by Mark MacLeod
  228. The Importance of Product-Channel Fit in Freemium by Kieran Flanagan
  229. The state of freemium in SaaS by Patrick Campbell
  230. Social Media

  231. Buffer for social media managementTool
  232. BuzzSumo for content and influencer researchTool
  233. Followerwonk for social media researchTool
  234. Meet Edgar for back catalogue content sharingTool
  235. Business Exits

  236. When Should You Sell Your Startup? by Jason Lemkin
  237. FE International to purchase/sell a SaaS businessResource
  238. Flippa to purchase/sell a websiteResource
  239. Lever Technology to sell a working productResource
  240. Quietlight Brokerage to sell a working productResource
  241. Think3 to sell a working productResource

– –

This list of startup tools, posts, and resources will grow and evolve over time. If you see any mistakes or have suggestions to make, just tweet at @leanb2b.