Working in startups has enabled me to constantly test different tactics and new software, so I thought I’d give some insight into my preferred “tool belt”.
A Tool for Almost Every Need
With all the funding going into software companies and the accessibility of the cloud, we’re in a prime era for innovation in the marketing stack. So many advancements are currently being made in artificial intelligence which is only pushing this innovation further (shout out to Montreal, the capital of R&D in AI). This means that in 2017, there are hundreds of options for every use case. Your choice of applications should really depend on what you are trying to achieve and the complexity of your business, your market and your sales process.
I’ve listed only a few of my favourite choices of web apps and platforms for each category. Especially when it comes to critical systems (CRM, Marketing Automation, Website) – do your research as there may be a better solution for your particular needs. Try to gather feedback from people in your industry so you don’t have to rely on the sales person’s perspective.
Without further ado, let’s break it down;
Google Analytics: Anyone with a website should use it, most do, but the majority don’t leverage its full potential. It’s a free tool but can be time consuming or costly to configure. Sessions, bounce rate and acquisition all matter very much, but conversions are even more important. A key attribution you won’t get with Google Analytics out of the box. You can also dig into visitor paths to optimize the flow of your website. I login multiple times a day – switching between the web properties I help manage to analyze their performance.
WordPress: The go-to for websites and blogs. Don’t know why you’d use anything else unless you do e-commerce. in which case I prefer Shopify. WordPress comes loaded with features and offers a ton of bells and whistles through its theme and plugin marketplaces. The interface resembles a text editor and is quite intuitive, though you’ll need some basic html and CSS knowledge if you want to truly customize your site. Some of the themes offer a a breadth of features so you might not need to customize at all.
Photoshop: If you do any form of graphic content it’s hard to avoid having to learn a bit of Photoshop. Bare none the most complete tool on the market to fine tune images and relatively easy to use.
Slack: The best application for internal communications.
Facebook Business: If you have a business page and need to manage employee access or third parties who manage your ads, you’ll need to tie your Facebook page to a Business Account.
UpWork: I hire multiple VAs (virtual assistants) to handle repetitive tasks. Finding email addresses, lead cleansing and even some more creative work like graphic design and writing. UpWork has been my favourite source to find new talent.
Canva: My favourite tool for visual content. Web-based, intuitive interface allowing you to make professional-looking graphics in minutes, just like the one below:
Salesforce: Along with more than 150k other companies, Salesforce is my main CRM (Customer Relationship Management). It’s a beast – both in terms of features and complexity. The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) could be high for a young company because you should get a professional to set it up if you don’t have an admin internally. API access also increases your cost if you want to integrate to 3rd party applications. It’s at the top of my recommendations because no other platform will allow you to scale, evolve and optimize your process like Salesforce. I do encourage some companies start with something more simple and migrate to Salesforce when the need arises.
Hubspot: Much more user friendly, while still offering a very complete solution. You won’t have as many integrations, customization or automation options as with Salesforce. Their reporting isn’t great but I highly recommend Hubspot nonetheless. Everything else is almost flawless and quite intuitive. It’s obviously a natural choice if you’re using Hubspot Marketing (more below).
AWeber: Solid email marketing solution for young companies and those with basic automation needs. Affordable though you can use Mailchimp basic for free for up to 2000 subscribers instead. As soon as you want some form of automation (multi-step email campaign for example), you’re going to save a few hundred a month going with AWeber. It sometimes feels like a piece of software which has not evolved in a decade but it gets the job done efficiently.
Mailchimp: It has its sweet spot; mailing lists with less than 2000 subscribers with no need for automation. Their automation features are decent but way overpriced in comparison to Aweber. Their interface is cleaner and more intuitive but it doesn’t justify the 300% difference in cost.
Hubspot: What an incredible product and company. I’m often torn between Hubspot and Salesforce/Pardot or Marketo in many situations. My main pet peeve is reporting just as with their CRM. Otherwise, it’s the best option for inbound marketing. Quite intuitive, while offering a ton of features, options and automations. It’s the swiss army knife of digital marketing, combining web lead generation (blogs and landing pages), email marketing, social media scheduled distribution, automation, lead scoring, CRM and I’m missing some.
Pardot: Amongst the top marketing automation platforms on the market especially if using Salesforce as a CRM. Does everything you’d expect in terms of lead scoring, landing pages, social scheduling, email marketing and attribution.
Marketo: The next beast I want to tackle. I listed it because Marketo is known as one of the top digital marketing platforms on the market, I’ve heard great things from other entrepreneurs and….it looks pretty sick. I’d expect it to be a bit more difficult to utilize than Pardot, but it offers the added benefits of managing programmatic ads, retargeting and AI-recommended dynamic content.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator: One of the best lead generation tools. It’s pretty much essential in B2B. Since you know who your target audience is, you can find them easily with Sales Navigator advanced search.
Hootsuite: It is the most popular application for scheduling and social engagement for a reason. Simple interface, handy browser plugin and mobile applications. The ability to create custom feeds with specific keywords, hashtags and mentions is great for prioritizing engagement.
Buffer: Great tool for social post scheduling though you won’t have the added engagement features offered with Hootsuite.
TweetBinder: See who owns the Twitter conversation around hashtags and keywords.
Hashtagify: Use Hashtagify to find the most popular and relevant hashtags for your Tweets.
Zapier: Connect APIs without coding to integrate a huge list of applications.
GoToMeeting: Very reliable web conferencing and screen share solution.
LastPass: Because using the same password for every service is not secure and because managing 100s of passwords is impossible. I don’t know what I would do without a password manager. There are many options but I’ve been using LastPass for years and cannot complain.
Voice Notes: I do some of my best creative work at night. I’ll be sitting on the couch, catching up on some Gary V and will think of a great intro to my next blog post. Typing a note on my phone is no fun so I’ll dictate the idea into a voice note I can transcribe (or have someone else transcribe) at a later time.
Siri: I’ve begun talking to Siri much more recently. “Remind me to call John when I get to the office”, “Remind me to get a bottle of wine when I leave work” are two great examples of commands that are more efficient to dictate than input manually in my iPhone. Siri also comes in handy when you’re driving and need to initiate a call or send an urgent text. You can “wake” Siri up by voice command: calibrate the “hey Siri” option in your settings.
Calendly: Send a link to someone so they can book a time with you. Synchs with your calendar and saves tons of back and forth coordinating availabilities.
iMovie: Free, simple and effective video editing.
Planning and Collaboration
Trello: To-do list, notepad, task management platform for individuals or teams (I’m simplifying…just check it out, it’s awesome). I’m anxious to see where Atlassian takes this product (they recently acquired them for $425m)
Jira: Agile project management is a great framework to organize and collaborate on marketing activities. Jira is probably the most complete and highly utilized agile project management application.
Asana: A simpler, slightly more user-friendly take on Jira.
So yeah…I use 20-25 different apps on any given day. It could be my ADD, but I’m pretty sure it’s more a matter of having found my weapon of preference for every battle. A digital marketer fights many; you don’t bring a gun to fist fight and you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, so your tool belt should carry a wide range of options.
Hope you’ve discovered some new apps that will help in your day to day. Did I miss any of your favourite? Leave a comment!