(Updated December 2020)
"What tools do I need to grow my business?" This is a question our clients are constantly coming to us with. In the world of online marketing, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that are out there. Whether it be email marketing, SEO, data analytics, social media marketing, website platforms, or CRMs, it seems that everyone and their mama have a solution they want to sell you. It can leave even the best of us wanting to hide under our desks and just hope it will solve itself. So when there are countless tools available to execute your marketing strategy, who do you turn to?
How do you know which person is right when industry influencers, salespeople and the marketing ninjas on your team all seem to have an opinion? How do you pick the right tool without spending a lot of money due to trial and error?
This is a problem we all have been faced with, but have no fear because we can help! At Lone Fir Creative, we're basically a bunch of tech nerds that love trying out new technology to see how we can optimize what we're already doing. So, we thought we'd get our team members to weigh in on some of their favorites to help you determine what's right for your business. Read on to see our round-up of the tools that can help your content marketing campaigns succeed!
Here's all the types of tools we'll cover:
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Blogs and Landing Pages
- Graphic Design
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Data and Analytics
Stand Out In Inboxes With These Email Marketing Tools
There are a lot of email tools that will help optimize your send times according to when you get the most engagement, but Seventh Sense uses artificial intelligence to do that for each individual contact in your database. That might sound simple, but if you've been responsible for any number of email sends, you know that the time an email shows up in someone's inbox can have a dramatic effect on the open rate.
But Seventh Sense goes one step further. They collate the date from your sends and provide analysis on who is active, passive or inactive in your list. This gives you the data you need to detect email fatigue in your list before someone hits unsubscribe, and gives you the power to tailor emails to the level of engagement your subscribers have. Plus, if you're a HubSpot user, Seventh Sense has a direct integration.
When it comes to email marketing, MailChimp is still one of the most user-friendly options for small businesses, eCommerce shops and startups. MailChimp has even expanded their offerings so you can now get landing pages, CRMs and in-depth reporting all rolled into one simple platform. They've even pivoted to snail mail, giving you the option to send customers a personalized message using cutting edge technology called postcards.
Their email interface is easy to use and they provide enough reporting that you can gauge the effectiveness of your emails and adjust as needed.
Show Off Your Brand or Products With Video
In the marketing world, it's tough to not recommend Vidyard, and for good reason. Vidyard has made it super easy to send 1:1 videos to prospects, which instantly personalizes the sales process. If you have HubSpot, they have a direct integration that makes it even easier.
A newer player in the game, VideoAsk, is like a chatbot but with video instead of just text. Did that make your brain hurt a little? Yeah, we thought it was pretty cool too. Basically, imagine that the chatbot on your site replaced its prewritten responses with video instead. Then add to it a feature where leads have the ability to respond via text, audio or video. It's a really cool way to give your site visitors multiple ways to engage with you.
Honestly, their site is really fun and does a good job of showing off their product. Check it out for yourself!
Master Social Media
If you've ever been responsible for keeping up with social media posts for your company, you know it can be a huge time suck. But using an app that allows you to schedule out posts and see analytics all together can save a ton of time, and ensure you're consistently posting on all your social networks. Buffer is our top pick for social media management. They have free and paid plans depending on how many posts you want to schedule and how many social media platforms you have.
As the other main player in the social media scheduling industry, Hootsuite is incredibly popular with companies of all sizes. Some of its standout features are team management and collaboration functions, a tool for content approvals, and access to a massive library of third-party apps and tools to integrate with. Another feature that Hootsuite is particularly known for is its excellent tools for reporting and analytics. If you're looking for a place where you can manage all of your social media accounts while still being able to access important data for your team, Hootsuite is a great option to consider.
Use Blogs and Landing Pages to Strengthen Your Online Presence
WordPress has been the go-to platform for running a website or blog for a long time, and for good reason. It's highly customizable, and offers a huge library of plugins and resources to help you quickly get up to speed. When you think of WordPress, you may only know it as a blog publishing tool, but it's so much more than that. As of 2020, there are over 455 million websites that use WordPress, equating to roughly 35% of all websites in the world! If you have a more complex site that needs a tailormade solution, WordPress might just be the answer.
LeadPages and Unbounce
When it comes to creating landing pages, it's nice to have a platform that allows you to easily build and customize each page for its purpose. Plus, the easier you can customize a landing page, the easier you can test and optimize to get the highest conversion possible.
LeadPages and Unbounce are both great options for landing page builders. Their drag-and-drop interface makes it easy for any digital marketer to build or modify a page. They're not a one trick pony though. As nice as it is to make something look pretty, unless you can ensure it's working, it could all be for nothing. Both provide comprehensive tools to maximize your marketing efforts. Between customized popups, A/B testing, and real time suggestions to increase your ROI, these tool shave a lot to offer.
Tap Into Your Creative Side
Let's face it, looks matter to your marketing. Be honest, how many times have you picked a bottle of wine based purely on the design of the label? You could have the most amazing product or service, and if it's not pretty to look at, you're likely to get passed by. What do you do, though, if you're not a graphic designer? In the past, it meant resorting to subpar design tools like Microsoft Paint. Sadly, our eyes may never be able to recover from those marketing assets. We live in a different time now, and luckily, there are some simple design tools you can use to create stunning brand visuals. Canva is THE tool to get for any small business that can't afford a graphic designer. It's affordable, incredibly user friendly, and filled with thousands of pre-made templates to use. Whether you need to whip up some infographics, posters, marketing materials or social media graphics, Canva helps you channel your inner Bob Ross to add some flare to your marketing channels.
Rise Up in the Rankings With Search Engine Optimization
We all know the importance of SEO, but it can be a little overwhelming to keep up with the newest trends and remember EVERYTHING you need to know to stay relevant. That's why, if you’re running a WordPress website and not using the Yoast Plugin, you’re missing out! It is the most complete SEO plugin available for WordPress. They offer real-time content analysis functionality and help streamline your site. This helps you optimize your page content, image titles, meta descriptions, and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of search engine optimization options in between. Why create more work for yourself when an awesome tool like Yoast will do it for you?
Moz Open Site Explorer
If you're looking for a free tool to gauge page and domain authority, check out Open Site Explorer. Look up your competition and sign up for reporting on all your links and keywords. It's often hard for us to know where we even need to focus our marketing efforts to grow our authority. Using a tool like this allows you to see which competitors are doing better in your space so you can see what you need to do to grow. While there is a paid version, the free version offers plenty of functionality to get you started.
Our very favorite SEO tool at the moment is Ahrefs. Not only is it great for keyword research, it offers seemingly endless information on the performance of your website, backlinks, search positions and so much more. If you're looking to do serious work on your search engine optimization, you need a tool like this to get ahead.
Data and Analytics Tools That Translate Numbers Into Knowledge
If you are looking for real-time site analytics, Google Analytics does pretty much everything in terms of tracking the traffic to your website. It's free, easy to set up and starts working immediately. See traffic from different sources, check engaged reading time, and have access to real-time stats of who’s on your site right now. The benefit of using a tool from one of the biggest tech companies on the planet is having access to tons of helpful information and classes online to help you continue making the most out of this expansive tool.
If you are looking for a website optimizer, look no further than Hotjar. Are you trying to understand how visitors are actually using your site, where they click and what their activity is? User research can be very helpful. It can be incredibly useful to see how someone is interacting with posts on your site or specific pages. How much of the post are they reading? Where do they stop and pause? What do they click? It helps you design and create content that will get maximum engagement. Hotjar uses heat maps, click maps, scrollmaps, and visitor recordings to offer up the best analysis of how your past, present and future customers are using your site. It's awesome!
Once you start digging into all your analytics, you're bound to get tired of switching from one tab to another and trying to aggregate all those metrics into a single spreadsheet that magically reveals the answers you've been looking for. Even worse, by the time you have that information, it's out of date. Databox allows you to bring all the data from multiple different platforms and display it in a beautiful dashboard that automatically stays up to date. Some of the platforms we like to use are Google Analytics, HubSpot, Google Search Console, and PPC tools such as Adwords and Facebook Ads. (If Databox doesn't quite fit the bill, check out this comparison of data visualization tools.)
As great as data and statistics are, there's one big elephant in the room we have to address: If you can't understand why the numbers say what they do, how are you supposed to be able to act on them? If you're looking for an in-depth look at your audience's behaviors, check out the tools from MRI Simmons. They are a consumer insight platform that helps you understand the "why" behind consumer behavior. MRI Simmons is an incredibly established and trustworthy source for knowing what the numbers mean. Using a resource like this will help your marketing team go from acknowledging what's working and what's not to understanding why they are doing so.
There are a ton of all-in-one marketing platforms out there, from Marketo to SharpSpring, but it's no secret that HubSpot is our favorite. HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing platform that handles your contact and relationship management, social media management and monitoring, email campaigns, landing pages, forms, website and more. But perhaps the biggest thing HubSpot has going for it is the power to automate much of your marketing and sales efforts.
For those who have never used a more comprehensive marketing software before, we'll be transparent: HubSpot could at first be overwhelming. Imagine if you traveled back in time and showed Alexander Graham Bell an iPhone. Poor guy might faint out of sheer amazement. It would make anyone surprised when they found out that there is a tool available that is faster, better, and more efficient in every way. HubSpot is that times a million.
If you want to be the best at inbound marketing in your space, then you need to learn from the best. Say goodbye to your utility belt of complicated spreadsheets, a hundred different logins, and some Aspirin for those headaches. HubSpot is a management tool where you help nurture your leads from the first time they come to your site to long after they become a customer.
One of the main benefits is HubSpot's ability to integrate with all these various tools already mentioned. This allows you to do advanced tasks and measure impact across all activities to see what is working and what needs to be improved. One con is that it can be pricey and comes with a steep learning curve to get set up. I’d recommend partnering with a HubSpot agency (*ahem* like us) to set up and implement your marketing.
The above tools work well as an alternative to the one-stop-shop. You can use a few separate tools together to handle your marketing automation and campaigns. While these won’t be as tightly integrated as a platform like HubSpot, you can still do most marketing tasks and tactics. This setup can work well for smaller businesses or those who are just starting out and aren’t yet ready to move up to a full all-in-one platform.
Check out our comparison of the top marketing automation platforms (and everything you need to know about choosing one).
It's time to decide what's right for you!
Well, that pretty much covers it. Thanks for reading our deep dive into the top ways to grow your business online and reach more customers. We know that in time you too will become a digital marketing master! In the meantime though, if you'd like a helping hand on your journey towards marketing domination you don't have to do it alone. Follow up with us at any time to help you start seeing business growth today!