Running any business is challenging. Running an agency like Never Mind Marketing is even more complex. We essentially help 21 different companies run their marketing departments at any one time. Keeping track of campaigns, goals, challenges, personas, communications, and upcoming projects for 21 different teams means we need to have our own internal process locked down.
Add to that my self-diagnosed OCD and tech-ADD (meaning I want to try everything to see if it will make our process more efficient), my team has their work cut out.
I regularly get inquiries from our clients about how to improve on their own internal business processes. The questions range from managing email more efficiently (take the time to learn and setup labels and filters) to project management (start with the end in mind, work backwards) to designing custom graphics (too many solutions for a clever quip) for their email campaigns. For that reason, I am happy to pull back the curtain and discuss some of the tools we use to manage our own company and those we help.
Tools We Use
The following are tools we use every single day. In no particular order:
Hootsuite is a social media management tool. We use it to manage social networks, schedule messages, engage our audience (and those of our clients), and measure ROI from a single dashboard.
Hootsuite connects with more than 35 of the most popular social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Foursquare
It is a great tool for setting searches (which are displayed in their own feed for easy-identification) across a number of platforms, team collaboration and assignment, and analytics (to measure the impact of your social efforts).
They offer a free 30-day trial of their Professional level plan, which starts at only $8.99 per month and includes up to 50 social profiles.
Signals is a salesperson’s dream come true. No more wondering if your prospect or potential client received the email with your proposal or if a client clicked on the resource you sent. Signals gives invaluable context in the sales process and notifies you when someone opens an email or clicks on a link that you sent.
This tool helps us gauge the strength of our email engagement. Signals will show you how many times your prospects have opened your message, where in the world they are, and whether they opened it on a desktop or mobile device. The more information you have, the stronger your opportunity to close the right deals.
Signals, created by HubSpot (another tool on this list), works with Outlook, Apple Mail, and Gmail. Further, it integrates with Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zapier — which pretty much means any CRM you are using.
Their Starter plan is free, but I recommend the Power User plan at $10 to get unlimited notifications across all the emails you send. If you are in sales, and not using this, you are missing out on an incredible amount of insight on your prospects.
You can get one free month of Signals here.
Podio is an extension of my brain — second only to Evernote (again, also on this list). Our team uses Podio to manage all of our projects for clients and internal. We are able to setup custom workspaces to keep communication, resources, tasks, and workflow details contained for each project.
There are a number of project management tools out there, but we found Podio to be the best balance between structure and flexibility. The best feature, for us, was the ability to quickly setup the highly-detailed and complex process we use for inbound marketing projects. There are so many small steps that are dependent on another task, that sometimes it is difficult to maintain the right steps in the right order. Podio does that.
I also love the Facebook-inspired Wall where all communication can happen. This has resulted in a huge decrease to unnecessary #AllUsers emails and allows only team members working on that specific project to monitor conversations surrounding it.
GoToMeeting and ShareFile both work seamlessly with Podio. You can also share files from Dropbox, Google Drive, and a number of other free business apps from their market.
Podio starts at $0 for up to 5 employees and $9 per employee per month. A steal of a deal when you factor how much time is saved by having all of your project resources in one spot for your team.
The premise of Dropbox is pretty simple. Your stuff: everywhere.
It really is that simple. Dropbox is an online file system service that gives you and your team access to your files across a number of different platforms such as OSX, Windows, iOS, Android and anything else you may be running.
We use this for sharing large files or long-term storage that is not necessarily appropriate to be stored in Podio. For example, our design standards, company logos, company policies, and such are all stored in Dropbox.
Dropbox plans start at $0 per month and go up to $15 per month per user for almost unlimited space.
Get an additional 500MB of space by signing up here.
If you have ever used RSS (Really Simple Syndicate) or have found yourself lost trying to keep up with the ever-expanding sea of content, you will appreciate Feedly.
Feedly gathers all of your favorite sites in one place to read, share, and discover new content that matters to you.
I am personally subscribed to approximately 400 website feeds to keep up-to-date on trends in the industry and personal interests. I have a number of folders in my Feedly ranging from “Gold Standard” (the feeds I read every morning), to “If I Have Time” for interesting stuff that I would like to get to, but isn’t a priority.
Google Reader was the best, but since it went away (tear), I’ve found that Feedly is an excellent alternative.
Feedly is free to start. They also have a Pro version that they claim is faster. I cannot speak to that, as I think the free version is pretty fast already. I did subscribe to the Pro version for the increased search capabilities. The Pro version is available for $45 a year.
HubSpot is really the leader when it comes to all-in-one software for inbound marketing. Many of the tools listed in this post are combined in HubSpot.
HubSpot is a requirement for any of our retainer clients. It provides transparency to keep us and the client accountable for our actions.
HubSpot has a social media management tool (although not as robust as Hootsuite), email marketing manager, analtyics, blogging platform, and workflows for automated content marketing. There are many tools that imitate HubSpot, but they are the clear leader.
Their Basic plan starts at $200 per month and grows to upwards of $2400 per month for enterprise solutions.
As a Partner Agency with HubSpot, we can offer a bit of help with the pricing. If you are in need of a complete, all-in-one solution for your inbound marketing, let’s talk before you make a decision.
Clarity is a marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with top advisors and industry experts. Users can setup formal phone calls to ask questions, seek advice, and conduct market research.
I am an expert listed in Clarity for inbound marketing. It has helped me extend my reach to those outside my existing professional network and is super simple for both the expert and those seeking help.
Clarity handles the scheduling, payment processing, reminders, and followup between both parties in a simple and secure way.
I am a huge advocate for hiring an expert and not wasting the time to try to figure it out. I cannot even count the number or times a 10 or 15 minute phone call with an expert has saved hours and hours of trying to find a solution the hard way.
Clarity charges by the minute based on the expert’s hourly rate.
Bit.ly is a URL shortener. Shorteners have gained in popularity because of Twitter’s 140-character limit in Tweets. Rather than a long URL like “https://shaunnestor.com/inbound-marketing-blog/how-i-work-my-toolbox-for-marketing-a-modern-business“, we shorten the URL using Bit.ly to nvrmnd.co/UmRzju. The first URL is nearly 110 characters whereas the second is only 17. You can see the benefit to using a shorter URL when you’re crunched for space in a Tweet.
I won’t lie, we are all envious of Twitter’s short URL. It is simply: t.co
Bit.ly services start at $0 per month. To get the custom-URL ability, you must follow these highly-technical directions.
Bidsketch is a proposal system that allows you to save and customize your sales proposals quickly and easily. I wrote an extensive review of Bidsketch that you can read here.
I like that it allows you to mix and match content and fees, greatly reducing the time it takes to prepare sales proposals. It also increased our conversion rate because clients can sign proposals or contracts electronically, at their convenience. No more sending .pdfs back and forth via email and maintaining the correct copy on file. Bidsketch does all of that for you.
Plans start at $19 per month for one user and expand to $149 per month for larger teams of 8. All plans include analytics (to see when and how often your prospect is accessing the proposal), and electronic signatures.
Get a free, 14-day trial of Bidsketch here.
We use Google Hangouts to chat with teammates and contractors around the world. Google has really done a good job of making it easy to create and join a video or text chat.
Outside of Podio, which also offers a real-time text chat feature, Google Hangouts is our “always on” text platform. I get texts on my phone and laptop, making it easy for any member of our team to reach me, regardless of our physical location.
Google Hangouts is free.
Evernote is my electronic brain. Notes from every meeting, phone call, follow up, and idea goes into Evernote. I have access to it on my iPad, iPhone, and laptop. The quick synchronization makes it easy for me to start a note on one device and finish on another.
Inspired by Michael Hyatt, I now use Evernote to keep everything from medical records and automobile maintenance history to client notes, ideas, and resources for future blog posts.
Basic Evernote is free and their Premium plan is $45 per year for $45 per year. Premium includes offline notebooks (great if you travel more than a week a year), smarter searching in .PDFs and text in images, and more storage (1GB instead of 60MB in the free version)
You can get a free month of Evernote Premium here.
BONUS: Written by Brett Kelly, Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Getting Started Guide for Evernote is a must-read ebook for anyone who wants to get the most out of Evernote. Brett started as an Evernote user, and wrote so much about the product, that Evernote contacted him to write much of the documentation they now use for their other customers. Of the 25000+ copies of the book he has sold, I doubt many folks have taken advantage of his money-back guarantee.
Pick it up here.
Last, but not least, is MailChimp. An incredibly powerful email marketing tool that is second-to-none when it comes to leveraging email to build your business.
MailChimp helps you email the right people at the right time. They have great built-in segmentation and targeting options, you can automate triggered emails based on your subscribers’ website activity.
Plans start at $0 per month and grow as your mailing list grows. You can get a bonus $30 in MonkeyRewards by signing up here.
We are constantly looking at and trying new tools that improve efficiency in our marketing efforts. This list is what we have found to provide the best value for the price and should be a baseline of any company looking for more website visitors, increasing conversions, or analyzing the affect of your online marketing strategy.
If you would like personal, one-on-one support to make your process more efficient, I would love to help. Just schedule a call with me (using Clarity, of course) here. In 12 minutes, I helped one client save $6000 a year.
Disclaimer: We are affiliate partners for some of the services I mention above. We may receive compensation for referring them, but these are all services we would recommend without compensation. If you really, really, really can’t stand the idea of us making a dollar or two from these links, just type the name of the service into Google. =)