When it comes to running an online marketing agency here in Toronto there are a bevy of tools available for marketers these days that improve processes and deficiencies far and wide. We are going to go over the best ones that we have found worked for us over the past 2 years of business, as well as ones we are looking at utilizing in the upcoming future.
Tools are exactly that, tools, and they can be extremely powerful in the right hands, but also can be lackluster and a waste of time and resources if used incorrectly. Before jumping into any of these tools ensure that you do your research and make sure you need it before you lock into costly recurring contracts.
There are a wide variety of tools across multiple needs, platforms, purposes and tasks, so we will break them down into-sub categories to make it easier to sort through.
Social Media Management & Optimization
CRM Tools & Systems
SEO Tools & Analysis
PPC Management & Optimization Tools
Analytics & Tracking Tools
Email Marketing Tools
Online Meeting & Collaboration Tools
The tools for social media range from mention spotting all the way to full social media management and engagement suites. Each has their own specialties and price points so you can decide what would work best for your business.
According to a recent study by RSW/US & Mirren, it was found that 87% of all agencies consider social media as a tool used for new business, while only 18% consider it effective. Also worth noting that Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn are the most used social platforms with Google+ bringing up the rear. Now onto the tools!
Hootsuite – A great all-in-one social media management suite that encompasses all you need for social media insights, analytics, tracking, user testing, brand mentions, and content deployment.
They offer collaboration with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and even Soundcloud and Gmail in case you want to share content with other users internally for your social campaigns. Overall a great suite of tools for the social marketing professional and used by over 8 million people worldwide.
OkToPost – A newer platform built specifically for marketing your content across social feeds. The focus for Ok To Post is driving engagement and conversions for b2b relationships. This becomes rather difficult on some social platforms, but excels on others with its ease of use and simplicity. The ability to measure the value of your content marketing is what separates OKTP from other social tools on the market.
The platform is smooth, robust, and user friendly with a very shallow learning curve… however it doesn’t perform as well as it could on mobile devices. Another thing I wish they had was the ability to import data in bulk from a spreadsheet. This would be a huge time saver and has been something I had suggested they implement as I see other agencies and content marketers who would see tremendous value in this.
Salesforce – The end all of all CRM tools on the market and used by professional businesses from all walks of life. Salesforce is great because it allows for easy organization of contacts between collaborators, while at the same time tracking interest levels and communication on all fronts. This allows for better strategy when prospecting, increased lead conversions, faster deployment and overall greater growth and customer satisfaction (something that gets overlooked all too often).
Basecamp – The platform from the team @37signals is one of the smoothest and cleanest web apps i’ve used personally. Basecamp allows for seamless project management and customer relationship management, and they do so in an elegant manner. They provide rock solid customer service and they are probably the easiest tool to use on the market. They have been around a long time and have a great reputation, plus offer a 2-month free trial to get your feet wet, cant really go wrong here.
Ahrefs – When you want to compete with the big boys in the SEO world, this tool becomes an essential part of backlink analysis, acquisition, testing and monitoring. Ahrefs comprehensive database and internal ranking algorithm allow for simplistic backlink checking and exploration. This tool is a must have to get ahead of your competition or to stay competitive in the SEO market.
Moz – Offers a full suite of SEO and online marketing tools for analysis of your competition and optimization of your own web properties. Their crawler Open Site Explorer is one of the best indexes on the net and gives your even further insights where Ahrefs may overlook.
Combine this with rank tracking, keyword difficulty testing, on-page grading and analysis, and you have one of the best sets of research tools for online marketing on the web. Not only do they offer this but they they give you full insights to your marketing campaigns with tracking for search, social, incoming links, brand mentions as well as Google analytics integration. The price is high starting at $99/month, but the value is there with the tools and they do offer a free month trial to test it out.
Microsite Masters – One of the first keyword rank tracking tools on the market and one that we have used since our inception. MSM allows for simplistic rank tracking and data driven insights so that you can visually track your SEO campaign rankings in an easy interface with great reporting and competitive rates. If you need a rank tracking solution, look no further than Microsite Masters.
Acquisio – This platform allows agencies and marketers to gain optimization insights and utilize bid algorithms to increase the performance of your PPC campaigns. They also allow for advanced tracking to gain even further insights into your marketing analysis.
Wordstream – Another great web app and tool suite for PPC marketers, Wordstream provided advanced PPC optimization with monthly performance trackers, mobile PPC testing, and a state of the art AdWords performance grader to ensure your PPC advertisements are optimized fully.
Google Analytics – Pretty much the mother-ship of all web analytics. Google Analytics is a must have for any webmaster that wants to meaningfully understand his search traffic and web visitors.
Google Webmaster Tools – Another Google product that deserves mention and is built specifically for website administrators and webmasters alike who wish to gain a more in-depth understanding of your website. This includes crawl errors, schema data, and advice on following Google’s best practices in order to ensure your website is up to speed.
ClickTale – Provides website owners with additional insights and metrics for tracking user behavior. Watch user browsing behavior on your website with heat-maps in order to gain advanced knowledge and to help better optimize your websites offering to increase conversions and improve website metrics. ClickTale also offers conversion funnels, campaign tracking, in addition to their heat-mapped visitor recording.
Mailchimp – One of the better suites of email marketing services, Mailchimp is a must have for any website owner that wants to build an email list and market to it effectively. Best of all Mailchimp comes out of the box for FREE (up to 2000 subscribers) and only costs more as your list grows in size. They make setting up auto-responders a breeze and they provide a full database of forms to insert into your website for list building. They also handling list deployment so you can send off your marketing campaigns and watch user engagement, open %, click-through rates and much much more.
Aweber – Enterprise level email marketing software that provides a similar offering to Mailchimp but at a slightly higher price point. They provide all the usual goodness as well, autoresponders, sign up forms, newsletter templates, drag n drop editors, as well as full tracking of email marketing campaigns. We used to swear by Aweber but now rely mainly on mailchimp, but still thought they deserved mention.
Campaign Monitor – More focused on building up a newsletter list than email marketing as a whole, but still provide enhanced functionality so that you can conceivably scale an email campaign. They have a clean interface, are built for agencies, and allow fully white-labeled solutions for those looking to upsell email marketing and newsletter building. A solid platform and low price points give Campaign Monitor our nod of approval.
WebEx – Cisco’s webex offering is probably the best collaboration tool on the market today and gives you everything you need to host communicative meetings with your clients and business partners from anywhere. Allows for desktop sharing, whiteboards, documents on their basic free offering, but you will need to fork up $25/mo in order to get more advanced stuff like hi-def video, remote access, as well as application sharing (which can be great for on the fly reports, presentations, and much much more) They provide ample storage space and are fully integrated on the cloud so you can literally meet and collaborate from anywhere.
GoTo Meeting – We have used GoTo Meeting for years now and it is completely user friendly and a breeze to use (which can be great for the less tech savvy clients of yours). GoTo offers multiple options for hosting web conferences, but also hosts other features like Webinars and Training. Launching a meeting is as simple as sending an email to your prospective meeting attendees, and then your off and running, all they have to do is click a link in their email. The ease of use and simplistic functionality is what makes Go To Meeting a winner and will be continually used for years to come.
FreshBooks – Cloud accounting software that allows your business to go completely paperless. Combined with the accessibility and functionality of Paypal or Swipe and you can sell anything online without the need for clumsy paper invoices of the past. Get your business up to the times and try going paperless today.
Right Signature – Another great tool that can be used to take your company to the world of the paperless elite, Right Signature allows e-signing and e-signatures for contracts all online so that you dont have to bother with sloppy insertion orders and PO’s that need to be filed away into oblivion. We love the simplicity of Right Sig and you would too if you could organize all your contracts in an easy to use database.
Wunderlist – A simple web app that will help organize your life. Wunderlist is a checklist app that allows collaboration with others and is fully mobile sync’d so you can make notes on the fly and re-calibrate later. Helps keep track of to-do’s and organize your workflow with others to ensure you are on top of your game.
As you can see there is a multitude of options available when it comes down to handling the various facets of our business, but the end result equates to a quality of service that is hard to match for those not in the know. Providing a quality result for your clients and for your marketing efforts is the end goal of any successful service business, and the utilization of these tools and software will give anyone a step up on their competition.
These tools are not an end-all and it really comes down to the people at the end of the day, we know there are other options for each category but we listed the ones we felt provided the best value, as well as what we know worked for us from experience.
Feel free to leave your suggestions for additional products and apps we may have missed in the comments below, we are always eager to discuss our passion for online marketing.