As a marketing agency, we don’t sell software, we sell solutions. But a big part of modern digital marketing involves software, and by extension making smart choices about which software tools you use.
I’ll be honest, finding the best-of-breed software product for a specific task at hand is tedious and time-consuming. But the smart and cost-efficient use of marketing technology, or martech, is a big part of who we are as a company and the services we provide.
The guys over at the Chief Marketing Technologist blog have been keeping track through the years of just how big the marketing technology scene is. They say that in 2020, there were over 8,000 martech solutions out there. Growth in the space has been phenomenal, to put it mildly.
Let me share what software tools we are using right now, both internally and for our clients. Hopefully, this will save you some time, some money, and some pain.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS), basically the software behind your website. A CMS is used for websites that publish, well, content. That can be blogs, news, recipes, or a catalogue of widgets for sale online.
WordPress powers a third of all websites online today and commands a respectable 60% market share of the CMS space. It is such a big deal in what we do as an agency that I have written a separate article on it here.
Over the years we’ve worked with Drupal, Joomla, and even Squarespace and Shopify. We have also worked with some pretty shocking legacy systems in place at some Fortune 500 companies. We’ve been through the pain, so you don’t have to. Trust us. Go with WordPress.
We incorporate hosting in our Managed Web Services offering and host dozens of client sites at Pressidium, a dedicated WordPress hosting provider. If you run a WordPress website, working with a hosting provider that specialises in WordPress is a smart way to go. We also have good things to say about WP Engine and Pantheon.
ActiveCampaign is at the centre of much of what we do in content marketing and digital marketing. For email marketing, marketing automation, and marketing CRM, it allows you to track user engagement and automate tasks based on that information.
Like all email marketing and marketing automation programmes, it relies on cookies.
Whenever a user submits a form or opens an email, a tracking cookie is placed on that user’s device. From there on out, you can track that user’s activities on your website and their interactions with your emails.
If a user has signed up for your e-newsletter of weekly cooking tips, for example, and subsequently visits the food processor page in your online shop say, three times in a week, you could serve a pop-up offering a limited-time discount on food processors, send the user an email on cooking tips with food processors, or serve an ad on food processors the next time that user is surfing Facebook or Instagram. Cool, right?
There is a fine line between being smart and being creepy, but most people have become accustomed to that kind of targeted, personalised marketing, and some demographics even expect it.
As a marketing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, ActiveCampaign can keep a record of how a user has interacted with your website and your content over time. If you sell things online, it also integrates with e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce and WooCommerce, giving you a full view of your customers’ surfing and purchase history.
Why does all this matter? It matters because you can use that information to design better user journeys for potential customers and to personalise your ongoing engagement with existing customers. That’s important stuff.
Depending on how your lead generation processes are structured and whether or not your sales team has an existing CRM, we might opt for an integration that puts Sales and Marketing on the same system. For example, Salesforce integrates tightly with ActiveCampaign, creating a powerful marketing suite for a fraction of the cost of Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Zoho CRM user? Zoho has a product called CRM Plus that incorporates some good marketing tools.
What about Mailchimp? Mailchimp is a great email marketing tool for very small companies, and to be honest, it is far easier to design great-looking emails in Mailchimp than it is in ActiveCampaign. But it does not offer the level of user tracking and automation that ActiveCampaign does. It tracks how users interact with your emails, but that’s about it.
Did I mention it plays nicely with WordPress? Like BFFs.
Unbounce is a tool to create landing pages, single-page websites with a single call to action.
Why do you need landing pages? As the user moves from the awareness stage of his journey (the point where they are both aware of their need and aware that you may provide a solution) to the consideration stage, they are more likely to click on a link or an ad to learn more.
If a user is looking for trips to Paris and you run a travel agency, for example, you are in a very competitive space to get their attention. If this user does click on your link or your ad, you don’t want to send them to your website’s home page where a dozen trips to a dozen cities are offered. They will get lost. You want the user to click through to a page that only has information about your limited-time offer of the most amazing trip to Paris they have ever seen. And on that page, the user has only one navigation choice – fill out a simple form to learn more.
From a marketing standpoint, a click on that “Learn More” form submission is a conversion. We can optimise the user journey, design, copy, and even ads for conversions. That’s important stuff too. It’s called conversion rate optimisation.
To get to the point, landing pages are designed to convert, more so than most website pages. Hence, they are a widely used tool.
If we manage your site, we’ll be using WordPress and usually design and publish purpose-designed landing pages in WordPress too. But if we don’t manage your site and time and budget dictate, Unbounce is a great tool for the task.
Unbounce also allows you to create sticky bars and pop-ups. I’m a bigger fan of the former.
Did I mention it integrates with ActiveCampaign and plays nicely with WordPress? Now you are starting to see what it is called a martech stack – a combination of best-of-breed tools for specific tasks that work well together.
Google Analytics and Search
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are tools that provide generic data about visitors to your website and landing pages, and how they found you. Those tools are part of the suite we use for search engine optimisation (SEO), an ongoing process to improve your visibility in organic search. More important stuff here. Being able to be easily found in search is a pillar of digital marketing.
For us, SEO involves both making sure your website is technically accessible to search engines and making sure the content on the site, be it static copy or articles, is search engine-friendly and answers users’ needs. That is called on-page SEO.
Off-page SEO is the stuff that drives traffic to the site or drives awareness such as PR, social media, and people sharing links to the awesome content on your site.
Salween Group’s content strategy team incorporates both on-page and off-page SEO as part of the strategy they ideate and manage across earned, owned, and paid channels.
Data is at the heart of digital marketing. By its very nature, digital marketing is measurable, and data is used both to measure the efficacy of your campaigns and to optimise them. To make it easier to digest the multiple sources of data available, we run our client data dashboards on a white-labelled version of Agency Analytics. That is another example of where we’ve tried a few competing alternatives through the years (there are literally dozens of players in the data management and visualisation space) but picked the one that best suits our needs and the needs of our clients.
No martech stack would be complete without a project and task management tool. This is probably the software choice that haunts me the most at night (not really, but that sounds foreboding).
Your project management tool defines not only your workflows but how you interact with others in your organisation. By its very nature, it requires universal buy-in. Your whole team needs to adopt it and use it religiously.
What do we use? Asana.
For years we used CoSchedule, which is an incredibly awesome tool for marketers. I can’t recommend it enough if all you are managing is a marketing team.
But our needs for internal and external collaboration outgrew what CoSchedule could offer at a competitive price point, and after a few months of research and trials, we went for Asana.
Project management software is another place where you’re spoiled for choice, but once again that magic “best price to features to the ease-of-use ratio” is what guides our choices. Asana ticked the boxes.
What else do we use? Here you go, in no particular order:
- Agorapulse. Our social media management tool. Good feature set and granular permissions allow us to give seats to our clients where we co-manage their social channels. My only beef is that it doesn’t play well with others. It’s a very siloed tool.
- SEMrush. This was originally brought in as an SEO and research tool, and those are still our primary uses for it. They have been adding features to the product to the point I’d almost call it bloatware. It is still useful though.
- Wistia. Video hosting. I have another article in the works about why you should not host your corporate videos on YouTube. Wistia and Vimeo are the alternatives we suggest. Vimeo is blocked in Indonesia, Wistia is not, so we use Wistia for our website (we do a lot of work for Indonesian clients) and suggest it for anyone who needs to be seen there.
- Vimeo. Cheaper than Wistia. If you don’t care about your videos being seen in Indonesia, this is your best choice.
- Brand24. Public relations and media outreach is a part of our offer, and we monitor brand mentions globally not only to measure the efficacy of our efforts but to see who the true online “influencers” are. Online media is the new traditional media.
- Muck Rack. Another PR tool. Media monitoring, outreach, alerts, and reporting in a slick interface. Not cheap by any measure, but worth it if you are paid to do PR.
- Grammarly. Multi-platform spell check. We are communicators, and we are humans that make mistakes. We’ve been subscribers since they were in beta. Love it.
- MarvelApp. Web page mockups and client approvals. Not sure we’ll stick with this as the team is learning Adobe XD which we have for “free” through our Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Watch this space.
- Hotjar. Heatmaps and other tools to see how users interact with your website. We downgraded to the free plan and went for a paid version of Crazy Egg instead. More bang for buck IMHO.
- Bugherd. We introduced this tool when a client insisted they use their own IT team as web developers. Bug city. Fantastic tool for UAT of websites.
- Typeform. One of the things ActiveCampaign does poorly is multi-step forms and quizzes. Typeform is the tool of choice for that, and it integrates with ActiveCampaign.
- Flockler. Social media walls. Allows you to aggregate social accounts and curate the content for embedding on websites or screens. Great price/feature ratio.
- Frontify. Online brand management and digital asset management. It is one of those tools you never know you needed until you see what it can do.
- Adobe Creative Cloud. We are an Adobe CC shop, from Ps to Ai to Pr to Ae to Au. You have to be. It is what it is, and you pay for it. You pay A LOT for it.
- Zapier. The glue that binds otherwise unconnected web apps with triggers and actions. Things like “send a message to a Slack channel when a sales enquiry form is submitted”. Very useful tool.
I mentioned at the start that we don’t sell software, we sell solutions. While we are agency partners of a few of the products mentioned here, unlike some other agencies we do not take commissions or fees on software subscriptions or sales. We instead use our partnerships to get things like advanced training and access to new features.
That’s something we are proud of, being able to offer the right tools for the job, transparently and without bias.
Do you have a favourite tool you think would help us work smarter? Or want more details on our experiences with any of the software mentioned above? We are here to help. Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.