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Updated February 27, 2023.
There are more tools and resources available to you today than ever before. Because there are so many, finding the right one to meet your needs can cost a lot of time and money.
I’ve been handling marketing departments for a number of years, more than 10.
The bottom line is I have spent a lot of time and money on marketing tools, testing and roll-outs to find what works best to build and manage high performing marketing departments at virtually every stage, from start-up to mature doing over $125 million in sales.
Chances are, you need a few tools, too, and I hope this resource can help you.
Marketing department tools are typically hardware and software that help you bring structure to and design, launch, build and manage your marketing department. The types of tools are many -- telephone, CRM, social, direct mail, email software, productivity, writing, etc.
With that, the only goal for choosing your tools is two fold:
Nothing else matters.
We all have preferences when it comes to choosing the best marketing department tools, but just in case you care to know what I use, I open the lid to my toolbox below.
In case you missed the affiliate disclaimer above, this post does contain some affiliate links for the various tools and software I use that offer an affiliate program. I also include everything I use that doesn’t have an affiliate program.
As I change tools, which I often do in an effort to generate a better response and or discover new tools as a result of working within different industries, I keep this list as current as I can if it’s worth mentioning.
Let’s get into the tools I use most often, with what I believe is the most important: Creating the best mind-set for the marketing department.
This is the step toward creating a forward-looking marketing department led by goals, and the right priorities baked by a strong customer focus.
Regardless of the size of your team, you need to get the right mind-set. Here’s four short courses I like to see everyone in the marketing department internalize:
You probably already have a platform you prefer, but we choose Wordpress in the majority of cases for its simple, fast, proven content management tools for website development.
As you manage Wordpress, you will want a fast, secure theme. We like Astra and Trellis. You’ll want visual editors. We often use Elementor as it is an elegant visual editor. Even though most designers seem to hate it, I prefer Gutenberg Blocks because it is fast and simple and optimized for Wordpress.
But Wordpress isn’t always the right tool nor is it always possible depending upon the stage of the business, the business model or the resources available.
For example, we use Shopify for many eCommerce business models. They provide a solid content management tool. It is not nearly as effective for content management as Wordpress, but it does work efficiently and can generate just as good SEO results while providing a great reason for customers to come back for more. Plus, it is hard to argue with the vast set of tools and 3rd party software that supports the Shopify platform for eCommerce.
One of the downside's of Shopify is as you grow the cost and complexity of the add-ons can get quite resource heavy.
Alternatively, another eCommerce tool we use is UltraCart.
They have a fantastic customer support department with a friendly team of developers and they truly care about their customers. UltraCart is not as robust as Shopify for a simple reason, they essentially have all the most important 3rd party tools that Shopify makes available, already built-in. As an example, they seamlessly integrate with Wordpress, have built-in email software, membership software and easy integration into shopping sites.
We choose UltraCart for many applications especially for companies that prefer to have an all-in-one solution and don’t want to hassle with plug-ins and add-ons (I know, the exact opposite of Wordpress, but for eCommerce they make it work really well).
Changing hosting providers is usually not a priority unless it's a start-up environment, a site rebuild, site migration or there is a larger problem.
Anyway, there are tons of hosting options, but just in case you want to know what I prefer, here it is:
We are in the process of switching some of our sites to Rocket.net because of better performance. They include good Wordpress security, image compression, and good prices when hosting multiple sites. This will reduce the number of plug-ins needed which will further speed up the sites.
Since we mention domain buying, we prefer
There is nothing more important than your house list, i.e., your customer list.
Whatever tool you choose to manage your list, you need to start with something. Nothing is more important than your customer list and you need to have your customers in a database whether on day 1 or day 1,0001.
Over the years I have used and tested dozens of CRMs from Salesforce to Microsoft Access to eCommerce platforms to Filemaker Pro, using an excel file or building a custom SQL system. Plus, there are many industry-specific CRMs you could use.
When given the option I like to start with a foundation of a custom SQL platform that I control 100% (without risk of a 3rd party in control of my database) and then stack on a CRM for increased functionality.
The bottom line is that your choice of CRMs may largely depend upon the scope of the business, the industry, and the business model.
If you are just getting started or simply need a basic method to house your customers right now, here are three solid options:
Of these three,
For bigger sales teams, Salesforce is a good choice although I think they have become too complicated over the years. In this case I would probably still use Hubspot.
I tend to prefer sleek and simple solutions that let our sales teams stay focused on the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) rather than getting lost in managing a trendy, overly complex and time-intensive software package (which, unfortunately, is often the case when a company goes public).
There’s no shortage of great talent and freelancers who can do a quality job.
We use the usual sources for projects when our in-house teams are at capacity.
Here’s what we use depending upon the project:
DesignCrowd can be a source of your best work. They have a unique approach to how they work with their talent, which I like a lot. We use them for higher quality labels, logos, creative and advertising materials at a fair price and have always had a good experience.
Fiverr is still a source we use when we need relatively fast work, done at a decent price. While it’s not always the highest quality as you will need to review a lot of candidates, this can be a solid source of talent.
We've used Upwork for many years and still testing the platform as needed. The platform has changed a lot and now only we use Upwork as a last resort.
In many cases, especially when trying to stretch our marketing budget in order to gain and keep customers, we need to bring in a professional assistant. OnlineJobs.ph is quite possibly one of the best resources for finding educated, talented and reliable sources of virtual assistants who can help you stay organized and on a schedule.
Content is King. It gives us a competitive advantage in a variety of ways. First, and most important, it provides education for our customers and gives them a reason to stay as a customer. Plus it gives us a reason to stay in constant communication with our current customers. Additionally, high quality content can provide SEO benefits when done right.
But we always start with the customer.
With that, producing high quality content is very hard. And this produces a barrier to entry for competitors, which is also a competitive advantage.
So we take this very seriously and are always looking for great content writers.
You will always be your best writer, but will be limited in the amount of content you can produce, especially when juggling a marketing department of any size.
So, here’s some services we use to help produce content:
Once again we use Fiverr for some content that requires minimal technical knowledge. In some cases we have found technically proficient writers here, but it takes work to find them. Fiverr can be cheap on the front end, but with content you usually end up paying for it with the amount of time needed to edit and make it customer facing.
Regardless of your source of writers, we all make mistakes. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, sometimes plagiarism (even if accidental). You need to run it through a tool. I prefer Grammarly and use it daily -- it never fails to find errors for me, thereby producing a better piece of content.
I have done a ton of public relations campaigns across TV, radio, and social outlets. But press releases are the core activity in the majority of cases. And they still provide a many opportunities and should be part of most marketing strategies.
I have used many distribution services, but have been getting the best results from eReleases.
Ok, now we can get past some of the admin stuff, and move into productivity tools.
There are endless productivity tools and I have not used all of them, far from it.
While I am always testing with a variety of team members and departments, I always stay focused on the Law of 80 / 20 and stick to the basics.
Here are a few of my go-to tools:
I use Toggl to track my projects and set a timer. It helps me organize my time per project. Toggl is a simple, effective tool with good tracking. The company is growing and continuing to evolve into a better quality product.
I could put Google’s tools in almost any category, but let's go with productivity. It will be worth your time to get to know the tools Google provides, from Google Trends to Google Sheets, Tag Manager, Analytics and of course Search Console. We use Google tools daily. The most important Google tool I use daily is Google Docs.
By far the best writing tool I use daily is Ultra Edit. Not only is it a note taking tool, but Ultra Edit does an excellent job in stripping the “junk” from ‘copy and paste’ snippets of text, copy, lines of code, and the garbage that Microsoft embeds in almost everything they touch, plus a ton of other features and benefits which I probably am not even aware of. I highly suggest getting yourself this tool. It’s a lifesaver and will undoubtedly enhance your productivity and remove a lot of frustration from your life.
Email is one of my favorite tools and I am constantly testing new platforms. There are many options and I have certainly not used all of them, but have used probably dozens of platforms over the years from Mailchimp to Constant Contact to iContact and many others. I tend to gravitate back to these two of my favorites.
Not only is email the single best method for retaining customers, email can be one of the main sources of revenue for almost any company.
Here are my favorites:
Mailerlite is my favorite email provider for consistent email campaigns because they are light, simple, easy and fast. While they are growing and stacking on more services, I do hope they continue to offer a simple product that has the most necessary tools needed for email campaigns.
Remarkety is an excellent email provider for eCommerce companies. They automate most of the ‘big data’ work needed to work in union with your email list and database of customers.
They make it very easy for marketers to execute the all-too-important strategy of Recency, Frequency and Spend (RFM analysis) and make this easier than ever.
Next to email, direct mail is one of my go-to strategies. Direct mail, when done right, will give you an immediate competitive advantage.
Because everyone thinks it doesn't work.
I have used dozens of providers and continue to test new providers and campaigns almost daily.
Here are two of my favorites that I always come back to:
The main reason direct mail doesn't work is because it breaks the rules of direct marketing. After all, who is teaching direct marketing rules in college? How are newbie marketing directors learning the basics of direct marketing? They aren’t.
And this is another of your competitive advantages.
Direct marketing flat out works, but universities don't teach it. Largely because their professors don't know and the best direct marketers are too busy increasing sales and making money.
Ball Point Marketing fixes a lot of this for you. That’s why I highly suggest them for your direct mail campaign. You’ll be amazed after your first test campaign.
For a cost effective, fast and simple mail campaign such as a postcard, combined with digital landing pages, click2mail is an excellent choice. They provide a wide set of valuable services such as thank you cards, welcome cards, post-purchase, sales letters and more. Integrating just one Click2Mail direct mail campaign in itself can help you gain a competitive advantage.
I have found that social media can be a waste of time, or it can be an absolute game-changer.
Whether your strategy is to gain testimonials, lead generation, community outreach, international marketing, relationship building, or simply push out automated messages, social needs to be managed efficiently.
Probably like you, I have used dozens of social media tools over the years.
Here’s my favorites:
Dlvr.it is a simple, fast tool that schedules and automates your posts. They have trouble with Google Business Profile, but Google doesn’t like automated social posts anyway, so I’m sure they are not alone in their frequent disconnects.
SproutSocial is robust and built for a more frequent and social media pusher. If you are managing multiple social accounts with multiple account users, this is a great choice.
To run a marketing department, you have to continually keep your eye on ‘where the ball is going’.
And regularly test campaigns.
This is why we use landing pages. And there are many platforms to choose from.
Here are my favorites:
When working on Wordress sites I prefer Gutenberg. My favorite Gutenberg block archives are from WPstackable. I also use Elementor for better visual design.
Once again I frequently stick to Hubspot because they have good support and they are really a marketing company with many solid services.
There's tons of places to go for photos. The absolute best place to create a bond with your customer is to take your own unique photos with your own camera. If that’s not always possible, I use Shutterstock and Adobe.
Canva is an excellent resource, which I am sure you are aware of. We use it continually. Their free version is almost all you need for editing and creativity.
A fast and friendly form builder is a marketer’s friend. These are great for landing page development and marketing testing without losing valuable customer data. Heres two of my favorites:
MyContactForm is super easy to use and fast. It's a little old and could use some updating, but it does work efficiently enough to do a good job.
Form-building and landing pages, HubSpot makes collecting customer details on forms easy to track and combined with their landing pages the process is even easier.
We do a lot of international marketing and product development. And depending upon where you are and the stage of your business, you will too.
Because we largely work with Amazon, FBA, eCommerce and hungry databases of customers we are constantly innovating new products and searching for solutions across many borders.
Here are two of my resources you will undoubtedly need:
First is TipTrans. They are awesome, super friendly and have several services that are super important. To start, if you are new to sourcing products and are getting samples from multiple suppliers, they can save you money by being packaging al your samples in one and sending them to you in one package. Or, if you are a veteran, they can give you wharehouse space. Take a look at their cost calculators, sign up for an account to have one handy and you won't regret it.
Freightos is another vendor you need to have in arsenal. Not just for data and insider information but because they are the largest international freight marketplace. They bring together logistics provides with importers and exporters and help you move product. You can check them out here.