Every business needs the ability to focus – to target its time, energy and resources into one central goal.
In the wrong hands, digital marketing tools are nothing more than an unproductive distractions from that primary goal. There are more tools available than you will ever be able to utilize or even try, with countless additions launched every day.
In the right hands, however, a curated suite of tools can streamline every part of your businesses, allowing you to focus your energy into that one, primary goal. These tools can turn hour-long processes into something completed in minutes. They can also quickly give you in-depth insights you would otherwise need extensive legwork to uncover.
That’s what this list of tools is all about – a variety of digital marketing tools that will automate, streamline, and enhance the supplemental parts of your business, allowing you to focus your efforts and keep the main thing, the main thing.
1. Ahrefs – The Ultimate Research Tool
When it comes to researching backlinks, keywords, competitors, content, etc., there are about a hundred thousand tools to choose from.
Typically in these sorts of saturated markets, you have your big, pricey enterprise tools and your smaller, single-function, low-cost tools. Often, the leading, enterprise-level option is a bloated mess, where you are overcharged for essentially one or two high-value functions with a huge batch of worthless supplements that inflate the cost.
This isn’t the case with Ahrefs. In a crowded market of SEO tools, Ahrefs stands out as a offering perhaps the best backlink tools for an incredibly competitive rate.
The initial dashboard provides you with a laundry list of key data for any domain you wish to view, including:
- Domain rank and authority
- Complete backlink profile
- Organic keyword rankings & traffic
- Referring domains
- Top content and pages
- Performance over time
- Top competitors
- Paid traffic performance
You can monitor your own domain for brand mentions, target keyword mentions, new links, keyword rankings, etc. And you can also do all of this for your competitors as well. Ahrefs really is the ultimately research tool online, and at $99 for the starting package, it’s incredibly cost effective as well.
Plus, with their new Content Explorer tool, they’ve eliminated the need to also purchase something like BuzzSumo, essentially rolling that functionality into their own tool suite, and doing so at a high level.
Many of the tools on this list are simple, low-priced, one or two function options that allow to chip away at one key problem. When it comes to research and analysis, however, I recommend that you drop the coin for Ahrefs and make it your one-stop solution for tracking both your own SEO progress as well as the competition.
2. UnDelay – The Latest & Greatest In Landing Page Builders
Speaking of saturated markets, few these days are as saturated as that of landing page builders.
Because landing pages are really, really, REALLY important for any online business. Moreover, many businesses need the ability to quickly create high-performing landing pages without hiring a development team to go through a lengthy creation process.
This need for speed is why landing page and webpage builders like LeadPages, Wix, and Squarespace have seen valuations rise well north of $500 million over the last two years. People want the ability to put up functional, attractive landing pages quickly and with minimal effort.
Unfortunately, most of these speed-oriented tools are just that. While they can be put up in record time, they are at best mediocre products and in certain situations, absolutely terrible at converting traffic into leads or customers.
This is what makes UnDelay’s landing page builder the latest and greatest to hit the market. UnDelay combines the speed and intuitive interface of a builder like LeadPages with the customization and in-depth split testing of something like Unbounce.
Furthermore, it’s adaptive infrastructure allows users to deliver unique, customized pages to desktop, tablet, and mobile users, and split test every page iteration simultaneously.
What all this means is that businesses with a need for fast landing pages no longer have to sacrifice quality or ignore certain segments of their user base. UnDelay users are able to build pages that are simultaneously optimized for every single device.
After publishing the highest ranked review for landing page builders several years ago, I’ve spent the last few months using UnDelay, and it is easily the best builder I’ve ever used. If you’ve been noticing poor mobile conversion rates with another builder or have yet to try one out, let me save you some time right and now and tell you to give UnDelay a try.
3. Buffer – Your One-Stop Shop For Social Sharing & Curation
It’s really, really easy to waste ALL your time on social media.
Fortunately, it’s also really, really easy to waste ZERO time on social media and still get all the benefit social media is designed to afford your business.
If you are wanting that second option, Buffer is the tool for you. Right off the bat, there are some really fantastic reasons to LOVE what Buffer has to offer.
- Lightning quick sharing
- Only $10 a month to meet the needs of 90% of businesses
- Smooth, intuitive interface
- High level of customization
- Has all the expected platform integrations
- THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE YOU’LL EVER ENCOUNTER
Cards on the table – I cancelled my Buffer account a few months ago and tried out Edgar instead. Why? Because, while I enjoyed Buffer’s ability to easily curate new content, what I really wanted was the ability to schedule my core content on a recurring basis. With Edgar costing a rather pricey $50 per month, I decided I didn’t want to pay for Buffer as well.
When I emailed in to cancel and explained why, Buffer’s team immediately refunded the year I had paid for (which I was neither expecting nor requesting), told me I could still use my Buffer account for the full year, and informed me that they had a feature called “Library” in Beta which would allow me to schedule recurring posts like I was wanting to do.
Accordingly, I used both Edgar and Library for 3 months to compare notes, ROI and decide which I would use moving forward. At the end of that time, Buffer’s Library feature gave me everything I needed for recurring post, which combined with their vastly superior content curation tool, made it a no-brainer at just $10 per month.
The beauty of Buffer is that it can seamlessly combine new curated content with scheduled resharing of your core content. Once you’ve shared a post, you can view how it performed and then save it to Library where it can be rescheduled for ## of shares over ## of days.New content you Buffer is then integrated into that schedule for a seamless flow. All in all, you won’t find a better one-stop social media solution for the insanely low cost of $10 per month.
4. ConvertPlug – Full Featured Lead Capture For Pennies
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to popups and lead capture. Most of these tools are more or less the same. Some are easier to use. Some have better testing. Some have more customization options.
But what virtually ALL of them come with these days is a SaaS pricing model. In other words, you can’t just pay $100 and get your software. You have to pay this month and next month and the month after that and every month you use it for the rest of time.
For more in-depth popup software that includes split testing, exit-intent software, and other more advanced features, you’re going to be looking at $50 per month… for a popup!
This is one of the main reasons I really love ConvertPlug. Yes, it has all the high-end features:
- Detect Exit Intent
- Generate Social Followers
- Display Targeted Offers
- Share Updates
- Offer Discounts
- Promote Videos
- Redirect Traffic
ConvertPlug popups are first and foremost really great popups.
But here’s the really big deal.
Unlike virtually EVERY other premium popup tool out there, ConvertPlug costs just $21. NOT $21 per month. Not $21 now and another $21 every time you get 1,000 views.
That is less than half the price of the monthly cost of most other popups. And furthermore, ConvertPlug is one of the better options on the market. It has more customization and placement options than most of its competitors:
I’ve experimented with quite a few popup tools over the years, and while there are definitely some more feature-rich, more advanced options, I have yet to see anything even close to the value you get with ConvertPlug.For $21, what do you have to lose? Might as well take two!
5. Slack – Team & Network Communication At Its Best
One of the primary challenges any team faces is efficient communication.
You have groups that need to be in contact. You have other groups that need to be “in touch” but don’t necessarily benefit from constant contact. You have tools that work well for quick chats and tools that work well for bigger transfers and file distribution.
Ultimately, the goal of any communication tool should be to centralize communication – to remove the need for multiple communications avenues – multiple places you have to check throughout the day – and streamline everything into one dashboard. It simply isn’t efficient to have communication happening across a variety of mediums at once.
If the previous statement is true (and I believe it is by virtue of both theory and experience), then Slack is the perfect tool for team communication.
Slack is a case study in the “less is more” philosophy. It simplifies and centralizes communication, allowing you to only receive the notifications you need to respond to.
One of the things I love most about Slack is the channels. If I’m working with business on marketing, I can mute their engineering, design, or product channels and only engage with the channels relevant to my work, while having access to other if needed. If I’m needed on occasion in one of the other channels, uses can simply tag my name and I’ll be notified. Otherwise, I’m not distracted by information I don’t need to hear about.
In addition to its use as a team communication tool, Slack has become a favorite channel for networking and influencer marketing due to the same theme of “less is more”. It’s a lot easier for people to be in groups that only notify them when necessary.
I’m currently in a group with editors, writers, and owners from some of the top marketing blogs online. After seeing how readily people networked within Slack, I decided to give it a try and start my own influencer group in the freelance writing space. Within one weekend, I had the owners and editors of the top 10 writing/blogging websites in my Slack group. While I’m sure Slack isn’t the perfect fit for everyone, if you’ve been looking for a better communication or networking tool, definitely give Slack a try.
6. Visme – Exceptional Design For Non-Designers
Let’s be honest. You probably suck at design. Frankly, if you aren’t a designer by trade, there is a fantastic chance you are truly atrocious at it.
When it comes to ecommerce, design is a fairly big deal. Well designed brands, products, websites, and stores stand out, while poor or mediocre designs are often ignored. At the end of the day, design won’t make your business… but it can break your business.
The ideal solution to meeting your design needs is to find fantastic, affordably priced designer who can give your brand a “next level” look at every customer interaction point. For many small businesses, however, that is simply not an option. These individuals need a low-cost solution that allows them to create satisfactory graphics and high-end looking infographics without any design skills.
Visme is a platform that lets you create infographics, presentations, and other graphics via a simple, intuitive user interface. It’s lightning quick, easy to use, and works exactly like you want it to.
When I say “satisfactory” graphics, that might not seem very enthusiastic, but it’s actually a MASSIVE compliment, because you aren’t nearly good enough to achieve satisfactory on your own.“Satisfactory” means that the design quality isn’t going to hurt your brand. It won’t MAKE your brand, because honestly, you really need a pro designer to do that, but it will absolutely work well for you as you focus on building an actual business, and down the road, if you have enough money, you can always shell out to hire some professional designers.
You probably won’t make it that far, however, without a passable level of design, and that is exactly what Visme will give you. In addition to letting you create all sorts of graphics, the platform specializes in helping you create high-end infographics and reports off of professionally designed templates.
Simply select your template and replace pieces with your own data, text, and narrative in order to create exceptional work without any design skills whatsoever. If you are looking for a good overall design tool that will let you create a wide variety of solid graphics, Visme is one of the best options available to you.
7. PowToon – Incredible Animated Videos Made Cheap & Easy
Have you ever clicked-through to a landing page and been presented with a professionally animated explainer video highlighting the page’s offer?
Aren’t those impressive?
Yes… yes they are.
A few years ago, if you wanted something like that for your business, you could shell out $3-5k to a video producer and learn to love the result. Today, you can make your own videos – as many as you’d like – for just $19 per month via PowToon.
PowToon lets you create ever-popular animated explainer videos in just a few minutes. You can create videos from scratch or modify a variety of existing templates – which is even faster since the inter-slide animations are already completed for you.
I can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by a tool. PowToon’s video editor is as smooth as butter and incredibly fun to use if you have any affinity whatsoever for video editing.
Just like Visme allows you to create exceptional infographics with no design skills, PowToon lets you create gorgeous videos without any skills at all. The interface is basically the same as a basic image editor or even something as simple as MS Word. Just point, click, drag, drop, expand, move, etc.
If you’ve been wanting to add video into your content marketing but haven’t been sure how, PowToon is the perfect tool to help you quickly publish quality videos your audience will love. You can also use to publish youtube videos that will rank for SEO keyphrases.
There’s really no reason not to have a PowToon subscription, so go get one.
8. Postable – Save Hours Of Time Off WordPress Publishing
Marketing in 2016 is all about the content. It doesn’t matter how you are driving traffic to that content, you still need solid content on your site.
If you are a solo blogger, you might simply write content directly into WordPress, but for most people today, Google Docs is king. Google Docs is easily the best collaborative editor currently in existence.
- Everyone has a Google account, so no new signups required
- The interface is streamlined, uncluttered and easy to use
- Group collaboration and revisions are simple, straightforward and effective
The reality is that if you are an editor or are coordinating content from multiple sources, you are using Google Docs (or you should be using Google Docs). And just like Google Docs owns a virtual monopoly on collaborative text editing, WordPress is nearly always going to be the end destination of that content.
In other words, if you are reading this right now, you are probably creating Google Docs and then transferring them to WordPress at some point. And if you’ve ever made that transfer with a longer document that included images, you know how incredibly frustrating and impossible it is to actually transfer stuff out of Google Docs once it’s ready.
And that is exactly why the guys at Grow & Convert made Postable.
Postable saves you hours in transfer hassle by doing one thing and one thing only.
- Select your Google Doc
- Click “Transfer”
- Watch your doc show up as a perfectly formatted WordPress post draft
Click Transfer in Postable.
Boom! Post draft ready to go in my WordPress dashboard!
If you are creating regular content for your business (which you absolutely should be), Postable will save you a ton of time transferring content from the best possible editor to the best possible publisher. It’s an incredible single-purpose tool that will save you many, many hours over the course of the year.
9. Beacon – Professional Looking Lead Magnets On The Cheap
Since we’re on the topic of content, I want to list one more single-purpose tool that I’ve found incredibly helpful this last year.
If you’ve been following content marketing trends, you know that post-specific lead magnets are all the rage. Basically, instead of having a single ebook that you offer to people visiting your blog, you create a lead magnet for each post, so when the person finishes reading, they have a 100% tailored offer coaxing them to hand over their email address.
That sounds great and all, but how do you make these little mini-ebooks, checklists, or whatever you pick actually look good? As we discussed earlier, design matter, and having lead magnets that look professional can go a long way towards building your brand.
A few months ago, I asked a network acquaintance in my Slack group if he knew of any cheap solutions for creating professionally designed lead magnets. He told me I could get a custom template designed for around $800 and then it would only cost $300 per lead magnet from there on out.
…. $300 per lead magnet!?
That’s a chunk of change, especially when you consider it’s probably costing you around that much for the article itself. While it’s a fairly reasonable cost for professional produced lead magnets, a lot of smaller businesses can’t afford to pay that type of money
Accordingly, when Beacon popped up in my inbox via an Appsumo email, and I was instantly in love.
Beacon turns regular WordPress posts into professional looking lead magnets. These lead magnets can then be downloaded as PDFs:
Or published as a scrollable series of HTML pages like this:
Thanks to Beacon, I am able to produce visually attractive lead magnets for both my own sites as well as my clients, and it only costs $9 per month to get started.
Just like with Visme, a tool like Beacon will never create something as beautiful as a professional designer could, but if work with content and don’t have the luxury of an in-house designer, Beacon is an absolutely incredible resource that will help you produce professional looking lead magnets for pennies.
10. BuzzStream – Automate Your Relationship Building
Tim Soulo recommended this tool my way early this year, and I have to say, I’m pretty excited about it.
Online business is all about relationship building, and if you are a B2B business, relationship building IS your business. BuzzStream joins a host of similar tools in helping you automate that relationship building process, but unlike every other tool I’ve encountered, BuzzStream actually gets the job done.
Let’s rewind a second.
How does one automate relationship building?
When pursuing connections with other owners or marketers, there are a number of steps you have to take:
- Identify key players in your niche and find the right contact info
- Email those contacts
- Track responses and follow up with contacts
Now that we’ve broken the process down into 4 steps, we can potentially automate any of steps. This is where BuzzStream comes in. This incredible tool actually automates all steps for you.
First, it lets you easily find key players and add contact info via a browser plugin. Simply click on a page to add it to your BuzzStream list, and the tool will automatically scan the website for key data and contact info. You can do this for a single website or scan a list of URLs generated by an app like BuzzSumo to quickly scan a bunch of sites at once.
Next, segment your lists, select and customize a template, and then automatically send out emails to your selected contacts.
Finally, manage your contacts via an automatically generated dashboard that shows where each contact is at in the connection process.
If you’ve ever wondered how marketers are able to quickly connect with hundreds of individuals in a short amount of time… this is how. Tim Soulo used this tool to help him reach out to over 500 bloggers for his popular post on the ROI of guest blogging.
Relationship building is an important piece of any marketing campaign. Use BuzzStream to do more with less.
11. Wordstream – Accessible PPC Marketing For Small Budgets
I think most business owners understand that paid advertising can almost single-handedly take a company to profitability. It provides an easily measured ROI and is one of the best possible marketing strategies for new businesses looking to maximize their marketing dollars.
Despite this, many business owners fail to even attempt PPC.
Because it’s not easy, and it’s not something you can just sort of jump into and bullshit your way to viability. When it comes to PPC, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose a lot of money.
This is why Wordstream has been so successful, both as a SaaS company and a PPC agency. Their flagship software is designed to help non-experts run successful PPC campaigns investing as little as 20 minutes per week.
The appropriately named “20 Minute PPC Work Week” is essentially a turnkey PPC solution for any business looking to add paid advertising to its marketing channels. There’s really not a whole lot more to say on this. It is literally “turnkey”.
- Call Tracking from WordStream
- WordStream Smart Tools
- PPC Landing Pages & Leads
- 20 Minute Work Week Alerts
- Keyword Research Tools
- Facebook Advertising
If you know that paid advertising should be a part of your marketing (and let’s be honest, it probably should be), Wordstream removes all the barriers and gives you an incredibly low-risk way to get started. It’s really the best option out there for businesses looking to start with anything less than $5,000 per month in ad spend.
And down the road, if you decide the system works and want it taken out of your hands, the transition to utilizing Wordstream’s full-service agency will be a breeze.
12. AdEspresso – Quick, Easy Facebook Advertising
Yes, we have reached the point in history where Facebook advertising is so massive, it now has it’s own multi-million dollar ad agencies, software companies, and more. Pretty much any sort of supplemental service you can find for PPC, you can now find for Facebook.
AdEspresso is to Facebook what Wordstream is to Google PPC – a turnkey solution to running complete, successful Facebook ad campaigns.
Unlike PPC, there aren’t really any barriers to entry when it comes to advertising on Facebook. It’s exceptionally easy. You hop into Ad Manager, set up an ad, and you’re good to go. You can make it work for you with a $10 budget or $1,000 budget. It doesn’t matter.
Where the process gets complicated is making the transition from mediocre ad campaigns to highly successful ones. Most businesses run woefully unoptimized ad campaigns because they can afford to. They can still get a positive ROI even with mediocre ads and poor targeting
AdEspresso provides a low cost solution for taking those ads to the next level, by:
- Helping you create and track ad campaigns
- Providing detailed, targeting analytics that actually help
- Recommending actual improvements for your campaigns
- Synchronizing your ad campaigns with your content marketing
If you’ve settled on Facebook as your go-to paid traffic source, you will definitely want to try out AdEspresso.
13. Cortex – Intelligent Social Audience Building
Moving past paid advertising, let’s talk about general social audience building.
It’s slow. Like… really, really slow.
If you manage to be an early adopter for the latest and greatest social network – if you began using Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat in its first year – then you probably got a massive following by default.
But for everyone else who arrived late or even on-time to the party, you have to work really, really hard to get any attention. And you have to be really, really consistent to build a social audience.
Cortex expedites this process by using intelligent analysis to help you optimize your content and delivery on an ongoing basis.
If you aren’t really creating any new content, this tool won’t help you, but if you are regularly creating content for both your blog and various social platforms, Cortex will maximize the value you get from that content in building your social audiences.
The software accomplishes two primary objectives:
- Increase engagement – customers typically see an improvement of between 50-400% in the first two months
- Save time – Cortex saves users an average of 10 hours per week in social media management time
To summarize, if you are already investing in your social media audience building, Cortex will optimize your results while saving you time.
14. TLDR Plugin – Turn Time Deficient Readers Into Subscribers
As the popularity of content marketing has increased exponentially over the last few years, the competition between businesses for who can produce the best, most compelling content has increased as well.
The general idea floating around out there is that if you want to get noticed, you need to do things 10x better than your competition. While “better” does not necessarily mean “longer”, everyone seems to think it does, and in many cases, they are right.
What this means is that we now have massive 3,000+ word articles everywhere we turn (like this one). And sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that…
Enter the TLDR Plugin from Matthew Barby. This simple plugin lets you create a “Read Summary” button at the beginning of your posts that transforms the page into a summary and the option to download the full article for later.
As the guys at Grow and Convert found, a lot of people don’t have time to read your posts and will actually give you their email in order to simply download a PDF copy of the post for later reading.
The TLDR Plugin provides the perfect solution for delivering these PDFs or any other content upgrades you come up with – it’s a great alternative for those who don’t have time to ingest 3,000 words at the moment they hit your site.
15. ConvertKit – Powerful Email Automation On A Budget
There are few things more important to your marketing efforts than email. Email marketing can single-handedly take a business to profitability, and there are few types of marketing in which it doesn’t play an important role.
When it comes to email service providers, marketers typically have to choose between two options. On one end are the budget options like Mailchimp or GetResponse. On the other end are ultra-premium options like InfusionSoft and HubSpot.
ConvertKit gives you something right in the middle. It’s only slightly more expensive than a service like Mailchimp and it gives you much better segmentation and automation capabilities. It’s basically a lightweight alternative to InfusionSoft.
I personally use ConvertKit as my primary email service provider, and I was able to use ConvertKit to grab 600 new email subscribers with just two blog posts.
What I like most about the service is that it lets me deliver a unique download for any given signup form. This means I can create a unique signup form at any point and attach a new download to it that will be delivered automatically when a user signs up. What it means for my marketing strategy is that I can create and deliver a unique Lead Magnet for every single blog post I write, increasing email signups and with the right sales funnel in place, revenue.
If you’ve been using a budget email service provider and are in need of some better workflow capabilities, ConvertKit is the perfect way to add that additional functionality without breaking your budget.
16. Gumroad – Quick, Easy Product Sales For Your Funnels
No marketing funnel is complete without actually things to buy.
For many businesses today, there is an increasingly expensive series of products that are sold in order to get people to a flagship course, service, product or whatever it may be. Other businesses are constantly coming up with new things to sell.
While this won’t apply to everyone, many businesses need the ability to quickly setup and distribute a new product.
Gumroad handles this task incredibly well. If you need a quick, easy method for selling either digital or physical products, Gumroad is the perfect tool for you.
While the service doesn’t have some of the more sophisticated features of enterprise CRM software, it does allow you to quickly publish, distribute, and collect payment for virtually any product you can think of.
It’s quick, intuitive to use, provides listings that look great, and offers very competitive rates for payment processing.
If you need a quick solution for selling products, use Gumroad.
17. Google Analytics – Seriously, You Had Better Be Using This
I kind of hate to include this, because if you aren’t using Google Analytics already, I’m not sure you can actually claim to be in marketing.
Can we make that a thing – a quick GA test you have to take in order to put “marketing” on your resume?
I’m sort of joking, but it’s surprising how many people fail to take advantage of Google Analytics or, if they do use it, limit their experience to this page:
Google Analytics provides an incredible wealth of information for your website and business, and EVERY marketer on the planet should be taking full advantage of its capabilities. Simply using the above dashboard, you are able to view things like:
- The age, gender, and geographic locations of your audience
- The time spent on your site, number of pages visited, and frequency of returning visitors
- The sources of your site traffic and behavior statistics on the users from each source
- Organic keywords being used to find your site and the pages they land on
- Views, users, and behavior information for every page on your site
This is just beginning to tap into the info that’s available via a few clicks in the dashboard. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing (and we’ve all been there), check out this helpful guide from Moz.com.
18. BuildFire – The Easiest Way To Build Mobile Apps
The purpose of any effective marketing tool is always to speed up or better accomplish a needed function. If you need _____ there is probably a tool designed to accomplish _____ as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When it comes to creating a mobile app, there is no easier solution than BuildFire’s mobile app builder.
BuildFire lets you quickly create clean, beautiful, user-friendly apps with all the advantages that mobile apps can afford a business. The engagement possibilities are endless, and the BuildFire platform lets you explore them all.
Normally, if you want to get an application up, you’ll need $5-10k, a few months, and the inner fortitude to handle perpetual frustration for the duration of that process. With BuildFire, you just 2 minutes and $50 per month for as long as you use the app.
It’s that easy.
And the coolest part is that you don’t even have to pay anything up front. You can completely use the builder and see if you are happy with the results. You only pay when you are happy and ready to publish.