Are You Providing Your Marketing Team With The Tools They Need?
I’m often shocked to see how some marketers are being forced to use free tools and workarounds to get their job done. It makes me wonder if the owners or managers understand the difficulties they are creating for their team. In this article I highlight the top 20 software tools your marketing team needs, along with some of the alternative tools and workarounds that I see people using.
Tools the Entire Marketing Team Needs
These first few tools are things that the entire marketing team should have access to, regardless of their role.
1. Password Management Tool
At this point everyone should be well-versed in the need for secure passwords, which a password management tool can help with, but there are additional benefits of a password management system. If you need to manage access to various accounts for several team members or share passwords among your team, this is the easiest way to do it. I’m not going to lie – these are a major production to get set up, but it’s a game changer once you do. 1Password is a great tool for teams.
2. Project Management Software
If you have more than one marketing employee or multiple freelancers, whoever manages them will need a way allocate work, track progress, ensure deadlines and balance the workload. While it’s possible to function without one, having a project management system will ensure that you are getting the maximum potential out of the resources that you have. Some of the more common tools used by in-house teams are: Monday.com, Asana, Trello and Jira.
3. 4. 5. Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Presentations
Your whole team will probably need a Microsoft subscription for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, but Google’s collaboration features seem to have them gaining ground among SMBs. We are actually seeing an increase in teams using a combination of both Microsoft and Google.Excel and PowerPoint still reign for their more advanced features.
Tools for Your Designers
A tool alone will not make a great designer (that will require design theory education and several years of experience), but the right tool in trained hands will definitely lead to increased productivity. People expected to produce compelling visual designs will need the best-in-class tools.
6. 7. 8. Page Layout, Illustration and PhotoEditing
The Adobe Suite (for Professionals)
There is no replacement for the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign). These programs have been the industry standard for almost 4 decades. They are incredibly complex to learn and take years to master. Designers early in their career should focus on mastering these programs, and businesses should provide them with access to the best tools available and training to get the most out of them. This requires both a financial and time commitment, but both the company and the designer’s career will benefit from the decision.
Canva (for Everyone Else)
What about Canva? Canva is a web-based platform that is currently a top choice for amateur designers, non-designers and micro-businesses with small staff and limited budgets. They have a free version with loads of templates that have fueled the tool’s growth. To use your own custom-branded graphics within Canva, you will need to upgrade to a paid account, and serious designers will find the software very limited compared to Adobe products.
9. Font Libraries
Many people don’t realize that fonts require licenses. Even the free fonts require a license agreement (when you download them, you are agreeing to their terms, which may prohibit you from modifying and selling the font, for example.) While the volume of free fonts has grown, many of the most enduring, highest quality fonts are still protected, and to use them you will need either individual licenses or a subscription. Adobe has made it very convenient to access their font library as part of the creative cloud subscription. If you aren’t using Adobe products or you are looking to purchase individual fonts, look to popular sites like FontShop, MyFonts and FontSpring.
10. Stock Art Subscriptions
Most teams who regularly produce content will need access to graphics that they have permission to use. Denying your team access to a stock art library will most likely lead to them using images that they do not have permission to use. Stock art companies have made this easier with affordable subscriptions that you can scale to the quantity you need on an ongoing basis. Outside of the Adobe platform, some of the top stock art sites are: iStock, Getty Images and Envato.
Tools for Social Media Managers
Social Media Managers have some specific tools they need for scheduling and collaboration, but they will also need access to the same suite of design tools as designers and video editors to be visually effective. They may be able to generate content using photos and video taken from their phones, but they will not have the ability to truly manage a professional brand online without more advanced graphics and editing tools.
11. Social Scheduling and Reporting Tools
To produce a regular schedule of content for multiple social media channels is challenging. As a result, there have been tools to help with this for almost as long as the social channels have existed. Some of the features include planners, advance scheduling, reporting, listening, and approval workflows, to name just a few. HootSuite and Sprout Social are the industry leaders.
12. Graphics Editors for Social Media
I have referred to these tools as graphic editors and not graphic creation tools. Due to the speed and volume of what is required for the production of day to day social media posts, most people now turn to basic graphics editors instead of the using the Adobe suite. Canva has become increasingly popular. The paid version allows you to upload brand elements, and I’m going to make a case for this instead of Adobe’s competing product, Express (formerly called Spark). Spark used to be part of the subscription plan, but they have recently made a free version of Express, probably to address Canva’s free growth. I will advocate for Canva here in terms of features and ease of use for a non-designer meeting to spit our quick social posts.
Tools for Digital & Marketing Team Members
The following tools may be used by internal team members or you may have the activities outsourced to specialized companies (SEO, for example, is commonly outsourced to the high level of specialized knowledge required to be successful). I always recommend getting tools set up in your company name wherever possible, so that you always have access to your own historical data. Some vendors will not allow this, so you should always ask before engaging.
13. SEO Management Tool
Basic analytics tools will show you top search phrases, but if you are actively trying to get listed for specific words, you will need a tool to monitor the keyword rankings and their movement up and down over time, and that will require a reporting tool. If your team is devoting any amount of effort to SEO, these tools are a requirement to assess performance. Here are some of the more popular SEO tools: SEM Rush and Moz. You will also find plugins and tools available that are specific to the website platform that you are using.
14. Analytics Tool
Google Analytics is very powerful, and I would still recommend setting up the basic tracking code on EVERY website for use with integrations with other tools, but I’m going to have a hard time advocating for use of the tool that has become so difficult. The latest version requires so much training and set up that it’s going to be difficult for anyone who isn’t in a full-time role at an agency or web firm to use. For small in-house teams wearing lots of hats, you will probably want something easier. This article has a great list of alternatives.
15. Email Marketing Platform
Sending mass emails directly from your email inboxes runs the risk of having your corporate emails accounts shut down for spam violations. Using a third party email platform will minimize that risk and also provides a additional tracking, reporting and management tools (not to mention better looking emails.) Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Emma… take your pick. They are all affordable and easy to use.
16. Client Database / CRM
Salesforce is the 800lb gorilla, but there are other smaller companies who have great platforms. HubSpot has great introductory offers, in addition to offering a marketing automation platform (see below), but pricing is based on list size, and it becomes very expensive for large lists after the introductory period ends. If you have a sales team, they will likely make the decision on which CRM is used, but the marketing team will need access to be able to effectively collaborate. They will need to set up workflows and run reports on leads and leads by source.
17. Marketing Automation Tool
Marketing automation can be beneficial for businesses that need automated follow up with prospects, especially over longer buying cycles. They can either be freestanding tools or work in conjunction with a CRM to help track the effectiveness of email and digital campaigns, and also to send automated campaigns based on the prospect’s point in the sales cycle and interactions with your marketing campaigns and sales team. Hubspot is widely used, but SalesForce users will likely stick to Pardot, which is native to the SalesForce platform. There are others, such as ActiveCampaign, all of which have different feature sets.
18. IP Tracking (for B2B sales)
IP tracking tools provide data on companies that are visiting your website. This can be essential for sales-driven B2B businesses with long sales cycles to better understand the consideration and decision-making activities of their prospects. IP tracking can also help provide an extra layer of data to validate marketing efforts, allowing you to track specific users from campaigns through to their behaviors on your website. Our favorite lead tracker is LeadFeeder by Dealfront.
19. Survey Tool
Surveys can be powerful tools for both market research and measuring client satisfaction. I am seeing Google Forms used more frequently for surveys, but this all dumps into a basic spreadsheet. People familiar with data analysis and survey design will want a tool with more advanced segmenting capabilities. Survey Monkey provides a simple and affordable platform that still packs some punch.
Tools for Video Producers
The term video production has taken on new meaning with the rise of smart phone usage for social media-quality video editing, but for the purpose of this article, let’s assume I’m talking about higher end requirements.
20. Video Editing
High quality video files are very large. As a result, advanced video editing requires not just specialized software, but also specialized processing power and increased storage. If your company is making a commitment to in-house video production, you will want to invest in the right equipment and tools to help your team. There is no bigger waste of time than waiting for a video to render on an underpowered device. Adobe Premier and Final Cut are the industry standard for video editing.
What do you consider essential? Have I forgotten something or is there something you use that I haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts.
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