Effective Beginners Marketing Stack

Selecting the right tools to use is one of the hardest tasks for new digital marketing teams. This post seeks to share some simple tips for doing that and some essential tools our marketing team here has used/still uses. These are pretty basic tools that we believe could be valuable in every beginner’s ‘marketing stack’, or that at least every digital marketer/digital marketing team should be able to use.

Before we go further, “What is a marketing stack/marketing technology stack”?

Simply put, A marketing technology stack is a group of technology-based tools that marketers use to efficiently and effectively execute marketing activities, across a numbers of channels

There are so many marketing tools out there – many of them quite pricey and impressive. It’s quite common to think you’ve come across just the perfect one, but without the right strategy, is the adoption of any new tool really justified?

Questions like: ‘Will it provide the right ROI?’ ‘Is the team capable of using it and even maximizing the tool’s potential?’ ‘Are there other more effective ways of reaching our goal without blowing through half of our marketing budget on fancy tools?’ or  ‘How do we pick the right options out of a number of tools with similar functionalities or intersecting functions?’ will (hopefully) come to mind as you try to make a decision.

These are challenges that every new marketing team or solo marketer has probably faced at one point or the other. Here are our top suggestions for fundamental tools in every beginners marketing stack:

Simple, free (or low cost) tools to include in your beginners marketing stack

For Links

1.Google URL Builder:

This is an essential tool that is used to tag your links for tracking. So, say you usually share links to your website via many different channels and you would like to know which of the channels is performing better in terms of clicks, traffic and conversions.

Or say you’re trying to learn which particular campaign or keyword is bringing in the most traffic to your site. All you need to do is visit Google url builder site, insert your link and then fill in the necessary details as shown in the example below.

Put in the appropriate source, medium, campaign name and any other details necessary for each new link you wish to track. Copy your new URL and share.

N.B: As you can see, the generated URL is usually quite long with a string of parameters at the tail. You may choose to shorten this URL using the inbuilt google URL shortener or another service such as bit.ly.

2. Bit.ly:

Bit.ly is the classic URL shortening and customization tool.

It’s been proven that people generally don’t like clicking on long URLs or URLs that are too ‘ugly’ such as the one in the example above. To make your link more attractive (and get more clicks), you may want to use a URL shortener like bit.ly.

Another purpose of URL shorteners is to customize your links into easily memorable URLS e.g in the example below, we shortened the URL: https://saf-sms.ref-r.com/?campaignid=23355 into bit.ly/refer–earn. Both URLs link to the same address, but which do you think people are more likely to memorize and easily re-type from memory? Exactly.

To use, simply copy your long link, visit your bit.ly account and paste in the link. Edit the back half of the link to suit you.

3. Link tree: 

This service is popular with instagram business users. As most of us know, Instagram doesn’t allow us to add clickable URLs in captions and posts. Also, you can only insert one link at a time in your bio. This can be quite annoying as most brands have more than one link or landing page they wish promote at any given time.

Linktree helps us get around this.

Basically, Link tree allows you to have one link which serves as a gateway to a list of other relevant links. You can always update and remove links from the list as you deem fit. Your link tree url is customized as shown above (i.e linktr.ee/flexisaf) to match your username.

When people click on your link, they see something like this:

The premium version also offers some analytics for a few dollars monthly.

Email marketing 

4. Mail Chimp:

While there are numerous tools out there for email marketing, Mailchimp remains the simplest I’ve come across. It’s totally free (up to a limited number of contacts) and features a sleek, minimal drag and drop UI with many beautiful templates.

Your free Mailchimp account also comes with extra features like Landing pages, Facebook & instagram ads and some more. Definitely recommended for small businesses or email marketing beginners.

5. Sendgrid:

At FlexiSAF, We currently use Sendgrid and Hubspot’s email marketing tool (for different purposes.)

Whichever email marketing tool you decide to use, some features to look out for include the use of personalisation tags, email scheduling functionality, marketing automation, list segmentation, comprehensive analytics and customization options.

6. Debounce:

Sometimes people may provide false or incorrect emails. People also abandon certain email addresses for one reason or the other. This can lead to a lower proportion of your mails being opened (declining ‘open rates’) or failure of some mails to deliver in the case of deactivated or incorrect email addresses (increasing bounce rates).

These factors can affect the deliverability of your future email campaigns and reduce your sender reputation with mail providers (yahoo, gmail etc), causing your future emails to be automatically flagged as spam. To avoid this happening, it’s important as an email marketer to verify and clean your email lists from time to time, so you always have up-to-date and valid emails.

Debounce is just a simple tool we use to achieve that. It integrates easily with many email providers, just connect, import your lists, fire up and grab some coffee.

7. Multitexter:

Emails are great and all, but some campaigns may call for a more urgent, more personal touch. SMS is a good medium for that and our tool of choice for SMS marketing here is multitexter. It’s convenient – upload your contact lists, compose an SMS and send (after purchasing SMS credits of course)

Integration tools: 

We all wish we could somehow connect different apps and platforms that we use and make them work together. For example, what if I could make alll of my twitter posts with a certain hashtag automatically cross-post to my Facebook or Linkedin page? Or…what if whenever I get emails with a certain subject, the contents are saved and arranged on a Google spreadsheet?

It may seem like magic at first and that’s why the next 2 tools are some of my favorites.

8. Zapier:

Zapier is a web-based tool that can integrate 1000s of web applications.

For example, the ‘zap’ above integrates 2 tools used a lot by FlexiSAF’s marketing team: Sumo and Hubspot. The zap works so that whenever a new Sumo pop-up is filled, the contact is automatically added to our Hubspot CRM as a form submission without the need for manual addition.

There are tons of existing zap templates, and you can also create a new one by selecting different apps to integrate. The upgraded account allows you to create even more complex 3 or more step zaps involving several apps, with unlimited zap actions per month.

9. IFTTT (If this, then that):

This works similarly to Zapier. In this case, your commands are called ‘applets’. The interface seems easier to use compared to Zapier but with less integration options.

Visitor or Customer behaviour/engagement

10. Survey Monkey:

Doing market research and getting user feedback is a big part of marketing. There are numerous survey tools, but at FlexiSAF we use Survey Monkey for a few reasons. One is the wide range of convenient response collectors. You can share your survey as a link, as a pop up on your website or web application and more. It also has a wide range of answer types as well. A similar tool is Type form.

If you need a simple survey that you can share as a web link, you can also check out Google forms.

11. Hot jar:

You can use Hotjar to collect polls on your website, get quick user feedback and monitor user behavior e.g see heat maps etc. See an example above.

12. Drift: 

Drift is a very simple, effective live chat software that lets you chat with website visitors in real time. Every website should be using live chat as it’s one of the most effective ways to convert visitors into customers and leads because of the degree of personal interaction it provides.

SEO

13. Yoast: 

A convenient and highly useful SEO plugin for WordPress sites. Yoast analyse your pages and posts in real-time and helps you publish SEO-friendly content at all times that easily rank high on search engines.

14. Moz bar:

The Moz bar is a free, handy browser extension created by Moz that automatically displays the page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA) of every page visited on your browser. This is most useful while doing research for back-link building during your off-page SEO, and also to monitor changes/growth to your site’s reputation.

15. Keyword everywhere: 

This is another handy browser extension for Chrome. It shows you a quick summary for every term you search on Google. This summary includes details like: Cost per click, Keyword strength, search volume per month, related keywords and more.

Social 

16. Hootsuite:

Hootsuite is our go-to tool for social scheduling. The free version allows you to add up to 3 social media accounts from either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and more. You can schedule up to 30 free posts in advance at a time using the free Hootsuite account.

17. Coschedule:

CoSchedule’s Social Organiser is another good social scheduling tool that works similarly to Hootsuite to organise all your social media in one place and schedule posts in advance. One drawback however is that the free account has very limited functionality.

Analytics

18. Google sheets:

They may seem pretty basic, but spreadsheets are among the top ways to organise and make sense of primary data. Google sheets is just your spreadsheets on the cloud. They’re great for collaborating and working on the go, individually and a team.

You can use Google sheets to compile reports and keep information organised. The possibilities abound.

P.S The whole Google Drive suite in general is a pretty great way to work and get things done knowing that you can pick up from where you left off on any device.

19. Google Analytics: 

This is  a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports insightful data about your website traffic. Long story short, every digital marketer should be conversant with Google Analytics, and use it regularly.

Others 

20. Canva:

Design is an important part of your marketing campaigns and brand perception. Now, you don’t have to be a photoshop expert to make cool graphics and designs. Sometimes, (as we have experienced all too often) the expert graphic designer on your team is busy and you need a few designs to push some content ASAP.

Canva is a very simple design tool that produce quality graphics from Logos, flyers, web banners, etc. There are free templates for almost everything you can think of.

You can also create your designs from scratch. Canva designs can be saved in .jpeg and .png formats in customiseable dimensions. All this is available with the free account.

21. Invite referrals:

If you run a referral campaign/program, it’s definitely necessary to manage and track who referred who and which referrals resulted in a sale. Instead of doing this manually, it’s possible to use a referral program software such as Invite referrals (shown above) to help you.

There are many other options – some are quite pricey with many more functionalities. Ideally, you’d want a solution that can easily be integrated into your website or web app which makes it easier for users to share their unique link on multiple platforms and for you to track referrals and resulting sales.

22. Sumo:

Sumo is great for simple pop ups and lead capture. Turn visitors into leads and customers by creating pop-up forms with a variety of custom fields.

You can select the pages you want your forms to appear on, the position (top, bottom, side), the timing (e.g immediately page opens, exit intent, 10 secs in etc), which devices to show which pop-ups, what happens after form is filled (e.g automatic email, redirect to another page) and many more options.

23. Beamer:

Too many pop-ups can get annoying.

Beamer is a service you can use to show notifications to your site visitors or web app users without affecting their user experience. A notification icon is displayed showing the number of new notifications. Once opened, a side bar appears which can be closed again.

Beamer is quite easy to install and use. You can include photos, videos, links and text in each piece of news that you ‘beam’.

24. Hubspot: 

Hubspot is a complete CRM , Marketing, sales and service software.

It contains a ton of functionalities and useful features that bring our marketing, sales and customer support teams together and also bring our website, email and social marketing together. Hubspot also allows you to monitor a visitors journey through all the lead stages up to the point of sale. By far one of my favorite benefits of Hubspot are the insightful reports and charts we are able to generate from our marketing and sales activities.

Hubspot Lead sources report

Hubspot Lead sources report

Finding the right marketing stack combination

So now we have a list of 24 great marketing technology tools. However, just because these tools exist or you think they’re pretty cool, doesn’t mean you absolutely need them – and this should go without saying. It’s tempting for marketers to think a new technology is going to make their job 100x easier, reel in more leads, more conversions, more satisfied customers etc. This isn’t always the case.

First and foremost, every new tool added to your marketing stack has to arise from a need, and not the other way around.

In other words, there has to be a very clear problem you’re trying to solve in your marketing team/funnel. Upon arriving at a likely solution, before churning out half of your marketing budget on this ‘magical tool’, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does this actually solve the problem?
  2. What are the expected results?
  3. Is the ROI justifiable?
  4. Is the team capable of using it and even maximizing the tool’s potential?
  5. Are there other more effective ways of reaching your goal without using this tool?
  6. Do I already use a tool with similar functionalities or intersecting functions?

I’d recommend using this approach while choosing to add a new tool to your marketing stack. Remember, it’s not about the technology at the end of the day – it’s about getting things done!

What technology tools do YOU use or do you think are fundamentals for every digital marketer? Kindly share in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!