I’ve spent over a dozen years in digital marketing learning to split my attention across multiple businesses, from my marketing agency to Mailshake -- and I’ve had to stretch myself pretty thin at times. But, when you’re trying to grow a business, you can’t stay in that state forever.
After facing massive burnout, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to become a lot more efficient. There’s only so much time in the day, and only so much you can do on your own.
That's why I've happened to cycle through a load of tools, apps and platforms over the last decade, trying to maintain a productive handle on things and keep the forward momentum going. After years of trial and error, here are my eight favorites that I recommend for driving business growth at any stage.
I’ve yet to find an application that can do everything Buzzsumo can. Honestly, I look back on my early days of content marketing and can’t believe the number of hours I spent on topic research alone.
Being able to plug in search terms and get the most popular content, along with the names of influencers sharing that content, makes this one of the most valuable tools in my library. Whether you’re trying to connect with influencers, create roundups, look for new topics, test audience interest or build skyscraper content for a new posts, you need Buzzsumo in your toolbox.
I’m not alone in making this recommendation. Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko and author of the now-famous skyscraper content post I linked to above, uses it whenever he wants to create viral content.
2. Hello Bar
Hello Bar is a great tool for lead generation, and it’s a relatively simple plugin to implement. When you want something a little more subtle than a pop-up, this is my go-to choice.
I’m all for aggressive pop-ups, but only when they’re appropriate. Sometimes, you need something less in your face in the funnel.
The SumoMe suite of tools is most commonly known for its opt-in tool set that helps you rapidly expand your list of email subscribers. The options and templates included for this functionality are terrific, and I love how easy it is to set up and customize each tool’s specific elements.
The additional tools available are just gravy, and include:
- List-building features
- SumoMe Share, for easy and attractive share buttons that count user actions
- The Welcome Mat, a full-screen call to action
- Heat mapping
- Smart bar, for more subtle calls to action and opt-ins (similar to Hello Bar mentioned above)
- Simplified image-sharing tools
I use SumoMe tools on just about every single site I maintain, and you should, too. Foundr magazine agrees; it recommends SumoMe for its list-building tools.
A lot of the projects I’m involved with go from ideation to testing and deployment pretty rapidly. If I had to work with a custom developer, designer and coder on every project, all that communication would slow things down considerably.
Instead, I love Instapage because its templates and built-ins make it easy to quickly generate landing pages that are already optimized for conversions. And with the program’s widget design, you'll find an unlimited potential for adding functionality to landing pages and testing elements for individual products. All in all, you can get pretty creative with your landing page design, without needing to know a ton of code.
It’s never a good idea to assume you know what the customer wants, or whether the design you slaved over is going to work as intended. For these reasons, I always lean on UserTesting to get an unbiased look at how the average person interacts with my site pages and sales funnels.
Because UserTesting records both on-screen actions and user comments, you get to be able to see the testers’ reactions and hear their thoughts as they go through your site, processes, checkouts and conversion points. I always find something that pops up that our team hadn’t considered, and that insight is truly priceless.
Don’t have the budget for UserTesting? Check out the alternative, Peek, which is free to use. Once you’ve signed up, the tool gives you a quick five-minute video of someone using your site, essentially enabling you to “peek” inside the mind of your user.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the user conducting your video review may not be a member of your target audience, as pointed out by Lance Jones of Copyhackers. Despite this caveat, Jones argues, the service is worth a try. As he says, “[W]hen you’re reviewing your free video, just remember that Peek is a [featured-limited] taste of a much larger service that, when used correctly, could be invaluable to your CRO activities.”
I could spend hours each day pouring over analytics reports from my sites, pages and social channels in an effort to keep tabs on what visitors are doing. And, believe me, I do, but the problem is that a good chunk of the data I stare at every day isn’t actionable.
When you need to make marketing strategy decisions, it’s best to know why people are taking the actions they are -- not just what they’re doing. That’s why I use Qualaroo: to dig into those customer insights, hear directly from the audience segments I target and gather qualitative data that lets me take better-informed action.
I’m directly involved in so many different projects that there’s always something to be tested and improved upon. For this reason, I’ve turned my teams on to Optimizely, thanks to how easy the program makes it to launch split-test runs. With the program’s intuitive visual interfaces, I can set up and run a test within minutes.
Simply put, if we’re thinking about doing anything with a site or landing page, I make a habit of running it through Optimizely to measure the impact first.