The Marketing Toolbox

 

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Marketing is fun.

But performing some functions can be long, tedious and just not enjoyable. That’s why a marketer needs to have an arsenal of go-to tools. 

A toolbox that makes the job easier, quicker and more pleasant.

Here is mine. Make sure to bookmark this page because it will be updated as I discover new tools, or replace the existing ones with others that work better.

There is quite a bit of stuff on this page. You can just scroll through it. But if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to a category by clicking the links below. Of course some tools can fall under multiple categories. Just take your best shot at it :).

By the way, if you have a great tool that you feel should be on this list, but don’t see it here (or think there is a better way these can be organized) contact me and let me know!

Here we go…

Tool Categories:

Communication
Email List Management
Web Hosting
Search Engine Optimization
Outsourcing
Content Creation
WordPress Themes
WordPress Plugins
Sales/Squeeze/Landing Themes
Publicity Tools
Product Distribution, Affiliate Networks & Shopping Carts
Web Statistics, Analysis and Optimization
Productivity and Organization
Social Media Management
File/Document Storage & Sharing
Graphics and Images

Communication: 

Email – I use Gmail for most of my personal mailing (not counting email list management, for which I use Aweber – listed below). So the following tools really apply to Gmail…I can’t vouch if they exist for other platforms. That being said, they are quite useful: 

  • Rapportive: This nifty little tool for Gmail pulls up available information about the person you are emailing with from social networks. This includes images, links to accounts, recent Tweets, etc. It makes the interaction more personal. Plus it simplifies any research you may want to do on the individual you are talking with.
  • Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures: Signature plugin that you can use with either Chrome or Firefox to insert prettier (and more useful) signatures at the end of your emails.
  • WiseStamp: An alternative you can use to Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures. I actually got started with WiseStamp, but have since moved on to use Blank Canvas (not because WiseStamp didn’t work).
  • Boomerang: A great tool for Gmail that allows you to schedule your emails for sending. It also allows you to schedule messages in your inbox to re-appear in your inbox (for example if you want to be reminded of an upcoming due bill).
  • Canned Responses: Ok, so this isn’t really a stand-alone tool. Rather, it is a setting in Gmail. But that’s doesn’t make it any less useful. If you want to send multiple, similar, personal emails, then canned responses are priceless.
Other Communication
  • Skype: Pretty self explanatory. If you need to talk to someone face-to-face without the ability of actually meeting them in person, nothing beats Skype.
  • GoToWebinar: This is also the golden standard of platforms for holding webinars. Webinars have really taken off over the past year as a viable (to say the least) marketing option. I’ve seen some people reportering  extremely high conversion rates using webinars.
  • AnyMeeting: This is an alternative to GoToMeeting. It isn’t quite as feature-rich. But it does have a free option. Unfortunately that free option is also ad-supported…so it definitely comes across less professional if you are holding a webinar.
  • Free Conference Call: If you need a way to have a group conversation, this is a great option. This is really useful if you have a mastermind group, for example. Free Conference Call gives you the ability to call in over the phone and through Skype.

Email List Management:

As you’ve probably heard before “the money is in the list.” This is a common idiom among internet marketers – but it holds true in many industries. If you want to create loyal customers, you need to be able to contact them. There are many tools out there, but these are two tools that I have experience with (so I feel I can speak to them). 

  • AWeber:  This is what I currently use. Aweber is practically the golden standard of email list management tools for internet marketers. There are, of course, other tools that are more complex. But they come along with a higher price tag and you sacrifice some ease of use. For most people, Aweber is enough (especially to get started).
  • MailChimp: There is an upside and a downside to using MailChimp. The main upside is that there is a free version limited by the number of subscribers you have (but it’s more than enough to get you started). And the service itself is pretty good. The problem is the terms of service are somewhat limiting in regards to marketing material (and explicitly has rules against lead generation and affiliate marketing promotions). Of course, this may not be a problem for you if you are in a non-marketing related business. But if you are (like I assume some of my audience is), you are better off opting straight for Aweber becomes moving lists retroactively becomes a seriously pain (trust me, I’ve been there.

Web Hosting:

If you have your own website, then you may not need this section. If you have your own website but you aren’t hosting it yourself, then you do need this section. And if you don’t have a website yet, I suggest you start one…so you really need this section. I look for a few features when picking a host: reliability and ease of use (especially for WordPress installation). 

  • HostMonster: This is the host that I use. I have never had a problem with them and the back end is very intuitive. You can also install WordPress with just a few clicks (which is awesome!). From my understanding Blue Host and HostGator have similar features (in fact it might be different arms of the same company :)).
  • GoDaddy: I’m not even going to link to them. Do yourself a favor and stay away from GoDaddy hosting. They just aren’t good. The customer service is lacking and the back end platform isn’t as intuitive. I had a stint with a digital design company that absolutely hated clients that were on GoDaddy hosting – because it’s just not good. If they have a great deal on domain registration, then go for it. But hosting? Not worth it.
  • MediaTempleSpeaking of the digital design company – they used MediaTemple for their hosting. It is very reliable with good support. I don’t have any of my properties hosted their, but I hear good things.

Search Engine Optimization:

Keyword ResearchGood SEO starts with proper keyword research. Picking the right keyword can meant he difference between spending a ton of energy and seeing no results, or seeing quick, relatively easy rankings. 

  • Market Samurai: There are plenty of keyword tools out there. But this is the one I got started with and I absolutely love it. It saves so much time and makes competitor analysis quick and easy. Plus the training videos provided by the Noble Samurai team are more than worth the price of admission (people sell this level of information as stand-alone information products). And you can try it risk-free. What could be better?
  • Google Keyword Tool: If you don’t want to invest in a keyword research tool, then this is obviously your best alternative. It is Google’s own tool, so it has the backing of stats from the world’s largest search engine. The competitor research options are pretty non-existent though.
Other SEO Tools: 
  • SEOQuake: This is a pretty useful toolbar that you can enable/disable as you go to analyze the websites you are on. It can be pretty useful for analyzing your competitors or just finding parameters on a given site (like Page Rank).

Outsourcing & Virtual Assistants:

  • Elance: A marketplace of virtual assistants and freelancers that you can hire. Make sure to look at reviews and their work portfolio. Hire the wrong VA (virtual assistant), and you’ll be worse off than you were in the first place.
  • oDesk: Very similar to Elance. This is another freelancer marketplace. It’s also the one I usually opt to use. But that’s only because I’ve hired a few people from here with some decent results. I’ve also hired a few that didn’t turn out as planned. I suggest checking both oDesk and Elance in your search to open yourself up to a greater workforce.
  • Fiverr: This site is just amazing to me. Is there anything that someone won’t do for $5? Spend some time browsing around and you’ll be amazed too. You can find everything from SEO services, to video editing, to transcriptions, to…more silly stuff. Definitely worth checking out – it can be both useful and entertaining.
  • 99 Designs: This is a marketplace to get your graphic design work done. You can get some VERY good work performed here. Of course, if you just need something small accomplished, see if you can get it on Fiverr first :).

Content Creation

  • Microsoft Office: This one is obvious. Word is the go-to word processor, and I use it for creating PDF files as well. PowerPoint is great for creating presentations, but it is also now widely used for creating videos. And don’t even get me started on Excel – I use it nonstop every chance I get for forecasting, organization, etc.
  • OpenOffice: If you don’t have Microsoft Office, and don’t want to dish out the investment for it, OpenOffice is your best [free] alternative. It is an open source office suite that does practically all the functions that Microsoft Office does. However, it does have its glitches. And the formatting can get weird sometimes. But hey, it’s free! What do you expect?
  • Camtasia Studio: This is the screen recording and editing software that I use. You don’t need to be a move star to create videos that meet your goals. Camtasia Studio is an awesome tool for screen capture videos. You can also use it to edit and publish those videos once you are done. In combination with PowerPoint, this is very powerful.
  • WordPress: As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I think WordPress is the best CMS available. What’s even better is that its open source (read: free!). Plus it has a huge support community of people that create all sorts of extensions like themes and plugins. With WordPress you can create a lot of really advanced functionality without ever having to write a line of code (which I love).
  • Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer: So that’s a really long name, but this is a really cool tool that can be really useful. You pop in your potential headline and the tool analyzes it for you based on the words you are using. It tells you what emotion your headline is best catered for (and what kind of audience). Pretty cool stuff.
  • Click-To-Tweet: Allows you to easily create “click-to-tweet” links with customizable text and link. Have a quotable line in y our content? Place one of these in there and get people to promote it for you.
  • Bit.Ly: Create shortened URLs. This is very useful if you are going to create Click-To-Tweet buttons because there is a limit on characters in Twitter messages. There are plenty of URL shorteners out there, but Bit.Ly comes with some good analytics.

WordPress Themes:

  • Headway Theme: This is the theme that I use on this blog. It is very customizable without having to do any coding. Of course, the option to do some coding for more advanced feature is always available to you. This page, that is centered without no sidebars, and the blog page, are both customized in the “visual editor.” You can-rearrange things anyway you like and pick design elements. Plus, the theme is responsive, and you can customize how it responds. Anyway, you get the idea…the thing is just awesome!
  • Genesis Theme: Genesis is both a stand-alone theme as well as a framework to host other themes. There is a community of designers that create themes/skins for the framework – and many are very good. I’ve used the stand-alone theme before and liked it, although it does require a bit of coding to get things just the way you want them.
  • Thesis Theme: This is a theme that allows you to control basically every part of your design – it’s very customizable. That also means you need to know how to code that design. But there are skins out there that you can install based on the Thesis platform. It’s a favorite among many blogger because of its flexibility and built-in features (like SEO optimization).
  • Woo Themes: This is basically a marketplace of out-of-the-box themes. There is a wide range of them so take a look around, you might very well find something you like.

WordPress Plugins:

  • All in One SEO Pack: This was the most popular SEO WordPress plugin for a while. And it still is very popular. It does work, and it’s very simple. But if you want a more feature-full option (which is also a bit more complex to use), check out Yoast SEO (listed further down in this section).
  • Broken Link Checker: This plugin analyzes your live links to see if they are actually valid. If it finds broken links, you will get an email report telling you to fix them.
  • cbnet Ping Optimizer: Any time you update a live page in WordPress it automatically “pings” the page. This is basically an electronic notification that gets sent out announcing that the page/post has been updated. Search engines love fresh content, so “pinging” is a great thing. Unless you do it too much – then they might think you’re spamming. This plugin makes sure you don’t “over-ping.”
  • Contact Form 7: A simple to use, simple to set up, contact form that you can place on any page on your WordPress site with a short code.
  •  Contest DominationNot many things create a buzz like a contest. Not only is there the prospect of getting something for free, but there is also the exciting of winning! This plugin makes it extremely easy to run contests and build up your subscriber list. It also has a viral social sharing feature which you can implement. You can allow people to increase their chances of winning by referring others to the contest – the more people they refer, the more chances they have to win.
  • Duplicate Post: If you are running a series of posts that have a similar format, or if you just need to set up a few pages that are similar but not identical, this plugin is a life saver. It creates a cloned copy of any post or page you tell it too, then you can just edit the copy instead of starting from scratch.
  • Easy Privacy Policy: Looks like this plugin is no longer available on the WordPress Plugin network. You can still get it by going to this page, saving it as a .php file, and uploading it to your plugins page. Or use Oik Privacy Policy as an alternative. A privacy policy is important because it not only builds trust with human visitors (yes, some people do check to makes sure you have one), but it also sends a signal to search engine robots that you aren’t a spam site.
  • End Content: This plugin automatically inserts a field after your blog posts (or pages if you tell it too) with whatever code/text you put in. This is great for automatically placing opt-in forms at the end of every blog post.
  • Google Analyticator: This plugin makes hooking up Google Analytics to your sites a breeze. You don’t even need to insert any java script.
  • Google XML Sitemaps: An XML sitemap is another think you really need for SEO optimization. Search engine robots browse through your sitemap to index pages. This plugin will create a formatted sitemap for you that gets automatically updated as you update your site.
  • Growmap Anti Spambot: One of the better spam comment blockers out there (although nothing is perfect).
  • Lazy Load: This plugin increases your page load speed by delaying image loading until you actually scroll to the image. For example, if you have a large image below the fold, it won’t load until the visitor scrolls down to it. Without this plugin, the image would automatically load even though the person isn’t looking at it yet (and that slows down loading speed).
  • Login Lockdown: Helps prevent brute hacking attempts from people who are just trying to guess your login information. You can set up a limit on how many failed login attempts is too many.
  • PopUp Domination: This is a popular popup form plugin that I use on one of my sites. I don’t use this on CSH however. On CSH I just use the built-in popup functionality of Aweber forms because it’s more unobtrusive.
  • Pretty Link Lite: This plugin helps create cloaked and/or cleaner links using redirection.
  • Publish Confirmation: Every accidentally publish something that you didn’t mean to publish? I have. Then I found this plugin. It pops up a confirmation window every time you hit the “Publish” button (or “Update” button for live pages) to make sure you really want to make the changes go live.
  • Qoate Scroll Triggered Box: If you go to the any blog post on CSH and scroll down, you will see an opt-in form scroll out of the bottom-right corner. That’s this plugin at work.
  • Redirection: Makes redirection simple. You can just put in the originating page and the page you want it to redirect to. Done. No coding necessary.
  • ReplyMe: If you are looking for a lot back-and-forth conversation in your blog comments then this plugin can be a huge help. It will automatically send an email to any commenter on your blog letting them know that you replied to them.
  • Revision Control: WordPress automatically saves previous versions of pages and posts. This is a great safety net in case you need to go back to a previous version of a page or post, but saving revisions eats up resources. And do you really need 10 revised versions of the same page? This allows you to set a limit.
  • RSS Footer: Insert a footer in your RSS feed entries. You can link to your products for example. Or just link back to your homepage or original post to make sure you get credit for the content in case someone comes along and scrapes it.
  • Sharebar: This is the nifty social sharing bar that slides down the page as you are reading a blog post. It comes pre-loaded with social network buttons, but you can also create your own.
  • Simple Trackback Validation: There are plenty of spammers out there that send trackbacks to your blog posts and pages just to get backlinks. Short of disallowing trackbacks in your WordPress settings, this is the best defense against trackback spammers.
  • Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: Allows blog commenters to check a box and follow the conversation in the comments section.
  • Tweet Old Post: Hook up your Twitter account to your WordPress blog and automatically tweet out links to your past blog posts to drive some extra traffic.
  • Ultimate TinyMCE: Provides a great deal amount of options for your WordPress content visual editor.
  • W3 Total Cache: Improve site loading speed (and thus, user experience) via caching.
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar: Makes content-planning a much easier (and more visual) experience. You can see all scheduled posts in a calendar format, and rearrange the content schedule simply through drag-and-drop.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast: A more complete SEO plugin. There are actually paid plugins that do exactly what this one does for free. It analyzes page details and shows elements that you can improve for better optimization.
  • WP-Optimize: Helps you manage and clean up your WordPress database of all the information that it doesn’t really need. Improves performance and saves resources.
  • WP Subscribers: Premium plugin to help you convert more subscribers (helps design optin forms for different locations on your stie, including popups).
  • WPtouch: A plugin that optimizes your WordPress site for mobile devices.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin: This plugin helps keep visitors on your blog longer by pointing them to related posts that they might enjoy reading. It analyzes the post content and automatically creates a list of suggested posts based on the content relation to the post the visitor is currently reading.

Sales/Squeeze/Landing Themes:

  • OptimizePressOptimizePress has been a favorite among internet marketers since it came out. It makes designing squeeze and sales pages very easy by providing a wide range of design elements that you can place on your pages with the click of a button. It also has membership support.
  • Profits ThemeAn alternative to OptimizePress, this theme, in my opinion, is actually easier to work with. Although there aren’t as many design elements to choose from, there is a drag and drop field for you to choose what section you want placed on your page and where. You can also easily adjust page dimensions.
  • PremiseThis is the membership site and landing page tool from CopyBlogger Media. While I have used both of the themes listed above, I have never actually worked with Premise. However, I’ve seen pages created with Premise and they look great. I’ve also heard good things about it. So it might be worth taking a look at it as yet another alternative.

Publicity Tools:

  • HARO: This platform be useful in two ways. It is a platform where individuals looking for information can post queries and get expert responses to those questions. Many of these queries are posted by reporters, bloggers and other media outlets looking for contributors. That means that every once in a while you can find something directly related to your niche, answer it, and possibly get featured on a leading industry outlet. Of course, you can approach it from the other end and use HARO as an aid for creating content for yourself by seeking out contributors. Oh yeah…it’s free.
  • Reporter Connection: This is very similar to HARO, but isn’t quite as established. That means that you won’t get an opportunity to field as many queries, but it’s still wroth signing up for just in case (it’s also free).
  • MyBlogGuest: This is a forum of bloggers that both want to gain exposure by creating content for other blogs, as well as people offering up space on their blogs for those guest authors. So you can use this in both ways: find blogs to guest post on, and find guest authors for your own space. It may take a bit of clutter-clearing to find the really good opportunities, but they are out there.

Product Distribution, Affiliate Networks & Shopping Carts

The following is a listing of marketplaces where you can list your own products and services for sale, as well as find affiliates to help promote your business. You can also become an affiliate of other programs you may want to promote for some extra income.

  • ClickBank: This is a huge marketplace of mostly digital information products (and some software). You can pick products to promote, as well as sell your own. This is a great tool for selling your products because you can employ the efforts of others and their promotions in order to sell your product. ClickBank also has a built in payment processor.
  • e-Junkiee-Junkie is basically a shopping cart platform that you can incorporate to sell both digital downloads and tangible goods. It will act as a download manager for your digital sales. And it also has an affiliate platform to help you promote your business. Good stuff.
  • Commission Junction: This is another affiliate network that has a wide range of things to promote in a huge selection of industries. Unfortunately they also have some really strict (and sometimes strange) rules. They have minimum payout amounts like other affiliate networks, but if you don’t keep making sales until you hit that amount your due balance begins to decrease until there’s nothing left. Yep…keep making sales or they don’t pay you. Not cool.
  • oneNetworkDirect
Website Statistics, Analysis & Optimzation:
  • Google Analytics: This is obviously the go-to analytics tool on the market. In my opinion its impossible to get an analytics tool that is 100% accurate (this one included). But you do  need a tool. And the market has decided that this is the most reliable one (or at least Google decided for them :)). But it is free, and it does show a lot of very cool trends and stats. Plus you can always use other tools in conjunction with this. The trends are whats important here, not necessarily getting accuracy right down to the visitor.
  • Clicky: Another analytics tool. I would suggest you use this in conjunction with Google Analytics – because using Google is pretty much a must.
  • Google PageSpeed: Studies have shown that your page speed has a huge impact on conversion rates. People just don’t have any sort of attention span to sit around and wait for your page to load. This free tool from Google analyzes your page and gives you suggestions on how to improve your page loading speed.
  • Google Website Optimizer - This is a free tool from Google that allows you to run split tests on your pages to see which variations convert better. This is extremely valuable. All you have to do is create two (or several) variations of the same page and set up an experiment in the website optimizer. The tool will then spit out a code at you that you need to place on the pages you are testing. That’s it. Just collect the results and see which pages work best. Priceless!

    Update: The Google Website Optimizer no longer exists. But fear not. Google has actually made testing a bit easier. You can run content tests from right within your Google Analytics now. If nothing else, it’s one less page you have to open, and one less tool you have to use. 
Organization/Productivity: 
  • FreeMind: Have you ever created a mind map? If not, it’s an amazing way to organize your thoughts, and plan out ideas and even products. I’ve even seen training course of just a video going through a mind map. You can even export the maps in different formats (i.e. save it as a pdf and send it to someone). Check out this free mind map tool. I use it all the time.
  • XMind: An alternative to FreeMind. This is another free mind map tool that also has a premium option.
  • Evernote: This app is on everyone’s list of top productivity apps. This is the ultimate note application. I have the desktop version on my computer, and the app on my iPhone. And the two sync together. This way I never forget an idea when a great one pops up in my head. I have so many ideas that I keep forgetting old ones :).
  • RescueTime: I use the Chrome plugin of Rescue Time. It keeps track of where you are spending your time and reports back. This should keep our urges to check Facebook one more time in check (at least once you see how much time you are really spending on there).

Social Media Management

  • HootSuite: A popular social media management platform. You can manage your social media accounts from one page. It allows you to schedule messages. And it comes with built-in analytics.
  • JugnooMe: A relative newcomer to social media management. It also comes with analytics, but has some features that other platforms don’t have. It has a social search function. It integrates with Facebook to provide coupons. You can create and share videos right from within the platform. The list goes on and on. Check it out, you might like it.
  • Bottlenose: Another social media management platform in its beta stages. But this management tool has some cool features – like trend displays.
  • Triberr: This isn’t like the other “management” tools I listed. This isn’t even really a social media management tool at all. It is a unique beast and I wasn’t quite sure where to place it. I had the privilege of being one of the first people to test out Triberr and its functionality – and it’s just plan awesome. Triberr allows you to build communities of other bloggers that support each other by Tweeting each others content and sharing it on Facebook. You can create and manage your own “Tribes.” Essentially, it s a platform designed to help “small-time” bloggers extend their reach because they don’t have the luxury of being favored by Google like some other blogs do (i.e. Mashable). They are constantly rolling out new features, and it is headed by the brilliant marketing mind of my friend Dino Dogan. It’s definitely a cool new concept.

File/Document Storage & Sharing

File sharing sites have a twofold purpose. First, you can store your files. But second, you also increase them to spread your content to new audiences. To see what I mean read this post

  • SlideShare: Originally established as a platform to share your PowerPoint presentations, it has since grown to support files in other formats. SlideShare has a PR (Page Rank) of 8.
  • DocStoc: A PR6 document sharing platform.
  • Calameo: A PR5 document sharing platform.
  • Scribd: Another PR8 document sharing platform.
The following won’t get you any traffic or new readers. But they are extremely useful for storing your files, sharing with specific individuals, and accessing them on the go: 
  • DropBox: This is one of the first cloud storage apps to make it big. You download the app to your computer and store files to its folder. This then syncs with its online storage platform. You can then access these files where you are with an internet connection (or phone service if you have the mobile app).
  • Google Drive: When the cloud storage craze really took off, Google decided to jump into the game. It converted its old “Google Docs” to “Google Drive” – allowing you to store up to 5GB of files and information for free.

Graphics and Images

  • Flickr Creative Commons: This is a photo sharing community owned by Yahoo. If you scroll through the creative commons section you can often find useful photos for whatever content you are creating.
  • FotoliaThis is a stock photo store with a big selection. What I like about Fotolia is that you create an account and it keeps a folder of all your purchased files for you. There are companies out there that purchase files that they have purchased in the past just because they don’t realize they already have them.
  • MorgueFile: This is a provider of free usable photos. If you find something you can use, then go for it. But it obviously doesn’t have as good of a selection as a paid service would.
  • Boxshot King: Software like Photoshop is great, but it’s a bit pricey and has quite a learning curve. Boxshot King is an awesome alternative. It is a web application that allows you to create amazing graphics (such as eBook and Disc covers) within just minutes. It has a ton of designs to choose from and let’s you customize your graphics with just a few clicks. Graphics like these have been shown to improve trust and increase conversions (important to say the least!).
  • GIMP: This is a free photo-editing software that is often hyped up as the free alternative to PhotoShop. It definitely has a lot of great features (especially for a free software). And it is vastly more advanced than something like Microsoft Paint. But I wouldn’t take it as far as to say “it’s the free PhotoShop.” Nevertheless, if you don’t want to invest in PhotoShop, this might be a good alternative.
  • PhotoShopI’m sure you already know what this is…the golden standard of image editing and creation. It amazes me what some people are able to do with this software.