10 Essential Tools for Digital Marketing Success

By Ryan Deiss, Russ Henneberry

Using the right tool at the right time for the right job can make or break your digital marketing efforts. Because so much of what you do as a digital marketer takes place online and on a computer, you’ll suffer no shortage of software and applications to choose from. The glut of tools at your disposal is both a blessing and a curse, however, because the choice can be overwhelming.

Building a website

In the early days of the Internet, you had to custom-code websites from scratch. Today, even the most nontechnical person can create and publish text, images, video, and audio to the web using a content management system (CMS), which is a software application used to manage the digital content and design of your website. The most important choice you make when building your website is what CMS to use.

The best CMSs are

  • Intuitive
  • Search-engine friendly
  • Mobile friendly
  • Modular
  • Multiuser
  • Secure

WordPress.org

This free, open source platform began as a blogging platform and has evolved into a full-blown CMS. It is extremely modular and search-engine friendly, and it allows for multiple users with various levels of permissions.

The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is that WordPress.org is a self-hosted platform, whereas WordPress.com is hosted on WordPress’ servers. As a business owner, you want to use the self-hosted WordPress.org CMS so that you have complete ownership of your website. If you’re looking for a low budget, flexible CMS, WordPress.org is a great choice.

Shopify

Whether you’re selling physical products completely online or you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer looking to sell your wares online, Shopify is worth your consideration. Shopify handles the design and layout of your store, but it also manages payments, shipping, inventory, and more.

Hosting a website

A web host is a business that stores your website files and makes your website accessible on the Internet. Although you can set up a web server to deliver your website yourself, most companies want to use a web hosting company.

The best web hosts have the following characteristics:

  • Significant uptime
  • Support
  • Speed
  • Security
  • Redundancy

WP Engine

If you choose to use WordPress as your CMS, WP Engine is a great choice as your web host. This company is known for exceptional uptime, lightning-fast page load speeds, and unprecedented security.

Rackspace

No matter what you’re looking to deliver on the web, chances are Rackspace can handle it. Rackspace is a company with an excellent reputation in the industry and a long track record of quality.

Choosing email marketing software

Email marketing is critical to the success of most digital marketing campaigns. Hundreds of email marketing tools are available to choose from, but a few stand out in the crowd.

The best email applications have the following characteristics:

  • Deliverability
  • Automation
  • Reporting
  • Mobile friendliness

Maropost

Maropost provides enterprise-level email marketing software with the capability to handle complex email automation campaigns and advanced email segmentation.

Aweber

Despite its low cost, Aweber has a sterling reputation for deliverability, and the software integrates seamlessly with other popular tools like WordPress. If your budget is tight, Aweber is an outstanding choice.

Klaviyo

Klaviyo offers solid email marketing software for businesses that sell physical products. The software integrates with your shopping cart, payment platform, customer relationship management (CRM), and more.

Considering customer relationship management (CRM) software

As your business grows, you will likely need to add customer relationship management (CRM) software. In some cases, your CRM will replace your email software, but a CRM is much more than an email service provider. It can, in fact, be difficult to pin down the exact role of a CRM because that role varies widely from solution to solution. That said, all CRMs are designed to manage the relationships with your customers and prospects, as well as the data associated with that relationship.

The best CRMs have the following characteristics:

  • Centralized data
  • Support and training
  • Reporting

Infusionsoft

With Infusionsoft, you have the capability to manage products, record customers’ and prospects’ data, process payments, send emails, and more all from one system.

Salesforce

Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM that offers solutions for every business, from small to enterprise level. Salesforce is known for its robust integration with thousands of applications, from QuickBooks to Evernote.

Adding a payment solution

The payment processor is arguably your most important tool because, well, it’s how you process payments. The payment processor handles transactions from various channels, with the most critical ones being credit and debit cards.

The best payment processors are

  • Secure
  • Intuitive
  • Capable of recurrent billing

Stripe

Offering dependable, easy-to-configure payment processing with a rich feature set, Stripe handles recurrent billing and integrates with applications such as WordPress, Shopify, and FreshBooks.

Square

If you want customers to be able to swipe credit or debit cards in your store or on the go, consider Square. The Square app turns your smartphone or tablet into a credit card processing machine.

Using landing page software

Landing page software tools contain templates to build effective landing pages, and some even come with split testing capabilities built right in.

The best landing-page software is

  • Intuitive
  • Responsive to mobile
  • Integrative

Instapage

Instapage lets you build beautiful landing pages without touching a single line of code. It integrates with other tools such as Aweber (an email service provider), Infusionsoft and Salesforce (CRMs), GoTowebinar (a webinar delivery platform), and more.

Unbounce

A more technical landing page tool with clean code, beautiful templates, and the capability to run A/B split tests from within the platform. Unbounce is definitely worth a shot if you love great design.

Sourcing and editing images

The web seems to become more visual with each passing day. With the rise of social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, even text-based platforms like Twitter are embracing the power of the image. As a digital marketer, you’ll likely find yourself needing to create images for everything from a Facebook ad to an email promotion.

The gold standard of image-creation applications is Adobe Photoshop, and if you have the skill and inclination, you should absolutely use Photoshop. That said, you can choose from among a number of low-cost and easy-to-use applications for producing beautiful images that meet most marketer’s needs.

The best image-creation applications are

  • Cloud based
  • Intuitive
  • Low cost

Canva

Canva is a cloud-based drag-and-drop design application that comes with millions of images, layouts, icons, shapes, and fonts to choose from.

SnagIt

Capture any type of image on your computer screen and use SnagIt’s dynamic editor to crop, resize, add callouts and text, and much more.

Pixlr Express

Pixlr enables you to open an image and make changes to it by rotating, cropping, or resizing it in the cloud-based editor. Add effects, overlays, stickers, and more with this free image editor.

Managing social media

Thousands of applications allow you to monitor and publish to the social web. Prices vary based on the size of your organization and the features you need, but plenty of low-cost options for managing your social media presence without the big price tag are available.

The best social media applications are

  • Cloud-based
  • MultiuserReporting

Hootsuite Pro

The best cloud-based, low-cost application for managing Twitter is Hootsuite. This tool also manages Facebook and LinkedIn, but you’ll find it most useful for organizing your Twitter activity. You can use the free version, but Hootsuite Pro adds solid reporting and the capability to easily append UTM (urchin tracking module) parameters to links.

Edgar

Using the Edgar application, you can publish status updates to Facebook and Twitter automatically. Edgar breathes new life into your best content by consistently sharing it on autopilot.

Mention

Find conversations about your brands, people, competitors, and more with this reasonably priced social-listening and reputation-management application. Mention is a very helpful tool.

Measuring your performance: Data and analytics

Plenty of vendors claim to have the application that can end all your data and analytics problems. Luckily, most of the best tools have free solutions made available by Google. These tools are easy to use and provide the level of functionality that meets the needs of most businesses.

The best data tools are

  • Easy to use
  • Free
  • Robust

Google Analytics

Google Analytics tracks and reports website traffic. Even with the more expensive analytics solutions, good old Google Analytics is still the way to go.

Google Data Studio

Use Google Data Studio to create stunningly beautiful and informative, interactive reports and graphs that you can share with others. Pull data from sources like Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and Google Docs.

Google Tag Manager

Update website tags and add scripts to your website even if you aren’t a code monkey. Google Tag Manager has a bit of a learning curve, but after you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Optimizing your marketing

There are some impressive tools on the market that will help you get more leads, sales, and engagement out of the traffic you already have. Most of these tools are reasonably priced and offer a free trial, so you can give them a whirl before putting any skin in the game.

The best optimizing applications are

  • Supported
  • Multipurpose

Visual Website Optimizer

For intuitive set up and configuration of split and multivariate website tests Visual Website Optimizer is highly recommended. Its point-and-click interface and support documentation make it easy to get started testing.

TruConversion

TruConversion is a multipurpose optimization tool that offers heat maps, session recordings, user surveys, and more in a single tool.