17 Digital Marketing Tools that are Essential in 2020

Aaron Yu

“Having the right digital marketing tools can make or break a freelancer in terms of time-spent, client retention and professional output.” – Rich Ux

The Digital Marketer today has a lot of tools available to them when analyzing web traffic and creating effective ads. Even more so if you're a Full Stack Digital Marketer and you produce content as well.

To help you avoid “paralysis by analysis“, what we've compiled for you today is a “best of the best” list of tools that Rich uses to manage up to 10 clients simultaneously for the Agency.

0 to 100, Real Quick … At An Appropriate Pace

It's important to note that although Rich uses a lot of the paid versions of these apps today, he didn't start off like this.

We all start from humble beginnings and his Hero's Journey is/was no different.

In the video interview, you'll note that Rich mentions that he'll often upgrade to the paid version of some of these apps after he's signed a Client because he can afford to upgrade.

In short: use the free version of these apps (or similar) when you can at the beginning of your career, but if you're serious about becoming a Digital Marketer, whether “Full-Stack” or of the “Specialist” variety, you'll need to consider upgrading to the paid versions eventually.

Got it?

Here are 17 Essential Digital Marketing Tools for Freelance Marketers:

 

1. Airtable

“Airtable is a really great version of Excel, but it's just more user-friendly.” – Rich

The Airtable team describes their product as a mix between a spreadsheet and a database to help you organize anything in any way you want.

Meaning instead of just having information displayed in a grid format with columns and rows like in a spreadsheet, you can also categorize them in a calendar format, add dropdown menus, drag n' drop files (with image previews!), etc.

With colour coding and the ability to move cells by drag n' dropping them into new locations in your workspace, you have the added benefit of using it as a Product Management Tool or a Kanban board to track project timelines.

Once your finished organizing your information beautifully, you can even embed it directly onto your website!

 

2. Miro

If you've ever done any collaborative ideation or sprints on physical whiteboards with sticky notes and parchment paper, then you'll instantly see the appeal of Miro.

Miro takes the idea of the whiteboard and brings it into the digital age by giving you infinite whiteboard space and removing the friction for remote teams to bounce ideas off of each other.

Let's say you and some remote contractors are mapping out a Customer Journey for this new product you're building. You can start with the general framework of how a customer interacts with your product at Step A then leads to B, then C, D, etc. etc.

Good. Done.

But, uh oh, now we need to go into more detail by zooming into how the interaction plays out from Step A to Step B.

On a normal whiteboard, if you didn't think you'd need to go into this much detail before, you wouldn't have had the foresight to leave any physical room on the board to use, meaning you would have to erase the whole thing and start over, this time leaving more room to flush out the process from Step A to Step B in more detail.

Not with Miro.

Since it's digital, all you have to do is zoom in closer and you'll have more room to play with.

Rich loves using it with new Clients as a presentation tool (e.g. Escape and Arrival decks) because by seeing an entire process from start to finish, with just the right amount of detail that the Client prefers, and nice little touches like the ability to draw arrows between isolated concepts to show cause-effect relationships, Miro is just a very fluid way to explain concepts.

 

3. Calendly

If you've ever been involved in an email exchange where it's just a back and forth of:

Person 1: “Would 2 pm be ok?”

Person 2: “Not tomorrow unfortunately. How about 3 pm on Monday?”

Person 1: “I have a meeting at that time. What about 10 am on Tuesday?”

Person 2: “Oh wait, but I'm going to be in Tokyo then. What time would that be in Vancouver?”

etc.

Then you should just drop everything and download Calendly immediately.

Calendly takes all the hassle out of scheduling conversations between people, no matter what timezone they're located in.

It even integrates into the calendar app of your choice (e.g. Google Calendar) so if you make any changes to your calendar, Calendly will know and block people from booking a call with you at that time so you're not double-booked.

 

4. Notion

Notion. The Big Kahuna.

If this is your first time learning about this app, then I am truly honoured to be the one shepherding you into the Promise Land.

Rich was SO EXCITED, in fact, that he goes HAM in a YouTube playlist specifically dedicated to explaining why he made the jump from other apps like Trello and Evernote to this one particular tool.

“Notion is really Evernote on steroids.” – Rich

In a nutshell though,

  • Create notes and documents like you would in Google Docs and Evernote
  • Turn your ever-expanding Team's knowledge into SOPs – replacing Confluence and GitHubWiki
  • Visually track project timelines with kanban boards, lists, etc – replacing Trello, Asana, Jira
  • Capture your unique workflows through spreadsheets and databases – replacing Google Sheets and Airtable

 

5. Manage WP

This is a WordPress plugin that helps Rich manage all his Clients' WordPress sites.

Once you login to Manage WP, you'll have access to all the individual sites you've connected to it.

Where repetitive tasks like updating themes or core WordPress software are involved, you can do it in one click.

You can backup sites, clone sites, get Google Analytics information, monitor if any links within each site is operational or not, security checks, you name it.

Essentially, like all the tools we mention, this takes the headache out of managing multiple WordPress sites by saving you time and mouse clicks.

 

6. Zoom

If you came to this list looking for robust, State-of-the-Art video conferencing software, then you'll find it in Zoom.

“If you haven’t been on a Zoom call yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.” – Rich

LOL. 😂

Oh, Rich. C'mon now. There might be children reading this. 😬

Clearly, my friend has some strong views about how vital Zoom is to running an online business.

– And to be honest, I wouldn't disagree 😉 –

I've been using Zoom for the past year and it's never let me down.

Airports, cafes, libraries, on my mobile, on my mac, third world countries, you name it – it's all been great.

If you run an online coaching business, you can also do it right from the Zoom room.

Rich and I talk a bit more about why there's been such widespread adoption of this as a communication tool in the video interview, but just briefly:

Proprietary technology leading to robust video conferencing that makes it very easy for parties to connect [as compared to Skype where it's surprisingly hard to find and add people (!)].

 

7. Planoly

For those of you spending a lot of time managing Instagram layouts, Planoly is helpful because it allows you to do it visually and from your desktop.

You can drag n' drop images and video into a grid pattern to see how it looks before you publish. This also makes it much easier to nail those interesting grid patterns you see in some home pages.

Some additional features include a mobile version, publication schedule, hashtag management, access to stock photos, analytics, Stories management, etc.

 

8. OptinMonster

“Expensive, but good.” – Rich

Exit Pop-Ups – those prompts that “pop-up” on your screen when you move your mouse to try to close the tab – don't work as well as they used to…

People are getting used to them. Bored of them. Annoyed at them.

Which brings up the age-old question: Do we focus more on conversion optimization or user experience?

Ultimately, we're all big boys and girls that will lean one way or another on that debate but Rich feels that the price of OptinMonster is justified because it breathes new life into the traditional Exit Pop-Up by focusing on improving the UX.

OptinMonster allows you easy-to-design, aesthetically-pleasing pop-ups that have multiple pop-up screens that create a different, fresh experience to the end-user by making the pop-ups more engaging.

Also, this app is responsive on both mobile and desktop – which is HUGE! Remember: different screens have different resolutions so you really need an app/plugin that's responsive to the User's platform of choice.

Rich gets into more of his views on “mobile vs. desktop responsiveness” in the video interview.

 

9. Memberpress

“My chosen Membership software.” – Rich

Fun Tidbit: Rich uses this for his Digital Marketing Academy!

If you're creating any digital assets that require you to take recurring payments and keep track of members in a community, you'll need membership software.

Obviously, everything on this list are suggestions and you can use any digital marketing tool you want, BUT those 2 points I've underscored above are definitely things to keep at the forefront of your mind before you invest in anything.

2 things to consider when looking for membership software:

1. Look for something that has a reliable and robust payment system

  • Monthly payments, biweekly payments, or if you wanted to give the User a free trial for 2 weeks AND THEN start monthly payments – you want something that can accommodate these options

2. Integration!

  • With Stripe, PayPal, coupons/discount codes
  • With other software in your workflow like email, accounting software, etc.

10. Adobe Creative Cloud

The Full Stack Digital Marketer not only distributes content but also produces it.

Adobe, a powerhouse in digital asset creation, offers multiple apps under what they call the “Creative Cloud” which – I'll argue – is an industry staple.

If you're a serious player, you'll invest into the full suite of applications sooner rather than later.

It comes with all the big titles like Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, etc..

But it also has some sleeper hits that you might not have expected…

Like Adobe Acrobat.

Yes, Adobe Acrobat.

It might not be important enough for you to buy on its own, but it's bundled in with full Creative Cloud and is especially useful when you're onboarding clients/team members because it makes dealing with documents secure and easy.

Digitally signing contracts, editing PDFs by creating checkboxes, etc.

 

 

11. MailChimp

MailChimp – still going strong!

Some of Rich's clients use Constant Contact, some use Active Campaign, some use Drip.

They're all so similar.

What keeps Rich coming back to MailChimp as an email marketing platform though is that he likes to set up first time clients on it because it has:

  • Clean email list management
  • Free to start – although it's worth considering upgrading to get a more capable AutoResponder feature
  • Send bulk email for free
  • Widespread integration – since it's been around for such a long time, most platforms (e.g. CRMs, etc.) will have direct MailChimp integration without the use of third party apps like Zapier

Lately, MailChimp has been differentiating from the competition by transitioning from an email marketing platform to a marketing automation platform so you can expect some nifty features from that perspective as well if you wanted to invest some serious $$ into it.

 

 

12. GSuite

Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendars, and Google Docs.

All important for any company in the Seed stage or Start-Up stage.

2 points that Rich brings up in our video interview that I think is worth mentioning here:

  1. If you send emails from private servers, sometimes they get lost by being blocked or sorted into Spam. Using Gmail reduces this chance
    • Since most people are familiar with the Gmail interface at this point, there's a much shorter adoption curve
  2. Unlimited storage is offered at ~$15.00 USD per month

Let's unpackage point 2, shall we?

If you're working with digital assets, you'll need to transfer LARGE files often.

What did we used to do?

Use our own personal Google Drive accounts until they maxed out, refer someone to sign up on DropBox so we can squeeze out a little more storage, physically transfer files with an external hard drive if the person we were collaborating with was local.

It was a hodgepodge of bandaid solutions just to get through the month.

Not anymore.

The value prop here is: “For a measly $15 per month I can now store an unlimited amount of video files?!”

This becomes even more important if you're working with team members like a remote video editor.

“I just send my video editor 100 GBs, I don’t even think about it.” – Rich

 

13. Vimeo

Vimeo – the more-protected, collaborative alternative to YouTube for hosting branded video assets.

You control who can't or can embed the video, create livestreams, do away with ads.

What’s great with Vimeo nowadays is the Review feature.

While you’re watching a video, you can pause the video, click on a specific point in the timeline and add comments for you or your Video Editor to follow-up later i.e. “Put the proper ID tag at this time stamp in the video.”

AND then you can have a conversation about the change (e.g. “Oh, you didn’t save the change.”, “Beautiful. Looks good.”) with your team member in that Review feature.

This used to be a powerful feature offered by 3rd Party softwares, but now Vimeo has made it native to the platform which is great.

As a Full Stack Digital Marketer, it’s important to have Vimeo in your arsenal. As a Digital Marketer, not so much.

 

14. Freshbooks

Freshbooks is cloud-based accounting software that really takes care of the financial aspect of running a small business whether the storefront is more traditional brick and mortar or virtual.

You can track your spending habits, revenue generated, send clients invoices and have them pay directly on it, etc.

If your clients and/or team is distributed globally, you'll be dealing with multiple streams of different currencies.

Having a program that can handle this and produce precise reports that allow you a pulse on the lifeline of your business is invaluable.

 

 

15. Namecheap

 “INCREDIBLE SERVICE.” – Rich

He's been using them for 7-8 years already for his web domain and hosting services and LOVES this company for their top-notch, responsive, above-and-beyond customer service.

In the video interview, Rich goes into a time when something happened to his site, he was getting help on the Live Chat feature of the Namecheap website, he gets cut-off, and they followed up with him to make sure the problem was actually resolved.

Slow clap

Cue Slow Clap

It's not the cheapest service out there, but the discount services will get you in other ways i.e. charging you for a SSL certificate on your website (more on this in the video interview).

 

 

16. Loom

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you're trying to troubleshoot something virtually or explain a concept to someone.

Loom capitalizes on this by simplifying the process of screen-sharing and narration.

With one click you’re recording your screen, using the front-facing camera to record your face, and the mic to record your voice – all in an effort to help you describe to somebody how you do something or what to pay attention to when you're dealing with a computer interface.

It's important to note – this is not a LIVE chat room. Once you record the short video, you send the link to all interested parties so they can view it at their leisure.

Bonus – it can be integrated into other software like Notion.

 

17. Slack

Slack this. Slack that.

Slack is often hailed as THE solution to team communication with good reason:

  • Great organization of conversations
  • Easy to share files and documents
  • Search capability for all chats
  • Integration into existing tools

What I've found useful is that, with remote team members dealing with different timezones, you can set a “DND” mode that gives the other person a heads-up if you're not able to get to the message right away i.e. if you're sleeping.

 

[LINK TO VIDEO INTERVIEW]

The Video Interview

The points in this article are largely based on the Video Interview Rich and I had a couple weeks back. In the interview, we touch on things like the “Oculus Quest” (- the next step up for mobile design?), probe into Rich's experience on building out a Digital Marketing Agency from scratch, and shed some light on his philosophies with questions like:

  1. What's more important? The tool or the practitioner's skill?
  2. What's the importance of good UI/UX in the grand scheme of things?
  3. What about security and privacy issues for remote workers?
[Note: if you listen to the interview, you'll notice I mention something about “using the Dark Web to improve your web security… Please don't. I mispoke – it's been a while since I researched this stuff. What I meant was: Tor as an alternative to VPNs.]

 

Punch In, Punch Out

Yes, we're all doing big things and changing the world… but when you get down to the day-in and day-out of any job, repetitive, sometimes mundane, tasks are the backbone of any worthwhile project.

You can't hide from hard work. There are no shortcuts here.

What we can do, however, is make routine processes more efficient and offload them to algorithms if possible.

That's why you'll notice there's a theme with all the aforementioned digital marketing tools:

  • They're automated as much as possible
  • They're often a bunch of different tools seamlessly tied together to save you time from jumping from one UI to the next
  • They perform processes we're used to (i.e. video conferencing) in a better way

The thought is: the more high quality work you can produce in a shorter amount of time, the better.

 

Cool. That was a lot. Take some time to digest the above material, check out the links, and if you guys have any comments or questions, reach out.

Peace, love, and understanding, people. ✌️

– Aaron

 

 

 

 

P.S. Tools are great, but where would a Full Stack Digital Marketer be without the skills to use those tools? Luckily, our Academy Alumni never have to find out 😉

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