Tools can be helpful…
Used in the right way, they can do wonders to help improve your digital marketing strategy, process, and execution.
There are new tools being developed every year, and whoever takes advantage of them first is ahead of the game.
But with increased efficiency in some areas, comes another problem entirely: tool overload.
According to a report by Winterberry Group, tool overload is already a reality of everyday life for many digital marketers:
That’s right, we use on average 12.4 different tools to support data-driven marketing. Some people use 31 or more.
Tools are supposed to make our lives easier, but those numbers are crazy. Unless nearly all of them are integrated, there’s no way to execute an effective marketing strategy using 31 different tools.
If you’re worried about death by digital marketing tool, it’s time to clean house. Here’s how to overcome tool overload.
Set goals and priorities
Instead of thinking about which tools you think you need, identify what your marketing goals are first, and go from there.
Let these goals guide your investment in tools, and also contribute to the decisions you make around removing tools from your playbook.
For example, your goals could be to:
- Appear on the first page of search results for keyword “X” (SEO)
- Reach X thousand more people within your target audience with your content (Content marketing)
- Automate 85% of your sales funnel by the end of the year (Email marketing)
- Improve your reach on social media by X thousand followers (Social media marketing)
- Improve your digital marketing ROI by X% (Analytics)
You can then identify priorities within each of these marketing areas that various tools can help you with:
- Keyword research
- Content creation
- Technical optimization
- Content marketing
- Content creation
- Content distribution and discovery
- Email marketing
- Landing pages
- Email content
- Marketing funnels
- Social media marketing
- Social content creation
- Social content distribution
- Social following tactics
- For your primary digital marketing strategy
- For cross-platform marketing
This is just an example of how you can set goals and priorities for your marketing efforts. The activities that are most important to you may be different. And how much money you plan to invest in each strategy will also affect how many tools you use.
That’s why you need to get organized too…
Now comes the overwhelming part.
Sit down and create a list of tools that can help you achieve your marketing goals. There are so many tools out there, this task could be never ending. But make sure you include at least a couple of free and paid tools for each of your marketing priorities that you can compare and choose from.
If you already have a comprehensive toolset it’s a great starting point, but don’t be afraid to spread your wings and look for other tools that could potentially replace or complement your current ones.
Based on the marketing priorities outlined above, let’s take a look at a snippet of some of the tools available:
What tools will you need for keyword research? Will you opt for an all-in-one tool or use different tools for specific keyword strategies? For example, you can use:
- Keyword Planner and Google Trends for initial keyword research
- KeywordTool.io for long-tail keyword research
For content creation, you may need tools to communicate with your writers and assign tasks, such as Slack, Asana, or Trello. You may also want to invest in an on-page content optimization tool like SEO by Yoast.
Then, what technical SEO tools might you need? For example, you’ll most certainly need Google Search Console. Moz or ahrefs may be helpful. Or a tool to improve site speed and user experience might be on the agenda.
For content creation, again you’ll need to think about project management and team communication tools to make sure you are creating content regularly and meeting deadlines. You could also house all of this ongoing information in an editorial calendar tool.
You may also need to consider visual content tools such as Canva, Visual.ly or Piktochart.
When it comes to email marketing tools, you could go for an all-in-one email, CRM and automation platform such as Marketo. Or you can piece together the specific things you need for sending email (like MailChimp), creating landing pages (like LeadPages), and creating funnels (like Infusionsoft).
Social media marketing
A tool like Feedly may be helpful for social content curation, but you’ll also need a social media scheduling tool like Sprout Social, Buffer, or Hootsuite. (Hint: FlypChart will schedule social media messages and emails for you!)
SocialOomph or MeetEdgar can help you automate evergreen content, and something like Social Quant or Instagress can help with follower growth.
Your social analytics tools will offer social metrics, and your email marketing tool will offer email-specific metrics. But you may also need tools to monitor site behavior, such as Google Analytics.
For a more comprehensive list of tools you can refer to marketing tool guides like this one.
Are you getting a headache just thinking about all of these tools?
I certainly am…
It is overwhelming just looking at this list, and the scary part is it’s only just scratching the surface.
So you really need to identify which tools you actually need. Which ones are going to progress your goals?
In another post discussing tool overload, Accorin’s Frank Thompson compiled a helpful list of questions you should ask yourself before investing in a marketing tool:
- What are the objectives of using the tool?
- Who’s going to use the tool?
- Are they capable of using it?
- What is the plan for the data that the tool creates?
- How does the tool fit into your current sales and marketing process?
You’ll want to use as few tools as possible, but not miss out on important features that can help progress your goals.
Conduct a quarterly tool audit
The number of tools available online is constantly growing. Scott Brinker started tracking the phenomenon in 2011, listing 150 tools in his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. In 2016, it was more than 3,800.
And the internet only seems to encourage us to use them. Headlines like these are more than common:
To fight back against the trend (and save your sanity), you need to take a hard look at your tools, regularly.
- Do any features overlap?
Luckily for you, most of these tools are competing with each other, expanding their features to become more attractive. Let’s say you’re using a certain tool only because it tracks visitor behavior on landing pages. If your email marketing software has also added this feature, you can eliminate one tool.
- Are you taking advantage of all the features?
Take a hard look at the actual use of your various tools from the previous quarter. Maybe you invested in a paid communications tool like Slack to communicate with your remote content writers. But time and again communication falls back to email. You can fight against this preferred work strategy, or just stop paying for Slack.
- Is the cost equal or greater than the benefits?
The answer to this question will be subjective unless you actually track and analyze how your tools affect your time investment, marketing precision, or bottom line.
Say you pay for an automated content discovery and sharing tool. Does it actually reduce the amount of time you spend finding and sharing content yourself?
Or, has it actually improved social media engagement and reach?
If yes, has that affected your bottom line?
Google Analytics allows you to mark and identify when you started using a new tool. Quarterly, you can see if a certain tool has had a direct impact on web traffic and other metrics.
Use tool integrators
Even with all your vetting and quarterly tool audits, it’s still likely you’ll need more than a handful of tools to reach your marketing goals. But you can make the most of each of them, and minimize tool overload in the process by using tool integrators.
The same report I mentioned earlier by the Winterberry Group asked marketers what would help them make better use of their data technology:
The top two things?
- Better tool integration
- Improved data sharing among tools
So if you’re going to invest big in any kind of tool, it should be integrators. Some of your tools may already integrate with each other, but you should find a tool specifically designed to help different systems communicate, such as:
- FlypChart (Whoops! Tiny little self plug)
Zapier integrates with more than 750 different apps, such as Slack, Google Docs, Gmail, Trello, and Asana. More importantly, it helps you share data between these apps to improve your marketing, automatically.
Zapier allows you to create workflows, called Zaps, to automate tasks and speed up your marketing process:
It’s definitely the most popular integrator on the market, but take a look at competitors as well. Workato, for example, boasts more than 1000 app integrations. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose an option that works best with the tools you already use.
FlypChart, on the other hand, is focused solely on helping digital marketers run more effective marketing campaigns.
A big part of that pursuit is to integrate with the digital marketing tools you are already currently using, such as email marketing software and social media platforms, and bringing them all into one place. Instead of having 7 tabs open in your browser, we just want you to have one – us!
When it comes to using digital marketing tools, sometimes less is more. It’s a false belief that the more tools you use, the better your digital marketing will be.
According to Accorin, here’s how many tools the eCommerce industry leaders use:
- L. Bean: 28
- J Crew: 22
- Amazon: 17
- Crutchfield: 7
- Best Buy: 14
- Expedia: 28
- com: 30
- Home Depot: 14
Do you really need more tools than Best Buy to succeed?
Of course not. So to avoid death by digital marketing tool, take a step back, analyze what you really need, and make the right tool choices for business success.
Great article! It is so overwhelming choosing from so many different tools to achieve desired results.
Just starting out as a blogger, it’s complete tool and plugin overload!
Thanks Lisa and good luck!