One of the topics that frequently comes up in my conversations with other founders and marketers are the tools that we use to help us with our marketing efforts. There’s no shortage of articles out there related to marketing tools that can help you grow your startup. But there isn’t a detailed list of marketing tools that work across all parts of your marketing funnel. Until now, that is.
For example, let’s say my main responsibility this month is user retention. And I wanted to explore a list of tools that I can try out to make my life easier. It would take a massive amount of research just to find one or two tools to test. If there was a list for me to quickly scan through the tools for user retention, I could easily navigate straight to the site and read about it. This would save me a lot of time and would let me get my marketing test started.
I’ve explored a lot of marketing tools over time, but here’s an updated list of tools that will fit well with any stage of your marketing funnel. In this article, I will break down the list of tools based on the different stages of the funnel. The stages that I will go through will include:
Yep, that’s the typical “pirate metrics” of growth hacking. But we all know that marketers need to dedicate at least some time to every stage of it. Tools provide an enormous benefit for this. Tools allow you to quickly run tests with the lowest cost instead of having to build everything in-house that will take resources and, perhaps, months of time. With the correct tools, you can create a stack that will help you automate and put your startup’s growth on autopilot. Let’s begin!
I’m usually a big fan of user acquisition tools that contribute to long term sustainable growth. Not the one shot one “growth hacks”. The difference is that with a long term user acquisition tool, you can create a repeatable growth process behind it that will help you build a foundation in the long term. Whereas if I go for something quick like Google Adwords or Facebook ads, I might acquire a few sign ups, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help me gain customers in the long term. With that said, here’s my list of go-to tools for acquisition.
Moz – Moz is the bread and butter to any SEO tool, but my favorite out of all their tools is their open site explorer. The tool is free and it’s powerful enough to match with a lot of the higher end paid options out there. SEO isn’t something that acquires a user right away, but it’s a foundation that you need to lay if you want sustainable growth in the long run. Moz is a great free tool for checking your domain and page authority and checking how many links you are getting and from which source. You can also check your competition. But the free version only gives you 3 reports per day. It’s still a very good tool with simple UX that any marketer can just hop on and see results.
Builtwith – Builtwith is a great way to see which sites your competitors are using. In the beginning days, it’s necessary to do tasks that don’t scale. This includes reaching out to your competitor’s customers and either interviewing them to learn more about how they’re using your competitor or simply for pitching your new product. Builtwith can save you a lot of time because it can provide you with a list of websites that are already using that tool. In addition to that, you can always use their free chrome extension to see what stack any website is using.
YesInsights – Gathering data then guessing is never enough. YesInsights is an all in one user/customer feedback tool that allows you to take the guesswork out of knowing what your customers want. There’s a lot of ways you can include YesInsights in all parts of your marketing stack. But you should look into the on-page website feedback widget/survey for acquisition. With YesInsights’ website widget, you can trigger on-page user-friendly surveys to ask questions such as, “What’s stopping you from buying right now?”. Or you can make the survey appear on your blog asking a question like, “Did you find this content helpful?” If the visitor clicks “Yes”, then you can have the next action set to collect their email address. This is easier than ever with our Zapier integration! This allows you to easily narrow down the focus and acquire more users.
FullContact – I mentioned Builtwith above, but I know people will ask how do I find the company’s email? The best and easiest way is by guessing the email with FullContact. FullContact is a chrome extension that works directly in your Gmail and it will display their social profile if you guess the email correctly. I use to use Rapportive, but it’s not as good as FullContact anymore. FullContact is free and most of the time you can guess the email correctly with just their firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a great start for emailing potential customers.
Sidekick – is a free Chrome plugin alternative to a Tout, PersistIQ, and YesWare to give you open and click through rates on outbound email to show you how your outreach is going. The extension is a free tool created by Hubspot and it is super effective for seeing who’s opening your emails. That way you can keep track of what’s going on and if the prospect missed your email or simply ignored it. It can also help you build a strong follow-up strategy for following up with potential customers. My favorite feature is the real time notifications, but it does get buggy at times.
WordPress – Content marketing is king and it’s a great way to start building the early acquisition channel that will work in the long run. Blogging won’t get you new customers right away, but if you look at companies like Kissmetrics, we can see that blogging pays off in the long term and will drive you a lot of traffic and branding. I chose WordPress because of how easy it is to set up with reliable hosting from companies like WPEngine (we use it!). It also comes with a ton of plugins that will make your life easier such as SEO Yoast for you to automate your SEO and see what’s working. Oh, and Wordpress currently powers 28% of the internet!
Buffer – Perhaps our best time-saving tip for social media marketing is scheduling posts ahead of time for your social profiles. You can batch the social media marketing process: Do all your curating and composing all in one go, then spread those updates out across the next day or week. The forever free plan at Buffer lets you connect a profile from each network (one from Facebook, one from Twitter, etc.) and to schedule ahead 10 posts for each network. If you share three posts per day, that means you can stay three days ahead all the time. You can use Hootsuite as another free alternative, but I prefer Buffer because of the chrome extension and how easy it is to schedule everything across all accounts.
Teachable – While we don’t use Teachable at YesInsights, I still believe that Teachable is one of the best tools for creating any online course. It’s a great way to grow your brand through offering your expertise. Teachable isn’t cheap. But if you’re offering free courses to grow your audience, then teachable provides a robust free platform for you to create a free course that you can use to collect your potential customers’ emails and market your knowledge to them.
Intercom – Intercom is a must have for any startup to start acquiring and communicating with their customers. The live chat on the website will allow you to capture leads and answer their questions. Most importantly, the platform can act as a CRM where you can send trigger emails. Intercom’s most awesome feature? You can start to scale and gather feedback through surveys created through YesInsights and embed them within your triggered emails with ease. Our integration makes it easy for you to embed anything in the onboarding email. We use it every day. Here’s a sample of our very own onboarding email that gets 50%+ response rate on all opens:
This an important part of the marketing funnel. Acquiring a user and making them interested is a great start! But activating them and having them sign up for an account is no easy job. This is the part where the user will sign up for a trial or become a registered user. Now it’s up for your onboarding effort and nurturing process in order to continue to push them down the funnel and become an active paying user. Get ready for some fun tools 🙂
YesInsights – I had to mention our own tool again because a big chunk of our customers use it in their onboarding and lifecycle emails. Our customers use it to nurture their leads and do user research on how the customers are enjoying the product during the trial phase. What features are the users using the most? What are they enjoying the most? Which marketing channel are they coming from? Instead of guessing, you can simply automate this process and create a customer feedback loop that will give you all the necessary data needed to analyze your final goal with the customer.
Piktochart uses YesInsights in their mid-trial emails to figure out what the main use cases of their customers are. Then they send educational materials to them based on their responses. They get 75%+ response on all their surveys sent due to the native triggered embed. Their email looks like this with the survey:
Retargeting – I’m not a “huge fan” of running too much acquisition ads, but if there’s one type of ad that I will run it will be retargeting. You might capture an email from your blog or capture a lot of visits from cold visitors. But the hard truth is that most people will forget about your product even if they find it useful. They might say, “ahh I’ll try it out tomorrow!”, but end up forgetting. Or they’re on mobile, ready to sign up, and get distracted by a call. Retargeting allows you to bring people back and remind them that your company still exist! You can use Perfect Audience or Adroll for this and can set it up across multiple platforms (FB, Google, web, etc.).
GoToWebinar – Webinar is one of the best ways to nurture activated sign ups that are on trial. Buzzsumo does an excellent job of sending out webinar invites for discounts during your trial phase so you can learn about their product and the value that you get out of it. I’ve tried a lot of different webinar platforms in the past, but kept coming back to GoToWebinar due to how easy it is to set up.
Crazy Egg – I mention Crazy Egg quite often because it’s a powerful and budget friendly tool for viewing heatmaps to see what users are doing on your site. Let’s say you’re driving a lot of traffic to your site, but the users aren’t converting. You want to know why they’re not. Maybe your landing page’s copy is too long and people are missing your trial button. Maybe people aren’t even scrolling or reading your content. Crazy Egg lets you see recordings and heatmaps to figure out what’s going on. Then you can A/B test it to see how you can increase your activation rate. Combine this with the YesInsights website widget on dedicated pages to figure out both the quantitative and qualitative side of things to see why customers aren’t converting.
HelloBar – We use Hellobar on our blog (this one) and we use it to collect emails and activate users. We try to send them to webinars to nurture them through Hellobar’s overlays that are super user-friendly and nurture leads on our list to get them to sign up for our free trial. Hellobar comes with a free branded version, but we upgraded to the premium version for a budget friendly price. An alternative would be SumoMe, but it’s buggy for us and we don’t need the heatmap or analytic because we’re using other tools for that.
Instapage – We use this for all of our landing pages. Creating a landing page with Instapage is super easy. And you can integrate this with any email service provider to capture leads and see conversion rates. Content is king when it comes to nurturing and activating. It’s an important part of the marketing strategy and if you’re looking for an elegant tool for this process then Instapage is the way to go. If you need a more advanced flow such as Salesforce mapping, then look into Unbounce. But personally, we love the templates on Instapage, especially for webinar and webinar replays.
Appcues – Appcues gives you the power to take user onboarding into your own hands. Build and iterate on your onboarding experience without bugging your dev team. New users often have different motivations for using your product. Get them to their first WOW experience faster by giving each persona a unique experience. Appcues really helps with user onboarding and can be used for user retention as well. It’s a really well-rounded product. You can use it for pointing out important UI elements to ensure new users don’t get frustrated or lost. And you can also use it to run A/B testing on user onboardings. Both help to ensure you are providing the best customer experience possible!
Now we’re moving down the funnel towards the R’s!! Once you move the user forward down the funnel towards retention, you should give you and your team a high five. But you cannot stop there! This is the hard part. Acquiring a user is hard, but retaining them is even harder. These tools focus on the goal of either retaining users or doing customer development to figure out ways to keep them coming back. Let’s do this!
Mixpanel – A big chunk of user retention is about understanding your users, where they are falling off in the funnel, what they’re doing on the site, and what they’re struggling with. Mixpanel is like Google Analytics on steroids. It comes with a detailed funnel and cohort analysis that can help you map out exactly what’s going on within your app. Most amazing Mixpanel feature? You can look into every single user to see their action as well as their engagement rate and where they are coming from.
User Testing – UserTesting.com is a website dedicated to finding your website’s biggest problems in a short amount of time, and then providing you with the information and feedback you need to improve your site’s usability. UserTesting.com gives you the ability to create a test for your website and then have real people take the test. Then they can give you feedback via video recording while they are using the site. You can also ask them for follow-up questions for further information.
What’s great about UserTesting is that you can actually see an actual person using your product. The tester doesn’t only use the product, but they actually talk about it throughout their process and share their thoughts. This is a gold mine for all product managers, UX designers, and founders.
Let’s say you notice that two testers are struggling to understand a certain part of your product. You can work closely with your team to fix that issue. Another great thing is that you can test both web apps and mobile apps, which is huge as mobile becomes more and more dominant.
Pricing: Starts at $99 per video.
Net Promoter Score Tool – An NPS tool is a must at this stage of the funnel for you to quickly run customer satisfaction surveys. NPS surveys allow you to create a system of measuring overall satisfaction. You can harness their power once you determine your Net Promotor Score.
We use NPS to segment and find unhappy customers, then we personally reach out to them to see how we can improve our product. Also, we use NPS on our advocates (those giving us a 9 or 10) to ask for referrals, testimonials, and additional features that they would like to see being built next. At the end of the day, NPS can give you a lot of inside data on what your overall customers think about your product and if you’re heading towards product market fit. If you want a list of strategies that you can use with NPS to create sustainable growth, check out this article.
There are a lot of robust tools out there that you can create an NPS survey with. YesInsights is our favorite as it can be used for fully customizable one-click surveys, website survey widgets, and you can easily create an NPS survey within our platform.
This is the most powerful part of the marketing funnel. Word of mouth marketing is the best performing ROI you will ever have. With referrals, you literally have customers bringing you new customers without you having to spend money on user acquisition. Getting users into the referral stages means that they not only love your product, but they think that their contacts and friends could also benefit from that value.
At YesInsights, we only started looking into referrals when customers started asking for it. We wanted to ensure that we build a good enough product that solves a problem before even looking into tools for referrals. These are the tools that we’ve tried.
LeadDyno – There’s a lot of referral tools out there, but most of them are geared for enterprises with expensive pricing. LeadDyno was one of those that provided an all in one robust referral system with reasonable prices. It allows you to easily create an affiliate program with your own custom landing page and backend system so that all you have to do is send a link to the people that want to sign up for your referral program. LeadDyno will handle everything from the payments to affiliate tracking. You can also schedule recurring payments to your affiliates. It’s a great tool for SaaS.
Ambassador – Ambassador is one of the most complete referral/affiliate programs out there. We didn’t go with Ambassador at YesInsights due to the expensive pricing, but our parent company, Design Pickle, uses Ambassador. They provide more features than a lot of the other referral tools out there. Here are some of their best features:
- An easy-to-use visual editor
- Automated workflows
- Pre-built designs and templates
- Robust customer and affiliate portals
- Seamless integrations
- A/B test copy, rewards, and on-page placement
- Identify and segment affiliates, influencers, customers, partners, employees, and other advocates
- Customize reporting and analytics
- Native mobile app experience
- Multi-language functionality
- International currency
- Proven offline tracking processes
With all the features mentioned above, it’s the perfect affiliate program for marketers. They also support recurring payments, which is perfect for SaaS companies.
Revenue is the bread and butter of any company and business. It’s what keeps the business alive and it’s what pays the bills. Keeping track of revenue is super crucial to any business. It doesn’t matter if your company is well funded or not. One of the biggest mistakes that founders make is that they only track overall revenue. So they don’t track other important revenue metrics such as user churn, cost per acquisition, and etc. Luckily, we have tools to help us out.
Baremetrics – If you’re running a SaaS company, then you absolutely need Baremetrics or some sort of SaaS metric tracker. With Baremetrics you can learn more about each and every customer. Find out their LTV, MRR and more, as well as their entire history with you! The UX is super simple and you can connect your Stripe, Braintree or Recurly account in seconds. One of the features that I love the most about Baremetrics is how you can dive into each customer profile and see everything. They also come with email notifications and reports.
Churn Buster – Churn Buster’s air-tight, scalable process automatically solves payment problems in Stripe caused by insufficient funds, expiration dates, card re-issuing, and etc. These are common problems that lead to SaaS churn. If your users are loving your product, there should be no reason why they will churn. Yet unfortunately, simple errors like these occur and that’s where Churn Buster can help you fix these problems.
Some of my most favorite features about Churn Buster include the white label dunning emails, automatic subscription renewals, and their real time reporting (my personal favorite). I’m a huge analytic guy and the reporting really helps me analyze my churn.
First Officer – First Officer is a Stripe monitoring tool that reports in depth metrics ranging from MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) to cohort analysis and, most importantly, churn.
Are new customers happier than the old ones?
The behavior of a small group isn’t visible in total churn, but it shows in monthly cohort charts.
MRR is the #1 SaaS metric and it isn’t just a single figure. To really conquer it — you must divide it, as First Officer might say. With First Officer, you can see the trends and compare performance between plans. View just one metric or compare them all in one place.
Their pricing is pretty straight forward. There is a hobby package for 29$/month that allows you to have up to 250 customers. This works pretty well with bootstrapping SaaS companies. You can then upgrade to the 79$/month package if you grow.
ProfitWell – ProfitWell combines world-class subscription analytics and tools that fuel your growth. Profitwell is similar to Baremetrics and First Officer. It allows you to view all your analytics in one place and the data is pretty accurate. One of the best things about ProfitWell is that they provide actionable analytics and not just stats. This allows you to narrow down every little thing including cohorts and segmented users.
GeckoBoard – What I love about Geckoboard is that it tracks more than just revenue. Geckoboard allows you to add “widgets” to a dashboard that’s highly customizable. You can add anything you want to from Stripe to your daily visitor count. It’s the best app for keeping track of everything in one place. Display it in your office’s TV for the best results 😀
That’s it for this list! Are there any tools that you use at your company that I didn’t mention here? Feel free to leave it in the comments.
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