To illustrate the point, there were a whopping 5,381 ‘solutions’ in ChiefMartec’s annual ‘supergraphic’ showing the global technology landscape. The 2018 version is due to be released soon – and *spoiler alert* – that number is only going to rise.
When I was starting out in marketing it was easy to get lost in the swell of lists on ‘must-have’ technologies and tools. During the last five years at SaleCycle we have tried out (literally!) hundreds of different tools to try and improve performance.
This method of trial and error can be invigorating and has led to great breakthroughs, but the research process can become exhausting. I’ve always felt that what is missing is a ‘starter kit’ of useful tools for B2B marketers to try. And that’s what I’ve tried to provide here.
This is a list of ten tools that we use every single day. Of course, these tools are not exclusive to B2B marketing but I’m choosing to focus on our experience of the tools for this article.
* Disclaimer | Please don’t be offended if your solution is not included. I am aware that there are excellent ‘competitive’ solutions to all those I list, and would recommend readers to consider whether they have a need for the solution itself rather than focusing on the company that provides it.
1. Marketing automation | Pardot
There’s no particular order to my list, but having a strong marketing automation tool is absolutely central to everything we do. With a large, hungry sales team, ensuring that everything we do is visible to external facing teams is key. And that’s where Pardot comes in.
Pardot shows our sales guys all the interactions their prospect has had with us – the blogs they have read, emails they clicked, videos they watched and product pages they looked at. This information helps to enrich every conversation we then have with the prospect.
When it comes to marrying sales and marketing, essential to just about any B2B organisation, getting this part of your marketing right should be your first priority.
Alternative solutions include: Hubspot, Drip.
2. Social sharing | Circulate.it
When it comes to a social media strategy in B2B marketing, having active company social profiles is just the start. Where we have found real success is in creating advocates within our own employee base.
After all, these guys are communicating day-to-day with our target audience and by association tend to be ‘connected’ with them on their preferred social channels too.
Back in the day, this used to mean me firing out an email to all staff along the lines of ‘I’ve just written this blog. Can you share it on social media please?’. And yep, those emails got annoying pretty quickly.
Luckily, there are now tools like Circulate that enable us to automate the whole process and make it much easier for staff to become advocates, and for us to track the results (we even incentivise the top sharer each month!).
The process is pretty simple – we fire out an email to employees (via Circulate) once or twice a week with our hottest links, and they can choose whether or not to share it with just a couple of clicks.
We now generate more social traffic to website from employee shares than we do our own company accounts, and it has the secondary benefit of keeping our staff updated on all our latest content. Double win.
Alternative solutions include: Buffer, Oktopost.
3. Video Hosting | Wistia
I guess I should start this section by stating that if video isn’t currently part of your marketing mix then it should be.
We use video at all the different stages in the marketing funnel and it consistently out performs all other mediums when it comes to engagement. People love a movie!
Wistia provides us with two key things that we’re looking for in video hosting: customisation and analytics.
Customisation helps us choose how we present videos on our website. We can customise the player (our colours, our logo), select the actions at the end of the video (no dodgy YouTube recommendations thanks!) and even add key marketing actions such as email collection or CTAs at different parts of the video.
Analytics helps us assess the performance of our video, with analysis at an individual, project and company wide level. We can see how many people have watched a video – and even more importantly how long for. After all, getting 5,000 plays of our video is no good if everyone is tuning out after 10 seconds…
Alternative solutions include: Vidyard, Vimeo.
4. Webinars | Workcast
Staying on the video theme and we have webinars, or live events, which is frankly a much sexier way to look at them.
Where video is the king of content engagement for us, webinar is very much the king of lead generation. We regularly run webinars to educate and inspire our existing audience and to reach new people who may not have previously heard of SaleCycle. Whether this is alone or with a partner (a great way to share the workload and increase reach) webinars are a key part of our strategy.
What we love most about Workcast is that it enables us to provide a really slick webinar experience.
Rather than being limited by fairly bog-standard (and frankly, often ugly) templates – with Workcast we can design something 100% on brand for all different aspects of the webinar. From registration pages with video trailers, emails with countdown timers, to events pages that incorporate live chat and link to recommended content.
Offline events are typically pretty glamorous events with high production value. Thankfully, now online events can be too.
Alternative solutions include: GoToWebinar, On24
5. Landing Pages | Unbounce
Whatever your business actually does, it’s likely that collecting leads is going to be an important part of your marketing goals. Enter landing pages.
Landing pages are the friendly ‘alternative entrance’ to your website, enabling you to focus on a particular objective rather than (potentially) distracting visitors with everything else your website has to offer.
For example, if you want to generate downloads to an e-book then a landing page is a highly effective place to drive people to when running campaigns, as it focuses their attention.
Unbounce is great in that it makes it simple for non-techy marketers to design beautiful looking landing pages, with a choice of ready to use templates (with loads more available to download from Marketplace sites like Envato).
It’s also super easy to run A/B tests and view page performance in terms of visitors and downloads.
Alternative solutions include: Convertize, OptinMonster
6. Interactive Charts | Infogram
At SaleCycle we share a lot of data. Traditionally around ecommerce conversion rates and cart abandonment, the insights and data that we’re able to share thanks to our client data has really helped us in gaining traction in the press and within our audience.
Whilst we’ve typically published fairly polished and highly produced infographics to present this data, in the last 12 months we’ve increasingly made use of a nifty tool called Infogr.am. Infogram enables us to quickly create nice looking charts which can be embedded into blogs and give the user a nice bit of interactivity.
The bonus with these is that they’re also really easy for others to reuse and embed and each time that happens you can view the stats for charts as they are used (and seen) across the whole wonderful world wide web (wwwww).
Alternative solutions include: Piktochart, InfoActive
7. Live chat | Intercom
As marketers we spend ages thinking about the navigation and flow of our websites to ensure they are intuitive, easy to use, and that visitors can get to the information/goal that they are after.
But sometimes visitors need a little helping hand. That’s where live chat comes in.
Our marketing team run our live chat around the clock to ensure that visitors have someone to turn to if they have a question that they can’t find the answer to, or want a little more information but aren’t ready for a phone call just yet.
Intercom provides a great user experience. It remembers previous conversations you may have had with that person, and the visitor can add an email address to get the conversation sent through to them. If there’s no one currently available for live chat then it doubles up as a contact form.
The ‘hidden’ bonus to live chat is the insight it gives you as a marketer. For example, if lots of people are asking how long it takes to set up then maybe you need to make this information clear on the site.
Alternative solutions include: Chat.io, Drift
8. Email signatures | Xink
I wrote earlier about the combined power of your employees when it comes to sharing content on social media, well I believe another often underused part of the marketing mix is the ‘humble’ email signature.
Every single email your staff send gives you the opportunity as a marketer to push key messages and boost engagement to your best and brightest content. To illustrate the power of this channel, SaleCycle staff send over one million emails every year (!). That’s a million opportunities to add a touch of branding and marketing to what might otherwise be a fairly dry ending to an email.
We use a product called Xink which enables us to do a couple of pretty cool things. Firstly, it gives employees a chance to add a photo to their signature, which helps our external facing teams to add a friendly face to their communications with clients and prospects.
Xink also enables us to segment our signature banners according to different groups. For example, someone like Jack (above) is part of our sales/marketing group and so will be pushing our latest content.
Someone in our client services group might promote different content, such as support videos to help them get more from their SaleCycle campaigns.
Alternative solutions include: Rocketseed, Sigstr
9. Sales Collateral | Canva
Keeping sales and marketing aligned is a challenge for any company scaling quickly. One of the first things that tends to fall by the wayside, and a frustration to any marketer, is branded assets.
Hungry and enthusiastic sales guys want to create proposals and presentations for their prospects that get their key bespoke messages across. However, they’ll often annihilate that once-beautiful looking template you made for them. ‘I don’t have that font installed’ they’ll say… or ‘I haven’t got time to worry about the look, let’s just get it out’.
Thankfully, tools like Canva make it possible for them to create awesome looking docs quickly. And for you to ensure it’s all on brand. What’s even better is that as it’s 100% web based, you don’t have to worry about them having the fonts and brand assets downloaded or the latest version of Microsoft Word installed.
My particular favourite feature of Canva is the ability to drag and drop client creatives (which you can pre-load) into great looking placeholders (like the iPad one above).
It gives creative power to the end-user, but enables marketing to ensure everything has that stylish flourish to differentiate yourselves from the competition.
Alternative solutions include: Stencil, Templafy
10. Analytics | Google Analytics
This blog was intended to provide a ‘starter-kit’ for anyone doing B2B marketing, and so of course, Google Analytics has to be on the list.
Whilst there’s a tonne of super smart things you can do with Google Analytics, in its simplest form we use it to understand:
- how many people are visiting;
- how they are finding us;
- and what they do while they are on our site.
One of the challenges with Google Analytics is actually just how powerful it is, which can be overwhelming.
So here’s two quick tips. Firstly, get the mobile app – it’s more intuitive than the desktop version and stripped back a little which makes it easier to get an ‘at a glance’ view on how your website is performing.
Secondly, take the excellent Google Anaytics fundamentals course. It’s packed full of useful videos and you’ll learn how to get more from the tool.
(Or for a more customised and face-to-face session, see Econsultancy’s Google Analytics training).
Alternative/complementary solutions include: Kissmetrics, Hotjar
I hope you found this list useful. Please comment below and share any ideas you might have for other tools you think we and other readers should try.