Companies that understand and listen to their customers know without a doubt that the marketplace has evolved to a place that dependent on unique storytelling and engaging creative content. It’s not enough these days to take out a newspaper ad, a radio slot, or plaster your logo on a blimp for a football game – although we’ll admit that’s always a treat to see.
Today’s metrics and data strongly point towards a marketing system that not only communicates with a targeted audience, but educates and informs your prospects on why they should consider doing business with your organization instead of the competition. Offering information your audience is already looking for is the proverbial cherry on top of an inbound marketing approach. Like any innovative process, there will inevitably come a time where your company will seek to expand and explore the broader inbound landscape, honing your skills, creativity, and approach to marketing. Luckily, there are a plethora of innovative and effective tools that can help accelerate your inbound marketing efforts.
Here are our top 50 picks for some great marketing tools and resources that can help you kickstart your approach, and start communicating with your audience in new and engaging ways.
Content Ideation Tools
A popular social media platform used primarily to stimulate question and answer topics and discussions. Quora caters and tailors to identified trends to help build your own personal interest-based feed, prompting exposure to ideas and content you’re interested in. Quora was founded in 2009 by former Facebook employees; Adam D’Angelo (@adamdangelo), former Facebook CTO, and Charlie Cheever (@ccheever), web engineer and manager of the Facebook Connect and Platform.
A staple of the social media landscape, Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey (@jack), Noah Glass (@noah), Biz Stone (@biz), and Evan Williams (@ev) in March of 2006. The platform is great for researching trending ideas and insights either globally or within a specific region of the world you’re targeting. Searching hashtags or trending topics helps to gauge which audience is most receptive to specific content and ideas.
The self-professed “front-page of the internet,” was founded by Steve Huffman (@redditspez) and Alexis Ohanian (@alexisohanian) in Medford, Mass, in 2005. This popular platform ranks and observes which headlines from across the web are trending and gathering attention. Reddit is great for adding perspective and insight to your own creative work, helping build inspiration.
A content discovery app under the guide of founder Henry Nothhaft Jr (@henryhank) that personalizes a feed of content specific to the user, based on interests, hobbies, and topics of interest – all designed specifically for the iPad platform. As time progresses, Trap!t learns from your unique internet behaviour and adapts the content it directs your way.
A RSS feed purchased by LinkedIn that gathers relevant digital information, stories, and articles from separate sources and allows users to curate their own feeds of info and content based on specific interests and passions. The app was originally created by two Stanford University grad students, Ankit Gupta (@gankit) and Akshay Kothari (@akothari) as part of an Institute of Design course. Pulse was famously pulled from the App Store in 2010, after Steve Jobs mentioned it at WWDC 2010 following a complaint from the New York Times to Apple that Pulse was violating terms of commercial redistribution from nytimes.com and boston.com RSS feeds. It was restored later that day after removing the NYT feed.
Founded in Ireland by Paul Quigley (@paulyq) and Andrew Mullaney (@andrewmull), Spike is a free tool from NewsWhip that helps users develop data-driven content strategies via watch-lists of specific topics. Recommended stories can be tracked on Twitter and Facebook, so marketers can evaluate their performance via email alert.
Not available as a consumer-forward app anymore – but too influential to not include – Prismatic was a social news curation app that combined machine-learning and interaction design to discover, consume and share creative content and various forms of media. Now used primarily by publishers and hedge funds, its revamp is not yet available.
Free versions Personal and Lite offer powerful features to link Twitter accounts to receive news, top links, trending topics, people and comments. The paid version can track RSS feeds showing the latest posts and visual representations of trending topics from your own unique feed. This search matches trending stories from across all linked social media platforms to expose popularity.
A paid platform that allocates trending content from the internet to your company’s website based on the trending story links and preferences from your audience. Currently run under the watchful eye of current CEO Neil Lustig (@nzlustig), Sailthru is a personalized content platform that helps ensure your brand publishes and shares the content that’s relevant to your readers and prospects.
For many agencies and businesses, Basecamp is the go-to option for a tool specifically designed for simple, straight forward organization and task management. The platform enables team leaders to delegate tasks, create reports for better understanding of a project’s performance or background, and enables for full communication via message boards and chat functions to discuss ideas. Basecamp was originally called 37signals, and was founded in Chicago by Jason Fried (@jasonfried) and David Hansson (@dhh).
Widely regarded a great multi-use organizational platform that’s perfect for keeping track of editorial calendars, project deliverables and content ideas from the office, and from mobile devices. Evernote was founded by Stepan Pachikov (@pachikov) in 2008, and reached 11 million users by 2011. With an attractive and user-friendly interface, it’s even ideal for everyday life task away from work, like grocery lists, appointments, and tasks.
Released by Frog Creek founder, Joel Spolsky (@spolsky) in 2011, Trello was called one of the “7 coolest startups you’ve never heard of,” by Wired Magazine. This completely free organizational platform that uses cards to organize everything from content ideas, meeting notes, and deliverables in one place. Trello is also known as a pro-collaboration tool, as it helps to streamline collective efforts by gathering votes on certain cards and ideas so real-time feedback can be implemented into marketing efforts and campaigns.
Pioneered by Citrix (@citrix), the gist of Podio has always been to make the collaborative work experience as easy as possible. This structured interface allows for advanced team integration, making finishing projects, keeping tabs on deliverables, attaching content files, organizing various clients, and delegating tasks in real-time a one-page team base for more clarity.
Co-founded by Danny Wen (@dannywen) Harvest is a dedicated time-tracking tool used primarily for keeping your efforts on schedule and effective. Harvest’s software helps businesses make smarter time-based decisions by understanding where and how time is spent, helping to shed light on what type of activity will strengthen your output, and your creative efficiencies.
Developed by current CEO Markus Müller Simhofer (@fafner), MindNode is a brainstorm mapper that helps brands, entire organizations, and individuals understand what tasks and ideas are on track, and what needs addressing in your content marketing strategy. An innovative visual experience, the MindNode app helps marketers connect the proverbial dots by helping to flesh out next steps.
Founded in 2009 in Silicon Valley by Ben Silbermann (@8en), and Evan Sharp (@eshp), Pinterest isn’t just a resource for cool content ideas, use Pinterest as a way to organize and store resources for inspiration on content-based projects. The ‘secret board’ option enables your team to hide any/all private content ideas that your team doesn’t want broadcast to the public.
Specializing in creating alignment and a shared understanding across your team’s collaborative dynamic, Slack is a communications’ app geared towards productiveness, bringing all team members together in one shared space where conversations are organized and accessible to other. The app also allows for video chats, conference calls, and content file sharing to broaden the scope of what’s shareable.
Coming hard out of Berlin, Wunderlist was founded by Christian Reber (@christianreber) and Frank Thelen (@frank_thelen) in 2009. It’s a powerful and beautiful list creator that helps to organize and power your content marketing efforts. Wunderlists’ lists trace and track your progress on content ideas and strategy from mobile devices or on the office desktop for seamless integration.
Just another one of Google’s thoughtful features, Calendar is just that – an effective way to organize not only your content strategy and content deliverables, but also a collaborative platform that ensures your production and editorial calendars are implemented and published on time, every time.
Introduced in 2007 as a Firefox browser extension developed by Nathan Weiner, Pocket now represents the epitome of organization for people and brands on the go, thanks to the development of current CTO, Matt Koidin (@mkoidin). Pocket allows your team members, and your personal creativity to have a vault to store pages, articles, ideas, and content to view and dissect later. Save directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter, Flipboard, and Pulse, then view it all when you’re ready.
Content Creation Tools
The quintessential faux-photoshop championed by Spencer Kimball (@CockroachDB) and Peter Mattis way back in 1995, this free and simplified graphic design software alternative to the Adobe powerhouse is more than capable of allowing for masterful image manipulation, and is primarily developed by volunteers as a free software project – making it the unofficial Photoshop of the People.
A modern digital publishing aide, Issuu is an innovative layout and design tool, useful for making written and creative content pop. Featuring free and paid versions, Issuu includes collaboration tools, analytics and monetization capabilities, regardless of platform or device.
Founded in Australia in 2012 by Cameron Adams (@themaninblue), Melanie Perkins (@MelanieCanva), and Cliff Obrecht (@cliffobrecht), Canva is a hugely popular and easy-to-use online graphic design aide, Canva enables anyone to design and promote big ideas with eye-catching visuals. Particularly useful for pre-sized social media savvy covers, posts, and photos, Canva is perfect for providing a visual to blog posts and title blocks.
An online photo editor, graphic design tool, and collage maker, PicMonkey is user-friendly image-centric tool perfect for editing, resizing, and perfecting photography so brands can remain atop their creative best. Founded and further developed by a superteam of Frits Habermann, Jonathan Sposato (@jonathansposato), Brian Terry (@brterry), Justin Huff (@jjhuff), Charlie Whiton (@cwhiton), Lisa Conquergood (@LConquergood), and Brent Chudoba (@bchudoba), there are free and paid versions of PicMonkey that may be had, and a mobile app enables PicMonkey to maintain its usefulness on the go.
The internet has never been the same since the rise of the meme – comical and popular photos with stark and honest captions and textual additions. Meme generator is just that, a way to generate the epitomization of the classic internet meme.
Brought to the world from Montreal, Canada in 2013 by Mikael Cho (@mikaelcho), Luke Chesser (@lukechesser), Stephanie Liverani (@stephliverani) and Angus Woodman (@angusw). Unsplash offers beautiful, free photography, made available in one easy-to-navigate platform by the world’s most generous community of photographers, Unsplash is ideal for finding and implementing high-quality photography and visuals to your creative content, taking it to the next level.
Inspiration abound at Designspiration, a platform dedicated to top-quality, high level design inspiration ib the forms of posters, graphic designs, artworks, typography, photography and more. Organize your saves, search by word – and even colour – to help boost your creative juices.
A typography generator, WordSwag provides designer-grade text accents for your pictures, offering up a way to sophisticate and elevate content into an elegant and contemporary advertorial for brands and businesses with something to say. Out of words? The site features included captions, and a ‘typomatic’ engine to customize complex layouts instantly.
Pixlr is a unique photo editing suite of available apps, including Pixlr Editor, Express, and a mobile app. Editor is a viable Photoshop alternative, allowing users to work in layers to transform and customize visual content – all from your browser, while Express is a perfect way to apply a quick-fix, colour adjustment, or creative effect to a photo or design.
The mecca of editing power, Adobe Photoshop has long been the standard of powerful editing suites, complete with nearly all conceivable tools to fully customize and accentuate world-class creative content. Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite gives you access to other, streamlined and transferrable programs that complement Photoshop, making it a formidable tool for creative content creators.
Launched by ContentForest in 2012, Content Ideator is a data-driven cross-channel platform that gives content creators insights to content performance across all of their applicable platforms. Use any number of various comparables and tools like competitor assessment, content analysis and impact statistics to optimize your writing strategy and identify what’s working/not working.
A grammar and spelling driven app that helps streamline and build your writing ability, offering readability stats, highlighting complexity, and offering opportunity to shorten, simplify, or split sentences and thoughts into more digestible tid-bits of content.
Artificially intelligent proofreading brought to you via a free or paid version, Craig Sketchley’s (@craigsketchley) GradeProof offers insightful features like an eloquence engine, unique suggestions, cross-platform use-ability, and rephrasing to increase or decrease your word count make GradeProof a great writer’s companion. Further, it’s able to be integrated with Google Drive and Documents, so it streamlines with your existing workflow.
The literary brainchild of Brad Hoover (@Brad_Hoover), Grammarly is an automated browser spelling and grammar app that makes sure everything you type – from emails, to documents, articles, messages, and orders – are all typed clearly, effectively, and mistake-free. The app is able to be integrated with any number of browsers like Safari and Google Chrome, scanning text for common errors and complex mistakes, helping you not only appear and sound more professional to clients and friends, but helping you improve your grammar and spelling skills along the way.
An online resource dedicated to helping you create the perfect AP-style headlines for blog posts, articles, subheaders, and title posts. Titlecase also features additional converters to startcase, pascalcase, hyphencase, etc, as well as a random password generator.
Brought to you by Sharethrough, the Headline Analyzer is a quality score based on multivariate linguistic algorithms’ built on the sole principle of Behaviour Model Theory – taking into account over 300 variables, helping your headlines grab attention, increase engagement, and boost click-through rates by creating stronger initial impressions with readers.
A writing environment designed to be as distraction-free as possible by allowing you to hide-away your browser or desktop interface, leaving you with a clutter-free appearance so you can get down to work. Available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, FocusWriter features optional spell-checking, auto-save, custom themes, and even old-school typewriter sounds, should you wish.
A personal favourite of Riverbed Marketing’s resident Content Writer, Noisli is a sound generator with a multitude of customizable auditory cues to help improve focus and productivity to create the perfect environment for relaxing, distraction-free writing. Founded in Germany in 2009 by Stefano Merlo (@stefanomerlo) and Sabine Staggl (@sabinestaggl).
A readily accessible, comprehensive online etymological resource from Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus to help you find the perfect, ideal, most superb, or purest word for your writing efforts. Fresh and new word choices not only bring life to your writing, but many words perform better than their everyday bland cousins from a keyword and SEO standpoint, helping you boost engagement.
Free online service for idea management, service, and collection of brainstorming tools. Wridea helps you organize and share your writing ideas with colleagues, collaborators, and clients to help you improve the polish and potency of your ideas. Plus, it’s 100% free – for a limited time.
Schedule and hold your content posts to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, optimizing your sharing habits for the best opportune times for your chosen demographic, on their chosen platform. Buffer was started from the UK bedroom of founder, Joel Gascoigne (@joelgascoigne), and is ideal for streamlining the process of distributing content effectively and without hassle.
LinkedIn opened their publishing platform to its users in 2014, giving marketers and industry pro’s a powerful new way to develop brand awareness, expertise, authority, and build enviable brands. Today, SlideShare allows Influencers to share and distribute what they know about their industries through presentations, articles, infographics, courses, and more.
Founded by Adam Singolda (@AdamSingolda) in 2007, Taboola allows marketers to reach their potential customers globally via the world’s most popular websites. Taboola is a leading content discovery platform that distributes content to over 1 billion unique visitors each month using predictive technology to deliver personalized content recommendations to your ideal audience.
While not associated with Twitter, Tweriod can integrate with Buffer, and is a simple Twitter-centric plugin that allows content creators and distributors to find the optimal time to share specific content and put it in front of their followers at the perfect time. Results from the Atlanta-based plug-in come by way of a simple report that tells you the best times to tweet.
Similar to that of Taboola, Outbrain comes to the table with a different set of publishers, focusing on targeting and matching amplified content to audiences that would be interested in it. The world’s largest discovery platform, Outbrain reaches 557 million global audience each month, and claims that 80% of the world’s leading brands use their service. Founded by Yaron Galai (@YaronGalai), and Ori Lahav (@lahavori).
Sign up on Inbound.org to receive a daily or weekly email digest of content and topics that are relevant to your business, marketing firm, or brand. The benefit of this service is, it puts all kinds of relevant marketing blog info and subscription info directly into your inbox to create a personal feed of qualified discussions and content all in one place.
Founded by Ben Chestnut (@benchestnut), and Dan Kurzius (@dkurzius), MailChimp is one of the simplest, and most effective marketing automation platforms on the web, Mailchimp automatically finds and connects a targeted audience to great content, allowing your business to connect the dots and create more revenue through meaningful content distribution. Use distribution channels like email, and e-commerce channels to connect with your ideal audience.
Founded by Evan Williams (@ev) in 2012, Medium is a content sharing platform geared heavily towards story-telling and ideas not readily found elsewhere. Medium offers fresh perspectives on everything from politics, tech, retail, and business, all in a variety of channels like articles, writing, stories, and even audio books and podcast-type presentations.
A powerful and popular connection agent, Amplify from Hootsuite allows your brand to connect its sales team directly to its audience via social platforms, building and nurturing relationships over social media. Analytics allow you to track engagement, content use/category, and sales opportunities beyond social connections. The app also allows brands to leverage the social connectedness of its employees to extend brand awareness. Hootsuite was founded on our hometown of Vancouver BC, by Ryan Holmes (@invoker), Dario Meli (@quikness), and David Tedman (@d1337).
A content amplifier that improves social presence by enabling bloggers, content creators, and influencers to get more shares and engagement from their respective audiences. Triberr also imports blog content into your social feeds for members to share with their audiences, and promotes inter-platform sharing; share fellow Triberr’s content, and they return the favour, elevating the relevance and value of your own specific content. Founded by Dino Dogan (@dinodogan).
Tools for Automation
Marketing Automation tools are a content marketer’s best friend – they allow forward-thinking marketers, their companies, and therefore their clients to automate repetitive tasks, all while specifying preferred processes and outcomes for those tasks – then interpreting, storing and executing them as predetermined by the marketers, or clients who use the software itself.
The biggest benefit isn’t just the automation aspect – but that many of the best and most modern marketing automation platforms are largely capable of minimizing human error and increase efficiency of multiple arenas of viable content marketing initiatives like email and social media marketing, even lead generation and nurturing.
While there are hundreds of great automation software platforms available these days, here are our top five picks making up the creme de la creme of the industry.
This Cambridge, Massachusetts company founded by Brian Halligan (@bhalligan) and Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh) in 2006 is responsible for coining the term “inbound.” Hubspot is a powerful inbound industry leader that offers software to fuel business growth while developing deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers. They offer various levels of software that handles marketing, sales, and a free CRM program, while offering a multitude of integrable software to help develop landing pages, sales proposals, unearth customer activity, view analytics, and convert/nurture leads.
Based out of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, and championed by crown corporation and early-stage venture capital firm, Innovacorp, SimplyCast is an innovative customer flow communication and marketing automation platform known for its all-in-one approach to customer communication that includes email, SMS, surveys, Twitter, Facebook, contact management, contact profile targeting, and lead tracking/nurturing. In fact, their 360 Automation Manager has integrated over 15 platforms of communication into one piece of software, allowing huge marketing campaigns to seamlessly take flight from one jump-off point.
With an HQ in San Mateo, California, and offices all over the world, Marketo was founded in 2006 by three former Epiphany employees, Jon Miller (@jonmiller), David Morandi, and Phil Fernandez (@philf1217). The main goal of Marketo has always been to stimulate and engage leads, as the automation platform’s first product was Lead Management software. Today, Marketo supports applications for account-based marketing, email campaigns, mobile platforms and social media, digital advertising, and automated content distribution that leverages your existing content with audience behavioral patterns and profiles to move them through the buyer’s journey faster.
ATL’s SaaS-based B2B Marketing Automation platform, Pardot, is an innovative marketing automation platform integrable for Salesforce (@salesforce) users, a popular CRM platform, that separates itself from the competition by empowering sales and marketing teams to align themselves together to create bigger impacts within organizational structures. Founded in 2007 by David Cummings (@davidcummings) and Adam Blitzer (@AdamBlitzer), Pardot is also connectable with virtually all other marketing tools, providing a good overall landscape view of your individual, or organizational content marketing efforts.
Hugely proficient, and a top automation performer in lead nurturing/scoring, landing pages, SEO marketing, A/B Testing, and website prospecting, Act-On is a marketing automation platform that directly embraces how customers approach their buying decisions in order to better interact with those prospects online. Their account-based automation means adaptive journeys to help enable smarter, and more meaningful data-driven marketing decisions that help to amplify the messages of brands. Forrester Wave even called Act-On an “architect of multichannel engagement” citing an attractive entry price-point and a consistent user interface.
Combining the marketing prowess of any of these dynamic and useful tools will inevitably set your inbound efforts apart from the rest of the pack by integrating the usefulness of inbounds’ targeted approach to content, sharing, audience value, and distribution methodologies.
Whether you need help with content brainstorm organization, content distribution, ideation – or even some help with grammar and spelling – these top 50 marketing tools humbly ask for your patronage.