• Resources, Guides and Tools of the Trade

Resources

The following is a list of Resources that I’ve found helpful in my career as a digital marketer. Whether you’re a do-it-yourself master or just looking for some one-click hacks, this list may be able to help.

I update this page often. Bookmark it! (Last updated: February 29, 2016)

Tools

The following tools have helped me with my digital marketing and are those I recommend to my clients.

Web Hosting

BlueHost is the hosting service I currently use, because it is incredibly convenient and reasonably priced! It has a crazy easy one-click set up with WordPress and support staff available 24/7. There are also a ton of how-to videos available on how to use BlueHost to enhance your site, without needing to know code. I’ve never had a problem with them, and they’re about the same price as one venti mocha frappacino per month.

Content Management Systems

There are a lot of CMS’s out there, but after personally experiencing the limitations of sites like Wix and SquareSpace, there’s only one I’d recommend…

WordPress. It’s #1 in the world and the incredible community that works to improve it and provide a multitude of themes and plugins is unparalleled. Unless you can code (then you’ll have fun with Drupal), choose WordPress and limit future frustrations.

Social Media Management

HootSuite has been around for as long as I’ve been working in this field and has been an excellent tool for scheduling posts on multiple social media platforms, managing multiple client accounts, getting basic analytics and reporting and monitoring topics and mentions. For multiple accounts, you can get a Free 30 day trial of HootSuite Pro.

Buffer is a lightweight app with substantial impact. It takes the thinking out of sharing and helps space out your posts throughout the day, even when you find them all at once. I use Buffer Pro at $10 a month to buffer out 200 posts at a time, but they have a free version.

Email Marketing

ConvertKit I am so excited to be starting out with ConvertKit! This is a fairly new company with a User Experience expert at the helm, so everything is beautifully designed and easy to use. It also provides intuitive automation tools, free landing pages that are compatible with WordPress as a plugin so they don’t have weird URLs… and it’s just delightful.

Of the three listed here, ConvertKit is also the most affordable, since they charge based on unique subscribers rather than total list members. Aweber and MailChimp will count a user twice if they’re in two lists, so it’s hard to stay in the lower subscriber priced plans.

Aweber has been around for a long time but continues to improve its product to keep the tech current. It’s a pretty fantastic tool for the advanced email marketer, but it has a bit of a learning curve if you’re just starting out. Luckily it also has the most comprehensive help video tutorial series, so if you have the time to learn it, you’ll be able to do so. Plus, they’ve got a 30 Day Free Trial.

MailChimp Oh you adorable little monkeys, MailChimp served me well for so many years and I absolutely recommend them for smaller scale efforts. However, I am finding that ConvertKit is slightly easier to use, even though it’s a few dollars more when you have under 500 subscribers. MailChimp is great when you’re just starting out and don’t want to use automation tools yet.

Content Optimization

Headlines and Subject Lines:

Co.Schedule Headline Analyzer helps you optimize your headlines for clickability. And they’re free!

SubjectLine.com grades your email subject lines to optimize your open rates. For free.

Adestra was a pretty cool find. It’s a keyword checker to give you email data for your specific industry and estimates the email open rate and click rate based on the keyword and industry selected. Also: free!

Editing and Proofreading:

Grammarly has a Chrome extension that will check your spelling and grammar anywhere on the web. That way you can avoid embarrassing errors on social media posts, emails, blog posts, or anywhere else. Grammarly will correct use of incorrect words (“to” “two” or “too”), spelling errors and is pretty sharp at catching mistakes in punctuation as well, showing me that my original drafts are way too comma happy.

Graphics and Design:

Canva has been my go-to online photo editing tool for about a year and a half now. They’re free to use unless you use their premium content, all of which is just $1 each. I love that Canva has appropriately-sized templates for different social media platforms so I don’t have to look up the latest sizing guides. Plus, they have a Design School where you can learn the basics of putting together visual content that looks professional.

Visual Content Sources

You have to be careful when you pull images and video clips from the internet to use in your marketing. The following image libraries won’t give you any trouble, however. They’re all licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license and allow their images to be used for commercial or non-commercial use.

All the Free Stock is an online Swiss Army knife for stock anything. The photos are all licensed under CC0, but be sure to double check the fonts, icons, videos, and sound effects also available for search on the site.

StockSnap has a large stock photo library, all free to use.

Pixabay offers over 540,000 free photos, vectors, illustrations and videos all with the CC0 license.

Videvo is a pretty spiffy site for free stock video, which I’ve used myself.

Video Marketing

Video has been lauded as the next wave of content marketing for years now, but even a former actress like myself gets a bit insecure about stepping in front of a camera. Here are some affordable tools to get started on making video content without looking unprofessional.

Splasheo – I’m a fan of Gideon Shalwick, creator of Splasheo and a great tutor when it comes to video marketing. The service creates professional motion graphics for anyone with a logo to serve as a slick accessory to your video content. Considering the price of custom motion graphics, this is a bargain.

Camtasia – My favorite screen recording tool is also a pretty easy-to-use video editor if you don’t have iMovie. This link is for a free trial.

Hardware

Blue Snowball USB Microphone – When recording my voice overs for power point presentations and screen-share demos, I use my trusty Blue Snowball USB Microphone. It has professional-level quality and settings to help capture your voice whether you’re in a loud place (like a marketing conference) or a quiet bedroom office.

Canon VIXIA HF R500 Digital Camcorder – I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how much courage I’d have to do much video blogging, so I didn’t want to spend too much on a video camera. I’m not a photography enthusiast, so I don’t know a thing about DSLR’s except that they’re quite expensive and not idiot proof. After spending hours on consumer and professional review sites, I bought this camera model, and I love it. You really can’t beat the quality for the price.

CowboyStudio Lighting Kit – Being a bit self-conscious on camera, I also bought a lighting kit to eliminate the dark shadows that can make a shot look a bit more like a home movie. This was a great deal and still is.

Books I Recommend

I’m a total bookworm and tend to read 2-3 books a week. It’s a problem sometimes, but nothing coffee can’t solve. Here are the ones that stick.

Books on Digital Marketing

To be honest, a lot of books on digital marketing become outdated a few weeks after publication because tech moves fast. These books have stood the test of time so far, however, and I still refer to them.

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson. Standing the test of time, this book is required reading for the modern digital marketer. Especially for those who write content for websites.

X: The Experience When Business Meets Design by Brian Solis. If I were a college professor, this would absolutely enter my curriculum in any business marketing class. It’s a dense book, the kind you need to re-read a few times to really pull out the gems, but its argument is well-defended: customers care more about the experience they had with a brand than anything else. This book has re-ignited the experience design movement in the physical and digital world, and I refer to it often in my blog.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck. I have a love-hate relationship with this guy, whose abrasive style tends to make me wince as he insults many into submission. At the same time, he’s a scientist who tests EVERYTHING to learn what works, and I’m always eager to read his findings. This book is awesome, and still stands the test of time for teaching the best practices for social media posting. I recommend it to anyone trying to sell anything with social media (which should be everyone).

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki. This is an excellent reference guide for anyone needing a primer or refresh on all the different tools to help you leverage social media platforms and reach your goals. I highly recommend you buy the kindle version, however, because I received the hard copy and was frustrated at all the hyperlink text references I couldn’t just click on!

Books on Sales Strategy

Even if you don’t have the sales title in your job, understanding how to sell is still one of the most important skills anyone can learn. These books have helped me greatly in selling ideas, services and products… as a marketer!

Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call, Second Edition (Perfect Phrases Series) by Jeb Brooks. Honestly, the entire “Perfect Phrases” series of books is great, but this one was especially good for scripting and practicing how to identify the pain points of different types of customers. Cold Calling is universally regarded as one of the worst types of sales to suffer through (on both sides of the call) so once you can understand how it can be done well, you’ll have a far better advantage when faced with easier sales situations.

The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon. At the height of the recession, it was nearly impossible to earn new business. Or so it seemed. In a study of over 900 B2B sales professionals one sales technique flourished in the difficult economic climate: the Challenger Sale. This book outlines why, and teaches you the structure of the sales technique. I’ve been applying it with great success for years.

Books for Productivity

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life by Bernard Roth. Bernie is one of the founding members of Stanford University’s d.school, one of the only institutions devoted to teaching Design Thinking as a way to solve problems and achieve goals. The book is provocative (one chapter is titled “Reasons are Bullshit”) and downright revolutionary. I reference it often when I get stuck.

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky. This book saved me when I was juggling 16 clients as a digital marketing strategist at an agency, and its lessons continue to make me productive today. It’s a simple system to help individuals and managers stay on top of everything.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It’s rare to find a non-fiction book you can’t put down, but this one is such a find. With colorful stories and scientific studies made hilarious, this book is an engaging read from cover to cover. The lessons in this book will not only help you in your work, the advice may just save your life.

Books for Career Advice

Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters by Dave Perry. If you want to know how I transformed myself from a Shakespearean acting coach to a digital marketing professional: it started with this book. At the height of the recession, this was a life-saver. Now it’s still an excellent and inspirational tool to help you find a career path you’ll love.

The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. Whenever I started new jobs, I used the tools in this book to prove my value as an employee as quickly as possible. This practical guide gave me job security during the recession, and allowed me to negotiate for higher pay.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. For a quick, inspirational and more theoretical read than the above, this book is an excellent lesson to anyone who feels a little insecure in their job.

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Disclosure: Please note that a few (not all) of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that even though clicking don’t cost you anything, if you choose to buy one of the books or tools, I will earn a small commission from the sale. I would never recommend a resource that I have not used and benefitted from, which is why I recommend so many resources that don’t pay me a cent! 🙂