Over the years, like many of my peers, I have used quite a few marketing tools. Thinking back over the last 24 years I have been in this space, it is remarkable how much has changed, and equally remarkable how much has not. Over that time, we have seen some interesting tools and applications come and go: Remember when FeedBurner was a necessity? While the modes by which we do marketing change — and so do the tools — the core of what we do as marketers does not. So then, what tools do we use that persist?
Recently a very aggressive marketing firm launched a bot-driven campaign on LinkedIn that targeted marketing leaders. The automated process sent a connection request. Once the connection was accepted, a video was sent in a message explaining how you were found. Although it was obviously automated, I chose to respond to the message, because, why not?
What I found on the other end, was an actual human being who I engaged in a conversation. This is interesting for two reasons: one, it never hurts to be kind to people, and two it created a connection point for me with someone who is new to our our field and seeking to disrupt it (or so they claim).
The interaction lead to a short, but effective conversation resulting in a very thoughtful question posed to me, “What are the most useful 3 software tools for you?”
This random interaction, initiated by an automated process, lead to useful and interesting question. It caused me to think, take the time to explain my thinking, and to make a tough decision about what is actually useful and what tools persists through change.
Here are three marketing tools I encourage every marketing leader to use (and they do persist regardless of what in marketing changes):
Flowcharting & Diagramming as Marketing Tools
The two big stars in this marketing tool set are Omnigraffle for OS X and iOS and Visio for Windows (or LucidChart for a cloud based service) — and despite what either claims, they essentially do the same thing. Both tools allow users to rapidly produce flow charts and visual documents. Regardless of how you do marketing, generally there is a process. As the head of marketing for a financial company, I have to create and communicate specific approval processes for compliance and to maintain consistency. I do that with these tools.
But beyond process documentation, these tools are easy to use tools to do wireframing, a quick mock-up of a marketing piece, or even to create a mind-map. Both tools even offer a quick way to mock-up your office layout (if you like that sort of thing).
The utility to here is speed and ease of use. It is a great marketing tool that has been in my arsenal from the beginning.
Cloud Based File Sharing as Marketing Tools
Since desktop publishing starting dominating the marketing landscape in the late eighties and early nineties, the need to share large digital files to facilitate marketing has always been a need. I remember my days in college where every computer on campus had a Zip Drive to make this easier. With the advent of cheap storage and reliable broadband access, physical drives, FTP servers, and large format email services are no longer necessary. But the need is there.
Whether it is Box, DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud or any other slew of services, it really doesn’t matter which you use. What matters is having the ability to share, in real time, files with a team securely without worrying about complex infrastructures. This has enabled us to work better with staff (both local and remote), vendors, and clients. When sharing a file is as easy as saving a file, that is a tool that everyone should use.
Spreadsheets as Marketing Tools
Not just an accountant’s best friend, spreadsheets are quite possibly the most important software innovation. Ever. And I only wish I was exaggerating. All superlatives aside, if you ponder for a moment all that has been made possible with the use of spreadsheet software, it is pretty remarkable. For all of our advancements in business intelligence (BI), machine learning (ML), and analytics, the one tool that most executives reach for when they want to understand and play with data is Excel (and sometimes Google Sheets).
Ponder this: what do you use to build and massage your marketing budgets? What do you use to manipulate, look at, and explore your analytics? What does your team use to present reports to you ? My guess is that most of you, like me, eventually ask for the data in a spreadsheet. And while we are at it, I do not know a single BI or analytics tool, or data platform (like say a CRM or email system) that does not allow for import or export into structured data.
There is a reason for this. Tabular data is the simplest way to store data for visualization and analysis. If you are good with Excel and have good data, you can do quite a bit.
Why These 3?
When I was answering this question in a LinkedIn message thread, something very simple struck me. We make marketing way too complicated and the tools we use as well. Many of us who run marketing departments and teams spend too much time looking at and evaluating marketing tools, and not enough time doing marketing things. So at the end of the day, what is important to me, not only as a marketer, but as an executive? What stands out is the ability to quickly communicate visually, quickly share files, and to quickly look at and manipulate data.