Being completely honest here, these are necessities for us.
In the world of startups, the lifespan of your favorite apps could be o-so-brief. When Mailbox (an app that I considered essential to my workflow) announced they were shutting down recently, I freaked out. It also made me start to think what apps my business as a whole couldn’t live without, and it got me really freaked out.
This is a non-incentivized, complete endorsement of the tools that we use to build SimpleTiger (an SEO agency that helps startups grow) in hopes that you might also use them, grow their business, and make their products last for us. Most won’t really need help, but some might — and I want to give them that.
We’re a remote team, just for a bit more context — and none of these links are affiliate links. They’re all just regular ol’ helpful, people-passing links.
Accounting, HR, & Billing
- FreshBooks — the best invoicing system that we’ve found bar-none
- QuickBooks — the best accounting and bookkeeping system we’ve found to integrate well with FreshBooks that we’ve found
- Stripe — payment processing for our invoices made stupidly easy
- JustWorks — billing, salaries, benefits, HR, employee milestones, employee management, employee resources, employee investments, all made amazing in a single, fantastic platform
Project Management, Communication, & Collaboration
- Basecamp — our favorite project management app, we’ve loved the entire ethos since the original Basecamp and have used it ever since — it’s our home base for projects and our clients love it
- Slack — they are obviously killing it and don’t really “need” more business, but you know, they’re amazing, so here they are. Bonus points for the “Giphy” integration by the way, the hilarious comedy that ensues when trying to attach an “appropriate” gif for a situation just can’t be overstated.
- Speak.io — this little app flies under the radar, but if you use Slack it integrates perfectly with your team and gives you a light, flexible screen-sharing and video-conferencing tool that plugs straight into your current teams on Slack.. it’s fantastic, and the call quality is outstanding
- GatherContent — this is basically our content asset management software — CASM? Could be interesting — that we use to gather blog articles, ebooks, whitepapers, and any other large content deliverables that we are going to be handing over to clients. Within the software you can seek feedback, have editor privileges, and at a glance see what content has been published and what hasn’t. This tool is invaluable to us for the amount of content marketing we do for clients.
- Google Drive — Google isn’t going anywhere fast, but they dump apps like they’re chugging ex-lax (gross analogy, sorry). That being said I doubt their cloud storage app that competes largely with Dropbox and Box and the like is going anywhere anytime soon. It’s fantastic for our organization, we run all of our accounts off of Google Apps too for employees so the integration there is just easy and seamless. They can be a bit quirky at times with their UX between stuff, and how they make 400 updates a year can get confusing to play with, but it works well and performs spectacularly.
Sales, Lead Management, & Marketing
- ProsperWorks — our favorite, SCRUM-methodology based CRM that is simple enough to be used, while powerful enough to take our organization to the next level. It’s fantastic, fast, easy to use, and I have the “opportunities” tab permanently pinned in my browser.
- FreshBooks — mentioning again for the proposals, it’s just really nice and easy to be able to jot down notes in an initial call and in minutes have that turned into a beautiful proposal that the client can eat up.
- Charlie App — getting back up research on call participants before a call is insanely useful, especially on that first call when you’re not sure who you’re going to be talking to, it’s a nice way of getting some background information together to have that step up of likeness and understanding for the person’s style before you need to impress them on that first call.
- Calend.ly — amazing for quickly scheduling calls, instead of going back and forth saying “Hey, when are you available?”, “Nope, that time doesn’t work for me..” you instead get to send a link whereby people can click a time that works for them on your calendar and immediately it’s plugged in to your Google Calendar, simple yet very powerful.
- Credo — I would be amiss to not mention our number one source of leads. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to this site if you’re not looking for SEO consultants, John Doherty(the founder) has put together an incredibly skilled list of analytics consultants, inbound marketers, and a ton of resources that seriously help drive the decision making behind choosing an outsourced agency or consultant. As one of the best consultants I know, he has really put together a master class for people seeking knowledge before simply hiring a consultant.
- MailChimp — our email marketing platform of choice. All leads go to a MailChimp list, all blog subscribers go to a MailChimp list, everyone goes to MailChimp lists. We then send emails that people enjoy, and we see the benefits of them. It’s pretty simple, MailChimp is definitely our best balance between power and efficiency — usability is a big factor for them.
- Buffer — scheduling and crowdsourcing fantastic articles to share from our Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts from our entire team is fantastically easy using Buffer and their tons of integrations.
- Squarespace — yeah, our entire website is built on Squarespace and having built 5+ sites on Squarespace personally it’s my favorite platform to work on. It’s pretty much all inclusive, has a bit more limits as far as pre-established templates to use than Wordpress or some other competitors have, however if you know how to customize it and use the developer privileges of the platform you can literally make it do anything you want. We love it because it ranges from as simple as it comes, to as involved as you can make it.
- GeckoBoard — not directly marketing related, all though it could be. We use GeckoBoard as a basic heads-up display of our most important figures — monthly revenue, monthly growth, average client worth, average client churn, etc — it keeps us leveled with a forward-progression mind-set.
Client Projects, Tools We Recommend To Clients
From an organizational standpoint we recommend any of the tools above to our clients, but I wanted to touch on some of the tools we use to help along our client projects, and that we directly tell clients they should take advantage of as well so that hopefully one day they won’t need to keep us around for them.
- Moz — our favorite tool for SEO related information, and with their recent maneuvers into local, and content, and analytics, they go far beyond just technical updates to your site. You can analyze how your business operates locally and push out your NAP information to the biggest local information aggregators, you can analyze what your best content on your site is in an effort to publish more along the same lines, you can see where your traffic is coming from in a more detailed and more user friendly environment from their Analytics tool, and of course you can see how you should update your site from a technical perspective as well. It’s just all around a fantastic tool. They also have industry-standard content and learning resources, the best bar-none.
- Buffer — as said above, it’s one of the best, if not the best social scheduling apps out there. With the ability to set all of our team up on the same account and have them all contribute to the main company accounts, it’s just easy and our feed is always full and engaged.
- SumoMe — I’ve written multiple articles about SumoMe, and have personally set it up on so many clients sites to see a spike in signups and conversions, it’s just an easy set up if you don’t want to invest in a much more expensive custom solution. All of their apps are fantastic and work seamlessly together from a cohesive single dashboard.
- Filament — This one is an alternative to SumoMe but also very powerful to each their own but the peeps over at digitaltelepathy have built a beautiful app with this one.
There aren’t many other tools I’d recommend my clients specifically set up on their own sites unless they knew a bit more about how to use them to benefit their own end, so that list pretty much stops here.
The other things that have been invaluable to our business are finding the sources that we can write on, the social communities we can interact with, and the interesting people that we should connect with. Any apps that allow us to do that are tremendously influential. Apps like FollowerWonk, and even Medium.
I’d love to know what apps your business can’t live without in the comments below! Let’s let metal sharpen metal — besides, there’s always room for improvement!
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