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Winning Strategies

The Best Digital Marketing Tools of 2018

Modern marketers are expected to manage several tasks at once.

Paid advertisements, landing pages, social media—it's enough to make even the most organized person's head spin. Without the proper tools in one's arsenal, accomplishing key objectives becomes a struggle.

The best marketers maintain their sanity by gaining familiarity with a few dependable software programs, while ignoring the rest. If you have been in the industry long enough, you know how challenging it can be to stay focused in the face of bright and shiny product releases.

You can't attend an industry conference, listen to a podcast or read a blog article without being exposed to a new digital marketing tool promising to change the game. Pretty soon, you're typing in passwords to 20 different websites, while fantasizing about becoming a barista.

The Best Digital Marketing Tools of 2018

The key to avoiding marketing technological overwhelm is to identify the few software programs that best meet your needs and consolidate tasks whenever possible. However, with new products coming out all the time, sorting through options can be time-consuming.

In this article, we'll review what we consider the best digital marketing tools of 2018. If you've been in the marketing arena for a while, you will probably recognize some of the names on our list.

The question is: Have you tried that tool you have been considering since the Red Sox won the World Series?

If not, what are you waiting for? We don't recommend waiting until they win again...

Marketing Automation Software

HubSpot

HubSpot is more than a marketing automation platform. While the software doesn't bake fresh bread, or pick your kids up from school, it does manage to combine several tasks within one program.

The platform allows users to launch professional looking landing pages, monitor brand mentions, conduct SEO keyword research, analyze site analytics, and essentially, run complete inbound marketing campaigns — without opening and closing a million browser windows throughout the day!

When it comes to choosing marketing automation software, we can't say this enough: Know exactly what features you need to accomplish your organization's goals. At Lean Labs, our mission is to help remarkable brands 10x their traffic, leads, and opportunities. We do this by clarifying buyer personas, conducting inbound marketing campaigns and maintaining growth-driven websites on behalf of our clients.

Since HubSpot was built by inbound marketers, for inbound marketers, it has everything we need to stay lean, organized and effective. Are there other good marketing automation options available? Sure, we reviewed them in this article: The Top 12 HubSpot Competitors and Alternatives.

In fact, if you aren't developing digital lead nurturing funnels, there are a ton of better options available. Besides providing our team with several automated capabilities—lead scoring, smart forms, blog management, drip campaigns, social media campaigns—HubSpot excels in two important areas:

  • It's User-Friendly: While there is definitely a learning curve, you don't have to be a developer to master the platform. Most marketers get the hang of it within a couple of months.
  • It's All-Inclusive: HubSpot is the only growth stack that can be used to run digital marketing, connect to sales, and host websites. Combining data from all of these key growth activities into one system provides a substantial boost in enjoyment, productivity and project execution.

HubSpot provides three price plans, from $200 to $2,400 per month. Of course, access to the platform's more robust capabilities costs more. With that said, there is a workaround that can get companies as much as 60% off their first-year subscription (more on that in a moment).

Paid Traffic Ads

Facebook’s Power Editor

Is running Facebook ad campaigns part of your job description? If so, you could benefit from Power Editor. The completely free plugin allows marketers to bulk-edit their Facebooks ads from the comfort of their own browsers. However, the real draw is in the tool's advanced features capabilities.

Facebook is constantly improving its ad platforms with new targeting and budget features. Marketers who use Power Editor get early access to perks that have yet to hit Ad Manager. For example, Facebook recently partnered with data-mining companies Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon to collect new data related to purchase history and lifestyle. Though originally built for Chrome, the plugin works with some other browsers. Visit Facebook.com/powereditor to test your browser or install the plugin.

HubSpot Ads

Do your paid ad campaigns go beyond Facebook? If so, we recommend checking out HubSpot Ads. The software is an add-on service that can be used in conjunction with your existing HubSpot dashboard. The platform surpasses traditional metrics like impressions, clicks, and cost-per-click by helping users calculate their actual ROI on both Facebook and Google Adwords campaigns.

In addition to saving money with more accurate return assessments, you will relish never having to jump between multiple ad management applications again! Creating, managing and reviewing campaigns will become an extension of your organic marketing tasks. Leads generated from your lead ads will conveniently land into your HubSpot CRM without you having to do a thing. If you are already using HubSpot's marketing platform, this one's a no-brainer.

Email Marketing

AutopilotHQ

AutopilotHQ takes the cake when it comes to email marketing user-experience. The platform's colorful interface, intuitive dashboard and drag + drop functionality, make building automated email marketing journeys super fun. Unlike most other email marketing campaign solutions, which can take a lengthy amount of time to implement, AutopilotHQ makes it easy to set campaigns within minutes.

If you already possess a solid knowledge of email copywriting, funnel structuring and customer value optimization, you can easily setup a fairly advanced segment with the platform. AutopilotHQ's capabilities include email/text message automation, on-site communication, advertising, lead scoring (indirectly), CRM, drip campaigns, outreach, and onboarding.

The only downside? The platform doesn't offer a form building tool. Triggering journeys with forms will require you to either implement specific form builders which are compatible or work with the AutopilotHQ's API key. Plans start at $20 per month and increase with scaling features. A company with 100,000 email contacts can expect to pay $1,632 per month on the platform's business plan.

Active Campaign

Similar to AutopilotHQ, Active Campaign is built exclusively for creating phenomenal email campaigns. The program comes with a plethora of templates, list segmentation options and reporting analytics that are aesthetically pleasing. The program's user-friendly interface requires virtually zero training to mater.

If you're on a tight budget, pairing Active Campaign with a website that enables forms and landing pages is a smart choice. For only $17 per month, the lite plan delivers a pleasing level of functionality that beats significantly higher priced competitors like InfusionSoft, Marketo, and Eloqua.

The major drawback to Active Campaign is that it doesn't allow native integration with third-party tools. However, traditional apps that increase functionality can be acquired for additional ongoing costs. Active Campaign offers four price tiers with scaling features, ranging from $17 to $149 per month.

Landing Pages

Unbounce

Again, pairing one of the email above marketing solutions with a landing page provider is a fantastic option for companies on strict budgets. Unbounce has a longstanding reputation for excellence and is the most widely used solution in the online marketing arena.

The platform's “create a new landing page” flow is straightforward and features plenty of visually appealing templates to choose from. Landing page types include Lead Generation, Click Through, Coming Soon, and a blank page Designed with conversion in mind, Unbounce features A/B testing, real-time analytics, and more than 60 integration partners with popular apps like Salesforce, Google Analytics, and Zoho. The platform recently added native mobile responsiveness to its ever-growing features list – previously the one major downfall of the tool.

For the power of the tool, Unbounce is super affordable. The platform's Basic Plan starts at $79/month (with annual billing). If you're looking for premium integration, expect to pay more.

ClickFunnels

ClickFunnel is another popular landing page option with lots of raving fans. The provider claims users can accomplish what would have taken tech teams weeks in less than 10 minutes. Unlike competitor products that allow users to create single standalone pages, ClickFunnels focuses on series of pages. The platform forces you to carefully consider what steps a visitor must go through in order to become a customer.

For example, one of the platform's more sophisticated funnel categories is called the " 2-Step TripWire Funnel." The idea is to sell a low ticket front-end product (your tripwire), before upselling an expensive product. Each funnel type has its own set of free templates and paid templates to choose from. The platform provides a variety of widgets for manipulating basic page elements like Headline, Image, Text, Button, Input forms and Video.

If you're intimidated by tech, you will appreciate ClickFunnels’ onboarding process. When you first sign up, the platform enrolls you in a 7-day learning challenge. The process consists of four different games designed to walk you through the skills needed to create your landing pages.

Website Testing

Optimizely

Does your team ever debate over what type of messaging or design will be most effective for landing pages? Optimizely removes the guesswork by allowing businesses to split test ideas with little-to-no technical expertise. Copy and paste some code into your website, and you will be up and running within 5 minutes. With Optimizely, you can A/B test everything from button colors to CTA texts to headlines.

The best part? Everything is done through the program's dashboard.

You never have to generate new code for your experiments.

Once you publish an experiment, it goes live and visible to your visitors. Optimizely is an affordable entry tool for anyone beginning to delve into website testing. The platform is available in three different SMB and enterprise pricing plans.

Hotjar

Hotjar takes website testing a step further by providing users with tools like heat mapping, feedback polls, and surveys. Heat mapping, in particular, can be extremely useful for businesses wanting greater insight into how visitors interact with web pages.

For example, with Hotjar, you may realize that most visitors are not scrolling to the bottom of a particular page. This may be indicative of poor copywriting, design or other factors that can be corrected. The platform is available in three different plans, which scale based on daily pageviews. The medium-tiered plan starts at $89 per month for 20,000 pageviews.

Video Hosting

Wistia

Want full control of the videos you publish on your site? Look no further than Wistia. Not only does the organization have stellar customer service, but they have also made the product so easy to use you likely won't need to call on them or help.

One of the platform's coolest features is the ability to include a custom CTA at the end of each individual video. This is great for driving viewers to related landing pages, increasing conversions and creating a more seamless buyer's journey. Spring for Wistia's pro option, which costs $99 per month, to remove the company's watermark from your videos.

Customer Service Tools

Helpdesk

Intercom

Intercom helps companies capture more leads with targeted chat messages that engage site visitors live on the page. The platform's bot operator automatically qualifies new leads, routes them to the right place, books sales meetings and syncs with Salesforce to organize leads. With Intercom, you can add leads to personalized drip campaigns, optimize performance with A/B testing of messaging and view leads captured over time.

Intercom users report enhanced customer loyalty due to the increased response time they are able to provide with the software. We highly recommend Intercom for anyone wanting to differentiate themselves by providing superior customer service.

SEO Tools

Moz Pro

When it comes to keyword research, Moz is a veteran in the marketplace for a reason: The company knows its stuff and has done a fantastic job of making that knowledge available to its customers. The platform offers plenty of video tutorials, feature explainers and learning opportunities for mastering campaign building.

With Moz, you can track your rankings, conduct keyword research and discover interesting opportunities for SERPs. The platform will relay all of the different SERP Features for tracked keywords (i.e., featured snippets, image packs, reviews, and videos). When setting a campaign, the platform asks users to input three competitor websites. This is a unique feature to Moz that allows users to gain a more comprehensive picture of progress.

With that said, the user experience could be a bit more streamlined. Also, while the crawl index is large, some users claim it doesn't provide as comprehensive of a picture when it comes to inbound links as some other providers. Moz offers four plans with scaling features, starting at $99 per month.

SEMrush

SEMrush is known for providing outstanding organic and paid search insights. The scope of analysis is extremely thorough; users can analyze the types of content you are up against—long form, white papers, long blogs and video—within a chosen keyword.

SEMrush's projects feature allows users to organize efforts for separate campaigns into categories. A quick glance at the project dashboard, and you will know how chosen keywords are ranking. The platform also offers a ton of helpful suggestions based on your goals. While some of the dashboards categories are a bit counter-intuitive, taking advantage of SEMrush's basic features is easy.

The platform should take a page from Moz and provide video tutorials dictating advanced usage capabilities. SEMrush offers four plans with scaling features, starting at $99.95 per month.

Which Digital Marketing Tools Are Right for You?

In our opinion, based on significant trial and error, these are the best tools for producing high caliber marketing campaigns. During our agency's early days, we became masters at cobbling together cheap marketing stacks. However, we quickly learned what made us most effective: Eliminating as many extraneous software programs as possible!

HubSpot allows us to consolidate what used to be 20 tools into one, and that allows us to better focus on serving our clients. If you have a B2B business, and are prioritizing building an inbound marketing funnel that yields compounding returns over time, HubSpot is worth checking out.

Unfortunately, there is a common assumption that HubSpot is out of budget for many medium-sized. If you've been considering trying HubSpot for a while now, we have good news: The platform has partnered with us to provide a select number of businesses with a huge annual discount — we're talking as much as 60% off.

Learn how to streamline your digital marketing toolbox with our HubSpot Savings Guide. Hubspot-savings-guide

Written by Ashley Gwilliam / May 25, 2018

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam