Tools 101: The Startup Marketing Stack

When you’re trying to scale your startup, choosing the right marketing tools can mean the difference between 2X and 10X growth. Some tools are too extensive or powerful—using them would be like swinging a machete for a surgical job. On the other hand, some tools are too limited—they’ll work for your first 300 customers, but everything breaks as soon as you get to customer number 301.

At Stacklist, we’re leading a massive, community-wide effort to document the tools startups use to grow. We’ve learned from 400+ founders how certain tools have worked for them. In the info to follow, we’ll tell you about some of the most popular tools AND the most loved tools in the average startup’s marketing stacklist.

So what’s a Marketing stacklist? In short, it’s all the tools a startup uses to market themselves and their product. We include the following categories:

●Email Marketing

●Data & Analytics

●Content Marketing

●Social Media Marketing 

●CRM

●Project Management

Every startup has a unique set of needs based on their product, team, budget and growth plan. But there are certain trends that stand out in marketing stacklists. Some marketing tools are unilaterally popular at every stage (i.e. Trello & Asana) while others become more or less popular as companies grow.

While it’s important to pay attention to what tools are most popular among startups, it’s also critical to keep an eye on what are just damn awesome for the job even if they have not yet reached a market penetration on par with, say, Salesforce. Here is an overview on some of the phenomenal marketing tools that startups are using - some of them popular giants and others younger gems.


Email Marketing


MailChimp

Stacklist founders call this email platform “simple,” “intuitive,” and “easy to use.” MailChimp comes with pre-made templates that you can quickly customize and send off, along with the option to design your emails from scratch.


“I knew nothing about email marketing or mass emails before this, but MailChimp has made it super easy, and their onboarding is fantastic."

-Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, Co-founder of Point



“I believe that right now MailChimp is the one tool that does everything right. It has a great interface; they recognize how new entrepreneurs run a company.” 

-Donald Spann, Founder of Vicky Virtual

Also a plus: Mailchimp is free when you first sign up. However, according to Queen of Raw co-founder and CEO Stephanie Benedetto, its pricing model and limited functionality mean you’ll probably need an alternative as you scale.


Customer.io

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This software handles the other part of the equation: transactional emails. With its flexible set-up, you can create highly specific event-triggered emails, like payment receipts and password change notifications.

Customer.io also lets you set up behavior-driven emails. For example, Segment co-founder and CEO Peter Reinhardt says his team uses it to help users who might be struggling with a specific task or feature. Meanwhile, One Month relies on Customer.io to reach out to people who recently attended an event and re-engage users who’ve been inactive for a certain period of time.


“Customer.io is a great tool. It’s awesome for managing emails, and for creating personalized emails, thanks to its Liquid language support."

-Matthieu Vaxelaire, CEO of Mention


The service offers rich segmentation and detailed analytics, making it a good choice for any data-driven company.


SendGrid

If you opt for SendGrid, you won’t need to use two separate platforms for marketing and transactional emails. That’s because SendGrid rolls these functions together, so you can, say, send users personalized product recommendations and shipping updates from the same tool.


“SendGrid is very flexible and powerful; has a very robust infrastructure.”

-Stan Bokov, Co-founder and COO of TradingView

Plus, as COO of Chat Sports Brett Scott points out, SendGrid just released marketing templates. Use the app’s pre-loaded, professionally designed templates to quickly get your email campaign off the ground, or design your own in the visual editor and save them for future use.


Social Media


BuzzSumo

As the modern marketer quickly discovers, if you write great content they will *not* come. PivotDesk CEO David Mandell sums it up: “Content is useless without a promotional strategy.”

That’s why Mandell uses BuzzSumo, a nifty tool that analyzes who’s talking about your topic. Maybe you’re writing about sales prospecting; type that into the BuzzSumo search bar and immediately see which influencers have the most authority on that topic.


“We use BuzzSumo for quickly getting the lay of the land, seeing the content terms that we want to be part of, and see what people are writing about." 

-Paul May, Co-founder of BuzzStream


You can also use BuzzSumo to do content research. Enter that same search term into the content tab, and discover the highest-performing articles on that subject. These results can let you quickly “get the lay of the land." Once you’re up-to-speed, identify unique content opportunities, build on what already exists, or round up the most useful posts.


Buffer

Buffer.png

Crafting quality content will always take time—there’s no way around that. However, with a social media marketing tool like Buffer, you can save hours every day on the distribution end.


“Buffer is the ultimate tool for scheduling social media posts."

-Guillame Cabane, former Head of Growth Marketing at Mention


Of course, Buffer isn’t the only tool that lets you line up posts in advance or publish to multiple platforms at once. It does, however, boast a clean, minimal interface and a couple cool features. For example, with Pablo by Buffer, you create beautiful visuals for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook in no time flat. Buffer also lets you create custom posting schedules for each channel.

20% of Stacklist founders use Buffer, so safe to say it’s pretty popular.


Mention

To keep track of what others are saying about your startup, use Mention. This product monitors billions of sources (in 40-plus languages!) for mentions of your company, name, or niche. You’ll get alerts in real-time, meaning that you can react while the person’s sentiment is still fresh.

And since Mention integrates with your social media accounts, you won’t need to open up a single new tab to respond—do it all within the Mention app.

In case you missed anything, you’ll get a daily email with the most notable mentions from the past 24 hours.


“They’re really a joy to see in the morning."

-Adam Schwartz, Co-founder of Eager


It’s also worth mentioning (pun not intended) that the tool gauges the sentiment of each comment. Having data on how positive or negative your brand perception is will be incredibly useful: It’s a KPI most startups don’t track (but should!)


Data / Analytics


Mixpanel

Mixpanel offers analytics for both web and mobile apps, although the platform is definitely more tailored to the latter. Stacklist users say they love how easy it is to start tracking specific events and user behavior, personalize their account dashboard to reflect the stats they care about most and create custom reports.

Thanks to Mixpanel’s usability and rich features, TreSensa CEO Rob Grossberg says it’s a good complement to Google Analytics. Use Mixpanel to track your users through the funnel, and use GA to get “baseline data points and general information, like location, browser version,” etc.


Segment

segment-app.png

How many analytics tools are you using? Maybe, like more than 50% of Stacklist users, you use at least two. While all this data is fantastic, it also means it’s easy to get overwhelmed

That’s where Segment can help. Segment provides a universal API, letting you centralize all your data into one place. With 100-plus integrations, it’s rare to find a tool that Segment doesn’t support.


“Segment’s amazing. I don’t know what we would do without Segment. I have Segment for our marketing site and for our product."

-Marat Stary, Co-founder and CEO of getPartnered


“We love Segment because it dramatically simplifies the process of implementing new analytics tools,” says Built for Teams founder Brett Derricott. We’re able to enable and disable different tools without deploying new code.”


Content Marketing


CoSchedule

It’s a truth universally acknowledged (by marketers, anyway), that your publishing frequency must be consistent. Post five times a week, three times a week, or one—but find a cadence and stick to it.

With CoSchedule, sticking to your set posting times is simple. This tool lets you create an editorial calendar for your content: simply upload your post from Google Docs, WordPress, Evernote, or CoSchedule’s editor and put it on the calendar for when you’d like it to go live.


“For those that want a cheap and extremely effective social tool, CoSchedule is the way to go! We love it because it works the way we think. It’s calendar-based, so you’re able to take an event or piece of content, then schedule related social posts, tasks, and reminders. We’re huge fans.” 

-Eileen Lee, COO of Venture for America


There’s also plenty of features for collaboration. You can assign tasks to specific people, such as “do final edits” or “create visuals.” For recurring tasks, set up project workflows. When you need feedback or updates, use the post comment box to chat with your team members. Eileen also loves the fact you can schedule social media promotion around a specific post.


Unbounce

When you want to create a landing page without running to your developer, use Unbounce. There’s zero coding involved—to build your page, just drag and drop the elements you want into place.

"From webinars to special campaign landing pages, it’s faster and simpler for us to create a page in Unbounce than with any other method,” Cabane says.

But what’s a landing page without at least one variation? This platform makes it easy to copy your first page, tweak it, and then run A/B tests. Your results will show up in real time, giving you the power to see what’s working and adapt accordingly at an unprecedented speed.


HubSpot

If you’re looking to supercharge your stack, use HubSpot. This all-in-one marketing platform incorporates blogging, SEO, social media, website support, lead management, landing pages, CTAs, marketing automation, email, analytics, and more—which is why Eager’s Schwartz calls it the “Swiss Army knife of marketing.”

Despite the variety of features, HubSpot’s core value proposition is helping you collect more leads. And if you sign up for its free sales CRM, you can push those leads over to your sales team with almost no effort.

It’s worth noting HubSpot is pretty pricey. A Basic plan will run you $200, while an Enterprise plan (which comes with up to 10,000 contacts, advanced reporting, predictive lead scoring, and more) is $2,400.


CRM


Salesforce

When it comes to CRMs, Salesforce is the clear market winner. Along with sales automation, you can also use this cloud platform to run your marketing efforts and provide customer support.

Unsurprisingly, this power comes with a price: complexity.


“It’s just so robust. It’s like learning how to fly a jet plane.”

-Jason Saltzman, Co-founder & CEO of Alley


But according to Saltzman, if you can stay focused, “you can develop the tools in Salesforce that cater to what you need to get done, and you can ask it to do anything.”


Pipedrive

If you have a fairly small sales team, you might be better off with Pipedrive. Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of The Muse, says her team relied on Pipedrive until they hired their fifth sales rep.

“Pipedrive is affordable and easy to teach and learn,” Minshew says.


Pipedrive.png

The CRM lets your sales people view deals by stage or by timeline. However, no matter which view you choose, the pared-down dashboard makes keeping track of your ongoing deals a breeze.


Project Management


Trello

Almost 40% of Stacklisters rely on Trello over other project management tools. If you’re a visual thinker, Trello is the perfect app: It lets you create Post-It-style representations of your tasks, which you move from column to column as you make progress on them.

For example, if you have a card for a blog post, it might start in the “idea” column on the far left, move to the “draft” column, then the “edits” column, and so forth, all the way to “published.”

“We LOVE Trello,” says SpeakUp co-founder and CEO Ray Gillenwater. “You don’t need to learn it; it’s super intuitive, really fast, and reliable. And the price is right. You can add people to cards, set who is responsible, add checklists, due dates, color coding, etc.”


Asana

 Asana-Project-Dashboards.pngAsana is more expensive than Trello, but along with Trello’s ability to track and assign tasks and create workflows, Asana also comes with chat rooms. In other words, it’s like Trello meets Slack.

When your team is trying to collaborate on a project, being able to hold conversations within the app is super helpful.

While some Stacklist users say Asana offers too many features, Sutro co-founder Ravi Kurani says “creating a rulebook” for how you use it will avoid the issue.


So, which tools will you use?

Once you’ve put together (or improved) your stack, we’d love to know what’s in it. Shoot us an email at [email protected] or subscribe to our newsletter.