Five indispensable tools for small digital marketing teams

by Jodi Mullen, Head of User Acquisition, Ginsberg

Ginsberg is a web and smartphone app to help people improve their mental wellbeing and get to the root causes of why they feel stressed. It is being built by a startup style team of 7 people embedded within the Scottish Government. As a small team working using lean startup methodology we have many advantages but this approach to work also creates its own set of challenges, not least how to manage work across team members.

Ginsberg’s marketing and communications team consists of two full-time staff (give or take a day here or there): myself as Head of User Acquisition and Jenny as Digital Communications manager. Our Product Manager Kate also occasionally dips in to help with things on the marcomms front. Jenny and I have a couple of specialist areas that we handle. Jenny looks after the majority of our social media activity and manages direct communications with our users. I, meanwhile, am more focused on SEO and external comms.

However, there are also significant areas of overlap — we both work on content marketing, for example. It’s really important that the tools we use support collaboration and make it easy to maintain visibility over what each other are working on — and for Kate to be able to keep oversight of what we’re doing.

We mostly work from the Scottish Government offices at Victoria Quay in Leith, Edinburgh but sometimes work offsite. For this reason we need to be able to access everything we need to do our jobs via the web instead of being reliant on local storage or having to be physically present in a location.

Below are five tools that we use to help us effectively manage marketing and communications activity for Ginsberg.

Trello — task and project management

From post-it note to project board

I’ve tried out a few different task management solutions over the last year or but I’ve finally settled on Trello as my favourite. As someone who used to live and die by their personal to-do list, switching over to Trello’s moveable cards called for a bit of a mental adjustment but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t think I’d go back.

One of Trello’s biggest advantages over rivals like Asana is its inherent flexibility. While other tools are centred around the concept of the task list, Trello is more fast and loose and can be shaped into whatever you want it to be: collaboration space, project management repo, team notice board etc. This is great for small teams working on projects that tend to quite fluid and where it’s important to keep admin overheads to a minimum.

Trello’s other big selling point — and its standout feature for many users — is its visual interface. Your cards can contain images, hyperlinks, files, task lists and more. This is a really big deal for us because a hefty chunk of our planning is done offline and it allows us to snap a quick photo of our walls of post-it notes and keep a record on Trello.

Google Apps— document sharing

Google Apps really shouldn’t need any introduction. It’s Google’s all-in-one collaborative suite that covers everything from email to calendars, shared storage to document creation. It’s a great resource for small or large teams but really excels in a small team environment where you can use it to do… well, pretty much everything.We make heavy use of the Documents and Drive elements of the suite.

Google’s Docs, Sheets and Slides apps are more than adequate for the vast majority of our document creating needs and are more lightweight and less finicky than Microsoft Office and other offline solutions. We use Docs to draft copy and write up meeting notes, Sheets for keeping simple databases (and our content marketing calendar) and Slides for building basic presentations — although for something more sophisticated we’ll probably turn to Keynote or Powerpoint.

Any documents created using this suite are automatically stored in Google Drive. Drive is an online document repository that also allows you to import files using a simple drag and drop interface. We use it to store presentations, PDFs and other files we’ve received from external sources. Drive comes with flexible sharing features making it easy to make files available to everyone on the team or just to share with specific colleagues, as the need arises.

Hootsuite — social media

Social media is a major source of visitors to our website and our Twitter account GinsbergIO drives a sizeable chunk of traffic every day. Jenny, our Digital Communications Manager, handles most of our day-to-day social activity but occasionally other members of the team get involved too. Social media dashboard Hootsuite makes collaborating between multiple users easy and helps us to maintain a consistent tone of voice.

Hootsuite also has some other great features that help us to supercharge our online social activity. Scheduling sounds pretty mundane and is a feature that many marketers take for granted but it really comes into its own when you’re working in a small team. With only a handful of people on hand to keep social accounts ticking over, being able to set a series of tweets to post over a weekend or holiday can really help to keep visits up and ensure that traffic doesn’t drop away just because team members are enjoying some time off.

Then there’s analytics. Hootsuite’s analytics package gives us a great overview of how our tweets are performing, what content is driving traffic and how our account is growing. It also helps us see how conversation around the topics we are interested in is ebbing and flowing and to get an idea of the sentiment around it.

Buzzstream — contact and outreach management

At Ginsberg we send an awful lot of emails. We keep in touch with our colleagues in the Scottish Government and NHS and our external project partners, we communicate with our users, we outreach to journalists and bloggers that we think might be interested in the project and we collaborate with a whole range of online influencers. Whatever way you look at it, it adds up to an enormous quantity of email.

To help streamline our email communications — and to make sure that contacts and conversations are shared across the team — we use Buzzstream. Buzzstream is conversation and relationship management software that makes it easy to store and update a large contact database and keep track of your communications with everyone you get in touch with. It plugs in to email and social media accounts, ensuring that you’ve got a record of all comms that everyone can access; very helpful in a situation where someone is out of the office or away for a few days.

Better yet, Buzzstream also helps you to streamline email communication and simply tasks like outreach to bloggers and websites and small-scale mail merge. The system makes it easy to store and personalise email templates that can then be sent out to people on your contact list from within Buzzstream itself. You’re able to monitor the performance of different templates and get an idea of which ones are most effective.

Raven Tools — SEO (and lots more)

SEO is a critically important marketing channel for us and one that we expect to be even more invaluable for us as Ginsberg matures and grows. There are a huge number of different SEO tools on the market but Raven Tools provides all the key components you need to effectively manage a website’s SEO performance in one handy suite.

One of my favourite features is Raven’s Site Auditor tool which makes staying on top of on-page SEO a breeze. It crawls your site regularly and reports back on any issues — like broken links, poorly optimised titles or pages with too little copy — making it easy to track down and fix problems. I’m also a big fan of how it integrates with Google Webmaster tools, allowing me to monitor for issues and access keyword data without actually having to log in to WMT directly.

Raven also boasts a bunch of other tools beyond the core SEO feature set. It plugs in to your social accounts and provides some top level stats on how each one is performing. What you get isn’t as sophisticated as Hootsuite but it’s really handy when I just want an overview and don’t have time to go into Hootsuite to generate reports. There’s also tools to help you run PPC campaigns and to streamline your content creation process if working with freelance writers, although our usage of these elements of the suite is pretty minimal at the moment.

And the rest…

The above list is just a selection of the tools we use to do our jobs. We also use Skype heavily for inter-team communication while our development team are heavy users of Github (we tried adopting marcomms tasks to Github but didn’t really find it an effective way of working). Our designer uses Invision to share concepts with the wider team.

In the marketing and communications team, we use other tools situationally — Mailchimp for email marketing - and are always on the lookout for new toys to try out and see if they can improve the way we work. Slack seems like a great way of potentially bringing our development and marketing teams closer together and is something I’m keen to explore further.

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