a variety of carpenter's tools
PHOTO: Eugen Str

When you work in a startup, almost everyone is forced to wear many hats. It’s a byproduct of trying to optimize progress, amplify market position, and manage investment capital wisely. In our company, everyone plays a role in creating brand awareness and driving leads, which effectively adds marketing to everyone's job description. 

As CEO, I love being directly involved in both the marketing strategy and tactics. And with marketing often being an "all hands on deck" exercise, it's essential I arm the team with tools that are cost effective, easy to use, and don’t require a significant amount of time to produce results. Productivity and efficiency are key to being successful when wearing multiple functional hats.

New Year, New Marketing Tools

Every December, I try to take time off over the holidays to recharge. I also use the time to explore new marketing tools to see what might be useful for the team in the coming year. Last year I fell in love with Canva and Leadpages. Both were intuitive to learn and cost effective. We opted for the paid version of Canva to upload our brand colors and assets. Today, we’re all competent graphic and landing page designers as a result of these two tools.

This year I spent the holidays playing with Airtable and Otter.

Airtable: An Organizer's Dream

I’m probably a little late to the party when it comes to Airtable, but it appeals to every OCD and Marie Kondo trait I have (and I have a lot of those). It’s an organizer’s dream. Finally I have the tools I need to create a multi-dimensional marketing calendar that is easy to understand. I was able to set up the structure of my marketing calendar and start inputting information working from my iPad while I sat in a London pub waiting for my children to join me after a day of sightseeing.

We’re now almost three weeks into the new year and everyone on the team is happily using Airtable to contribute to the marketing calendar and manage our content development calendar. One of the best things about the tool is it has a “base” template specifically for brand asset management. A base is analogous to a workbook in a spreadsheet and is represented as an icon on a user’s homepage. Since we’re not large enough yet for an independent digital asset management (DAM) system, this is a perfect solution for now. 

Though we are currently using the free version of Airtable, I expect we’ll upgrade to the Pro version at some point. At $20 per user, per month, it will give us more options for customization, information display and permission-based usage.

Related Article: Why the New York Times Merged Martech with Engineering

Otter: AI Speech to Text App

Chris Penn, co-founder of Trust Insights and expert in artificial intelligence as it relates to marketing, introduced me to Otter, an AI-driven speech to text application.  Simply turn your microphone on, start talking and watch Otter transcribe whatever wisdom you are imparting. Once complete, it’s easy to send “notes” — Otter’s term for the transcripts it produces — via email. I was amazed at the speed and accuracy of the transcription; one of my teammates is bilingual and she was able to switch between English and French without any issues. 

I saw Penn use Otter to record a group discussion he was leading on the topic of AI, which gave him great material for a future blog post. I used Otter to create the first draft of this article, which saved me a considerable amount of time. One of the use cases I’m most excited about is creating scripts for key presentations. For important presentations, I like to generate bulleted notes for each slide so I remember the key points I want to make. I’m always glad when I do it, but I hate typing the notes at the bottom of each slide. With Otter I can just turn the application on, deliver the presentation to myself, and then cut and paste the transcript into the deck. The side benefit of this is I’m sure I’ll end up with material I can use for blog posts and other marketing materials.  

I still have some work to do to realize the full potential of Otter. I need to let go of trying to deliver a perfect speech and become comfortable with garbled words and slip-ups. Case in point, here’s a selection from the draft for this article: “I think this is going to save me a lot of time. Because, you know, many times, you know, as I'm driving or as I'm traveling to work ….” Being perfect isn’t important, getting the ideas down is. You can always edit the transcription. Otter offers a free version for up to 600 minutes of transcription a month.

Related Article: The Freemium Model Only Goes So Far With Your Martech Stack

Plannuh: Marketing Budget Collaboration Tool

Another tool I’m excited about but haven’t dug into yet is Plannuh, a cloud-based application for collaborating on the construction and management of a marketing budget. I often think back longingly to my simple spreadsheets in the pre-digital days that had at most 20 line items (e.g. collateral, tradeshows, advertising, etc.). Creating a marketing budget has become so complex, with so many variables. Trying to create, manage and assess performance using a spreadsheet can be a nightmare. When I was running my last company, every time I reviewed the marketing budget I had to reacquaint myself with all the variables and their relationship to one another. 

Founded by my colleague, Peter Mahoney, Plannuh combines plans, marketing goals, budgets, actual expenses and campaign results into a single application that Mahoney assured me is easy to use. He said you can set Plannuh up easily, without any IT support, and it provides visibility into planned and actual spending, alignment of efforts to goals, and can track expenses by campaigns as well as departments and expense categories. It's scalable to marketing teams of all sizes, in any industry, as well as by agencies who manage budgets on behalf of their clients. Plannuh starts at $1,500 per year for five users. As soon as I’m completely zen with Otter, I’ll be moving on to play with Plannuh.

Related Article: How to Deliver Credible Marketing Pipeline Forecasts

What Marketing Tools Do You Love?

I’d love to hear about any other tools that have made your life easier and that you can’t live without. And now I’m off to talk to Otter!