What are my top tool recommendations for content marketing? In this post, I'm giving you a behind-the-scenes look at every tool we use day to day in our agency to make creating better content easier!
I love me some online tools, and I am constantly doing trials or purchasing solitary months of different services and tools to find what worked the best for my business and content goals.
I work best when I have clearly defined workflows and systems that allow me to free up the logical part of my brain (the organizer) and focus completely on being creative. If this also helps you, you’ll get a lot of out of this updated 2021 list of the best tools for content marketing.
I’m not one for reading an article and simply taking the writer’s word that what works for them is going to work just as well for me. So I encourage you not to just read this review and then run to sign up for these. Test them for yourself!
If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that everyone’s ideal workflow process is a little bit (or a lot a bit) different and it will continue to change and evolve over time.
So without further ado, here are my favourites for managing my content workflows:
Prefer to watch this blog post instead? Click on the video below!
Content Tools for Ideas and Inspiration
I see and find inspiration everywhere – a question, a post, a graphic that strikes an idea in me for something I want to create for my audience. I look at these as jumping-off points, and since I definitely don’t want to lose them I needed to come up with a system for storing, categorizing, and using these inspirational tidbits.
I have a board in Asana that I use to store any incoming inspiration.
The columns I use are:
- Incoming (unsorted)
- Content Strategy
- Content Systems
- Sales Funnels
- To Do
I also have an entirely separate board for email swipe files where I forward any marketing emails and subject lines that I love and want to use as inspiration in upcoming campaigns. That’s one thing I love about Asana: you can forward an email to the board.
It once seemed like I had bits of inspiration everywhere. Actually, it felt really chaotic and I could never find something when I needed it.
So when I created my single-point inspiration filing system, I also identified the typical collection points where I’d come across the inspiration.
Once a week I’ll go through each of these points, and move things to Asana:
- Pinterest – I save them to a secret board
- Email folder – I file emails into a folder
- Facebook – I’ll use the Facebook save function to store these
- Voice notes – I keep a running voice note for each week
- Evernote – I clip magazine articles and web pages to Evernote
If you find that you always have a million tabs open, one of my favourite tools to solve this problem is Workona. It allows you to create workspaces, so you can easily switch between groups of tabs and share them with team members really easily and save them for later.
My productivity has skyrocketed from implementing this tool into my daily work routine—mostly because it's sped up my computer from not having a zillion tabs open.
Content Tools for Content Planning
My go-to procrastination device is planning—hands down.
On one hand, having a solid plan is essential for making sure you’re not working in circles. It’s easy to work a plan since it tells you exactly what to do next without needing to stop after each step to figure it out. On the other hand, I’ve had a tendency in the past to keep reworking the plan to avoid doing any real work – total procrasti-planner.
But as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” And I know now to keep things simple, give myself a (time-limited) container for planning and that such a thing as the perfect plan does not exist.
So here are the tools I use for planning my content and marketing:
Content Empire Planner
Yep – I use my own planner. I actually created the Content Empire Planner because I needed it and couldn’t find anything like it.
It’s a comprehensive 12-month planner that brings you through planning and managing your content and business goals, step-by-step. It helps you focus on the important things (business goals, revenue plans, projects and tasks) by keeping it all in one place.
So when I’m ready to plan content on a yearly (super high-level), quarterly (tying my content to revenue goals) and monthly (the detailed action plan) – I make sure I have open my inspiration bank, my content empire planner, and oodles of post-its.
Noteshelf 2 (App)
I love planning pen-to-paper but also having the flexibility to move things around, duplicate as needed, and scribble things down without worrying about ruining my perfect page 🙈
That’s why I prefer to plan using the iPad and Apple Pencil. My app of choice for importing PDFs is Noteshelf 2.
After I’ve planned on paper, everything gets moved to Asana. I have template tasks for most content marketing projects (blog post bundles, promotions, social media) and will just duplicate them according to the plan I’ve just worked up.
I feel like all of my embarrassing planning secrets are coming out so I may as well tell you this too – I used to believe that if I just found the right tool, my business and life would be perfect. I had whiplash constantly moving from one project management tool to the next.
My poor team had whiplash too.
Finally, enough was enough and we’ve been with Asana now for three years. We are so entrenched, so we’re not moving (although when Airtable came up all tempting-like, it was super hard to resist)!
Content Tools for Outlining (or Free Writing)
For me, this is the secret sauce when it comes to content. Before I create, before I outline, before I research, I start with anywhere between 15-25 minutes and simply get all my ideas out onto paper.
The funny thing is that what I write at this point is usually good to go as-is, but it’s so much easier than sitting down with the intention to write something. Total mind hack.
Here’s a peek at the template I use:
Sometimes I feel a little bit of writer's block when it comes to outlining my posts. First I start the free writing process and I identify the questions that my new blog post will answer. Then I like to simply bring those questions into Otter and record myself answering those questions.
It’s kind of like talking to yourself, or like recording a podcast. It does the transcription right in there for you. Otter also makes it very easy to download it as a text file or a Microsoft Word so you can easily share it with your team to clean up for later.
Content Tools for Content Creation
No ifs, ands, or buts – at some point in the content workflow, it’s time to sit down and create the damn thing!
Hopefully, you can discover a process that you actually enjoy because with endless options out there, I don’t believe you should suffer to create content. In fact, it could hinder you getting the results you’re wanting to see because if you hate it, you’re much less likely to stick with it long enough to start seeing results.
Also – once I have my free writing in hand, the process starts moving pretty quickly for me. Here are some of the tools I use to make it happen.
I’ve tried so many different writing tools (and for longer projects, adore Scrivener) but I prefer to keep things simple for blogs and that means = Google Docs.
Usually at this point, I’m taking my free writing and crafting paragraphs and sections, filling in where needed so it’s mostly a copy and paste job.
But to keep myself on track, I set a Pomodoro timer (25-minutes) to complete the blog post before proofreading.
My favourite Pomodoro timer is BeFocusedPro because it tracks your productivity (and categorizes it) plus syncs across all of your devices.
I used to be an Adobe purist. I mean, can you really call yourself a graphic designer if you're not using Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator to create your graphics?
With that being said, my tune has changed over the last couple of years with the development and the enhancement of Canva. It has come such a long way. In fact, because of ease and having multiple people on the team, we do most of our graphics in Canva.
Nowadays, there are a million really beautiful templates that you can get from places like CreativeMarket, or people who sell them as one-offs. It has really transformed graphic design and made it much more accessible to business owners who maybe aren't so comfortable digging into those really advanced design tools.
I love finding great stock photos a little too much. Many an hour has been wasted on what was probably not the best use of my time.
Here are my current go-to’s:
- She Bold Stock – I love this stock photo membership put together by Jasmine Hunt. She has an incredible eye for composition of images and using bright colors. So if you're somebody who feels like the stock image options out there are really suiting your colorful taste (and because you like my website, you like colorful tastes) definitely check this one out. The images are really high quality, and there are new ones released every quarter
- Stocksy – They have some super high-quality images that you have to dig for a little, so I’ll look here if I’m looking for a program image that’ll have a longer shelf-life.
- CreativeMarket – Like with Adobe Stock, I have a shortlist of photographers I love and will check to see if they have anything new!
- Adobe Stock – There’s a lot of garbage but a lot of gems too. I have a shortlist of photographers I love that I check out every once in a while to see what’s new.
My Recording Toolkit
- Web Cam – Logitech BRIO – 4K Ultra HD Webcam: https://amzn.to/32UUyFq
- Microphone – Shure MV7 USB Podcast Microphone: https://amzn.to/3sXT3Rm
- Ring Light – Neewer Ring Light Kit [Upgraded Version-1.8cm Ultra Slim]-18 inches: https://amzn.to/2QA9qXm
Content Tools for Editing
I outsource most of my proofreading because I’ve been taught time and time again that when I try to proofread my own stuff I miss EVERYTHING! So I like to leverage a couple of tools, outsource the majority of it, and have a healthy outlook that if something gets missed, it’s hardly the end of the world.
Here’s what’s in my proofreading toolkit:
Chrome Text to Speech
One of the things I love most about Chrome (might be available in other things too) is the ability to highlight text and have it read out loud. Not only is the robot voice giggle-inducing (make it say PSSST), but I notice things that are out of place better when it’s read to me this way.
My all-time favourite tool that I found in 2020 was Descript. It has completely changed the game when it comes to editing any audio or video. It makes it so easy. All you have to do is drag in the audio or video clipping and then it transcribes the audio or video. You can actually edit the audio or video file just by changing or deleting sections of the transcript. This has super sped up our editing process and is probably hands down my favourite content creation tool discovery in the last little while.
I love Grammarly. I have the Chrome extension that’ll pick up errors in most windows but I also export my Google Docs into it for doing the proofreading without losing the formatting in the Doc!
After these steps are done, I’ll have my team copywriter take a pass at it!
Content Tools for Publishing
The next step in my content workflow is publishing. This includes publishing my blog post and my email newsletter.
Here are the tools I use to make this happen:
I love the flexibility and ease of Divi. This is what I use for my website and, by extension, my blog.
For content upgrades and pop-ups on my blog, I use LeadPages. I’ve been with them for years and love how easy they make adding the code to the bottom of my website for my various freebies and content upgrades.
It’s an investment (since it’s a monthly fee) but since, as they say, the money’s in the list, I don’t mind spending money on the list!
We have tried pretty much everything under the sun for our email marketing. Our tool of choice right now is ConvertKit because of how simple it is for the user, and because with a bigger email list it's actually a bit cheaper than something like Active Campaign.
These are my top four recommendations when it comes to email marketing tools to build out your funnels, and I have some tutorials and walkthroughs that I will link below.
[INSERT LINKS (grab them from the YouTube channel)]
Content Tools for Promotion
How are you getting eyeballs on your content? I’d argue that the most important part of any content workflow is actually the promotion piece.
I’d much rather see you spend less time creating new content and more time promoting the content you already have! But what tools do I use to promote my content and increase visibility?
Pinterest is such a powerhouse for me traffic-wise, and it would be dreadful if I had to do everything manually. That’s where Pinterest saves the day. I teach my entire system of using it to grow your traffic in my program Your Content, Your Empire because while I’m all for picking and choosing the social media platforms that you enjoy, I still hope that content creators choose to make Pinterest a part of their strategies!
For our social media scheduling (including Instagram) we use CoSchedule. I used to use CoSchedule way back in the day, and then they just steadily increased their price.
At that time, it was more affordable to go with another tool, but recently they revised their pricing. Now it’s much more accessible to use it if you want to.
What I love about it is that they have the ReQueue feature in there, which lets you set up evergreen sharing for your content. It allows you to put in client counts as well as your own.
My all-time favorite feature of CoSchedule is two things:
- Bulk scheduling. You can upload all of your social media in a CSV and schedule it with a few clicks. This has majorly sped up our process.
- When you are uploading your social media, you can create campaigns for your weekly blog posts, or for your launch or for your webinar or whatever it is, and it gives you analytics specific to that campaign. This allows you to see what's really resonating on your social media channels and what messaging is working.
Other Tools (Notable Mentions)
So while I’ve already covered the majority of the tools that I use in my regular content workflow, there are a few other notable tool mentions.
I don’t know what I would do without Dubsado. Well, I know I’d spend a lot more of my time creating client onboarding and processes from scratch each time (no thank you!).
I have a team now who helps me in my business and LastPass has become an essential part of the process. It’s easy to share passwords but I love that you can create folders for different positions so you don’t need to share each one individually.
My final honorable mention goes to Funnelytics, because I do run a sales funnel agency. We use Funnelytics to map out all of our clients' funnels as well as our own.
I also use it for building out production models and tracking for those funnels because it allows us to see what it might look like if we doubled the traffic to our opt-in page based on the conversion rates that we're seeing.
It is a really cool tool to check out. If you're doing any launches or any funnel building, this is a staple you should have.
Tools for Success
When it comes to running a successful and efficient business, the tools you use can make all the difference. Whether you add a tool for content creating, planning, editing, publishing, or just something else to help you on the back end, it’s bound to make your life a little easier. If you find you often run into a problem in your work, there’s probably an app for that, and it might even be one from this list.
Ready to add more tools to your toolbelt? Start with the most popular tool I offer: the Monthly Content Planning Kit. Get it today for FREE and take the first step to get your content organized like never before.