I have a confession to make.
Over the years, I’ve signed up for over 500 software (SaaS) products in an effort to optimize my business and personal productivity.
It’s a form of procrastination I think… a way of being busy instead of being productive. Some may even call me a SaaS-hole. (I didn’t make that up, but I’m unable to trace the origin) I’m currently in recovery, which means that I’ve purged a lot of the tools we use, and today I bring you a list of the 24 tools we use to run our agency.
Could we run successfully without some of these? Yes. But like I said, I’m in recovery.
First off, here are some of the criteria we use to evaluate whether of not we should try out a tool:
- Does the potential benefit of the tool greatly outweigh the effort it would take to implement?
- Does it work on all platforms (Mac, PC, iOS)?
- Is it cloud based?
- Does it integrate with Zapier?
Ok, this one’s pretty obvious. We use GA every day at Test Triggers, and so sometimes it’s easy to forget how incredibly powerful this free tool is. Install it, use it, love it. Obviously, an article on our conversion optimization stack is going to start with GA. C’mon now.
★ Top Pick: Hotjar
- Visitor Recordings
- Polls (Our #1 CRO secret sauce)
- User Testing Recruiting
- Funnel Tracking
- Form Field Tracking
The best part? You can get started with Hotjar for free. (paid plans start at just $29/mo) We’re not exaggerating when we extol the virtues of this tool. It is 100% mandatory for our CRO work. Don’t believe us? Here’s what others say about Hotjar:
For A/B and Multivariate testing, we use Optimizely. There are other tools (VWO, Convert, Maximizer, Adobe Test & Target) you can use for testing, but we’ve settled on Optimizely.
This is another mandatory pick if you’re doing CRO. You MUST have a user testing tool in your stack. UserTesting.com gives us high-quality user testing videos (people using our sites and doing tasks that we choose) and allows us to pick from all sorts of demographic attributes (device, gender, age, income, computer savviness)
Peek by UserTesting.com
Ok, so if you’re not able to fork over the $49 per video that UserTesting.com costs, you can use their free tool; Peek. Although you don’t get the demographic information you would with the full tool, the videos are free, and the turnaround is very quick. We often use this tool for quick competitor reviews, or to look at mock-ups before they go live.
Project Management & Communication
Every single project we work on at Test Triggers runs through Trello. From blog posts (like this one) to a/b testing ideas to admin procedures. Trello is a simple but powerful tool that uses Kanban philosophy to drag virtual cards from ideas to doing to done. This is the one tool that closest resembles the positive collaboration of working on a physical dry-erase or chalkboard.
A popular choice for pretty much every company on earth right now, Slack is our tool of choice for team chat. The team at Test Triggers is fully remote and therefore Slack IS our office. So as you can imagine, it’s a gif-fest sometimes. More than that though, Slack is a powerful tool that is full of integrations that help us to create one place to see all notifications. Some of our favorite integrations include:
- Slack <> Trello: We can easily send cards from Trello into Slack if we need to discuss something that will require a lot of back and forth.
- Live Chat <> Slack: Our website’s live chat tool sends those conversations where they can be replied to and fully managed.
- RightGif: Like I said, we send a lot of gifs. Besides being a fun and silly expression, the right gif can send with it the emotion behind the text that could be lost otherwise. Working with a remote team, it’s tough to tell tone, sarcasm, etc. Gifs help.
★ Top Pick: Zapier
If I could go back to my college days, I’d change a lot of things. I’d learn how you’re actually supposed to use credit cards, and I would have taken back-end development classes seriously. Have you ever been chatting with a developer and lamenting about an annoying or particularly repetitive task expecting to receive an empathetic ear, only to have them scoff and say, “you know you can just write a shell script for that?” Huh? A what? I still don’t really know what a shell script is, but I do have a new superpower for connecting apps, and automating repetitive tasks like a boss; Zapier.
Zapier uses your favorite apps’ API’s and allows you to connect them through an easy to use interface. Want to send leads from your website into Slack? Done. Want to send an email to everyone on your team with a congratulatory gif when you earn a new customer, in Stripe? Easy.
We are process and systems driven as Test Triggers. Like I mentioned before, a lot of things around here revolve around repetition and consistency. Lookback.io is a dead-simple tool for recording video screencasts and sharing them with your team. We can all document a process, or show a bug on a client’s site, in seconds and then upload the video and get a shareable link. This tool saves HOURS every week.
Similar to Lookback.io, this tool is for recording screencasts, but it’s super lightweight and stores the screencast as a short gif. We use it to show interactive elements of a website we might be testing, or to document bugs.
Focus is a menu bar app for Mac that blocks out all of those distracting sites that prevent you from attacking your to-do list. You can set a predetermined time (15, 25, 60 mins) and every time you try to access a site that’s not allowed, you’re greeted with a blocked site and an inspirational quote, back to work!
Personally, I fought the use of Markdown for a looong time. Markdown is a text-editing language that is universal and so it can be transferred from app to app.
Markdown didn’t make sense to me until we started heavily using app integration and tools like Zapier. When you’re sending text back and forth, bold needs to always mean bold, etc. Markdown makes that happen… for the most part 😉
Ulysses is a markdown text-editor for writing. In fact, it’s the tool I’m using to write the article you’re reading right now. Easy to use, has powerful exporting abilities, and works on any device.
To-Do List App
Everyone on the team uses their own. We tried Todoist, Wunderlist and others but, in practice, assigning each other to-dos feels impersonal, and doesn’t take into account everyone’s different styles for working. Personally, I’ve used nearly every To-do list app on the market, in an attempt to “be more productive” only to realize that “being more productive” is 100% controlled by the act of “doing productive things”. Turns out it doesn’t matter at all what tool I use, I always come back to pen and paper.
Pen and Paper
Oh pen and paper, you’re still my #1. If it were up to me, I’d use pen and paper for everything, all day, every day. But, it turns out, when you’re trying to run an optimization agency with remote employees and clients scattered about the world, it helps to have digital copies of things. Optimizing for the feel and speed of pen and paper is what has led us to all of these tools. That being said, I still try to end each day by writing down the 2-3 things that, if finished, would make the next day a success. Why at the end of the day, and not the beginning? I stole this idea from Tim “don’t call me a productivity guru” Ferriss. Ya see, at the end of a long day you have a certain retrospect, like, “Man, I got a, b, and c done today, but damn I wanted to get x done.” Put x on your list now and be strict about working on it the next day, before your mind gets poisoned by, “a quick peek” at your email.
Also, this is the only pen you’ll ever need. You’re welcome.
Sort of like Google Analytics, it’s the number one platform on the whole of the Internet, and it’s free. Sort of a no-brainer.
Genesis Altitude Pro Theme by StudioPress
Yup, I use a templated theme. Why? Because they work. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Good templates allow you to focus on the actual content and copy, because contrary to popular BS conversion advice, people do read copy, if you know how to write it.
Drift Live Chat
For a few weeks now, we’ve had Drift live chat installed on our site. I simply love chatting about optimization with damn near anyone, and so even as the founder of the company, I’m signed into live chat quite a bit. Plus, this tool integrates with Slack and lets me handle the chats without leaving our everyday chat tool. I love technology.
Business & Marketing
We use Freshbooks to automatically send monthly invoices to clients and allow them to pay online. It’s simple, it works, and I don’t need to muck around with it.
Stripe is one of those tools that does something super important (processes online payments), but I never have to deal with it, it just works. They take a percentage of transfers, but it’s worth it to be able to simply and securely process credit card payments for clients.
Bench is outsourced bookkeeping. I hate bookkeeping, therefore I love Bench Accounting. Bench connects with our Freshbooks invoicing account, and business checking to create easy-to-read tax-friendly documents for our accountant. True story; our accountant’s response when he saw our Bench docs was, “Holy sh!t, this is going to make everything so easy for me, thank you!” Pro tip: making things easy for your accountant saves you big $$$ money.
★ Top Pick: Uncover Employee Perks
Uncover is an incredible tool that we use to distribute perks and rewards to our employees. It’s vital for a remote team. For instance, everyone on the Test Triggers team gets a few simple perks; Starbucks gift card, online education credit (for a tool like Skillshare), and comped Netflix and Spotify subscriptions.
We use Drip Email as our email marketing platform. At its core, Drip is a platform based on sending automated “drip” campaigns in contrast to the more common “broadcast” email preferred by tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact. Drip is a great tool for education marketing and also offers some incredible marketing automation tools.
Buffer is a simple social media scheduler. Schedule your posts for optimal times in the day for your audience to engage. That alone is a huge benefit, but the #1 benefit of Buffer is the ability to post to social media sites without having to visit them and become distracted down the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram rabbit hole.
Whew! That may seem like a lot of tools, but each has their place and helps our team communicate effectively, and get shit done.
Let us know in the comments: What are your favorite tools you and your team?