Off to the races! Dan Krueger and I just launched a new influencer marketing campaign on behalf of the best pure, extra virgin, raw cold pressed, and alkaline coconut oil, Skinny Coconut Oil. So, since blogger outreach is at the top of mind, I thought I would talk a little bit about the tools of the trade — what we use to stoke excitement about our clients! Step one: make sure you have an awesome client with a special, unique, delicious, and superior product, an amazing origin story, industry-leading values, and is willing to be super-generous with not only the A-list but with the long tail, too.† Check, check, check, check, and check!
OK, now on to tools.
BaseCamp 2 — I started with BaseCamp back in 2007, had a BaseCamp mutiny, have tried Asana and Trello and many I have forgotten. I always come back to BaseCamp. My clients know it. My colleagues, contractors, and staff know it. And the haters can always engage 100% via email if they like. There’s apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and there’s even a BaseCamp app for Kindle Android tablets. I just love it — and I stick with it. I have integrated it into my processes and don’t cede ground when and if clients or colleagues refuse. BaseCamp is my rock. I invite everyone, I just make sure I am very careful to make sure that I segregate my client-included and client-focused conversation from the team-only discussions. A mistake can be embarrassing.
Harvest or Toggl — I had been using Toggle forever but someone asked me to use Harvest for a gig and it offers excellent invoicing tools that I really love. I am only including this because I work hard and I often put too many hours in to project that aren’t compensating me enough to work so hard, so I think it’s important to track hours whether or not I’m billing. And I’d like to convince my team as well (though it’s hard when we’re doing project work). This is totally normal agency behavior: how much are you earning and how much are you wasting? I just started using Harvest — I really love the team over at Toggle. I personally love the invoicing and invoice tracking tool built in and one of my best partners uses Harvest and he makes me a lot of money (follow the money).
OpenSRS — GoDaddy can be a dirty dirty dog. If you’re an aggressive email marketer, GoDaddy can really zing you if they, for whatever reason, are displeased by your behavior. And it only takes a single complaint. They’ll charge you hundreds of dollars to allow you to keep your domain and then put you on double-secret probation anyway. OpenSRS don’t care. They’re Canadian and don’t care about our petty stuff down here. The fees are fair, the control over the domain is brilliant, and the only limitation might be that this service may well be for pros only. It has everything I need but it’s not nearly as easy to use as is GoDaddy. Easy to set up redirects, DKIM and SPF records for email deliverability, and all that fun stuff. Love it!
TotalChoice Hosting — When it comes to what I need in a landing page, a Social Media News Release, TotalChoice is the devil I know. They’re cheap but good and whenever I have any problem, they’ve been able to restore my site with a click of a button, via chat, at all hours. Since my SMNRs are single-page, static sites, I don’t need much horsepower in the back end, so $3.95/month, $44.00/year is just fine for me, though I also have my database-backed, health, sport, and fitness WordPress blog on TotalChoice and they’re awesome on that, too, and were able to survive an amazing reddit flood. Six of one.
Google Apps — I have my Google Apps for Work install for Gerr.is but use it everywhere. Love it. It’s surprisingly easy to use. I can add as many users as I want, as many domains as I want. I can split up my account to separate users from being associated with Gerris Corp into separate organizations. I can use the Admin console to set up DKIM for all the OpenSRS domains I map to Google. Setting up the SPF records is for Google is as easy as popping text: v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all into the correct OpenSRS domain TXT record in the DNS tools. OK, I am super techie — probably more than you even knew — but I am sure you can sort it all out with the help of trouble tickets, chats, and phone calls. All the tools I use are really good about it.
Yet Another Mail Merge — YAMM is an Add In for Google Sheets. It enables very powerful mail merge tools and makes it simple and wonderful when you need to send out some emails to some targeted influencers. It’s also cheap and easy-to-use and Romain Vialard, the maker, is always available to his users and customers. Yet Another Mail Merge is free to email up to 50 recipients every day (100 recipients/day during your first month) but costs only $24/year for each user or $200-$500/year to allow everyone in your domain to be able to send up to 1,500 emails/24-hours. It’s really brilliant and super-easy to set up and it generally only takes minutes between ordering the Personal, Enterprise, or Enterprise+ version via PayPal and having it work — it might help a lot of you make sure you already have a PayPal balance before you click Purchase. Plus, YAMM can allow you to track openings and all that, too. And a lot of fancier stuff I don’t need, but of course you can do all the regular mailmerge things such as Dear <<First Name>> I love <<Blog Name>> (don’t do that).
Traackr — I have been lusting after this app for years and finally have access to its tools. I wouldn’t say that Traackr is ideal for long-tail blogger outreach but it’s perfect for the sort of cross-platform and cross-channel influencer outreach I am interested in doing, including unboxing reviews on YouTube, Periscope, and Facebook Live, and other Very High Caste engagement where many touches and very close oversight is essential. While influencer marketing is PR, you need to treat it like sales. You really need to keep pitching the top people until they say no. An explicit no. With the long tail, you can leave the non-respondents alone; however, when it comes to the real superstars, I am going to either need them to either ask me for money (no thank you) or actually say en oh.
GroupHigh — I have been very happy with GroupHigh but I am glad that I can use Traackr. The agreement I have with GroupHigh puts some very important limitations on my account and I feel like I’m going to need to spread the love around. What GroupHigh does amazingly is that it integrates directly into my Google Mail account so any emails I send out from within GroupHigh’s Social CRM interface lives in both my personal Google inbox and also in the history of each blogger as well. If I were unrestricted, GroupHigh would help me out a lot with my longer-tail outreach, but even with small A-list campaigns, GroupHigh is a very powerful and effective tool.
InkyBee — Such a powerful research tool. I have never successfully sorted out how to use their campaign tools but when it comes to hunting down a lot of topical bloggers that I could either upload to Traackr or GroupHigh or or hand over to my human research team.
Human Research Team — I have tried to choose robots but when it comes to getting an awesome, clean, updated, database of germane and salient blogs, bloggers, first names, and email addresses. The team we have been working with for a decade is still the team that we keep on trying to fire but can’t quit. While the bots, spiders, and scrapers that GroupHigh and Traackr use are pretty good, they’re not as good as smart, trained, people who are good researchers. US-only, pro-military only, and all that sort of thing? We can really get precise enough that our team can’t find anyone, to say nothing of the 1,000-10,000 blogs with first names and emails that we ordered — and we need to know that, too. Then we need to loosen the net a little bit.
Google Docs — I heart Google Docs. We can share work on huge SOWs and proposals and message models en masse and it’s all good. And, it works perfectly with YAMM! Awesome revision control and rollback, too.
Google Sheets — So awesome. And it works with YAMM! Plus, I share it with a million people concurrently and also all pile in and work on the spreadsheets concurrently, too. Rockstar revision rollback and tracking if you need to undo some serious Intern mistakes.
Microsoft Excel — Sometimes you just need to do some Excel jujitsu!
Ablebits Dedupe — Since we use a lot of spreadsheets to track our lists, this tool allows me to remove duplicates across different Excel docs or tabs. It’s a super-awesome secret weapon (I use Windows, I don’t know what folks on Apples do).
Google Analytics — There’s a lot of awesome things that our SMNR landing page and personal domains (used both for the landing page and for the outgoing emails) can teach us, and Google Analytics is one part of our reporting.
Google Search Console (née Google Webmaster Tools) — While our landing page, our Social Media News Release (SMNR) isn’t explicitly designed to become the most brand-optimized resource on the internet, it often becomes that, at least for weak brands. So, we try to optimize our landing pages for Search, and GSC/GWT really helps us with that, especially since we don’t have the built in benefit of RSS, ATOM, or Sitemaps.
SDL SM2 — I have always loved SM2 by SDL. They offer a gorgeous tool for tracking Boolean keywords across Social Media. It’s not really a dashboard the way I use it, it’s a historical analysis tool, allowing us to show our clients the impact that our outreaches have on the volume and quality of brand conversation.
That’s it, for now. I hope it’s a useful list. I am always looking for addition super-tools, even though I know for a fact that I’ll probably never be able to fire my crack and experienced human-based life form blogger research team.
Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading this far!
† Honestly, this is the most important part.