Our business relies pretty heavily on two tools built by our teams: IDEA (Interactive Digital Entry Assistant) and AESB (Affinity Express Service Bureau). AESB is used by many of our news publisher and retailer clients to order print design, while IDEA is currently used by everyone else and for all other services. (We have written about IDEA here.)
Our tech team is working on a big revamp of AESB that will make it smarter and cooler and way more amazing than before. Hearing our people rave about how our cloud-based tool will revolutionize the business and make our clients' lives easier made me think of all the awesome online tools that are already in use in other industries. I, personally, rely heavily on these seven. They have all the usual advantages of web tools—they are fast and can be accessed from anywhere. (Also, most of them are free or have free versions, except Constant Contact.) But more than that, they are easy to use and fairly intuitive and they serve my needs awesomely.
Affinity Express recently transitioned from using Outlook to Gmail, and after some whining (Where's my Word-like formatting? Why can't I Ctrl+Enter to send the email? Why can't I look at my email when the network's down for a minute?), I got around to it pretty quickly. I've used Gmail for personal correspondence for ages, so that wasn't very difficult. And there are many reasons why Gmail is better:
- It's so much faster. It's a shame that I can't go make myself tea while waiting for my email to open, but still…
- It's lightweight. Outlook used to bring down my laptop once a week. Gmail doesn't blink at the 4000 emails in my Reading folder.
- It's on the web! I don't have to turn on my work-laptop on a Saturday: I can just pause the game on my personal-laptop and check my email.
- The search function is so excellent.
- Labels! Cross-labeling! Again, makes it so much easier to find stuff.
Duh. But seriously, having used Blogger for years, I'm constantly amazed at how easy and comprehensive WordPress is. One of my favorite things is the ability to have the writing tool on full screen and pour in my thoughts without any distractions. And while there are some things I wish they'd do better, I totally acknowledge that WordPress is awesome.
I use Google Alerts to keep track of our brand mentions, but I use Social Mention a couple of times a week. It picks up stuff that Google doesn't seem to know about.
HubSpot's Marketing Grader
I have used the Marketing Grader since it used to be a bunch of separate Graders, and while it isn't always accurate, it helps to mark your progress as well as indicate what you might be doing wrong.
I have used Constant Contact for email marketing for several years, and while I've complained in the past about it being difficult to use, they have improved a lot in the past year or so. I wish it was faster, but I build newsletters and email announcements (or holiday cards) on it several times a month and am pretty pleased with the interface.
Remember the Milk
When I first heard of the site I was skeptical: they just send you reminders? That's it? But I've used it to keep track of personal tasks (pay bills, call the plumber) and it works very well. It's very easy to use, you can share tasks with someone else (like your spouse or roommate), and it sends you an email reminder. Even though I use Google Calendars and phone reminders, I still prefer Remember the Milk for this purpose.
Funnily enough, my husband and I communicate online quite a bit, and we use Google Docs to keep track of things such as our finances (tracking expenses, keeping a running list of movies we want to watch, sharing flight or train tickets). So when we transitioned from Outlook to Google last year, I was glad to start using Google Docs in office too.
I am going to continue to use Word because of its Track Changes feature (Google's Revision History just isn't as nifty), but Google Docs is easier to share lists that others can add to.
What is your recommendation for a hot online tool that I should try out?