36 killer tools to turbocharge your startup stack

Gear up your day-to-day productivity.

startup tools

Entrepreneurs these days seem to be all about ‘hustlin’, which basically comes down to ‘getting sh*t done’, but in a smart way. In fact, success in startups these days is often boiled down to a bias towards an almost machine-like calibration for efficiency: only the fast and the smart survive.

This darwinian idea has brought about a craze in the market for SaaS tools, designed to facilitate the hustle. All in all that sounds pretty great, it’s just that now the problem shifts from getting things done to understanding which tools you need to get things done. Which can be equally time — and effort consuming, if not more.

At Salesflare, we’re big fans of tools that improve our effectiveness and speed to the market. As we are in the business of helping startups boost their sales and productivity, we’d like to share our personal hit list of carefully researched apps we either use ourselves or recommend. Most of these tools offer free trials, giving you and your team the time to familiarise with the software and understand whether it could be an asset for your business. We listed the apps in according to the type of tasks they help you manage, optimise or automate.

As much as we are set out to help others with our best practices, the value of this article will be all the greater if it triggers a conversation. We’re curious to see what tools you are using to work faster and smarter at your startups. After all, sharing is caring.

We also made a SlideShare out of this in case you don’t like to read so much.


Team Communication and Coordination

Slack
There’s no going around Slack these days. It has become one of my best friends since I joined Salesflare. Not because I don’t have a social life anymore (which is also not untrue) but because it’s just kind of ‘there’ all the time. I actually have troubles imagining how teams coordinated team communication in the pre-Slack era. If used to its full power, Slack acts like a central hub where everything comes together. You can set up an army of bots to keep you notified of everything happening throughout your startup, or to just keep fun levels high with the occasional meme and GIF. It’s an ever-changing blackboard filled with output of your team’s efforts, from every possible corner of your endeavours.


Project and Task Management

Trello
Great tool to keep your team right on top of the work. Everything we did, are doing and are planning on doing over at our startup is on Trello. Every meeting starts with looking at the Trello board and ends with putting down ideas in actionable tasks on that board. Simple and minimalist interface, yet highly configurable. Double the fun with the Slack plugin.

If you’re looking to get on with something else following Trello’s recent acquisition by Atlassian, check out UpWave — a slick alternative that was recently launched on ProductHunt.


SEO

Answer The Public
Everybody’s searching for something, right? Finding the right keywords to grow your organic search words starts with knowing what questions your target audience is looking answers to. Answer The Public will give you beautiful visual insights in the questions most frequently asked about your topic.

Ahrefs
Ahrefs is about the best thing around for organic traffic research and SEO. It can show you backlinks (including its URL and domain rating as well as other cool data) of every website out there, which makes it great to dig into the SEO strategy of your competitors. There’s also a keyword explorer, which can be of great help to determine the keywords you should be targeting. You can use it day-to-day to keep track of how you rank in search engines, in different locations, for different keywords etc. I’ve written a more in-depth guide on how to effectively use Ahrefs for keyword research on Quora.

Tools like Moz.com and SEMrush offer similar functionalities and are also reportedly great.


User engagement, testing and tracking

Intercom.io
Talk to your website’s visitors in real-time. Intercom’s in-prompt personal messaging allows you to activate leads in the early stages of the sales cycle and is a great way to provide support for customers. Moreover, it’s great for tracking frequency of use and behaviour inside your app. Hands-on, low-threshold solution to get and stay on top of your users, whether they’re still in your sales funnel or already locked in.

Google Analytics
Default analytics tool for your startup’s website and web apps. There are some great, arguably more powerful alternatives out there, but this is still solid as a rock and just very convenient to use with your Google apps and accounts.

Kissmetrics
In comparison with Google Analytics, Kissmetrics provides more user-centred analytics that are probably more powerful. The difference lies within the way they track people as they visit your website. Whereas Google Analytics will assume each visit is from a new person, Kissmetrics will assume each visit from a particular device is from the same person. In case of a sign-in option, Kissmetrics will also learn about the various devices a particular user is using and assign sessions from those devices to the same ID. This makes Kissmetrics more effective in filtering out potential leads from your website into your sales funnel. Here’s a full break-down of the differences from the Kissmetrics blog in case you want to dig deeper.

CrazyEgg
Google Analytics and Kissmetrics will tell you which pages your users visit and how much time they spend on your website. What they won’t tell you is what those visitors are actually doing on those pages. CrazyEgg is a lightweight but powerful heat-mapping tool that can fill in those gaps. It will tell you exactly where users have clicked, scrolled and which parts of the pages they’ve spent the most time on. You can segment clicks on your website by variables such as referrer and search keyword and visualise the results on what is called a confetti map. Crazy Egg is far from the most powerful heat-mapping tool around but does stand out for simplicity and affordability. It does one thing and it does it well.

SurveyAnyPlace
Surveys are a great way of getting a hold of your customer’s feelings and thoughts. Too bad surveys are among the most boring things in the world and nobody really likes to take them. SurveyAnyplace is changing that with beautifully designed, interactive surveys that are easy to make for you and fun to take for your target audience.

UXProbe
UXProbe is a remote user testing tool that allows you to have users test your website or app without you or them having to physically move. You can set and customise the different tasks you want the user to carry out. Both the user’s activities on-screen and his expression in front of it are recorded to give you the most accurate idea of how they experience your website. This frees you of having to go through all the trouble of inviting people, setting up the session and providing all the gear. After the session, the app provides you with insightful metrics, giving you a full-fledged idea of how your website ranks in terms of user experience so you know where and what to improve.


Prospecting and Lead Generation

LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn’s very own sales solution is not likely to be the cheapest tool you’ll come across, but nor are you likely to find something a lot better for prospecting. Sales Navigator is a great place to kickstart your sales pipeline for the simple reason that it allows you to fish from the biggest pool of business professionals there is to be found. Its wide range of filters allow you to search for very specific customer profiles. Sales Navigator comes with powerful analytics, insights and recommendations so you can stay updated and focus on the right people.

Dux-Soup
We use Dux-Soup to automate lead generation from Sales Navigator. Dux-Soup is a Chrome extension that acts like a teeny-tiny robot you can send out to visit LinkedIn-profiles from a given list and collect their data on its way. Just set the filters of Sales Navigator to target a certain person and tell Dux-Soup to go and visit the search results. Not only will all these people be notified of you visiting them, you’ll also have their names, industries, roles, company domains and more. Data you can extract as a .CSV and use for several other purposes later on.

Email Permutator+
Once you have names and domains, the way to get their email addresses is to make reasonable guesses and confirm their existence. The most common formats are firstname.lastname@domain, firstnameinitial.lastname@domain and firstname@domain.com. Others however exist too of course and compiling all these possible email addresses is pretty time-consuming. Luckily you can automate this process with Email Permutator+. Permutator+ generates possible email addresses from firstname, lastname and domain. These you can then check with other tools mentioned further on this post, like Hunter, Rapportive and Salesflare.

Hunter.io
Hunter will help you find out e-mail addresses based on company and domain — which you can thus easily get from the magical Sales Navigator + Dux-Soup combo. Just bulk upload email addresses in a .CSV and Hunter will tell you which ones are ‘deliverable’. Hunter is not perfect though, we’ve had confirmed email addresses that turned out bad anyway.

Elucify
If guessing and Hunter don’t cut it, try Elucify. It’s a crowdsourced and free database for business contact information. Just enter what company you want email addresses from and see what it has in store for you. It’s free, like really, free.

Rapportive
Rapportive is a Chrome plugin that shows you linked accounts like LinkedIn, Google and Twitter for any given e-mail address, straight from a sidebar in your Gmail inbox. You can use it to guess e-mail addresses you didn’t find with Hunter and Elucify. Try typing possible email addresses according to the most common formats or others you found with Email Permutator+ and see the magic happen while Rapportive digs up linked accounts. If you haven’t found email addresses with company domains at this point, you might want to try gmail.com as domain, as a lot of people have a Gmail account next to their company email. We don’t use Rapportive because Salesflare can do this stuff and more from its Chrome-plugin which equally sits in your email inbox.

Datanyze
Datanyze is another intelligent lead generation tool you can use to fill up your sales pipeline. It does this by telling you the exact software stack of a given company. You can even find out exact dates of when a certain technology was dropped by the company you’re investigating. In addition, Datanyze can also be useful to help you find email address and other contact information, per website. In fact, Datanyze offers a free Chrome plugin you can use to request technology reports, company information and contact data on websites you visit.

Socedo
Socedo is a tool to gather and activate leads from social media channels and effectively add them to your sales funnel. It works by scanning social networks based on keywords, twitter handles, location tags and stuff like that and digging up leads that match these criteria. You can then trigger their engagement via automated outreach tools. Socedo will automatically create a database with social data you can export and use in your CRM, email outreach campaigns or other marketing and sales strategies.


Email outreach

MailChimp
MailChimp is the go-to tool for managing newsletter-ey email campaigns. It allows for effective email campaigns that won’t end up in your recipient’s spam box. Other than that: low learning curve, powerful analytics, email tracking, great resources on email templates and easy to integrate with other tools. Just wonderfully easy to use.

Mixmax
Mixmax is the tool to turbocharge your Gmail. We use it for cold emailing because it sends emails directly from your Gmail, unlike MailChimp and alternatives. This makes it perfect for cold emailing, as it will prevent your email from ending up in the ‘Promotions’ section of your lead’s Gmail account. Furthermore Mixmax gives you a lot more power in setting up your email sequences; it allows you for example to break off a sequence when a recipient responds to your first email. Mixmax is filled with a bunch of cool features to spice up your email game: slash commands, email templates, email and click tracking, embedded surveys/polls and an awesome meeting scheduler.


CRM / Sales Funnel Management

Salesflare
Our very own intelligent sales CRM. Salesflare is built to automate most of your sales funnel. It automatically fills out your address book with data it pulls from sources like social media, email signatures and company databases. It tracks and logs all interactions of leads towards you (phone, email, calendar), including email and website tracking. All that is handed to you in an automated timeline so you have everything you need at your fingertips at every stage of the sales cycle. There’s more: from the data it gathers, it will tell and remind you what to do about specific leads so no deal can fall through the cracks anymore. Basically all you have to do is write emails, do meetings and have coffee. It’s not a robot yet, but it does do most of the working and thinking for you. There’s a desktop and a mobile app, but we mostly use it straight from our Gmail, where it gives us everything we need on a customer from an integrated sidebar. Besides Gmail, it’s perfectly integrated with our Google apps and other productivity apps like Slack, Stripe, MailChimp and Trello.


Management of online payments and subscriptions

Stripe
Stripe is the friend that takes care of your online payments. No effort required from your side whatsoever. Very easy to work with and great in handling different subscription plans. Highly flexible in its integrations and a friendly API. Hook it up to Salesflare to automatically mark an opportunity as ‘won’ when the customer starts paying in Stripe. Then have it tell in real-time you when your money is flowing in by linking it to Slack. Awesome, right? You’re gonna need Zapier for this though, read on.


Password Management

LastPass
With the gazillion tools and accounts you and your team are using, you’ll have a lot of passwords laying around. LastPass allows you to have everything safely stored and easily accessible at all times so you don’t have to waste time anymore getting headaches trying to remember that one password of that one website.


Video hosting and analytics

Wistia
Wistia is a video hosting service that will give you insightful analytics and heat maps on the views and viewers of your videos. You can completely customise the video player to fit your brand and control the pre — and post-roll behaviour of the video. It has an API so you can make adaptations to videos, accounts and statistics in the back-end. Perfect for tutorials, how-to videos and a lot more.


Content creation

Hemingway app
Must-have if you’re serious about creating great content. Hemingway will analyse a piece of text and grade it on readability. It does so by taking into account stuff like complex sentences, use of adverbs, use of passive voice and common spelling errors. We use it to make sure our content is easy on the eye and suited for publication.

BuzzSumo
Great content begins with understanding what kind of content appeals to your users. BuzzSumo can give you insights on the most popular content on any given topic or any particular website. It works as a search tool that tracks content on social media and ranks them according to the number of shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. You can monitor content by topic or user and get insights on average shares, shares by network, type of content, publication date, content length and shared domains. All of this makes it great for SEO, competitor analysis and hunting down the key influencers in your space.


Graphics

StockSnap / Pexels / Unsplash / Pixabay
Great pictures shouldn’t cost you any money.

Flaticon
The internet’s largest stock of free icons, available in all possible formats.

Canva
Canva is the place where you make magic with the stuff you found on free stock photo directories and Flaticon. It’s probably the most user-friendly graphic design tool you’ll ever come across, and it’s free. Canva gives you the power to create practically anything — social media graphics, banners, invitations, infographics, flyers, business cards — by just dragging and dropping. It’s filled with great resources and templates you can easily combine with your own images. The paid version, Canva for Work, packs all this power plus the possibilities to create brand kits with consistent fonts and colours, customise templates and set up shared folders. The Canva Design School is a great online virtual community stacked with tutorials, inspiration, tools and templates. Your graphics will have never looked better.


Affiliate Marketing

GrowSumo
Partner programs can be a great way for startups to accelerate traction across multiple channels and get your sales pipeline going fast. Partners bring in leads, set up advertising for you and put backlinks all over the internet, which is great for boosting your SEO. And you only have to pay for actual results, which makes it very cost-effective as well. All you have to do is set up the partner program and find your partners. GrowSumo makes this process wonderfully easy, by providing a platform where you can quickly find partners to promote your startup and vice-versa. Once you’ve found yourself some partners, you can train and reward them while tracking their progress from your GrowSumo dashboard.


Social Media

Buffer
For the sake of being fast and smart, Buffer is a social media management tool that helps you to share content effectively to your social media channels from one single hub. You can schedule posts to spread and have Buffer pick the most appropriate times for you to post.

Crowdfire
You can think of Crowdfire as a little sidekick that helps you to get things right and grow fast across social media channels. It works as a little bot that assists you in finding great content to share and the right audiences to share it with. Using Crowdfire takes about 1 to 2 minutes a day, which makes it really easy to keep on using it on a day-to-day basis.


Workflow Automation

Zapier
If you don’t know about Zapier yet, you’re missing out. It’s pretty much the holy grail of all SaaS tools for the quite simple reason it can make them all work together. You can just pick out your favourite tool for every job of your sales cycle and tell Zapier to streamline them into an effective app flow that is perfectly aligned to your startup. For us, Zapier is like an engine in which every single app of our toolset works together. Workflow automation done right.


What tools are you using to get your sh*t done at your startup, smarter and faster? Tweet us at (@salesflare), with #startuphustletools!

Gilles DC

Growth Strategist at Salesflare
I’m the former growth strategist for Salesflare — the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. Growth and automation are my jam.

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