NPG Staff Picks: Our Favorite Tools, August 2019 - NP GROUP

These tools are making our life easier - chances are, they can make a difference for you too.

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NPG Staff Picks: Our Favorite Tools of 2019

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NPG Staff Picks: Our Favorite Tools of 2019
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As a team, one of our proudest service offerings is knowledge transfer. We spend countless hours improving our skills and capabilities, and to share that knowledge with clients (and others) is a rewarding experience. One area where one can consistently improve their efforts, and in a quick fashion, is by optimizing the tools in their arsenal. As such, since the summer months are a bit slower, now is a good time for us to share some of our favorite tools, and why we like them so much. I polled some of our team members to find the best tools in the area of design, development, project management, and marketing. Hopefully, these tools will move the needle for your company as well!

I'll start with my own list of preferred tools, all of which I am using on a regular (daily) basis.

Hubspot: I still stand by Hubspot as the preferred centerpiece for a marketing technology stack. At NPG, we use Hubspot for all aspects of our marketing efforts – landing pages, email workflows, contact management, in addition to relying on it to power our sales efforts and even some customer support tasks. In full disclosure, we are Hubspot partners, but there is a reason for that. Simply put, it's because Hubspot delivers the most value by combining so many features into one platform. And, where there is a function that Hubspot provides poorly, you can easily integrate additional tools via API. Though, this happens rarely.

Hubspot has many haters and lots of competition. But, simply put, they have put together a suite of tools that makes the most sense for SMBs, and even the enterprise. Sure, some features need work and some iteration. But, for the most part, Hubspot works quickly and diligently to make those adjustments and build on top of the product. If the price point works for you, I highly recommend it.

Snitcher: In the business development world, especially in the world of B2B, it's essential to know who is visiting your site, and when. Hubspot is an excellent tool for tracking visitors that you are already aware of – but if I had one complaint, it would be that they removed the ability to view anonymous visitors at any level of detail. Snitcher fills in that gap by analyzing your Google Analytics data and assigning details of the particular networks that are visiting. Now, you can see the companies viewing your content, and what specific items of content. In the past, I used Leadlander for this, and there are quite a few other providers in this space as well. But, the price for Snitcher is right, and the data is reasonably accurate. It helps us gauge opportunities and their level of interest and also helps us in our outbound campaigns. Overall, it's a worthwhile investment.

SEM Rush: I put a priority on SEO for our business. We contribute a lot of content, learning materials, and as such, we focus heavily on driving traffic (and leads) via these organic channels. Also, we dabble in paid search as well. All of this adds up to the need to monitor our progress on both fronts. While Google Webmaster Tools helps, SEM Rush provides a deeper level of analysis, including competitive research, which is essential to keep up with the competition. One of my favorite tools is tracking our collection of keywords and their overall ranking distribution. Call this a vanity metric, but, I can see that when our rankings trend higher, more leads flow through the door. This year has been an organic challenge, as Google's algorithm has had a couple of significant changes. Luckily, tools such as SEM Rush track those changes and plot them on their data visualizations, which helps you judge the overall impact and attempt to identify some of the factors driving the changes.

On the paid side, competitive research is robust. You can see who is bidding on what keywords, and study your competitor's advertising strategy. If you aren't using this tool today, you should be.

Sanebox: I literally could not live without Sanebox. It's streamlined my email inbox for years now. In fact, I forget just how long I've been using it. Sanebox ties into your Google account and creates a variety of folders, to which they use an algorithm to sort emails accordingly. As an example, trusted email sources go to your inbox. So, you can check that routinely. Any emails from new sources or other automated systems go to your "SaneLater" folder. Sanebox recommends checking that a couple of times per day. Once you reply or engage with someone in SaneLater, it'll assign them to your inbox next time. 

This system really does save a ton of time. They also have other folders, such as SaneBlackHole – you can assign emails to this box, and they will be somewhat blacklisted from ever bothering you again.

Overall, you can't go wrong with SaneBox. It's affordable, delivers value, and installs in literally minutes. 

WordFence: WordPress is a security nightmare. Luckily, WordFence helps... By constantly monitoring your WordPress installation for vulnerabilities or intrusions, WordFence stays ahead of potential issues. It's worth the premium subscription, which I'd label as a necessity. There are also other services worth checking into such as Sucuri, but in terms of integration into WordPress specifically, WordFence can't be beaten.

Trello: Avram's go-to pick is Trello. It's been around for years, yet it's maintained its ability to be simple while also offer a deep set of customizations and integrations. For the most part, all of our projects are managed via Trello, both first-time design and development jobs and ongoing maintenance arrangements. We've been working with the tool since 2012, and other than some minor changes over the years, the system has stayed relatively consistent with its original mission in that time. 

One of the advantages of being so simple is flexibility. This means that you can use Trello a variety of ways, and in a fashion that suits your needs. Other project management tools are a bit more strict in sticking with a particular methodology for project management. Trello, on the other hand, offers many pathways for using the tool, of varying complexity. I often find this to be a massive benefit of simplicity – a simple approach can be beneficial for many use cases, frequently the software's own creators cant even envision them all. Trello is an excellent example of this in action.

Adobe XD: Sebastien is raving about Adobe XD. In the past, design teams would utilize Photoshop or Illustrator for the majority of their digital design work. XD has developed into the essential UI/UX design tool. Using XD, a designer can now prototype digital experiences in a lightweight, efficient way. The software is fast, making navigating the system more straightforward and streamlined. Tools are designed with digital production in mind, providing the ability to approach design tasks from the perspective of templates. It's easy to share designs with stakeholders via a built-in sharing mechanism. And, delivery of designs to developers is made easy with the ability to document within the UI/UX that is being relayed for implementation. It's a win/win for everyone involved in a digital design process.

Wrapping Up

In wrapping up, we're always looking for the best tools and services which can optimize not just how we do business, but how our clients do as well. Did we miss anything? Let us know what tools you are using, especially those that are moving the needle for your business.

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