2021 is the year of growth. For many entrepreneurs and startup founders, that means investing in new tools that can boost productivity, improve processes, and drive more profits. So the question is, where do you start?
We reached out to 26 influencers and asked them to share with us their favorite tools for 2021. We also asked them to describe what the tool is and/or why they like it.
You’ll notice that there are a few repeats throughout this list—rather than using the first mention of a tool and deleting all future references, we decided to keep all tools in, whether they had already been listed by someone else or not. To us, this is a great way to illustrate how popular a particular tool—like Intercom, for example—can be for people across a wide variety of industries.
Here is the complete list:
1. Shanelle Mullin, ConversionXL
- Flow — It’s one of the most intuitive task management tools out there right now. It integrates chat and has Kanban boards, too.
- Evergage — The best personalization platform I’ve ever used. It’s actually focused on results. Perfect for eCommerce startups, especially.
- SumoMe — My go-to for list building and social sharing. There’s content analytics, a scroll box, a smart bar, etc. Everything you need to scale your traffic.
- 15Five — Startup employees don’t want an annual review. They want accessible managers. 15Five is dead simple but essential for any team.
2. Nathan Resnick, Cork Supply Co
- Cision Point — A key tool for PR to find and reach out to relevant writers.
- Slack — Messaging tool all teams should utilize.
- Power Editor — Facebook marketing tool to organize your ads.
- Instagress — automated way to grow Instagram following.
- Shopify — the best e-commerce platform to host your online store.
3. Patrick Chukwura, Kuia
- Vero — Sending emails is the easiest way to onboard without creating a sophisticated onboarding flow that you’ll probably get wrong the first time anyway.
- Segment — Helps you add analytics code once and switch on others, saving quality dev resources.
- Appcues — You can change your user onboarding frequently with in-app messages and screens without involving devs.
- Popcornmetrics — Another way to not bog your dev team down during the startup/learning phase by creating analytics events in visual mode, pairs perfectly with Segment.
- Uberconference — Perfect, simple way to handle demos, customer development, support phone calls, and visual support.
4. Benjamin Hoffman, Product Growth Expert
- Segment — stop tormenting your dev and marketing teams! Instead, please encourage them to collaborate by using this wonderful tag manager. No more ripping out unnecessary code just because your marketing team wants to test a new tool!
- Github — ah yes, the social network for nerds. Well, guess what… it’s 2021, and it’s time for you (non-technical founders) to stop avoiding it. Instead, you should at least learn some basic commands and how to read someone’s profile. Not only will this help you better manage your engineering team, but it will also help you with filtering through potential job candidates.
- Medium — it’s a platform, not a blog. If you want your voice to be amplified, Medium is your best friend. I was predicting escape velocity in 2016.
5. Joe Putnam, iSpionage
- MailChimp — Easy tool for email marketing.
- Canva — Great for creating blog images.
- iSpionage — It gives startups access to their competitors’ top keywords, ads, and landing pages and gives them a better idea about the competitive landscape for PPC campaigns.
6. William Harris, DollarHobbyz.com
- Asana — this project management software is free for smaller startup teams and is crucial to getting projects done efficiently.
- Zendesk — churn will kill your business if you don’t have good customer service (disclosure: I am invested in Zendesk)
- Intercom is one of the best ways to communicate with your customers while they are in your app.
- Kissmetrics — it takes your Google Analytics to a whole new level so you can take action on your data.
- Hubspot — marketing automation is key to growth.
- BuzzSumo — This is crucial for finding industry leaders for content creation and networking.
- Content Marketer — good content is nothing without the right promotion
- Moz — this is my favorite tool for improving SEO
- Adwords Keyword Planner — it’s free and does a great job of helping you figure out what other keywords you should use (for PPC and SEO)
- Buffer — managing a bunch of social accounts manually sucks – this makes it much faster.
7. Jason Amunwa, Filament
- Mixpanel — customizable, event-driven analytics is like x-ray vision for your app, enabling you to see what users are doing inside your app.
- Google Drive — All your ideas, notes, assets, and other data need somewhere to live that facilitates easy collaboration. So indispensable, I’d literally curl up and die without this.
- Monosnap — A screenshot saves a thousand words Intercom – As a product manager, I live and die by user feedback – finding and talking to the right people is like 80% of the job. While other tools do certain aspects of this better, Intercom absolutely owns the space right now.
- Buffer + Quuu.co — It’s important to maintain a certain level of visibility on social media to drive ongoing traffic to your product. These two tools allow you to put that process on autopilot while staying relevant.
- Zapier — It’s like duct tape for web apps, and I feel like not enough people know about it. With Zapier, you can automate laborious tasks that would ordinarily take you hours or even days.
- TRELLO — OMG, if I only get to add one tool to your list, it’s this. Trello lets you organize EVERYTHING.
- Nouncy — Enables you to collect social shares from your network and unleash them all simultaneously to create that coveted echo-chamber effect when there’s a buzz around your product. For example, I recently did a public launch of Filament using this, which propelled us to reach over 150k people.
- UserVoice — Transformed the way we do support & FAQs.
8. Bram Kanstein, Off The Record
- Startup Stash — A curated directory of resources & tools to help you build your Startup
9. Ty Magnin, Appcues
- HubSpot — just released a startup plan & have a free CRM. It’s worth investing in these tools early. HubSpot just released a startup plan & has a free CRM.
- Firebase — think of this as back-end as a service. It helps you focus on your product, not your back-end.
- Appcues — create your user onboarding experiences without writing any code. It’s not worth committing the dev time at this stage to something that will change regularly.
- Olark — close communications with your users at an early stage are super important. You want to build relationships. Good relationships buy you patience.
- Help Scout — for the same reason for using Olark. Github pages: we built our first marketing site on Github pages via Jekyll. It was a super-easy way to get a public website up and running quickly for free.
10. Nat Eliason, Marketer
- SumoMe: Email collection, share buttons, heat map analytics
- Zapier: Process automation without needing to build everything
- Google Analytics: Obvious one, for analytics Slack: Team communications
- Trello: Task management, project management
- Jing: Sending quick screenshots to team members Camtasia: Recording process videos for onboarding
- Candy Crush: When you need to disconnect for a bit
- Quuu: Auto promote new articles
- Evernote: Note-taking
11. Daniel Kempe, Quuu
- Intercom — At first, you feel it may be out of reach in terms of cost, but it brings so much to the table. Not only a way to communicate with your users via your website but also your app. You can set up triggers via in-app messages or email, depending on what your user is doing at a given point. You can set up drip email campaigns and keep track of all your users within the dashboard. Seriously awesome piece of kit!
- Buffer – Scheduling up your social media posts is a great way to free up time to engage with your following. Use tools like Quuu to find great content to share to spark a few conversations.
- Typeform – Beautiful forms done simply.
- Google Analytics – Keep track of everything you do!
- Webflow – For those less coding inclined, Webflow gives you the ability to create a pretty awesome website and blog using its design interface. It’s how I created the Quuu.co website and blog.
- Slack – Communicate and keep track of all your team conversations.
12. Jack Meredith, Growth Marketer
- Intercom — Such a powerful tool that does so many things at once. Email onboarding, live chat, feedback, retention measurement. It’s the total package.
- Buzzstream — If link building is part of your growth strategy, this needs to be in your toolbox. It makes it dead easy to pitch influencers and track placements.
- Slack — Team communication tool.
- Google Apps — Essential for getting shit done. You gotta have email, document sharing, spreadsheets. It’s all here.
13. Pietro Saccomani, MobiLoud
- Intercom.io gives us access to our whole customer database segmented how we want with smart rules, helps us interact with customers for onboarding and support, and in-app messages to proactively offer help to your customers. Amazing product and team.
- Drip – one step up from Mailchimp. We use it to create email lists with drip email sequences for our email courses RSS-based campaigns for new blog posts. Includes marketing automation features such as lead scoring, tracking customer actions, and tags.
- Zapier – easily automate business processes by linking together the whole stack of services you use. Saves you tons of time and developer hours. We use it for tasks like creating cards in Trello when customers submit a form on our site or posting to Twitter and Facebook when we publish a new blog post.
- Buffer – all your social media accounts aggregated in one easy, powerful scheduling tool. Buffer allows us to concentrate our social media work in a few hours at the beginning of the week and cover days of updates across multiple accounts. We also optimize posting times based on each channel’s audience and ensure we get as much visibility for our posts as possible.
14. Divya Raghavan, BetterDoctor
- Mention.com is incredibly helpful for a growing company. It allows you to see all the mentions of your company (or certain keywords you input) on websites, social media, forums, and news sites. It’s really helpful in tracking media hits, and you can engage better with people who are talking about you.
15. Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios
- Google Trends — Unless your startup has invented something completely new, for which there isn’t any demand yet, you can use Google Trends to measure the size of your market, check seasonality, and find out what your target audience really calls your product or service. Then, confirm the demand and align your messaging before moving ahead with product development or content strategy. Again, Google Trends will be a huge help.
16. Patrick Vlaskovits
- Xero — Makes financial management and managing cash flow a breeze.
17. Dan McGaw, EffinAmazing.com
- Mixmax.com — Schedule meetings in a breeze and do all kinds of cool things with Gmail.
- Followup.cc — Never forget to follow up on anything ever.
- Grammarly.com — Check grammar quickly on anything you write.
- EffinAmazing.com — Create and save your UTM tracking code with our UTM chrome extension. Bitly and google sheets integration for team tracking.
18. Danavir Sarria, CopyMonk
- WordPress — I’m a huge fan of content marketing, so having a blog is pretty much mandatory. Plus, WordPress is just so simple and easy to set up that I don’t see any reason why you would pick anything else.
- SumoMe — especially the Welcome Mat and share apps. Again, it’s easy to use, all while converting extremely well. Nowadays, I get a better ROI sending people to the blog than straight to a landing page.
19. Ryan Stewart, Laces Out
- Google Analytics — anything you need to know about what’s working (online) and what’s not can be found here if you mine the data properly.
- Google Tag Manager — a free and easy solution to manage the headache of tracking what’s really happening on your website.
- Google Drive — even with a large client list, Drive is STILL my go-to for project management.
20. Benjamin Beck, benjaminbeck.com
- Google Docs — Free and easy way to collaborate on the same version of the documentation.
- Slack — Communicate among your team efficiently.
- Peek User Testing — Get free user experience and feedback on your product or website.
- Fiverr — A marketplace where everything is only $5! This site can help any start-up quickly fill the gaps by doing design tasks to a full promotion video.
21. Jacob McMillen, jacobmcmillen.com
- FreshBooks — small business accounting software Every business needs effective accounting software, and it doesn’t get more intuitive than Freshbooks. For service businesses that invoice with Paypal, the flat fee invoicing option is worth the price alone. For everyone else, having an intuitive program that handles your expenses, invoicing, time tracking, payments and reporting make the tedious side of running a business… much less tedious.
- UnDelay.io — adaptive landing page builder for mobile optimization Anyone who understands conversion optimization can tell you that responsive design is completely useless for mobile landing pages. Mobile users behave far too different to simply change the layout and expect results, which is why mobile pages are converting 70% less than their desktop counterparts right now. UnDelay has provided a sorely needed solution for this problem with its ridiculously easy-to-use adaptive landing page builder.
- Yotpo— harness reviews to boost traffic & sales Reviews and referrals are really, really powerful. Yotpo is essentially a system for harnessing customer reviews and leveraging throughout your entire conversion system. It’s a brilliant system and the engine behind the growth of several well-known startups like Adore Me and Pura Vida.
- Groove — simple help desk software
22. Aaron Orendorff, iconiContent.com
- memit — memit is essentially a robust web-clipping tool — much like Evernote or Pocket — that integrates directly with cloud storage. This means that it prioritizes collaboration, especially in the research stages of content and product creation. The digital paper trail it creates is also invaluable for content curation projects. I use it to keep track of online resources — like blog posts, videos, PDFs, SlideShares, etc. — by building thematic collections and tagging them with search terms. memit also lets me share those individual resources and collections with my team of writers (and clients), so other people can add their own preferred content and communicate and comment directly within the UI.
23. Guillaume Decugis, Scoop.it
- Slack — for internal communication
- Jira — to manage product development
- UserVoice / Zendesk / Intercom — to collect user/customer feedback and offer support.
- MailChimp — for quick and easy email campaigns
- WordPress — to be in control of your website independently from the dev team and for your content marketing (blog) –
- Scoop.it — not totally objective here 🙂 but a great way to bootstrap and scale content marketing when having limited resources
- Unbounce — a great way to build landing pages to test ideas and iterate product / to message as well as collecting leads for early demand gen – HubSpot: for the lead nurturing capabilities, when demand generation becomes important
- Stripe — easiest payment system
- ChartMogul / FirstOffice / ProfitWell — great apps to keep track of key SaaS metrics
24. Sol Orwell, sjo.com
- Mention — to see who is talking about us
- Ontraport — for email marketing
- Google Survey — for surveying
- AudienceOwl — (this one I own – same deal. I created it for our internal use, expanded it, and brought in a contractor to build it out). Data mines emails so I can reach out to influencers and know who our customers are.
- Pingdom – make sure everything stays online!
- SumoMe – great and simple way to grow your site
25. Jason Quey, decibite.com
- ContentMarketer.io — Bloggers are today’s journalists. CM is one of the best tools to help you connect with them.
- Trello/Excel — What’s one thing successful entrepreneurs have in common? They create a system and stick with it. Either of these can be a lifesaver.
- SumoMe — If you are on a tight budget, SumoMe does a lot to help you grow your site.
26. Ash Read, www.postreach.co
- Intercom — Intercom is an amazing tool to communicate with your users based on their actions. As a result, their timely emails are super-effective.
- Buffer — I love using Buffer to keep my social media channels constantly engaging.
- Spotify might feel like a random one, but working to music really helps me be productive.
- PostReach — Okay, this one is my own tool, but I find it super useful to keep on top of the influencers who share my content and other content in my niche.
- Typeform – Customer research is so key to product development. Typeform is a simple-to-use, beautiful survey solution.
What other tools would you recommend for startup owners and entrepreneurs who want to build their business in 2016? Leave your comment below!