We use a lot of tools to keep our team and platform running – we’ve tested a lot of things over the years, but these are our favorites. Some of the links are affiliate links, but we are recommending each of these tools because we use them on a daily basis.
Meeting notes, transient ideas, general note taking.
File sharing. The only files we have saved outside of Dropbox are code bases with git repos in them. If any of us gets a new computer or has a hard drive failure, we have almost 0 downtime because everything is stored in Dropbox.
“Set-in-stone” or institutional knowledge things get a permanent home in our Github wiki. This isn’t a perfect solution but it works.
We started using SalesforceIQ after trying out 6-8 other CRMs over the last 4 years, and it is far and away the best. Email integration and suggestions for how to connect with someone based on your existing social connections are phenomenal features. That said, there are some limitations we’ve observed in terms of tracking custom events and the app has lately been rather buggy in Chrome.
We’ve experimented with a number of different support site tools and our current incarnation lives on Zendesk. 95% of our customer interaction happens within Intercom so our main Zendesk experience is with the Help Center. The Good: easy-to-use editor; good looking templates out of the box; a million integrations to tie Zendesk into every single tool your team uses. The Less Good: can get expensive; the templates are super customizable but the interface is for Mr. Marketer, not for Ms. Developer; you’ve really got to configute it to avoid making your users create a Zendesk login. We love the finished product we created with it, and while some of my heart still lies in Freshdesk (with it’s Forever Free 3 person plan), Zendesk is delivering great results for us right now.
Intercom puts our customer communication in our product so when someone needs help, they don’t have to leave to get it. They click a button and they’re connected directly to us. Our favorite part is that is also goes the other way: we can easily put together notices to select parts of our user base or ask questions to other groups. It’s an easy way to centralize all your customer data and communications without much setup work.
Screensharing and conference calling. Share your screen publicly or privately with a single click and attendees just need to go to a url. We pay for Pro, so that URL is always join.me/alumnispaces but for the free version, your url is also your conference call #. Ex: join.me/123-345-6789
GitHub + ZenHub
Most people are familiar with GitHub – it’s that thing all the developers in your company use to do nerd stuff with the weird octopus stickers. But with ZenHub, it has become the most powerful collaboration and organizational tool in our company. ZenHub adds sorely needed features to GitHub’s Issues section, allowing you to create Trello-like boards to organize roadmaps, combine Issues across repositories, create integrated burndown charts and so much more. It works as a Chrome extension so all the features are added magically inside of Github – after a week, you will forget that these aren’t native GitHub features. Today, we use Github to manage our strategic planning, blog content progress, feature roadmaps, support articles and pretty much everything else we do.
Best newsletters ever.
Without a doubt, the best form builder on the internet. Creates forms that are beautiful and, dare I say, fun to fill out.
We used to do our own accounting. Then we ended up paying our tax guy more because we did them wrong. Bench has saved us from ourselves handling all of our accounting tasks for only $135 /month.
Digital document signing. If you’re still sending faxes and hard copies, your world will change with this.
Password generator/manager. If you have a shared file, whiteboard, evernote or google doc for your team’s passwords, you are making a stupid mistake. Dateline is killer for holding all passwords, credit cards, etc. Integrates with all browsers, provides no-click login and a tool that lets you change all of your passwords after a major retailer hack.
Links page. Sounds weird, but having a page with links to all the tools your team uses makes it easy for everyone to have the right tools at a click rather than everyone having to manage their bookmarks.
Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll)
Easy payroll and benefits. Pay full time people or contractors and they’ll take care of all the IRS forms for you.
Invoices. Integrates with Stripe and PayPal. Using their API, you can automate invoice/receipt creation.
WordPress hosting. Killer support, dedicated security team with a “if you get hacked, we’ll fix it” guarantee. One-click stage/production deployment and automated backups, CDN and query-level caching.
Amazon Web Services
We’re using AWS for some of our hosting but primarily for S3 storage of client files, delivered via CloudFront. We also use CloudSearch extensively for a custom search index that powers our reporting tools. If you know SOLR, CloudSearch is very similar though with some important syntax and config differences that add a slight learning curve.
We can’t attest to the DDOS benefits, but Universal SSL is a no brainer if you don’t want to buy a typical certificate.
DNS and overall domain management with a great API. Vanity nameservers, easy domain tools and killer support. Only hiccup was a ~12hour intermittent outage in fall 2014 due to a huge DDOS attack on them.
Client domain buying. It’s hard to recommend Hover over DNSimple for managing your own domain(s) but when we have a client ask where to buy a URL, we send them to Hover. No upselling, 3 screen buying process and easy interface. This is where I send my mom to buy domains.
User event analytics. We’ve just rolled it out but it is damned impressive. Drop in a tracking snippet and all user interactions are measured. You can check how many people clicked button “A” or when to page “X” without having to manually tag anything.
Not really a business tool, but a killer way to make maps if you need to visualize something. Drag-n-Drop for marketing people and easy js library for devs.
Affordable and easy uptime monitoring. So much cheaper than Pingdom.
Amazing plug-n-play file upload tool that handles integrations with all the major social and file hosting services. Super easy developer tool.
Collaborative writing. Any time our team has to fill out an application or write website/marketing copy, we use Penflip. Git source control for writing in a UI that is easier for non-developers to approach than Github (though it does come with a learning curve). Update: Now that Google Docs has “Suggestion mode“, we’ve been using Docs for collaborative writing, but Penflip remains highly recommended.