Stereotypes exist for a reason. While we sometimes like to deny their validity categorically, most of them do have some kind of merit.
Growing up in Germany learning how to be a productive member of society was a big part of my upbringing. However, on a guy, whose idea of a fun summer vacation was optimizing production lines in rural Chinese factories, that may have rubbed off a little more than on others. My main vice is (and always has been) the constant pursuit of new productivity hacks. I’d spend countless hours researching and optimizing my personal setup of hardware and software to circumvent menial tasks, that the overall time savings were minimal at best.
Research takes time – a lot of time. Every day I use a wide range of applications on mobile, tablets, desktop and in the cloud. The process of finding out which ones to go with is generally a tedious one and all solutions to this problem tend to involve a lot of effort of your own.
While I am a big fan of all applications that increase my productivity, none have as big an impact these days as the many web apps the new SaaS economy has bestowed upon us.
I moved to London two years ago and founded Crozdesk with the goal in mind to simplify the selection and exploration of web applications. The main idea was to make the discovery process as easy as possible and, therefore, let productivity of small businesses and private individuals flourish to its true potential. We Europeans tend to be a bit more conservative when it comes to embracing new technology than our American colleagues and need a nudge in the right direction.
Since we run a platform dedicated to startup productivity tools and feature a multitude of cool and useful apps, people tend to ask me how WE use SaaS to optimize our own processes. So I decided to write this brief article letting you all know how a day at Crozdesk looks like and how we currently spend less than USD100.00/month for a long list of 18 cool tools we are relying on on a daily basis.
18 Startup Productivity Tools We Use Every Day
The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to check my phone for Slack (freemium) and other communiques from the team. The Slack push notifications with all the integrations to other cloud software gives me a quick overview of what’s been going on while I was offline.
As soon as I reach the office and turn on my computer with a cup of coffee in my hand, I start the day by checking the stats of our platform. Besides the usual Google Analytics (free) we use Mixpanel (freemium) to get better insights into how our users are using the platform, perform A/B tests or monitor the performance of new features and previous user issues we hopefully fixed. Thereafter it is Moz time! Moz Analytics (trial) is a true startup essential, especially useful for SEO and competitor analysis. Whether you want to know more about the keywords you should be using, the backlinks other platforms have been getting recently or just get a general feel for what you should focus on next – Moz is there for you.
If we come across a new interesting platform in the process and need some more background info, we consult the SimilarWeb (free) and Unomy (trial) browser plugins, which make it easy to get access to visitor stats, referrals and other useful data on third-party platforms.
Any new feature ideas, issues that come up or feedback we receive from users get added to Pivotal Tracker (freemium). Pivotal makes it easy to assign development tasks to team members, track bugs and follow the development of new features from the planning stage, through to testing and launch. Major new releases are tested with BrowserStack (trial) to ensure compatibility with most devices.
To check if someone has been writing about us, whether any backlink statuses have changed or if we have been featured on a new listing site, we then look at a new up and coming service: Monitor Backlinks (trial).
Their automatic crawlers find new backlinks across the web quickly and make sure you never miss any press, feedback or social posts about your business or anyone else you want to keep an eye on.
After an hour of intelligence gathering, scheduling and quick touchups on our products it is generally time to do some growthhacking and to get the word out on our social profiles. The app of choice here is Buffer (freemium – we pay USD8.50/month). It integrates with virtually all social networks you could hope for and lets you “buffer” / schedule updates for the day with very useful suggestions of articles, blog posts and anything else noteworthy that your follower base might be interested in. If its a slow news day and the Buffer suggestions leave us uninspired we fall back on Swayy (freemium) – a great little app that analyses the interests and inclination of your following to help you with content discovery.
Once all tweets, posts, pins, drift bottles and whatnots are scheduled we use an integration with another cool app called Snip.ly (freemium), to embed all posts in an iframe, so users who read the content you post get a very gentle reminder not to forget about you. A small hovering box with your logo and a tagline gets displayed in the corner, so you’ll get some clicks back to your site from people who aren’t ready to get back to work just yet.
While the above rather falls into the category of social media management we’ll get to growthhacking momentarily.
Once the scheduling part of the day is over and all the content is there to be consumed, it’s time to grow our following. Crowdfire (freemium – we pay – USD19.99/month) is the application of choice to quickly increase your Twitter follower base. It helps you find users who could be interested in your content, makes it easy to follow them and send them a short message in case they follow you back. Twitfox (freemium – we pay USD30.00/month) is another source of Twitter wizardry that automates the same process with the difference that it favourites and unfavorites a multitude of tweets around predefined topics to incentivise people to check out your profile.
If it is time for newsletters, product introduction or the like, MailChimp (freemium) can’t be missed. As most of you will know it is one of the most popular email marketing applications and makes it dead easy to design and compile email newsletters that look great on any device.
After a few hours of coding, parallel Slack messaging and using Github (freemium – we pay USD25.00/month) to keep track of many different versions of many different development branches used by the team, its time to do some Accounting. QuickBooks (premium – we pay USD11.20) syncs directly with your bank account to keep track of all transactions and even manage your payroll. All of our credit card transactions are handled by Stripe‘s payment processor (fee-based – waived fees deal), so all that needs to be done is to add some clever comments before sending it off to the accountant to double check.
All in all it’s been a productive day and while these tools don’t do the work for you, you’ll get a lot more done with the right setup. As the saying goes: “you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.”
On that note, I hope I inspired some startups, small businesses or just the every day you to increase your productivity and get yourself some SaaS.
Total Cost: USD94.69/month – Productivity Gain: Priceless!
Check out our curated Startup Essentials, Growthacking and Productivity Hacks lists!
Excellent article, Nicholas. Well-written indeed. Really liked the way you crisply explained the role of each tool in a normal workday. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at grexit.com)
Congrats on your new business Nick, I think I finally understand what crozdesk is!