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Marketing with Asana: The Tools We Use

Justin Krause and Emily Kramer

Startup marketing is all about leverage – finding ways to reach new audiences and spread your company’s message, with limited resources in a world full of noise.

Marketing teams, especially at startups, are enthusiastic adopters of new tools.  In fact, when we searched for the most popular functional team name in Asana (across our database), “Marketing” topped the list.  It makes sense – marketing is often an unstructured type of knowledge work, with many moving parts and vendor relationships.  Staying organized as a marketing team is tough – and if done right, a competitive advantage.

Like other startup marketing teams, our team at Asana has been an enthusiastic adopter of new products. In this post, I’ll share with you some of the tools and systems that power our team.

Analytics: Google Analytics + Optimizely + Swiftype

Effective marketing is data-driven, and the best tools help teams not just capture data, but drive insights and action.  We use Google Analytics extensively, and we have customized it to help us segment visitors, capture events, and measure the success of campaigns. When we want to A/B test different content and messages, we use Optimizely, which is one of the best tools we’ve found for driving actionable insights (and is insanely simple to use, even for marketers not comfortable with code).

Our support and learning site, the Asana Guide, features site search by a company called Swiftype. Somewhat unintentionally, we’ve found Swiftype to be a goldmine of analytics data – seeing what people are searching for, finding, and not finding.  We share these reports with the product team to illuminate user confusion and pain points, and we use the data to add support content and make product changes.  Additionally, Swiftype lets us adjust search rankings, so we can point the most popular searches to the most relevant content.

Collaboration: Asana + Github + Dropbox + Google Docs

Unsurprisingly, we use Asana extensively here at Asana, and marketing is no exception. We put all of our team’s ideas, tasks, projects, and notes in Asana, and we can easily see what the rest of the marketing team is working on, plans to do, and has finished.  The rest of the Asana team can also see what we’re working on, and cross-functional collaboration is as easy as adding multiple projects to a task. We have projects for high-level goals, and we have functional projects such as PR or Content Marketing.  We also create projects for weekly meetings, where we queue up our agendas in advance and assign action items as we discuss things.  Asana works extremely well with outside contractors such as web devs or consultants – we just add them as guests to the projects and teams they are involved in.

We host our marketing site Git repository on Github, and everything, including our content, is version controlled with Git (it’s not just for code!).  We’ve linked Asana and Github using Github’s Service Hooks, so each time we push a change (a commit), we can see in Asana what work has been completed.

Finally, Dropbox and Google Docs are invaluable and drive most of our collaboration outside of Asana and Github.  We host most static assets and images on Dropbox (connected to Asana tasks, of course), and we use Google Docs for internal documents.

Website: Statamic + Bootstrap + Elastic Beanstalk

We recently launched a redesigned marketing site.  We built it using a new file-based CMS called Statamic, which enables us to maintain the flexibility of a simple LAMP stack, but get the structure of a Content Management System. We can churn out new landing pages really fast. Our support site is updated and maintained entirely in markdown, allowing non-technical teammates to contribute. Our only minor complaint about Statamic is speed – but we were able to implement a simple caching layer that makes our site faster than it was before we had a CMS.

For design, we rely heavily on Bootstrap, one of the most exciting open source projects on the web today. With Bootstrap, virtually anyone can implement a gorgeous (and responsive!) design for their website, and customization is easy.  Bootstrap powers many of the best-looking websites on the internet, and we are indebted to the contributors who make this project possible.

For hosting, we use AWS Elastic Beanstalk, a service that provisions servers and load balancers automatically, and scales them for you. It is extremely easy to use, and the only problem we’ve had with it is that in the case of a sudden spike in traffic, elastic scaling is too slow.

Other: Dotmailer, Wistia, Codekit

A few of our best tools didn’t fall into one of the above categories, but deserve a shout out:

- Dotmailer is our email automation system. It is based in the UK and has limited penetration in the United States, but we’ve found it to be a simple, flexible system to run email campaigns.  It allows us to create drip email campaigns, without the complication of a marketing automation tool like Marketo. They also have a strong API.

- Wistia is our video hosting service, and it is one of the most innovative startups we interact with. We love that we can customize our players and get detailed analytics about our videos.

- Codekit is a nifty program that helps with web dev – compiling LESS, minifying Javascript, and doing all the unsexy things behind the scenes that help websites work better.

Internal: Business Intelligence

There are some marketing requirements where we haven’t found suitable solutions and have been forced to build our own systems.  The biggest has been a business intelligence system: a simple tool that sits on top of our internal database.  While there are many tools available that claim to solve this problem, the idiosyncrasies of our data and requirements have prompted us to build our own system, using MySQL and Sinatra.

With all the new tools and innovation in the field, it’s never been easier to make and measure your impact as a marketing team.  Does your team use other tools that give you leverage?  Please tell us in the comments.

Are you interested in joining the marketing team at Asana? We’re hiring a content producer.

  1. avatarjwjb

    This is super cool and thanks so much for sharing. We will definitely take all of this great insight to heart as we continue to build out our app in preparation for our launch. Not to put it to strongly, we are getting to the point of pretty much accepting whatever Asana says and does as gospel as you guys really cut through all the noise and get down to what really matters which is much appreciated especially for us startups that have really limited time and resources to effectively compete with more established apps without such expert guidance and advice. As always, continuing big kudos for Asana and your great product, service and community.

    1. avatarKimberly Snodgrass Asana Team Member

      Thanks for the kind words! We are happy to be of assistance and share our knowledge of how we do great things. Good luck as you continue to build out your app!

  2. avatarAndrey

    Thanks for interesting post!
    - “We put all of our team’s ideas, tasks, projects, and notes in Asana”
    How are you create notes? – It will be great, when we can create notes separately from the task.

    Also you should think about small pics for workspace for better identification (upload logo there or select the preset icons) and paid features, like a chat (to replace hipchat/hall etc.)

    Thank you for a quality product!

    1. avatarJustin Asana Team Member

      Hi Andrey – for longer notes, we use Google Docs and just link them to the Asana tasks, and for shorter notes or ideas, we use the task in Asana itself. If it is actionable, we can assign and prioritize it easily right from Asana. When we have a list of similar items, we often use Hearts as as simple voting mechanism to see which notes are most important according to the team. I hope that helps!

  3. avatarMichael

    Love the information. Wish I had something to contribute. One thing I wanted to put out there, your main website is very slow to load on mobile devices. I am on a full connection with 4G in Seattle but it took three loads to get your sites information to display properly.

    1. avatarJustin Asana Team Member

      Thanks for letting us know – we’ll take a look at the mobile load issue. I’ve made us a task for that :)

  4. avatarVic

    Can I get some details on what you are doing with your MySQL + Sinatra solution for BI? We’re currently struggling with the BI problem ourselves and I’d love to know more.

    1. avatarJustin Asana Team Member

      Basically, Sinatra allows you to build a web app in Ruby really fast, with many endpoints. We’ve set it up so that you can search for object ids (like Teams) and see aggregate data on that object. E.g., our most common use case is to look at the health of some of our top customers. I should’ve included one additional tool – http://www.highcharts.com . We feed data from queries into these charts so that we can see outputs in a visual way. The queries are coming from our “stats” MySQL db, which is an aggregation of data, mostly from our logs (where we use Scribe -https://github.com/facebook/scribe).

      We’ve found that many of our most important questions are “parameterized,” e.g., we’re asking the same questions about the health of X, Y, Z team, or the popularity of X, Y, Z oAuth app, and this system has proven to be a very good way to answer these questions. For true “one-offs,” we’ll usually do straight SQL.

      Talking about our data stack might be an interesting future blog post!

      1. avatarJames

        We’ve recently had exactly the same issues struggling to find a useful BI tool using all kinds of solutions including Tableau (brilliant but far too pricey.), that was until we came across PowerPivot in Excel 2013. I know recommending Microsoft products on this blog is pretty frowned upon but you definitely owe useful to check it out, I highly, highly recommend it.

        It comes built into Excel 2013 and is available as add-on for Excel 2010 but its functionality and performance is amazing for software which is basically free (if you own a newish version of Office anyway).

        I probably wouldn’t do a good job of explaining it, but it handles enormous varieties of data sources and data types (600 million rows+) and only take seconds to filter data. We had some really complex relationships that we had to analyse which we couldn’t do with other open or closed soruce software, PowerPivot made it simple.

        There is a bit of a learning curve to making sure you set-up relationships correctly between all the data sources and learning DAX (similar to Excel functions), however the small amount of learning definitely pays off. It also has a nice set of tools for visualing data however these visualisation aren’t quite as advanced as some other software.

        Also, if you have SharePoint then there are some pretty awesome integrations you can do – unless you’re a large company however this probably has no relevance.

  5. avatarDerek Brown

    Nice article – thanks. We use Asana extensively on our marketing team, with much of the work managed in an Agile Marketing process, which Asana tasks support well – in most cases a Task = Story Card, sometimes subtasks. And yes it’s great to just spin up a new project for a specific project with external people invited as guest. Couldn’t live without it. For us btw the marketing systems mix is Google Docs, Marketo, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Raven and a number of other point solutions. And for websites – Bootstrap for sure, in our case with WordPress (that’s our platform for the 1,000+ websites we host and manage). Anyway great article.

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  7. avatarZach Karam

    The inability not to be able to input subtasks from my iPhone while i’m out in the field makes it difficult to be mobile. Also, I am hoping for an iPad app soon.

  8. avatarRob Weisz

    Great post, thanks! Looking forward to using Asana, Optimizely, Swiftype, Bootstrap, Wistia & Dotmailer for a new marketing software we have created.

  9. avatarLena Kofanova

    Hey guys! My team and I are thinking about starting asana BUT my biggest thing is: is there a contacts database on it? And is it possible to make notes there?
    Really looking for help in this area!
    Thanks a lot!!!!!!!

    1. avatarJustin Krause Asana Team Member

      Hi Lena – we don’t have an explicit contacts database, but since Asana is a series of lists (projects), you could simply make a Project called “Contacts” and have everyone list their information there… that’s what we do.

      As for notes – each task can have notes. If you need something more advanced with rich text, you might want to try our integration with Google Docs http://blog.asana.com/2013/06/google-drive-attachments/

  10. avatarFilipe

    Hi, I really like the simplicity of your blog and the fact that allows the entire team to post. Does it come with Statamic? Thanks.

    1. avatarJustin Krause Asana Team Member

      This blog is actually on wordpress :) wpengine.com hosts it for us

      The static site – Asana.com – is on Statamic (CMS)

  11. avatarWojciech Szywalski

    Justin, Emily thanks for sharing all this knowledge with us. I find it very useful and finally have few seconds to say thanks, so “Thank you” :)
    Asana is extremely helpful for fast project planning here in PressPad. I would even call it “fast prototyping tool” of projects with easy to understand list of items and tasks. And what I like that most is the way it improves communication within the team. Less emails in my inbox is really blessing :) (Personally I would love to see Gantt charts in Asana).

    We also use HipChat integrating lots of external systems through its API. It’s fun and it’s optimizing our daily operations including customer support, issues tracking etc. Also MixPanel gives fantastic analytics opportunities and user messaging automation. And we eat our own dog-food publishing digital magazine (magazine app) which seems to be a great content marketing technique.

  12. avatarAllan W.

    Great post – thanks for writing it up. I’m in the process of relaunching our corporate site on Statamic; the fact that Asana.com runs on it is a big boost to credibility for this choice here.

    It had never occurred to me to use the repo hosting for Markdown editing; we’re using Bitbucket (which as the same features) and that really opens the doors to including more staff and keeps the Statamic install simple. It also increases awareness of using Markdown for content development, which is a nice side effect.

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