Make yo’ money count. Our rec’s for great services that can save your sanity.

Make yo’ money count. Our rec’s for great services that can save your sanity.

Every week, I get questions from wine clients about what apps 5forests uses to tackle various digital marketing needs. So this week, I thought we’d go practical and offer recommendations on the little things that make a big difference to your digital marketing efforts…and your sanity! And for each, I’m gonna give you a cheap and a pro option, so you can research and decide what’s best for your wine biz. FYI, none of these are affiliate links, because I don’t do that to you guys.

Social media imagery

I can 100% assure you that creating good social imagery is a time eater and having a good system is a lifesaver. We use Adobe in-house, but I know that’s beyond what a lot of people need or can afford. Here are some user-friendly solutions that can make producing dynamic social media graphics a little less onerous.


Canva, free or $12.95 per month. The paid version is worth it because you get good access to free photos, you can upload your brand guidelines and create templates, and you can make gifs, which is just plain fun.

Adobe Spark, free or $10 per month. This is my personal favourite, but Mike says it’s not great on his Android. Here’s the secret: learn how to work it on the desktop, not just the app. With the paid version, you can upload your own fonts and brand guidelines AND you can make videos.

Premium (just in case):

Adobe Creative Cloud. Do anything, pay through the nose. Forever. In case you do have Creative Cloud, here are a few tips: you can make animated gifs in Photoshop AND you can buy ready-made templates for those online. You can also make lots and lots of images at once if you set up a template in InDesign and populate that with your brand styles. (That was a major timesaver when we figured it out!)

Social media scheduling

You guys have heard me say you get what you pay for on this one. And there are enough old newsletters about why this is important. Voila, my suggestions:


Later. Free is okay, but you’re looking at 19 bucks to get what you really need. Even then, I’m not enamoured by the reporting, and you still run into the problem of having your social media data in one place and other digital marketing data elsewhere. But, to be fair, it’s better than nothing.

That escalated quickly:

Sendible at $24-$99 per month, or AgoraPulse at $39-$79 per month. While I personally prefer working with Agora Pulse, Sendible will let you purchase content-writing from within the app, which I can see being useful for some brands. The noteworthy feature of both is that they allow you to see a bird’s eye view of ALL of your comms engagements in one place, as opposed to having social media here, and google there, and email in another place. Which is SO FRIGGIN’ VALUABLE (especially if you are a marketer trying to report back to your boss or see a global picture of your brand growth).

Email newsletter providers


Mailchimp. I have a love/hate relationship with Mailchimp. I don’t like how they get you hooked and then the minute you need good functionality, they hike the price way up. That having been said, it’s user-friendly and makes many marketers’ lives easier. (FYI, I have a TON of wine-industry Mailchimp templates and mailchimp makes it’s easy to share them with you. Drop me a line if you want some.)

Pay from day one:

Campaign Monitor. I use Campaign Monitor for The Must Read and that’s because, for a lesser fee, I get good services from day one. Now that I’m into “paid Mailchimp” range, I pay less than if I was with Mailchimp, but I’ve never had a free month. Also, I prefer the Campaign Monitor email builder interface.

Updated for 2019: We finally switched to Mailchimp because they’ve dominated the market in a way no competitor has. The interface still bugs me to no end, but the backend can’t be beat.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)


Google Analytics paired with Google Data Studio. You can make your reports as fancy as you want, but even the plain templates are better than trying to wade through an analytics dashboard. They take a tiny bit of time to set up, but will make your reporting life a thousand times easier.

Also, be sure to check out Google Trends and Think With Google for better insights, and don’t forget that you can use your Adwords account to research keywords even if you’re not paying for advertising! (oh, and I forgot, google Search Engine Console to check site health, and you can even run site audits directly via your Chrome inspector. That’s a bit hard to explain here. Message me and I’ll show you how.)

Never cheap:

Good SEO apps just aren’t cheap. I like MOZ Pro, but it starts at $99 per month. I find it easier to use and understand than a lot of the other options, especially since SEO isn’t the part of our work that I deal with (as any client knows!).

Mike, who oversees all our SEO work, prefers SEO PowerSuite, which is actually installed on the desktop (this is what we use for clients). The free version works fine if you never need to print or save anything, but to get normal business functionality, you’re looking at an initial cost of $299 and after six months, you’ll need to pay for monthly algorithm updates.

Website Hosting

Nobody ever talks about this but it’s super-duper important! A bad host is like a brick and mortar in a shitty part of town. Speed and security–including customer security!– need to be your primary concerns when considering where your site lives. I know a lot of businesses default to hosting companies with big ads (on the side of racecars, for instance), but I would NEVER put a client site on those cheap, shared hosts. If you’re on one of those, consider moving to:


Cloudways at about $11 per month for your own server. This is what we use most often. At first, the set up may feel intimidating, but it’s really not. Their service is good for the average user, but can sometimes annoy developers (ask us how we know). And it makes things like ongoing development sites easy-peasy.


Kinsta at $30 per month. This is where we wish we could put all sites, but it’s out of a lot of client budgets. Incredibly fast and secure. If you’re selling lots and lots of product, this is worth the investment.

There ya go, the top 5 from 5f. If I’ve missed any, or if you have questions about other services, email. We’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years trying out what’s on offer and I’d rather you ask than have to spend all that money and time, too.