Here you can find details of some of the tools I use to run and automate my online businesses and which I recommend.
In some cases I will recommend two products where one may suit one type of business, whereas the other will suit a slightly different business. Full disclosure, I earn an affiliate marketing commission from many of these products. If you click on the links in this document and sign up or purchase any of them, I receive a fee.
I believe a lot in the power of affiliate marketing to build a “silent” income. Take a look at my article “How Much Do You Need to Earn to Quit Your Job” to learn more. Rest assured, I don’t recommend a product that I don’t totally believe in and I don’t advise you do either. It is a sure fire way to alienate your audience.
So let’s take you through the steps for setting up your online business. To start with you need a blog platform. In order to do that you need somewhere to host it. I recommend using WordPress as the basis for your site so you need a hosting provider that has good WordPress support.
I recommend Hostgator and use it to host my sites. They have excellent performance and uptime figures and also a range of pricing options to suit every pocket. Some of my trusted peers recommend Bluehost. This is another strong platform you may wish to consider, although I believe that Hostgator just has the edge.
Once you have your site hosted and have a WordPress framework, you can start designing the site. Here you have a choice. Do you do the design work yourself or do you get someone to do it for you. If you have the budget, I recommend you do the latter. Cards on the table. I attempted to design my own site in an effort to save money, but the results were poor and I wasted an awful lot of time.
I recommend you check out 99 designs or Upwork to see if someone else can produce the design you want for a few hundred dollars. Before you do, I recommend you plan out exactly what you want the site to look like, or you could get a result that is very different to what you want.
In addition to setting up your website and blog, you will also need tools to create and track your landing pages and also to manage your email activity.
Leadpages is the standard for creating landing pages. I haven’t started using it yet, but I plan to once I am reading to get more serious with landing pages. As well as being the easiest tool to use, Leadpages also provides an excellent array of training material and tips to help you on your way. They are definitely not the cheapest, but I believe their subscription is money well spent.
For email management and automation, there are many excellent tools on the market and there are new players entering the market all the time. I recommend different tools depending on what type of business you have.
I have often had to use sales and marketing software that is overly complex, with a price tag to match. Most small businesses just wont see the benefit of all the features in these packages, because they dont have the resources to implement them properly or learn how to use them. This is why I never recommend this type of product.
If you are just starting out and don’t have may people on your email list, I recommend Drip. The product is free for up to 100 subscribers which means you don’t have to incur any cost, while you start to build your list, which can take several months in some cases. It also integrates tightly with Leadpages, who now owns Drip.
If you are an established business with a larger email list and a sales team, I recommend Active Campaign. It can take a web site visitor, or a contact on an email list, all the way through a sales funnel to becoming a customer. If sales people need to get involved, they can assign call backs and other tasks and product pipeline reports for their managers. In my opinion, it is the best combination of email automation and CRM at a reasonable price.
Once you have your hosting platform you will need a WordPress framework and theme. The theme is really a matter of personal choice, but choosing a good framework right from the start is very important. I chose the Genesis framework from Studiopress. It offers excellent performance, which is key to getting the best SEO rankings. Studiopress also offer a wide range of child themes that allow you to make your site stand out from the crowd. I use Pat Flynn’s SPI theme, which has a great layout for bloggers and online entrepreneurs.
I am constantly learning about great new tools and services, so I will be adding to this page as my business grows, so please check back from time to time.