First things first: bookmark this page 🔖
I shudder to think about the collective research time I spent on all these tools. That, however, is a great thing for you. I just gave you days of your life back! 🙂
I strongly believe that this vetted list can help you reach your revenue goals. It certainly has for me. How? By offloading and automating certain tasks. You need a solid foundation. You need proven tools and systems. Jumping tool to tool costs time and money. So not only can this list of proven solutions make you money, this list itself will save you money too!
Also important: comments are open. If you have a question about these tools (or a related one), then leave it below and I’ll reply.
I do not receive any compensation for these recommendations. They are strictly what I have used and know to be top-class solutions.
Okay, enough chatter – let’s get into it!
Having the right systems in place internally will make it easier for you to grow. Believe me, I learned this one the hard way. I didn’t start getting these things in place at the right time and so I ended up having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to an external consultant to help out. Stinks for me, but not for you (you have this list)!
Developers fall into pretty much one of two camps: Github or Bitbucket. I’ll be bold here and say that if you’re on Github, jump ship. Bitbucket, while far from perfect, is just so solid. It also integrates with a host of other tools (more on this later). You can leverage private repos pretty easily. It’s easy to plan releases, collaborate, and to build custom integrations using their API. It’s just a level-up from Github. Overall it’s just a more complete platform.
Providing feedback to your employees is an integral part to running an ever-improving company. If you rely upon a helpdesk to service potential and current customers (you should be), well then you need KlausApp. The app helps you improve your customer service by offering reporting capabilities based on your team’s performance. Individual feedback and reviews are also possible. One unintended byproduct I noticed when using KlausApp is that it boosted team morale because it showed employees that the company cared about the work they were doing. Don’t overlook how important this can be for your team too.
Okay, before you think this is me just being coy by slipping in my company, hear me out. Whether you have one employee, or 20, you need to train them. This is especially true during their first week. I have used LearnDash for employee onboarding for years now and it works perfectly. New employees come into the team and they start learning about the company structure, resources, and job expectations all on autopilot. Managers can review progress and do the necessary follow-ups. In the end, we have a consistent training that ensures everyone starts from the same place. You don’t need to get fancy with it (though you certainly could). Paid platforms are thousands of dollars per year. LearnDash is ~$159/yr. It’s worth it.
By now you probably have heard of Notion. I wish I had set up Notion long before I actually did. I took way too long to document standard business processes in the company. This resulted in playing “catch-up” (i.e. spending a lot of time and money). All your policies and procedures need to be documented and Notion can handle it for you. Even if you don’t have a team yet, start documenting this stuff so that as you grow you can easily share how things are done. Things that are useful include: employee directory, vacation & benefits policies, support procedures, time-off requests, licenses/keys/passwords to software services, etc.
Love this site. It is absolutely perfect for independent contractor agreements. Lets you whip up legal documents in a snap, get signatures, and even ask for a review from a legal professional should you need it. I’ve also used their Q&A feature before where I received legal advice as part of my account. Highly recommend this whether you are a one-person shop or 50 people strong.
If you ever hire someone then don’t make the mistake so many people make by using your email. I have experience with RecruiterBox, and it has helped manage candidates, stages of interviews, and communications. Something I always liked was the ability to build up a candidate pool. I’ve filled positions by just reaching out to previous candidates. Another nice advantage to using RecruiterBox is that job openings get picked up by GlassDoor, Indeed, and a bunch of others for no cost.
No surprises here. You probably already use it, but there is something important to remember: Slack is the “daily office”. And just like any office, some are more fun to go to than others. Make sure you set up plenty of channels that give people an opportunity to talk about things other than work (and encourage conversations). Some examples: happiness (for sharing good/fun news), random topics, languages, ugh (for venting), pets, development, marketing, etc.
If you have a company in the United States, and that company is growing, then you need what Solo Workforce has to offer. I’ll spare the technical jargon, but essentially they take care of payroll, taxes, benefits, and more as a virtual employer of record. You don’t have to think about it again after things are running. I researched the hell out of this and landed on Solo Workforce. Check them out.
If you hire international contractors, then you need to pay them. If you don’t want to use PayPal (or perhaps can’t), then Transferwise is the way to go. It makes it super easy for you to send direct wires for payment. You can even batch your payments with an Excel spreadsheet upload. So simple, and it’ll make payroll tasks way easier.
If you use WordPress for your business site (you probably do), then you have a handful of options available to you for security. I started with Sucuri, but got frustrated by it and went to WordFence. I never looked back. It just works, and I didn’t have to think about anything else once it was set-up and configured (which was way easier than Sucuri). Don’t cut costs when it comes to security, make sure to pay for a premium plan.
I find that if you keep it simple with marketing, you’ll be more targeted in your efforts and it will be more effective.
I’m not reinventing the wheel here or anything – the premise is simple: get in front of people looking for you, get their email if possible, and nudge them to make a purchase. That’s it. Don’t fall for the gimmicks, this process will always work.
The most important tool I’ve used. I started with MailChimp, switched to ActiveCampaign and have never been tempted by anything else. Delivery rates are solid, and the feature-set offers more than what I think I’d ever need (but exactly what I do need). I really like the one-off campaigns & reporting functionality and the automation features. ActiveCampaign powers the promotions I’ve done, sales funnels, and much more. Remember, you have to have a solid email nurturing plan in place in order for tools like ActiveCampaign to be effective. Over the years I have been able to get 30% promotional campaign open rates (industry average is ~21%). No doubt that the software plays a part in those figures.
This will only work on WordPress (but chances are you are using it). I’ve used Ahoy to create targeted opt-in notices based on a variety of pre-set rules. What this means is that not everyone will get the same message. Certain blog posts will have one report while other pages have another. You can even target referring URLs so that your messages are specific to that audience. For example, there was an article about LearnDash quizzing and I used Ahoy to offer a Quizzing Tour Video to people who visited LearnDash from that article. Conversion rates were huge!
Don’t roll your eyes. Content marketing via the blog is the engine of any strong business. Not just because of the organic reach in the search engines, but because that same content can be used to create report downloads, marketing funnels, and even used as the marketing content to reach customers on Facebook. People get to know you and your brand through the blog. Teach them something, and then use a tool like Ahoy to give them a little bit more in exchange for their email address. This simple formula is how marketing works online my friends!
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. If you aren’t on it, get on it. And while you’re on it, make sure your videos have at least some editing. This is where ClipChamps can help you. The editing features are easy to understand and it’s simple to do things like create a professional intro. Here is an example of a video created in ClimpChamps.
Groups = community. If you create a community around your product or service then you’re already way ahead of everyone else. Groups are also a form of social proof. When other people see a lot of folks engaged with your brand, then trust it more. Advertise your group everywhere. What has worked best for me is putting information about the group on both sales content, new customer email campaigns, and on customer portals. Let them know that they are not alone!
Google & Facebook Ads
Content marketing mixed with paid ads can be a killer combo. It really starts to get exciting when you can determine how much money you can make for every dollar spent. For example, I know that I can make ~$10 for every dollar spent on ads. Now, getting to that point takes experimenting though, so don’t rush it. If you don’t know where to start, go with Google (but not YouTube ads – those are a bit more complicated to create). There are so many great, free resources out there to help you get started with Google ads. Also, Google will give you recommendations on how to maximize your reach and conversion rate.
I’ve used MailMunch on and off over the years. You may have noticed that I use it on this site. Well that’s because it’s so simple, it’s perfect. I stand by ActiveCampaign, but MailMunch is a great alternative. It’s not nearly as robust but their combination of email and opt-in forms is a one-two punch for a bootstrap entrepreneur. In fact, I would venture to say that if you’re just starting out or in the early stages of your business, go with MailMunch and migrate to ActiveCampaign later (if at all).
Product Demo Site
If you sell a product, create a demo site. Then, require that people sign-up in order to try it out. On the sign-up form give prospective customers the option to join your email list. This seemingly small tactic can give you thousands upon thousands of leads. Believe me, I know. But remember, a lead is useless if you don’t nurture it – make sure you have an email campaign in place for ActiveCampaign.
Social media loves images and memes. If you’re not a designer, get Snappa. They have so many great templates in place that it makes it easy to create content for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blog posts. I met the founder of Snappa, he’s a really down-to-earth guy who just wants to make visual content creation simple. I think he achieved that goal. I’ve used them for so long I don’t even remember not using them!
Oh boy. Zoho Subscriptions. I’ve actually shared over 1,000 words about them already. I will say that using Zoho Subscriptions (or a platform like it) can bring your business to an entirely new level.
This one shouldn’t surprise many of you. If you need to automate tasks between apps, then get Zapier. I’ve used it for a variety of tasks. For instance, auto-publishing blog posts across all the social media properties. Also, for things like syncing webinar participants to email lists in ActiveCampaign (see next tool). You don’t have to start with a paid plan, but as soon as you can I would recommend it. You get more app integrations and faster “zap” times.
Doesn’t everyone use it these days? I’m no exception, but something I also have used Zoom for (that most haven’t) is webinars. It’s a great webinar tool, honestly. Just enough features without making everything feel clunky. Connection speeds are solid, recording never has any major issues either. My only gripe is that the webinar sign-up pages are pretty bland, but you could create a landing page on WordPress or LeadPages to get over that hurdle.
When you run a business, people will have questions. It’s important to equip your team with robust tools that can grow with you as your business grows. I’ve used the following tools with teams of many different sizes. As my business has grown, these tools never bend or break.
Product and service businesses need help docs. You should self-host your help docs (i.e. don’t use another platform for your articles, but more on that in one of the tools below). Set-up your help site in a sub-folder and use Astra Theme. If you’re site is already using Astra then great! The theme is crazy fast, which will make people happy. Nothing is more annoying than searching for an answer and waiting for a page to load. It also makes Google happy – and that’s never a bad thing.
GravityForms is the original form plugin for WordPress, and I cannot recommend anything else. I’ve used others, but they just were not reliable. It may not be fancy, but it’s a workhorse that you can put to work for your business. Set it up, and move on with life. It has everything you would ever need.
So many support desk solutions out there. HelpScout is the best. It’s simple. It has every integration you could possible imagine (I’ve used the Bitbucket/JIRA integration and it saved so much time & money while simultaneously making the business more efficient). The reporting is just what you need, and nothing more. I like that. Simplicity. The interface doesn’t have a million bells & whistles either. Plus, it works nicely with KlausApp! If you want to start using chat capabiltiies, then I’d go with HelpScout as well since that means one less tool you have to manage. I have not used the chat feature but I hear positive things about it. What you should not use is their knowledgebase features. For that, use…
WeDocs + Astra = awesomeness. You will have the fastest docs on the internet. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration, but you get my point. It’s so easy to create a multi-tiered structure using WeDocs and Astra. Plus, WeDocs is free (though I would gladly pay for it personally). Here is an example of Astra+WeDocs. Pretty slick, right? For more information on how to configure something like this, see this great article by Freemius.
That’s all (for now)!
When I sat down to make this list, I really tried to prioritize the things I have really leaned upon to help power business – from internal to marketing. I only recommend things that I have actually used and have resulted in a positive impact.
If I think of something else, I will be updating this list. So again, bookmark this page for future reference so that you have it as a resource.
Have a question? Leave a comment below and I will reply!