Everything in your toolkit (idea comes from Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish of 10x talk) is what you use daily. If you use a computer everyday, then you should make damn sure that you’re using the best computer there is (or at least a good one).
There are other tools that you don’t use as often. These belong in your “tool shed”. Typically, these are things that you use monthly. In which case, you can probably rent it and it’s not necessary to own it.
When it comes to your business toolkit, it’s important to invest in the best tools available to enable you to operate at peak efficiency, so that you can make the best use of your time, and give your customers the best experience possible.
Disclosure: Some affiliate links are used below which means I may get a commission if you purchase. However, the amount that you pay remains the same
My Recommended Toolkit for Small Business Owners
- Leadpages: You can read my full review here. The first place I go when I need to create a landing page for new campaigns or to test a new concept. A fast and easy way to create landing pages, launch pages, sales pages, thank you pages, video pages, and other pages for your website. If you’re a digital agency, I’d also consider Unbounce. See my comparison on Leadpages vs OP vs Unbounce.
- OptimizePress: My #1 Choice for WordPress Membership site and for a WordPress based landing page software
CRM & Email Marketing
- Infusionsoft: My CRM system for automated sales and marketing. Read my detailed Infusionsoft Review.If you’re just starting out with email marketing or you just want to send monthly newsletters, then I highly recommend GetReponse. They’ve got great deliverability rates, nice split testing features, landing pages, and more, and they’re relatively cheap. Read more about Infusionsoft Alternatives.
- ConvertKit and GetDrip: I’m starting to get unhappier about Infusionsoft and I’ve started using both of these more. Rob Walling sold GetDrip to Leadpages sometime ago. ConvertKit is still run by Nathan Barry.
- LiquidWeb: Thinking about upgrading from your Dreamhost/Bluehost account? I would highly recommend Liquidweb. I use them for all of my hosting needs. You get super-fast servers dedicated only for your websites with first class customer support (24/7 support and you get replies within minutes all of the time).
Why should you have fast site? You get lower bounce rates, provide greater user experience and you get higher rankings on search engines (Google incorporates site speed as a surprisingly large factor into its algorithm). You can check your website speed by going to Pingdom. If you’re above 5 seconds, then you should seriously consider ways to speed up your page load times. I personally use LiquidWeb together with MaxCDN. If you’re non-technical and want an out of the box WordPress host, I’d recommend WP Engine. They’ve also got good customer service and they make your website fast without you needing to do anything. I ended up leaving them though because they’ve got too many restrictions on the plugins that you can use.
If you go with something like Amazon EC2, you’ll need to hire someone to set everything up for you, set up security measures and then keep them to maintain your server.
Split Testing and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
- Visual Website Optimizer: This is my favorite split testing software because you get more features (e.g. heatmaps, geotargeting) than Optimizely at a cheaper price. For example, you need a $359 plan (as of March 2014) for multivariate on Optimizely, $2,500+ per month for geotargeting, etc. Plus, you can actually see other people’s split test experiments on Optimizely (though they’re fixing this now so that you can make it private).
- Qualaroo: This is useful for targeted user feedback
- ConversionXL Blog: Nice resource for learning about CRO
- Evernote: Store all of your information here, and more. Get Things Done with Evernote. My favourite feature about Evernote is that you can take photos of text and then search for it using its image recognition. Saves a lot of time and easier than to store things in Gmail. In addition to Evernote, I also use Google Drive & Workflowy for various ad hoc note taking when talking to clients or jotting notes at conferences.
Payments, Ecommerce and Reviews
- Shopify: I think the best and easiest to set up. If you want to run WordPress, then I’d look at WooCommerce.
- Shopper Reviews: They make it easy to collect customer feedback and display them. Highly recommended if you’re in B2C or E-Commerce.
- Merchant Accounts and Payment Processors: My all-time favorite is Stripe. It’s a shame that Infusionsoft doesn’t support them as a payment processor. In the end, I developed my own integration and may possibly make it public at some point in the future. I think for the majority of online businesses, you should at least consider PayPal. They are terrible from the business owner’s perspective because sometimes they’ll lock up your own money based on their own assumptions and you can be arguing for weeks (or even months) before you see your money back. PRO TIP: If you’re doing a launch and about to receive more money than usual, inform PayPal first. I’ve actually had PayPal refund my customers automatically without them ever having asked… How nice of PayPal! I had to ask customers to pay again (with PayPal) which they graciously did. Having said that, consumers do expect to be able pay with PayPal and you may see increases in sale if you offer PayPal as a payment option, depending on your industry (in B2B, I doubt it’d matter as much). I personally like to pay with PayPal for a lot of things, especially when there’s a chance the merchant might try to bill me again later. It allows me to be in “more control” of the transaction. But obviously as a merchant, you’re less in control. If you need a merchant account, I’d look at Bank of America. They apparently guarantee that they’ll be cheaper than any competitor and they’ll give you $500 if they can’t beat them. If you’re in Australia, I’d recommend St. George. I’ve had a few pretty bad experiences with NAB (even though I still use them for some of my smaller businesses — updating my account details everywhere is just too much of a hassle at this stage ;-). If you’re completely non-technical and you just want to accept payments, GumRoad is also a great option.
Forms and Surveys
- Gravity Forms: If you run WordPress and you need forms, I would highly recommend these guys. I use them all the time for my own sites and for client sites. They have clean forms, very easy to set up and use, and if you purchase the Developer License (once off fee of $199.00), you can also integrate for free with Infusionsoft (as well as Stripe, Twilio, PayPal, Zapier and more).
- Wufoo Forms: These guys are more expensive ($15 to $200 per month) but if you’re not using WordPress, then they’re a good alternative to Gravity Forms.
- Fluid Surveys: I switched over from Survey Monkey to Fluid Surveys. I think they’re both fairly good for doing surveys
- SEO: For SEO related tasks, I like to use a few tools. They include Moz.com, Market Samurai, and Long Tail (they have a Pro version which I don’t think is necessary). My favourite is Moz.com though it may be a bit pricey ($99 per month) but it’s very useful and if you do any digital marketing consulting, I would highly recommend it. Moz does restrict you to 5 projects so another option which is also good is Raven Tools which allows “unlimited” marketing projects and better value for money. If you’re just getting started with creating a new website or SEO generally for a new project, I think Long Tail‘s a good option at only a once off fee of $97.00. They have a “Platinum” version where you pay a monthly fee of $17.00 a month which basically tells you how difficult a keyword is likely to be. If you know absolutely nothing about SEO, then I’d go for the monthly option. Otherwise, I think you can safely skip the Platinum version and learn how to figure out difficulty based on the useful information that’s given.
- Project Management: I personally prefer Asana or Producteev. I’ve tried using Trello and Basecamp before but they didn’t really suit my needs. I think this does come down a lot more to personal preference and team needs so I’d encourage you to try the better known apps and see which one you like the most.
- Virtual Assistant Management: You can use Google Drive, Workflowy, or something similar to manage the standard operating procedures (or just instructions about how to do tasks). There’s a tool called Sweet Process which helps systemise the process.
Copywriting: Drayton Bird
- Figure it Out: FIO displays the time zones you work and play in. This extension adds up to ten time zones of your choice to your ‘new tab’ screen, making it convenient when you’re working with people in multiple and different time zones.