31 Online Tools That Are So Good, You May Have to Fire Someone

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When I started this business, I was really on my own. I had a few email addresses I had collected for a previous business, some social media profiles and a plan create a business that could scale. That was 5 years ago; now I work with a team of five full-time employees, have four products that sell and more plans to keep growing than I can fit in my head!

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So how did I get to where I am now? With a lot of help from free and inexpensive online tools. I made the business’s first dollars with a webinar that I ran using GoToWebinar, I grew my list with WordPress-powered opt-ins and I’m totally obsessed with every product that Google creates.

So without further ado…

The LKR List of Tools My Business Can’t Live Without

Please note that some links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that if you decide to purchase using one of these links we may receive a referral fee. Rest assured that this referral fee is never added on top of the price, in fact some of these links contain special discounts! Also, we’d never recommend something just for the potential revenue of an affiliate program. If we can’t speak to its awesome-ness, it’s not on this list.

A/B Testing

Visual Website Optimizer

vwo

Here’s the situation: your copywriter just gave you two juicy headlines for your new landing page, and you aren’t sure which one you like more. Then you realize it isn’t about you, it’s about which headline is more compelling to your customers. So you load up the two different headlines in Visual Website Optimizer, and launch a test on the landing page with real, live customers so you can figure out which headline sells.

Analytics/Tracking

Google Analytics

google-analytics-logo-1200x1000Google Analytics is a free statistics/analytics service that gives detailed information on your website’s traffic, traffic sources plus the super juicy information on your conversions and sales. It can be quite the beast when you’re first getting started, which is why I can hook you up with our free Google Analytics cheat sheet. Get it here!

KISSmetrics

km_logo_darkKISSmetrics can give you a lot of the data you wish Google Analytics can tell you, like the details of customer behavior, your marketing’s ROI, customer retention, and a whole lot more. You can test it out here with a free trial.

Customer Service

Help Scout

helpscoutOne of the headaches of a rapidly growing business is the time you’ll have to spend answering current and potential customers’ questions. They may range from payment problems to technical difficulties, and it’s extremely important to get back to them in a timely and friendly manner. Help Scout can help you save time and get supremely organized to make sure customer service doesn’t fall through the cracks, but doesn’t take up your every waking hour, either. A great thing is that it’s completely invisible to your customers; every response they get will look like it came directly from your own email address. Plus, get 15 days free here.

SnapEngage

images-1Ever seen a little chat window open up on our website? That’s powered by SnapEngage, a great tool you can use to invite visitors to your website to engage with you! It tends to get a really positive response from visitors because they get to ask the questions they didn’t even know they had! You can try it free here.

E-commerce

Infusionsoft

images copyInfusionsoft can do a LOT. We use it to manage our email list, to collect and process payments on the web, and for email marketing. It’s great for small businesses that are growing and can benefit from having all those elements in one place (and can afford it). Click here to find out what wall I was able to get over by switching to Infusionsoft.

PayPal

images-1 copyPayPal is a great way to collect and send money. It’s known worldwide, many people have their own accounts, and you can still charge for your products using PayPal even if your customers don’t have an account. PayPal charges a small percentage of each transaction but is free to set-up and use otherwise.

1ShoppingCart

1shoppingcart1ShoppingCart is how and where my business got started! It’s an ecommerce solution that we used to sell our programs, collect money, bill users, etc. before switching over to Infusionsoft which handles a few different areas of the business at once. It’s simple and easy to use, and great for selling info products.

Domain Name

Dynadot

images-1 copy 2You’re going to need one or more custom domain names for your business, the way we have lkrsocialmedia.com, creatingfame.com and many, many others (you may remember a few from products past). Dynadot is where you can find out if a particular domain name is available, register it, and then manage it without driving yourself nuts in the process! Prices vary for each domain name.

Email Marketing/Follow-up

Aweber

images copy 3This was our tool of choice before we switched to Infusionsoft. Aweber lets you create and send out newsletters and general emails for your list, track stats on all broadcasts such as opens and clicks, segment your list, and use autoresponders to automate your marketing to save you time and make more sales!

Infusionsoft

images copyI actually can’t decide if Infusionsoft is better for eCommerce or for email marketing, but fortunately I don’t have to – they let you do both! See the eCommerce section above for my full review.

Boomerang

images-1 copy 3Used to help you achieve Inbox Zero, Boomerang is a free plugin for Firefox and Chrome that helps you schedule out sending your emails AND will remind you that you need to respond or pay attention to emails that have already come in. Perfecto.

File Sharing

Google Drive

googledriveLKR is run on Google Drive, formerly known as Google Docs (and I still call it that). It’s got tools to help you get stuff done, create new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your own or share and collaborate with others in real time. Need to make a to-do list? Type it up in Google Docs. Need to share a spreadsheet with last month’s sales? You know what to do AND it’s all free.

Dropbox

images-3Remember the good old days of emailing yourself a file? They weren’t so good, were they? Fortunately those days are long gone thanks to Dropbox, a place on the web where you can store all your photos, docs, and videos. You can access them anywhere you have an Internet connection and share them easily. Run out of free space? Refer a friend and they’ll give you more!

Hosting

Hostgator

hostgatorTo have a website you need a domain name (the www.something.com bit) and a “host” to store your site’s information and make it available for viewing 24/7. HostGator is reliable, easy to use, and an affordable option.

Synthesis

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.17.25 AMWhile Hostgator is great, sometimes it’s useful to use a hosting service that’s very specific to your kind of site. In our case, that means hosting that was created specifically for WordPress sites. Enter Synthesis, which we love because of how it handles all of our product launch and live event traffic without any issues. Synthesis’ support team worked with us before we bought to ensure their infrastructure would support some special plugin needs, and they continue to be really responsive and helpful whenever we need a hand. Try it for free now.

Liquid Web

images-1 copy 4When your business outgrows the basic shared hosting from Hostgator, Liquid Web is the next step up. You can start small with their managed servers (meaning you don’t need to hire a systems administrator), and scale up as your business needs grow!

Information Product/Membership Site Delivery System

imember360iMember360

iMember360 uses nearly all the automated features available in Infusionsoft to manage and control access to content in a subscription-based WordPress site. So you can specify what kind of members or customers see which content, allowing you to have different offerings on the same WordPress-powered member site.

Phone & Video Conferencing

SkypeSkype

Skype is software that enables you to make unlimited free calls to other Skype users via computer, tablet or smartphone. It also has very cheap per-minute and subscription prices for calls to landlines and cell phone lines around the world. Since we have team members distributed across the globe, Skype lets us get in touch easier than dealing with international calling rates and messy phone bills.

Google Hangouts

googlehangoutIn a virtual office environment, staying in touch is essential. With Hangouts, we can have one-on-one video calls, team meetings, or even co-working sessions that people can drop in and out of. Plus, you can wear funny hats and mustaches while you discuss conversion rates. You can only get Hangouts with a Gmail account, but it (like so many great Google products) is totally free.

UberConference

Unknown-2UberConference is a great tool for holding conference calls. We do a daily 10-minute call with the entire team. Sometimes you don’t want to show your lovely face on Hangout at 8am in the morning, so UberConference lets everyone call in from wherever they are, enter a password for our specific conference call, and check in! It’s free for up to 5 people together on a conference call. Hint: the hold music is customizable!

Productivity

iDoneThis

iDoneThis-logo.png-PNG-Image-305x47-pixels_1315290282149Every day, iDoneThis sends an email asking “What did you get done today?” Replying to the email easily allows you to share with your team what you completed for the day. Laura also looks at the iDoneThis archives when creating job descriptions, because it’s so easy to see who is actually doing what on a day-to-day basis. It is $5/month per user and a free 30-day trial.

Project Management

Wrike

wrikeWrike has transformed into a regular verb over here at LKR; it’s very common to see or hear the expression “I’ll wrike it to you!” throughout the workday. Wrike is a web-based project management software that gives you full visibility and control over your projects. There’s nothing like that feeling of satisfaction you get from checking off the “Completed” box! You can use Wrike for free with up to 5 people on your team.

SEO

SEO for WordPress by Yoast

Yoast’s SEO for WordPress Plugin helps you ensure that your blog is optimized for SEO by presenting specific content on your website in a way that search engines want to read it. It really saves us time and the headaches associated with SEO for so many websites and pages. We love its flexibility and especially how well it works with the Genesis Framework. There are free and premium plugins available.

Scribe SEO

Unknown-4 copyWe love the Scribe plugin for WordPress as it makes our SEO process run super smooth. Used in conjunction with Yoast’s SEO for WordPress, Scribe lets you analyze each post to make sure it’s as optimized as possible for higher ranking in search results. It turns every member of our team into an SEO expert!

Screencast Videos

Screenflow

ScreenFlow is a powerful, easy-to-use screen recording and editing software for Mac. We use it to record our webinars and course content. Want a 30% off coupon? Make sure to type in “screenflow” at checkout!

Social Media Automation

Edgar

EdgarEdgar is a social media automation tool brought to you by yours truly! He’s the ONLY tool designed specifically to prevent your updates from going to waste, so each and every one is able to find as big an audience as possible while giving you more freedom than ever. How does Edgar do the wonderful things that he does? Meet him here and see for yourself!

Sprout Social

sproutLKR grew thanks in huge part to two things: social media and social media automation. Sprout Social rises above the other social media automation tools by providing a very user-friendly interface plus readable data so we can see what’s working and what’s falling flat. You can even get a free 30-day trial.

Hootsuite

hootsuiteHootsuite is the insanely popular social media automation tool. Hootsuite lets you manage various social media networks all in one dashboard allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.

Buffer

bufferBuffer is a free social media management tool geared towards automatically sharing your queued up guest posts throughout the day so that you’re never oversaturating anyone’s Twitter or Facebook feed with too many updates. Add any article, picture or video you come across on the web to your Buffer queue. From there, it can be shared automagically to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. The paid plan gives you unlimited posts in your queue plus more users to manage it.

Stock Photos/Music

Flickr Creative Commons

flickrThere’s no denying it: a good blog has good images. But if we paid a stock photo company for one photo per blog post, we’d be looking at a hefty monthly bill. Instead of shelling out that dough, we use Flickr to keep the company from infringing on any copyright laws (yes, those are real and they DO get prosecuted). Flickr’s advanced search lets you easily find and download photos that photographers have allowed for use on your blog, or even commercial use — for free!

GraphicRiver

graphicriverNeed to pump up your Photoshop tools? Looking for a fresh set of icons? (You’ll be surprised what a difference those little guys can make.) GraphicRiver is a designer’s dream marketplace where you can buy all that plus royalty-free stock graphics, vectors, illustrations and layered backgrounds.

Audio Jungle

audiojungleVideo presentations tend to be dry and disengaging without a little bit of audio. We use Audio Jungle to buy and download royalty-free music loops and sound effects from their huge range of stock audio to add a little fun to our presentations, classes, and other videos.

Themes

StudioPress (Genesis)

Unknown-4 copyWe use the Genesis Framework as the foundation for all of our custom designed WordPress themes. It’s a great starting off point for building themes and it gives you more flexibility and control than your average WordPress theme. It helps our coding whiz create quality production themes and cuts programming time in half.

Video Hosting

Wistia

wistia

As you may know, most of the LKR products come in the shape of video courses. We make the videos, and Wistia hosts them for us. So every video you watch inside Social Media Marketer or Creating Fame is actually coming from Wistia. We love Wistia because it can house large files, it’s simple to use, and it provides data about user behavior (like when people stop watching a specific video) analytics.

Virtual Assistants

Zirtual

zirtualLooking to bring on someone to add two more hands to your business? Think about hiring a virtual assistant. As their name suggests, they usually work virtually, saving you the expense and overhead of an in-house employee. Zirtual will set you up with someone with the very skills your business is in need of.

Webinars

Prezi

preziWhen we want to convey detailed information or tell a story in a course or webinar, our go-to choice of materials is a Prezi. Think PowerPoint presentations with a dash (or more) of jazz.

GotoWebinar

Unknown-1 copyHave you ever attended one of our webinars? If so, you know we use GotoWebinar for all of our web conferencing needs. It makes screen-sharing with big groups super easy, plus people who want to attend can register easily. GoToWebinar handles all the registration, login and reminder stuff so that you don’t have to lift a finger. We also really love the “hand-raising” feature inside the actual webinar. Click here to get your first month for free.

Website/Blogging

WordPress

Unknown copy 2When it comes to choosing a platform for your website, one of the biggest things to look for is available support and the community behind it. WordPress far outshines every other option in this regard, and wins our recommendation every time. There are tons and tons of both free and paid themes to choose from, just keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for your domain name and website hosting.

WordPress Training

Site Setup Kit

images-1 copy 5Site Setup Kit is a comprehensive online course that gives you the know-how, tools and ongoing support to create and maintain a website that produces results. Site Setup Kit contains 5 in-depth modules that guide you through the process of setting up a website using WordPress. (See our glowing review of WordPress above.)

That’s a wrap!

And that’s everything we use here at LKR! Got an alternative option to one of the tools mentioned here? Did I miss something altogether? Let us know in the comments so that I can get to know more tools and maybe even improve how I’m running my business!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. wow thanks for sharing. The automation is really taking over and these tools are one step towards better productivity.

    BTW I am checking out prezi right now.

  2. Inspiring list LKR and team. Thanks for putting this together!
    That’s great to see Sprout Social got a mention. I love the user-friendly interface for scheduling.
    The tool that I’ve fallen in love with just recently is Jing for quick screencasts and screen captures to share with team and clients. A technical person used it with me a few weeks back and I thought it was just brilliant. So intuitive and efficient to use. http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html

    • Erin @ LKR says:

      Hi Danielle! I agree-Jing is a great tool as well. Makes for easy training on something a bit complicated. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great list. There are a lot of these I’ve heard of, but definitely some I need to check out.

  4. Thanks for writing about us. I shared your article with our whole team and they couldn’t be happier :)

    – Paras, Visual Website Optimizer

  5. That was amazing!
    Thanks Laura, you’re about to make my life quite easier, especially with Buffer…
    Bisous from south of France ;)

  6. Thanks for sharing your tools! I like iDoneThis – the idea of an email being sent to me asking “What dd you get done today?” Talk about accountability! Signing up for it today.. Thumbs up for Hootsuite! I use it to schedule posts to various social media and don’t need to worry I missed a day.

    • Erin @ LKR says:

      I am happy you found this post useful Sharman! I LOVE the “What did you get done today” emails.

    • Glad you like us, Sharman! Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make iDoneThis better for you. And thanks for your kind words, Erin!

  7. Mellisa Thomas says:

    customer service is the challenge for every business, I agree. But it pays off. Seriously, you’re only a team of 5? that’s amazing.

  8. Marion Ferraez says:

    Any thoughts on copybloggers’ Premise?

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