I’ve been through several iterations in my days as an online marketing coach for direct sellers. We’ve used several different mailing list providers, web site hosts and content management systems. I’ve even run through my share of team members.
Here’s what we’re using now, and it’s working for us.
WordPress – originally, I was a Blogger girl. I had my “blogspot.com” address, and I trained others to use it, too. It is incredibly simple to use, and it was the recommended platform in my book, Home Party Solution. But times change, and I eventually migrated to WordPress. I wanted more control over the look and feel of the site, and with thousands upon thousands of themes, WordPress gave me lots of options. Plus, there’s an easy export tool that allows you to migrate from blogger to wordpress, so I could bring all my posts with me!
If you suffer from analysis paralysis, stick with blogger. They keep it really simple there. When you’re ready to up your game, WordPress makes it easy to switch.
Mail Chimp – I was slow to migrate every list I had from our former provider. The nature of mailing list services is that they provide a legacy service, so the longer you’re there, the more loyal you become. It becomes too taxing to migrate the lists. So you KNOW I was dealing with serious crap from our previous provider when I finally took the plunge last year.
Simply put, the Chimp’s got it going on. They have great tutorials for novices, and great analytics for folks who want a more granular view of how the world is treating them. Frankly, it was the combination of analytics and pricing (free for lists under 2000!) that finally made me jump ship. I couldn’t stand plunking down $100 or more per month for lackluster tracking and even less customer service.
Paypal – when we dropped our old mailing list provider, we also dumped the merchant account and shopping cart that came with it. Since most of our clients were paying via paypal anyway (and we were getting charged twice for accepting paypal payments!), it made sense to simplify everything. Now, Paypal is all we use. With the advent of Paypal’s new “Here” system, I’m looking forward to being able to swipe cards at events, too – something my previous shopping cart provider couldn’t offer.
Wishlist Member – powerful software for securing downloads and creating a membership site. I’ve used joomla, ning, and other membership software. I’ve even helped other biz owners build membership sites on various platforms, including Membergate. Nothing I’ve found works as easy as Wishlist Member on a WordPress platform. You can have as much control as you want over the look and feel of the site, without taxing your brain. Wishlist member also includes a “wizard” that creates all the internal pages you need to make sure your site navigates properly. Frankly, it just keeps getting better with each evolution.
The Golden Rule VA – I couldn’t keep up with all our guest contributors without Melissa. She keeps everything running on time, generates traffic reports, and keeps everything tidy on the site. Without a VA, I couldn’t do half the things I do right now. She makes me look good.
FreeMind – mind mapping software that allows me to see the bigger picture of all the work I’m working on. Visual processing tools like mind maps help me put all the pieces together – and I can move them around (like sticky notes on a wall), save them (as a graphic or PDF), and get as detailed as I want (or don’t want).
OpenOffice – don’t want to dig into deep pockets for MS Office? This is free – and just about as functional. From spreadsheets to documents – even exporting to PDF format – nothing comes close to Open Office for the money. I use Google Docs for collaborating and a central depository, but when I’m working on downloadables, I still prefer Open Office.
Gimp – Need a nice image processing tool but don’t want/need all the bells and whistles of Photoshop? I really like Gimp. For my video editing, I use Camtasia (and on rare occasions Windows Movie Maker). For audio editing, I either use Camtasia or Audacity, which is free. If I’m shooting straight off the camera, without editing, I’m using my built in webcam, or the Microsoft Lifechat 6000. Occasionally, I’ll use a teleprompter (oh yes, I just gave up a secret, didn’t I?), but the interface sometimes freezes up, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending it to someone that’s not techy. And yes, we host those videos on good ol’ YouTube.
For Teleclasses, I’ve used a variety of providers, and still get the best, no-cost results from Free Conferencing. There’s even an option for people to connect via skype or Google Voice (on newer lines), so there are no long-distance charges for calling in. Not only is it free, but there’s also screen sharing, audio uploading, and many of the basic in-call features that subscription-based InstantTeleseminar has. Reminder: if you’re doing a paid event, it’s always a good idea to have a backup line. For video interviews, I currently use skype, and SuperTinTin records everything nicely.
So those are the big deal items we use regularly around here. Did I miss something? Let me know, I’ll be glad to fill you in. When you’re just getting started with an online presence, keep it simple, and avoid the expense of infrastructure. As you grow – and your income along with it – then it makes sense to invest in reasonably priced support tools. But frankly, there’s no point in spending money you don’t need to spend just to make yourself look good. These low and no-cost options get the job done for many entrepreneurs well into their business development. I know they work for us![box type=”info”] If you’re reading this on the blog, or your Kindle, you’re only getting half the story! “Party On!” is designed for direct sales professionals serious about building a real business, not an expensive hobby. Each week we share additional resources and stories beyond what you see here on the blog, including complimentary training courses, downloadables, and more. Learn more and register for your copy of “PartyOn!” today. [/box]