Whether you're thinking of taking your business online, or you're already doing business online, there are a few tools that you need to start and run an online business, and a few that will make your online marketing tasks much easier.
Today you're going to learn what the essential tools are, why you need them, and I've included the most reliable, intuitive and cost effective solutions that I've found.
So check out these tools to see which ones you still need to add to your online business resources.
For ease of reference, let's compare these tools for online business to their counterparts in a traditional offline "brick and mortar" business scenario.
Domain Name Registrar
In order for someone to get to the location of your "brick and mortar" business, you would need to provide them with a physical address. Your domain name is the address of your business online. And to get your online address you have register through a domain registrar.
I use and recommend Namecheap... They are reasonable, and they've been around for a long time.
Web-hosting would be like the land on which your business is located. It's a place on the Internet where you put and store all of the files that comprise your website and business.
Many web hosting companies also offer domain registration services, or offer a free domain with a web hosting package. This is generally fine for beginners, but more advanced users may feel more comfortable keeping their web hosting and domain registration at separate companies.
If you are comfortable with setting up your web-hosting and managing your website yourself, then I recommend going with SiteGround. They are secure, reliable and fast, and have great customer service.
If you would have the setting up and ongoing maintenance of your websites done for you, then you can check out my Website Hosting and Management Packages. I'll take good care of your assets!
Your website is the "building" from which you run your business.
To create your website, you'll need some sort of website building software or platform, of which there are many.
But, let's categorize them into 2 main options - Fully Hosted and Self Hosted.
Fully Hosted Platforms
Services like Squarespace.com, WordPress.com and Wix.com are examples of fully-hosted platforms. They let you quickly create a website within their hosted ecosystems.
You'll need to simply sign up for an account, choose a pre-designed template, and get started.
But, using such platforms has 2 major disadvantages:
An extended example of this is people that build their online business solely on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. These platforms can change the rules on you very quickly (Facebook is notorious for this), and if for any reason they go down, so does your business with all the assets you've built.
You want to own rather than rent.
Open Self-Hosted Platform
These are basically software that you install on your domain and use to build your website. Examples include Drupal, WordPress.org and Joomla.
My recommendation is to go with WordPress.org. It has been around since 2003, and is used by 41% of websites across the Internet. It’s free, powerful, extremely versatile and well-documented.
Unless you have a need for super complex functionality, then there’s no reason to use anything other than WordPress in 2023.
Now, just as with a physical business, where you would want that when people walk into your building it invokes particular feelings, such as comfort, trust, professionalism, or whatever you want, you'll want to evoke those feelings when people "step into" your website.
And that's done with the look and feel of your website.
If you are going to use WordPress.org (and you should), then I suggest going with a theme builder, which allows you to quickly create beautiful websites with pre-designed professional templates (so that you don't need any design experience), but that also allow you to customize your entire website to exactly what you want.
I recommend Thrive Theme Builder. It has literally been a game-changer for my online business. Plus, Thrive Themes Suite of plugins is the most cost effective solution I’ve found to build, run and grow my online businesses.
Content Management System
A Content Management System (CMS) allows you to do just what it says - manage your content.
There are plenty of CMS platforms available. It just so happens that WordPress.org doubles as a CMS, and it's both user-friendly and powerful. WordPress allows you to easily create content to share with your audience and organize your content in very systematic ways.
Email Marketing Service
Every online entrepreneur needs to build a mailing list.
Why? Research has shown that it takes about seven or more interactions with business before most people buy anything online.
This makes it vital that you to get visitors to your site onto a mailing list so you can follow up with them, and build relationships with them.
And that means you need a good autoresponder/email service provider with the following features as a minimum:
Simply put... your business website also needs a way to collect payments for your products or services. if you have no way to actually close the sale, are you really running a business website?
A payment Processor allows you to accept payments on your website. An eCommerce cart goes a bit further, in that they allow:
Your customers to add multiple products to a cart before checkout, as you would do on big commerce websites such as Amazon.com
You to include bump offers (before they purchase), up-sells (after they've made their purchase) in your checkout process. They also allow you to create an affiliate program and have other people promote your business in exchange for a commission.
If you're wanting to sell multiple digital or physical products, and want the option where customers can add several products to their cart before checking out, then you can use WooCommerce. It's a free plugin that works with the WordPress platform.
If you're selling selling one off products and services, then I suggest ThriveCart. It's very powerful!
Tracking and Testing Tools
No matter what you’re selling, you need to keep good track of how your business if working - whether your ad campaigns, sales pages, and opt-in pages are converting for you.
Testing and tracking is the only way to find out what REALLY works when it comes to different conversion goals. And it’s the only way to improve your conversion rates, which leads to increased revenue.
To conduct simple A/B testing of your landing pages, I recommend Thrive Optimize.
For simple tracking of where your clicks are coming from, you can try Linkly, which allows you to track up to 250 links and 1000 clicks per month for free.
For more advanced information, you can use Google Analytics, which is free. Or, if you're concerned about privacy you can go with Matomo.org.
Social Media Tools
There are plenty of social media tools available, which do everything from tracking your campaigns to scheduling content. A good option is to use an all-in-one-tool such as CrowdFire.
The tools and resources mentioned above are what you need to start and run your online business, and the recommendations given are the most cost-effective solutions that I've found.
What about you?... What other other resources that have been vital to your online business? Let me know in the comments below.