My Internet Marketing Toolbox

35 comments
My Internet Marketing Toolbox post image

I’m in charge of the web operations for two product companies that average over 480K in monthly turnover. We hold premier #1 rankings and generate mid-five figure revenues through online-check outs monthly. Still the large majority of our sales are phone sales (put a phone number on your sites!).

Three years ago I had no idea how this stuff worked. It was just me, one product, and a crappy Yahoo store.

Now we’ve got 6 full time people on our team. As I was editing this post this evening over $1500.00 in orders came through our cart. That feeling never gets old. I always take a moment to look at the orders and to be thankful for them. At the end of the day its those orders that keep my lifestyle afloat.

Today I’ll share with you the tools we use to get it done. If I were more public about the niches we make money in, I wouldn’t be sharing this list. In particular, I would never want to share with my competition Market Samurai (more below on that).

We are block and tackle internet marketers mostly promoting hard goods that we drop ship or manufacture ourselves. We manage upwards of 70 domains, but only 10 of those are really important for revenue generation. We’ve used tons of different tools over the years to improve our process and get a leg up on the competition.

I’ve decided to pull together a list of the absolute top-of-the-crop best tools we use to make killer sites that convert.

Many of the links are affiliate links. They don’t bite, don’t increase the price, and help ramp up the amount of free podcasts and blog resources we can create. I don’t cloak that shaz on these sites because we are all adults and marketers :)

Build a site:

WordPress – For every site you can possibly use it for.

Your site should be in WordPress unless you really know what you are doing. Even if your site will eventually require more functionality, I’d get started in WordPress, build an audience or customer base, and then port the site to a more powerful platform once you’ve proven your market.

Drupal – For everything else.

We try to go with WordPress everytime we can, but the bottom line is Drupal has tons more horsepower for sites that demand big time functionality. FACT: You’ll need a full time developer to manage a Drupal site and even then it will be a challenge. Drupal works for larger community sites (like dating sites), ecommerce sites, and sites with TONS of content with many different classications. Only go Drupal if you are certain you need it.

The Thesis Theme for WordPress, Developer License – Get a good theme that is supported, scales, and that has a passionate user and support community. Set it and forget it.

I use Thesis for my three personal blogs, OutsourcetothePhilippines.comLifestyleBusinessPodcast.com, and this one. We also use it for a broad range of niche blogs we’ve set up to market our products like “OurProductsKeyTerm.com,” which present information about our products. Thesis is super easy to customize and you can count on it being supported as WordPress rapidly updates its platform.

I’ve got a bunch of money making sites I don’t want to be messing around with BS technical issues that are already solved elsewhere. By using Thesis I can leverage the large community of users and developers who are solving problems and building sites on this platform. There are also huge advantages for our developers using 1 theme across a wide range of domains. That doesn’t mean that all the sites look the same. Thesis is highly customizable. A lot of developers are experienced with the hook system it utilizes, and its very easy to learn if you want to do it yourself.

E-Junkie SELL INFO PRODUCTS ONLINE without hand building your own shopping cart.

For our e-commerce sites, some of which can pull in over 10K a month on one domain, we’ve set up custom shopping carts with Paypal Pro, automated auto-responders, freight calculation software, recommendation engines, and all the bells and whistles. Bottom line: that stuff requires full time development staff.

If you just want to pop up an eBook or a podcast series, e-junkie is cheap (starting at 5 bucks a month), and super easy. Especially when it comes to setting up affiliate links so others can get a commission by selling your products. You don’t want to do this manually. Hook up e-junkie.com, set it, and forget it.

Market Samurai If you have more than 1 domain for which you are doing competitive keyword and linking research, just go ahead and buy Market Samurai now.

This one is huge for our business. We’ve used market samurai to identify under marketed key term markets that now make us over $6K a month, find killer URLs to locate our businesses on, and predict how long it will take domains to achieve desired rankings. Type in any key term and Samurai will pump out competitive analysis, including banklink counts and quality, alternative suggestions, and detailed information regarding your competition.

Worried about your competition catching up to you? Get a status report with Market Samurai. Not sure what to name your business? No problem. Wondering what are the most profitable key terms in your niche? Doneski. Internet marketers, this is your money maker.

Sure, Google Keyword tool is a great place to get started, but Market Samurai is for serious players. It is easy to use and can easily be put in the hands of a VA or employee. Since my employees now use this software primarily, I’ll commonly make requests to them like “we want to start selling x products, please come up with a list of good URLs and key terms to focus on.” I’ll get a detailed report fast. Market Samurai does all the heavy lifting.

Aweber – Collect Contacts, Send Newsletters, Create Autoresponders, and Sync RSS Blog Posts

Aweber has been around for ages in internet terms (founded in 1998!!!?) and is the absolutle leader for double opt-in mailing lists. For single opt-in, or unsolicited campaigns, we use Constant ContactDO NOT collect lists using Feedburner email subscriptions, you won’t be able to control delivery times, and you only send blog updates (not newsletters or other mailings). You don’t want to find yourself a few months in to your online business with a list that is difficult to migrate and manage. Double opt-in systems like Aweber make it difficult to bring contacts from other systems. BOTTOM LINE: Your customer and prospect lists are your business. Invest in the best from the outset, and you won’t be disappointed.

Bluehost – Fast, affordable, reliable, and easy to use hosting for basic sites.

We use a variety of hosts for our network of sites, but for 99% of basic blogs and marketing sites, Bluehost is a great place to start. They offer unlimited domains, email addresses, and they are super cheap. If you are SUPER anal about up time I wouldn’t recommend them, but for most purposes they work just fine.

Another thing to keep in mind, sometimes we experiment some “grey” tactics on some of our marketing sites, if you intend to do this and are using a shared IP (i.e., all of your sites are in one Bluehost account) keep in mind that ALL of your sites could be punished. If you do want to mess around, I’d recommend getting a totally separate host for your shady sites. :)

Wired Tree – Hosting for your baller sites.

WiredTree is an excellent host for  multiple domains that require dedicated IPs, Virtual Private Server set ups (if you don’t know what this stuff is you probably don’t need it), and SSL certificates. Security has it’s price, and WiredTree gives it to you in the best rate possible.

Build a team:


Virtual Staff Finder
– The fastest way to grow your business is to hire people.

As I’ve said many times, when I first started outsourcing in the Philippines I lost at least 5X the cost of this service dealing with flaky VAs and overcoming my own inexperience. Worse than that– I wasted tons of my time and delayed money-making projects. Virtual Staff Finder offers the real opportunity to avoid all that headache.

Once you hire your VA through Virtual Staff Finder they will be officially your employee to be  100% employed and managed by you… this isn’t a “managed” service that you have no control over, this is a real asset that you can add to your company.

Dropbox – Instant file sharing, large media file sharing, computer back-ups.

If you aren’t using dropbox now, you will be in the very near future. It’s just that good. We use it for file sharing and computer backups. Dropbox is so genius because it doesn’t rely solely on the cloud, but actually downloads synced files directly to your hard drive. That means if @AnythingIan shares with me a new video he made, it’ll sync directly to my computer and I won’t need to be on a network to access that file. We use this extensively in our business to share critical shipping documents, large media files, and to back-up our files. Dropbox is also my preferred platform for photo and video sharing among friends.

GMAIL – Manage Multiple Identities from One Email Client

This works well if you’re managing ten different emails, or your a DBA for several websites. GMAIL is better than Outlook (it’s true!), and easily allows you to manage multiple domain extensions from one inbox (@lifestylebusinesspodcast.com, @tropicalmba.com, @outsourcetothephilippines.com, etc).

Even if you’re not running multiple websites, it still gives you the ability to manage both your personal and business emails out of one place. Keeping your email on Gmail also makes it easy to sync with all of Googles online tools, such as Google Calendar, and Google Documents. We also use a single Google document for project management.

Skype / Skype-in – Dirt Cheap Long Distance, inexpensive international call routing.

Without Skype I could not be a digital nomad. It is the single most important tool I use on a daily basis. Not only do I meet with my team in a chat room daily, but I make dirt-cheap long distance phone calls form my computer and handset. I have a “skype-in” phone number (about 30 bucks a year) that is a California based phone number (thus no long distance fees for my colleagues and family) that routes phone calls to either my computer, if turned on, or my local phone in whichever country I’m in. Balla!

Grasshopper – The phone is the most important part of 99% of businesses.

Grasshopper’s Virtual Phone System works just like large company phone systems, but is designed specifically for on-the-go entrepreneurs so that any small business can sound more professional and streamline its communications. Services start at $9.95/month.

You can get your own toll free number with a customized greeting, and an unlimited number of extensions.  If you don’t yet have an office with hard lines you can get the numbers routed to your home office, or your cellphone. You can even route the numbers to several people, so that if one employee is not available to take the call, the next person can pick it up. Not only does it make your small business sound bigger, it makes it extremely portable.

Grasshopper is probably the most important service we subscribe to and irreplaceable given the virtual nature of our business.

Paychex – Once you’ve hired people, managing the payroll can be a pain. This makes it easy for us.

The folks at Paychex.com are extremely responsive and provide a high level of support. PAYROLL FOR YOUR DOMESTIC STAFF IS A TOTAL TIME SUMP. Signing up for Paychex’s service eliminates all that hassle of having to understand that financial stuff yourself, and frees you to focus on what’s important: growing your busineses.

Paychex is also very start-up friendly, and will handle accounts for companies that have as little as one employee.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen – REQUIRED READING FOR INFORMATION WORKERS. This is probably the first business book I’d ask anyone to read if they are interested in doing business.

Read it. Even if you think you don’t need to, you do. You really do.

Some other cool stuff:

ECover Maker – You don’t need photoshop to make cool information product graphics.

Need a cover for your ebook or a cool looking design for your audio series? Sign up for the mailing list at the ECover Maker and you’ll get access to four awesome looking designs for free. I mentioned this on my podcast and many of the listeners have used it and love this product.

Darkroom (PC) / Write Room (Mac) – Distraction free creativity.

Your laptop can be a distracting place. When you sit down to be creative, these two programs will help you to block out distractions plus give you a nice black screen to type on, which is easier on your eyes. This post was composed in Write Room, which is a much more polished piece of software than Darkroom.

Tweet Adder – Twitter Marketing and timed tweets.

If you are selling products through twitter, and are managing a bunch of identities online, Tweet Adder is a killer tool. Smart auto-following features dredge up qualified leads on a daily basis, and timed tweets let’s you sit down at one time and schedule tweets weeks in advance.

Do you hang on the interwebs makin’ some loot?

What tools help you with your online business?

AND thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Dan

Published on 11.23.10
  • http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com/ Chris C. Ducker

    Two Words –

    This ROCKS!

    Dan, what a killer bunch of ways to get things moving in the right direction when working online. This post should easily become a natural landing page for new visitors to your site, I reckon.

    Good job for putting it together – these types of posts look easy to produce, but they take TONS of time.

    I know I appreciate the effort.

    Cheers, man.

    C

  • http://www.nomadcouch.com/ Juha Liikala

    Wow, what a great resource post Dan! Found a few new tools for my online arsenal there as well. Very cool!

    Here’s my online toolbox: http://www.nomadcouch.com/toolbox/ It has changed quite a bit since I compiled that one (more cool tools, changed a few to other better ones and so forth), so I think I’ll need to update that, but there’s the old one anyway!

    Do you utilize any mobile apps while working remotely?

    Hope all is well with you, cheers!
    – Juha

  • http://www.lifestylebusinessdesign.com John Paul Grant

    Sexy! This paychex resource may just be a lifesaver for myself!

    For those outside the US I found http://www.tollfreeforwarding.com/1-800-toll-free-numbers.html to be a good alternative to grasshopper.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Rockin’! Thanks for the tip, FYI to readers I also use KALL8.com service for the automatic messaging service for my podcast. I do this because it’s hyper cheap and I don’t need all the bells and whistles that grasshopper has… I’m just signed up for the very simple service of answering machine and then it emails me the MP3 files.

    Paychex has been working great for us.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Yo! Juha thanks for stopping by and sharing your list. Your list looks really slick, I could take a few formatting lessons from you. I also use call recorder and Jing (I haven’t gone all out to camtasia).

    As far as mobile, I was using evernote for a while but I found it added unneeded complexity to my system. I’m very much going minimalist lately and just overall trying to manage much less. In my corporate days where it was just required that I manage hundreds of tasks daily I used a lot more tools, but now I prefer to go simple and do less, but more important tasks and leave the MGMT up to my team members.

    Regarding mobile the only “important” app I use regularly is Skype. My current favorite app is “Pro HDR” for taking HDR photos.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thanks Chris :D I think it would be a good idea to make this toolbox a little simpler and more a list type layout with categories (like Juha’s above) and add it to all my sites. There are a lot more tools where this came from buy since I wanted to explain everything I sorta cut it short. Thanks for your effort in bringing a great service to the list ! :) Talk soon….

  • bencameron

    Thanks a million for this post, Dan. Really appreciate the nuts and bolts of how to get stuff up and running from the get go to compliment the big picture stuff that motivates you to make it happen. Keep the dream alive buddy!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thanks! It was a pleasure to write it.

  • http://www.deano.de Deano

    Great post there Dan, and very timely for me as I need to sign up for e-junkie (not sure how much affiliate commission you’ll get on a $5 product, but san mig is cheap), and I need an eBook cover maker.

    I find web-based platforms like wordpress painfully slow myself, and more than a tad quirky.

    Why did you go for drupel over Joomla?

    My main everyday tools are:

    Dreamweaver, (I see the new version has integrated CMS support, time for an upgrade soon!)
    http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/

    CuteFTP: http://www.cuteftp.com/

    Open office: http://www.openoffice.org/

    Faststone capture: http://www.faststone.org

    SEObook SEO for firefox plugin and Rank checker. (http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.html).

    Guess my tools are more geared towards running a website rather than a business, but some may be useful to other readers.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Deano, great list there. I’ve never seen faststone. That reminds me of one great free photo resource for Windows, Photoscape, it can do wonders and doesn’t require a big learning curve. Also reminds me that I use Jing regularly but didn’t include it. CuteFTP is a good client, I prefer FileZilla and CyberDuck.

    RE: Drupal vs. Joomla it was a BIG discussion that went on for more than 2 weeks. At the time we chose (2+ years ago?) Joomla was more user friendly but Drupal was much more powerful. Since we didn’t care about user friendly (we have full time developers) we went Drupal. I haven’t re-looked at the issue in depth since that time so I’m not totally sure how the dev has come along on both. One thing is for sure, Drupal hasn’t been improving at the pace of WordPress, and installing new versions of the software isn’t a 1 click affair :(

    Thanks for taking the time to share your tools as well, appreciate that :)

    PS, RE: 5 bucks is the monthly fee for e-junkie. Affiliate commission can be whatever you want it to be.

  • Davo

    Great work as always Dan.

    I couldn’t operate without Highrise from 37 Signals, but two new tools I’ve only just started using that look very promising are

    http://www.timedoctor.com/ for managing my own daily schedule and possibly my staff in the future

    http://www.proposable.com/ which I suppose you’d say is the next generation for proposals

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Davo! Always a pleasure to have you pop up on the radar, I’ve sent proposable off to Ian looks very cool. Noted on highrise we kind of have a little bit of a patched together approach to CRM might have to upgrade sometime soon.

  • http://www.deano.de Deano

    Yes it would be nice having a team of developers behind you if using either Drupal or Joomla.

    I think that the popularity of wordpress is largely down to its simplicity (shame about the load times).

    Setting up Joomla sites (I have two) is not a simple process, nor is adding new content sections after a few months away from it. On the plus side some of the addons that they have are very sweet (http://extensions.joomla.org/).

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    I’ve been very impressed at WordPress’ moves over the last few years to be more of a CMS platform and I’ve found it very useful in that respect. Despite Drupal being billed as a very light platform we’ve found it puts a huge load on our servers (granted our sites are big). Most non-developers who chose Joomla a few years ago can probably apply WordPress for most of their needs nowadays, especially given the wealth of great plugins for things like directories, account mgmt, etc.

  • Cody McKibben

    Great resources mate, thanks!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    yeah buddy :D

  • Info

    Dan great post, just a couple of points:

    I use SkypeIn instead of grasshopper. I have UK and US numbers which forward to Skype and then forward on via SkypeOut to a local ‘pay as you go’ mobile in whatever country I am in. I don’t need a toll free and I like to choose my area code (London for the UK and SF for the US). Skype calls to mobiles are expensive though so when I’m away from my computer the costs can rise but I rarely miss a call.

    My second point is I am interested as to why you always discuss revenue numbers and not profit. My philosophy is very much with 37 signals (their book ‘rework’ I would say is required business reading), which puts profit as the only focus. Is it a natural reluctance to disclose profits ( I wouldn’t do it either :) ) or do you have a natural focus to revenues?

    All the best as always.. Surf is great in Babados still

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey-o thanks for the comment!

    Word re: Skype-in I love that service. The upgrade to grasshopper becomes necessary when you’ve got a few sales reps and need extensions, multiple brand identities, and so on. For my personal use Skype-in rocks.

    Good question RE: revenue vs. profit. The reason I don’t use profit numbers is that they are extremely complicated to report for a wide range of reasons, including the one you take a nod to (taxes!). If I quoted a profit number I’d need to add another blog post full of qualifications.

    This is the first time I really thought of this, but if you want to get an idea of the scope or “machinery” of a business as a 3rd party outsider, you’d probably get a better idea of what that business looked like by hearing about the revenue figures vs. the profit figures.

    I agree that profit is all that matters at the end of the day, and am sympathetic to the 37 dude’s POV, but even the bottom line isn’t always the bottom line. There are many ways you can compensate business owners other than bottom line profits, and that again can distort the true bottom line, so it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Regarding our margins, if a consultant took a look at our company at this point they’d say our net margins relative to the rest of our sector they’d report they are “very healthy.”

  • Info

    Hi Dan I agree with you. Actually thinking about it I guess I don’t judge ‘profit’ in the classic sense but in terms of what income I get ‘in my hand’ monthly whether in cash or some other benefit in kind. For example I get a car and cell phone contract paid by a company I advise which costs both them and me less than if I was paying for it ‘above the line’. Taking it even further (and this could be a whole new post :)) ‘income’ isn’t even always ‘income’.. As a keen ‘geo-arbritager’ I like to spend time in places where I can have a comparable lifestyle for a fraction of the cost.. So my ‘income’ is effectively multiplied.

    Cheers
    Dan
    @dobrodruh

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Rockin, agreed. Soooo…. “profit and income” internally, revenue externally works for me.

  • http://twitter.com/nathanyap Nathan

    Dan,Great post! I especially found Thesis to be very useful. I’m currently trying to see how best to add a signup/credit card page to my site. Any experience/advice on this?

    -Nathan

  • http://stankavich.com Mike Stankavich

    Hey Dan, great list! Sorry I’m kinda late to the party, but I’d like to add one service that I really love. I know we wish it were not so, but some folks still like fax. For low volume you just can’t beat faxage.com. It’s only 3.49 per month plus 0.05/min for usage. That includes a number dedicated to you for your inbound faxes. Since I only use it 3 or 4 times per year that’s just perfect for me. You receive inbound faxes by email in PDF format. You send outbound through the website by uploading a pdf, jpg, doc, or similar file. Good stuff!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Wow Mike sounds cool. Also amazing. I can’t believe people still send faxes! Yehowee, thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Nathan, the cheapest way I’ve seen to add CC to a page is e-junkie (5 bucks a month). You can charge for stuff like “consulting service.” If you go with paypal and build your own CC checkout, 30 bucks a month is the minimum.

  • Info

    Hi guys re: crm I moved to Zoho. Free for up to 3 users and available from google apps marketplace so you sign on directly through google apps which is great. I like highrise too but you can’t beat free :)

    Cheers
    Dan
    @dobrodruh

  • bencameron

    Hey just a thought… considering an Ebook is probably the jumping off point for alot of new online entrepreneurs would you consider doing a post on how to create one? Not just the marketing side but also the technical, document-createy stuff… Cheers Mate!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Ben, given I still haven’t put an eBook for sale, I’d take a peak at Pat Flynn’s “EBooks the Easy Way.” Its free and pretty comprehensive. In terms of layout and stuff I’d suggest getting a pro to lay it out in in-design by Adobe. That’ll improve the perceived value of the info, a great example of this is “source control” by David Walsh. The thing is just too pretty. I’d suggest finding another eBook that you really like and have them do something close to the same formatting. That’ll cut down on the amount of time your contractor uses selecting heading structures etc.

  • bencameron

    Outstanding. Thanks a million mate!

  • Info

    Hi Dan interested to see if you are are still using Dropbox? We have replaced it completely with Google Docs now http://cloudsourcesolutions.com/category/Blog/

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Yes I actually upgraded to premium with Ian. Will check this out, thanks….

  • Brian

    You mention using Constant Contact for unsolicited email campaigns. Can you share with us how you avoid getting an account closed when using unsolicited email addresses?

  • t. wright

    I’d like to host a .co domain on bluehost but it doesn’t seem directly possible. Which domain registry would you recommend and how do I transfer it to bluehost? Thanks a ton, love the blog.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    I use GoDaddy or NameCheap. I wouldn’t transfer the domain to Bluehost, rather just enter the BH nameservers into the preferences of that domain at your host control panel: e.g., NS1.BLUEHOST.COM

  • t. wright

    “Three years ago I had no idea how this stuff worked. It was just me, one product, and a crappy Yahoo store.” Oh boy, that’s me to the ‘t.’ Even just deciphering your NS1..BLUEHOST.COM comment took awhile. Luckily there are YouTube tutorials for everything. Thanks for leading me in the right direction.

  • Rowell Heartful

    Just awesome topic! I need help with this too! I’ve found some decent tutorials on how to fill a form out online here http://goo.gl/UWKPM3

Next post: