The Tools I Use To Run My Online Business

The Tools I Use To Run My Online Business


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The Tools I Use To Run My Online Business

Probably the question I get the most emails on is some variant of “what's the best X?”.

What's the best email marketing system? What's the best landing page builder? What's the best shopping cart?

And, of course, there's no one right answer for everyone. What suits a full-time online marketer with a team behind them isn't the same as what suits a small solo business with limited time to do their marketing in. And personal preferences play a role too.

But what I can tell you about are the tools I personally use. These are the ones that I've tested and I feel are the best to help me run my online business without being too complex or too time-consuming. They might well be a good fit for you too.

Tools I Use To Run My Website

I run this (and my other sites) on WordPress. Of course, there are other free tools to build websites. Some, like Wix or Squarespace, are actually much easier to use than WordPress.

But WordPress scores on two critical dimensions.

Firstly, there's a huge range of marketing tools built to integrate easily with WordPress. Whether it's tools to get email optins or share things on social media; the best tools that get the best results work on WordPress.

Secondly, there are a ton of freelancers, VAs, agencies and other professionals who can help build a site in WordPress for you if you need help. The choices are much more restricted when it comes to other systems.

For my main site here, I use the Astro Theme from Themeforest for the blog side of the site. It's a beautiful, clean single-column layout where all the emphasis is on the content rather than flashy widgets and sidebars. I then built my homepage and other landing pages on my site using Thrive Architect.

A free alternative to Astro (though not quite as pretty) is the Independent Publisher theme. I used that before I found Astro.

For the optin forms, popups, scroll-mats and the like on my site I use Convertbox these days. It's a very easy to use tool for creating and implementing a whole series of optin tools and widgets. And it has the advantage of linking to your email system so it can show different things to people depending on their status on your system. So, for example, you can show a popup only to people who haven't subscribed to it before. You can get it on a $495 lifetime deal here. The previous tool I used (and still use for some purposes) is Thrive Leads. it's a bit more complex and fiddly to set up, and doesn't “read” details from your email system like Convertbox. But at $67 one-off it's a bit cheaper.

For my membership site I use Memberium for Active Campaign. It's the Active Campaign version of Memberium for Infusionsoft which is used by some of the world's biggest membership sites.

For my social sharing icons I use the Social Warfare plugin – it's one of the few that properly counts Tweets these days. I also use Social Bee to share my content regularly on various social media platforms. I got Social Bee for $49 via one of Appsumo's lifetime deal offers which they occasionally repeat. It's worth registering with Appsumo to check out their lifetime deals like this which they update regularly. Keep a grip on your wallet though as some of them are very tempting.

For domain registration I personally use Namecheap as my primary registrar. They're great value (usually the cheapest for any time of domain) and include free whois privacy protection.

My key sites including this one are hosted with WPX Hosting. It's not only high-performance hosting, it's great value too and their customer support is excellent.

You can boost the performance of any site using a content delivery network. Cloudflare is a free one I used to use before I switched to WPX Hosting (WPX has its own content delivery network which I use for my main sites).

Tools I Use For Email Marketing

Email Marketing is probably the most important component in an online business. I don't know of any really successful online businesses that don't focus heavily on email marketing- which may be why I wrote a book about it :)

Making a recommendation is pretty simple: I use Active Campaign. It provides advanced email marketing with excellent integration with CRM systems, accounting systems and a whole host of others. And unlike Infusionsoft or Ontraport, their Lite plan starts off at pretty much the same pricing level as simple systems like Aweber or Mailchimp.

You can read my review of Active Campaign here: Active Campaign Review.

A good alternative to Active Campaign that many people like is Convertkit. It's got similar automations, tagging etc. and some people think it's a bit easier to use than Active Campaign. It hasn't got quite so many features or integrations (for example you can't get a tightly integrated membership system like Memberium), but if you don't need them and you want a system that's perhaps a bit easier to use, Convertkit would be a good solution for you.

Tools I use For Online Purchases

Of course, the other key tool you need to run an online business is some type of shopping cart so that people can actually pay you money (I find getting paid is a pretty essential component of any business ;) ).

Many people start off with just a Paypal button to buy from them and that's a great and simple way to get started. But if you want something that will get you more buyers, is considerably quicker to set up, allows proper invoicing and record-keeping, handling of taxes and running an affiliate program then you'll need a proper shopping cart platform.

The tool I've been using for nearly 4 years is Thrivecart.

Weirdly enough, Thrivecart isn't related to Thrive Landing Pages or Thrive Leads except for the fact that I use them all and recommend them highly :)

Thrivecart is one of the few shopping cart platforms to properly handle EU Digital VAT – which is one of the reasons I switched to using it. In the last few months for my business and my wife Kathy's we've run literally thousands of transactions through it and it's worked flawlessly. It has brilliant integration with email marketing systems (you can automatically add buyers to Active Campaign tags, automations and lists depending on what they buy, the upsells and other offers they take, etc. And you can trigger automations for failed subscription payments or when the cart gets abandoned).

Right now, Thrivecart is still in pilot mode and isn't available to the general public. When it goes public it'll be priced at something like $97 a month. But a few experienced and enthusiastic users like me are allowed to promote it before it goes public at a very special one-off price of $595 (+VAT if applicable).

You can check out the special offer on Thrivecart here – but if you're interested be sure to take it up before it goes public and switches to monthly pricing very soon.

You can also read my in-depth Thrivecart review here.

And that's it. Those are the core tools I use to run my online business. If you're a solo business like me then they could well be a good fit for you too.

*Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and I'll get a commission if you buy through those links, so make sure you do your due diligence rather than just relying on my recommendation. Though obviously all of them are tools I use and you can see them in action on my site and in my marketing.

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.