Before I even get started on this list of my favorite business tools, let’s talk about this whole “soup to nuts” thing. I’ve heard this phrase throughout my life, and I know that it means “from start to finish,” but what’s the origin? Wikipedia to the rescue: The phrase comes from describing a full-course meal, in which you start with soup and end with a bowl of nuts. Interesting. I’d probably prefer chocolate over nuts (seriously, who eats nuts for dessert?).
Anyway… mystery solved, let’s get back to the business at hand: A list of my favorite tools that will truly help you be more productive and grow your business.
I’m including a pretty comprehensive list of all of my favorite business tools I use on a regular basis. I’m not a fan of using a bazillion tools – let’s not stuff ourselves – just start slow, use what makes sense for you at the appropriate time in your business.
The table is set; let’s eat!
It’s that time of the week again, the time you’ve diligently scheduled to write your blog. You sit at your desk, hands poised on the keyboard. The blank screen, waiting to be filled, staring at you. You’re stumped: What on earth will I blog about today?
Don’t worry; you’re definitely not alone. Sometimes, not even a piece of chocolate can get my wheels turning on a topic. That’s when I turn to my friend, BuzzSumo. This handy tool let’s me see what type of blogs are getting a lot of shares and, more importantly, which content on my competitors’ sites are getting the most shares. What I’m trying to figure out is not just if people are going to read this, but are people going to share it? BuzzSumo provides the share data, and that’s pretty important.
The tool also can be helpful for researching a niche market. What can you leverage that’s already been done, is the content worth sharing, or is there content that you can write about more and share your opinion? Sure, Google lets you pull up what the most-trafficked sites and articles are, but the share data gives you a whole other perspective. Brilliant.
Pricing: Free plan (limited); paid plans start at $79 per month, all with free 7-day trials
Alas, you’ve researched your topic and written your blog. Congrats! But in several instances, your point might be better understood with an accompanying illustration. Here’s an analogy: Imagine trying to build IKEA furniture without the manual. It would be nearly impossible—you’d be completely lost, throw your hands up, and probably go get some wine. At least I would.
Here’s where Snagit comes in handy, because you can screen grab anything—full screen desktop, portions of it, scrolling screen, even video. It’s been awesome for me to provide tips on social media. I’ll see something new on Facebook or something different that’s happening, and I can immediately take a screenshot, frame it perfectly, add some text, make it look nice, and boom—there’s my post.
I also use Snagit for support, particularly in my Social Media Manager School and my Facebook Advertising Secrets course. Many times, people are asking questions about how to do something. I can take a screenshot, draw an arrow, and say, “Push this button right here.” So it makes it really, really clear on how to do something, especially when Facebook changes and moves things around all the time.
It’s just perfect for easy little screen captures that quickly illustrate what I’m trying to explain. Snagit is totally worth it!
Pricing: Individual licenses start at $49.95, with a free trial
Let’s say that blog you just researched, wrote, and snazzed up with some screenshots is a how-to blog, where you’re explaining steps on accomplishing a task. Some of the most-watched how-to videos out there are cooking videos. Why? Because the videos make it so easy to understand exactly how to, for example, julienne a carrot or core a pineapple. For me, my go-to video tool is Animoto.
I use it for myself and my clients, who many times just don’t have good videos. Animoto has really cool pre-built templates and all kinds of cool animations, so it’s easy to create, well, cool videos. Even if you don’t have video footage, you can use this tool with your still images.
For Facebook ads in particular, testing video against a still image is important because you get information about views and can retarget from there. And you can also test different video formats in Facebook Ads.
Once you have Animoto, you can quickly create videos of all shapes and sizes—square, landscape, or however you want it to look. Need a little mood music? Animoto has all kinds of background music, saving you the time of finding it on your own. It’s a great, easy tool that’s not super expensive to subscribe for a year.
Pricing: Plans start at $9 per month, all with free 14-day trials
Once you’ve written your blog and adorned it with screenshots and videos, it’s time to share it with the world. (And because you’ve researched it so well, it is a very share-worthy topic.) You can log in to your Facebook account and post it there, and then do the same for LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Plus, you’ll want to review all of the activity and engage with your followers, so that requires monitoring all of those platforms. Wow, that’s a lot of work.
I have a lifesaver, and it’s called Agorapulse. I recommend this tool to my students at Social Media Manager School (and you) for a number of reasons. Like other social media management tools, you can schedule your posts from one dashboard, which saves so much time.
But the game changer for me with Agorapulse is its feature called Social Inbox that lets you view and interact with all of your messages, comments, tags, and mentions. That’s all social platforms from one inbox. This feature lets you truly monitor what’s going on. And if you’re like me, not only do you like wine and chocolate, but you also might not be the best at responding to every single notification. With Social Inbox, I can check it every morning, see what’s new, respond, and go on with my day. It has been so helpful!
Another plus with Agorapulse is the support. A while ago, I had a problem where I was uploading some tweets, but they weren’t posting with images. That’s a huge thing because Twitter has become much more visual. I contacted support, and the Agorapulse team figured out that it was something within my site, and my webmaster was able to fix it with the team’s direction. A great tool with great support—I don’t think I could ask for more.
Just like you’d expected, your blogs with screenshots and videos have been shared like crazy, and you’ve been able to engage with all of the activity. It’s time to have a webinar—people are lining up to hear more of what you have to say. Way to go! But what tool to use, because there are so many out there?
I like ClickMeeting, which has a lot of really great features, including whiteboards, sharing slides, registering attendees, and rolling chat for people to ask questions. Plus, it’s quite affordable, especially compared to other webinar tools.
When you’re ready to charge for your webinar, ClickMeeting makes it easy to create a paid webinar—a great feature to grow into. Plus, once your webinar is done, you can repurpose the content. Another win!
An alternative webinar tool is Demio, which is fairly comparable to ClickMeeting. They have similar features, so it comes down to ease of use, connectivity, and design elements. It truly is a matter of preference, so I wanted to mention it. You can’t go wrong with either tool.
Another tool in this area that deserves a shoutout is Zoom. I use Zoom for client meetings and streaming Facebook Live to my Facebook Page and Facebook Groups.
I also use it for group mastermind meetings.
You can schedule meetings, record meetings, and even do webinars with Zoom (extra monthly fee).
Pricing: A free plan is available with a 40 minute meeting limit; paid plans start at $14.99 per month.
This list would not be complete without a shoutout to Canva – a tool for image creation that I use every day. I use it for creating images for Facebook Ad campaigns for clients, blog posts, and more.
I can create an ad image for Facebook Feed placement and then easily resize it for Instagram Story placement for example. Of course adjustments need to happen but it’s easier than starting from scratch!
Plus I can have a template for blog posts so that I can re-use the same elements.
Pricing: Free with some paid elements (images, elements, frames) unless you use the Canva for Work option (which I do) at $9.95 per month which includes Resizing, brand elements, Team templates and more.
Dropbox and Google Drive are both essential to my business. I use both for client work, team folders, and storing course material.
Google Drive is better for shared files where you both need to update the content or make comments on the content and I like Dropbox for storing a variety of file formats.
Pricing: A free plan is available with 2 GB of space; paid plans start at $9.99 per month.
I use Google Analytics almost every day. I’m a little obsessed. I may not do all the actions I think about doing as a result of looking at my analytics but I do like thinking about the possibilities.
Best of all it’s a free tool! Every business should have Google Analytics installed immediately if you don’t have it already.
Camtasia is another Tech Smith product (like Snagit) that is essential to my business. I use it to record my course videos and occasionally for light editing on other videos.
You can do screen recordings and zoom in and out or record PowerPoint videos (there are easier ways to just record a PowerPoint though).
I can also render the video or just strip out the mp3 if needed.
Pricing: Individual licenses start at $249, with a free trial
Zoho Desk is a more recent tool that we have incorporated into the team for responding to customer service questions. You can segment it by different support email addresses and assign tickets to different team members.
It became essential as my business grew and we needed to pull different team members on to the individual threads. So helpful!
Pricing: A free plan is available; paid plans start at $12 per month.
I use Asana for project planning. I can assign tasks to team members and map out what needs to be done for each task.
Pricing: Plans start at $9.99 per month, all with free trials
You might notice that there are a few very large omissions in this list of tools that include my email provider, web host, shopping cart, and membership tool for my courses. And the reason for that is I’m making some big changes in that area. But those are all absolutely essential tools you need to have if you are running a business and have an online course.
I will update this post when I’ve migrated to my new options and can share more of my experience.
There you have it—my favorite business tools from soup to nuts. Feeling full? Me too, so let me add one more thing: Take it SLOW.
A mistake that some people make is thinking that they need to go out and get all of these tools right away. The reality is that you only need certain tools at certain times, and you can grow into additional tools as your business grows. Only then can you see how much time these tools can save you. It can be challenging because many tools overlap, so I suggested using the free trials to see what’s going to be the best fit for you.