Recommended Resources & Deals
Some of the products and deals below are affiliate links, meaning I might get a payment if you buy anything, at no extra cost to you. However, all of the products and services listed are those I have worked with in the past or present and can attest to their quality. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend them!
Setting up a digital business
Website, email & domain stuff
WordPress Hosting - WPEngine (preferred)
By far the best WordPress website hosting available (and I've tried a few!). You get full production, test and dev environments and all the tools you need to manage them including daily and ad-hoc backups. WPEngine is not cheap, but then again, this is for business users rather than hobbyists, so the price reflects the quality of service. And yes, this website and all my client's websites are hosted on WPEngine.
Website Hosting - Bluehost (cheaper alternative)
Bluehost is a solid hosting performer if budget is a challenge for you or your client. You can get great deals on Bluehost, but remember, the cheaper you go, potentially the slower your website will perform as the infrastructure is shared amongst other website users.
DNS Management - Cloudflare
Cloudflare manages your domains DNS, speeds up your website through caching and protects it from DDoS attacks by rogue states and hackers. If all that sounds like gobbledegook, just take it from me, it makes your website faster and more secure. The best part, it's free forever on the basic account. Highly recommended.
If you're seriously into SEO and want to outperform your competitors organically in search, you need schema markup on your page. Adding schema makes the things you mark-up, like your products, courses, people, jobs, events ... etc, more likely to appear in something called “rich results” which Google and other search engines use to highlight the top result.
Sales CRM & Marketing Automation Systems
CRM & Marketing Automation - SharpSpring (preferred)
CRM & Marketing Automation - ActiveCampaign (solo)
ActiveCampaign grew out of the ESP (Email Service Provider) marketplace and now offers CRM tools like pipeline and deal management as well as a robust email marketing suite and website visitor tracking. If you're looking for the next step up from MailChimp™ or another low-level ESP, but can't justify a full-blown marketing automation system like SharpSpring, ActiveCampaign is the way to go, I've been a customer since 2016 and rate their product and customer service as second to none.
Chatbot Platforms - MobileMonkey (Small Business)
Larry (founder of WordStream) Kim's brainchild, MobileMonkey™, is the new kid on the block relatively speaking in the chatbot world, but their late arrival has given them the opportunity to dissect and analyze the competition and produce a top-notch product that is powerful and easy to use.
It's zero programming user interface allows you to rustle up a new chatbot in no time at all once you've learnt the core features. Combined with a systems integration tool like zapier to link your chatbot to 1000's of other apps, you've got an absolute winner. And, that's not even mentioning the native integration with Facebook ads, to create the most clickable, highly profitable click-to Messenger ads in the world right now.
Chatbot Platforms - Octane AI (Shopify Ecommerce)
If ecommerce is your thing, then you need a specialist chatbot platform. Octane AI was designed to enable Shopify merchants to increase revenue with a Facebook Messenger bot that customers love. Not only that, but Octane AI integrates with the best ecommerce apps, including YotPo (reviews) and Klaviyo (email). With Octane AI you can recover abandoned carts, answer customer questions, send follow up messages and acquire new customers.
Chatbot Platforms - Dialogflow™ (Enterprise-level)
Dialogflow by Google gives users new ways to interact with your product by building engaging voice and chat-based conversational interfaces, such as voice apps and chatbots, powered by AI. As you'd expect, there's a ton of systems to integrate with, for example, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype, Slack, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and (of course) Google Assistant; as well as powering VOIP (Voice Over IP based telephone systems) and many more. Dialogflow is the platform of choice for serious Enterprise-level application-builders, but to get the most from it, you'll have to use programming and be prepared to spend plenty of dosh.
Sales Funnels & Payment Processors
Checkout - Thrivecart (Special Offer!)
Thrivecart is the best standalone cart on the market these days and I personally put a lot of business through it every year. It's got a fully configurable sales page and bump, upsell and down sell functionality to maximize every sale. It also integrates with a ton of other software natively, including membership platforms like Teachable, and payment processors Stripe and PayPal.
If you're building a standalone funnel for your products or services (and you should), you can't afford to overlook the checkout page. As a special offer, I currently have a VIP lifetime license deal with the Thrivecart team. I'm unsure how long it's going to be open for and it could close at any time. Check it out now before it goes away for good or you'll be paying on monthly subscription as you do for similar products.
Payment Processor - Stripe
I use Stripe to take credit/debit card payments. You can set up a new Stripe account in minutes, it's straightforward and quick. Once you've got a Stripe account, connect it to your Thrivecart account (you did get one didn't you?) to take one-off payments and subscriptions. Stripe charges per transaction fee which varies based on the country in which your business is based, but there's no monthly subscription fee.
Payment Processor - PayPal
PayPal is the granddaddy of the online payment world and has been around almost as long as the World Wide Web. There's a per transaction fee for business accounts as well as a monthly subscription fee (mine costs £20 per month). It's not cheap, but the familiarity of PayPal means a lot of people like to use it for online purchases.
Viral Lead Generation
If you're still using landing pages with email sign-ups instead of bots to capture your leads (and emails) then at least do it virally! UpViral is a great platform that I've found for tracking link sharing by your prospects. After a user-definable number of shares take place, a secret content level can be opened rewarding your lead or they can get additional entries into a contest to win a prize. Warning, never run a lottery! Lotteries are regulated in most countries and without state or federal permission (or equivalent), you'll most likely be breaking the law!
A lottery is defined as having a fee (or work equivalent, i.e. if you ask your players to do things in order to enter) and an element of chance to win. If you remove the fee or the element of chance (by asking a simple question requiring some skill) you can usually circumvent any chances of your contest or giveaway being classified as a lottery! This does not constitute legal advice, however, so ask an attorney if you're unsure about how to run a contest or giveaway legally.
When you don't have a bot to gather intelligence from your leads or customers, Typeform provides a more traditional approach to offering surveys and data collection. A step up from Google Forms, but starting to lose ground to the conversational chatbot market as people use a more natural chat interface to communicate.
Calendly is a life-saver for anyone who has to schedule meetings either in person or via conference calls. It allows your leads, customers or co-workers access to your diary in order to pick a slot that works for them. Of course, you can restrict the slots they are able to book in to make it work for both parties. Calendly also integrates natively with GoToMeeting, so you can have a seamless meeting arrangement without you ever having to lift a finger. Add in a bot and zapier and you've got a calendar management system second to none and a fraction of the cost of a real or virtual PA!
GoToWebinar / GoToMeeting
If you need to run frequent meetings or webinars, the GoTo brand just works. No messing around, auto-recorded so you can playback again at a later date and an easy to use user-interface. If only it (GoToWebinar) wasn't so damned expensive, but hey-ho, it does what it says on the tin and it does it very well.
As an alternative to GotoWebinar, WebinarJam is growing in popularity. Gone are the corporate stripes of the GoToWebinar brands website and hello to a mid-2000's long-form squeeze page which no doubt puts a lot of people off signing up to try it because it looks, well, a bit dodgy. But it's not dodgy and a lot of reputable business people are using it these days; not to mention, it's cheaper than GoToWebinar too (shhh).