071: The Top 5 Tech Tools Online Service Providers Need In Their Business

Today’s episode is one of those foundational episodes… we’re discussing the 5 most important online tools you need in your business.

These are tools that your business couldn’t run without. These are fundamentals… and they are where proficiency is required because they will be touched on a regular basis.

The first of these tools is your online home – that is your website.

This website must live on it’s own domain but can either be self-hosted WordPress or a hosted solution like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly or even a builder through your hosting platform. It doesn’t really matter how your website is constructed. What matters that you have a consistent and reliable home base which can be the central hub for all the other online spokes. Your website can do a lot for you, but regardless of where things are at with regards to SEO and content marketing, having a place to call home online is super important.

If you’re not on a self-hosted WordPress website and want to delve into SEO and Content Marketing, make a plan to migrate your site in the next 6 – 12 months. The migration will boost your ability to leverage those techniques. But the key is to have the online home base first. It is extremely difficult to run an online business without an online home!

The next tool that your business requires is an EMS.

(We just did a series on email marketing so if you haven’t listened to that, scroll back in your podcast app to episodes 58 – 63.)

An EMS is an email address collection tool and a vehicle for sending out emails. Somewhere on your website, you’ll have a simple form which allows a website visitor to sign up for a freebie or opt-in gift in exchange for providing you with their email address. The exact regulations as far as what you can do with that email address are beyond the scope of this episode. Be sure to check out the CAN/SPAM act and the EU GDPR regulations to make sure your email collection and usage are compliant.

When looking for and researching an email marketing platform, or any piece of software really, it’s not about evaluating the cost versus benefits as your business resides today. It’s super important to put yourself 6 – 12 months down the road to figure out what to invest your time, energy and money in right now.

So, while there is nothing inherently wrong with any one system you choose, the idea here is that you want a solution that won’t be in need of replacement too soon nor will it be something you cannot fully utilize for eons. My top recommendations are on the resources page at https://techofbusiness.com/resources/ .

The two EMS listed there are ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. Both these solutions will work for you at the get go and be able to support your vision as your business blossoms.

Our third tool is more a family of tools because the exact tool you use is going to differ greatly based on the type of business that you run. This family of tools is your content delivery mechanism.

If you are supplying your clients with a full blown membership experience, you’ll want to use a content delivery tool that provides the membership experience. If you are delivering a course, then a course delivery platform will do well. Now, if you are providing worksheets that go along with your one-on-one work or small group program, you might not need any fancy to deliver them… you could choose to use your website or a cloud storage location. Or you could, use the entry level version of a hosted platform like MemberVault or Thinkific. The important thing here is to know that you have a home for all the content that you want to deliver to your clients (and for that matter to your leads as well.)

Do you know what? Back in episode 28 with Amanda Thebe, we discussed meeting your clients where they are, tech wise. And for that Amanda chose her content delivery tool to be email. She knew that the best chance for her clients to be successful with her program was for it to show up in their inbox every week.

“When choosing a content delivery tool – be realistic with your time and energy and that of your audience as well. I believe that using MemberVault or Thinkific for content delivery is not going to steer you wrong.”- Jaime Slutzky Click To Tweet

Right on the heels of delivering content we need to discuss is a mechanism for taking payments. We can’t exactly deliver our products if we can’t sell them!

The two most popular flavors of online payments are Stripe and PayPal. And the biggest difference between the two options is how the transaction is processed.

With PayPal you’ll have payment buttons on your website that will direct your client over to the PayPal website to perform the transaction and then PayPal will send them back to your website once complete. The entire payment process resides within the PayPal website and therefore your business will not be in contact with the client’s sensitive payment information. PayPal has become an industry standard. A PayPal business account is free to open and you are charged a fee, based on the amount of the transaction, for using this service.

Stripe has approached online payments differently. In this case, Stripe transactions happen “in line” on your website. There is no transfer of the client from your website to the Stripe system and back. What this means for us, is that it is now our responsibility to own and maintain the appropriate online security protocols.

I love Stripe because it allows us to have our clients remain in our environment throughout the transaction. Stripe is also free to setup and they charge a fee just like PayPal does. In general, the Stripe fee is slightly lower than PayPal but because there is the overhead of security, they are pretty much as wash.

If you’ve selected a tool like MemberVault or Thinkific, they have direct integrations with PayPal and Stripe. Their integration with Stripe is likely what you’ll see as “native” and what I would use. This is how the online infrastructure of your business can get exponentially complicated – suddenly we’re using MemberVault or Thinkific for both content delivery and brokering our payment processing. And seriously, this is one of the primary reasons I recommend having a tech stack diagram. It’s important to know where things live and how they interact with one another.

Let’s boil this tool down to its lowest common denominator. Let’s make it easy for your clients to make their payments! Simple as that – staying out of the payment process is going to help you immensely. If your clients can “self-serve” this side of things you can focus on over-delivering what they have purchased!

The final tool that I recommend all online service providers implement is scheduling software.

For this, my top pick is Acuity Scheduling.
I have three reasons for recommending scheduling software:

1. When you’re in online business you’ll have the opportunity to have clients in other time zones. Scheduling software takes this into account. Your clients will be able to easily see your calendar in their time zone and make appropriate decisions.
2. Scheduling software makes it so much easier to nail down a time that works for both you and your client.
3. Before our clients become clients, we often offer discovery calls or other such “good fit” calls.  It’s great to be able to publish this availability on your website, on social media and in your emails. You never know where your next client is going to come from. Making it super easy for them to raise their hand and say that they are interested in working with you should be a primary motivation.

And a bonus reason for having scheduling software – there are built in reminder emails in most of these systems which greatly reduces the number of no-shows!

With these five tools – website, email marketing, content delivery, payment and scheduling, you have everything you need to run a successful and profitable business.

Are you looking for more success? More profit? More organization, systems and structure within your online tech tools? Well then, let’s book your Tech Audit today. During our 55-minute session we’ll get into all the tools that you have in place and get your tech foundation squared away. Just go to https://techofbusiness.com/audit/ to get started.

“Everything we implement online for our businesses sets us up for future success.”- Jaime Slutzky

If you’re listening in real time, it’s summertime here in the Northern Hemisphere! AND we’re officially halfway through 2019! There are a few things I want you to think about:

  • What do you want to accomplish in the next 6 months?
  • Do you have tech that isn’t supporting that vision?
  • Are you missing a fundamental tool or do you have extra online hoops that need to be eliminated to make things easier for you, your clients and your team?

Start with your website and email marketing. Once those pieces are functionally working better then move on to streamlining your content delivery, payment processing and scheduling needs. And be sure to tune in to next week’s episode. I’m going to debunk 5 tools that people think they need but in reality are unnecessarily going to over-complicate things!

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