Tools You Can Use to Create, Market, and Grow Your Business
There are SO MANY online tools and resources to support you in creating, marketing, and growing your business. It's overwhelming. It's time-consuming and confusing to sort through all of the features and benefits of each tool to figure out which ones are right for the type of business you want to create.
In this article, I want to help you with this process by offering a list of the tools I have used to create, market, and grow my business.
Before we jump into all the tools, it's important to know your audience. Even though many of the marketing gurus out there say their systems and tools work in all sectors, I have found they do not.
For example, I serve the higher education market and many of my clients and customers are teachers, professors, educators, faculty development professionals, trainers, and instructional designers. They are highly educated, smart, self-directed, driven, and committed to student success. They are also highly skeptical of sales-y messages aimed at "improving" education.
They want the research and evidence to support change. They are not into "quick fixes" and they are willing to do the work that it takes to make positive changes in the way they approach their work. But, they do need tools and resources that are easy to use. They are busy and they don't have time for complicated platforms or systems.
So, make sure you know your audience and keep them in mind when you are choosing tools for your business. The tools you choose need to work for you and for your audience.
As a scholarly entrepreneur, you are probably either:
(1) working in academia and you want to create a business based on your scholarly expertise; or,
(2) you are not working in academia, but you want to leverage your expertise to serve the academic audience.
Academia is an interesting client. You'll face different challenges than entrepreneurs who serve other markets which is why you need to learn as much as you can about both the individual client you want to serve and the institutional forces that influence that client's decision-making.
As you get to know your audience and start building or growing your business, think about where you are in this process and what tools you need to help you achieve your goals.
This article is for you if you are ready to:
- create a website for your business
- add more features to your current website such as opt-ins, a blog, or a store
- create, market, and sell products and services through your website
- build an email list of potential clients
When deciding which tools to use in your business, it's helpful to ask a colleague which tools they've found success with. You still have to experiment with the tools yourself, but at least you'll have a place to start instead of wading through Google and hoping to find a resource that fits your business.
Here are the tools I share in my free webinar. These are the tools I use now to create, market, and grow my business. Maybe some of these will help you in the next step of your business!
Tools to CREATE your business:Wordpress: I used Wordpress for the first six years of my business. It's a great platform for blogging and creating websites, but when I wanted to start selling physical and digital products (courses, books, etc.), Wordpress and all of the plugins didn't work for me anymore. My site was hacked three times, and I had ongoing problems with every software update. I switched to Shopify.
Shopify: An e-commerce platform that has made my life a million times easier. I don't have to hire an external web development team and I can do everything myself. My store, blogs, podcast, courses, email lists, etc. can all be easily connected within the site. I can manage products (digital and physical) and easily track what customers have purchased.
PayPal and/or Stripe: If you want to get paid, I recommend PayPal and/or Stripe. Reliable, trustworthy, and easy to use. You have to be able to accept different forms of payment (credit cards, purchase orders, checks) when working in the education sector.
Canva, Unsplash, and Pixabay: Tools to help you create images for your website and marketing materials. I use all of these tools several times a week to create new images for my website, products, and services.
99 Designs: Designers compete to create images, logos, business cards, flyers, etc. for your business. I hired designers to create my business logos.
UpWork: Hire help when you need it. I've hired freelancers to design flyers, create templates, format books, and help me with other one-time administrative tasks.
Tools to MARKET your business:
MailChimp (but I'm moving to ConvertKit): If you want to maintain an email list of clients (or potential clients), send newsletters, and get people to opt-in to your list, then you'll need a tool to manage that process for you. MailChimp offers a free account which is nice when you're just starting out and you want to build your list of subscribers. But, I want an easier way to segment my audience which is why I'm moving to ConvertKit.
Leadpages: Create landing pages for products, services, webinars, courses, etc. to market your products and services and build your email list. I've used landing pages and text alerts at conferences to build my email list.
Hootsuite: I use Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts all at once for a week. This tool also makes it easy to see what's happening across all of your social media platforms related to your followers' interactions with your content.
Tools to GROW your business:
Google Forms & SurveyMonkey: I use both of these tools to survey my audience to learn more about their challenges, interests, and goals. This helps me keep up with my customers and create programs, products, and services to meet their needs. Sometimes I also post weekly questions through my social media platforms to stay in touch with my audience.
Teachable: I use Teachable to create and sell online courses which is a great way to grow your business and serve your audience beyond 1:1 services. (Note, I am also an affiliate for Teachable and earn a commission at no additional cost to you if you decide to purchase Teachable using this link.) I previously used a Wordpress-based course learning management system, but it was confusing and inconsistent. Teachable is much easier to use and allows me to sell courses to individuals, groups, departments, and entire campuses.
Zoom: I use Zoom to host meetings, webinars, and coaching sessions. I have also recently started using it for my new podcast! It's an excellent tool for growing your business and offering more online services to serve your current audience and reach new ones.
Audacity: I use Audacity to edit and produce my podcast. It's free and easy to use. My new podcast is helping me grow my audience and expand on my brand. And, I get to have great conversations with many talented scholars!
These are the tools I am currently using to run my business, serve my audience, and develop my brand. It can be overwhelming to look through this list and see all of the tools you might need to run your business. But, take it one step at a time.
I did not start with all of these tools. I started with a basic website and a blog. I'm almost 9 years into my business and I've experimented with many different tools, services, products, and models.
Start where YOU are and take it one step at a time. Focus on your goals and find a way to get feedback from your audience. And remember, if you try something and it doesn't work, you can always change it!