The Iris Writing Int'l Recommended Tool List
Running an online business – solo or with a team – has never been easier because of the many tools available to help accomplish any business task. When choosing the right tools, you need to answer these five questions honestly, without getting swayed by the rave reviews and excellent features:
· Is the tool Customizable to your unique business cases? The tool must be compatible with your needs.
· How easy to use is the tool for you and your team members? Ease of collaboration is the one thing that must be the first criterion.
· Will the tool keep your data secure? Lack of security can undermine your brand image and business growth.
· Is the pricing right? Because a nifty tool that is beyond your price range is practically useless for you.
· Are your competitors using it? If yes, it probably fits your industry's requirements.
Let us discuss the different types of tools you should use to elevate content reach.
Whatever the size of your company, branding is essential for business growth. Every communication, be it in the form of ads, landing pages, emailers, or interaction on any social media channel, must be accurate and consistent.
Many tools are available in the market that will help you define brand guidelines, build brand awareness, visibility, and reputation, and establish a strong presence. They also help maintain consistent communication across all channels.
Here are a few tools to help you brand different aspects of your business identity:
HubSpot Email Signature Generator
Email signature can be much more than your name and company address. The free HubSpot Email Signature Generator enables you to create an email signature that is your online business card complete with social media profiles, blogs, and of course, company details.
Logo Design Studio Pro
A logo is the most crucial part of your brand identity as you use it across a website, app, social media, ads, and more. Logo Design Studio Pro enables you to create a unique brand identity using its library of 6000+ logo elements.
Video is the most popular content consumption medium on the internet these days. People consume 5.5 hours of video every day. So you must use videos to promote your business. Vidyard enables you to create high-quality videos that can be shared across multiple channels easily.
Vidyard has a forever-free plan, and paid plans start at $15/month (billed annually).
Domain Name and Web Hosting Tools
You first need a domain name for your business and a service provider to host that domain name. Your domain name should represent your business idea accurately, whereas speed, security, and reliability are the factors you should consider when choosing the right web hosting tool for your business.
There are many business domain names and web hosting providers out there, but these are the top two:
Bluehost has multiple service options, from shared to dedicated hosting and everything in between. The starting price is $2.95/month.
HostGator is the blue-eyed boy of website hosting because it is the tool of choice for pretty much everything else from cloud and email to a reseller and dedicated hosting.
HostGator basic plan starts at $2.75/month.
Both Bluehost and HostGator have lots of freebies thrown in, like a free domain name for a year. Compare their offerings carefully before you choose one of these.
Content Management System
The moment one talks of a content management system (CMS), WordPress comes to mind. And why not? As mentioned, 40% of websites are hosted using WordPress. But the CMS you choose should depend upon the type of website you plan to have and the amount of data you need to track for each piece of content.
Starting out as blogging software, WordPress has evolved into the world's most popular CMS platform. As it is open-source, a developer or even a tech-savvy web editor can get you an excellent website with all features. And if not, you always have the option of 1000s of customizable WordPress themes to choose from.
CMS hub from HubSpot is the content management system of choice for enterprise-level websites. It helps you get your enterprise-level website up to speed quickly. Publishing, tracking, monitoring, lead generation, speed testing, and device customizations are very easy, which help you establish a reputation and grow quickly in your domain.
The starting plan for CMS Hub is the Professional plan at $270/month, but you can ask for a free 14-day trial to test waters.
Drupal is the most secure open-source CMS, ideal for a wide range of business cases. Its templates allow even newbies to create stunning layouts, and all these are easy to follow and share for visitors.
Being open-source is entirely free.
Web Designing Tools
Web designing is essential for modern websites because visitors always expect high speed, responsive design, and a fantastic browsing experience. Depending upon your technical expertise, you might want to go with a full-fledged website builder or just a website design tool. Here we list two each.
Wix is a user-friendly web design tool for novices. Its AI automatically builds your page after you choose a template and answer a few questions. If you are tech-savvy, you can use its drag and drop interface to build your website.
Wix has a forever-free plan, but plans start at $18/month if you need professional features.
Webflow is a fully responsive web design tool, content management system, managed web hosting and free SSL certificate provider rolled into one. Its drag and drop feature allows you to put together an excellent website using pre-built elements. And if it starts getting unwieldy, you can always export and ship the code to a developer to finish it off.
Webflow plans start at $12/month (paid annually).
Figma is a web-based vector graphics and prototyping app that can be used to design mockups. It has a rich features library, and you can add up to two editors in the free version itself. You can share as many designs as you want to collaborate with your editors on the scene.
The pricing beyond two editors is $12 per editor/month (billed annually) or $15 per editor/month.
Sketch is the undisputed leader for designing user experiences and user interfaces due to its interactive prototyping, smart layouts, and a rich library of plug-ins and integrations. Its only downside is that it is a native Mac app.
The standard plan for Sketch starts at $9/month.
Studies have proved that, on average, more than 95% of your visitors will leave without converting. There are businesses at the two extremes of that average at 2% and 12%, and there should be no reason you shouldn't aim for the 12% bracket. But for that to happen, you need to use tools to gather data, analyze them and use the insights to optimize conversion rate.
You need two sets of tools – for Data Analytics and Conversion Rate Optimization.
Google Analytics is Google's freemium analytics tool for tracking website traffic, collecting data, and gaining insights. Small businesses can continue to use the tool for free to track users, collect data and generate insights. But if they need additional services, they must take a subscription depending upon the services they need.
Analytics 360 is the enterprise version of Google Analytics. It gives you features like tracking the complete user journey from CTA button click to conversion so that you can identify the areas for improving conversion. The best part about Analytics 360 is that the data updates every 10 minutes.
Analytics 360 starting price comes around $150,000/year.
Where Google Analytics 360 Suite focuses on website activity, Mixpanel enables you to track user behavior on both web and mobile app and establish targeted communication channels. Its unique data collection methods enable you to identify conversion barriers with great accuracy.
Mixpanel is free up to 100K monthly tracked users. Beyond that, the prices start at $25/month.
Once you have the data, you need to run conversion rate optimization campaigns, and VWO is your best bet. It was the pioneer of split testing and continues to be the best and most affordable conversion optimization management tool.
You can sign up for a 30-day full-feature trial. The pricing depends on the features you choose.
Your landing pages are where most of the conversions will happen, and so you need to Unbounce build the best landing pages. Besides building the best landing pages, and mouse has many exciting features like built-in A/B testing and dynamic text replacement.
Plans start at $80/month and offer a 14-day free trial.
Search Engine Optimization Tools
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still the primary source of driving organic traffic. SEO has many components like keyword research, competition analysis, etc. is a long-term game. So, it is vital to have the right tools you can rely on.
Ahrefs is undoubtedly the number one SEO tool available in the market. Its toolset includes a keyword generator, keyword explorer, backlink checker, data analytics, and more.
It offers a 7-day free trial period, and paid plans start at $99/month.
SEMRush has many tools for end-to-end content management and marketing, but its SEO tool is popular with companies of all sizes. From site audit and competition analysis to content idea generation and rank tracking, SEMRush has features to help you at every step of your SEO journey.
SEMRush offers a free 7-day trial, and paid plans start from $120/month.
Content Promotion Tools
Promoting existing content is more important than creating new ones. Here are some top tools to help you promote your content to your target segment:
Quu Promote promotes your content to targeted audiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus; people who have signed up to receive content in that niche. As they are already qualified audiences, social sharing happens much more than on any other platform.
Quu Promote has a forever-free plan for sharing on just one social media platform. You can use this to understand how the platform works and then go for paid plans that start at $5/per month (paid annually).
Buffer makes it easy to share or reshare content by scheduling it in advance. After you have shared enough content to collect data, buffer automatically detects the best times when your audience engages with your content and suggests accordingly.
Buffer has a forever-free plan for up to three social media profiles. Paid plans start from $15/month.
Whatever your brand or business size, you can use Sprout Social for publishing, engagement, and insights across your social media profiles. It also provides insightful Analytics around engagement so that you can plan and schedule your content accordingly.
Sprout Social has a 30-day free trial, and paid plans start from $99/month.
Marketing Automation Tools
If you have been part of any campaign to promote content, you understand that many small things must be done perfectly to achieve the desired results. Thankfully there are many marketing automation tools available to help you out.
Zapier enables seamless integration of 100+ web apps for smooth automatic workflow. Integrate the apps you use and define the automation rules. Once the triggering event occurs, the rest is automation. Content curation, automated email campaigns, drip marketing, or social media posting seem effortless through Zapier integration and automation.
Zapier has a forever-free plan for up to 100 tasks/month, and the paid plan starts at $20/month (billed annually).
If This Then That is an open-source alternative to Zapier. It allows you to connect the apps and devices that you use to enable a seamless experience for you and your team.
IFTTT has a free forever plan that allows you to connect unlimited apps and devices. If you want to build your own customized integrations on top of IFTTT, you will need to pay for it. Paid plans start at $3.40/month.
A prerequisite to successfully promote content far and wide is to have awesome content worth sharing. Whatever the size of your team, they cannot be experts in everything. Chances are, the content that you need cannot be created in-house. In that case, outsourcing the work to experts, AKA brilliant content creators, should be the way to go.
Here is the topmost platform for outsourcing your content creation:
Upwork is a great choice for outsourcing any part of your business. If you are paying hourly, its robust time tracking system ensures that you pay only for the time that the freelancer has worked for you. Though, you can also use it for pay per project model. Over time, you can build a pool of go-to freelancers you can hire as per your needs.
Upwork has a forever free plan; paid plans start at $49/month.
Whether you have physical products or digital offerings like eBooks and courses, your website needs e-commerce capabilities. Here are three of our favorite e-commerce tools.
Shopify allows you to build an e-commerce website from scratch. It is easy to set up and does not need any technical skills. Product descriptions, marketing campaigns, and payment integrations are straightforward.
Shopify plans start at $29/month.
But then, not every business needs a full-fledged e-commerce website. You just need to add e-commerce capabilities for some of the products or services you are selling. Woocommerce makes it easy to sell, create subscriptions and manage memberships through its plug-in.
Woocommerce is open-source and hence free, but you might incur costs on themes, customizations, developer fees, etc.
No e-commerce list can be complete without Adobe's e-commerce tool Magento. If you are deeply into customer segmentation and personalization, Magento should be your go-to e-commerce tool.
Technically the tool is open source and hence free, but Adobe offers fully customized solutions on Magento. You will need to connect with their sales team to know the pricing.
Presentations have always been an integral part of any business communication. With the world shifting to work from home due to the pandemic over the past one and half years, presentations have become ubiquitous for every meeting, webinar, and online event. You can even use the slides as an asset later.
Here are three of our favorite presentation tools:
Google Slides, part of the Google Docs Editor toolset, makes collaboration and interaction on presentations super easy between multiple team members. There are thousands of templates available to suit your specific business needs. Google Slides makes it very easy to have interactive presentations by using a separate window for questions and answers. The chat is also available on your presentation window in real-time so that you can answer them on the go.
Canva has a large number of templates for creating presentations with its free version. These templates can be filtered according to use cases as diverse as business, productivity, education, sustainability, and fashion. Its presentation view is very user-friendly, where you can rattle off from your notes without your viewers getting any wiser.
It has a lifetime free subscription, but the paid version comes with extra tools like a brand kit and personalization which makes life much easier if the number of presentations you need to create is vast. Pricing starts at $12 per month/user.
With 47.5% of the market using Microsoft Office, it doesn't make sense to leave PowerPoint out of this list. Animations, slide transitions, and audio/video embedding can be done with a few clicks in PowerPoint. You can configure them easily for manual or automatic presentation and even convert your presentation into videos if you desire.
It is part of the Microsoft Office suite of apps, and prices start at $125 for a one-time purchase.
Business Organization Tools
Any business is about its people and data. And it needs to be organized on those two fronts to drive growth and build robust relationships. The current chaotic times demand even greater business organization skills to maintain business continuity while streamlining. But you don't need to be a natural organizer to stay on top; there are many businesses organization tools available in the market. Here are our favorite three.
Google provides multiple tools to make collaboration and working easy for the users. If you are already using Google for personal tasks, you will find transitioning to Google workspace for businesses a cakewalk. You can not only work from anywhere but continue off-line and upload your work when you are done. With Google offering so many tools from docs, Gmail, and calendars to meet and Drive for all the business tasks, integration between the tools is automatic and saves loads of time.
It has a 30-day free trial, and plans start at $6/month.
Dropbox surpasses every other tool in file management and document storage. It is super easy to share Dropbox files and collaborate on them. The changes and comments with their responses are available within the document window, which rules out separate communication for status updates. What we like most about Dropbox is that you can keep your personal and team files separate. So, you can store your personal files right there, which makes work-life balance that much easier.
Dropbox has a forever free plan, and paid plans start at $9.99/month (billed annually).
Asana is the best task management and communication tool out there, with hundreds of possible integrations that enable teams to work seamlessly. Its multiple views: list, timeline, Gantt chart, calendar view, board view, will help you in quick monitoring and visualization of task status for an individual, team, or project as a whole. You can set your own rules, which act as the trigger for fully automated workflows.
Its basic plan is forever free, and paid plans start at $10.99 per month/user.
We have listed 30+ tools for you to consider for elevating your reach. Which of these are you planning to check out?
Have you tried any of them in the past? Are you already using some of them?
Do let us know what your experience has been.