7 Online Marketing Tools That Are Totally Worth the Investment

To do online marketing right, you’ve got to buy the right tools. But what tools are the “right tools”?

After all, some tools are free. Some tools are really complicated. Some are insanely expensive. The point being that with marketing tools, it’s hard to make the right decision.

There are so many alternatives available, and if you haven’t had the chance to experiment with different ones, choosing with confidence becomes especially difficult.

The following list should help. I created it for the agency marketer who’s “trying to do it all.” For the entrepreneur who’s “trying to get her business off the ground.” For the experienced digital marketer who “wants to improve his game.”

Consider this your online marketing-tool cheat sheet — one that can help you skyrocket your marketing.

1. Email marketing (and more): InfusionSoft

What it does: InfusionSoft is a bit on the pricey side, but it’s a powerful tool. Its best features are its automation features, which make it insanely effective for marketing campaigns. My delivery rates with InfusionSoft have been excellent!

How much it costs: InfusionSoft is a powerful yet costly email marketing tool. A one-time startup fee of around $2,000 will get you set up. Thereafter, fees range from

6 Steps to Branding Your Business

Starting a business presents a unique set of problems, but branding that company in a way that appeals to the masses oftentimes presents an even bigger and more challenging proposition. That is why, Jim Signorelli, founder and CEO of marketing firm ESW Partners, has created a six-step process that businesses with hundreds or dozens of employees can follow to help strengthen their brand identity.

While branding is often associated with large corporations and pricey advertising agencies, the truth is that companies of all sizes have a brand and can benefit from telling their story.  According to Signorelli, the process to telling this story and identifying the brand is as simple as telling a story.

“The brand is substituted for the main character who is described as having functional capabilities and is additionally infused with values and beliefs that resonate with audiences,” Signorelli said. “In all cases, the brand’s ultimate goal, apart from increasing sales and profits, is to influence a relationship with the prospect.”

Step One: Collect the Back Story: Successful brand stories must start by gathering relevant information, which includes an assessment of the brand’s culture and the problems and opportunities it faces with competition in the marketplace.

Step Two: Characterize

9 Steps for Sticking With Your Marketing Plan

In The Marketing Plan Handbook, author Robert W. Bly explains how you can develop big-picture marketing plans for pennies on the dollar with his 12-step marketing plan. In this edited excerpt, Bly explains the nine steps you can take to make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing plan.

Consistency is important when you’re trying to implement a long-term marketng plan, so resist the temptation to abandon a strategy if it doesn’t work immediately. Give it time to work. These nine steps can help you make the most of your well-crafted plan:

  1. Every day, be renewed by your vision. Your mind can be your greatest asset or your most tiring obstacle. So begin your day by renewing your mind with the clarifying power of your vision. When W. Clement Stone and Earl Nightingale both said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” they knew these were far more than simple words on a page. There simply is no substitute for the power of belief. When you believe, obstacles that would throw your entire day into chaos suddenly become bleeps that you just intuitively know how to solve

10 Business Lessons I Learned Studying My Competition

Our competition isn’t just there to beat. They can also teach us how to get better at what we are doing so that we can beat them at their own game. I see my competition as a bar set for me to jump over.

In the business world, anything goes. While some people like to think of scoping out and spying on the competition as a bad thing, I love looking at everything they are doing through a spy glass. This gives me insights into what’s working and I should focus my time on and what isn’t working and I shouldn’t waste my time.

Here’s what my competition is teaching me about productivity across various aspects of their company that’s helping change my business for the better:

1. Content.

While I never copy my competition’s content, I read what they have, if they use a call to action, how they approach what is shared and how often they update their content.

Look to see if your competition is using video, infographics or some other type of content that resonates with your shared audience. It’s also good to know where they are sharing this content to see if there are any places I’m missing opportunities to add or

4 Rookie Errors That Stunt Your Online Business

As our society moves further into the digital age, more of the income from businesses will come from sales online. Every year, we see sales shift from physical stores to the websites of companies, and online business. There is a tremendous opportunity.

While the opportunity is there, so is the competition from many other entrepreneurs who are trying to reach the same people. There’s a lot of noise online from self-appointed experts claiming they know how to write copy that converts. You’ve probably seen a Facebook ad or two that makes crazy claims of success.

There is a way to grow and build a thriving online business despite the competition. It starts with making smart choices. There are four dumb mistakes even those who are smart make without even realizing it. These mistakes could be keeping you from growing your business and reaching your goals.

1. Focusing too much on the “busy work.”

There are many components and things that need to be done to build an online business, or the online part of your business. It’s easy to get stuck on what I call the “busy work.” The busy work can be things like:

  • Always making changes

The 6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

If you were to track the rise of ecommerce in today’s business landscape, you’d have to go back to the dot com crash of 2000. Despite a tanking economy, the businesses that survived the crash quickly started adapting their selling methods, because, even with an economy going down the drain, it was clear that the Internet would hold the key to the future of sales.

Fast forward to 2015 and the U.S. Census Bureau releasing a report on the dollar amount of ecommerce sales that took place within the first quarter of the year — the total amount was 80.3 Billion — and it’s clear to see that ecommerce is only getting stronger. Today’s consumer has time management and convenience on their mind when it comes to purchasing those sweet luxury or necessity items that you’re marketing to them. But, to be on your A-game, you have to be using the right platform to maximize your sales potential.

Related: The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start an Ecommerce Business

Whether you’re struggling to create a pre-ordering option within your current ecommerce marketplace, or you’re anxious to find out how your warehousing setup will interact with your online store, there

5 Steps to Start an Online Business and Living a Much Better Life

As you’re reading this, customers all over the world are spending millions of dollars online. It’s estimated that 2.5 billion people log onto the Internet every day. We live in the Information Age, which has created new opportunities to start or build a business using the power and reach of the Internet.

While the opportunity is there, so is the competition. You can Google any topic and find at least a few entrepreneurs who are serving the market related to that topic. Whether you are growing an existing business through the Internet or starting an online business, you will have to stand out to thrive.

The Internet offers you the opportunity to create a business you love around the lifestyle you want. Operating a business that generates income from anywhere in the world no longer a fantasy. In fact, I’m writing this article on a flight from Maui to Panama. My business is making money as I fly. Here are five steps to create a profitable and successful online business.

1. Pick a profitable topic.

Choosing a topic is a hard enough task on its own. Making sure it’s profitable is where some entrepreneurs sabotage their chances. To create a business your customers have to

Have a Burning Business Question Ask Our Branding Expert Laura Ries

Branding is what differentiates a company from the rest of the pack. From the logo design to the message and marketing tactics, companies need to create an identity that attracts customers and gives them visibility within their market. But coming up with a branding strategy isn’t easy.  Fortunately, we have Laura Ries to provide some insight.

Ries is a leading marketing strategist, bestselling author and television personality, frequently appearing on shows including O’Reilly Factor and Squawk Box. The books she has authored, or co-authored, include The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Origin of Brand, Visual Hammer and her latest, Battlecry, which outlines five tactics for increasing the effectiveness of a company’s logo or tagline.

For her day-to-day work, she, along with her father Al, are the co-founders of Atlanta-based focus-consultancy firm Ries & Ries, where they help brands find and define their focus. The duo have worked with companies across industries, including Microsoft, Ford, Disney and Frito-Lay, among others.

Because of her achievements, Ries has received a number of accolades including the Atlanta Business Chronicle giving her a spot on its “40 Under 40” list, and in 2009, readers of Advertising Age named her book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding the third most important

7 Marketing Mistakes That Could Sink Your Business

I once knew a marketing guy who always thought he could shape-shift the numbers and make them look good. That guy got fired from his job and cost his company hundreds of thousands of dollars. I once knew a company who was afraid to try anything new. Well, that company’s competition blew them out of the water over the next three years with a series of creative campaigns. They had to lay off half their staff.

Businesses live and die by their marketing strategies. Here are seven core marketing mistakes that could put your company six feet under.

Related: 9 Marketing Mistakes That Cost Your Business Money

1. Not taking the time to hear what’s new

The marketing landscape is always changing, part of the job of a good marketer is to stay on the cutting edge of new industry trends. While it might be easier to simply stay focused on what you already know and disregard the latest research and tools, that’s not a recipe for success. Simply put, part of your job is to innovate.

First, make sure you begin each quarter with fresh competitive analysis. What are your competitors doing successfully that you’re not? Do

How 8 Mompreneurs Succeeded at Small Business Without Sacrificing Family

Entrepreneurship involves a lot of planning, writing, calculating, paper-filing, marketing and more. Each of these eight moms did it all — with a kid on her hip.

But how did they do it? Caring for family is a major and time-consuming commitment that leaves little physical and emotional energy behind for business ventures. What’s more, most of these mompreneurs had full-time jobs when they began considering starting a business, compelling them to make major life decisions that couldn’t have been easy on the mind or the heart.

Related: 10 Single Mom Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice

Against all odds, however, all eight mastered the art of balancing business, family and self — and in a way that, from the outside, looks totally effortless. Here’s how they did it.

By recognizing opportunity

Doctor Shannon Davis PT, DPT understood the need for a carpet-, tile-, and wood flooring-compatible balance device that would allow children to move independently one night when she noticed her baby struggling to chase a family pet around the house. After a slew of prototype tests and instances of trial and error, Shannon devised the perfect product: the Little Balance Box, which safely helps babies