People ask us all the time: what tools did you guys use to build Fizzle? What do you recommend for building a small, independent, bootstrapped online business?
It’s a great question. There are thousands of tools out there. It’s way too easy to let choosing your tools get in the way of making real progress in your business.
But we’ve found several that are indispensable for our business, the kind that pay for themselves many times over. These are the tools we can’t live without, or that we would be very sad to lose.
I’m going to share with you the 10 most important tools and online services we use to run our entire business at Fizzle.
This list is 5 years in the making. Through our years of lean bootstrapping, product development and team building, we’ve tried more tools than we can remember. In most categories, we’ve tried several alternatives, and the solution listed below is the best we’ve found.
We hope this guide and these tools will save you a bunch of time. We’ve also included several discount offers below, so be sure to check those out if you plan to sign up for any of these services.
Keep in mind that most of these services offer free or very cheap plans to start on, and the service should start paying for itself by the time you start paying for it.
And we’d love to hear from you below. If there’s a tool you can’t live without, tell us what it is and why you can’t live without it in the comments below.
Customer Service and Communications: Intercom
Intercom has absolutely been our favorite and most useful new tool we’ve found over the past year. We started using it in 2013 and can’t believe we ever got along without it.
Intercom handles customer support, announcements and automated lifecycle marketing. With Intercom, all of our customer support conversations happen in one place, and we can automate messages based on complex behavior aimed at making sure our customers are happy and that our service is as effective for each person as possible.
Instead of sending the same one-size-fits-all set of auto responders to every customer, we send messages based on each member’s experience and accomplishments within Fizzle.
This is a far more effective way to activate customers and make sure they get the most from Fizzle membership. Intercom directly lowers customer churn and makes our product more effective for our members.
Team Communication and Inbox Killer: Slack
My happiest days are days when I spend almost no time in my inbox. Slack has made those days a frequent reality.
Our team no longer communicates with each other via email AT ALL. Seriously, we do not send email between team members. Everything happens inside of Slack.
And not only does Slack take us out of the inbox, it also makes everything happen faster because messages are real-time. Team members keep Slack open during the day without the risk of being sucked back into the email black hole.
And finally, Slack lets you integrate notifications from dozens of services, so you don’t have to check email for those either. Blog comments, customer events, social media mentions, forum notifications… those can all be sent to Slack.
There are other tools like Slack out there (HipChat is the most popular), but Slack’s interface and simple but powerful model stood out when we evaluated real-time group messaging environments.
Signup for Slack through this link and you’ll get a $100 service credit.
Monitoring and Metrics – Geckoboard
Geckoboard lets us track all of our important metrics: signups, churn, revenue, traffic, uptime and more, all in one great looking dashboard that’s flexible and easy to set up.
Geckoboard integrates with tons of popular services out of the box, so all you need to do is click a few boxes and enter a few details. If you’re adventurous, you can completely customize Geckoboard use any data you want. We’ve customized Geckoboard to give us a complete picture of Fizzle’s health, from growth to revenue to churn to customer usage and activity.
Fizzle members get 50% off Geckoboard for life through our perks program.
Project + Task Management – Asana
Asana has become not only a favorite team tool, but also a favorite joke on The Fizzle Show (it’s so hot in the asana!). Two birds with one
stone tool I guess.
Simply put: Asana is a team-based task tool that helps us keep track of what we’re each working on, and what everyone else is working on.
We use Asana to organize meetings, set weekly task lists, keep track of upcoming features, and plan our editorial calendars. It’s incredibly simple and flexible, and it’s free for up to 30 team members.
Email List Management – MailChimp
MailChimp, has become both the most powerful and easiest to use email service over the past several years. It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve used other mailing list providers before, but now everything we do with email is built on MailChimp.
MailChimp has a free plan, for up to 2,000 subscribers. We’ve said it before, this is the Ferrari of email services, and you can use it for free until your list is big enough that it should pay for itself.
Note: if we were starting from scratch, though, we’d start with ConvertKit. Way more powerful for bloggers, podcasters and web-based entrepreneurs. It’s a game changer, for sure.
Payment Processing – Stripe
Remember when all payment processing services sucked? They were all expensive, unreliable, they froze funds without warning, and had user interfaces from the 90s. Really, they were from the 90s, and not the good interfaces from the 90s either. The awful ones that made your eyes bleed.
It was just a matter of time until some smart, ambitious, forward-thinking and design/developer-focused new company swept in and crushed the established players.
Stripe is that company, and it has turned payment processing into a delight. We love Stripe and our business is better because of it.
Password Management + Sharing – 1Password
1Password manages all of our passwords and lets us share them between team members without worrying about sending them over some unsecure channel. It makes everything we do more secure, because we can use strong and unique passwords across all of our services.
Video Hosting – Wistia
Wistia is the ultimate in video hosting. Wistia combines buttery smooth video playback with complete device support, total customization and rich stats you can’t get from any other service.
We’ve been able to use Wistia’s API to tightly integrate the player into Fizzle’s platform, so we can track which videos each member has watched, and so we can generate reports (on our Geckoboard) about how much members are using our training library overall.
Content Management – WordPress
WordPress continues to be the backbone of our business, for over five years now. Our entire site, including the membership and course delivery side of Fizzle, is built on top of WordPress.
Web Hosting – Storm On Demand
You’ll need somewhere to host your WordPress site. We started on BlueHost and everything ran smoothly there for years.
Once we grew to hundreds of thousands of monthly visits and needed something beefier and faster, we upgraded to a dedicated server from Storm On Demand.
There are lots of other hosting options out there, but these two have never let us down after years of faithful service.
For discounts on web hosting and a handful of other options we recommend, check out the full Fizzle Web Hosting Guide
Bonus Tools! Others We Recommend
The tools above are the most important services our business relies on, but there are plenty of others we love and highly recommend. Here’s a partial list:
- Website Building Tool: SquareSpace
Fizzle members get 10% off any SquareSpace plan
- Selling Digital Products: Gumroad
Check out our Gumroad Quick Start Guide
- A/B Testing: Visual Website Optimizer
Fizzle members get 2 months VWO free
- WordPress Backups: BackupBuddy Fizzle members get 25% off BackupBuddy
- Better Blog Comments: Disqus
- Payroll that doesn’t suck: ZenPayroll
- Accounting Software: Xero
- Webinar and Meeting Software: GoToWebinar / GoToMeeting
- WordPress Member Management: Paid Memberships Pro
- Forums & Community: IP.Board
- File Sharing: DropBox
- Video Editing: Final Cut Pro
- Screen Recording & Editing: ScreenFlow
Now, over to you. Which online business-building tools do you love, and why? Please share below in the comments!
Photo by Expresso Odara