Tools of the Trade

The Tools I Use to Run Big Brand System

On this page, you’ll find reviews for the software and services I’ve researched and put to use here.

These links will – at no additional cost to you – put a little money in my pocket. I’d appreciate you using them if you’re comfortable with it. A little extra income makes it easier for me to keep bringing you all the information on this site.

The tools I recommend have been personally tested by me. And I’ve read all the books! I’m including the good, the bad and the ugly in my reviews. I want you to understand the pluses and minuses of each product or service before you buy.

If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to contact me.

–Pamela Wilson, BIG Brand System


Email Marketing

Constant Contact | AWeber | MailChimp Reviews

Writing and sending compelling, informative and helpful emails is a great way to stay in contact with your audience. My email newsletter — the Weekend Digest — publishes every other Saturday is sent out using AWeber.

When I first started out, though, I used Constant Contact. Their interface is easy to use, and they are a great option if you have a brick-and-mortar type business and occasionally need to add email addresses manually.

One feature to look for in an email marketing company is auto-responders. Auto-responder emails are pre-written emails that are set up to go out to your email list automatically over time. If you signed up for the free Marketing Toolkit and have received the Design 101 e-course have received a series of design tips via auto-responder. That series is sent out using AWeber. Constant Contact also offers email auto-responders, as does MailChimp, which is mentioned below.

AWeber is not quite as easy to use as Constant Contact, but has very high deliverability rates, which means more of your emails get through to your customers’ inboxes. AWeber also offers the ability to turn your blog posts into email messages. If you’re getting blog updates from me, those go through the AWeber system.

A third option is MailChimp. MailChimp offers easy templates like Constant Contact. It also offers autoresponders like AWeber. It’s easy to use, but has a few limitations, like opt-in forms that aren’t easy to customize.

I’m recommending all of them, with reservations. Be clear about what you want your email provider to do for your business, and choose accordingly.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS

AWeber Tip Jar version
AWeber
(regular link)

Constant Contact Tip Jar version
Constant Contact
(regular link)

MailChimp Tip Jar version
MailChimp
(regular link)


Domain registration

You’ve got an idea for a business, a product, or a book. Step one is to make sure there’s a domain name available!

The service I use to register domain names is Namecheap. It’s super easy to use, with a streamlined interface and competitive pricing.

Warning: buying new domain names can be addictive. :-)

Namecheap.com


Free image editing

My go-to site for quick photo editing is PicMonkey. They have a vast collection of easy-to-use free tools. And their premium tools are only a few dollars a month, and are well-worth the cost.

It’s not as sophisticated as Photoshop, but it’s a whole lot easier (and more fun) to use.

PicMonkey


Brush up your skills

When it’s time to learn a new piece of software, there’s no place better for online training than Lynda.com.

Bonus for you: You can take all the training at Lynda.com for a full ten days before you have a pay a thing when you use the link below.

Lynda.com


 Some of the best books I’ve read

Between my iPad, the library, and Amazon, I’ve always got a book or two in tow. Here are some of my recent favorites:

Favorite Books of 2015

Predictable Success, by Les McKeown.
If you only read one business book next year, make it this one. I’ve never read a better (or more helpful) explanation of how businesses grow, and how they can navigate successfully through the inevitable bumps in the road.

Ask, by Ryan Levesque.
A great book about conducting surveys, and how you can use them to build a robust, thriving business. Sonia Simone and I have recommended this book multiple times in our Authority sessions this fall.

Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Laloux.
Talks about how organizations can grow while working with the very best human beings have to offer.

Are You Fully Charged?, by Tom Rath.
Shares techniques for managing your energy levels and making the most of your days.

Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown.
Not to be confused with Made to Stick, this book is about how people learn, and was super helpful as I assumed my new role directing Copyblogger’s educational products.

Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet.
A story about leadership, told by the leader of a once-failing Navy submarine. Chock-full of business and management lessons!

Less Doing, More Living, by Ari Meisel.
A book about building that elusive work/life balance into your day.

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss.
I know, I know! I resisted reading it for years because the title made it lose all credibility in my mind. And indeed, a four hour workweek is stretching the truth … but even so, there are some helpful ideas here.

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely.
A great book! All about how we make decisions, which is helpful information when you’re marketing your business.

Exponential Organizations, by Salim Ismail and Yuri van Geest.
This book targets traditional businesses that are trying to make the leap and learn to take advantage of the digital world to scale up. Very interesting stuff.

Up next on my reading list going into 2016:

The Automatic Customer, by John Warrilow.

Contagious, by Jonah Berger.

Mindset, by Carol Dweck.

Triggers, by Mark Reiter and Marshall Goldsmith.

Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

A More Beautiful Question, by Warren Berger.

Whole, by Howard Jacobson and T. Colin Campbell.

Favorite Books of 2014

Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content by Mark Levy
Discover how to get past your internal editor and write your way to new ideas. Chock-full of deceptively simple exercises that release a flood of original thinking and solutions to problems.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary is a genius at showing you how to take one message and multiply it across many platforms, adapting it to the strengths of each.

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
This is an engrossing look at how the summer of 1927 shaped society and our modern world. It’s not a business book, but you’ll walk away with a better understanding of the world we live in, and know some fascinating anecdotes you’ve never heard before.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
Learn simple ways to use the Internet to extend your reach and get your message heard. This book provides an overview and gets into specifics about how to coordinate your efforts between various web platforms.

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
I recently re-read this masterpiece on visual presentations. Goes in-depth on how to incorporate story, rhythm, and visual presentation to make your message memorable.

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
Not a business book, but an intriguing look at how our brains are ever evolving, and what we can do to accelerate and encourage the process.

To Sell is Human, by Dan Pink
The premise? That we’re all selling, all the time. And that’s OK. Dan Pink lays out how to make these “transactions” painless and fulfilling.

Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams, by Jeff Walker
That tagline is a mouthful! But the book is solid: Jeff shares the step-by-step plan he sells for a much higher price tag in his Product Launch Formula program in this ebook that will set you back less than $12.

Marketing: A Love Story, by Bernadette Jiwa
If marketing your business has always seemed like an unsavory task, Bernadette’s book will help you turn your attitude around and get inspired by this important effort.

The Referral Engine, by John Jantsch
This book has been out for years, and I finally read it. I’m glad I did.  I highly recommend it, especially if you have a service-based business. John spells out how you can make referrals an integral part of your marketing efforts without spending a lot of time or money.

How to Give a Great Speech, by Nick Morgan
This is a quick read, but an excellent one, and is chock-full of truly useful public speaking tips. It boosted my confidence as I stood in front of the groups I presented to this year.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown
I enjoyed this take on the most effective communication styles to help the people around you feel empowered to do their best work.

Secrets of Dynamic Communication, by Ken Davis and Michael Hyatt
Another book about speaking, but this one focuses more on how to structure the information you’re going to present so that it’s engaging and (especially) so your audience retains what you’re communicating.

Here’s what’s up next on my reading list:

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
I’ve heard good things about this book, which helps you stay focused and eliminate distractions to boost your productivity.

MONEY: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
This book has gotten  rave reviews. I’m sold, and it will be on my upcoming reading list.