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.

I offer two links to each product. One is the Tip Jar version, which – at no additional cost to you – will put a little money in my pocket. I’d appreciate you using these links 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.

If you’d prefer not to, that’s fine: I’ve also offered “regular” links to the products. If you click on those, I won’t receive any affiliate income. Either way, you’ll go straight to the product page.

All the tools I recommend in this section have been personally tested by me. I researched these options obsessively, and 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

Web Hosting

Synthesis Web Hosting Review

After messing around with shared hosting with a variety of companies — and getting tired of seeing Big Brand System go offline on a regular basis — I finally got serious and invested in web hosting by Synthesis, a Copyblogger Media company.

I don’t know why I waited so long.

Big Brand System is now online almost 100% of the time, and loads up faster than it ever has before. Synthesis support approaches legendary status, too — even on nights, holidays, and early Sunday mornings (I can attest to getting great support at all these times).

Sure, it’s pricy. But if you’re serious about your online business, Synthesis will keep the doors to your business open 24/7/365.


Synthesis Tip Jar version
(regular link)

Search Engine Optimization

Scribe SEO Plugin Review

A confession: I didn’t know SEO from deo up until a short time ago. I knew Search Engine Optimization was an important way to drive traffic to your blog, but every time I tried to read about and master it, I ended up more confused than when I started.

Then I found Scribe SEO. Scribe makes search engine optimization into a game. It gives you an SEO score for your text, and in a very short time, you master the basics of writing in a way that will make your site more easily found on the web.

SEO Copywriting ReportYou can use it as a plugin on your blog, or as a standalone application to optimize everything you write. It suggests ways to naturally weave keywords into your text so that your site can be found by the people who are looking for you.

As a matter of fact, Brian Clark of Scribe allows me to offer his free 28-page report about SEO copywriting here on my site. It’s an instant download (so you don’t have to sign up for it). You can get it by clicking on the image at left, and I highly recommend you read it all the way through.

Let’s just say good things come to those who read to the very end.

Now if I can just get Scribe to write my posts while I sleep…


Scribe SEO Tip Jar version
Scribe SEO
(regular link)
Remember to download the free report

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.

Want to learn how email marketing helps to grow your business? I have a free course for that, and it includes an in-depth . Sign up for my free email marketing course.


AWeber Tip Jar version
(regular link)

Constant Contact Tip Jar version
Constant Contact
(regular link)

MailChimp Tip Jar version
(regular link)

Polish Up Your WordPress Site

Genesis Framework and StudioPress themes review

The Big Brand System website uses self-hosted (free) WordPress software. It’s flexible, robust and easy to use, but it doesn’t look like much right out of the box.

That’s where premium WordPress themes come in. Premium themes add a layer of design to your content. They make your pages look polished and professional.

My preferred WordPress themes are from StudioPress.

Want to learn more about how to use WordPress and premium themes to create a website that looks great and is easy to maintain? Sign up for my free “Easy Websites” course.


StudioPress Premium Themes Tip Jar version
StudioPress Premium Themes
(regular link)

Cloud Storage

Dropbox | Copy Reviews

What did we do before cloud storage? It gives us a place to stash our files, access them from anywhere, and share them with ease.

The first cloud storage company I tried was Dropbox, and it’s still where I keep the majority of my files. On the plus side, Dropbox is easy to use. On the minus, files shared between two people count against the Dropbox total storage amount of both.

Enter Copy. It’s just as easy to use, but files stored on Copy don’t count against the storage totals of each person they’re shared between. It’s a newer service, but I’m liking it just as much as Dropbox.Dropbox accounts start with two gigabytes of storage, and Copy accounts start with five. Click below to get started:


Dropbox Tip Jar version (we both earn extra storage space)
Dropbox (regular link)

Copy Tip Jar Version (we both earn extra storage space)
Copy (regular link)

Some of the best books I’ve read recently

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

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.