Recommended Tools & Services
A quick but important note on the tools & services chosen
There are lots of online tools and services that I use for marketing & selling online.
On this page I’ll be sharing the tools I am currently using and experimenting with or tools and services that I’ve used in the past and still recommend; Different systems suit different businesses after all!
As every business has its own unique aims not every tool or service will be a good fit for everyone. With this in mind every product has a little blurb, which gives you more info.
There are links to each tool/service so you can check them out yourself.
If you see a little * by the name it means the link is an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you sign up to the service.
Affiliate links help keep Card & Gift Network running, but if you want to bypass them a simple Google search should help you find any tool mentioned. If you do use the affiliate links please be confident knowing that I will only ever recommend stuff that I know works.
General Tools for Running Your Business
Organiser & Much, Much More
Plutio is an all-in-one business software for micro-businesses and solopreneurs. It has a tonne of features for planning, proposals, invoicing etc. I use its planning feature to organise tasks for each project I’m working on. It’s a great way to keep track of marketing campaigns too.
Screen Recording, Screenshots, GIF Maker
CloudApp is a cloud-based service that lets you share screen recordings, screenshots & GIFS easily. It’s really handy if you ever have to explain something to a colleague (show can be easier than tell sometimes). I use it a lot when I’m contacting IT help desks, but it could also work brilliantly as a feedback tool or a way to improve customer service.
Tools for Storing Your Files in the Cloud
PCloud is an online cloud storage service and currently the one I use for all my work files. I switched from Box simply because I needed more space. With PCloud I have 500gb of cloud storage. The service also has a ‘Crypto’ upgrade service in case you need to encrypt any of your files. New GDPR regulations could make this pretty handy for some businesses.
Dropbox is very simple to use cloud storage that lets you access your files from any type of device. I use dropbox to see shared files from designers, makers and PR companies who want to appear on the blog.
Box is another cloud storage tool like Dropbox. When Box first launched they gave free access to a massive 50GB of space. This made it the perfect place to back up all of my work files. After a few years however I outgrew Box and went to PCloud (see above).
Services for News, Content & Random Things
Feedly is a great website (and app) for managing all of your favourite blog feeds. It also lets you keep track of phrases or mentions in google – great if you want to monitor mentions of your brand or specific keywords. I don’t use this as often anymore as I can get this service in SocialBee (See below) but this one is a great free option.
Pocket is an app and browser extension that lets you bookmark interesting internet finds. Not only can you view your saved bookmarks across all your devices but you can share to your social media; mixing up your feed and ensuring you’re not selling all of the time!
Online Magazine Stand
Readly is a website and App where you can find lots of different glossy and specialist magazines… and it’s the perfect tool for PR. If you’re looking to get your card & gift products featured in magazines Readly is an easy way to find relevant titles, see what stories you can pitch and find the journalists you need to approach.
Tools for Email Marketing & Customer Service
Mailchimp is an incredibly easy to use the site for managing your email marketing. It has (& lets you customise) everything you need from sign up forms to autoresponders. There are both free and paid service levels depending on your needs.
Email Marketing, Chat & More
Gist is quite a complicated tool but it is very clever. It helps track all the visitors to a website and the actions they take. It also allows you to send emails and chat to your customers via a widget on your website. This is an advanced tool so I’d suggest Mailchimp is probably an easier to use software for most businesses.
Tools for Running a Website
Blogging / CMS
WordPress is a blogging platform or content management system. This means it can be used for anything from a simple blog to a full website or online shop. Card & Gift Network is built on WordPress and it would be my first recommendation for anyone building a website or blog. Full disclosure, it did baffle me when I first saw it & I initially set this site up on Blogspot, which was so much easier. Nowadays I would never dream of doing that; I’d just go straight to WordPress.
Siteground is the service I use to host the Card & Gift Network website. I moved across to Siteground a few years ago and I’ve found them really helpful. They have 24/7 live chat as well as ticket/phone support and they’ve always gone above and beyond to help me. For balance, I should point out a card designer friend has had a bit of a nightmare with Siteground recently. Their customer service seems to have been a bit slammed & she seemed to get the runaround. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but will keep my eye on them!
Page Builder for WordPress
Elementor is a drag and drop page builder for WordPress. It’s really easy to use even if you have very little experience building websites. I use Elementor to build the Spotlight side of the Card & Gift Network website.
Theme Builder for WordPress
Elegant Themes is a service that creates high-quality website themes for WordPress. The main part of the Card & Gift Network website is built with a theme from Elegant Themes.
Tools for Managing Social Media
Missinglettr automatically creates social media campaigns from my blog posts. Every time I create a post for the blog it comes up with 20-30 image/text combinations for updates. It then spaces the updates and posts them to my accounts for up to a year.
Grum is a tool that lets you schedule Instagram posts from a computer. As all of my images for blog posts are on my computer rather than my phone conventional methods for Instagram are a bit of a hassle. Grum lets me post images from my desktop. It also shows how many likes/comments every post has got, which lets me spot things people like.
Shorby is a service that allows you to create a landing page with multiple website links. I first started using it on Instagram to combat the “only 1 link allowed” rule for accounts. Alongside Instagram I also use Shorby on my Twitter profile to direct users to the most important areas of my website.
Tailwind is a tool that helps you manage and grow your Pinterest account. They’ve added Instagram recently too, but so far I’ve only been using it for Pinterest. It has a Chrome extension, which makes it really easy to pin images. The platform also has Tailwind Tribes, which allows you to connect and work with other like-minded pinners.
SocialBee is a social media management tool that lets you curate and create content to share with your audience. Being able to pull in content suggestions from all around the web is a great feature that ensures your social media accounts are varied and interesting.
Promo Republic is a scheduling tool for social media updates. I’ve had this tool for a while, but I’m only just starting to use it. It has a calendar built in that gives you updates on up and coming events, which is an interesting feature and gives you ideas for potential updates.
Buffer is incredibly useful for scheduling your social media updates and also lets you view analytics on each of your posts. I’m experimenting with a lot of social media tools at the moment, so I’m not currently using Buffer. If you have a single business/blog it’s ideal, but as I have a few different sites to take care of I’m currently testing out a few other options.
TweetDeck is a desktop tool to view and engage on Twitter. It’s particularly helpful however as it lets you organise Twitter in a way that suits you. I use it for following lists, search terms and keeping an eye on what’s trending on the Twitter platform.
Tools for Graphic Design
Crello is the latest graphic design tool I’ve been testing. This one stands out for its ability to create rich media posts such as social media posts with video background or animation.
Stencil is another online graphic design platform much like DesignBold and Canva (see below). I’ve found however that Stencil tends to have better options for stock photos, so I tend to use this when I’m working on a project that needs good photography.
DesignBold is an online graphic design service which lets you easily create images for your business. It has templates for all of the social media platforms and lots of other options for other marketing materials (flyers, magazines, business cards etc). I swap and change between a lot of these design sites at the moment but I like DesignBold as it has some well-designed templates and it has a “magic resize button”, which can easily change a Facebook post into an Instagram post with very little fuss.
Canva was the first online graphic design programme I used, which was really geared to helping non-designers. I used it for many years to create header images for blog posts and social media images. It’s a really good tool that I would happily recommend but due to a lot of other options, I’ve stopped using it myself.
I actually own 2 Affinity tools that I use quite often, Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. They are affordable alternatives to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop respectively. From my limited memory of photoshop & illustrator, the programmes have very similar functionality, enabling you to create any type of graphic. I have the desktop version of both, which I purchase via the App Store. I needed a professional level graphic design software and these were ideal. At the time I think they were about £40 each, which is a lot cheaper than all of the Adobe options. If like me you’ve never had any design training there is a bit of a learning curve with these applications, but they’re so good that it’s worth putting in the time. I mainly use Affinity Designer for creating Gift Guide magazines and brand assets.
Tools for Making Videos
Rocketium is an online video maker that allows you to use text and images to create fun videos for your business. It’s very simple to use and comes with a number of pre-designed templates.
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