Here are some products and services that we know, use, love and trust here at IdeaMensch. We don’t have an official seal of approval, but if we did, we’d stamp the heck out of these companies and services. The reason this list isn’t 5 pages long, and 100 categories deep is because we actually have to use and love the products and services we recommend. If you’re bringing to life an idea, these products should be able to help you in a big way.
Note: Some of these products and services below are affiliate links, which means if you purchase them, IdeaMensch will receive a commission. It helps cover some of our operating expenses, so I am grateful for your support. And please know that every product you see on this list, I personally recommend.
Setting Up Your Web Presence
For most new websites, we usually recommend some sort of WordPress solution. It’s pretty simple to set-up, there are lots of tools to help you and it scales pretty nicely as you grow.
We recommend three different premium WordPress theme frameworks, all of which we have used and can recommend highly. You really can’t go wrong, but read on about how we think they differentiate.
Currently IdeaMensch is built as a custom child theme on top of WooThemes’ Canvas Theme, which we love and have happily used for years. Out of all the different theme companies, WooThemesprobably has the largest selection and variety of themes out there. It costs a chunk to sign up for their club, but it makes a ton of sense if you’re planning to launch a bunch of different projects in the coming months of years.
StudioPress is part of the Copyblogger family. They build super solid themes and we’re actually using them on a future project.Their themes are all pretty similar in structure (unlike WooThemes) so from a variety perspective – go with WooThemes. That being said, I think that StudioPress themes are preferable if you’re looking for a high converting theme that does a great job of capturing visitor emails. So if you’re a marketer of sorts, check out StudioPress themes. My personal favorite is theBalance Theme.
DIY Themes is mostly known for their Thesis theme, which is the first premium theme I ever bought. They just came out with a major re-development called Thesis 2.0. I’ve checked out the theme, and it looks like Thesis 2.0 comes with some major innovations. That being said, my opinion is that WooThemes and StudioPress are a bit more user friendly at this point. However, if you’re really familiar with both html and css – you probably won’t find a more flexible and powerful theme thanThesis.
There are forms everywhere on IdeaMensch. Forms for folks to pitch me, forms for people to email me and forms for people to submit their interviews. There are three factors that are hugely important to me.
1. It must integrate directly into WordPress, since that’s where I do all my publishing.
2. It should work seamlessly with both my CRM tool Highrise and my email marketing tool Mailchimp.
3. It must be easy to create an actual new form, since I am not very good at web dev stuff.
WPEngine is our hosting company, and in our opinion the very best WordPress hosting company out there. WordPress hosting is all they do, and since we moved over to them – our site has never been down (it used to go down all the time) and loads about 40% faster than before. They’re not cheap, but if you use the coupon code: IdeaMensch you can get the first six months free.
One more thing – moving WordPress sites can be a pain in the neck. So in our opinion, it makes sense to go with the best from the start. WPEngine is the best.
BlueHost is the one product that we don’t personally use. But we did our research, and they have some pretty good tools if you have a WordPress site. They’re affordable and have a money-back guarantee – so as you’re getting started – BlueHost should be a good choice for you.
Marketing Your Business
Organic search engine traffic is a huge driver of traffic for us here at IdeaMensch. And it seems to go up by 10-15% every month, which we’re eternally grateful for. Anyhow, most of everything we know about SEO we learned from the awesome folks at SEOmoz. We use it for all of our SEO research, analyze our competition and their best practices and to be alerted by any grave SEO mistakes we’ve made that are hurting us. As part of the SEO membership, you get to ask a couple of direct questions to their questions – which that alone can provide you with thousands of dollars of expert SEO advice.SEOmoz ain’t cheap (starting at $99 per month) but we think it’s worth it and you really can’t go wrong with their free 30 day trial. Their CEO Rand Fishkin also happens to be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.
Get started with the 30-day free SEOmoz trial.
Another SEO tool – like I said, SEO is important – especially when you don’t have thousands of dollars of advertising dollars laying around. Scribe can sit right within your WordPress installation and helps you optimize each post and page for search engines. It basically will tell you what keywords a specific post is optimized for and if not, what changes you have to make in order for that particular post to be properly optimized for a specific keyword. It sort of makes SEO idiot proof, which is why I like it.
Building an email list is really important. Everybody I talk to tells me they wish they started building their email list. You know who else wishes he started building his email list earlier? This guy. Me. Yup. Because when you have an email list with folks who pay attention to you and trust you, it not only gives you some serious influence but can also translate into revenues. Anyhow, there are a number of email companies out there but in my opinion MailChimp is the best. Their service is easy to use, it integrates with all sorts of other technologies (such as Eventbrite, Highrise and Gravity Forms for us) and best of all – if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers (which most people do) – it’s free.
Welcome Gate App
It took me three years to be comfortable to implement Welcome Gate. Then I did. And ever since, I have regretted that I didn’t implement it earlier. Welcome Gate basically creates an opt-in screen that is presented to all first-time visitors who’re going to your home page only. People can easily skip the screen, but it basically gives you a much greater chance to get those folks to opt-in to your email list. Ever since I implemented it, my conversions went up by a few hundred percent. This one is a no-brainer if you’re publishing any kind of content on an ongoing basis. Oh, and it’s free and works with most of the popular email marketing services such as Mailchimp and AWeber.
I am not a master salesman, so you don’t see a whole lot of campaign landing pages or squeeze pages here on IdeaMensch. However, whenever I do need to create a quick landing page, I use Premise. It’s directly integrated into WordPress, part of the Copyblogger suite or products and it’s easy to use. Plus unlike some other landing page tools, Premise isn’t too pushy or cheesy. So, I recommend Premise.
They also publish a list of free seminars, which are great. Check out How to Profit from the Digital Revolution.
Help a Reporter Out
We use Help A Reporter Out (HARO) all the time, not to get press ourselves but to find people to interview on here. It’s a free tool where journalists post story requests. If you’re a business owner, this is a good place to be potentially placed into stories big and small. When you see a request that you can potentially add some value to, reply quickly and be brief. Go check out HARO and sign up for updates specific to your category of business.
Being Productive and Staying Sane
This tool only works on a Mac, so if you’re on a PC – check out what TextExpander does and then see try and find something similar for your operating system. Out of all the tools you see on this page, this is is the one that saves me the most time. Text Expander allows me to easily customize emails that I send over and over. For example, I use it when I pitch the press. Or when I email people our IdeaMensch questions and instructions on how to complete them. Text Expander literally saves me a solid 5-10 hours every month.
There is no affiliate program for Text Expander, but this is the single most productive tool on this entire page.
I do get a lot of emails. And I am not writing that to tell you that I am popular. Unfortunately, a lot of the emails I get come don’t come from actual people. SaneBox is like a filter that sits at the top-level of your email account (meaning if you use both Gmail in a browser and via Outlook – it ail work in both) and literally sorts your emails in a variety of different priority folders. For example, it puts all the emails that aren’t so important into a folder called @SaneLater which I check once per week. Then there’s also a folder called @SaneBlackBox. If you put an email in that folder, you’ll never see anything else from that sender. SaneBox is great, and well, literally keeps my inbox sane.
If you sign up via this link, you can access their 14-day free trial and get $5 credit – just for knowing me.
Part of running an online business is that one literally has hundreds of different online accounts requiring a password of sorts. And left to my own devices, I’d use the same password every time – most likely evolving around my cat’s name. But that probably wouldn’t be safe. So, I use a program called1Password. It not only saves all my passwords, but also generates them which means I have ridiculous passwords like this: z6jtTbUVUA9hJp. Good luck hacking that. Best of all, it works on my computer, my iPad and my iPhone and the experience is seamless. Anyways, you are going to want to get this before one of your online accounts get hacked. 1Password is awesome.
I have too many files to back everything up on DropBox. I’d go broke backing up. But, DropBox is amazing for sharing large files or projects with folks that I collaborate with. Also, I use it to back up some super important files such as digital tax returns, favorite cat pictures, etc.
eMinutes has been a long time supporter of IdeaMensch, so I am excited to add them to our resources section. eMinutes is simply the best legal resource for companies looking to incorporate. They’re the most affordable experts in the field, and you won’t meet a nicer guy than Jeff Unger. Oh, and best of all – eMinutes is offering free incorporations for first-time entrepreneurs, which is incredible.
Don Thornburgh Law Corporation
We tried to register our own trademark. It got denied, which really bummed us out. We almost gave up on owning the IdeaMensch trademark – until Don Thornburgh showed up. Not only did he quickly figure out what went wrong, he took action and singlehandedly registered our trademark. If you think having a trademark for you business is the right thing to do, then get in contact with Don Thornburgh. I highly recommend him.
Other Useful Resources
Most of us have dozens of different online profiles – from Twitter to LinkedIn to Facebook to Instagram. Vizify is an online tool that pulls all of those together and creates a stunning profile. It’s free, and shows up high in search engines. Check out mine, and then hurry to register yours.
If you’re looking for a co-founder for your idea, check out what the guys at CoFoundersLab are doing. They have an online database and organize local events to help match you up with a potential co-founder.