One of the most common questions we are asked, by new businesses and established companies alike, is “what do I need to get started marketing my business online?”
The basics are a website and a way to reach your customers again and again. For a website, you need a domain name (like the online equivalent of the physical street address of your business) and hosting (like the building itself where your business resides). Then you need a way to easily manage your client and prospect database, and be able to email them news, updates, coupons, deals, specials, events, and thank-you messages. An email marketing software program is usually the easiest way to do this.
The next question, once we’ve explained this, is; “who are the best providers for email marketing software, website hosting companies, and where do we go to buy a domain name?”
Based on years of trial and error, testing with our own sites and those of our clients, and reviews around the Web, here are the companies we use and recommend. We don’t take this lightly – we know how mission-critical it is to make the right choices for your business.
First we’ll share a little more about the purpose of each and how it fits into your overall marketing strategy, then we’ll share a recommendation (or more, depending).
We also recommend that you purchase your own domain name, web hosting, and email autoresponder so that you maintain control of it. Sure, we could make a few extra bucks here and there by passing that cost through to you and billing you for it, and many marketing companies do just that, but we choose to recommend that you get your own so that you have ownership of it. If the worst ever happened and you chose not to do business with us, neither of us has to go through the hassle of transferring ownership over to you.
Email marketing software:
Also known as email list management software or autoresponders, what these do is allow you to “capture” email addresses for those people who subscribe, or “opt in” to your email list. Using the right autoresponder is important for email deliverability, compliance with the CAN-SPAM act, and more.
For most small businesses, AWeber or Constant Contact are both good solutions. If you’re looking for a free solution, up to a certain number of subscribers, MailChimp is another option. Check their website for details on how many subscribers you can manage for free.
At W3 Group Marketing, we use AWeber, which is also the solution preferred by many of the top Internet Marketers in the world.
Some of our clients use Constant Contact, and we manage their email campaigns – email newsletters, e-blasts, and other email-based notifications. It’s got a good level of functionality, customization options, and more, while not being overwhelmingly complex for the marketing needs of a small to midsized business.
For something more robust, a good choice is InfusionSoft. The drawbacks are that it is far more complex and more expensive, so we don’t usually recommend this for our smaller clients. Larger businesses can certainly benefit from the enterprise-level functionality that InfustionSoft provides, and they frequently have teams dedicated to managing InfusionSoft.
Website Hosting is where the files, images, code, and more reside so that people can access it via the World Wide Web. Your files are stored and available on a web server.
We highly recommend HostGator. We’ve been very happy with their uptime, service and support, and pricing. We’ve been using HostGator for years now, and have absolutely no hesitation to recommend them to our clients, or even our mothers if they need a website.
For most small businesses, the lower-end “Baby Hatchling” plan is sufficient, but they also have higher-tier hosting packages if you need additional bandwidth, dedicated servers, or some other options.
We use NameCheap for most of our domain name purchases. They offer reasonable prices, good customer support, and we haven’t found a single reason to be dissatisfied with them.
Why not GoDaddy? Well, they are (as of this writing) the biggest provider of hosting and domain names, and you’ve no doubt seen, or at least heard of their million-dollar Super Bowl(tm) commercial ad campaigns, but frankly we’ve been more than a little disappointed in them for several reasons, most notably the event earlier this year when they had hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their customers’ websites down because of an internal configuration error (not, as initially reported, due to being hacked). We think that if you’re doing business, you should be on top of your game, especially the very fundamental elements of your service, and in our opinion GoDaddy dropped the ball — big-time. Their response to their clients after the fact was cheap, as well. They offered a measly one month of free hosting to “make up for the issue.” For many customers, that’s less than $5, compared to the thousands of businesses who lost untold amounts of revenue because their sites and emails were down. In my book, that’s a pretty pathetic attempt at satisfying your clients. There are many other reasons, the details of which I won’t go into here, but that’s a pretty big reason why we don’t recommend using GoDaddy.
*Note: we may get paid a commission or referral fee for any purchases you make via links in this website, emails from us, or other communication via social media and other methods. This doesn’t increase your costs, but rewards us for sending the business to other companies. If you’re interested in learning ways to use affiliate marketing to add additional revenue to your business, we can help you with that as well.