Happy Holidays! My Inner Geek’s Guide to 33 Biz Productivity Tools

In the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to create a simple and lasting gift for all of our readers.

After much reflection, I decided to channel my inner-geek. Because, let’s be honest we all could stand to work a little less (or at least a bit smarter) in 2011.

With this in mind, I’m going to lift up the veil and give you a glimpse into how we operate Get Storied. In less than 18 months, we have built an eco-system of ideas, and done it for pennies on the dollar. The following tools are a key part of the equation.

Disclosure: These geeky recommendations are just that. My own personal preferences developed from real-world trial and error. By all means, you may prefer something else out there. This list is not exhaustive – always a work in progress. Also, just to be clear, none of the products listed are affiliate links (it’s our gift after all).  These are simply the tools that we currently use to manage Get Storied. Welcome your questions and suggestions in the comments section at the end of the post.

Here goes: my assembled geek list of favorite tools, web apps, and platforms that allow us to run a virtual organization with a small wallet and oversized footprint. Many of these web apps are free or cost less than $30/month.

Go ahead, make your life easier. And impress your mates. I dare you. Geek on, my friends.

Core Business and Collaboration Apps

These are the tools that power our day-to-day operations and collaboration. It would feel daunting to run a virtual organization without this core infrastructure in place. It also helps to have Jodi keeping tabs on much of these various tools.

  • Mailchimp – Our preferred e-newsletter program, with a cute monkey mascot that makes you smile. Includes expanded Social CRM functionality. Based on current growth of our list, $75/month. There’s free/low cost options too. If you are still on ConstantContact – time for a makeover!
  • Google Apps – How we manage email, calendar, shared docs, and more across our company. Free version available, although we upgraded to $50/year. Includes domain masking so michael AT getstoried.com lives on the Gmail cloud with extra business security, etc…Hot Stuff.
  • Pulseapp – The killer app for tracking your working capital as a small business (cash flow is king, right?). FREE to use, or just $8/month for upgraded account with special reporting features. This app changed my life as an entrepreneur.
  • Mozy Backup – Best remote/virtual backup solution (mac/pc). Just saved my ass when computer crashed two weeks ago. $4.95/month for personal account with unlimited bandwidth.
  • DropBox – Our shared file directory in the cloud, used by our team, especially for large files (e.g. videos) – replaces the need for FTP type service.
  • CreateSpace – Print on Demand publishing. How we published the Story Manifesto in 90 days. Subsidiary of Amazon.com so superb integration. Better royalties than Lulu.com, etc. Love those monthly royalty checks. Cost $35/year for membership – no upfront costs (!). Dude, can you do better?
  • Basecamp – If you don’t know about this project management tool, you must live in a cave? We still use it, although less than before. Best for companies that have a linear production process (i.e. web dev, designers, etc…) or do heavy consulting. $25/month+
  • Evernote – A great tool for capturing notes, photos, etc…on the cloud. Integrates with web browser and iPhone. FREE
  • Big Cartel – Our web store for selling T-shirts and other future merchandise. $9.99/month. Don’t love it, but easy to use.
  • ZohoCRM – Used to be on Highrise (didn’t use it). Now on ZohoCRM (barely use it). Resolution for new year to find a good system and use it. CRM is one of our biggest challenges at the moment.
  • Paymo – a time tracking program that syncs with Basecamp for easy records keeping. FREE or Premium is $3.99/user/month.
  • Elance – The first place we go when we are looking for freelance talent. Solvate is a nicely curated alternative.

Online Education

Get Storied continues to grow in the area of online education and info-product creation. There are no perfect out of the box solutions out there, although the following pieced-together tools have allowed us to build out this category of services with solid initial results.

  • Adobe Connect – Our online classroom environment we use for Story University and Reinvention Summit. 100/users just $50/month! After 30-day trial, buy 1 year subscription for better customer support through Clarix (one of their resellers).
  • FreeConferenceCall.com – We use free version for client calls, podcast series. Their TollFreeConferencing solution ($.06/min) is what we used for the Reinvention Summit.
  • NING – What we used as the community board functionality for Story University courses. $19/month. How do I put it simply? – YUCK, me really don’t like NING. Although there aren’t many (i.e. any) better alternatives out of the box. Grrr…
  • BuddyPress – Open-source online community platform we used for Reinvention Summit. A whole another sort of headache. Oy! Dev cost ~ $2,000.
  • Formsite – A survey tool we use for course evaluations and other surveying. $19.95/month. Can’t remember why we use this over SurveyMonkey? Want a free survey tool? Check out GoogleDocs.
  • 1shoppingcart.com – Our shopping cart system. We’re on $99/month (most expensive version). Frankly hate it, can’t wait to switch providers. Wish things like BigCommerce included re-occuring monthly subscription option for customers. E-Junkie has always intrigued me.
  • InspireCommerce – You need a merchant account for most shopping cart systems. These guys have nice values and competitive in pricing.
  • Paypal.com - A great entry-level shopping cart system. We still use for certain transactions and paying of certain vendors.
  • Vimeo.com – A better quality way to stream video than YouTube. Offers lots of branding opportunities. FREE. Vimeo Plus is $9.99/month and totally worth it if you are building a video library and want to embed widely.
  • Skype Call Recorder – How we record video interviews (split screen). Skype 5 Beta offers promise of multi-person video conferencing, though still a little buggy. Stick to regular Skype till mac version moves out of Beta. Call Recorder plug-in is just $19!!! We also use Skype Video for many staff meetings and networking.

Social Media

Social media is a whirlwind of web applications especially in the areas of analytics. While we play across a lot of social media, I must admit this is not an area I feel that we’ve cracked the code on yet. Welcome your further suggestions on affordable platforms and tools.

  • TweetDeckOur Twitter/Facebook dashboard. Alternative Hootsuite offers better analytics, although I dislike that interface.
  • Google Analytics - Just the defacto standard way to track your website traffic. And its FREE?!
  • Wibiya – Creates a cool little navbar at footer of your website with lots of social media stickiness. Used for Summit. FREE version is great.
  • Grist and/or Rapportive – Provides Social CRM details on the people in your email inbox. Gmail integration. Go ahead, be blown away by what you can learn about some people (their address, their age (!), their work affiliations, social media outposts, etc…). We use both. Not sure which is better. Both are FREE.
  • SocialOomph – One of the new emerging Twitter social analytics tools. Tried it out for a client. Ok. Haven’t fully leveraged.
  • Scribe SEO – This program turbo-charges the great things you can do with All-in-One-SEO wordpress plugin (FREE). Either or both will make your pages skyrocket in search engines. $27/month
  • Klout – a nice ego booster (or not) with free analytics about your Twitter influence.
  • GravityForms – Allows for all sorts of great embedded forms on your wordpress site. $39-$199 depending on the license.

Geeking out in 2011

Part of the fun of this Web 2.0 era is that there are always new web apps to try and start messing around with. Here are some of the ones we are most excited to play with in the new year..

  • Action Method – This is a next generation Basecamp, designed for turning ideas into action. Produced by Behance. We’re already starting to use their paper products as well, and Jodi is gearing up a roll-out of their web based tool in the new year.
  • TeuxDeux – A fun to-do list application, with gorgeous intuitive interface from the folks at SwissMiss. FREE, the iPhone app, cost $4.95. Another solid affordable app is Good To Do which was created by the legendary Mark Hurst.
  • FlowTown – Another Social CRM tool, provides social media analytics on your email database. Very intrigued on this one!

Add Your Comments and Share This Post

OK. So what is 1 tool from this list you are going to start using? What’s missing from this list? Please share your real-life recommendations. Add your thoughts in the comments below. Equally, welcome your questions regarding any of the above suggestions, which I will try to answer as best I can.

Also please share this post if you liked it. Think of someone who would really value these web tool recommendations and pay it forward. Hope this gift can reach and help lots of people.


Want to join us for the next round of StoryU Online? Get on the Priority List and be the first to know when we open up enrollment again!

  • http://visuj.com/ Jocelyn Wallace

    Holy Smacks, Batman! Michael, this is a great list. Very inner geek, yet very useful.
    I love Remember the Milk for task management. You can tag, create lists, due dates, sort by priority, add comments and share/delegate tasks with your team. Adding a task is kind of like using Twitter — you can put the hashtag & keyword within the task field and it knows to assign that tag. FREE if you only use it online, a low $ if you buy the app for your iPhone/Droid.

    Catch you later today at the online session!
    Jocelyn

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      he he…I know its quite the epic download – though seriously, it reflects
      what we use on a regular basis. I’ve heard good things about Remember the
      Milk. Thanks for adding this resource to the list.

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  • http://twitter.com/ janlgordon

    Michael, thank you for your amazing generosity! I’ve taken many courses, webinars, and the like and had some good experiences but the information, tools and resources from the Reinvention Summit have taken me to a new level. Your continuous gifts and value add keeps coming and it takes my breath away. Sharing your process and life story has inspired and fueled my passion to move forward with my vision. Consider me a life time member of this tribe!

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Jan – thanks for super kind words. Grateful you’re finding so much value from our evolving community.

  • Robert

    For CRM, check out Office AutoPilot.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Interesting recommendation Robbe! Don’t think its right for us, though might
      be a good all-in-one for those who don’t want to manage piece-meal like
      above range of tools.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505343401 Martha Garvey

    I LOOOOVE Evernote. And I see several on here I’m going to try over the next week.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Let us know what you think of the tools you play with.

  • http://www.businessdiaries.net Steven | Business Diaries

    Very nice list! For me, I use Aweber, Market Samurai, Blue Host, Tweetdeck, Tweetadder, Google Analytics, E-junkie, Paypal.

    Looks like I have some other tools I need to check out!

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Thanks for chiming in Steve. Those are all great tools.

  • Ariane Lee

    Wow! You’re really such an incredible geek! Aside from the fact that you’ve been using very helpful apps, you also got to share those web tools to us. I knew few of the apps that you’ve mentioned but you just revealed a lot more to try for myself. For a virtual assistant, they’re very helpful to complete tasks systematically and efficiently. This would definitely reach and help lots of people who also wanted to stand to work a little less. Thanks for that gift. 

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      You’re so welcome, Ariane. I’m grateful to share my inner-geekdom and see it
      well received. Geek is chic.

      • Heritage Helpers

        Yes, a great addition, MM–and a nice accent to the JEDI training.

        Speaking of virtual assistants… anyone have experience in that zone? I’m weighing http://www.taskseveryday.com, India-based, about $9 an hour. While I figure that their language skills will be iffy–particularly voice. But I’m considering them for some backoffice and accounting whatnots.

        Devin

        • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

          I’ve never worked with an over-seas virtual assistant, though some folks
          swear by it. At the end of the day, its all about relationship and
          communications, however you cut it.

        • Mharris

          I used them. Be very clear about what you want done and provide clear instructions. My experience was good.

  • Grady McGonagill

    Thanks, Michael. Many of these are new to me.

    If you have experience with mindmapping tools, I’d love your thoughts.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Hi Grady! I use Mindjet’s MindManager and really like it. It’s available on
      both mac and pc. There are lots of others out there too.

  • http://www.replicon.com/time-bill Time Billing Software

    I am surprised, since the top brands in the invoicing and time tracking sectors are not listed, for example Invoicera, Replicon time clock , Kronos, etc.

  • shilpi rai

    Just wondering why Replicon’s time tracking software is just missing from this great list?

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