Back office systems for an info products business
A number of my readers have asked what my back office setup looks like. In this first article I'm going to list just the systems that I use, and in future articles I will describe how I use them. There are two things to note:
- First, I do not have any affiliation with any of these vendors and don't get anything from them for mentioning their products here.
- Second, my business is a mix of info products and consulting services. Most of the back office systems I use are geared to the info products side of the business - the consulting side of things tends to be a lot less automated.
Here are the systems I use.
Website & blog
I use Wordpress with the X theme to build my website and blog. The site is hosted by Blacksun in Canada - my nod to supporting local vendors.
I'm a software developer by training so using Wordpress and a sophisticated theme like X is relatively easy for me. I designed the website myself - I don't know that it is necessarily the best design in the world and I'm always looking at ways to make it more functional.
If I were starting out today I would use one of the popular website builders like Wix or Squarespace to build my website and use Medium for my blog. My business does not need a terribly sophisticated website and these systems would prevent me from fiddling with things I should really not be spending much time on.
I use Drip as my subscriber management system. For me, Drip's main attraction is its workflows - the ability to take different actions based on how a subscriber interacts with my content. My weekly emails are sent as broadcasts, but everything else - from welcome workflows to product purchase workflows and follow-ups, are done using workflows in Drip.
Drip lacks many of the features of the main Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. It does not integrate with my calendar or my contacts, but for an info products business this is less important to me. If you have complex sales funnels or separate marketing and sales teams you may be better off with other systems like SalesForce or Hubspot.
Calendly is my weapon of choice for allowing customers to book time with me. There's a bit of technical stuff happening in the background, though.
All of my calendars are Google calendars. I have 6 calendars - each dedicated to a particular type of calendar event (business, personal, admin, speaking events, strategy and provisional). Each of these calendars has its own colour so I can easily distinguish between different types of events.
I've set up Calendly to "see" all of the calendars except the Provisional one. Bookings can only be made in the free times left open between the 5 calendars (plus some buffer time I've set up in Calendly). I use the Provisional calendar to block out time in my calendar for specific tasks but still allow clients to book time with me.
I sell a number of info products (usually ebooks). I use SendOwl to host the products, process the payments and watermark each PDF product before it's sent out to the buyer.
There's a really neat integrated process that happens when someone purchases something from my website:
- The Buy button on a product page takes the buyer to my SendOwl product page.
- SendOwl integrates with my PayPal business account and Stripe for credit card payment processing. It also takes care of sending an email to the buyer with download instructions.
- When a purchase is made, SendOwl fires off an event in Drip. I've set up workflows in Drip to respond to those events, sending a thank you email and following up with the buyer.
My main form of marketing is long-form articles published on my blog and Medium and promoted on LinkedIn and Twitter. To promote the articles, I use CosSchedule.
CoSchedule's killer feature is its social media campaign templates. Here's how I use it:
- When an article has been written and published, I create three text snippets of about 200 characters each (to fit within the Twitter character limit). Each snippet is a catchy phrase from the article.
- I then use Pablo to create 3 images with my logo in the bottom left corner and a few inspiring words overlaid on the image.
I'd previously set up a social media campaign template in CoSchedule. This template will take the featured image and excerpt from the article, and mix it up with the text snippets and Pablo images to create a year-long social media campaign to promote the article.
It takes me about 15 minutes to create the text snippets, Pablo images and set up the social media campaign. Voila - a year's worth of article promotion done and scheduled.
Phone and video conferencing
I use Zoom for my video conferencing and coaching sessions. They have some really neat video compression technologies that make video calls a pleasure over even dodgy connections and support local dial-in numbers for phone calls.
Alternatives (which I still use on occasion) include FaceTime and Skype.
I use Wave for my accounting. It's free (amazing), connects directly to my bank accounts and is fully featured. If you're wondering how they do this for free, they do charge for things like payroll and other advanced features.
There are many other accounting systems of course - this just happens to be my choice.
In addition to the systems above, I use:
- Microsoft Office 365 for Mac;
- Ulysses as my distraction-free writing app (it runs on my Mac and iOS devices);
- MindNode for mind mapping (articles and products);
- RealtimeBoard for online collaboration and designing / documenting things like the Tornado Method Revenue Engine; and
- Unsplash for royalty-free high resolution images for my blog articles.
There are other apps and systems of course, but these are the main ones.
In summary, here are the main systems I use:
- Wordpress with the X theme for my website and blog; Medium for cross-posting my articles;
- Drip for subscriber management;
- Calendly for calendar bookings;
- SendOwl for online product sales;
- CoSchedule and Pablo for promoting my articles;
- Zoom for video and phone conferencing;
- Wave for accounting; and
- various others like Ulysses, MindNode, Unsplash and RealtimeBoard for my own content creation and working with clients.
I hope that this has given you some idea of what to expect when you're setting up business - not all of these systems will be applicable of course and there are many good alternatives to the ones I've mentioned here.
I hope this helps - let me know if you have any comments or questions.