Spokane Regional Networking, Social Media, Professional and Business Development
How do you close the gap from the tools you need to creating the big picture.
Products I have or am developing:
Tools I have or am getting:
So how do you pull it all together so it runs like a smooth machine?
Will do that Jimmy. I am doing great, but my brain can't quite connect the dots. Love to connect!
First, I would ask where you are looking to go with all this. I mean, I see that you have chosen tools that are -- at least on a small scale -- manageable by you, personally. This can work great for small operations but if you plan to do much expanding in the future I would start thinking about that now, rather than waiting for later when you have a significant investment put into it and find that you must either maintain it at significant cost or go to something else.
In particular -- because this is the business I am in so I feel confident saying this -- I can tell you that using a CMS is great for small operations, but is not very scalable. It can be done, certainly, but if your operation grows you will want to migrate everything in your CMS to a custom solution, and that is no small job. In essence, your website(s) will have to be re-created later darned near from scratch.
Trust me on this one: I am currently maintaining a multinational website that was created using a CMS, and maintaining it is much harder and more expensive than a custom solution would have been. Their initial thought was that they could mostly maintain it themselves, but it quickly went beyond their capability to do so. And now, rather than spend a large amount of money to re-do the site, they are instead spending even more in order to make changes and keep it maintained. The saving grace is that they can do that in smaller increments, but the total will still be larger. It often takes me 3 times as long or more to do something in the CMS than if it had been a custom-built site in the first place. (Custom-built from the ground up, that is, as opposed to a customized CMS.)
The same holds true for WP (which is, in effect, a specialty CMS). There are few available tools that will migrate the contents of these sites and blogs to something else, if you ever decide to change. So that entails a lot of manual labor, for which somebody must get paid. One company recently decided not to have us switch their website from a CMS to a custom solution because they were apalled at the cost... several hundred pages, at least, which had built up over time, and which would have to be manually copied and moved into a new website system, one by one. Which takes more time than one might think: all text styles and layouts have to be translated from one system to the other, often for each page, and any images have to be moved to the appropriate place in the new directory structure, etc. So it can take more than a few minutes to do even a single page.
So my answer is: if you are looking for a good way to tie all those separate services together, I really don't know of any. But that doesn't mean it can't be done at all. Just in a different way.
Only you can make the determination of what is most suitable for your use, of course. I'm not trying to sell you on anything, just trying to give you some food for thought.
Let me give you instead a picture of doing the same using a custom solution. Again I will use Rails as an example because that is my own specialty so I can speak with authority. Of course that would require that you hire someone to do it... let's get that out of the way up front, but as I say I am not trying to sell you my services, just giving you the facts. If you aren't prepared to work through a web developer, then this approach is not for you. I should also state up-front that a custom solution will cost more initially, and is less under your direct hands-on control because you need a developer. But it has many advantages that I believe outweigh those issues, including, in many if not most cases, less expensive maintenance later.
Let us say that you create your own domain name. (CompanyPages.com, or cp for short, which is probably not a great domain name but this is just hypothetical. I presume that you have some kind of company name or trade name you want to work under.)
From that domain, you can host your web pages AND your blogs. You can use subdomains for example (product_a.cp.com and product_b.cp.com and video_course_x.cp.com or whatever) to keep your operations separate, but still keep them all under one roof. You can still use WP from there if you prefer, or you can have a custom blog system built. Blogs are not very difficult to do.
Ruby is a general-purpose programming language, while PHP (which Joomla is based on) is not, so much. So all your web pages, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. can be all in one "place", and connected and maintained from there. Further, Ruby and Rails can be the "back-end" or server-side "glue" that ties them all together. Customization and interoperation become easier. Custom database operations are now possible. (Limited database stuff is possible with Joomla, too, but nowhere near as easily.) And shopping cart as well. Or a custom shopping cart, using the merchant service of your choice.
As for recurring charges, a custom solution will cost you probably $10 per year for a domain name (which you probably want anyway so that's not extra), but then you also have hosting fees, which (for a site with professional capabilities) will cost you $10 to maybe around $50 per month. The more expensive hosts are not necessarily better. $120 total per year, give or take, can get you a free domain name, unlimited subdomains, unlimited email addresses, and unlimited databases, with no bandwidth charges. If you take credit cards directly on your site you must get a security certificate, which costs about $50 per year.
The advantage of your own shopping cart is that you only have a charge from the payment gateway. Rather than the $59 or $99 per month PLUS payment service that 1ShoppingCart charges for taking credit cards, you have only the Payment Gateway charge (2.9% down to 1.9%, depending on the service you choose and your volume, plus typically $0.30 per transaction).
Plus there are the same disadvantage with a shopping cart service that a CMS has: typically, once you get them set up just the way you want them and looking nice, changing them later can be more difficult. I am not very familiar with 1ShopppingCart in particular, but one such service (Spree) is rather notorious for being hard to make major changes once you get it set up and in use.
Anyway, that is my opinion, for good or bad. After my experiences with CMS systems I do not recommend them to anyone but a small, and fairly hardcore, do-it-yourself operation. Beyond that they become unwieldly, and more pain than they are worth. If you use separate systems (Joomla, WP, 1ShoppingCart, etc.), your business is scattered all over the place. If you end up doing much business, or business in several areas, and want to integrate a significant portion of it, you will eventually come around to either a custom solution or a very expensive service anyway.
Thanks for that great explanation. I am sure many online businesses have the same questions. I am looking at keeping my business technology so I can manage it myself when I need to, but I can see that buying separate products can add up when they are billed monthly or yearly. I will look over this information and think about it.
This is a whole lot to take on, yikes! Do you have someone to help you, or is this all on your own? I do all of the above, but have a business partner and employees :)
The best way to tie it together is to have a Sales & Marketing Plan, including
To implement all of the above can take most of your day, yet I'm sure you need time to do your coaching services, teleseminars, etc. The key will be - being organized. I wish you every bit of good luck and success with this endeavor!
A couple things I'm thinking you'll want to consider for your tech platforms...
You can start with a robust and low-cost CMS, or a custom solution with - again - a very robust CMS. Either way... make sure your website/CMS works for:
a. purchasing and downloadable products (ebooks)
b. purchasing a membership, then using a password to login (membership sites)
c. purchasing a mailed product (CD's)
d. purchasing & registering for a seminar
Most website/CMS you do yourself will give you a free month. USE IT and make sure everything above works. If it does, you keep everything you've set up, no lost time. If it doesn't......at least you didn't pay for something that doesn't work.
Look around, there are other email marketing solutions that are (maybe more) robust. Most customers respond to pictures AND text, and they all now have reporting tools w/ metrics.
All excellent. To tie them together, you'll want to have a Social Marketing Plan that includes how, who, when.
I highly recommend ShareASale.com. When you're ready for an affiliate manager, I'm happy to give recommendations.
Look around, there are other shopping cart solutions that may be more robust...just depends on your needs. Make sure you pick one that has some sort of (professional looking) security verification and symbols you can use. You'll also want to accept paypal at some point - more ways to collect money, the better :)
Again, best of luck with all this. You've got quite a bit to weave together!
Wow! Thanks for all the help Lonny and Ginger and especially Jimmy. This can be so confusing for people and it may be good to have a Launchpad class for it. I spent 3 hours with Jimmy as he patiently looked at all the many business products, websites, etc. I have in process. He kindly outlined it all for me. Now I need to sleep as my eyes are crossed and decide on the best plan. I am amazed at those of you who develop software and/or websites!