We asked our most successful clients, colleagues, and friends to tell us: How do you do business? They answered an anonymous survey about what programs, platforms, and tools they use to get the job done.

Now, we’re sharing those results with you in an effort to help your business grow.

Here are the two big takeaways we discovered. (We’ll go into more detail below.)

1. There’s no such thing as a perfect tech stack. Everyone uses different tools, picking and choosing what works for their business. Don’t compare yourself to the big guys when you’re just starting out. But keep an eye on what they’re doing, and move in their direction when you can.

2. Businesses succeed when they invest in paid solutions. Smaller companies get bigger when they invest in real, professional tools. With increased efficiency, they can focus more energy on expanding their business. This applies to pretty much everyone at any level. Multi-million dollar businesses grow when they purchase high-priced custom platforms. One-person entrepreneurships grow when they purchase low- to mid-priced tools. Wherever you are, you can invest to grow.

Now, on to the results…

Email

SurveyResults_email2

Infusionsoft and Aweber were the email providers of choice for our survey respondents. MailChimp came in third place, with Ontraport as a close contender.

These four services all have something in common. Can you guess what it is?

They all support automated email funnels.

Let’s face it: people who invest in email funnels make more money. It’s how the world works. Strategic, automated email campaigns are the most reliable way to gain customers.

About 90% of profitable companies are putting this into practice, which is no surprise. They’re serious about growing their business.

Are you serious about growing your business? Are you using an email tool with automated funnels?

Customer Service

SurveyResults_customer service

In our work, we’ve generally found that people are divided into two camps:

  1. People who have a support team.
  2. People who don’t.

Successful businesses undoubtedly use platforms to take better care of their customers. Folks like Brennan Dunn, Ramit Sethi, and Derek Halpern all have support desk software backing them up. It would be impossible to get their companies off the ground without it.

It helps that there are a TON of different ways to support your customers. Freshdesk, Zendesk, Help Scout, custom platforms…the list goes on and on, and everyone seems to be using something different.

The real question isn’t what helpdesk tool to use — the question is whether you’re using one or not. They all offer helpful features at reasonable price points.

The question is, do you DIY your customer service, or do you have professional help? Are you overwhelmed with support emails, or do you rest easy knowing your customers are being taken care of?

Payment Processors

SurveyResults_payment processors

The world of payment tools is not cut and dry.

Our survey revealed that Stripe and Gumroad are the two most popular payment platforms on the market right now. Gumroad in particular makes it so darn easy to sell a product. You can start with a PDF and easily move on to selling an email course, easily hooking into things like Drip and Summit Evergreen.

Gumroad takes a larger percentage of your sales that some other processors, but it adds a lot of extra features for online sellers. For growing businesses, the convenience is well worth paying for. At the end of the day, you want what’s easy. In the next few years, we predict that the simplest payment processors will continue to rise above the rest.

Customers are looking for payment simplicity, too.

We were surprised to see a large group of survey respondents still offer PayPal as a payment option. But it’s not surprising when you look at what their customers want. Even though PayPal isn’t perfect, many customers prefer it to anything else…especially if their credit card information is already saved and accessible.

One of our clients, Jordan Reasoner of SCD Lifestyle, says that over 50% of his customers pay for his products with PayPal. It’s in their comfort zone, and they trust it.

If you’ve ever willingly paid $20 extra for something on Amazon just because they had your credit card on file, you understand how important this is. Payments have to be easy on both the buyer and the seller.

Lead Capture

SurveyResults_leadcaptureAn overwhelming majority of respondents — 88% — use their email service to capture leads. For example, if you use Aweber to manage your emails, you can create a custom Aweber opt-in form to put on your website. If you’re not tech savvy, you can also use LeadPages or Unbounce to make easy landing pages.

Personally, we use custom integration for all our lead capture forms. But that’s because we’re developers, and it’s easier for us to do it ourselves. And, we prefer the look of a fully customized, developed, and branded lead capture landing page.

Here’s one we built that’s integrated with Drip and built straight into WordPress:

http://evergreensite.wpengine.com/hi/authority-interviews/

Content Delivery

SurveyResults_content deliveryA lot of high-caliber people answered this survey. So, we weren’t surprised to see a big percentage of them deliver their content via expensive custom platforms. If you’re Patrick McKenzie or Marie Forleo, it makes sense to invest $110k-200k for a solution customized for your needs.

Most people can’t afford that kind of investment, though. Which is exactly why we started Summit Evergreen. We saw all these awesome people building custom solutions and paying a lot. We saw the need for a top-notch platform at a reasonable price.

Another reason we created Summit Evergreen: we saw people on the other end of the spectrum trying to shoehorn their content delivery into WordPress. This can backfire! As Jordan Reasoner explains:

Before Summit Evergreen, we had a cobbled-together, hacked system. We were using a WordPress install for our ‘top tier’ program. Our product pages would regularly show up in Google searches, so people were finding our products for free. It was not good.

The moral of the story: you don’t have to invest $200k in a custom system, or hack together your own system, when Summit Evergreen is ready to go right out of the box.

Marketing Site

SurveyResults_marketing site

Overwhelming results here! 90% of respondents use WordPress to host their marketing website. We 100% agree! We run ours on WordPress, too!

This is what WordPress is really good at. They’re the best for blogs and marketing sites. It’s so easy to set up themes and get something out into the world fast and easy.

It’s when you try to turn your site into a content delivery system that you get in trouble. That’s when you run into technical issues, customer experience problems, and you start seeing your paywalled content showing up for free in Google searches.

Let WordPress do what it’s good at: building sites. This is the best example of using the right tool for the right job.

Social Media

Survey_results_social media

Just for fun, we asked what social media sites people use to promote their products. The two big winners were Facebook and Twitter, but Google+ also had a good showing.

Social media is going through an interesting evolution. A few years ago, we would have described it as a free, easy way to promote, market and build a community around your products.

Now, Facebook requires you to pay up if you want to get any meaningful engagement with your brand. You can post content all day long, but unless you pay to promote it, it’s unlikely to be seen. It’s basically the latest paid advertising platform.

Keep this in mind as you start (or continue) your engagement efforts on social media. Have you built a Facebook advertising budget into your marketing plan?

Wrap Up

Why are tools so important to what we do? Why bother peeking behind the scenes at what the best businesses are using?

It’s because of the Busywork Trap.

SurveyResults_boobytrap

Busywork feels good. If you’re sitting there answering emails, you feel like you accomplished something. It feels good because it’s a task that has a beginning and an end, and you can see the effects as your mailbox empties out. But did it drive your company forward? No.

Effective people have learned not to waste their time on busywork. They use tools to automate their processes.

Do you think Frank Kern sits around all day and answers emails from a batty old lady who needs customer support? When he needs to add a new opt-in to his site, does he go in and code it himself?

Of course not. He gets someone else to do it. He knows how to delegate, and he knows what’s the best thing for him to be doing with his time.

This is the biggest difference between successful businesses and people just starting out.

Think of all the time you’ll save when you:

  • Automate your email funnels
  • Automate your customer service
  • Use WordPress to set up marketing sites fast
  • Use simple, secure payment processors
  • Capture leads with landing pages and form builders
  • Invest in a solid content delivery platform

You might have enough time to actually run your company!

We hear people say all the time, “I can’t afford to use [that tool].” Our response is, you can’t afford to NOT use it. All entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, bootstrappers, businesspeople, masterminds — everyone! — starts at the same level. The people who succeed are the ones who automate early and commit to using smart systems. It’s how you grow a business.

In the wise words of Scrooge McDuck: Work Smarter, Not Harder.

smarternotharder

Invest in the tools that will turn your product into a successful business. Sign up for Summit Evergreen today.

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