By far, one of the things I love most is discovering new ways to do things better – that can include anything from finding a good program, changing the steps in a process, to discovering new ways to collaborate.

Here is a list of the top 10 things, that I am very glad to have in my tool chest as we move forward into 2010:

1. WordPress.com

Without a doubt WordPress and learning the php behind it has naturally transformed my business and the services I offer. With easy to manage plugins, like WPWishlist (transforming it into a powerful membership site) and other add-ons, to the accessibility it offers, I believe WordPress is a great solution for both large and small scale website marketing.

2. HootSuite

This is a tool that I use daily. Not only can you access it from any computer and manage all of your accounts, it also tracks essential stats, provides a great scheduling feature, and is a great way to keep track of multiple accounts across key networks.  Twitter became a huge part of my life in 2009, where I participated in a successful Twestival fundraising event, launched other events and businesses, as well as made some great personal connections.  Once I discovered Hootsuite, it made it much more manageable to handle all of my diverse needs.

3. 1Shopping Cart

Even after introducing an unpopular support fee, 1ShoppingCart remains one of my favourite tools. Aweber tries to challenge them, but to me, they can’t compete with the integrated shopping cart and affiliate management system found in 1ShoppingCart. Affiliate marketing is still gaining in popularity and I can see the development of this program being worth the investment.

4. Google…everything

What can I say, except I’m in love with Google. They just give me so much – and ask for so little! They provide information, take care of a lot of my demands, all for a very reasonable price (did I mention…it’s free!)!!

From Gmail, which I have now fully switched to after years of Outlook, to their analytics, now hosting and document solutions, Google is at the top of my list for great resources.

Gmail, after the initial adjustment and setup, is a solution that’s really working for me! My emails have never felt more organized and manageable – couple that with the accessibility that Gmail offers and it’s a service that I can’t get enough of!

Google Analytics is still my preferred analytics and reporting software for any website. With valuable tools like Experiment, you can setup split testing and learn from your own audience.

Google Insights is one of my new found favourite tool giving you stats on any keyword you can imagine, and the information displayed shows you related searches, countries and areas that are most active.  If you’re doing any keyword research, you’ll want this link bookmarked.

Calendar – In a word "awesome" – the Google calendar has been my solution to managing all of my personal, professional and client calendars. To increase the usability you can even embed it on a website to display the most current, functional calendar for all of your public to see.

Google Maps – It’s crazy to think how far we have come sometimes – when you look at the detail and information available now online, it’s astounding and only bound to increase, both in size and functionality. I use Google maps more in my ‘personal’ life, but the applications for business are incredible: from guiding your potential client to your door, to providing an exterior shot of the shop, with the popularity of the iphone, GPS, and the sheer volume of distance covered by the Google Truck (…) Not on the map? That’s okay – add it yourself – Businesses this is a great opportunity for you! Google even has a tutorial at their local business center on the services you can take advantage of.

Google Documents – I may have mentioned that Google is on my list of favourites – well this is one of the reasons. The value of the Google Documents is definitely seen when you’re working with multiple collaborators and across many operating systems. I can simply send a link to all parties involved on any Google doc and we can all update – why didn’t Microsoft come up with this sooner?!

Google Forms & Surveys – Did you know that you can create an effective survey for no cost? Did you realize that the results are automatically held in a spreadsheet for you, available online at any time? Did you realize it was that easy? No?! Well I didn’t either, and thanks to a very informative presentation through one of my peers early 2009 I discovered the wonder of using Google documents for creating surveys! Here is a link to one of their videos on how to setup a form.

YouTube – Yup, even YouTube is associated with/controlled by the almighty Google. If you haven’t had a chance to watch some videos via YouTube, feel free to visit the site and type in anything (really anything) that comes to mind. I’m sure you’ll find something amusing, if nothing else. YouTube does have a great application for business too – there’s a lot of power of influence in watching a testimonial on a service or product you’re considering.  For business there is a fantastic opportunity to get some viral video exposure, so have fun and post away!

Google Alerts – If you haven’t already got your alerts setup, I would highly encourage you to do so! I have alerts setup for specific things, like my name, company name, website URL’s and as needed I’ll add alerts for the current projects I’m working on.  Google Alerts let’s you keep right up to date on any mentions of your keywords, allowing for a great reputation monitoring opportunity. 

5. Grooveshark

Working on your computer and want to groove?! Oooh, I love this…Grooveshark offers you a huge variety of songs, sortable by artist, album, check out the fans to discover new songs. 

6. Freshbooks

Switching over to Freshbooks was one of the best changes I’ve made in 2009! It’s easy (once you get past the initial setup…but isn’t that always true), it allows you to have your own account and monitor others (perfect for contractors), as well as provides good invoice templates and the option to send via email or regular mail (don’t worry they do all the work).  If you’re looking for a good invoicing/time tracking solution for 2010, then check this one out!

7. W3Schools

Probably one of my most used references – I love the fact that this is an updated how to guide with examples, and ‘Try it Yourself’ features, guides on everything from HTML, CSS to PHP, makes it one of my most valuable resources.

8. W3Validator

This is a great tool…although your web developer will hate you for it. Even though I love this tool, the gruelling task of going through and correcting code is not something every developer looks forward to!  We don’t mind at all – so if you run your site through and are in need of some clean-up, feel free to connect with us!

9. Skype

This has had the most profound affect on my family, after moving this year, we’ve given all the grandparents webcams with built-in microphones and Skype has allowed us all to keep in touch virtually! I can see Skype’s applicability blossom in 2010 with applications geared at small businesses like their PBX Phonebox. I’m enjoying Skype and look forward to see what they have in store for 2010!

10. Best Year Yet Goal Planning System

I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with the creators of this powerful system in 2009.  With some huge testimonials, hundreds of partners across numerous countries, this system has the recipe for success.  Whether it’s for your own personal use, or using it to develop team goals, even utilize it’s power to do employee appraisals, this is one tool that allows you to create Your Best Year Yet! 

Looking forward to more in 2010: iPhone

If there was one thing I was excited about under the tree this year, it was my iPhone! Okay, so I actually bought it for myself prior to Christmas, but still I was happy to receive it none the less! With the popularity of the iPhone skyrocketing and iPhone applications booming out of control, there is a great opportunity for both the consumer and business to get on board to this amazing device.  Anything from making your website mobile friendly to developing your own iPhone applications, should be a priority for any online business in the coming year!

Networking Groups & Training – A Highlight of 2009!

Reaching out and connecting with the community, has by far been my most valuable asset in 2009. Whether it was developing classes for, or interacting with the professional membership at VAClassroom.com, making new friends at the Business of Bliss event, developing connections through LinkedIn groups, raising awareness and money through twitter, and even running contests through facebook – social media and networking has proven to be an invaluable tool for myself and many businesses.  Check out this very cool clickable graphic to showcase the social networks:

 

I look forward to discovering new tools and finding the best solution for the tasks that I’m presented with.  If you have some favourites of 2009 or some new found gems of 2010,  please share!!

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