Marketing Site Stack
If you have many (or any) engineers on your team, it’s really tempting to spend those engineering resources building out your marketing site. Don’t do it. Engineering resources are incredibly important and typically scarce, especially in early stage companies. It’s important to keep those focused on your critical path items.
I know this from experience. At my first two startups, we spent a lot of engineering resources building our home pages. Part of this was a point of pride. We wanted a slick page. But the cost was that even minor changes ended up being a huge distraction. The engineering work compounded. For example, any time we wanted to update our Press page with a new article, we had to ask engineering. Then one of our engineers ended up building an admin page so we could manage our press page via a custom dashboard. If this sounds like overkill, you’re right.
At Blissfully we vowed not to make these mistakes. We decided early on not to spend ANY engineering time building or updating our marketing pages. We wanted to be able to make quick copy edits without needing any code. We also wanted a beautiful and consistent design. And of course, we needed powerful integrations and workflows.
What we were looking for in our marketing website + platform:
- Great design — Marketing pages need to look great, and also be consistent with your brand guidelines and app.
- Zero engineering — Ability to create and edit pages without needing engineering.
- Powerful integrations — Leverage other great tools and seamlessly integrate into our core workflow.
- Future proof — We wanted a foundation we could continue to build on and extend.
WordPress: Great foundation for Marketing Sites
We chose to build our marketing site on WordPress. It currently powers over 28% of all websites. That’s mind-boggling. It’s an incredibly mature platform that is improving at a solid clip. It has a huge ecosystem of integrations, extensions, designers, and developers.
I realize some folks love the simplicity of platforms like Squarespace and Wix. They are solid, somewhat flexible, and look great. The downside (and upside for some) is that they’re more limited, which might lead to a bigger migration later on.
The power and flexibility of WordPress can be overwhelming. So here’s a set of recommendations to get you started.
Powerful + Flexible Marketing Site Stack
Here’s a great marketing site stack built on WordPress to get you going.
Hosting: WP Engine
If you’re serious about your site, WP Engine is your best bet by far. They provide flexible plans, have terrific support, automatic regular backups that you can roll back to in one click, and great performance. WordPress.com is great for performance, but it’s incredibly limited in which themes and plugins it supports. And for heaven’s sake, do NOT use GoDaddy WordPress Hosting (or GoDaddy anything). Their DNS servers are garbage, support is awful, plans are cheap but leave out critical features, and they consistently try to upsell you crap. There are other WordPress hosts out there, but finding one requires navigating through an SEO wasteland.
Design: Site Origin
SiteOrigin has a set of amazing tools to help design and customize your WordPress site. Using these tools will give you a great combination of ease of use out of the gate, plus plenty of control and customization options.
- Page Builder — This is the foundation for your WordPress site. It gives you an easy to use visual layout editor for pages and posts, for free. There are a few visual page layout options for WordPress, PageBuilder is probably the best. It doesn’t add too much bloat to the HTML, has great options to make sure your site is responsive (e.g. show/hide, stack order, width, etc.), and is always adding new features. PageBuilder gives you the best of both worlds — full control when you need it, but plenty of existing layout options to help you out.
- Widgets Bundle — PageBuilder pairs with Widgets, a set of pre-built visual options that you can quickly build out and customize, like testimonials, counters, social media, etc.
- CSS Editor — This completes the SiteOrigin mini stack with a slick CSS editor built into WordPress. It makes it easier to override the CSS, tracks changes over time, gives you some visual tools, and will make it a breeze for your front end folks or designers to take over and make your site pop.
- Theme: Unwind — These SiteOrigin tools work best with the Unwind Theme. It has great options for a header and lets you easily customize pages by turning off the header, footer, or sidebar on a per page basis. It has some basic theme settings (e.g. font and color), and gets out of your way so your site design can come through. Many themes tend to be overly restrictive and hard to customize, not so with Unwind.
Forms + Workflow: Ninja Forms + Zapier
- Ninja Forms — After spending what felt like weeks looking at different WordPress form plugins, we settled on Ninja Forms. It’s really powerful, easy to use, and has tons of great integrations. I’d recommend the Forms and Styles add-on to help you easily customize the look of the forms. And of course, the Zapier add-on to greatly extend the power fo what you can do with the form information. You should also install this amazing Ninja Forms Google Analytics plugin to automatically track your forms completions as Events in Google Analytics. Do this up front (I wish this were built into the base Ninja Forms), so you can easily set up Goals or measure other activities in GA.
- Zapier — Zapier was the original API for everything to help you automate your workflows. They have connections for over 750 apps, including Ninja Forms. With Zapier you can send the information you collect in a form to all sorts of places, including CRMs for lead management (see below for details on a great lead workflow).
Analytics + SEO: Google Analytics and Yoast
- Google Analytics — The gold standard for website analytics. The easiest way to set up Google Analytics is to use a plugin, like MonsterInsights, to quickly start tracking. You’ll just need your Google Analytics tracking id.
- Yoast SEO — SEO is a long term strategy, but you might as well get started early on. The Yoast SEO plugin has a pretty good free tier and lots of SEO options to make sure your site has good hygiene, creating a good foundation to hopefully pay off over time as you build traffic and content.
You should be using a marketing platform to manage customer conversations, and probably to include live chat on your site so you can engage visitors in real time. WordPress makes it trivial to integrate into your favorite marketing/chat platform. We recommend Intercom, Drift, or Hubspot, each of which has WordPress plugins to make deployment onto your marketing site easy.
Our Site and Example Lead Workflow
We use this stack to create and manage our entire web presence, which you can see at Blissfully.com. In particular, our lead management workflow leverages this, with the addition of Clearbit, to easily enrich our leads and create a great workflow in Hubspot (our CRM).
We use a SINGLE email field when asking people to sign up for early access to reduce friction. Why ask for additional data fields (like name or company) when you can figure all that out with just an email. Then we use Zapier to send that email to Clearbit for enrichment (tons of great qualifying information like company size, revenue, etc.). Next use that enriched information, which comes just from the email, to create a complete Contact, matching Company, and Deal in Hubspot. From that point on, we manage the lead lifecycle in Hubspot which has great tools for automating emails, etc. And finally, we use Zapier’s notifications to send a Slack message to our team with the lead info and to send a welcome email to the original lead.
Without any engineering, we were able to create a powerful and scalable workflow.
Originally published at www.blissfully.com on July 5, 2017.