Let it be said, I love WordPress. I use it for all my sites and I recommend it to everyone wanting a website. But how can you creatively use WordPress for business? That’s what this article is all about!
It did start out as a blogging platform for people wanting to start a blog, however that’s a long time ago now and WordPress has evolved to the best Content Management System (CMS) for small to medium websites. Both for personal sites but certainly also for businesses wanting an online presence.
And I should probably know as I’ve worked professionally with CMS for the last 14 years or so. Actually when I’m consulting some of the year, my services revolves around Microsoft’s offering in the CMS arena SharePoint.
Now SharePoint is a fine system for big companies, but I normally tell people that they “don’t get much SharePoint for less than $500,000″. It simply a beast of a product and you can’t do anything without hiring a small army of dedicated consultants (hence that this part of my business is going quite well and I could work with this all year-long if it wasn’t because I don’t like the fact that I’m selling my time).
But while Microsoft’s flagship is a commercial product costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing costs for just small setups, the CMS market is huge.
There are literally thousands and thousands of different CMS.
Some big, some small.
Some old, some new.
Some expensive, some free.
Some hard to use, some super easy to use.
What I like about WordPress is that it’s small, being continually developed (not to say all the extensions/plugins being developed all the time), it’s free and it’s super easy to use even for beginners who are not used to working with their own website.
And apparently I’m not the only one, because WordPress is more than any other CMS out there by far. On WordPress.com alone more than 75 million blogs hosted. This is just the hosted version and statistics say that WordPress is powering 18.9% of the web.
Do you think it’s good enough for your site as well? Oh but I think it is.
From a technical standpoint WordPress is somewhat of a clutter and you often hear tech geeks telling you to use other CMS. I agree with them at some point but they just tend to forget that a website is not about technology. It’s about getting customers, building a brand, finding leads or some other business related goal.
A website is NEVER about technology (although the topic of the site can will be :)). It’s always related to one or more business goals
[tweet “A website is always related to one or more business goals”]
WordPress is awesome because:
- There are thousands and thousands of developers actively working with it making it easy to always find someone who can help you. Not to say cheap as a lot of competition and places like Elance and oDesk are crawling with people who can help you at super low hourly rates.
I get help on WordPress all the time. From help with developing small plugins to my last job on Elance where I had to have this blog and 14 other websites moved to a new server.
- Thousands and thousands of free plugins extending the core functionality and features with almost anything you can think of. Some of them I will take a look at in a minute.
- Thousands and thousands of commercial ($$$) plugins extending the functionality even further.
- Thousands and thousands of ready-made themes that can turn you’re WordPress website into something of beauty in five minutes even if your aesthetically challenged like me. Buying a $20 theme and getting a $5 logo on fiverr.com can result in a rocking website in less than two days.
- Incredibly easy to use, even for beginners who have never used CMSs before. Because WordPress is now more than ten years old, they have gone through many iterations of the product increasing the usability of the product again and again. WordPress certainly looks different from just a couple of years ago and with version 3.8 they have changed the administration system has changed look yet again.
- Updates coming all the time improving security or simply adjusting small things. With the new version WordPress can actually update itself so you as an administrator doesn’t have to go in and update the system yourself all the time. It’s vital that updates pushed out quickly as security holes or small bugs discovered.
But if you’ve ever used WordPress you’ll probably agree with most things on this list and really this blog post wasn’t really about my love for WordPress – it’s about how you can use WordPress creatively in your business.
So let me show you how you can take a free system and not only use it for your website but for many other things, some that can help you generate even more money in your business and some that can help you run and support your business.
WordPress as a Membership Site
If you’ve spent a little time on my site, you might have noticed that I do tend to write a bit on membership sites. I also have my membership sites where I teach people how they can set up their own lifestyle business, break free of the 9-5 and get more time and freedom.
But membership sites don’t need to charge money for knowledge, they can also be used to offer more value to your existing customers, like offering video training on how to use your products. If you want to learn how you can set up a professionally looking membership site, you should read this post where I dive down into setting one up (/setup-professional-membership-site/)
WordPress as an E-learning system (Learning Management System – LMS)
You could use a membership site to deliver training content and you could regard a membership site as e-learning. However as someone who has a background in a Danish e-learning company I can tell you that there is a distinction.
In a Learning Management System (LMS) you are typically concerned with delivering multiple online courses in an organisation while tracking progress and results.
There are several options out there. Some of the better ones that I’ve tested or worked with myself are:
If your concerned with standards in the industry
If you want a snazzy looking website with multiple courses
Have you worked with other LMSs please share your experiences in the comments
WordPress as Webinar Software
Most webinar companies charges a lot for their services. Now this is often justified as it costs a lot to keep up an infrastructure that supports video. However if you’re just putting on a webinar a couple of times per year, it might be an expense that is hard to ignore.
There is a free alternative but notice that you and your viewers shall presented with ads.
When it comes to WordPress, you could choose to use a plugin that turns your WordPress installation into a Webinar machine (and the good thing that it’s only a one time payment).
I haven’t used it yet, but I like what I see and it makes integration with Google Hangouts a breeze (leveraging Google’s and Youtube’s platforms for video – free)
so I’m considering purchasing it. I just purchased it.
WordPress as a Helpdesk
Doing customer support? For one of my companies I’m using Zendesk.com. It’s an excellent system for doing customer support that even Twitter uses however I’m also paying $39 per month (and I think I’m on an old pricing model because I can see they charge more now).
I’m still doing this because this particular business is using this in a rather big however when I had to set up a new support site for my “main company” Infospray Media I chose another alternative.
Let me just tell you that many different systems out there branding themselves as helpdesk or customer support systems. Both free ones and paid ones.
Most of the hosted paid ones (like zendesk.com) look absolutely stunning, but most of the free ones look like crap. I want my customers being met by a friendly, good-looking and easy to use site when they need help from me so I chose the beautiful WordPress theme SupportPress from WooThemes.
While it looks really good and I like every part of it, it has one vital thing missing.
Your customers cannot send emails or reply to support tickets via emails. And it doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon.
There are companies that can help you out but setting this up is not really for non techies so you might need some help with it.
WordPress as a Forum
Want to start a forum? There are a lot of options when it comes to WordPress. I’ve used most of the free ones at some point or another (I had to add a forum to a membership site and I was basically through 3 or 4 plugins before I satisfied).
Most of the plugins come with every imaginal feature, so if you’re the person who likes to sit and fine tune every little part of your forum, then
I now recommend bbPress to everyone. At first it required its own installation and therefore wasn’t really integrated well with WordPress (other than sharing users) however it’s now a WordPress plugin making it a no brainer to integrate.
Also it’s created by the same people who develop WordPress so the integration is done as close as it can possible get. There aren’t a whole lot of settings (compared to other offerings) but it does what it says on the package and is super easy to set up and use.
WordPress as an E-commerce website
You want to sell products online? Then you need an e-commerce website.
As it turns out a multiple solutions for bringing e-commerce capabilities to a WordPress site.
You might think that this leaves you with a ton of headache on what solution to choose, but now I really only want you to consider the WordPress plugin WooCommerce.
Built by the capable team WooThemes (that also built the SupportPress theme I mentioned earlier) it’s a really solid product that also has its own small eco-environment. This means that other people and companies are building extensions (plugins) to the platform just like WooCommerce itself is an extension to a platform (WordPress).
As I said there are other solutions out there, but the fact that WooCommerce is such a complete and mature product combined with the active development and community makes this the first choice when it comes to e-commerce on WordPress it’s as simple as that.
It is as simple to use as WordPress itself and the basic configuration to get up and running can done in a day.
Also the fact that most of the themes from WooThemes are in fact compatible with WooCommerce makes it super easy to get a wonderful looking e-commerce site in record time. I’ve also found that Themeforest offers a fantastic choice of WooCommerce enabled themes.
WordPress as a Social Network
Want to create a closed company social network? You know that all chatter isn’t really relevant (or suitable) for companies right? Do you want something like an intranet but likes how Facebook does it?
You could simply install WordPress with the WP Mingle plugin. It will instantly turn your WordPress site into a fully fledged social network with profiles, friends, timelines, comments, tagging and what have you.
If you are a large team that spread out geographically then this could be the new way that you communicate in your business.
WordPress as a Job Board
Do you have a lot of open positions in your company or do you perhaps running a recruitment company? Why not have your very own job board that will rank your open positions in Google?
Now I need to be honest here, I haven’t used any of the listed plugins so I cannot tell you what you should use, but there are both free ones like WP Job Manager as well as commercial ones like WPJobBoard JobRoller.
WordPress as a Customer Relations Management system (CRM)
A CRM system is really about tracking leads, sales and customers of your business. Depending on your given business model, most businesses could use at least some of the functionality offered by a CRM.
There are thousands of different CRM systems and I assume that you’ve heard of businesses such as Salesforce.
The problem with CRM systems are that there is really no hard definition of the term, so all the systems come with their own feature set. This means that while some functionality tends in most systems, you cannot really compare the systems side by side.
You simply need to look at the functions you need and what the particular software offers.
I’m using SugarCRM in my business. It’s a free piece of software but it’s standalone and doesn’t run on WordPress. It can also be a little hard to set up and use (not to say I think it looks hideous).
When it comes to WordPress you could check out the WP CRM plugin that has the most core functionality. You probably won’t be able to grow with it, but if you’re a small business and just need to track your leads and customers, this would certainly fit the bill.
What are you using WordPress for?
I actually had a few more ways to use WordPress for business on my list, but I think I will stop this rather long blog post already.
However I would love to hear if you’re using WordPress as something else than just creating a website or a blog. Heck I would also like to hear from you if you made it this far
So tell me – how are you using WordPress for Business?