5 Free Marketing Tools Your Small Business Should Use
This post is really about two things — marketing and budget. We say this because normally we like to inform and educate small, local businesses on the advantages and power of professional digital marketing services. Small businesses don’t often boast a dedicated marketing team. Even many medium sized businesses, especially independently owned and operated companies, will put off hiring in-house marketing strategists, social media managers, and web designers. More often, one or a few existing team members will don the marketer’s hat, force it to fit within their already lengthy list of responsibilities, and create a Facebook page, purchase billboard space, print business cards, and what have you. It’s understandable, mostly because a lot of small businesses just don’t have the budget for the most sophisticated and aggressive marketing methods. If your business’s budget is tight, and not quite ready to spend on a professional digital marketing agency, here are 5 great — and free –marketing tools your business should be using in 2017.
We’re going to make a safe bet: your business probably doesn’t have an in-house graphic designer, that is, someone who can whip up sharp, professional, even artistic images, photos, and logos in Adobe Photoshop. Don’t feel bad, most small businesses don’t and probably never will. Still, your business’s advertising, marketing and branding will never benefit from business cards, brochures, t-shirts, or menus sporting low-res, years-old clipart that doesn’t even belong in a 4th grader’s Powerpoint presentation.
Thankfully, there’s Canva, which is essentially the solution for businesses that don’t have, or can’t pay, a professional graphic designer. Entrepreneur recommends Canva over other, similar tools, because, in their words, it’s not only the most intuitive program, “its free library of fonts, illustrations, templates, and images gives you a pool of graphics that you can easily drag-and-drop. From flyers and brochures to social media images and infographics, you can create it all for free in Canva.”
A lot of businesses, regardless of size, use or have at least heard of Hootsuite. It should be noted that Hootsuite can be used for free, but businesses that can afford to pay for additional services and tools will get the most out of it. Hootsuite is basically a brand management tool primarily for social media. It allows businesses to do a number of things, including managing and posting to all of their social channels from a single hub, scheduling and curating content that goes out on social, and listening to and monitoring channels for keywords and trends. Hostile also comes packaged with some helpful analytics tools, similar to those you’ll find on Facebook, Twitter and Google platforms.
Like Hootsuite, many businesses already use, or are familiar with WordPress, and for good reason — this website hosting and creation tool has come a long way since it first launched 14 years ago. That’s right, 14 years. In digital marketing years, it’s ancient, which is impressive considering how its relevance and popularity have grown. Why? Well, WordPress, makes website design, management, analytics, and SEO so simple that anyone can design, build and maintain their own business’s website without the help of a professional web developer or web manager.
Google+ Local and Google Canned Responses
Though these are two different tools, we’re lumping them together since they both come from Google, and they’re both great tools for small, local businesses in particular. First, let’s look at Google+ Local. You can probably already guess its purpose and advantages, but we’ll let AllBusiness explain: “If your website is not listed on Google+ Local, you are missing the easiest way to leverage local SEO around. Google loves to support local businesses and their algorithm is written to look for that local information.” If your business doesn’t already know this, SEO is critical in making sure your business is visible online. Even if you know nothing about how SEO works, a great starting place is Google+ Local, which you can get started on here in just a few steps.
The other tool we wanted to mention here, a nice little feature from Google, specifically for Gmail, is the “canned responses” feature. We know, “canned” doesn’t sound like a great descriptor for any tool, but hear us out. This feature does just what it suggests, allowing a business to prepare ready-made responses to emails, but we’re recommending this for small businesses that regularly get overwhelmed by repeat questions, and don’t simply have the time to type the same response over and over and over. It’s a simple feature which, to the right business, can be a huge time saver.
Finally, and while we’re thinking about email, why not use a tool like MailChimp to get the most out of your email marketing? Not only is this a free option, it’s also one of the easiest to learn. Email, though no longer new and exciting, is still a powerful and effective way to connect to your customers, deliver quality marketing content, and generate leads, conversions and loyalty.
But what else is special about MailChimp? We should be clear, and say that this tool doesn’t just make your email marketing more professional in appearance alone. MailChimp also adheres to privacy laws by including “unsubscribe” buttons, improves the success of email delivery by making sure your emails are recognized as “safe”, provides analytics that let you determine open rates and other stats that indicate the success of your campaigns, and ensures your content is compatible with various email readers and devices. Also, its free use threshold is pretty high for a small business. If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send fewer than 12,000 emails per month, you can continue using MailChimp for free.