Our Top 10 Favorite Free Marketing Tools

Yes… You Can Set up Your Marketing Tech Stack for Free!

Choosing the best route to go with any aspect of your digital marketing efforts is always difficult, but choosing the right tools has become one of the single most important factors in determining how effectively you hit your ad targets, while staying within your budget. There are some things that you simply can’t skimp on if you’re trying to build an online presence—relevant organic content, outreach on social media, optimizing your web content, creating aesthetically pleasing ads and graphics—but one thing you can skimp on is the price tag for basic tools (most of which have free alternatives). Here are my top 10 favorite free marketing tools:

1. Google Alerts

When trying to staying up to date about changes in your industry you need to be aware of relevant news that may be popping up on the internet. We all know that if you’re a small business owner, you’re most likely too busy to sit around and skim through news articles to find something that will actually provide you with insights or competitive advantage. That’s why setting up Google Alerts can come in extremely handy so that every time a new article or posting related to whichever search terms you choose pops up on Google, you’ll get an alert. It’s very easy to use and straightforward on how to use it. Another alternative to Google Alerts is Feedly, which allows you to dial in on specific publications rather than keywords. It essentially is a giant RSS feed with industry specifics news, kept up to date in real-time… Go check it out!

2. Buffer

Buffer is a bad ass tool for scheduling out all of your social media posts and tracking the performance of them based on the time of day you post, which days your users are online the most etc. This allows you to be able to pinpoint when your ideal audience is viewing your posts, therefore allowing you to post at these peak times to keep people engaged. Once you have this information about post engagement it allows you to create a framework for scheduling paid Facebook ads (if you go the paid ad route on FB) so that you optimize the views that really count from your most engaged viewers, who are most likely to be customers.

The one downside to Buffer is that you are only able to link 1 social media account per platform (1 Twitter, 1 Facebook, and 1 Instagram) for free. If you’re a small business with one of each of these accounts it is perfect, but if you are managing multiple accounts you’ll have to upgrade to the paid versions.

3. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an obvious tool to have on this list and has become an industry standard for marketers in small and large businesses alike! Much like most of Google’s products it’s very user friendly and is highly effective for understanding your business on a level that only analytics can provide. Knowing where your web traffic comes from and who the viewers are is extremely important in understanding who to target with your future marketing efforts.

In the age of data-overload there has to be some way to collect the right data, because there is a major distinction between data and information. Data is raw and messy and the insights we gain from the data is our information, but if we make the wrong mess we can’t clean it up to gain anything of value. For instance, if you’re looking at your click-through-rate on your social media links that funnel traffic to your website, you may be missing other areas such as time spent on site and more. This seems like a glaringly obvious thing to point out but until we frame it this way it’s often hard to understand why our data isn’t helping our business change and succeed.

4. Canva

Canva is one of the coolest tools on the internet in my opinion. It is an extremely user friendly graphic design software with a drag-and-drop interface and a myriad of free templates. It allows you to upload your own photos into pre-made templates and it automatically will transfer your image to the background, allow you to apply filters and edit things like blur (so that your text can POP out of the image). Check out this video below to see how easy and fun it is to use.

5. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is an amazing free tool that’s widely used by marketers and business owners to assess which keywords are worth their cash, and which are too highly saturated by the competition. One of our clients own’s a Career and Life Coaching business so I decided to use their industry for my example below. If you have a website, it’s very easy to 1.) enter URL 2.) go from there building a plan that works with your price range 3.) BOOM you have a framework for your keyword strategy!

6. Redirect Path

One reason why your customers aren’t converting, that may not be as obvious as an ugly website or bad content, is bad redirects to other pages on your site. This is the ultimate mood killer for a potential buyer. That’s why your redirects are a critical piece of optimizing your website. So, here’s the solution to make sure your website navigation is seamless: Redirect Path. It’s technically just a Google Chrome extension so it isn’t an independent “tool” so to speak, but as long as you use chrome then you’re in the clear!

7. On-Page Optimization Tool

The On-Page Optimization Tool is extremely useful for identifying key phrases and how often they show up on your website. If used in conjunction with Google’s Keyword Planner and a little bit of thinking from a customer’s point of view (i.e. when you Google something, which adjectives do you use to surround the keyword you are looking for?) you can create an effective keyword strategy and optimize your content for organic search rankings all for FREE!

8. Medium

Medium doesn’t fall into the technical category of a “tool” but is more of an online content sharing platform. However, it is a free and easy way to get your voice heard online and start creating blog content for your company. There are other free blogging alternatives such as wordpress, but Medium is by far the most social and sharing driven platform. They send out the Medium daily digest which is sent to people’s emails who have medium profiles and they featurenew articles everyday, giving you the opportunity to potnetially have a featred article and who wouldn;t love to have their product or ideas shown to thousands of engaged readers without having to do anything besides go onto Medium and express your thoughts? Who wouldn;t want this.

9. Email Marketing Scorecard

Email marketing scorecard is a free assessment tool provided by Campaign Monitorwhich allows you to take a quick quiz to evaluate the state of your current email marketing efforts. Campaign Monitor is a competitor of MailChimp, Active Campaign, and the like.

10. Hotjar

Hotjar is a tool that allows you to see how a customer interacts with your website or blog and can be helpful to see how far people read, scroll, or how long they interact with your page. This can be extremely useful in optimizing the web navigation experience of a customer when trying to funnel them towards a potential purchase. One of the coolest features of Hotjar is their Heatmaps. These show where a user’s mouse stayed the longest, and how often people are clicking in certain spots on your page, buttons, drop-downs etc.

If you use Hotjar in conjunction with Google Analytics you’ll be able to clearly see where your choke-points are and will be able to more readily solve them before losing too many sales due to a poorly optimized website.

What Can Digital Marketing Do for Your Small Business?

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As we quickly approach the year 2020 it is no longer a question of “does my business need an online presence to succeed?”

Rather, it is a question of “how much do I need to spend initially to establish my online presence?” If you own a small business and it doesn’t have an online presence you’re at a major competitive disadvantage.

Once you have the infrastructure that you need (e.g. a Facebook Business Page, a Website, Keywords Optimized on your Website and Socials etc.) then it is a matter of collecting data about your buyers and creating personas for potential future buyers. Creating amazing content is a huge piece of the puzzle but anyone can do that with a little bit of training and guidance. The true trick of digital marketing is identifying the audience who your ad message resonates with. If you aren’t getting the right viewers, then you spent money and time creating content that really doesn’t add any value. Luckily there are a plethora of tools out there which allow marketers and small business owners alike to identify and target their desired audience in a much easier way than ever before. Many of these tools are built into social media advertising platforms, which makes it easy to target the right people.

There are also amazing free tools which you can use to asses the overall state of your online presence. These tools span from everything to website ranking, to tracking customer insights through analytics, to staying up to date about the latest trends in your industry with Google alerts, and beyond.

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Just because you’re going to start advertising online, doesn’t mean that you have to lay your other marketing efforts to rest. However, it is extremely cost effective to spend more time focusing on SEO and social media presence than it is to hire an ad agency or a graphic designer for a print ad, or pay for a spot on your local radio or TV station. You can do it from home if you take the time to research it, or you can generally hire freelancers to manage your social media and optimize your SEO for a relatively affordable rate.

There is definitely room for synthesis between traditional advertising and digital marketing, and many times that entails funneling people to your website through traditional ads. This part is really up to you as the person who signs the checks.

In the world of digital echo chambers, the necessity of creating highly niche audiences has become increasingly crucial and increasingly easier. It’s amazing how much the internet knows about people.. and how much we are willing to enter on websites such as Facebook, or a Google search.

The shift from selling to offering (where the customer is in control behind their keyboard, rather than the advertiser having all of the control in traditional advertising) is the major paradigm shift in 21st century marketing. This changes the entire atmosphere and structure of how marketing used to come into play for a business. Small businesses used to have to choose which channel to advertise through based on educated guesses about where their target audience was paying the most attention. Today, rather than having to guess based on demographic data and vague psycho-graphic profiling alone, we have much more information about each potential customer and we can hone in even farther than just segmenting certain parts of our market. We’ve shifted from psycho-graphic profiles to personas.

With this ability to target individuals rather than groups we can make a point to expose a specific consumer to an advertisement enough times to at least peak their interest enough to click the link. Research says that people have to be exposed to your brand between seven and ten times before it will start to stick in their brains. This means you need to look at people who have interests in things that are similar to what you are offering, then once you have their contact information the name of the game is re-marketing. You need to impulse them visit your site each time you send an email blast and eventually the repeat exposure to your brand or product will turn into sales. That is, if your if sales funnel is constructed correctly and if your website is optimized for e-commerce.

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There are many ways you can slice your internet marketing efforts… and everyone has limited ad spend. How do you choose where that budget gets allocated? You can go based off of industry standards or data collected by social media marketing publications and the like. However, the main thing to remember is that marketing is the same as it ever was in the sense that you need to go through a process of constant trial and error, and frankly, just like old school marketing, you WILL lose money in the process of targeting your customers correctly. Subsequently you will indeed make money after you find the sweet spot and create a repeatable sales process. Whether that entails using social media advertising, pay-per click advertising, optimizing your organic content through keywords and blogs, or some combination of all of it, internet marketing has a place in every business.

So, you may be asking “where do I begin the journey of honing in on my audience?” and you may be surprised at how much you already know about who to target. You can easily do a quick-and-dirty analysis of your customer base, based on the demographics and interests of previous and current clients. Then, start broad with finding commonalities between customers, continue learning about your customers on a deeper level which will give you clarity regarding which personas to target.

For example, if you own a landscaping company you may inherently think to target men, since landscaping is part of the construction industry, which is primarily a “man’s arena”. You’ve found that men are generally the ones making the call and communicating with you over the phone. It is important to make the distinction of, who’s interest may be peaked through online ads vs who is actually picking up the phone and calling. Couples young and old all know that the wife is the ultimate decision maker. Since their wives are the brains behind the operation (and also use Facebook more heavily than their husbands) it makes sense to target a Facebook ad towards women, even though this would inherently seem like a business which targeted towards selling to men.

To get a baseline on your advertising engagement, and to try to verify your hypothesis that the wife is who you want to target, run the same ad copy with two different target markets (one that is exclusively women, and another which includes men and women). Concurrently run the ads and cross-reference the results. Once, you’ve got confirmation that women are in fact the right audience for you, you can go deeper by telling Facebook to target the ad towards “women between the ages of 30 and 65, within 20 miles of my business who like the page ‘HGTV'” and test the results to see if you’re heading in the right direction of your optimal targeting.

This idea of A/B testing ads while they run concurrently, is an industry standard and is the most efficient way to figure out what works and what doesn’t. There are some instances where you can lose money by highly targeting the wrong group, but there is also the opportunity to not be detailed enough and have the same effect.

In fact, the entire process of implementing a digital marketing strategy in your small business is an iterative process and requires continual A/B testing to make the necessary tweaks to find your groove and make sales. Even once you’ve found something that works, you will need to progress at the rate of the technology available… and that my friends is the hard part.