14 Inexpensive Marketing Tools That Can Boost Your Business
As a small or midsize business, how do you choose amongst the dizzying array of marketing software programs, apps, services, and tools currently available in the market? It can be overwhelming even for the most sophisticated organization. What do you focus on? Where can you get the most return on your investment in terms of both time and resources? We’re going to recommend a few here below that we, at Marketing Nice Guys, just love – ones that we ourselves use almost every day. (Note: The point of the following list isn’t to delve into the core tools – such as an email/marketing automation platform or a CMS such as WordPress or Squarespace. Without those, we’d argue you probably can’t conduct much business online. It’s also not necessarily about any useful tool for a small business – a calendar app such as Calendly or Slack for communication, as examples. What we wanted to do was focus on some strictly marketing tools that are great to take advantage of that some small businesses might not know.)
We’ve organized our list of fourteen into a few separate categories, all of which cost either nothing or less than $60 per month:
- Design / Social / Video Apps & Services
- On-Page Analyzers
- Cold Email Marketing
- The Google Suite
- Free Tools & Guides
With that, let’s dive in!
Part I: Design / Social / Video Apps & Services
The ones we’re recommending here are free or really inexpensive compared to the value they can potentially bring.
1. Unsplash.com / 2. Pexels.com (free stock photo and video). If you don’t want to pay for professional stock photos (Getty or otherwise), it’s good to have some other options because ripping off other people’s copyrighted images isn’t cool – and can get you in legal trouble. Two sites we love are unsplash.com and pexels.com, which provide free stock photos and video on any number of topics. We use both sites regularly for website images and social posts. All we suggest you do is to credit the photographer in the URL or the alt text/caption, whenever you’re using an image he or she has produced. Also, if you’re putting it on a website, make sure to compress and resize the images to exactly the dimensions you need.
3. Canva (Design templates, social templates, video, photo stock, and more). Actual designers who work in Photoshop and InDesign can create their own designs and templates. Hence, they might scoff at something like Canva. But for everyone else, it might be the most useful tool to help you create professional designs, especially for a small business that has limited resources. At $12 a month, Canva is a single, all-in-one design solution that any small businesses could benefit from. It has a wide array of stock images and videos, designed templates for websites, social posts, video posts, marketing/direct mail collateral, presentations, flyers, posters – you name it. You can pretty much design anything you like with Canva. You can also upload your own logos, videos, photos etc. to customize your designs for your business.
4. Boosted by Lightricks (Social and promotional video). First of all, this may be our favorite app right now. What’s great about it is that you can produce professional quality video for social or YouTube without needing to know video production or editing because it provides out-of-the-box templates that you can adjust to your business. The app, which costs only $59 for a year, has different suggested video templates in different industries, as well as animated graphics, where you can upload your own video/photos/logos to personalize it. One tip: You have to play around with the app a bit to understand how to flow between various media and add scenes. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to upload your own photos or video (or the photos or videos you get from Unsplash/Pexels or Canva) and use to create cool videos for your business.
5. Mematic (Social posts/memes). If you’re like us and you want an inexpensive way to do memes or create other social templates (such as those for quotations), download Mematic. It’s $25 for the year. And it’s worth the entertainment value alone. With Mematic, we always recommend businesses upload their own photos or videos – or ones that they downloaded from Unsplash/Pexels/Canva – as technically, the images that come with the app (while funny and often recognizable) are subject to copyright. And even if you don’t use it a ton for your business, it’s great to have around if you want to create a quick meme to share with friends.
Part II: On-Page Analyzers
We’ll lump the following tools together as part of our “on-page analyzers” as these tools will allow you to further break down any site (yours or a competitor’s) and get into more of what’s behind certain discreet aspects that affect marketing and brand.
6. Colorzilla (color analyzer for websites). When we teach our digital marketing, one of the areas we focus on when it comes to websites is color – and the importance of using it judiciously, as part of an overall design palette. Colorzilla, a free Chrome or Mozilla browser extension, allows you to look at different sites and analyze how many colors are defined as part of a site’s cascading style sheet (CSS). It’s particularly helpful if you want to see what color palettes great brands use – something that can help you become more rigorous about your own site’s employment of colors as well.
7. WhatFont (font analyzer for websites). Similar to Colorzilla, WhatFont is a browser extension in Chrome that can be easily downloaded and used on any website. Great sites limit the use of fonts to one (or perhaps two) as some designers will determine “complimentary” fonts. It’s a great little tool to look at design consistency, not just on websites but for all areas where you project your brand. For example, you can use it to see how Apple uses a consistent font (SF Pro) in all its marketing online.
Part III: Cold Email Marketing
While we would never recommend any particular business buy email lists as they can often be inaccurate, out of date, and get a company in trouble with more recent privacy laws (CCPA, GDPR, CAN-SPAM), the reality is companies still do it. What you should NEVER, EVER DO, for sure, is upload a cold email list to your main marketing automation platform that runs off your domain. That can run you afoul of both the email platform and eventually SPAM filters as cold email lists (those you haven’t acquired through traditional means such as site/event registration, purchases, or content downloads) are often the worst performing. That’s where we recommend using a tool such as:
10. Woodpecker (cold email marketing). For $59/mo. per slot (email account), Woodpecker can be a useful service for small businesses that can craft automated, cold emails. Because it mimics an individual’s email, the recipient who gets the outreach may or may not realize that it wasn’t sent manually. Woodpecker also limits the number of emails to 100 per day from, say, any account. Today, even mainstream email marketing automation platforms such as Sharpspring are providing built-in connectors to Woodpecker as they realize the limitations of their own systems.
Part IV: The Google Marketing Suite
We would certainly be remiss here if we didn’t mention many of the Google free tools that help on the marketing side, many of which are underutilized by businesses. And we don’t even mean Google Analytics, which we would certainly suggest ALL sites use regardless of size, as you simply can’t run a business, much less do effective advertising, without having it. Here are 3 others from Google that you may not have thought of, but should.
11. Google Ads Keyword Planner (search volume). Even if you don’t buy search advertising, the Google Ads Keyword Planner is a super-helpful tool for understanding keyword volume. And it’s especially helpful when doing SEO research. You just need a Gmail account, which is free, in order to access it. To get there, go to ads.google.com and sign in (again, you can just use your Gmail account). Once you get to the main screen, click the Tools & Settings navigation in the upper right part of the screen. From there, you’ll get a menu dropdown. Under Planning, you’ll see a link for the Keyword Planner. What’s great about this is you can research up to 10 keywords/phrases at a time and get results volume, based on the entire U.S. or specific localities, cities, or states. So, if you only want, say, search volume results from those in Dallas, Texas, you can find it.
12. Google Analytics UTM Campaign Builder (campaign tracking). If you don’t have an existing system for marketing attribution (basically a system that helps you tell where your customers came from and how they converted on your website or mobile app), it’s good to at least get a few more of the basics down. Here’s an example: Let’s say you promote a piece of content on Facebook. Many small businesses simply add the existing website link and call it a day. But there’s a problem with that. If customers come in and convert off that particular link, would you know how well it really performed? The answer is you wouldn’t, unless you were using another attribution system. That’s where creating tracking parameters on top of an existing URL can help. (This is the dynamic parameter you often see in URLs – the “?” and everything after that.) It’s easy to do: Navigate to the UTM builder site and put in the website URL that you want to promote, add data for campaign source (Facebook, as an example), the campaign medium (social, email, etc.) and the campaign name (so you can identify the specific promotion) and, voila! You’ve created a tracking URL that can be analyzed in Google Analytics. So, a basic site URL https://marketingniceguys.com/the-7-types-of-marketing-leaders/ becomes https://marketingniceguys.com/the-7-types-of-marketing-leaders/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=may-2021 when you promote it in Twitter in May 2021.
13. Google My Business. We talk about Google My Business often when it comes to small businesses, in particular, that are primarily local in nature. (Indeed, about half of all searches on Google are local.) If your business fits in that category, perhaps the number one thing you can do is get your business listed on Google My Business and other local directories. Why? For those searching for your business name, your Google My Business listing can potentially come up in results on the top right side in a desktop or the number one or two spots on mobile search. That’s great if you have a name that where other companies might also potentially show up on the page. Moreover, for those searching the local area for businesses in your specialization, your company can also show up in local results (the results that often have a map attached to them). A few tips:
- Make sure to fill in your Google My Business profile fully, including your name, address and local phone number.
- Add photos, videos and images (we’d recommend on a regular basis).
- Provide hours of operations and maps and directions.
- Encourage customers to provide reviews and ratings (quantity beats quality) in Google reviews
Part V: Marketing Guides, Tools, and Free Content
Take advantage of all the free content out there on the Internet. There are YouTube tutorials, blogs, how-to guides and much more so you can get up to speed in many areas pretty quickly on your own. While we could point you to a lot of different sites with great content, we, of course, would prioritize that you check out our resources first.
14. Marketing Nice Guys’ Free Marketing Tools and Resources. We have a helpful SEO checklist and glossary, a social media guide, a guide to analyzing competitors, a marketing plan template, and useful tools for paid media advertising. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Obviously, this is just a quick mention of the tools we love to use and ones that we think can help you in your own small business marketing. If you need additional help, don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us. We’re happy to schedule a free marketing consultation to learn more about your specific marketing needs. And, as always, we wish you the best of luck in all your marketing endeavors.