Free Small Business Marketing Tools for 2015

There is no question, marketing can be expensive.  But it can also be very affordable – IF you know where to look and what to look for!  In this post, I’ll be sharing my Top 10 Free Small Business Marketing Tools for 2015.  I know, I know, there are lots of blog posts listing free stuff, and “free” stuff is often worth what you pay for it.  But I promise you, this list is valuable.  At least it is to me and my business.  This list didn’t come from a quick web search.  Instead, I am sharing 10 free marketing tools that I actually use in day-to-day marketing efforts of Higgins Marketing Group.

I use them because they are solid tools, the fact that they’re free is just a nice bonus!  I hope they are helpful for you as well…

1. EVERNOTE

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsGreat small business marketing starts with ideas. But if you’re like me, half your ideas vanish into thin air before you get a chance to act on them. That’s where Evernote comes in…

 

What is it?

 

Evernote is a cloud-based system that allows you to instantly post, organize and save things “in the moment.” You can save and access notes, documents, audio files, and pictures from any desktop or mobile device… with everything staying in sync.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

I read a lot. Problem is, once a few weeks pass I’d have a hard time describing the key takeaways of that great marketing book. NOW, I never read a business book without my mobile phone (and Evernote App) close by. For each book, there are usually 5-10 things I like to capture and categorize in Evernote. Now… faced with a particular client challenge about X topic, I pop open Evernote, do a quick search, and leverage my most notable observations and tips on the topic!

 

At its best, Evernote is just a great way to capture your ideas in real time. Hear a great pitch on the radio during your commute? See some great sales copy while reading your favorite magazine? See a website that grabs your attention? Document and categorize these. Over time, you will be surprised how useful your “small business marketing idea bank” will be.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://www.evernote.com

 

2. HEMINGWAY EDITOR

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsPerhaps the biggest mistake I see clients make is OVERCOMPLICATING their message. No matter your business, if a 10 year-old can’t easily grasp your basic pitch, then it needs some work. Hemingway can help!

 

What is it?

 

Hemingway helps you simplify your marketing messages. It makes your sales copy more impactful and understandable for web visitors. It does this by analyzing your text and returning simple color-coded alerts signaling overly long or complex sentences, unnecessary adverbs, and passive voice.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

Seriously, so much of what I get paid to do is bringing college level messaging down to the level that any 5th grader would understand. Great marketers (Apple anyone?) know that simple and clean messages cut through the noise. Simplicity gives you the absolute best chance to resonate with your prospects.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://www.hemingwayapp.com

 

3.  CANVA

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsSee all that awesome looking content floating around? Your choice… spend a whole day creating a great looking flyer, or knock it out for free in 10 minutes.

 

What is it?

 

Canva is a web-based tool that aims to make content design simple for everyone. It gives you everything you need to easily turn ideas into very cool (and professional looking) designs. You can create designs for web or print: blog graphics, presentations, infographics, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, product factsheets and about anything else you can dream up.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

To be a successful small business marketer in today’s online world, you need to be producing high quality content – but we all know it can be really time consuming to crank out! While Canva can’t help you with the actual content, it CAN help you bring your content to life in a matter of minutes! Your content will look great and you’ll have more time to spend on higher payoff, more strategic marketing tasks.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit https://www.canva.com

 

4. WORDPRESS

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsI love WordPress! The Higgins Marketing Group Website (along with a high percentage of other new sites these days) is completely designed and managed through WordPress. Did I mention it’s FREE?

 

What is it?

 

Clients are often confused about WordPress, so I’m going to spend a bit more time explaining this one. Many have heard of WordPress, but they usually associate it with creating a blog. For sure, WordPress got its start as an easy way to create and post blog articles, but today its WAY MORE.

 

So here’s the scoop in plain speak: WordPress is very powerful but easy-to-use online website creation tool. Basically you just install an instance of WordPress for the domain you’d like to use for your website (www.xyz.com).

 

Once it’s installed, you can select from literally thousands of highly configurable “themes” to get started designing your site or blog. WordPress offers many nice free themes, but there are a bunch of design firms that will sell you access to custom themes for a very reasonable cost (typically less than $200 gets you access to a library of themes). Just Google “Custom WordPress Themes.”

 

The theme you choose will determine the overall look, feel, and functionality of your site, but you’re still in control to modify the theme’s code if needed. Also (and this is huge), there are thousands of free plugins available to enhance the functionality of your theme. You search for plugins on www.wordpress.org similar to the way you would search and install an app for your phone from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Once you’ve selected a theme, it’s super easy to create or modify your site by adding your own content (text, images, video, call-to-action forms, etc.).

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

Your website is perhaps the most critical element of your company’s small business marketing engine, yet I continue to be surprised by the number of terrible sites I come across out there. Maybe these companies tried to save a buck. Maybe they didn’t have a web designer. With WordPress, both if these issues go away! WordPress makes it free and easy to set up a professional looking website (that’s not a marketing pitch… it really is FREE and EASY! ).

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://www.wordpress.org

 

5. FIVESECONDTEST

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsA web visitor’s first impression of your site might not “make you,” but I guarantee it can “break you.” If you’re ready to find out what first impression you’re creating with your website, here’s your chance!

 

What is it?

 

This is really cool stuff. Fivesecondtest.com helps you understand visitor’s first impressions of your website. By finding out what a person recalls about your design in just 5 seconds you can ensure that your message is being communicated as effectively as possible. As a marketer/designer, you can upload a screenshot or mockup, define some questions you’d like others to answer, and then wait to see the results. Fivesecondtest.com returns great feedback from users based on the test you set up. This could include determining the most prominent area on a page, the intuitiveness of the user interface or call-to-action, or the clarity of your message.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

I think there are two primary benefits for us marketers. First, Fivesecondtest.com should be used to test your website’s homepage. Create a simple test to better understand 1) whether people even “get” what your company does, 2) what people feel is the most prominent element of the page, and 3) what visitors are likely to do next.

 

Second… landing page optimization. Fivesecondtest.com helps you fine tune your landing pages and calls-to-action by analyzing the most prominent elements of your design. I’d recommend creating a few different versions of a landing page and test to see which version proves to have the clearest and most compelling call-to-action.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://fivesecondtest.com

 

6. HOOTSUITE

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsWithout the right tool, social media marketing can be a huge time suck. If social media is important to your business, HootSuite can make your life a whole lot easier!

 

What is it?

 

HootSuite is a social media management system. The system’s user interface takes the form of a dashboard, and supports social network integrations for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, TrendSpottr and Mixi. What’s this mean? HootSuite allows you to use a single dashboard to manage your social media efforts. It enables you to monitor what is being said about your company across the social landscape, and it also allow you to publish your content to multiple social media platforms with a single click. You can even automate your social media activities through a built in scheduler. The free version of HootSuite currently allows you to manage up to three social media accounts.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

No question, social media can play a key role in marketing most companies. However, the big challenge is dedicating the time to creating and publishing content consistently across all your target social platforms. HootSuite doesn’t create the content for you, but it sure can make your life easier to promote the content you have. It’s also a huge help when it comes to proactively monitoring and managing your company’s online reputation.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit https://hootsuite.com

 

7. MAILCHIMP

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsPersonally, the little brown chimp with the hat turns me off – but there is no denying the stability and functionality of this email marketing tool. And the $0 price point rocks!

 

What is it?

 

MailChimp is an email marketing service provider that boasts over 7 million users that collectively send over 10 billion emails each month! The free version of MailChimp allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers (although it does require you to keep a small MailChimp badge in your email footers) You get more than just the ability to send bulk emails though. Even the free version offers an email design interface, email templates, ability to use merge fields, and creation and integration of web forms for list signups. Really, it just amazing that they offer so much for ZERO dollars. The chimp still creeps me out a bit, but MailChimp ROCKS!

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

Staying in contact with your prospects and customers on a regular basis is key to building your business. Although we all get way too much email, your clients and prospects will still appreciate receiving emails that are well targeted to their needs and interests. If you’ve been reluctant to use email marketing, it’s time to take a hard look – it’s easy and it’s FREE.

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://mailchimp.com

 

8.  QUICKSPROUT

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsQuickSprout is kinda like stepping on the scale. It easy to make happen, you just need to be ready to take corrective action! It’s just amazing how much ACTIONABLE and FREE info QuickSprout will provide about your website in a matter of seconds.

 

What is it?

 

QuickSprout is an automated online tool that will analyze any website and provide feedback on SEO related strengths and opportunities. It only takes about 5-10 seconds to run an analysis and return a report detailing overall scores for SEO and Speed (FYI… page load time does play a factor in search engine rankings), any site errors, alerts related to your heading and alt tags, an evaluation of your social media presence, and your top keywords.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

As long as people use search engines, SEO will be important. For sure QuickSprout is just a start, and it doesn’t come close to replacing an actual human that knows SEO – but it’s still a quick and useful tool that can identify low hanging fruit. I’d recommend you pay particular attention to the recommendations made around your heading tags, alt tags, and page load time. It seems QuickSprout’s social media evaluation/results are not yet 100% accurate, so I would take that information with a grain of salt at this point. Still – great, easy to use tool that won’t set you back a penny!

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://www.quicksprout.com

 

9.  OPEN SITE EXPLORER

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsLinks are a big deal when it comes to search engine optimization. Learning about your current links is important, but learning about your top competitors’ links gives you a road map to follow!

 

What is it?

 

Open Site Explorer allows you to enter the URL for any website and it immediately returns all the inbound links (other web pages that link to you). For each inbound link, it also reports the page and rank authority. This is important because Google and other search engines will reward your site if other “high authority” sites are linking to it.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

Links aren’t the only factor search engines consider when ranking your website, but there is no question that a big part of the engines’ algorithms are driven by link-based factors. Google knows that trustworthy sites with quality content tend to earn links from other high quality sites, while low quality or spammy sites tend to earn other low quality links.

 

If you find you have very few inbound links, don’t be discouraged. It takes time and effort. Here are a couple specific recommendations: First, inbound links will occur naturally over time if you focus on creating high quality, fresh content and promoting it. This could take the form of sharing blog posts, whitepapers, or presentations. Second, use Open Site Explorer to run an analysis on your top competitors. What high quality sites are linking to them? Is there opportunity for you to secure a link with these same sites either through a submission process or a personal request?

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://opensiteexplorer.com

 

10.  GOOGLE ANALYTICS

 

Higgins Marketing Group-Marketing ToolsIt’s just not possible to omit Google Analytics from a list like this! Awesome. A must have. FREE.

 

What is it?

 

Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic volume, traffic sources, and helps you measures conversions. It’s the web’s most widely used website statistics service. All you need to do is paste some basic tracking code into your website to get started.

 

How Can it Benefit My Small Business Marketing?

 

This is a hard question to answer in just a couple lines, but I’ll try to boil it down. Google Analytics is your eyes and ears for EVERYTHING that occurs on your website. The information Google Analytics provides is your roadmap to turning your site into a lead generation machine, you just need to take the time to dig in. For a marketer, here are four things I’d recommend you focus on:

 

  • Where is my traffic coming from (i.e., what are my current lead sources?)
  • Are folks sticking around for long, or are most bailing within a couple seconds?
  • How do visitors navigate through my site and what are my most popular pages?
  • How successful am I at converting traffic (purchase, newsletter signup, etc.)?

 

How do I get it?

 

Just visit http://www.google.com/analytics/

 

So that’s it – my take on the Top 10 FREE Small Business Marketing Tools for 2015.  What’s your take?  Did I overlook any free small business marketing tools that you love?  Let me know!

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