My top 5 digital marketing tools for small businesses (hint: they’re all free)

Business rates, wages, supplies, rent, stock – the list of outgoings for a small business can be extensive, making cash flow an issue when making marketing decisions.

But there are some incredibly powerful marketing tools out there to ensure your marketing is platinum standard, even if your budget isn’t.

1. Mailchimp

Free emarketing tool Mailchimp

Email marketing is one of the most effective way to increase sales, so this free email distribution tool is a must.

What you need to get started: A good database of customers and leads (check out 25 ways to grow your email list), but email marketing has an ROI of around 4,300% (according to the Direct Marketing Association) so it’s well worth your time and effort to get it right.

Limitations: With Mailchimp’s free account, you can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free every month – anything over this will cost.

2. Canva

Canva free online design tool

Good design helps you stand out from competitors in a busy marketplace, but having the budget to employ a top marketing agency full-time to work on your posters, ads and web graphics can be prohibitive, which is where Canva comes in.

This slick and simple platform provides professionally designed templates, quality icons and graphics for free so you can create great looking artwork without going anywhere near Clipart.

Many elements, including speech bubbles, colour blocks, text banners and stickers are free to use, but there are also thousands of professional photographs available at $1 per use.

When you have finished your artwork you can either save it as a low resolution PDF (ideal for use online) or as a print ready document.

What you need to get started: A good knowledge of what you want the artwork to do for your business (promote an event, launch a new product, communicate data, etc.).  If you also have your own good quality images, the tool is completely free to use.

Limitations: There are only a few templates available (A4 poster, business card, postcard, social media graphic, etc.) so if you need to design something to an unusual size you might be out of luck.

3. Google analytics

Google analytics free tool

How much did you turnover last month?  How many products did you sell?  Even the most basic business data helps you make informed decisions when planning where to focus your efforts.

Google’s free analytics tool provides a similar level of insight for your website.

Discover where your web traffic is coming from, which pages are most popular, how long people stay, and even whether the people looking at your website are more interested in sport, computing or cooking.

What you need to get started: Access to your website’s editor, so you can add the relevant code that Google provides to activate analytics.

Limitations:  The analytics data provided doesn’t offer much detail on the search terms used by visitors to get to your website.  This information used to be freely available, but in the last year 90% of search terms are now “Not provided”.

4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite social media management tool

One of the reasons social media has grown so rapidly is because it is free, but that doesn’t mean it is quick and easy to manage.  That’s where Hootsuite comes in.

This handy little tool means you can post content to all your favourite social networks from one place.  It supports Facebook profiles and pages, multiple Twitter accounts, LinkedIn company pages and profiles – it also supports Google+ pages.

You can track the most important conversations, and even write posts and schedule them to publish in three months time.

What you need to get started:  Existing social network accounts to manage (these may include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).  You may also want to create Twitter lists (which you can view from within Hootsuite) and monitor different hashtags within Twitter.

Limitations: Scheduling posts in advance is always a risk – social media is instant, so if your update is out of kilter with the online mood, you can do untold damage to your brand.

Also, any images you post via Hootsuite will appear as a link in Twitter feeds (unless you pay for the pro version) – not quite the visibility you’d hope for.

5. Swayy

Swayy content curation

There is no shortage of information online, whether you want to know what Justin Bieber had for breakfast, or who won the Cornwall Business Award for Customer Focus, but this can also make it very difficult to keep up with all the most relevant news and updates for your business.

Swayy can help – it links with your social networks, searches for the most popular posts, news and updates being shared and talked about, and shows it to you on one dashboard.  Clever stuff.

The hardest part is choosing which stories to read.  And share.

Swayy will even email you the best content every day, straight to your inbox.  Your contacts will be blown away at how knowledgeable you are!

Once you’ve seen an article on Swayy you’d like to share, you can post directly to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, either instantly or you can schedule it in advance.  And it’s all free.

What you need to get started: The more Swayy knows about your social networks, the more relevant the content it presents, so you will need active social media accounts.

Limitations: You can only have one dashboard unless you pay for a pro account.

They say the best things in life are free – and they may just be right when it comes to essential online tools for small businesses.  Which free tools make the cut in your business?  Share in the comments.


1 thought on “My top 5 digital marketing tools for small businesses (hint: they’re all free)”

  1. Pingback: The five tips to train your muscles of digital marketing | digitalmarketingmichael

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