11 free or low cost tools to improve your marketing

12th, May 2017

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are a lot of free and low cost tools available, which are especially useful for smaller firms with basic needs.

I haven’t personally used all the resources below, but those I haven’t tried were recommended on established marketing-related blogs. What’s good about these is you can try them out in order to learn what works for you without making a huge investment.

1. Design tools: Studies show that using visuals in your marketing makes it significantly more likely that someone will view, share and remember your content. But creating compelling visuals can be difficult for small firms who don’t have an in-house designer. Canva helps you design graphics for social media, websites, email marketing, invitations, posters, ads and other uses. The free version works well for most small firms and it’s not hard to learn.

2. Photos: To the same point mentioned above, photos should be incorporated into your marketing, but unless you’re taking them yourself, you often have to pay for the rights to use them. (Just because you find them on the internet doesn’t mean you can use them freely.) HubSpot regularly updates its list of free stock photo sources. I will admit that I don’t use these on a regular basis simply because it’s faster to use a big stock photo site with a good search tool, rather than look through several free sites for the right photo. However, these free sites provide a lot of interesting and unique photos, which may be exactly what fits your needs for a particular use.

3. Image resizer: Sometimes images are too big to use on social media or would load slowly if used on your website. Image resizers let you compress the image (also crop and edit it if needed). I’ve used ResizeImage.net and it’s free, but there are many others.

4. Audio transcription: Scribie provides low cost audio transcription. I’ve used the site to transcribe a podcast or radio interview, which makes it easier to repurpose for additional marketing value. Costs are less than a dollar a minute in many cases.

5. Email marketing: Constant Contact is probably the top provider and it’s great. However, if you have less than 2,000 subscribers and send fewer than 12,000 emails per month, MailChimp is a free and easy to use alternative.

6. Search engine optimization: Yoast is a top-rated WordPress plugin providing many features to help websites improve their SEO. With Yoast, you can do at least some SEO work without having technical skills as it enables you to boost results by focusing on your keywords, titles and meta descriptions. It has both free and premium paid versions, but even the paid version is reasonably priced.

7. Website analytics: Google Analytics is free and easy to connect to your website. It provides a wealth of information from how many page views you’re getting to where your web traffic is coming from and lots more.

8. Social media scheduling: It’s very time-consuming to consistently share content on social media especially if you have multiple accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. HootSuite is a social media management tools that lets you schedule your posts in advance from 1 place, keep track of your activity, and get basic analytics. You can also set up keywords to monitor on social media and integrate RSS feeds in order to find content you may want to share with your followers. There are both free and paid versions. Buffer is another option. I haven’t used it personally, but I know others who recommend it highly.

9. Monitor the web: Google Alerts enables you to set up web searches for specific keywords or phrases. You’ll receive email alerts whenever these phrases show up online. It’s a great way to monitor what’s being said online about you and your company, your industry, competitors, clients, prospects, topics and other areas.

10. Survey tools: Do you want to survey your clients, prospects, employees or referral sources? SurveyMonkey is the industry leader for online surveys. If you’re doing a basic one-time survey to a small number of people, the free version may be the answer, but there are also several paid plans.

11. Online learning: Udemy provides over 45,000 online courses. Many courses are only $10 and are good way to get a basic education in social media, SEO, web analytics and other areas that will help your marketing.

Of course, there are many others free and online tools that I’m not mentioning. Check out HubSpot and Buffer for more recommendations. Google users should also check out this link.

As good as these tools are, they all have their limitations. One of the biggest is that someone has to learn how to use them effectively. Sometimes it just makes sense to turn to a professional who doesn’t have a learning curve and can effectively implement and maintain your marketing. However, if you have internal resources and want to try these out, go for it.

Do you have a free/inexpensive tool you want to recommend? Contact me and I’ll publish an updated version of this blog post.

Update: Since publishing this post, a colleague published an article with additional free and low cost tools. I  haven’t had a chance to try them all, but I look forward to it. Let me know your own results.