14 free or low cost tools to improve your marketing

4th, Feb 2021

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune thanks to many free and affordable tools to help you with every aspect of your marketing. I haven’t personally used all the resources below, but those I haven’t tried were recommended on well-established blogs. The great thing is that you can experiment with these 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 is still one of the top tools for designing 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. Another site with photos and not on the HubSpot list is Unsplash. 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. I should also mention that several of the tools mentioned in this post do provide a library of free or low-cost images. These include Canva, Hootsuite and Constant Contact.

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 inexpensive 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. Online advertising: Claiming your Google My Business listing (which is free) enables you to be featured in the search results (as well as in Google Maps) for local searches. You can add information about your business as well as photos. This is also a good place to direct people to leave reviews about your business.

6. Email marketing: Constant Contact is probably the top provider and it’s affordable especially if you don’t have a huge database. 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.

7. Search engine optimization: Yoast is a top-rated WordPress plugin that helps 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 a free version, but the premium option is very inexpensive and well worth it.

8. 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.

9. Market intelligence: 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. 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 tool 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 and Social Pilot are other options. I haven’t used it personally, but I know others who recommend it highly, including in a recent post on the Association of Accounting Marketing Blog.

11. Online learning: Udemy provides over 130,000 online courses. Courses start at only $12.99 and are a good way to get a basic education in social media, SEO, web analytics and other areas that will help your marketing. For a list of other companies with free or affordable options, check out this article.

12. Writing: Grammarly is an automated grammar and spelling checker that works on your email, social media, blog and elsewhere on the web. It helps minimize errors and improve your writing to make it more concise and understandable. There is both a free and premium version. TheHemingway App also can assist you in writing better by letting you know about problem areas such as overly complex sentences, passive voice or too many adverbs.

13. Content ideas: HubSpot has a Blog Topic Generator that can help you come up with ideas to write about. You just enter a few nouns that describe your subject matter, and you’ll get 5 ideas. This doesn’t always work for technical topics, but even if it doesn’t give you the exact idea, it can be a starting point.

14. Publicity. Help a Reporter Out is a free service that helps connect you with journalists looking for sources.  You can sign up for daily emails where reporters/writers indicate what types of people they are looking to speak to for a story. There is also a paid version with additional features.

Of course, there are many other free and online tools that I’m not mentioning. Check out HubSpot, Buffer and AdExpresso 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.

Note: This post was originally published May 12, 2017 and last updated February 4, 2021.