For a high percentage of small business owners, adequately marketing their own services to their target audiences is easier said than done.
But if you’re under-resourced and strapped for time and budget (likely both), there are tools you can utilise to boost your marketing reach and allow you to punch above your weight without breaking the bank. Here we outline 6 of the best free business marketing tools for small business which we swear by ourselves.
At last – a graphic design program that's truly user friendly, intuitive, even, dare we say it, fun. Canva’s been around for a few years now, but has surged in popularity due to its accessibility, convenience and its freeness!
Use it to quickly and simply crop or filter images, add text and graphic touches, or utilise a range of templates (pictured) that make it easy to create social media headers, flyers, posters and more! We’ve used it extensively across the Access1st site and social media channels, so can recommend it with confidence!
It’s completely free if you upload your own photographic resources, but there are also thousands of elements available to access starting at just $1 each.
Get started today at www.canva.com
Of course, to make your Canva designs come to life, you’ll need quality imagery. If the imagery you select to represent your business is cheesy, unoriginal or inauthentic you could be saying goodbye to prospects before they even meaningfully engage with you.
The obstacle with wanting to use decent imagery has traditionally been the cost of getting your own original photography (always the best option) or a stock image library subscription. Luckily help is at hand in the shape of Pikwizard, a truly free stock image library which has a swiftly growing stack of decent imagery on offer.
There are tens of thousands of images to choose from, with new ones added each day. And even if the range isn’t as all-encompassing as Shutterstock or iStock, there’s plenty on offer to brighten up your website or print material - including some quality images of real people. Don’t believe us? Just have a look at the selection below...
Another good choice is www.pexels.com which also features a growing library of free stock video footage. Of course, if you really like what you see you’ve got the option to make a donation to the photographers, too, to truly share the love!
If you can't find what you're looking for there, there are many other options out there, too. Check out this handy list of almost 100 free and freemium sources of stock photos.
It goes without saying that some form of social media marketing is de rigueur. It can’t be set and forget, either, so to stay visible to whatever audience you’re trying to target you have to commit a bit of time to the cause.
That’s the type of scenario Hootsuite was built for. Using the free plan, you can manage up to 3 social media profiles from one place (using one password) and actually put a bit of structure around what you’re doing. Using the scheduling tool you can spend half an hour in one go setting updates for weeks ahead, so you can sit back and relax and continually engage with and grow your audience.
You’ll also get access to the basic analytics tool, which will give you a good steer on the types of content and updates that best resonate with your audience.
And if your social presence really starts to soar, Hootsuite is scalable and you can upgrade to a more comprehensive paid option should you need to.
To get amongst it, you can find out more about Hootsuite’s free plan here.
All sorts of research suggests that video is the most engaging form of content out there. If you’re not at least considering some sort of video content you could, therefore, be shooting yourself in the foot.
In the iPhone era there’s no excuse to not at least give it a go. Customer testimonials, a simple video blog (vlog), examples of your work, get to know your team: all these are subjects that can easily be filmed on your mobile and uploaded directly to YouTube.
Of course YouTube isn’t the only video platform available but because it’s owned by Google, if you’re smart with the search terms you use your video here is much more likely to be picked up by the world’s number one search engine.
If you’re keen to showcase your expertise in your chosen sphere, then SourceBottle could be a great platform for you. A free online service that connects journalists and bloggers with expert sources, it’s a terrific opportunity to earn yourself some free exposure – as well as some content that you can share on your own channels.
You can set yourself up a profile in a couple of minutes and sign up to a daily newsletter that outlines which journos are looking for comment on what type of subject. It’s not likely to be long before something relevant to you and your business pops up.
Have a look for yourself at www.sourcebottle.com
If you’re serious about maximising your online presence and opportunities, gaining at least a working knowledge of Google Analytics remains one of the most worthwhile things you can do.
It can appear daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s invaluable in measuring user data to better understand your customer, to analyse any pain points they may be experiencing and to apply fixes to boost the user experience and (hopefully) generate you some leads.
Use it in tandem with the Google Keyword Planner (also free) and you can also assess which key search terms you’d like to rank highly for, and get an indication of how competitive those keywords and phrases are likely to be.
Not utilising the insights available through Google Analytics is akin to shooting in the dark. And the more you use it the better you’ll get at meeting your customer’s needs – offering you the competitive edge.
Access1st users can unlock special offers from a range of providers who can help you take your marketing to a new level. Webfirm is our web development and digital marketing partner; and thirdegree offers a range of graphic design services. Find out about their offers behind your association or client log-in.