Best 7 free marketing tools for small business
Being a small business owner is tough. You’ve got to wear many different hats, you’re constantly pulled in different directions, and you’re limited not just by your time, but also by your budget.
20 May 2019 · 9 min read
Being a small business owner is tough. You’ve got to wear many different hats, you’re constantly pulled in different directions, and you’re limited not just by your time, but also by your budget. Fortunately, there are a whole host of free marketing tools available to small business owners that, when executed well, will help drive people to your website or storefront without asking you to spend a dime. Here are seven that you should consider using for your own business.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is a critical, evolving component of any small business marketing strategy. Given that 93% of online experiences start with a search engine, you can’t afford to ignore SEO tools.
If you’re not familiar with the term, SEO is the process of organizing the structure and content of your website so that search engines can easily discover it and understand what your site is trying to communicate. The more effectively your site communicates its value, the higher Google and other search engines will rank your site in search results.
While we do recommend investing in expertise assistance to develop a sustainable SEO strategy that can grow alongside your business, there are plenty of worthwhile free tools to get you started. The Yoast SEO plugin offers valuable insights on how to improve your site’s score.
These free tools are great for identifying keywords and tracking them, but it’s valuable to invest a bit of money in your brand’s SEO since search engines constantly change their algorithms. These algorithmic updates can have a big impact on your website’s ranking and ability to attract visitors.
SEO experts are often able to make subtle but valuable adjustments to your site that are well beyond the scope of most free DIY tools. B12 offers an SEO subscription plan that seamlessly identifies optimization opportunities every month and is a great option for busy small business owners who are looking to reach a larger audience.
Social media marketing
With more than 3 billion active social media users, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are amazing places to promote your business. Depending on the audience you’re trying to reach, some platforms are a better fit than others. LinkedIn is great for B2B companies, while Facebook and Instagram are better for reaching consumers.
No matter which platforms you choose to focus on, the important thing is to be active and express your brand’s personality. What makes you and your business unique? Take that secret sauce and inject it into your social media presence.
Remember that it’s not just about promoting yourself — you’ve got to engage others, too. It’s like a bank account; before you can make any withdrawals, you first need to make some deposits. As a rule of thumb, for each promotional piece of content you post, you should engage with approximately four posts others have written. The goal is to come across as authentic, not self-serving.
Google My Business
If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, don’t wait any longer! Have you ever searched for a business on Google and been served all of the nearby results that are most relevant to you? Remember how it highlighted the top three businesses and provided more detail about them than the other results? All of that comes from information included in your Google My Business listing!
When it’s filled out, your My Business profile helps make you more visible to people searching for businesses in a specific location. It’s another form of SEO that costs nothing and takes little time to set up but will pay dividends in the long run.
Within the world of video marketing, there are two trends that many businesses are just starting to take advantage of. The first is creating explainer videos, which are exactly what they sound like: videos explaining how a product or service works. According to research by Wyzowl, 95% of people have watched explainer videos to learn more about a product or service. They are especially powerful for businesses that have a more complex or unusual product offering.
The second trend in video marketing is the rise in popularity of vertical video, which is a video taken as if you were holding a smartphone in the upright position. Vertical video is important because, according to WordStream, more than half of all video content is viewed on mobile. Creating videos that are optimized for mobile is now an expectation.
Many small businesses ignore email marketing until they’ve been in business for a while, mistakenly believing that only established businesses can leverage it properly. The reality is that it is never too early to start building an email list, and it doesn’t have to be a ton of work to communicate with your list regularly!
First, you’ll need to begin building a list of email subscribers. There are plenty of free tools out there, such as MailChimp, that will integrate well with your existing content management system. B12 offers a more sophisticated tool that seamlessly matches the look and feel of your website and provides starter email copy for many occasions (welcome emails, product announcements, and more).
Once you’ve got that in place, you’ll want to provide an incentive for people to sign up for your list. This incentive doesn’t have to cost money, it can be something as simple as a free whitepaper, ebook, or tool only for your subscribers.
After you’ve begun building your subscriber base, you can start delivering valuable content to them. Like in social media, it’s important to choose content based on the value it provides to your mailing list — not the other way around. If you send too many self-promotional emails that offer no incentive, you’ll lose subscribers. Focus on providing value and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.
Of course, it’s completely fine to include exciting product or business updates in your newsletter, that’s what people likely signed up for! The reality is that people who have given you permission to send them emails related to your business are interested in what you have to offer! These people will likely be the first to react to a new product or service, and because of that, email marketing is a channel that all small businesses should utilize.
Content marketing is a great way to educate visitors and consumers about the products and services your business provides. It’s also an excellent way to build thought leadership and show off your expertise.
When building content, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Lead with value. Like other marketing channels, content marketing requires a light touch when it comes to sales pitches. A common approach for many businesses is to minimize sales-y voice in the content itself, but include a call-to-action on the same page that encourages readers to sign up for a mailing list or request a free quote. If you create content with the intent of adding value to reader and viewers, conversions will follow.
- Take a multi-channel approach. You can get the most bang for your proverbial buck by creating content that translates well across multiple formats. Have you just written a great blog post? Can you turn it into a podcast to reach people who prefer to listen rather than read? How about converting it to a YouTube video? Lumen5, an online video maker can help you with that. Translating content across channels is a great way to stretch it further and reach a greater audience with the content you worked so hard to create.
- Content is great for SEO! Nobody knows the exact algorithms of search engine rankings, but there’s no denying that creating content that lives on your website will help your SEO. The important thing is to make sure you’re creating content that adds value to readers as a primary focus. Noticing a trend here? Good! When crafting your content, you can conduct a quick keyword search using Google’s Keyword Planner tool to understand which search terms your audience is using. From there, you can create content that sparingly sprinkles in those keywords. If you overdo it, you’ll be penalized. If you aim for about 1% of your content to be keywords, you’ll be in good shape.
If creating your own content sounds intimidating, B12’s SEO Pro plan includes a custom, keyword-optimized blog post each month!