No matter how tough times get, your business can’t survive without marketing to bring in customers. Good marketing doesn’t come free, though — or does it?
With budgets tight and futures uncertain, businesses can’t afford to waste money on ineffective tactics. Free marketing solutions not only provide financial relief, but they also empower companies to communicate with customers and discover new audiences.
Several companies, from massive enterprises to tiny startups, have created free marketing options as good as the market-leading paid versions. Small businesses have a unique advantage — many tools with paid versions offer free functionality to companies under a certain number of users. If a free tool earns you enough new business during this down period to shift you to an upgrade, that tool is probably worth the price, anyway.
You don’t have to drive your company into the red to take advantage of great marketing tools. Take advantage of five types of free marketing assistance already available.
Research, Reports, and Consultations
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to marketing strategy. Big companies spend millions of dollars on original research to learn about their audiences. Small businesses often don’t have the capital to hire consulting firms for custom projects. However, they can still conduct surveys and access the latest knowledge for free.
If you want to learn more about your target audience or existing customer base, SurveyMonkey allows users of its free plan to send surveys. These surveys can contain up to 10 questions and be sent to an unlimited number of people (though you can only view a portion of the individual responses). Google Forms, while not quite as robust as SurveyMonkey in terms of utility, offers a great alternative, especially for businesses already using G Suite.
You don’t always have to do the research yourself. Several companies that have shelled out big bucks for critical knowledge are willing to share. Hawke Media, for example, put together an extensive report on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on e-commerce businesses. It’s also offering free mini-consults to help businesses chart a course forward in these unprecedented times.
A good CRM doesn’t just help you manage and track contacts. With the right tool, you can automate communication, optimize your sales pipeline, analyze your marketing performance, and make life easier for customer-facing employees.
Small businesses don’t need to write fat checks to Salesforce or Microsoft to take advantage of CRM capabilities. Several companies offer robust CRM solutions for free, no strings attached, to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
HubSpot’s free CRM product is the most popular free option — and for good reason. With no limit on users and up to a million contacts, you can scale your business without worrying about hitting a cap. For smaller teams or people comfortable working with Gmail, Streak provides a clean and easy extension. With just a few clicks, you can enjoy a powerful CRM from your own inbox.
Email Marketing Starters
Speaking of emails, email marketing tools make effective communication simple. Free tools have everything you need to design, track, and manage email campaigns and content. If you decide you need a little more juice, email tools typically cost far less to upgrade than other options.
For people with highly designed dreams and a lack of HTML skills, Sender makes it easy to create eye-catching emails from scratch or from a template. With the free plan, you can talk to 2,500 subscribers and send 15,000 emails per month. Paid plans start at $10 a month, so if you like the tool but have a bigger subscriber list, you can upgrade for a song.
Mailchimp’s free plan integrates seamlessly with lots of third-party tools, thanks to its wide footprint. Like Sender, you can upgrade to a more robust plan for $10 a month or choose a beefier plan at $15 per month.
Social Media Amplification and Scheduling
Social media platforms, especially Facebook, have lots of built-in tools that marketers and small businesses can use for free. Sometimes, though, you need something a little more robust. That’s where helpful free social media tools can fill the gap.
Crowdfire’s free plan supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You can only schedule 10 posts per account at a time, but you get unlimited access to curated images and articles to help promote your brand.
Buffer’s best-of-brand social media engagement and scheduling tool offers a free 14-day trial for companies that need more features and are willing to pay for them. However, Buffer charges separately for publishing and analytical tools, so be mindful of that if you expect to get the whole suite on the cheap.
Thanks to improvements in internet speed, mobility, and reliability, video marketing has become one of the most effective channels for marketers. Highly produced videos can cost millions, but some of the most popular efforts of the past few years cost nothing but a smartphone and five minutes of a creative person’s time.
Tap into the power of video marketing with Wistia’s free plan. With this tool, you can embed three videos anywhere — keeping prospects on your pages instead of sending them to YouTube — and entertain an audience of up to 250 channel subscribers. This option works best for marketers who expect to use video sparingly, because Wistia paid plans start at $99 per month.
Combine the power of video marketing and social media by using Facebook Live and Instagram Stories to speak to your fans at a moment’s notice. People love behind-the-scenes glimpses of their favorite small businesses. Authentic, unfiltered moments deepen relationships with your most loyal customers and make them feel like part of the team.
This is just a sampling of the wide world of free marketing tools available online. Take advantage of Medium and WordPress (and all its extensions) to maximize your content marketing. Likewise, Google Analytics can provide free insight into your website’s performance and traffic. Do a little digging, and you’re sure to find a free tool or two that will help you connect with current fans or find new ones.