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  • Writer's pictureDan McAulay

The 7 best free marketing tools for small businesses in 2020

Updated: Feb 8, 2021


Last year, marketing budgets fell to their lowest level in five years - and they continue to be particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in the economy.


And when it comes to small businesses in Cumbria tightening their belts, marketing can often be left until last and too often is seen as a 'nice to have'. Whilst I am an ardent believer that you have to grow out of difficulties (marketing being the prime growth driver for a business) there are ways that businesses can do some useful things at a low cost. And in some cases, the only cost is time ⏱. Below are my favourite free marketing tools that can be really useful for small businesses in Cumbria in 2020. These are super handy if: a) your budget is stretched really thin, especially if you are a small business; b) it takes longer to raise a PO and fill in all the associated paperwork than it does to actually just get your quick marketing to-do sorted. (Sorry Pete in accounts.) I think this article will be really useful for all the small businesses out there in Cumbria. Although these tips do apply equally to small businesses, nonprofits and startups regardless of location. Best for free stock images When it comes to images, it's not the case that if it is out there on the internet, anyone can just use them. You have to make sure that any images that you use have the appropriate copyright permissions. The last thing you want is to be served with a copyright notice, for quite innocently copying and pasting an image from Google for your latest marketing project. The fines for those caught out can rack up into the thousands. The good news is that you can find even better images by using royalty-free image search engines. No risk of a big fine with these! The two stand-outs in this category for me are Pexels and Pixabay. If I don't have any relevant photos to hand, these two sites are where I find good pics for things like social media posts and quick flyers. All images on these sites are free for commercial use too and can be downloaded in high-resolution. Check out Pexels > | Check out Pixabay > Best for photo editing When it comes to photo editing online, my favourite tool is Pixlr. The app is web-based, which means you don't have to download any software, and it is totally free to use. You can do the usual crop/resize using the app, as well as applying filters, effects and adjusting the lighting in your images as well. I've found it remarkably decent in brightening up pictures I've taken on my phone so that I can make them suitable for professional use. It's intuitive and easy to use, so I would definitely suggest giving Pixlr a go. Aside from Pixlr, one app I'm enjoying using at the moment is Adobe's mobile Lightroom app. If you're on iOS just search 'lightroom' in the Apple Store and give it a download. The essential features are free and you can achieve some really cool effects. Check out Pixlr > | Check out Lightroom > Best for events and meetings For event organisers everywhere, Eventbrite is a saviour. I've used it loads for events in Cumbria in the past, and it has never let me down. It takes care of bookings, and if your event is free, you can use the Eventbrite management system for free of charge. (If you charge for events, it takes a small percentage of ticket sales that you can either absorb yourself or pass on to the delegates.) Getting your event online helps in increasing visibility on search engines. I've found that Eventbrite's promotion mechanism itself has even been useful for reaching new audiences. You can make events public or private, link it directly so people can book through Facebook, and get it to automatically process payments. Check out Eventbrite > Best for social media Hootsuite is a social media management tool which helps you keep track of all of your social networks in one place. Hootsuite is probably the most popular social media management tool, but there are a number of alternatives out there. Social media management tools are especially useful for scheduling posts (when it comes to social media, consistency is key!) and monitoring activity across all of your social channels all in one place. 💬 Someone commented on your Facebook post? You can directly like and respond through Hootsuite. 💬 Someone mentioned your business on Twitter? You can favourite, retweet and reply all from within Hoosuite. As long as you keep within the free-plan limits of three social media accounts and ten scheduled posts, then you can use Hootsuite for free. Check out Hootsuite > Best for understanding marketing ROI Small businesses can often struggle to find the cash to fund extra marketing. To make the best use of your budget, you need to be efficient and effective with your spending - and be able to understand your marketing ROI (return on investment). This is where digital analytics come along: the stats which tell you whether what you're doing is working... What is Google Analytics? Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that can help in analysing and understanding your website traffic. Chances are your website is the hub for all of your digital marketing activities. Social media posts linking back to your website? Online directory listings pointing to your website? If your website is the central point you send visitors to, Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful way of analysing your audience. The tool can help you identify your most popular web pages, the volume of traffic your website is getting, where all of your visitors are finding you, and much much more. I'm yet to meet a marketing team in Cumbria which doesn't use Google Analytics. Getting going with Google Analytics can be a bit overwhelming at first, but if you speak to the person who did your website, they should be able to get it set up for you and set you up a dashboard for the main stats you need to know. (Pro-tip... combine the numbers from Google Analytics with the rest of your stats from the marketing funnel, and you will really be able to pinpoint which marketing activities are delivering. All for free! Here's an article on the marketing funnel for those who are new to the concept. Check out Google Analytics > Honourable mentions There's a whole host of good, free marketing tools out there. The ones above I use all the time and love, but here are some which I've found to be useful too: Mailchimp - This is probably the most popular site for designing and sending free email campaigns, but I personally prefer Campaign Monitor which costs a modest amount. Hubspot - I'm still finding out more about this, but it is an online CRM system that has offers some marketing automation features. I'm looking forward to finding out more about this one. Wix - There's no substitute for a professionally built site, but if this is out of your budget range, Wix is a good one for creating basic websites. There's no need for you to be an expert in coding or design, you can use templates and drag and drop features to build your site. Google Adword Planner - This is a good, free tool for identifying relevant keywords to use on your website and in your content marketing. You'll need to sign up for an account to use this one. Google Alerts - This is a useful tool that automatically emails you if any keywords that you specify are mentioned online. For example, you could ask it to alert you any time your business name is mentioned online. This is a useful one for monitoring media coverage and your reputation.


Do you use any of these in your business? Are there any good tools that I've missed? Let me know in the comments ⬇️⬇️⬇️


And if you learned something new, make sure to give a 👍. Your support means a lot!📷

If you have any questions about the above, drop me a message at danmmarketing@gmail.com - and for more marketing insights for small businesses in Cumbria, visit my website at danmmarketing.com.

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