Grow your Business with 12 Budget Marketing Tools

If you’re trying to grow your business, but your marketing budget is small (or even nonexistent) it can be difficult to promote your product/service.

I often hear business owners complain that they need marketing but can’t afford it. This is why I’ve a list of 12 budget-friendly marketing tools that every business owner should consider.

1. Education

2. A Marketing Plan

3. A Mobile-Optimized Website

4. Marketing Automation

5. Google Analytics

6. Spelling, Grammar & Editing Software

7. Calendly

8. Zapier

9. Content Marketing

10. Buffer

11. Branding

12. Strong Service/Product

1. Education

Knowledge is power.

As a business owner, it’s imperative to be a lifelong learner.

This is why I recommend taking advantage of free (or low cost) educational tools to learn what type of marketing your company should implement. This should also help you create your marketing plan.

HubSpot Academy

I currently don’t use HubSpot’s marketing tools on this website, but I do think their learning center is invaluable to any small or medium-sized business.

As of this writing, there are a total of 17 tracks and certifications combined in their learning center. Topics range from inbound marketing to business writing and they even cover current SEO updates.

You can also check out the following:

Facebook Advertising

Twitter Flight School

Bonus Tip: they’re always updating information!

Cost

Free

Lynda.com

I’ve taken a few Lynda.com courses and believe they provide quality content. I highly recommend taking basic digital marketing courses (if you’re not a marketer by trade):

Take a look at their Marketing Foundation Courses.

The lead Generation and SEO tracks seem to be useful as well.

Cost

A subscription for Lynda.com is $29.99/per month.

While it’s not free to access their courses, the first month is free.

Depending on where you live, your local library branch or university might give you free access to Lynda.com through their portal.


2. A Marketing Plan

How are you going to reach your business goals if you don't have a plan?

Without a written marketing plan, you won’t know what marketing tools your organization needs or what types of marketing activities your company should conduct.

Planning to hire someone to do your marketing?

Another reason to have a marketing plan in place is to help you figure out what mediums to market on and create a “wish list” of skills you’d like the potential candidate to have. (Note, I mentioned a wish list because perfect candidates don’t exist, as humans we aren’t perfect).

If you don’t necessarily have the capacity to put together a marketing plan and you’ve recently hired someone, they should create a marketing plan for your organization.

While things don’t always go according to plan, it's a good idea to have a marketing plan in place to guide your organization. As you proceed with marketing activities, you might have to adjust marketing tactics and even the marketing plan.


Cost

Free



3. A Mobile-Optimized Website

Looks Matter

If you’re doing research online, chances are you might trust well-designed websites over those websites with poor design.

A website is important. There are no ifs, ands or buts — your business needs a website.

Have a website but it’s outdated?

Update it!

If you (or a company you’re paying) are updating it, make sure it’s optimized for mobile; meaning, make sure it’s designed with mobile phones in mind so it loads quickly and looks good on a small screen.

I recall meeting a gentleman at an event who boasted how he paid recently paid an agency to redesign his company’s website. I took out my phone and look it up in front of him to verify it.

The website wasn’t mobile optimized.  

If you’re hiring a company to do this, make sure it’s part of your proposal and not an add on service.

A website has only a few seconds to grab someone’s attention (data can be skewed on how many seconds that is). While you might feel compelled to tell your audience everything on one page or paragraph (or in one video), please refrain from doing so.

There’s a time and a place for everything, which is why you (should) have separate pages that tell a different part of your company’s story and the products/services you sell.


Where to Start

The type of website platform you should use depends on the kind of business you have. Here are a few options:

- Squarespace

- Wix

- Shopify

- WordPress.com and WordPress.org

Squarespace

My website is currently on Squarespace.

While I personally lean towards Squarespace because of their website templates and CMS (content management system), I have used other websites service providers. My experience with Squarespace has been a positive one so far. The website template was mobile friendly out-of-the-box.

While I didn't originally build and design the website (thank you, Michael C.!), I’ve been able to make changes effortlessly.

Connecting Squarespace to my marketing and sales automation tool and Google Analytics was a straightforward process. Anytime I was stuff, I referred to the Squarespace support pages; they’re clear and a breeze to navigate. When I couldn't find an answer on their website, customer support was helpful and responded quickly by chat or within 24 hours by email.

Since this website was created, I’ve learned how to code (HTML5 & CSS3). It’s helpful to know how to code as you can add code snippets to various parts of the website (to make customizations), but it’s still fairly simple to making changes to templates if you don’t know how to code.


Cost

Image courtesy of    Squarespace   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Squarespace. No copyright infringement is intended.

Personal monthly: $12

Personal annually: $16

Business monthly: $18

Business annually: $26

Online Store (eCommerce) Cost

Image courtesy of    Squarespace   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Squarespace. No copyright infringement is intended.

Basic (eCommerce) monthly: $26

Basic (eCommerce) annually: $30

Advanced (eCommerce) monthly: $40

Advanced (eCommerce) annually: $46

Wix

I’ve outlined and built website mockups using Wix.

Like Squarespace, if you're going to use Wix I recommend using through their templates. Selecting a Wix template can saves you time, but also ensures your website is mobile friendly from the start.

That said, if you’re planning to build a website without a template, it’ll be more work in the long run. Doing so not only takes a long time to create, but it’s also a pain to make small changes and adding content is complicated and inefficient.

Please use a template if you’re planning to use Wix!


Cost

Connect a domain (monthly): $7 per month

Connect a domain (annually):  $5 per month


Combo (monthly): $14 per month

Combo (annually): $10 per month


Unlimited (monthly): $16 per month

Unlimited (annually): $14 per month


eCommerce (monthly): $20.00 per month

eCommerce (annually): $17.00 per month


VIP (monthly): $30.00 per month

VIP (annually): $25.00 per month

Shopify

I haven’t used Shopify yet, but I’ve met a few entrepreneurs who’ve built their websites using the platform. If you’re planning to create an ecommerce website, this might be a good option for your company.

Need more convincing? Take a look at some websites examples built with Shopify.

I’d also recommend researching cases where people have  merged a WordPress website with Shopify.

Cost

Shopify has three options pricing options.

Shopify Lite lets you sell products on Facebook so you can chat with potential/current customers on Facebook Messenger. It also lets you add products to your website and blog, all with the  ability to accept credit card payments online (and in-person).

Shopify Lite Cost:  $9 USD per month

Read more about Shopify’s lite plan.



Shopify’s Standard Plan Cost:

Shopify Basic: $29 USD per month

Shopify: $79 USD per month

Advanced Shopify:  $299 USD per month

Depending on the plan, you have ability to use multiple staff accounts, receive shipping discounts, have lower transaction fees, access to professional reporting, access to advanced reporting and more.

Enterprise

Have a large organization? You can contact Shopify about their Enterprise pricing.

Read more about Shopify's pricing plans.

WordPress.com and Wordpress.org

I’ve made changes on the backend of a few WordPress websites and found the process to be straightforward.

WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress (Automattic), which varies in pricing as opposed to using WordPress.org (which is free and open source software) but requires self-hosting (not free to host on a server).

Self-hosting a website with WordPress.org is a bit more involved. Whichever option you choose to go with, there are plenty of free and paid plugins that work well.

That said, choosing a theme when using WordPress is extremely important; there are a few free options from Elegant Themes. I also recommend conducting search engine optimization (SEO) with Yoast (or another plugin).

Yoast is free but they do offer premium service.


Cost

WordPress.com:

Image courtesy of    WordPress   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of WordPress. No copyright infringement is intended.

Free: $0 USD for life

Personal: $4 USD per month, billed yearly

Premium: $8 USD per month, billed yearly

Business: $25 USD per month, billed yearly

You can view WordPress.com’s respective plans and their features.


WordPress.org:

Free

As mentioned above, WordPress.org is a free, open source software. Costs are usually incurred with hosting, premium plug-ins and your domain name.

Hosting costs can vary among service providers.



4. Marketing Automation

If you’re running an SMB, you’re likely wearing multiple hats.

If you don’t have a designated marketer on staff (or even if you do), having marketing automation enabled on your website is useful. Marketing automation lets you customize and personalize your marketing efforts to make your marketing more conversational.

“Conversation marketing” as I like to call it, lets tailor your communications to be more personal using using website behavior patterns to influence your marketing efforts. Marketing automation also helps eliminate repetitive tasks.

With a properly set up marketing automation campaigns, you can have conversations with potential customers without you being active on your website. While chat features are great and should be utilized, you can move potential customers down your marketing funnel in your sleep.

But that doesn’t mean marketing automation is easy.

Setting up campaigns is a lot of work and requires planning. This doesn’t factor in reviewing data and improving automations (optimizing).

The following example is how a company could improve their marketing automation. Note that email marketing falls under marketing automation:

I received an email from Harry’s, saying they’ve started a new company: a female shaving brand called Flamingo.

Nice idea.

They sent a mass emailed to people in their CRM (I purchase sunscreen from them on a subscription basis) to inform their audience about this great news.

Harrys_Flamingo_Bad_Email_1.jpg
Images courtesy of    Harry’s   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Images courtesy of Harry’s. No copyright infringement is intended.

While I’m sure recipients of this email did share this news with people who might have found Flamingo useful, Harry’s could’ve created a better email:

They should have made it easier to share this news with a special female in my life.

Here are some examples of how they could’ve made this email/campaign more conversational and personal:

- Added my name (it says, “Hi there”)

- Add a call-to-action to share with a women I  might know, instead of asking me to share it someone it with someone in the last two lines of this long email

- Created a coupon within the email with a call-to-action, so I could have sent it to women I might know

- They could’ve offered some sort of incentive (like a future discount) if I share this with someone and the person I shared the email with purchased something from Flamingo

We all make mistakes (even large companies) and there’s always room for improvement.


What marketing automation tools should you use?

I’ve listed marketing automation tools that have a built-in CRM or CRM-like qualities (they have lists), which enable you to segment and target potential customers based on their behaviors.

I won’t go into too much detail here as I will cover marketing automation tools in more depth in other articles. Here are four low cost marketing automation tools:

- Jumplead

- MailerLite

- Mautic.com and Mautic.org

- Drip


Jumplead

Jumplead is an all-in-one marketing and sales automation tool, which also features a built in CRM.

Jumplead is currently enabled on this website and I find it fairly easy to use (keep in mind I have an understanding of marketing automation logic and have played around with other marketing automation platforms). As for as their customer support goes, it’s fantastic!

Just keep in mind that the company is located in the UK, so response time may differ due to your location (but is usually under 24 hrs).

Based on my conversations with organization (and what I’ve observed), they’re open to feedback and add product features regularly. That says a lot about the company and their determination to create a great product.

Product Features

- Marketing automation

- Sales automation

- Marketing CRM

- Email marketing

- One-off emails

- Custom landing pages

- Live chat

- Lead generation forms and popups

- Reporting

- Lead scoring

- Tagging

- Segmentation

- Social listening (Twitter)

- Can be integrated with Facebook Ads

- Analytics

- Reporting (as well as emailed reports)

Known future updates:

- Workflows (lots of features including conditional automations)

- A/B split testing

Their workflow feature is currently in beta and I’ve been testing it. Here’s a screenshot of what it’ll look like:

Sample Workflow_1.jpg
Jumplead_pricing_plans.jpg
Images courtesy of    Jumplead   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Images courtesy of Jumplead. No copyright infringement is intended.


MailerLite

MailerLite is another straightforward marketing automation tool. Personally, I think it suits bloggers and ecommerce companies.

Non-ecommerce websites/companies could potentially start marketing with MailerLite  as well. If you fall under this category and you start marketing with MailerLite, think about how your marketing and sales processes can work with this email marketing software.

Another factor to consider is your company’s business model.

Product Features

- Lead generation (forms and popups)

- Custom landing pages

- Subscriber management

- Unsubscribe page builder

- Email automation

- RSS Campaigns

- Deliver by timezone

- Auto resend

- A/B split testing

- Segmentation

- Tagging

- 24 hour customer service

Learn more about MailerLite’s integrations.

Cost

Billed monthly:

MailerLite_pricing_monthly_plan.PNG

Billed annually:

Images courtesy of    MailerLite   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Images courtesy of MailerLite. No copyright infringement is intended.

Mautic.com and Mautic.org

Mautic.com is a marketing automation tools hosted by Mautic. Mautic.org is the same marketing automation tool offered my mautic.com, but it’s free as it requires one to self-host. As mentioned in the WordPress section, there are plenty of hosting providers and you should research one that meets your budget.

It’s worthwhile noting that if you’re going to self-host using Mautic, you’re not supported by Mautic.com’s customer support. However, there’s a great Mautic community on forums and a dedicated Slack channel where everyone helps each other out.

I think Mautic is a great automation tool as it allows organizations to customize the platform down to the last detail.

That said, it can be a cumbersome and lengthy process to build out campaigns from the ground up — but don’t let that discourage you from using this powerful marketing automation tool.

Mautic_Workflow.jpg

Product Features

- Marketing automation

- Contact management

- Email marketing

- Custom landing pages

- Lead generation forms and popups

- Reporting

- Lead scoring

- Segmentation

- Dynamic content

Cost

Mautic.com cost:

Image courtesy of    Mautic   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Mautic. No copyright infringement is intended.

Seems like they changed their pricing model to provide more of a white-glove experience.

Mautic.org cost:

Free but costs to host

Bonus Tip: While I don’t think a business with a lot of website traffic can or should build a website on a self-hosted server with a Raspberry Pi 3 B+, it can work. You might even be able to self-host Mautic on the same server.

If you’re going this route, I recommend pairing it with a decent-sized SSD. It might be a good idea to wait for the Raspberry Pi 4, as it might have more RAM.


Drip

Drip is an ecommerce marketing automation tool with an ECRM (ecommerce CRM).

If you’re new to marketing automation, Drip has pre-built workflows that can save you time. Here’s an example of one pre-built automation from their website:

Image courtesy of    Drip   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Drip. No copyright infringement is intended.

Product Features

- Marketing automation

- Analytics

- Reporting

- Automation workflows

- Multi-channel marketing

- Email marketing

- One-off emails

- Tailored Facebook ads

- Personalized websites and landing pages

- Postcards sent through the good ol’ USPS

- Text messages

You can see view more of Drip’s product integrations.

Cost

Image courtesy of    Drip   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Drip. No copyright infringement is intended.


5. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free marketing tool you can (and should) use to attach to your website to monitor website traffic. With this tool, you can track to see where your website traffic is coming from (traffic sources), how much traffic you’re getting and which pages are getting the most traffic.

You can use information from Google Analytics to can help you improve all things related to your website. Using this data, you can make educated guesses with regard to how visitors are interacting with your website.

A great feature of Google Analytics is the Insights feature, which can save you time to having to digging through your data to find answers to your questions.


Cost

Free

Create a Google Account (free) or pay for Gsuite plan (not free) to get started.

6. Spelling, Grammar & Editing Software

Grammar and spelling mistakes will always matter.

The spell-check and grammar checker in your word processing software might not catch every mistake. The following tools are useful for creating marketing-related content and even any emails you send.

I use and recommend the following software (web-based versions):

Grammarly

While Grammarly has is subscription service, I’ve been using the free version of their software for a few years. I use both the web-based version and the Google Chrome extension whenever I write and edit.

Before you start using Grammarly, be sure to select which English you write in:

- American English

- British English

- Canadian English

- Australian English

Image courtesy of    Grammarly   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Grammarly. No copyright infringement is intended.

Cost

Individual plans start at $29 USD / per month

Grammarly Business (3 users) is $10 USD per user / month

Hemingway Editor

Available through a website and downloadable computer software, the Hemingway Editor* is another great editing tool your organization can utilize.


Cost

Free (online editor)

The downloadable MAC and Windows Hemingway Editor : $19.99 USD (one time fee)

Note, you can pay via Paypal.

*I haven’t tried downloading the Hemingway Editor application. Also, I’ve noticed the Hemingway Editor website isn’t HTTPS secured.

7. Calendly

Calendly is a online scheduling tool, which integrates with Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook and iCloud.

Use it to cut down on the back-and-forth emails to schedule meetings, interviews or calls.

The paid version has more features (unlimited event types, pooled availability options, group events, etc.) and the basic (free) plan comes with the following:

- Calendar integrations

- Unlimited events

- 1 event type

- Personalized Calendly link

- Automated event notifications

- Standard email support (Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 6 PM ET )

- Knowledge based access

Learn more about their calendar scheduling solution.


Cost

Free basic plan (limited features)

Billed monthly

Premium plan: $10 USD per user / month

Pro plan: $15 USD per user / month

Billed annually  

Premium plan: $8 USD per user / month

Pro plan: $12 USD per user / month

View Calendly’s plans and their respective features.

8. Zapier

Automate this. Automate that.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about automation with regards to websites and running your business. To do this properly, you’ll need all of your marketing and scheduling tools to “speak” with each other.

This can be accomplished with Zapier.

While I haven't used either of Zapier as of this writing for my personal website and marketing stack yet, but intend to use it in the near future.

Enabling your tools to talk with each other will reduce your time doing repetitive tasks and should increase your productivity. If you’re an entrepreneur, leader at an SMB or a startup looking to increase your productivity with automations, try Zapier’s starter plan.

Cost

Billed annually:

Zapier_Cost_Anually.jpg

Billed monthly:

Images courtesy of    Zapier   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Images courtesy of Zapier. No copyright infringement is intended.

9. Content Marketing

This is tricky because creating content is definitely budget friendly, but it does take a significant amount of time to plan and create.

If you’re factoring time as a cost, then it might not be as cost-effective. Additionally, creating untargeted, self-serving content doesn’t help your organization either.

This article covers what self-serving content is, but in essence self-servicing content doesn’t provide value to the people reading it and is more along the lines of what the company does/offers.

Potential customers can spot this right away.

This type of content can actually hurt your brand/reputation. I like to remind myself of the following when I write (and when I edit):

- The content isn’t about about me, it’s about the reader

- Will the reader find this useful?

- How does this read (sound) to my target audience?

Before you start writing content, an overall marketing strategy should be in place. One component of your marketing strategy should include a content marketing strategy.

Content should be answering questions your target audience would (and probably does) have.

Cost

Free (kind of). Time is money and content planning and writing can take a lot of time. That said, content marketing can definitely help build brand recognition in your respective field and can potentially lead to obtaining leads.  

10. Buffer

Buffer is a social media management platform that allows you to schedule social media posts for various social media channels:

- Facebook (Page and Group)

- LinkedIn (Profile and Page)

- Instagram

- Twitter

- Pinterest

You should be able to connect a personal social media profile using Buffer. To my knowledge, Facebook doesn’t allows this anymore due to privacy issues so Facebook Pages and Groups are only allowed to be connected.

You can also add team members/give them permissions to manage accounts.

Buffer's future products/updates

- The original Buffer will become Buffer Publish

- Buffer’s audience engagement tool (formerly known as Respond) will become Buffer Reply

- Buffer will launch Buffer Analyze for social media insights


Cost

Image courtesy of    Buffer   . No copyright infringement is intended.

Image courtesy of Buffer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Learn more about Buffer’s pricing and plan features.

11. Branding

There are many factors that contribute to an overall brand.

Things like your business model, level of transparency, how you conduct business to they way you communicate with your customers, the tone of your written communications, your logo and the colors you use, all contribute to your brand.

Creating a brand is a complex process and the time needed to develop one can vary.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t feasible.

As much as it pains me to give away my “secret,” it would be selfish not share this. I’ve read a few marketing books, but none covered branding as well as Brand Seduction by Daryl Weber. This  isn’t an affiliate link and I won’t be making money with this link, if you decide to purchase this book.

I think it’s good read and useful for any entrepreneur who’s starting out or a small to medium-sized business owner. The book covers the neuroscience behind what makes certain brand successful and marketing campaigns effective.

There are also useful (and realistic) exercises you can use to help with your company’s branding.

Cost

Free (if you’re willing to do the work)

12. Strong Service/Product

Anyone can sell a product or service. What really sets companies apart, are those who do what they do better than their competitors.

False claims don’t do anyone any favors or help your company grow. Neither do fake reviews.

Taking the time to think about how you can do things differently or how you can improve your product or service can have a huge impact on your business. This theory of mine has been solidified as I continue listen to the How I built This podcast with Guy Raz. This is a truly fantastic podcast and I can’t recommend it enough.

I’ve noticed the following patterns from some of the interviews I’ve listened to so far:

- Do things differently

- Do things better than your competitors

- Educate your potential customers on your product/service benefit(s)

Cost

Making the effort to “innovate” is free

Conclusion

You might be short on resources, but growing your business with a limited marketing budget is definitely possible.

While some of the tools I’ve mentioned might be limited with the features they offer, the underlying lesson is that you can achieve your goals as long as you allocate adequate time to planning and execution. You can have the best plan, but if you don’t execute and/or act on a consistent basis, your marketing results may not be where you’d like them to.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section!  If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with someone you think will find the content useful.

Also, let me know if you see any errors or outdated information!

Interested in learning more branding and marketing insights?