One of the hardest things for first-time entrepreneurs, and even seasoned startup pros is learning how to effectively market a product or service. Thankfully, if you’re willing to learn and utilize the tools available online, you can dramatically improve the traction and revenue you earn.

The tools listed below are available to anyone with a laptop and an internet connection. And they work; I’ve personally marketed my own products and services with these tools – generating millions in revenue.

1.  MailChimp (Free, $10 or $199 per Month)

Creating a powerful email list is a great way to establish and maintain a connection with your customers. MailChimp is used by effective entrepreneurs to send messages to individuals that have expressed an interest in their product or service.

Building a mailing list is an artform in and of itself. If you’re interested in the learning more, I recommend reading Launch, by Jeff Walker. Once you have your list of email subscribers, it’s time to send them some compelling content that excites and engages.

MailChimp makes email marketing easy. The emails you can produce with this powerful tool look professional, well-designed and you can even see if your target audience is reading the content you’re sending them.

And, because the last thing you want to do is frustrate your potential customers, MailChimp makes it easy for your subscribers to “unsubscribe”.

Pros:

  • Free for small businesses and start-ups.
  • It’s easy to integrate mailchimp into your other marketing tools and software.
  • Eliminates the need for coding or design skills.
  • Very minimal learning curve.

Cons:

  • Manual responses are required on the free-tier. This can be hugely time consuming if you gain a lot of traction with one of your email campagins.
  • The transition from free to paid / premium could be made easier. If you think you’re going to grow quickly, I’d skip the free plan.

MailChimp Quick Start Guide

2.  FollowerWonk (Free, $29, $79 per Month)

Emailing is certainly a tried and true way to stay in touch with your fans. But, savvy marketers are hitting social media with everything they’ve got. The more “shares”, “likes” and “followers” your brand can attract, the more social media buzz you can generate.

Getting your message right for such a large audience (think about how many millions of people use Twitter and Facebook everyday) is tricky. FollowerWonk is a tool from MOZ, a juggernaut in the online marketing / SEO space.

This tool will help you to understand the demographics of your fanbase. When do they engage with Twitter? What kinds of things are they into? How does your tribe compare with the competitor’s fanbase?

By knowing when and how your (potential) fans interact with social media, you can better target and time your messages to reach them. Organically reaching your audience is far more cost-effective than paid social media advertising. And, thanks to FollowerWonk, it’s become a whole lot easier!

Pros:

  • This tool provides some epic stats on the major players in your industry – they might not be the people you’re familiar with. I was shocked at some of the names that popped up when I did my first dive into the analytics.
  • I find myself coming up with tons of ideas for content while scrolling through the data this program provides. It’s almost like a brainstorm-in-a-box.
  • Integration with the MOZ suite is pretty cool for those that are already invested in the MOZ ecosystem.

Cons:

  • For larger searches with broad parameters, you’re going to need to plan ahead. It can take days to generate actionable reports. Granted, I’ve never felt like the data wasn’t worth the wait.
  • You’ll need to be comfortable doing basic formatting in excel. Without some excel familiarity, the data may be difficult to decipher.

FollowerWonk Quickstart Guide

3.  DesignHill ($99 to $1,000)

Creating great emails and compelling social media posts requires eye-catching graphics. Unfortunately, hiring a graphic designer to create mock-ups isn’t in the budget for most small firms. Thankfully, it’s possible to unleash creativity without destroying the bottom-line.

Thanks to DesignHill, small businesses and start-ups can submit a request for a logo or other graphic design. Millions of designers from around the world can submit their ideas, and the best one becomes your company’s next social media infographic or profile photo.

The access to a variety of designs without spending a dime is powerful. And the winning design is way more affordable than hiring a graphic designer to draw up a few sketches and then design a final copy for publication.

Pros:

  • Access to a broad range of design perspectives. One project can provide hundreds of different ideas or style suggestions from graphic & logo designers around the globe.
  • Because of the time zone difference, I’ve found I can get a design back relatively quickly – no matter how late I’ve decided to stay up.
  • While the platform is open to everyone, the competitive nature ensures that quality designs are submitted for each project – I believe the lower-skilled designers probably give up after being passed over a few times. This saves me time in terms of filtering out low-quality work.
  • Extremely helpful and prompt customer service.

Cons:

  • I’ve found that it can be difficult to avoid copying the work that is presented after a project ends. For example, I’ve gained so much inspiration from the rejected work, that I have to be conscious of inadvertently copying elements of someone else’s design that I didn’t go with.
  • The designer community on this site is still growing. Some of the other sites have a lot more potential designers. But, to be fair, I haven’t felt like I needed more options than I was presented with.

DesignHill Quickstart Guide

4.  SpyFu ($49, $99, $299 per Month)

Outside of social media and email, content marketing is becoming the most popular and cost-effective method for educating consumers about your product or service; engaging them at every stage of the buying cycle.

Creating great, information content is a solid start. But to bring the customer to your site, you have to engage search engines. And that’s where SpyFu comes in. This tool helps guide your content creation efforts.

Take advantage of the hard-work and research your competitors put into their advertising campaigns and SEM efforts. Take a look under the hood, see what’s working for them, and start outmaneuvering them.

From paid advertising to organic traffic, SpyFu is one of the best tools for understanding your competition and the broader online landscape in your industry. The insights gained, when properly applied, can be game changing.

Pros:

  • User-friendly interface.
  • The free version is very good for startups on a budget.

Cons:

  • Some of the competitors this program highlights are irrelevant to my company. Manually excluding them is an annoying extra step.
  • Some technical knowledge of how Google’s AdWords program works is a must.

SpyFu QuickStart Guide

5.  HubSpot (Free to $2400 per Month)

By using the tools we’ve covered thus far, you should start to see some serious online traction. For example, new customers should be seeing you in their social media feeds, search results and your stunning logo should be instantly recognizable.

Now it’s time to amp up the customer experience. And that’s where HubSpot comes in. This tool allows you to monitor every aspect of the customer cycle; from research to purchase and ongoing support.

You’ll learn how you reach your customers, keep better track of the details that help you to define each customer and deliver a customized, personal experience to every user of your product or service.

To put it simply, HubSpot makes customer service a lot easier by letting your entire team access the same valuable information in an easy-to-digest format.

Pros:

  • HubSpot, when fully unlocked, is like the novice marketer’s equivalent of bowling with side rails. You can almost eliminate the position of CMO in your start-up.
  • I’m able to make more data-driven decisions in less time.
  • A/B Testing is so much easier with Hubspot’s landing page creator.

Cons:

  • There can be an unintended domino effect when changes are made in one section. Take time to read the manual and understand how different components interact; there is such a thing as too much automation.
  • It’s easy to blow your budget on HubSpot’s feature-rich platform – the “I just need one more feature” mentality can be financially dangerous.
  • Pay careful attention to the terms of your contract. Customizations and additional features are extra.

HubSpot QuickStart Guide

6. WordPress (Free, Requires Hosting)

You’ve learned how to attract customers and you’ve figured out the best way to keep track of important details. Now it’s time to look at how your company grows its website. That website builder site with five pages isn’t going to get you very far.

WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) for building stunning websites that get found on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Did I mention it’s completely free? You’ll need to shell out a few bucks for a decent host and maybe a couple premium plug-ins (Yoast SEO is my favorite). But these are normally optional and very budget-friendly.

Take a deep-dive into WordPress’ various features. You’ll find meta-descriptions, titles, tags and alt-titles are very easy to change and optimize. In my experience, adding pages full of valuable information that gets found on Google (with do-it-yourself optimizations) is easiest with WordPress.

And, the amount of free information, user-guides and YouTube tutorials is almost overwhelming. For the best experience, I recommend choosing a few trusted gurus, learn everything they have to teach you and ignore the rest of the noise. You’ll get a lot farther, a lot faster than if you try to learn everything from everyone.

My hope is that these six powerful tools for marketing your small business will help you grab market share and grow relationships. With the help of these tools, you really can do your own marketing.

Did I leave your favorite tool off the list? I look forward to seeing your suggestions in the comments section!

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Author Details
Alice Jackson is a blogger and Digital Marketing Consultant at a crowdsourcing company, Designhill. She is a social media enthusiast, online market analyst, amateur designer and an avid author. She has written on several topics including social media marketing, content marketing, designing trends, startup strategies, and e-commerce. When not writing, she loves spending her time reading romantic novels.
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Alice Jackson is a blogger and Digital Marketing Consultant at a crowdsourcing company, Designhill. She is a social media enthusiast, online market analyst, amateur designer and an avid author. She has written on several topics including social media marketing, content marketing, designing trends, startup strategies, and e-commerce. When not writing, she loves spending her time reading romantic novels.

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