• Stephanie Wilson

Seven FREE (and almost free) Marketing Tools that will be your "friend" in 2020

Believe it or not, almost any small business (or larger one) could have a marketing plan that costs only a few dollars a month. 

Specializing in marketing small businesses on a tight budget has been a life mission for me, from barter and co-op programs to the least expensive way to get something done, there is always a way to get value for your ROI.  Today, as businesses slowly get back online, the Business Collaborative, offering complimentary services in Lexington and surrounding towns, can help with your business recovery plan. 

Let’s start with a simple marketing program, one that is free and not too demanding of your time either.  The trick is to commit to it, figure out who your ideal customer is, and ensure all of your actions are designed to find them.  Here are a few easy-to-use DIY tools.  If you don’t have the time to incorporate them all, pick just one.  I promise you will find it quite helpful.

Email Marketing with Constant Contact:  (Or any other email platform such as Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor)  Having used most of the email marketing tools out there, I must say I don’t have a very strong opinion on this.  If you are comfortable with something other than Constant Contact, then use it.  It’s recommended here because (1) they are based in Waltham, so (2) you sometimes will be invited to focus groups and can shape upcoming products and services, and (3) they regularly have seminar training (now virtual) and given their location tend to have many accessible to Lexington.  Gather email addresses from your customers, on Facebook (yes, this is possible), and anywhere else you can.  Starts at $20 a month

Surveys with Survey Monkey:  It’s really important to conduct surveys as part of any marketing program.  The data you collect will be quite useful in spending your time and money wisely.  Generally, companies survey their customers to ask about anything and everything, from preferred frequency of emails to thoughts about a possible new product or service.  But surveys are not limited to customers.  Survey your staff about upcoming policies or needs they may have.  Survey your closest friends and professional colleagues to get anonymous feedback.  There are some tricks to writing a good survey that will give you useful data, which we will cover in an upcoming article.  In the meantime, ask us!  FREE if your surveys are 10 questions to 40-100 people.

Social media with Facebook Groups:  Social media, in itself, is a critical part of an inexpensive marketing plan.  The best way to leverage this community is through relevant Facebook groups.  Plan to join just two – one for your industry (I found groups for dry cleaners, hair dressers and more) and one for your community (your town, or a bordering town, for residents or parents).  You can comment on posts as a local expert “how do you get a stain out of xyz” or “what hair product do you recommend for xyz” and you can post upcoming changes in your hours or special offers.  The more active you are, the more you will be seen as the “local expert.”  Just make sure you don’t hard sell.  Answer the questions, provide good information, and the rest will come.  FREE

Web sites with Wix:  If you like making your own photo books on Snapfish or Shutterfly, you are half way there to being able to build your own web site.  Of course this works only if the site is meant to be a virtual brochure or postcard.  If you expect to have widgets, process transactions, publish a blog regularly, or want your site to be optimized, you might need help with that.  When the time comes, we could point you in the right direction.  In the meantime, basic costs are about $15/month if you do it yourself.

Linked In:  Email marketing, Facebook and a web site all help you actually sell your product or service, and surveys help you gather useful information to make informed decisions on how to do that.  Being on Linked In is recommended because it is a good platform to be exposed to your industry.  In your feed you will find great articles, webinars and educational opportunities that might be a good fit for you, and most of them are free.  FREE

Customer Relationship Management tools are an ideal way to get organized about who your customers are, have information on them and what they buy, and create a process to acquire more customers.  My experience has been with travel companies and chamber of commerce, so to reach a broader audience, I selected this article.  If you do not have data on your customers, you should.  It’s the foundation of any marketing plan or sales initiative, and just good business.

Partnerships:  Executed correctly, partnership marketing is the least expensive way to find incremental business and have fun at the same time.  Sit down, or take a long drive.  Think about businesses in which a partnership would work.  How about a product or service needed just before or after yours?  Or one that compliments it?  Make a list of at least 10 possibilities, prioritize it, and make plans to talk to the first three this week.  Even if you don’t partner, I would be surprised if you didn’t come away from that conversation with some good ideas.

If you want some help writing an outline to use and integrate these free tools, we are here to help.  We can even write it for you!  Remember, services are complimentary. 

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