For small business owners who are new to marketing, it can be daunting to envision all there is to it. You don't need to take it all in at once. Just take your time testing out different strategies and tools and see what works best for you. It does take research, an understanding of your goals and patience to go through trial-and-error until you find that perfect marketing mix to match your unique brand.
When I first started working in marketing, there weren't many affordable tools to help marketers with their daily tasks. If you weren't with an agency or corporation, as a small business or a start-up you'd have a hard time keeping track of everything there was to strategize, implement and manage on a daily basis. You had to work harder just to keep track of all the data, campaign progress, social media accounts, not to mention the hurdles of project management, content creation and syndication, email marketing... oh boy, the list could go on forever.
Nowadays you have a huge number of digital, very affordable resources, apps and tools (some even free) that allow you to work smarter and easier. There's an app for everything, built specifically to make your life easier and to empower you to develop, launch and optimize your online brand. The best part is that you can use many of these tools even if you're new to all this online business thing.
Hopefully, this post will help you identify some tools to help you optimize your marketing efforts. Below, I'm sharing all the apps and tools I'm using on a monthly basis for my marketing needs. For some I will provide alternatives, but if you have a favorite, I'd love to hear from you in the comments at the end of this post.
I'm sharing all the marketing apps & platforms I use each month
TOOLS FOR WEBSITE DESIGN
Over the years I have worked with all kinds of website platforms: from the beginner-friendly Wordpress to the professional Magento and in-house eCommerce solutions created by specialized web design agencies. While every one of those platforms had their ups and downs, one thing always remained true: the shop owner had limited customization solutions.
Most often a shop owner would be dependent on the developer to create new pages, new product collections, lookbooks, blogs, add opt-in forms or tweak website elements. Even something as simple as adding a social media button would require coding so that meant constantly forking out money for the tiniest tasks and wasting time doing project management with the developer. The worst part was seeing your precious website getting old fast and requiring new design updates, a mobile version or at least responsive design.
Personally, I have made a complete switch towards self-management, pre-built website platforms with pre-integrated features. Here are the 3 website design platforms that I have been using to build my own websites or work with on behalf of my clients. I am positive that these three platforms can give a small business or an entrepreneur a strong competitive edge. Of course, success is conditioned by having some education or inclination towards web design, marketing and in some cases, HTML code. But don't worry, it's nothing an ambitious, dedicated mind can't overcome.
I'm listing my favorite 3 such platforms. Keep in mind this is a personal opinion based on my own experience. Please feel free to give your 2 cents. A more in-depth review will be available in a couple of weeks.
This is by far my favorite website builder. Themes are easy to edit and customize, landing pages look very nice, you can create a new blog in two clicks, and integrate social platforms and a ton of new features without any hassle.
I recommend Squarespace for content marketing, DIY blogs, brick&mortar stores, fashion designers, bands and restaurants.
It's also a great platform for B2B, but you are going to have to put to work your web design skills to temper down the glamour of its themes.
Bonus: awesome customer support!
This platform is the go-to eCommerce solution for someone looking to launch an online shop ASAP.
Shopify integrates with numerous other services (think dropshipping & Amazon), has a pretty hassle-free order management system and countless apps developed to hyperboost your eCommerce shop.
There's one very neat thing about Shopify - the platforms comes with built in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features like customizable H1, title and meta tags and automatic generation ofsitemaps.xml files.
Bonus: awesome customer support!
Out of these 3, Wix is my least favorite. And the reason might not be what you'd imagine.
Themes are easy to install and customize and it comes with different pricing plans to accommodate your budget and goals.
However, the backend (that's where you do your magic) is unnecessary complicated and comes with way too many options. I believe this platform is a dream for web designers - it comes with numerous variants to any page element and it's so easy to get lost trying to select the best button shape, color and animations.
TOOLS FOR WEBSITE ANALYTICS
If you're not following on your analytics, then you've got a big problem. I know it can get boring and time consuming with the more platforms you're using to spread out your message. A monthly check-up should be the bare minimum to make sure you're keeping current with your website metrics, social media reach & engagement, conversions and so on. The good news is that if you're using the right apps you don't have to navigate between 4-5 platforms at a time (website, Facebook, Instagram, email marketing, Pinterest, Amazon etc).
This tool is a life changer. It has over 45 integrations giving you an opportunity to see all your analytics in one window. Yes, that means you don't have to switch from Facebook to Instagram, Mailchimp and Google Analytics in your browser. All you have to do is click twice in your Neatly dashboard and voila, all you need is right in front of you. Plus you can also create customized dashboards for your data (you could have a dashboard featuring analytics for your social media accounts or sales) and set up monthly goals like increase revenue or improve cost per acquisition.
APPS FOR REVIEWS
Reviews can make or break a brand. According to a Brightlocal.com report, 88% of people will read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Even better, there is data that suggests a customer will be more willing to increase their spend (up to 31%) on a business with 5 star reviews (via Webfeat.net). Bottom line, customer reviews are immensely important for your brand reputation and are directly connected to your revenue.
One of my go-to apps to set up request emails and manage reviews is Yotpo. It even features a handy feature that allows you to upload reviews from other sources than your website. The free version gets you basic features (think reviews management, website widgets, manual upload and email automations) whereas the premium allows you to create social content based on reviews from your actual clients. The best kind there is.
TOOLS FOR MARKETING AUTOMATION
Mailchimp is by far my favorite platform for email marketing. It provides a fast and easy way to communicate with your audience and entice them with your beautiful brand imagery and stories.
- You can customize templates, manually upload contacts to your subscribers' list and seamlessly integrate Mailchimp in your website, Shopify or even Facebook page.
- You can A/B test, create particular segments of clients, design your opt-in form, set abandoned cart emails, design welcome sequences or send product recommendations to your subscribers.
- You can use merge tags to personalize your messages with your subscribers' names.
- You can test and preview newsletters before you schedule or send them to your lists.
It's a good solution for small business who are just starting to build their email list.
Free for up to 2,000 subscribers | www.mailchimp.com
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING TOOLS
Content distribution across different social networks is time-consuming. The good news is that there are a bunch of tools that will help you save time and have fun sharing your content across networks. Not only that, but you'll finally be able to stick to your content calendar and true to your content strategy. The following are my top three social scheduling tools and at the bottom of this section you will find two alternatives.
You can add Facebook Fan page, Profile, Event, and Group; LinkedIn Profile and Company Page ; Twitter Profile; Google+ Business Pages; Pinterest Boards; Instagram Accounts
Free 7-day trial available.
Offers individual, multiple and bulk post scheduling from your desktop.
Schedules content without sending smartphone notifications ahead of publishing time.
Filters are available but I couldn't find one that would make my pics look amazing.
You can crop on ratio your images.
Allows up to 30 hashtags and comes with a hashtag search field.
You have a selection of emoji to add to your text.
Analytics provide metrics for Audience, Engagement, and Optimization.
Use the browser extension to be able to schedule from any website you visit to your Pinterest boards. Yes, you read that right. Scheduling posts on Pinterest is possible.
Free trial with no time limit: schedule up to 100 pins on Pinterest, and 30 posts on Instagram.
Free plan available for 3 social profiles, one user.
Free plan available for 1 social profile per platform and 10 scheduled posts per profile.