Marketing strategy is only half the game. Once you know what you should do, there is still the little matter of execution.
There are literally millions of digital marketing tools out there. Some are free, some are paid. Some are good, some not so great. Some cater to big enterprises with an on-staff marketing team; others are more for small businesses where the resident marketer might also be the owner.
I find long lists overwhelming, so I broke it down to just five online tools I use regularly to develop my clients’ projects. They are all free and easy for non-marketers to use.
I recommend the Hemingway Editor to everybody who creates written content. Use it to quality check your ads, blog posts, even social media posts. I use it myself on an almost daily basis (I even ran this blog post through it before posting).
Copy and paste your text and Hemingway analyzes your word choice and sentence structure. It tells you if you’ve used more adverbs or passive language than best practices recommend and warns you if your sentences are hard to read.
Make your words easy to read, understand, and carry around. Unless you are writing for academics, write for a reading level of seventh grade or lower.
Perhaps most importantly, Hemingway estimates the reading level of your writing. Americans typically find text easiest to read and digest when it is at a sixth-grade level. Depending on your audience, you might be able to push that as high as eighth grade. But any higher and reading your text starts to feel like work.
That is not what you want – especially if you are trying to engage top-of-the-funnel prospects. You want your words to be easy to read, understand, and carry around with them. Unless you are writing for academics, write for a reading level of seventh grade or lower.
Hemingway is free and does not require a login.
Canva is a super-easy digital design platform. If the thought of designing graphics makes you break out in hives – or if you’ve ever designed an ad in PowerPoint – you should give Canva a try.
The simple drag-and-drop editor includes hundreds of templates you can customize. Canva has a selection of free fonts, photos, and clipart graphics to use. You can also upload your own photo and graphic files.
Basic access is free, but premium users have access to thousands more fonts and images. Premium members can also create a brand kit, which saves logos, colors, and other branding elements so keeping graphics consistent is a breeze.
Canva is available for free with a login. Access to premium features costs $12.95 per month.
The Coschedule Headline Analyzer
Coschedule is work management software for marketers. It has a variety of nifty features, like blog calendars and social media organizers.
It also has one of my favorite free tools, the Headline Analyzer (now available as a browser extension). On average, 80 percent of people read headlines, but only 20 percent go on to read the rest of your post. So if your headline isn’t engaging, you’re dead in the water.
Your first headline idea is rarely your best one. Think up at least 25 different headlines for every post or ad you write. If you really want to stretch your creative muscles, aim for 50.
A great headline is equal parts art and science. The Headline Analyzer won’t be a cure-all, but it can tell the difference between a grabby headline and a weak one. And both the tool and the browser extension are free.
HubSpot’s best tools are reserved for paid users, but a small business can get plenty of functionality out of it for free.
The Make My Persona tool is a fun exercise to help you get a crystal-clear idea of who your target customer is. Then when you create content, you will have that person in mind (Would he say that? Would she like this?). And when you distribute your content, you can focus on the channels where that person hangs out.
Get a crystal-clear idea of who your target customer is. Create content thinking of how that person talks and what they like. Distribute it in the places that person hangs out.
Other free tools include a CRM database that is surprisingly robust, email tools, sales funnels, chatbots, customer service systems and more. When you outgrow HubSpot’s free plan, it’s easy to upgrade without the headache of migrating all your data to a new provider.
Bonus: In my experience, HubSpot’s customer success team is just as courteous and helpful when onboarding a free user as a paid one.
HubSpot is available for free. Paid plans start at an affordable $45 a month.
SpyFu is a comprehensive tool for search engine optimization. Enter a URL and SpyFu will break down the keywords that site ranks for and opportunities it might be missing. You can also conduct research on pay-per-click keywords, backlinks, and top pages.
The ability to look at this data for any site helps you to analyze what your competitors are doing. You can reverse engineer the process and boost your own search engine rankings.
Like HubSpot, the free tool is surprisingly robust. But if you are looking for even more insight, paid plans start at $33 a month.