10 Digital Marketing Tools Every Small Business Needs in 2017

10 Affordable (And Free) Marketing Tools Every SMB Needs in 2017

CRM & Sales Management, Content Generation, E-Commerce, Lead Building, Marketing Automation & Project Management Solutions for Small & Growing Businesses

As a digital marketing strategist and e-commerce specialist, I’ve personally spent many hours researching and testing the most up-to-date practices, service providers, and solutions to support the day-to-day needs and growth of my core clientele — entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, SBOs (Small Business Owners)  & SMBs (Small & Mid-sized Businesses). From content creation and engagement to email list building/marketing and lead generation tips to marketing automation and productivity, the amount of information can be quite extensive, overwhelming, and time-consuming to learn, plan and then take action. With this blog post, I’ve compiled a brief list of some of the tools and web-based services I’ve been trying out to help manage inbound-driven marketing projects more efficiently for my clients.

Many SBOs/SMBs I encounter are challenged with the energy and time required to learn the skills necessary to adopt these tools, but I have found some are finally starting to realize the effect a rapidly-changing environment is having on their business. Of course, I am more than happy to provide advice and my experience and insight to help develop a solid game plan for their marketing and “web presence” efforts. These ten (10) cloud-based solutions and digital marketing tools are both affordable (even on a limited small business budget) and readily available to put into action immediately, some even within a single day after sign up.

1.) All-In-One: CRM + Email & Marketing Automation + Sales Funneling

Looking for an affordable, full-featured marketing/sales funneling app that can grow with your business needs?

  • ActiveCampaign
    • Billing is month-to-month and the rate is dependent on # of contacts imported for active campaigns.
    • Example: ActiveCampaign Lite Edition — Starts at $9/month, 500 contacts
      • Unlimited sending
      • Email Marketing
      • Send Newsletters
      • Marketing Automation
      • Sales Funneling
      • Upgrade at any time to the next package for more contacts and features.

2.) CRM (Contact Relationship Management) for Small Business Marketing

For small to mid-sized businesses looking to capture qualified, quality leads and build long-term relationships with their customers, CRM offers an efficient, cost-effective method for supporting multi-channel marketing efforts (e.g. email, search engines, social media). Software companies such as Apptivo and more recently Hubspot’s “free” CRM solutions offer web-based access (also known as Software-as-a-Service — SaaS) with single or even multiple user access for real-time collaboration to improve productivity and workflow.

  • Apptivo CRM & Billing (Starter version) — Apptivo offers an Internet-based application (now also available as an Android and iPhone mobile app) combining contact management, employee management, project management, sales, and supply chain activity, and invoice management into a single, reliable, robust system for small to mid-sized businesses.
    • Starter version is FREE and covers 3 users with access to 40+ “apps” accessible in the Apptivo system
  • Hubspot CRM (free version) — As a provider of inbound marketing and automation software (typically priced beyond the small business budget), this “free-to-the-public” version enables SBOs/SMBs to connect with existing and prospecting customers anywhere the modern sales process takes place – emails, landing pages, inbound/outbound phone calls, across social media, and more to establish long-term relationships and lifetime customer value.
    • Note: I recently signed up for this new free version and will be reviewing and testing in a separate blog post coming soon.
  • Insightly CRM (free version) — Based on Google Apps, Insightly is an affordable, cloud-based, flexible solution for small to mid-sized business. From CRM (Contact/Customer Relationship Management), project management, assigning and managing tasks to events scheduling, email notifications, file sharing & storage (DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive) and social media integration, Insightly offers just about anything a budget-minded SBO/SMB would need, without staffing an IT person for set-up and support.

3.) Content Generation Apps & Service Providers

  • HootSuite (Pro version) —
    • Suggested post ideas matched by keyword and topic. Read more below under the section Social Media Management & Marketing Tools.
  • Paper.Li — Paper.Li (pay-per-lee) is a content curation service that was actually suggested by a client of mine. With Paper.Li, I can source important “socially shared” content and incorporate the feed online in my social media accounts and WordPress-driven website.
    • Paper.Li is free (with limited features and integration options), easy to use, and has powerful tools that save time by surfacing content (blogs, articles, sites, video, images) and people who are interested in the same topics that you are.
    • See my online newspaper here — http://paper.li/f-1415219985
    • Follow me at @mpowerwebsolutions on Facebook for more curated and original posts on business productivity, digital & inbound marketing, SEM & SEO, and WordPress web design.

4.) E-Commerce Apps & Service Providers

  • Shopify Cart (Lite version)
    • For businesses only needing to integrate a secure shopping cart on an existing website (HTML, WordPress CMS, other).
      • $9/month
  • Shopify POS
    • Sell your products online AND in person with the Shopify POS app
  • Shopify Online Storefront
    • Full-featured online store with the ability to control your products, inventory, marketing, order processing, fulfillment & tracking.
      • Starting at $24/month

5.) Email Capture & Lead Generation for List Building

  • Shortstack — In a matter of minutes, and little to no design or programming knowledge, you can set up compelling, customizable, engaging “landing pages” with “call-to-action” tools for your email list-building efforts. Instapage offers numerous customizable templates to fit your branding and unique marketing message. Elements and options include:
    • Download button/link to a digital document – Useful for “gated” content like whitepapers or webinars.
    • Email forms (see screenshot sample) – Sends data by email or integrates with popular email marketing services like Aweber, Constant Contact, or MailChimp.
    • Social Media share buttons – Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube (for videos)

6.) Project & Task Management

  • Wrike (free version) — Wrike is a cloud-based app accessible on both a desktop/laptop and mobile app for managing individual tasks and workflow. I currently use Wrike and appreciate the ability to assign and revise my/my client’s responsibilities/tasks even when I’m away from my laptop. Wrike has a clean, easy to use dashboard to help follow up on important and time-sensitive assignments, and even works with DropBox or Google Drive to connect to various assets in my backed up project folders.

7.) Social Media Management & Marketing Tools

  • Facebook Ads + Power Editor — If you’ve spent enough time browsing or posting to a Facebook for Business page, Facebook’s paid ad platform (AKA: sponsored ads) provides access to customizable audiences for a more targeted approach to generating awareness and call-to-action for your brand/products/services. Even SBOs with a minimal marketing budget have the chance of producing quality content and reaching their desired customers at the local or national level.
  • HootSuite (Pro version) — With the paid version of HootSuite ($15/mo), I can connect my most important social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and broadcast any marketing message simultaneously to my followers. Features such as advanced scheduling and suggested content also allows me to distribute relevant postings at the optimal time for maximum exposure and engagement.
  • Instagram Ads — Since Facebook owns Instagram, ads for Facebook and Instagram can be developed and maintained on your Facebook for Business profile through the Facebook Ads Manager/Power Editor.
  • Twitter Ads + Twitter Cards — Twitter Cards are an awesome enhancement to liven up your Twitter postings beyond text and hashtags. Add images, videos, and a unique Call-to-Action to increase post engagement and drive customers to your website.
    • Lead Generation with Twitter Cards (for Twitter Ads)
    • Integration with email marketing providers such as Constant Contact and MailChimp can help with list building efforts. The email is extracted from the Twitter user’s account profile when the button is clicked.

8.) Video Development, Editing & Streaming Media Management

Having a few videos on your business social media profiles and website has become an important component to help generate awareness, engagement, interest, and call-to-action for just about any brand/product/service. Video development and editing skills also shouldn’t require a “Hollywood” budget or an extensive background in video production.

  • Video Development & Editing – Filmora by Wondershare (est. $70) – If you’re using video as part of your content marketing strategy, you’re already ahead of the game.
    • Animated intros, background audio, lower thirds, text, and transitions.
    • Publish videos to use on Facebook, HTML5, Instagram, Vimeo, or YouTube.
    • Works with audio/video elements from third-party sources such as AudioBlocks, StoryBlocks, VideoBlocks, and Viddyoze.


9.) Website Design & Content Management Systems (CMS)

  • WordPress CMS — Mpower Web Solutions uses WordPress almost exclusively (outside of e-commerce stores) to develop, design and maintain our clients’ websites, or train a staff member to manage their own content marketing efforts.

10.) Website Domain, Email & Hosting Service Providers

  • Website domains and hosting-related services are available through numerous providers these days. Mpower Web Solutions works with top providers for domain registration, security certificates (SSL) and website hosting.
    • 1 & 1, BlueHost, GoDaddy Pro*, Network Solutions, SiteGround, TDM
      • *Mpower Web Solutions is a GoDaddy Pro member.

With these accessible, affordable (some even free) resources and tips I’ve listed above, any cash-strapped, time-starved small business owner can take advantage of available technologies and tools to get their marketing back on track. Be RESPONSIVE, not REACTIVE and let Mpower Web Solutions help put your business on the right path.

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Chad Heintz

Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Specialist | WordPress Web Designer & Webmaster at Mpower Web Solutions
Mpower Web Solutions was developed from a driving need to empower small and growing businesses through a full-service marketing approach and around a simple mission statement: To deliver value-driven digital marketing services and e-commerce solutions to a diverse clientele with professionalism and integrity. Connect with Chad for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your current "pain points" and goals to grow your business.
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