As you probably know we deliver digital marketing training to a wide range of organisations. And on our courses we discuss the myriad of platforms that companies are using to acquire new customers, retain existing ones and convert both. The wonderful thing about digital marketing is that there are so many tools, many of which are free, and can give small and medium size businesses a competitive edge. So, what I want to do is go through some of the tools which smaller organisations, and I’m damn sure even larger ones, will find of use and which can, I believe, be relatively easily implemented.
Rewind back to March of last year and we, as marketing Tom, were delivering courses from our Cardiff and London venues. Fast forward to today and EVERY course that we deliver is done through Zoom (and Teams and WebEx). This was a massive sea change in the way that we did business but it was something that we had dabbled with in the previous year. I think we saw that this was coming but not this soon! Online ‘live’classes allow us to reach a bigger audience than before and give us more options in terms of accommodating our clients. We don’t just use Zoom for courses but we also use it for meetings, reviews, consultancy, mentoring and, obviously, coffee mornings.
For SMEs this platform offers a huge opportunity to connect with customers both nationally and internationally and in many different ways. Aside from the above, companies can use it to host product launches, webinars, fun events, collaboration and much more. The business account costs from around £11 per month but if you dont want to pay this you can even get a free version which gives you access to zoom for up to 40 minutes. Also, why not check out this handy guide on How to Set up Zoom for meetings?
2. Google Search Console
Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a must-have tool for Digital Marketers. Aside from allowing you to upload your site map (more to folllow) it allows you to check the performance of your search queries (Google analytics is hardly worth looking at for this purpose), identify potential new keywords (which are being used by your customers) to use in your SEO and social media activities and find your search position. If you are using Google Analytics, you simply need to add your domain and verify.
In Search Console you have a couple of options for indexing your content. The first one obvious one is through a site map; the second is through manually adding the URLs of the pages that you would like indexed. Both of these (especially the second) are better options than waiting around for Google to index your website. Other things search console can do are indicate the frequency of indexing of your site and identifying potential errors.
Not bad for a Free tool!
3. Google My Business
Seen those business listing on the right-hand side of Google? Did you know that as a Business Owner you control them? Well, if you didn’t you either need to verify the listing is yours or, if there is no listing, set up a listing from Google. To claim/verify that the business is yours, you need to fill out the details and Google will send a postcard (yes a postcard!) to your business address. You must then add the verification code to your Google business listing and you’re ready to go.
So what can you do with Google business? First thing you can do is verify and add important business information: address, telephone number, opening hours, product categories, etc. Another thing to do is ensure that your customers leave reviews about your products and services (highly visible to those searching for your site). Did you know that you are also able to add posts (like you would on social media) to flag up events and products, too?
Visit Google My Business.
I started using Canva around 4 or 5 years ago and I must admit I haven’t stopped using it since. Canva, according to Wikipedia, “is a graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content.” I use it for many of those and a lot more. Most of my social media posts start off within Canva and I often use it for doing the headers of my website and Eventbrite, for email marketing and have even been known to do the odd gift voucher and once, can you believe it, I even used it for creating a birthday card! For small businesses who don’t have the luxury of a graphics designer, or who can’t afford to outsource to graphic design company, Canva is a fantastic and relatively cheap option.
We all know that good imagery is so important in digital marketing and sometimes, due to either not having the right skills for photography or the right sort of ‘context’, you may need to complement/supplement your digital media content with stock photography. On our courses we tell people that because an image is on the web, you probably shouldn’t use it unless you know explicitly that you can. For this reason one of my go-to Stock photography websites is Unsplash. It has a massive Image bank (over 2 million of them) and you can find images for most of your needs and, importantly, they are free to use under the Unsplash license. But don’t forget to resize those MONSTER images before publishing to your website (social media posts are not a problem).
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6. Get Response
I think that every company, large or small, needs an email marketing app and, in my case, my preferred option is Get Response. Why do I use Get Response? It’s quite simple – I like the interface, its simplicity, its functionality and the way that it integrates with some of the platforms. It offers you the ability to create campaigns, manage lists, create surveys, set up auto responders and marketing automation and a whole lot more. It also seemed to rank well on we reviews. I love the way it integrates with Gravity Forms (see below) and uses Gravity Forms’ logic to add people to my email marketing list. Cool, eh?
Visit Get Response.
I’m not going labour on this one as many of you are aware of or quite probably use WordPress. WordPress is the go to application of choice for businesses around the world. You have two options with WordPress you can either go for their hosted version which is free and great for many people’s needs but very often requires you to pay for some of the more premium elements (domain name for example); the second option is where you host it yourself. This latter option gives you the choice of unlimited themes and unlimited plug-ins and also allows you to connect your Google Analytics and other important apps – Get Response, Divi and Gravity Forms are but three examples.
WordPress lets you build a website/blog, add pages and posts about your products/services and your business and gives you visibility on the search engines. If you’re a small business and looking to save some money on web design, you can do a lot worse than cutting your teeth on WordPress and saving yourself a bundle. Another option which may be worth taking a look at is Strikingly.
When you use WordPress you can either design your website using the standard tools within WordPress or, as I have done, you can use a third-party tool that helps you layout of your site in a particular way. This website is built using the Divi plug-in which lets me design the look and feel of the site – either from scratch or using one of their hundreds of page templates. It works on the basic principle of blocks. Just to give you an example this page is constructed using sections which contain rows and these, in turn, contain elements (like images, text, video, calls to action and much more). It’s great that you can reuse page templates and add sections or rows, that you like, into its library. One thing I would say is that you need a lot of time to get used to creating pages within Divi.
9. Gravity Forms
Going back a few months ago I was looking for a solution to the contact/booking forms that were on my website. I have been using pretty straightforward WordPress plug-ins for some years but needed something which would give me 1. more functionality, 2. better styling options and 3. the ability to integrate with Stripe, Get Response and other 3rd party apps. And, having checked out the various options, it seemed that Gravity Forms would do this. I must admit that I have also purchased a Gravity “styling” app for Divi which will, over time, produce better looking contact, email and booking forms within the Divi interface.
Visit Gravity Forms.
10. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the go-to analytics application for SMEs across the globe. Simply speaking you add your Google Analytics code onto your website and, once done, GA will report on visitors to your website, where they came from, what they looked at and whether they converted (bookings, email signups and contact forms). If you’re not using it, then much of what you are doing in terms of digital marketing is guessing whether the digital marketing tools that you’re using and the customers that you’re targeting are achieving what you expect them to on your website. It helps you better understand your customers, what digital marketing tools work, how your website/web pages are working and whether you’re converting. Simply put if you’re not using analytics, you’re missing a trick.
Visit Google Analytics.
11. Content Cal
Over the years I’ve used a number of different applications to update social media posts – across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. These applications have included (but were not limited to) HootSuite, Buffer and TweetDeck. However, I had heard about Content Cal and decided to sign up for one of their demos. Once they had gone through the functionality of this application I decided to sign up for a year and, I must say, I found it a great application.
It has a lot of functionality but I must admit that I use it primarily to ‘clip’ articles to the content hub (through the chrome extension), add my own created content to the content hub and then to schedule content across the 3 social media channels I primarily use. It’s ideal in that you can visualise the content that you will be posting, in the form of the diary, and work out whether there are any conflicts or not. But there’s a lot more to it that I have just scratched on here.
Visit Content Cal.