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10 free digital marketing tools

Making life easier for small businesses

As a small business your marketing is likely focus on various activities including; research, planning, design, implementing campaigns and measurement.

Here are some useful free digital marketing tools that can help you to save a bit of time and money along the way.

Research tools

  1. Google Trends – helps you to see what people are searching for and where they are located.
  2. AdWords Keyword Planner – helps you to see what search terms related to your services/products are highly searched and the competition for these terms.

Planning & management tools

  1. Slickplan – struggling to plan your new website? Here’s a drag and drop tool to create an interactive sitemap. Free for up to one site.
  2. Every company needs a CRM system. The good news for small businesses is, when you are starting out you can get the basic solutions from top providers for free, including HubSpot, Insightly and ZoHo CRM (ZoHo offers free support). Although once you get to a certain size and need more users and features you will have to pay.

Design tools

  1. Canva – helping you to design fabulous graphics, flyers, info-graphics, presentations, CVs and more… only drag and drop knowledge required!
  2. WordPress – one of the world’s best website content management systems (CMS) and it’s free… with a little time and studying there is unlimited scope and possibilities for small business websites, ecommerce sites, blogs and more.

Campaign tools

  1. MailChimp – free email marketing system for up to 2000 email addresses (sending up to 12,000 emails)… so what are you waiting for? There’s no cost barrier to getting started on your email marketing campaigns.
  2. Hootsuite – for posting and reviewing social media updates across all the main social networks. You can manage 3 social media accouts for free.

Measurement tools

  1. Google Analytics – want to know how your website is performing and help it to perform better? There’s no better free tool out there.
  2. Quill Engage – for an automated hand written report of your Google Analytics data, emailed to you each week. The time and money this will save you on reporting could be huge.

Hope this was useful. Please share your favourite free digital marketing tools that help you to save time and money.

 

Cartoon with a lady saying 'omg does this customer actually expect me to assist her?'

why customer service could be your greatest marketing weapon

Honest, polite and personalised customer service is one of the most important marketing tools you have at your disposal. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and the return can be great.

So here’s what led me to thinking about customer service today…

I have just spent the last four days trying to sort out a mobile phone contract with one of the UK’s leading providers. I have spoken to seven different people and have had to send emails to two different addresses. When finally the problem with my account was rectified, along with a thin apology email, I was no longer able to take up the deal I was initially offered. I am now buying a mobile phone and taking out a SIM only contract because I cannot face another second on the phone with this organisation.

What shocks me about these technology businesses is the lack of an integrated internal system that enables departments to communicate with each other. As a result customers have to tell their story over and over again to different staff members, until they find someone that can help. Although an exasperating experience, I did feel that the staff I spoke to genuinely wanted to help but they did not have the tools to empower them to do so, which was frustrating for both parties.

Where large businesses can often fail because of their size, small businesses have the advantage of being able to offer exceptional customer service much more easily. As a small business you can respond more quickly to the customers’ needs and offer a more personalised experience.

So spend a little time and effort on implementing the list below and customer service could be your greatest marketing weapon, giving you the edge over your competitors.

  • A quick response
  • Establish correctly what the customer wants and why
  • Personalise the service – follow up on what you say you’re going to do and keep in touch with regular updates to build your relationship
  • Try to exceed expectations, for example if you have said you will be in touch within 48 hours, try to answer more quickly
  • Think about ways you can offer additional value to the customer but with little extra cost to you
  • Get to know your customers’ names, interests and preferences; ask them how they are getting on with your product or service
  • Remember to monitor your customer service, if you don’t track it you can’t see where you need to improve (consider a good CRM system)
  • As a small business you have the flexibility to go the extra mile to make a customer feel valued, which large businesses (like mobile phone operators!) don’t
  • Give your customer a named contact if they have any queries
  • Reward your valued customers with a discount or a perhaps a meal out
  • When a customer complains, don’t panic, listen, go away and research, get back to them promptly with what you are doing to sort it out, then sort it out! Complaining customers can become your most loyal customers if handled correctly.

Hope these tips have been useful. It’d be good to hear your customer service experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly!

croissant, chocolate and coffee

about me

I want to live in a world where there’s time for a workout, always a coffee & a chocolate croissant on offer and laughing ‘til your belly hurts is a daily occurrence.

As a marketing manager with over 17 years experience, I’ve been honoured with an Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Young Communicator of the Year Award and nominated for a Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) Subscriptions Marketing Award whilst working at BBC Magazines. I achieved a distinction in my PPA Certificate in Direct Marketing, jointly run by the PPA and Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) and have been awarded the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Post Graduate Diploma.

When I’m not helping small businesses to fulfill their dreams using sensible marketing techniques, you can find me looking after my small children, doing BODYBALANCE, running or unashamedly watching the latest in reality TV.

If you’d like to read more about my marketing career and experience then please visit my LinkedIn profile

Learn how to achieve success through sensible marketing by reading my sensible maketing blog.

green bin on gravel

how to design a small business marketing flyer that won’t end up in the bin

Whether you’re a small business in Bristol or Bath offering a service such as cleaning or beauty therapy or you are selling a product such as baby clothing or cosmetics, creating and distributing a small business marketing flyer is one of the most cost effective ways of attracting new customers. In other words a well targeted flyer is likely to get the most return on your marketing spend.

What tools do you need to design your small business marketing flyer?

It’s also pretty easy to design a small business marketing flyer yourself if you have the time and inclination or if not, there are plenty of people willing to design one for you at a reasonable cost.

If you choose to design one yourself, you will need Photoshop and there are plenty of web tutorials and YouTube videos out there giving you tips on how to use it. You don’t even need to start from scratch – you can download fully editable Photoshop flyer templates and customise to suit your needs.

Alternatively, companies such as Vistaprint offer predesigned templates that you can add your own copy and images to before sending to print.

If you’d prefer to get someone else to do it, a couple of options that won’t break the bank are, approaching local graphic design courses in Bristol or Bath to see if there are any students interested in developing their portfolios with real-life examples; or, People Per Hour showcase a wide selection of freelancers offering flyers with unlimited amendments from around £25 – do check out the designer’s portfolio and references though.

12 tips to follow when writing the design brief for your small business marketing flyer

Whether you choose to design it yourself or write a brief for somebody else to design it, the following points will help you to get the most from your flyer.

  1. Use colours and fonts that are consistent with other promotional efforts to help develop a visual brand identity.
  2. Only use high quality photography and images. If commissioning a photographer or graphic artist to create something unique is out of reach, then there is plenty of stock imagery on the web.
  3. Find images to support your message, an image is 1000 words as they say. Use the strongest image in the top half of your flyer. Stock images are available through sites such as iStock but the subscriptions are not usually cost effective for a small business who only produces a limited number of marketing promotions a year. A couple of free alternatives are stockfreeimages.com and morguefile.com.
  4. Don’t use too many different colours, images and fonts as it could end up confusing the customer– usually one strong image and one or two fonts styles work the best.
  5. If you must use lots of images try to group them together.
  6. Keep the messages simple – stick to one or two key messages in your flyer – don’t try to tell the customer about everything you do in one go.
  7. Include a customer testimonial or two.
  8. Know your audience – plan your flyer with your target customer in mind and address their needs in your copy. Segment your list and only deliver to people that you know will be most likely to take up your offer. If you’re a bit hazy on who these potential customers are then have a read of  my recent post CRM for small businesses.
  9. Don’t try to be funny, it may come across as cheesy, aim to be professional.
  10. Tell your customers to do something – this is called a call to action. If this is asking the customer to contact you then make it as easy as possible for the customer to do so.
  11. Make the call to action bigger than the rest of the text on the flyer and if you want customers to come to a specific location then give clear directions and include a map if you can. Try to think how you can incentivise the call to action and add a deadline to create urgency e.g. call us today on 1234567 and quote ‘newcustomer’ for a 10% discount – offer ends 20/01/2015
  12. If you have the budget then try to put your promotional flyer on a paper stock that’s going to impress. The more high-end your target customer the more quality you want to convey. Avoid photocopies and black and white printing (that is not by design), it won’t look professional.

If you’re a small business in Bristol or Bath and you’d like a helping hand with any aspects of your marketing, then please get in touch with me at sensible marketing for small businesses today.

Here’s some flyers I like. Seen anything you love? Then do share.

1. Flyer promoting a photography event

photofair-flyer-and-map

Clearly laid out flyer with all essential event details, location map and contact information easy to find. Not trying to be clever, does what it says on the tin. Like it.

2. Flyer encouraging people to wash their hands

washhands

This flyer conveys its message with one powerful image, illustrating how one carefully selected image can have more impact than cramming the flyer with lots of content. Although I know that as a small business you are unlikely to have the budget to pay a graphic designer to come up with something unique, I wanted to share it anyway –  to inspire!

3. Flyer promoting subscriptions to Hello magazine

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