There’s an app or piece of software for just about everything these days and trying to wade through the cesspool of options is frustrating and overwhelming when you’ve got a thousand other things to do.
I often get asked what marketing tools and software I use in my business and what I recommend to my clients and friends. I have tried and tested so many I’ve lost count. Some have been an absolute saviour and some are a monumental waste of time and money. Some are free and some are paid, but for me, it needs to be simple to use, it has to improve the way we work, improve the outcomes of our work, and it absolutely must save time.
For this episode, I’d recommend you have a pen and paper handy, or for those of you like me, who only listen to podcasts when you’re driving, walking, cooking, ironing or waiting in the school pick up line, you’ll find a full list of all my favourite marketing tools here on the website.
So let’s go through my absolute favourite marketing tools for small businesses. These are the apps and software programs I use every week to help grow my and my client’s income and impact, save time and simplify marketing.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- Email marketing tools for small business
- Copywriting tools and software
- Social media marketing tools for small business
- Graphic design tools for small business
- Tools for safely and effectively working with consultants
- Small business systems
- Best video marketing tools
- Best website software for small business
My Favourite Marketing Tools for Small Business – Learn all of my most recommended software and apps
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Podcast Transcript: Best Marketing Tools
There’s an app or piece of software for just about everything these days, and marketing is no different. Trying to wade through the cesspool of options, however, is frustrating and overwhelming when you’ve got 25 million other things to do. So I thought I’d make it easier for you. Marketing tools that are around today make doing my job so much easier and more effective and chances are, they could help you too in your marketing and growing your business. I spent a lot of time researching and trialling what marketing software is the best for small businesses. For me, it needs to be simple to use, it has to improve the way we work, improve the outcomes of our work, and it absolutely must save time. Want to find out what these tools are? Stay tuned.
Welcome to the Simply Standout Marketing Podcast. I’m Nicci O’mara, your host. I’ve been working in marketing communications for 25 years and believe me, marketing has changed an awful lot in that time. I often get asked what marketing tools and software I recommend for my clients and what I use in my business. I’ve tried and tested so many I’ve lost count. Some have been an absolute saviour for my business and to help with growth. And some are a monumental waste of time and money and often see me probably pulling my hair out and hitting my head against the desk.
Some are free and some of them are paid. Now look, before I go any further, we need to talk about something that is often a big sticking point with small business owners and software. There’s plenty of free software out there, but often it will end up costing you more in time and lost functionality than the paid version. Why? Because time is money. However, when you’re weighing up whether you should get the free version or the paid version of any software, I want you first to work out how much an hour of your time is worth and how much extra time it will take you to use one programme over another.
There’s some software out there where the free version will be all you will ever need. For others, you’ll be able to use the free tool until you take the next step in your business and for others, you’re better off paying right from the start. I promise you, I’ll go through this in more detail as we talk about each different software programme that I use for email marketing, social media, websites, content creation, graphic design, video, and also staying organised and on track in your business.
For this episode, I’d recommend you have a pen and paper handy or for those of you who are anything like me and only listen to podcasts when you’re driving, walking, cooking or waiting in the school pick up line, you’ll find a full list of my favourite marketing tools for small businesses, including all the links on the website: simplystandoutmarketing.com
So let’s go through my favourite marketing tools for small businesses. These are the apps and the software programmes that I use every week to help me grow my business and help my clients actually grow their income and impact, save time, and simplify marketing.
Email marketing tools for small business
Let’s start off with email marketing. Now I know a lot of businesses actually start off with using the likes of MailChimp because it’s free. You can use it free until you’ve got about 2000 contacts, which is fantastic. If you have a hobby that you’re just sort of starting to do and you’re still working full time, it is fantastic. Or really, if you think you’re only ever going to have a few hundred people on your email list and that at the end of the day you’re only going to be sending them the odd email for something, Mailchimp is fine.
Now, if you are really serious about growing your business, you want to increase the number of customers that you’re attracting, you want to increase your sales, then I would actually start off with something along the lines of Active Campaign. Now I’ve tried quite a number of email marketing software. I’ve used MailChimp, Drip, Active Campaign and the list goes on. Active Campaign, I really do love and I’ve been using it for years. Most of my clients use Active Campaign, the reason being it’s easy to set up. It’s really easy to create campaigns and automation and also improve customer engagement as well. I don’t use it so much for the CRM functions, but it does have fantastic CRM functions in there for a lot of my businesses who are starting out especially small and emerging medium-sized businesses to get that automation so that people can say sign up or contact you on your website and it will automatically send an email that you’ve already written to people.
It will segment them. It can do so many incredible things and their support is fantastic, which is really important. And for me, I find with a few tips of, okay, this is how you should set it up, these are the Tags and how to do it. Once you’ve got that, which is very simple, you’re great to go basically. So anyone really can do it, which is what I love so much. So email marketing, I love Active Campaign. Use it every week, so it’s really good.
Copywriting tools and software
Now when it comes to writing, I do, of course, a lot of copywriting emails, websites, media releases. I tend to spend a lot of my time writing. The one thing I cannot do without, and it’s actually part of my computer now, is Grammarly. Making mistakes for anyone, especially for me, but also for any business, making spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes is just an absolute no-no. Grammarly you can just use the free version. It’s really, really good. Everything we write goes through Grammarly.
It checks spelling, grammar, punctuation. It even checks for things like clarity and engagement issues. I would say it’s essential for any business. You can put it as part of your Chrome website browser. You can attach it to that and everything you type when you’re on the internet will actually be checked as you go. Or you can actually just go on to Grammarly.com and cut and paste a document that you’ve just written and just check through. And honestly, it is a lifesaver because it’s amazing what you don’t pick up, even for me, just the small things. So Grammarly is a must.
Now if you are writing headlines, so if you’re writing blog posts in your business and even if you’re writing headings for videos or anything that has a headline, I love Headline Studio. Now Headline Studio is developed by I think it’s Co schedule. I used the free version for a very long time, but of course, I do check an awful lot of headlines. So you basically write a headline, type your headline in there and then it will come back and say this headline is fantastic for gaining attention. It’s really good for SEO or you need to fix this and this, you need to put some more of these types of emotional words or all that type of thing. So it is fantastic. Give it a try. You can just use the free version. If you don’t do it very often, just using the free version is probably the best way to go. I think I signed up for a year. It wasn’t a deal, but I think it was all of $90 or something along those lines and that was for basically ten a month. And what they mean by ten headlines a month is I would try one headline and I would have 20 different versions of it because that’s the best way to get a really good headline. Headline Studio is fantastic for those of you writing headlines for blog posts.
Now Keyword Finder. It’s actually called KW Finder. If you’re putting blog posts or you’re doing your writing for your website, keyword research is absolutely essential because KW Finder helps you know what people are searching, for the search terms. It helps you improve your SEO through keyword research and is really simple to use. So that’s another one for any of you writing for your website.
Social media marketing tools for small business
Now social media. A lot of you probably know some of these, but there are so many it’s just bombarding. I keep it really simple with social media. Facebook Business Suite is what we use for all of our Facebook and Instagram scheduling. If we were a design studio or a fashion boutique, okay, I wouldn’t be using the Facebook Business Studio for Instagram, but Facebook loves Facebook. So you are better off trying to actually schedule on a Facebook platform than you are doing it with any of the others.
So I’ve used a lot of the others. I think it’s Publer, Hootsuite. There’s so many, but Facebook Business Suite has got it all there. It’s got Facebook, Instagram and messenger all in one place, which does save you time. Now, if you have something along the lines of, say, you’re a retail fashion store, using Later for Instagram scheduling is fantastic because it’s a lot more visual. You can visually plan and analyse and publish your content from there. It also does have TikTok now, but I haven’t used it for TikTok yet, so I’m sure many of you probably have, but Later is really fantastic as well.
And Pinterest anyone if you use Pinterest, there’s an app called Tailwind. Now, Tailwind was an absolute game-changer. I used to use Pinterest a lot when working in the travel and tourism side of the sector. Now it automates the scheduling of your post. It creates beautiful pins. You can discover content results. Tailwind really, if you are doing any form of Pinterest scheduling, there are tribes so that you can get other people to pin your stuff. And yeah, I would definitely go for Tailwind there.
Graphic design tools for small business
Now when it comes to the design side of things, graphic design, we actually do things two ways. So we have a professional graphic designer and she is fantastic and we love her. Thanks, Michelle. We also use other graphic designers as well, but please, please, for things along the lines of logos, printed material, signage, your brand elements, all of those type of things, please use a professional graphic designer because honestly, they do such an amazing job. They’ll do it in about probably a quarter of the time that you will, but they’ve been studying. They’ve been doing this for so long, they know exactly what they’re doing and what works.
So professional graphic designer for a lot of things with graphic design. The other thing from a software point of view. We love Canva. So Canva is something that is used in this office every single day, literally. So Phoebe, who works for me, uses Canva now more than I do. I’d still be on there every week because I do love playing around with Canva. It’s incredibly easy to use. So you don’t have to be a graphic designer to be able to use the software. There’s a free version and there’s also a paid version.
I think it’s something like, say, in Australian dollars, it might be probably a dollar a day or something along those lines. It probably isn’t even that much. It’s fantastic. It’s got photos, graphics. You can do presentations, documents. We use it a lot for social media. So consider how many graphics images you would use in your social media? And we find that without having a full-time graphic artist on staff, we find that using Canva is just a simple and cost-effective way to go. And I know so many small businesses use it.
If you’re graphically designed challenge, a good thing to do would be to actually talk to a graphic designer first and get them to develop templates for you that you can just add things as you require. So you actually have that consistent branding. Okay. So that’s graphic design.
Tools for safely and effectively working with consultants
Now moving on, working with people outside of your business. So let’s talk about this, I come across this issue all of the time, I go into a business and go, okay, now to access your website, you need to make us a user. We need a password and a username and things like, okay, we need to access lots of different things. Your Google analytics. Often they won’t know how to actually create a new user and things like that. So we say, okay, share your password and your login details via, we use LastPass, which is a password manager. So that means that from our point of view, we can log into their website, email marketing, whatever it happens to be through a link, it’s all encrypted. You can share your encrypted passwords online.
We can’t see what the password is. We can’t see any of that. So it protects us. And it protects you because the amount of people who get ripped off, logged out of their accounts, we can’t change any of those things. So yeah. So please protect your passwords and your login details for everything that you’ve got. Now, also working with people outside your business. We use Google Drive a lot. So if you’re dealing with, say, a website developer or a copywriter, anything like that, Google Drive is fantastic because it’s a lot more cost-effective I find than Dropbox.
Dropbox is fantastic, but I can fill a Dropbox in seconds. And so Dropbox is the other one you can use. But you can also, I use Google Drive because I can access my files absolutely everywhere. The files that I have to share with people. So you store it in the cloud. I’ve got stuff in Icloud, but Google Drive, I don’t want to share my iCloud with clients and people who are suppliers and things. So Google Drive is fantastic and it allows you to access things from your smartphone, tablet and from your computer as well as anywhere in the world.
Small business systems
Okay. Moving on. Time management and office systems. I use a number of programmes, but these are my favourites. So the first is Toggle, which is free. It’s an online time tracking. So we use Toggle track, so there are different parts of the Toggle brand, but we use toggle track pretty well every day to track and report on the time we spend working on different projects for clients. Now you might be a product based organisation or don’t have clients that you would need to track things for.
One thing I would suggest for you is to actually use toggle track even if it’s just for a week or a month and time things along the lines of okay, how long does it take you to do your social media? How long does it take you to update your website or do your email marketing or reply to customer emails? All of those things that there’s a possibility that they either could be automated or even things along the lines of would my time be better off spent somewhere else and I paid someone to actually do this part of my job?
Toggle track is fantastic for that, and it doesn’t lie. I used to try and do it many years ago by just writing it down. But most of the time I’d forget what on Earth that I was even timing myself for something and you’d forget. Toggle track, I use it for free and it’s really simple. You can put in projects in there like social media or Facebook or just put in a tag and you just push, go, stop and go.
Now the other one, especially for service-based businesses, if you’re small, we use CalendarHero for meeting scheduling. So I was really sick and tired of wasting time going back and forth with emails to find a suitable time for video calls or in-person meetings. And Calendar Hero is very similar to calendarly. I swapped to CalendarHero because I actually got a really good deal. I think a lifetime deal on AppSumo. It’s basically a software, it’s a software shop for entrepreneurs and they have amazing, amazing deals. So if you love your software and looking for something at a really good price, App Sumo is fantastic. I do buy a lot of apps through there.
The CalendarHero actually automates your entire meeting workflow and the amount of time that saves me is fantastic. So I can send someone a link and in there it’s connected to my calendar. People can choose, with the settings that I’ve set, they can choose when to meet in the time that I’ve allowed and it will send them a link to a Zoom or to the Zoom link so they can connect up, it’ll send them reminders, lots of different things. So that’s more for service-based businesses.
Now, one that we do use and we’re using more and more is Loom, which you may have heard it’s video screen recording. Now, the reason that we actually use this is more so to record processes and systems within the business so that if I go off sick or say Phoebe goes off sick or someone else, we can just send them a recording, send a new person the recording and go, this is what I want you to do, this is how to do it step by step. You can see my screen as I do a website update or can be just about anything and it’s really quick to do. You can have your photo on there, you can have your face on there. You can record your face and your screen, it does your microphone as well. So Loom is really good.
Now we’ve just got a couple more to go and then we’ll be done.
Best video marketing tools
So video. If you’re starting up doing video and you no doubt will have, say, a YouTube page. If you want to put video onto your website, one thing you may have noticed at the end of YouTube clips on your own actual website is that at the end it will actually show quite possibly your competitors in the little tiles at the end.
It’ll show your competitors videos to watch next or something else that they love watching to watch next. Now that is really not what you want them to do. You want to have control over when your video finishes on your website, you want people to, you can have a call to action at the end or you want them to click somewhere in particular. Now Vimeo is paid. There is a free one, but I think at the moment I pay something like $12 Australian or $13 Australian per month and you can upload 5GB or megabytes, probably gigabytes of videos up there every month and it puts you into control with no ads. After your video. You can see what goes on at the very end. You can add a screen that says Click here or do whatever you’d like, plus comments. You can decide who can download it so that other people can’t rip off your video and can’t put it on their website, which is very easy to do otherwise. So yeah, Vimeo is fantastic from that point of view.
Now if you’re looking for video editing software, Filmoa WonderShare is what we always use because it does screen sharing as well as recording yourself. There are transitions and motion elements, but it’s really simple, so none of this stuff, you don’t need a degree or be a real techie to be able to use any of these softwares. That’s what I love about all of them. Filmora is very easy. I actually find Filmora better than iMovie, but if you’re looking for a free version, I would choose iMovie at the moment. And sorry that’s only for Apple people, but yeah, try Filmora.
Best website software for small business
Now just a quick word on websites and look websites are huge. I use Kajabi. I get asked a lot what platform do I use? I use Kajabi, but it’s a perfect solution for us because we can actually do everything on Kajabi in terms of your normal website. But then we can also deliver coaching online. We can deliver online training as well with online videos. It has all the email marketing leads, sales funnels, the whole lot, so that is perfect for us, and we love it. It’s probably more for those who are in the online teaching space and coaching space rather than it certainly isn’t a shop or anything like that.
[UPDATE: Since we recorded this podcast episode we have moved our website over to WordPress using the Elementor theme. We needed a lot more flexibility in design and marketing than Kajabi could provide, plus WordPress takes less time and skill to get the same or better result. We do still love Divi but Elementor was best for what we wanted for this website.]
Now the other thing that a lot of my clients use for more so not your eCommerce ones, but more so I suppose your informational audience driving websites. We use a lot of WordPress with the divvy theme purely because it’s such an easy one to use. There’s no coding unless you want something really particular. You don’t need to know how to code. It’s very simple, so you can get someone to actually design it for you and then you can take it over and just keep going. A lot of people are going for Squarespace and there are others as well.
Squarespace I do love. I think it’s fantastic, it’s very easy. Where a lot of people get burnt, though is it’s ongoing fees which are something like three or $400 or started around three or $400 a year. So if you think that how long are you going to have your website for? And how much does it cost to actually change from one website to the next? We all know that’s never a cheap thing to do. But Squarespace, to me, has its benefits from the very beginning but going with something like the WordPress divvy theme, I think I bought it, I bought the actual theme years ago for a couple of hundred dollars, and I can make as many websites as I want.
So yes, that just gives you a bit of an idea about WordPress. There are plenty of other things, there’s Shopify. You need to talk to an expert about what’s right for your business. Bigger businesses, of course, especially ones that sell, you need to make sure that they are seriously secure, and something a little bit more customised. So there are lots of options out there, but two things that you do need to make sure no matter what platform that you’re on for your website, you must have Google Analytics on there, and that’s free.
It tracks and reports all your website traffic, and it tells you where people are coming from, how long they are staying for and helps you with your marketing so much you just really need to understand what’s happening with your website. The other one, which is also free, is Google Search Console, which will help you with website search performance. So you can better understand how is your website performing in Google search results. And it lets you monitor and to maintain and to also troubleshoot your presence on search engines. And that’s really important.
There are plenty of paid ones. A lot of them are really quite expensive. So for a small business, and even if you’re just starting out, Google Search Console and Google Analytics are essential, and there’s always lots of people out there, or even blog posts or videos that can help you actually put them on your own website if you want to.
So look, that was a huge rundown of probably only a few of the pieces of software that I use pretty well every single week. There are a lot more software programmes that we use, but the ones I’ve gone through in the show today are the ones that I think are the most important and the most beneficial to small businesses. So if you go into our website, simplystandoutmarketing.com, you’ll actually find information on everything I’ve spoken about today. Plus, I go into more of my favourite apps for things like search engine optimization, podcasting, payment processing. Plus, there are some amazing business tools to help you run your small business.
Now, everyone is at a different stage in their business, so the important thing to remember is to invest in the best marketing and business software that you can afford. If you know you’re going to have to upgrade down the track. I want you to consider now how much that’s going to cost you in terms of the amount of time it will take to set up again and transfer what you’ve already done. I find, especially with email marketing, that’s a huge thing to do again. And websites. If you’re moving your social media over to a different platform, it’s not such a big deal, but yeah, email marketing and websites, I think are the two really big ones that you just want to get right from the start. I’ve made the mistake before without a doubt. And I’ve definitely regretted not just investing in the technology in the first place.
That’s it for me now. I hope you find some of these marketing tools seriously, seriously useful in your business. Thanks so much for listening. And look, if you found this episode valuable, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues plus, head over to our Facebook or Instagram page and let us know what you think. Ask any questions that you need, and we’ll be happy to answer.
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