The Best DIY Digital Marketing Tools for Small Businesses
By Tim Russell
For most of us, starting a small business means bootstrapping – funding the business ourselves, making big changes to our lifestyle, cutting out all unnecessary expenditure, taking one sugar in our tea instead of two, and, most importantly, being as independent and self-sufficient as possible.
It may seem a little odd for a company like Booming Businesses to preach the DIY ethos when our business model is based on providing a paid marketing service to small businesses. But we know and accept that – particularly in the current climate – many small businesses, especially startups, don’t have the budget for outsourcing their marketing. So they will have to do as much DIY digital marketing as they possibly can. And we want to help them along the way.
Thankfully it’s getting easier and cheaper all the time to handle your own digital marketing. Thanks to a growing range of easy-to-use and affordable (often free) cloud-based solutions. So to help you get started, here’s our pick of the best DIY digital marketing solutions for small businesses.
Graphic Design – Canva
One of the first jobs when you start a new business, and one of the most fun ones, is designing your logo and the rest of your corporate identity. Colour scheme, business cards, letterheads etc. This has always been a job if not for a professional designer, then at least for that friend or relative of yours who’s a bit handy with Photoshop or Illustrator. But as your business moves forward, you’ll have an ongoing need for graphic design jobs. Such as brochures, flyers, social media graphics, ads etc. And the costs will mount up if you keep paying someone else to do it for you.
Thankfully, back in 2012, an absolute godsend of a solution called Canva was created. Enabling artistically-challenged entrepreneurs the world over – myself included – to take control of their own graphic design. To create logos, brochures, flyers etc. that actually look good enough to present to the public.
Canva is an incredibly easy to use graphic design tool that enables you to design pretty much anything you like. Either from scratch or using one of the thousands of pre-populated templates. I started using it back in 2013, and now I simply couldn’t imagine life without it, it’s that essential.
To get started, you simply select a template or a design type (eg Facebook Cover or Presentation), then add design elements and text from Canva’s huge catalogue. As well as uploading your own images or fonts, and drag/drop them to create a design. You can then download the design in various formats.
Best of all, Canva is absolutely free to use! Though after a while you’ll find you probably need the paid version which costs a mere $12 per month. But it is well worth it, as it comes with additional features such as transparent backgrounds, team collaboration, and a content planner.
Canva may not be a tool for serious graphic designers – you can’t use .ai files, for example. But it has more than enough features for small businesses to do great DIY digital marketing. And I guarantee you will grow to love it and evangelise about it within days of using it.
Web Design & Hosting – Wix
As I wrote in my recent post on Growth-Driven Web Design, the days of paying $$$ to a professional web designer to build your site are over. At least as far as cash-strapped small businesses are concerned. What was once the biggest expense in starting a business has now tumbled in price. And for many businesses, is now something that can be handled in-house with skilful DIY digital marketing tricks. I’ve now built numerous websites, both for myself and for clients, and I learned it all through bootstrapping my own businesses.
A quick caveat before we start: although there are many user-friendly, drag & drop website builders out there, it’s still not a job for the fainthearted. And it will take up A LOT of your time! So before you start, you need to have a good think if DIYing a website is for you. Both in terms of the nature of the work and the time it takes. Still want to do it? Great!
If you’re serious about building your own site and want a high-performing, highly adaptable site, then WordPress is the way to go. However, and I speak from experience, WP has a very steep learning curve and can be very confusing for beginners. As it does require a modicum of technical nous.
It is worth it in the long run, but if you want something super simple to get started, then I would recommend Wix. Wix has been established as the leading WYSIWYG, drag & drop website builder for some time now, and combines ease of use with slick-looking websites. It comes with plenty of templates to get you started, as well as numerous advanced features including an SEO wizard and a range of plug-in apps to add additional functionality to your site, along with domains and hosting.
Wix starts from just $4.50 a month, though small businesses will probably need the features of the Unlimited package which comes in at a highly affordable $12.50.
Website Optimisation – Website Grader
Once you’ve built your website, you’ll want to check that it’s performing as well as it possibly can. Both technically and in SEO (search engine optimization) terms. Remember, these days Google doesn’t just rank websites by content, it also looks at the UX (user experience) and measures metrics such as site speed, mobile-friendliness and security. So you regularly need to check that your site is up to scratch in all areas.
There are plenty of tools online that will analyze your site for you but some of them can be very technical. Thankfully digital marketing gurus Hubspot have launched their own tool, Website Grader. You simply enter your URL and your email address, and in seconds Website Grader scans your site and gives you a grade. This is based on performance, SEO, mobile and security, along with diagnoses of where your problems are, and advice on how to fix them. This is one of the easiest ways to check that your DIY digital marketing is on the right track. At least as far as your website is concerned,
Email Marketing & CRM – Hubspot
I’ve put these two together because, whilst they’re separate solutions, you can’t do properly segmented, targeted email marketing without a good CRM system! There are plenty of good – and free – email marketing solutions out there. My particular favourite being Mailchimp. And there are a lot of good free CRMs out there too, Zoho or Bitrix 24 for example. While you can integrate one with the other, it’s much easier to get started with a solution that does both.
And that’s where Hubspot comes in. A fully integrated digital marketing solution, the full Hubspot suite includes CRM, email, website builder, blogging, forms & popups, analytics and much, much more. There is a limited free version, but most small businesses will want the Starter version. Which comes in at a mere $50 per month and includes CRM, landing pages, chatbots, web forms, email marketing and more. It’s a really powerful solution that enables you to create highly segmented marketing lists and send them beautifully designed emails. As well as setting up auto-emails based on website signups and other activity.
The Starter version comes with 1000 contacts. And once you fill that up you can buy additional blocks of 1000 contacts for $50 per month. Meaning Hubspot grows as your business does. It also comes with a huge library of training videos as well as course certifications.
Social Media Marketing – Hootsuite
Social media is an essential marketing tool for small businesses these days. But with so many channels to use, it can get complicated. At the very least you’re probably going to be using Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. You may also be using Twitter and Pinterest, and more youthful companies may be using SnapChat and Tik Tok. That means sharing content across at least 3-4 websites all with their own logins and user interfaces.
Luckily there are several solutions that will handle this for you. They allow you to push content to multiple social channels from one simple user interface. It’s great for scheduling your content to go out at different times. So you can plan your day’s – or week’s – social activity in one go.
For years now I’ve been using Hootsuite. Which allows me to post content across all my social channels from one place. It also allows me to tweak the content so it’s different for each site, and schedule my posts in advance. It saves me a huge amount of time and is really easy – and free – to use. Though if you have more than three social profiles, you’ll probably want the Professional edition. That will cost you $19 per month and comes with a whole host of extra features.
Retargeting – Adroll
On average, 98% of visitors will leave your website without making a purchase or completing a form (1). And if you’re not using retargeting, you may well be losing them for good. Retargeting is a marketing strategy that serves ads to people who have visited your website. Either via an ad display network on website content (eg Google Display Network) or on social media channels. Visited a website recently then seen an ad for the same company on Facebook? That’s retargeting! And whilst it may seem a bit intrusive and Big Brotheresque, it works. Retargeting ads have a 10x higher click rate than standard ads (2).
Getting started with retargeting has traditionally been a tricky process, as you’ve had to negotiate Google Adwords’ notoriously arcane user interface, as well as Facebook Ads. Thankfully now there are several tools that will make the process a lot easier, and for this we recommend Adroll. Adroll’s basic version is free to use (you just pay for the ads), and allows you to choose your audiences. You can just target people who’ve visited your site, or a specific page, or a non-visitors who are similar to your existing audience. You can choose the channels you want to advertise on, design your ads (using the built-in ad builder), and you’re ready to roll. Adroll also allows you to send automated email campaigns to website visitors. And provides full analytics and e-commerce integration, even with the free version!
Analytics – Google Analytics
Whilst it’s not a marketing tool as such, there’s little point engaging in all the activity above if you’re not going to measure the impact on your website. And that’s where Google Analytics comes in. Bot there’s a little bit of setup pain involved. You need to create a Google Analytics account and add a tracking code to your website. But it’s straightforward enough, and once it’s done you’ll have an extremely powerful – and free – tool to measure your website traffic, where it’s coming from, and how it’s behaving when it gets there.
Different businesses will use different metrics but you’ll almost certainly want to measure website traffic, demographics, traffic sources (social media, backlinks etc), bounce rate and page activity, and page exits. Analytics also allows you to set up conversion goals so you can track how many people are making a purchase or submitting a form, and at which point visitors most commonly drop out of the sales or conversion process.
The interface and the huge number of options take a bit of getting used to. But you’ll soon have it narrowed down to a few key metrics. And you can even use these to build a daily or weekly custom report and have it sent to your inbox.
The time was when these digital marketing techniques were very much the domain of professionals. Now they’re available to any small business owner with a small modicum of tech-savvy, and an even smaller budget! DIY digital marketing is great if you have ample time and patience. But if you’re still struggling to get started and need some help, please get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.