My first marketing job was for a small, local law firm with a very small budget. This meant I had to be incredibly selective in the marketing we undertook, and I had to make sure every penny delivered. I also had to take on a lot of tasks other companies would normally outsource because we couldn’t afford to.
This DIY approach to marketing was a great boot camp and it has stayed with me ever since. My budgets are much larger now, and I have specialist marketers and designers reporting to me, but deep down I still have a DIY mentality. It also showed me that big budgets don’t always been big results, and more importantly, small budgets don’t have to mean small results.
If you have next to no marketing budget, here are the tools and resources you need to do it yourself, and do it well!
Building your website
You don’t need to hire a web designer to have a great looking website anymore. Click, drag and drop website builders have made some huge leaps forward in the past few years, and if you know how to update your status on Facebook you can also build a website very easily. The most popular suppliers are:
On the plus side they are simple to set-up, but they can become limiting and restrictive very quickly.
To maintain a level of flexibility and customisation, balanced with ease of use and lost cost I would very strongly recommend using WordPress for your website.
Build it with WordPress!
WordPress itself is 100% free, and it instantly opens you up thousands of ready-made high quality themes and powerful plug-ins.
It is very easy to set up and run. You just need some web hosting that offers WordPress as a one-click install (most do nowadays) and a domain name. Naturally I recommend Heart Internet.
Here are some sources of excellent WordPress themes and plug-ins:
- themeforest.com (awesome theme marketplace) – where I got this blog theme from
- codecanyon.com (massive plug-in marketplace)
Some essential marketing WordPress plug-ins I would recommend are:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast (free)
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (free)
- Capture subscribers with MailChimp for WordPress (free – requires MailChimp account, see below)
- Sell digital products with easydigitaldownloads (free)
- Draw people’s attention to your marketing messages with a FooBar ($16)
Design and images
Thanks to the work of a huge pool of amazing designers looking to supplement their income via design market places, there has never been more ready-made high quality design resources available for non-designers to use out of the box.
Some of the best ones I have come across are:
- graphicriver.com (Paid with a huge market place)
- creativemarket.com (Paid with a good-sized market place)
- premiumpixels.com (All free and look amazing, but limited number of design resources)
- iconfinder.com (Icon search engine, some paid and some free)
- FamFamFam (Over a thousand small icons free to use for any purpose)
- freebbble.com (Free, high quality freebies from the Dribbble network)
There are a lot of free image websites out there, but the quality is extremely low. I would recommend using a service such as Stocksy who offer high quality images at a very good price (from $10 per image) or Photodune (from $1).
I have traditionally used free image software called GIMP for quick edits and mock-ups. It isn’t as feature rich as Photoshop, but it is free and it has the core features most casual designers like me and you need.
A powerful relationship building and direct sales tool, there are some great free and low-cost solutions for small businesses.
Sending marketing emails
You can send up to 12,000 marketing emails to 2,000 subscribers per month completely free thanks to MailChimp’s free account.
This is seriously powerful email marketing software and one I would recommend using. It also comes with that handy WordPress integration plug-in I mentioned previously.
They start charging beyond those numbers, but it is still incredibly cheap for what you get.
Sending great looking, professional marketing emails
You don’t have to be a coding wizard to send attractive emails either. Good old Themeforest have over 700 email templates for you to choose from.
No one knows your products or your services like your customers. If you want to find out what they think about your business and how they use your products, then they best way is always to ask them.
For £10 per month SurveyGizmo is a really strong survey and questionnaire tool. It is easy to use and you can have an attractive, branded survey up and running very quickly. Once you have completed your survey and collected your data you are free to close your account any time.
If you have the necessary technical or design skills, and/or want a self-hosted solution, then LimeSurvey is a great free, open source option.
Looking beyond your customer base, you can conduct simple, nationwide surveys for as little $50 with Google Consumer Surveys. I have used this service and it is great for generating PR related content as well as finding out your target audience’s attitudes and preferences. Strongly recommended.
You can manage up to 3 social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) from one single dashboard (free) thanks to HootSuite’s free plan. This is usually enough for most small businesses, but if you need more the next plan up is still only £10 per month.
If you want to use social media for advertising your services, Twitter and Facebook both have self-serve advertising platforms, and as long as you set yourself a budget you can’t over spend. They are both relatively cheap, and more often than not a much cheaper option than Google AdWords.
However, that’s not to say you can’t waste money through bad targeting options or poor advert copy/design. Have a read of these excellent guides to help create your first campaigns:
Creating resources people link to and share is basic SEO marketing 101. Doing it with a limited budget is another matter.
I am a big proponent of every business having a blog. However, they can take up a lot of your time to write. If you are not a writer at heart, or you don’t have the time, you can outsource it to a professional for as little as $13 for a 1,000 word article through services such as Text Broker. If you aim for one good post per week, that’s $52 per month, and only $624 per year. Bargain!
When it comes to anything graphical such as infographics, glossy guides, downloadable assets etc. I would always recommend getting a professional involved to ensure it is of a high enough quality that people are attracted to it. You’ll never get it for free, but you can source some affordable options via services such as Freelancer and PeoplePerHour.
Planning and organising
As your ideas or team get bigger, planning and organisation becomes more complex. To stay on top of all your marketing planning and execution I would recommend using software all team members can access and update.
Spreadsheets are OK, but they aren’t meant to be used in this way are their limitations soon become frustrating.
The best project management tool I have used so far is Trello. Trello is completely free and can be accessed from any device. It comes with a lot of really useful features including due dates, allocating team members to a project, check lists, labels you create per board and the ability to upload any type of file to be commented on. Strongly recommended.
If you like to visualise your ideas with a wireframe before you start work, or as a graphical brief to a designer, MockFlow is a really strong choice. Their free package is enough for most casual users.
Anything you would recommend?
If you are a hardcore DIY type of marketer, leave a comment below with any tools and resources you use and would recommend.