So you’ve decided to build your marketing engine. Only you have no idea where to start. As a small business venturing into the marketing unknown, you’re probably wondering if you need to invest in a plethora of marketing tools that may or may not help you get ahead.
Small business marketing is very different from big business marketing. For one, you don’t have the budget, time, or available resources. So you need to be savvy about which marketing tools you invest in.
So to help you stop guessing and stressing about building your marketing arsenal, I’m going to break down which marketing tools for small businesses you need to get things done
Give your small business a head start with these online marketing tools.
Marketing for small businesses is easy when you have the right tools. I’ve listed twelve of my favorite small business marketing tools. You don’t need to purchase these all at once.
But if I had to choose my top five marketing tools for small business or a startup, I’d recommend:
- Business and communication tools
- Project management tools
- Content Management system
- Email marketing tools
- Social media tools for social media management
I’ll discuss these in more detail, but I’ll also touch on other marketing tools worth adding as your business and internal marketing team grow. The key is to start small. Okay, let’s get into it.
Top 12 small business marketing tools
1: Business Marketing Tools
The first marketing tool you need to invest in is Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite). It’s ideal for remote teams, and here’s why.
Google Workspace offers you cloud computing, email and calendar capability, online document editing, file sharing, and much more.
My team uses Google Drive extensively to house all company documents and collaborate on projects. For example, we use
- Google docs for creating copy for emails and landing pages, SOPs, and brainstorming new things. You can add comments and suggestions and track all changes. It logs changes made and by whom, so that’s pretty nifty.
- Google sheets for planning, recording, and tracking stats. It’s so important to know your numbers. If you’re not monitoring the performance of your marketing, you’re doing it all wrong.
- Google slides for creating presentations for monthly team meetings and speaking events.
- Google forms for surveys and questionnaires for clients.
And if a team member leaves, you can just suspend their account, which automatically locks them out.
So it’s convenient, secure, and relatively inexpensive.
Just don’t use it for bulk emailing. That’s what your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is for. I mean, you can try, but your account will get flagged and banned.
The competitor of Google Workspace is Microsoft Office 365. It has very similar functionality, but I’ve found it clunky and targeted towards corporations rather than small businesses.
2: Project Management Tools
The next tool you’ll want to add is a project management tool. Without it, you’ll waste time and energy emailing and following up with your team to find out where they are in a project, who’s waiting on what, where to find documents.
As you can imagine, this is frustrating, and housing your to-do list and deliverables on a Google Doc or piece of paper just won’t cut it, especially as your team grows.
With project management software, you can map out and track every project, task, and job you’ve got planned for the next six months. And you can view it all in one place.
Use it to:
- Map out project timelines
- View company workflow in a calendar, board, or list format
- Track what’s in the pipeline
- Manage daily and weekly tasks
- Segment it according to the various departments in your company
- Assign tasks to different team members
- Share documents
- Track conversations
- Add reporting (great for tracking email-open and click-through rates)
- Reschedule due dates
- Receive daily email updates on tasks completed and those due
And there’s so much more. Project management software is key to your marketing team’s productivity. It’s necessary if you want to stay on top of your to-do list and crush business goals.
If you’re just getting started with a project management tool and want to play around, I suggest opening a Trello account. It’s free, and the card system is really easy to use. But if you’ve got a team of five or more, switch to Asana.
3. Content Management System (CMS) & SEO Tools
An essential tool for small businesses is your website. It forms the center of your marketing. Unless your business is complex or a big corporation, you don’t need a custom-built website. It’s expensive and generally not user-friendly. And having to contact their IT department every time you want to make a change to your site is impractical.
You want to be able to handle those things in-house or by yourself. Software tools like Squarespace and Wix have all of this really cool functionality built in, but if you require something they don’t offer, that’s it. You’re stuck.
So you want a content management system that you can use to capture and follow up with leads, load blogs, add landing pages, and implement SEO with little training.
I’d recommend WordPress. You can purchase a template design and build a really attractive site with minimal effort. Plus, you can find virtually any plugin you need.
- Payment gateway―no problem.
- Video streaming―you’ve got it.
- Email integration―it’s a breeze.
- Leave a review―why not.
And if you can’t find a suitable plugin, you can always get someone to develop it for you.
Do you need different websites if you serve B2C and B2B? Click the link to find the answer.
Another great feature is Yoast for WordPress. It tracks how readable your article is, if your writing is optimized for search engines (SEO), and whether you have the keyphrase sufficiently. Take a look for yourself. Here’s an example.
For advanced SEO, check out Page Optimizer Pro. It shows you which words your article needs to include and where to include them, giving you a content score out of 100.
SEO is key to your digital marketing strategy. It can mean the difference between being found online or not. Remember, SEO is the main driver of organic traffic to your website.
Organic traffic is non-branded search. These are prospects typing queries or questions into Google and the search engine is showing your site as the best source of information. So make sure it’s part of your online marketing strategy.
SquareSpace and Wix are great for the solopreneur who’s never going to expand their business. For e-commerce businesses, I’d recommend Shopify.
If you’re looking to invest in an SEO tool I’d suggest Page Optimizer Pro or SurferSEO. I’ve used both and each has massively helped my team to rank our content.
4: EMAIL MARKETING TOOLS
Much like your website, your Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) or email marketing tool is at the center of your marketing infrastructure.
The purpose of your CRM tool is to capture high-value leads that come to your website, trigger email automations that nurture, and eventually convert them into customers.
Here’s why: On average, roughly 3% of your target market is ready to buy today. Unfortunately, every other brand is fighting for their attention.
There’s another 40% who might not be ready to buy today, but will be ready someday. If you don’t have a CRM system, you won’t be able to keep in touch with these prospects. So when they’re ready to buy in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, a year, two years they’ll turn somewhere else.
You need a customer relationship management tool you can rely on to automate much of this process, especially if you’ll be sending three to four emails every week.
I use Ontraport. It’s an all-in-one integrated platform. It has features like membership capability and payment processing, but that’s not why I use it. I use it because it has powerful automation capability, excellent support, and it’s really well-priced for a large number of contacts.
It also has landing page capability built in, but I don’t really use that. I do use tagging, which is essential. If you invest in any digital marketing tool, your CRM needs to be up at the top.
- Beginner: Convert Kit If your business is purely digital, selling things like courses and eBooks, and you’re just getting started, I’d use ConvertKit.
- Intermediary: ActiveCampaign If your business is primarily email-based, I’d look at investing in software like ActiveCampaign to automate your emails. It has this nifty little Chrome plugin, which can pull data directly from your Gmail and populate that back into Active Campaign, which is great for tracking conversions.
- Pro: Hubspot or Pipedrive I use Pipedrive to monitor sales leads. Anyone who looks like a good fit or is interested in one of my products gets loaded in there. It plugs into my email software so I can tag leads and my sales team can track our conversations. From there, they can set up a call and move them along the sales funnel.
All three have free trials and powerful automation capabilities. So, if you’re not sure which one is right for you, you can try them on for size and make a decision from there.
You might want to check out these blogs for more information about email marketing:
5: Social Media Tools
Building your social presence requires great content. The message alone is not enough to cut through a crowded market space. You need something eye-catching and shareable, especially if you’re trying to make it on platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn.
You could hire a graphic designer to craft visually engaging posts, but that’s expensive. And they need access to design software (like Adobe Photoshop) and a bank of images (such as Shutterstock or Getty Images.) That requires a license, which can get spendy.
To up your social media marketing game, here’s what I like to do instead. My team uses Canva, which is design software that anyone can use.
- It gives you thousands of templates to choose from. So whether you need business cards, banner ads, a social media post for LinkedIn, or digital assets, just drag and drop the template you like and replace the copy and image as required.
- You can design your company logo.
- You also don’t have to pay to use the images. No matter your topic, you’ll find a host of free stock photos you can use.
- But you can also upload photos or illustrations.
The professional graphic designer will likely use Adobe Creative Suite. If you’ll be creating infographics often, I’d use Venngage. Good luck.
6: Editing & Grammar Tools
Another small business marketing tool you want to think about investing in is editing software. There’s no point writing a killer landing page or great social media content if it’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an email from someone on my list telling me they spotted a spelling mistake. It happens, but it’s also embarrassing.
With tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway App, you can write content that anyone can read. It’ll highlight which sentences are difficult to read so you can correct them before posting that new blog.
And you can download the tools to your desktop so you never have to open them and input your writing piece. I use Grammarly on Chrome and it automatically checks my LinkedIn posts, emails, and website. So even if I’m responding to someone on Instagram, it’ll highlight if I need to add in a comma or use a different word.
7: Social Media Marketing - Scheduling Tools
To do social media marketing effectively you need great design and editing tools, but you also need the right scheduling tools.
Social media marketing doesn’t just involve design creation and hitting the post button. You need to monitor engagement and track results.
- What posts performed well?
- Do your users prefer video content, text-based content, or a combination of image and text?
- Which days have the highest social traffic?
- What are the best times to post?
- Which brands have reshared your content?
If you’re posting to multiple social media platforms, you need a tool that can, at a glance, show you what you’re working on, what’s been published, and how it has performed.
My team uses Loomly, which plugs nicely into our social media channels. Essentially it can house and schedule every piece of content you create for social media. So whether you’re posting to Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok, it’s all there.
Reminder, we’re a fully remote team, so my CMO needs to be able to review posts, make notes, edit copies, and reassign as necessary. Loomly does all of this and more. Once the content is approved, my team selects a publish date and hits go.
We also like Loomly’s analytics features. It ensures we can track views, likes, comments, shares, and much more. I’ve tried using project management tools like Trello, but we like Loomly best, and it’s cost-effective.
If you’re solely looking to build your Instagram presence, I’d have to say these are the best Instagram marketing tools: SocialPilot, Iconosquare, and Buffer.
For a small business, social is a long-term game. To reap the rewards, you need to track your performance month to month, and there are tools to do that. You just need to choose the right one for your business.
8: Internal Messaging Tool
If you run a remote business, you absolutely need some kind of internal messaging tool. If you’re not in the office with your team, you need a way to communicate with them quickly. When I worked in corporate, we often met up around the water cooler and discussed projects, and internal messaging software replicates this in-office environment.
My go-to messaging tool is Slack. It’s something my team uses every day.
- We get so many emails each day, and it’s hard to track conversations. With Slack, my team can direct message each other or create different channels for the various departments. And we use these channels to collaborate and broadcast messages.
- We’re able to share documents (files, images, Loom videos) and celebrate milestones or major wins.
- I also use it as a reporting mechanism. So I have a weekly stats group where we post the past week’s sales numbers, email-open and click-through rates, and web stats. There’s a to-do-today group where we can see who’s working on what for the day and what was completed. It’s an easy way to monitor workloads and progress.
- It dramatically cuts down on email load, and it’s instant and available on your cell phone, desktop, or other devices.
It’s a digital marketing tool that you want for your business.
9: Virtual Conferencing Tool
As a business coach, I use virtual conferencing all the time. Whether for podcast interviews, customer calls, hosting webinars, or attending a speaker event, it’s a marketing tool that ensured businesses thrived during the pandemic.
Now I’ve tried a few, and I’ll go into these in a bit, but my favorite tool for online training is Zoom. I’m in client meetings all day, so I need software I can rely on. Zoom webinars integrate with Zoom meetings, and the video quality is excellent.
It’s essential if you’re building a global business.
- GoTo Webinar is one of the original virtual conferencing tools. It’s got great features, but it’s pretty expensive. It’s really for businesses with big budgets, not a startup or small business.
- Demio is another conferencing tool that you can check out. I used it for a bit, and I liked that it integrated with our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. If you held a webinar and someone registered but didn’t attend, it would tag them automatically in your CRM system and trigger an email sequence.
With Zoom, I have to manually upload the CSV file which can be cumbersome. So Demio had really powerful integration on email automation. I didn’t stick with it because I felt the video quality was poor. As a business coach I need to recreate that in-person experience and you can’t do that with a grainy or hazy image. If I don’t give my customers a good experience, they’ll leave and that will affect my revenue.
- WebinarNinja is a live training tool I’m trialing and loving. It’s ideal for coaches and creators. It the software comes standard with sign up pages, and thank you pages. Plus, it’s really easy to use and reliable.
So make sure your marketing blueprint lists a virtual conferencing tool.
10: Calendar Tool
Another great marketing tool is Calendly. As a business coach, I’m constantly connecting with customers across the globe. Imagine the back and forth of trying to find a time that works for both of us.
If I always had to convert time zones I’d lose my mind. So using a tool like Calendly makes scheduling customer calls so much easier. It’s user-friendly and integrates nicely with Gmail and Google Calendar.
You can block off unavailable times, and schedule specific times for quick discovery calls, media interviews, team catch up, and much more.
So if your business works across multiple time zones, I suggest you add Calendly to your list of must-have marketing tools.
11: Video Marketing Tools
You need to think of yourself as a media company. More and more, we’re seeing big software companies acquiring media properties. Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post. Hubspot bought The Hustle. And the crypto space is acquiring tons of media properties every year. It’s booming.
Here’s why: When you control the media, you control what gets published. You control the narrative. Now that’s a really powerful position to be in.
Just think how much easier it would be to get the word out about your startup or new product ―not to mention the cost savings. Buying media space is expensive, but not when you own the channel.
You can use video to respond to prospects over email, introduce products on your website, ask for testimonials, and share social media tips. But you could also use it to answer frequently asked questions, work with people on a sale, or provide tech support.
So many people send mass emails, and they end up in your spam folder. A much more powerful strategy is to use personalized outreach with video.
My favorite video tool is Wistia. Unlike Youtube, I can upload videos that only my customers can see. So if I create video content for a course, I’ll house it all on Wistia.
- I use Loom to send personalized videos to customers and my team. We also use it to film instructional videos. This is super helpful when onboarding a new employee.
- We use VideoAsk to ask for video testimonials. You can also use Facetime.
- You can use Vimeo, but I’m not a fan of this marketing tool.
So these are my best video marketing tools. Remember, 85% of internet users watch video content monthly. That’s why you need to be using video as a critical part of your content marketing strategy.
If you’re looking to set up a recording studio I go into the recording gear you need here.
12: Data Reporting & Monitoring Tools
The only way to know if your marketing is working is to monitor your numbers. I like to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track website visitors, the best-performing pages, top sellers, organic conversion rate, and bounce rate.
A high bounce rate means our content isn’t serving visitor search intent. So we can use this information to make vital changes. Perhaps we need to optimize our introductions or re-evaluate our meta descriptions.
If there’s a sharp dropoff in visitors to a particular blog, I know we need to revise it.
I use Search Console to submit new web pages to be crawled. It also gives me an overview of our best-performing keywords. But to get greater insight, I use AHREFS. It tracks our domain ranking, backlinks, referring domains, new keywords, and organic traffic.
My team can search for related keywords, search volume for that keyword, which sites rank for a particular term, and the difficulty factor.
And based on these results they can determine whether to target a longtail keyword or a small, high-volume keyword. If you’re not monitoring and managing your page performance, you’ll start to notice a drop in visitors to your site, and that will affect your bottom line.
- Moz Pro
I’ve tried all of these, but AHREFS is my preferred SEO monitoring tool.
Help Scale Your Startup With These Free Tools
As a startup or solopreneur, you’re likely cash-strapped. Spending your limited budget on tools for marketing your business doesn’t make sense. At least not until you’ve got a steady stream of new customers.
So where possible you want to invest in free online marketing tools. These are my top tool suggestions.
- Google analytics
Marketing: The process of getting your target audience to know you, like you, and buy from you. It uses a mix of paid and free marketing tools to promote your business’s services and products. Read our definition here.
Marketing tools: Any tools you use to develop your brand presence and promote your business. It can be online or offline, but for the express purpose of this article, we’ve focused on online marketing tools.
Content marketing: The process of conceptualizing, creating, and disseminating content that is engaging, insightful, and educational across a variety of media channels. It could take the form of a blog article, social media post, podcast, video, or course.
Digital marketing: The process of advertising your business online, using a variety of media channels. It could be pay-per-click, Google AdWords, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), PR, contributor content, and much more.
Social media marketing: The art of connecting with and promoting your business’s products and services via social media. Popular channels include TikTok, Instagram (B2C), Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn (B2B), and Twitter. In the US alone, 82% of people consume social media content, and that’s why you need to have your content machine up and running.
Digital marketing tools : This could be your CRM (email marketing), CMS (website), content marketing, social media marketing, analytics, SEO.
Marketing tools roundup for small businesses
So these are my go-to online marketing tools for startups and small businesses. They are core to our marketing toolbox.
Marketing is the fuel that drives your business forward and marketing tools are the components that help your small business to function optimally.
I’ve shared a combination of free must-have digital marketing tools and paid options. You’ll want to price and get as much information as you can on each tool before settling on the best fit for your needs.
Start small and build as you go. If you’re a solopreneur, you don’t need every tool listed in this article. If you’ve got a team of five or more and you want to grow to 7-figures, make sure you’ve got automation, and that you’re invested in project management, social media, and content management.
And use the 1-Page Marketing Plan to map it all out. Get your 1pmp canvas here.