Starting and growing a home-based business is easy and affordable due to advancing technology, as well as a plethora of free and low cost online marketing tools. Gone are the days of expensive print or online banner ads. Now you can find and reach your market using a host of free online tools and resources.
Social media is one of the best ways to promote your business and engage with your market for free. The problem is that managing even one social media platform is time consuming, while managing multiple accounts is nearly impossible. Fortunately, there are tools to assist you in scheduling posts, as well as keeping up with the content on your social feeds.
Buffer is a social media management platform that offers both free and paid plans for social media management. Under the free plan, you can connect one profile per network including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. Pinterest is available in the paid plan. If you have both a Facebook profile and fan page, you will only be able to connect one to the platform. Buffer has a time management feature that allows you to schedule 10 posts per network in advance knowing they will go live at the scheduled time. Other useful features include a browser extension and mobile application, image creator and video/gif uploader, and URL shortener,
Similar to Buffer, HootSuite allows you to manage up to three accounts within one dashboard under its free plan. Not only can you schedule posts in advance, but you can see what’s going on in your feeds, as well as like, comment, and share within the HootSuite dashboard. The Hootsuite free plan provides basic analytics, as well as the ability to work with a variety of third-party applications.
With the growth of social media, email may appear to be a communication tool of the past. But most successful home-based entrepreneurs still rely heavily on email to run their business. Email is one of the best ways to connect and build rapport with your market. Many new home-business owners put off starting their email list because it costs money, although it’s not expensive. However, there is a free option.
The company's forever free plan is free of charge for up to 2,000 subscribers, and allows 12,000 emails per month. MailChimp includes sign-up forms, autoresponders, and basic stats about your email efforts.
Search Engine Optimization
One of the most important benefits of search analytics is the information it provides such as keywords people are using to search for and find your business. Knowing these keywords helps you determine, for example, what information to share or what words to use in your titles and content. Further, it helps search engines know how to rank your site.
A main benefit of using KeywordTool.io is that it is free and you do not need to create an account. It also will deliver up to 750 long-tail keyword suggestions.
This website offers a host of free and paid SEO tools. SEO Book does not require you to register, but after that you can do a keyword search, generate meta tags, and spider your website to see how search engines view your site.
Website and Marketing Analysis
A crucial task in running a business is analyzing data to determine how best to market your products or services. For example, you may want to know who responded to your last email; the number of people who liked, shared, or commented on your social media post; or what resource is sending the most traffic to your website. Depending on the data received, this information can then be used to maximize or modify your marketing strategy.
Google offers a free web analysis service called Google Analytics. The challenge is determining how best to use it because of the overwhelming amount of data that can be collected. At the very least, though, you can add the analytic code to your website to obtain information such as page views, top pages on your website, sources of traffic, and demographics of visitors to your site.
This free plan will collect data on as many as 2000 page views a day. An interesting feature are the heat maps that indicate where visitors are spending time on your site. HotJar will also provide information on the state of your sales funnel, which are the leads, prospects, and customers that interact with your site.
This website offers tools that provide data on your social media engagement. The tools must be purchased; however, they come with a free 30-day trial. Sprout Social provides information from all major social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Graphics and Logos
Visual content has become increasingly important in marketing. A graphic or video is more likely to attract your market than solely plain text. As a result, having graphics as part of your website articles, social media posts, and other marketing materials is crucial. Many sites offer free images as well as several online graphic editing tools for use in marketing your business.
Create almost any type of graphic, such as a Facebook banner, blog post picture, or ebook cover using Canva. It offers many free images or you can upload your own. You can also add other features to your image, such as text overlays and shapes, and then download or share it.
Similar to Canva, PicMonkey is fairly easy to use and offers both paid and free options for its service. You can upload and edit images, for example, by cropping, resizing, or adding text.
Video marketing is increasing in popularity. You can offer video tours, tutorials, and a look behind the scenes to help your market learn about your business. The challenge of videos is in hosting them for free or at low cost. The obvious resource is YouTube, however, you may decide on another option.
The company offers a free forever plan that allows for three videos. Wistia's features include a customizable player, embedding and sharing, lead generation tools, and integration with third-party applications such as MailChimp.
This site provides video hosting, interactivity, marketing automation platform (MAP) integration, over-the-top (OTT) content services, and ways to monetize your video content. Brightcove offers several marketing plans from which to chose.
Publicity is one of the best forms of marketing because it’s free and represents you as an expert in your field. The difficult part is getting the media to notice and interview you. While you can have a public relations plan that includes sending press releases on a regular basis, there are a few free resources that may make it easier to find media outlets that need your expertise.
The HARO Report
The Help a Reporter Out (HARO) report is a well-known resource for matching media and experts. Simply sign up as a source, and scan the three emails sent each weekday for media sources needing help on a story. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and blogs and podcasts use the HARO report to find guests and experts.
Source Bottle is similar to the HARO report in that it connects journalists and bloggers to knowledgeable sources. However, Source Bottle allows you to search and pitch opportunities online, instead of waiting for an email.
Feedback and Engagement
One of the best ways to ensure you’re providing optimal services or products to your customers is to ask them. A survey is a useful resource for finding out how your customers feel about your business and gives you insight into how to attract new customers.
Use SurveyMonkey software to create a survey with multiple choice questions and text answers. The software includes templates and a range of sample questions. With the free plan you can create unlimited surveys with up to 10 questions and 100 responses per survey.
Customer Relations Management
While a lot of marketing is about attracting new clients and customers, it’s cheaper to retain an existing customer who can also refer new business than it is to obtain a new customer. The best way to ensure customer loyalty is with good service, which includes staying in touch. Customer relationship management software can record significant facts about your customers, such as birthdays and other important dates, and keep track of your communications with them so they know you value their business.
Really Simple Systems
This software offers free service for two users, 100 accounts, unlimited contacts within the accounts, and 100 MB of storage. Really Simple Systems also offers free email and online chat customer support, which can be unusual with free accounts. You also can set up your sales automation, contact management, and customized reports.
Marketing your business doesn't have to break the bank. While you always want to maintain a professional image and use reliable tools, it is possible to promote your business only spending time and not money. The key is to find the tools and resources that fit your needs and business goals.
In some cases, as your business increases, the free options may no longer be sufficient, but by then, your business will be making enough money to offset the added expense. Also, marketing expenses are tax deductible.