How do tiny startups with no marketing budget win against corporate behemoths that spend hundreds of millions on marketing every year?
Answer: by using free marketing tools, and getting the absolute most out of them that you possibly can.
Startup marketing is all about starting small, building an audience from day 0, and learning quickly what they want.
Use these tools to start building an audience today. You don't need a single dollar--they're 100% free.
This isn't a long list, but it's a list of the tools that I've found to be by far the most useful in growing my business iDoneThis from nothing to a million dollar company.
1. Name Mesh
Choosing a company name and the corresponding domain name can become amazingly time consuming because of the incredible scarcity of domain names. Name Mesh solves that problem by taking in a few keywords and spitting out hundreds of available domain names that you could potentially use for your brand.
What I like best about Name Mesh is that it will categorize its options by type--for example, it will show you potential SEO-optimized domains or fun domains, depending on whether you're going after a straight-laced SEO play or more of a fun social play.
2. Hipster Logo Generator
A professional logo designer costs upwards of $10,000 and takes a month of work and iterations to get right. The lean startup marketer wants to get started today and validate her hypotheses inexpensively as possible. That's where the Hipster Logo Generator comes in.
With the Hipster Logo Generator, you're able to produce what's a surprisingly stylish and distinctive logo in about 30 seconds, for free.
The very first thing you should do as a marketer when you have a business idea is to create a landing page. This will help you clarify your idea in your own mind, and you'll be able to do the most basic validation of driving visitors to your page to see if anyone signs up to learn more.
Strikingly makes this super simple for people to build a landing page complete with email capture forms with the bare minimum of tech savviness required. Best of all, it has a huge free forever plan.
Building your email list is often the single-most important thing that a startup can do. That list is your leads--that's where all of your early customers will come from. The #1 mistake that I see from entrepreneurs is that they wait too long to build their email list and see if anyone will sign up to learn more about their product.
Noah Kagan, founder of SumoMe and AppSumo and employee #30 at Facebook, built a massive email list of over 1,000,000 emails for AppSumo, so he knows a thing or two about building an email list. He took the tactics he used in building his AppSumo list and turned them into products with SumoMe. He's seen 2x-4x increases in the number of email subscribers for SumoMe users with 2 minutes of work in getting it set up.
WordPress is the most mature platform for running your company's blog. What people don't know is that you can get started on WordPress completely free.
People choose Tumblr because they know it's free, and it's what they use for their personal blogging. The problem is that Tumblr isn't designed for business-oriented blogging and it doesn't have a platform to speak of. That means that marketing activities like email capture, SEO and the like have 1-click setup processes on WordPress via plugins like SumoMe, Google Analytics, Wistia, etc. On Tumblr, you'll have to build something custom, and that's very time consuming.
Get started for free on WordPress from the get go, do avoid having to do a painful migration from Tumblr to WordPress later on.
6. Pablo by Buffer
Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets, and retweets, not clicks, replies, or favorites, is what increases distribution for your tweets and gets them in front of a lot more people.
That's why it's absolutely critical that you include images with your tweets. It's dead simple, and free with Pablo. Pablo makes it easy to put text, like an inspiring quote, on top of an image, which is eminently easy to share and gets your message across in visual, snackable bites.
7. Unsplash by Crew
It feels like images are free on the web, but they actually aren't. If you try to swipe images and use them for free, you could be in for a world of hurt down the road in the form of negative PR or even a lawsuit. High quality photographs actually cost good money.
The problem is that you need high quality images all of the time in marketing, from blog posts to eBooks to sales decks. If you use cheap images, it lowers the value of your company in the eyes of your customers and the public.
Unsplash is where you can find extremely high quality photographs, 100% free.
Video marketing is an incredibly effective way to make a personal connection with your audience. It's how companies like Moz, Litmus, and Wistia themselves have built such a loyal following and multi-million dollar businesses.
Wistia is the easiest way to host your business videos, and they have a generous free plan which gives you 25 videos, totally free.
Sure, you could use YouTube to host your videos, but YouTube actively tries to drive viewers to other YouTube videos that aren't yours. That takes people off of your site and kills sales.
The #1 advantage you have as a small startup is learning and iteration speed. You can move so much faster than the big guys--but only if you do things the right way.
That's why it's absolutely critical that you bake in a way to learn from every single one of your marketing activities. Another way to put it, is that you should constantly be running marketing experiments.
Optimizely makes this easy, via A/B testing, which gives you a way to test different marketing messages against each other to see which performs the best. Instead of setting up your Strikingly page with just a single marketing message, try three or four message and see which hits.
Marketing, like sales, resembles a pipeline or funnel. That makes Trello the best tool you could use to manage your marketing efforts, better than more traditional project management tools like Asana and Basecamp.
Trello represents your pipeline as lists of cards on a board that you can visually manipulate by moving cards from list to list. Use Trello to lay out your marketing plan visually and stay organized while you execute.
11. Google Analytics
The only way to improve your marketing efforts is to measure what you're doing to see what's working and what's not. Double down on what works, drop what doesn't.
Google Analytics has been around forever, but it's still the easiest way to get started putting analytics on your website and measuring what's happening.
What free marketing tools do you use?
These are the marketing tools that I've found to be the best and free. What great tools did I miss? Let me know in the comments.