There are hundreds of thousands of marketing software solutions out there and it is hard to choose which one is best for you. When you’re looking for your first software solution you probably have a limited budget and specific features in mind. I can tell you I did. Luckily, I’ve worked in the software industry and was lucky enough to test hundreds of solutions to determine which ones were easy to navigate, feature rich, and lower priced.
I’ve compiled a list of solutions that I use for digital marketing below. All of them are free digital marketing software solutions you can find online and will grow with your business. You will not necessarily need all of the solutions listed below but no matter your business focus, you will need: a Customer Relationship Management solution,, a graphic design solution, and web analytics.
These three solutions will help you track your customers so you can develop a meaningful relationship, create unique content to showcase your products/services and track how you’re doing on engaging your customers.
CRM – Hubspot
Customer Relationship Management, or CRM software, is a software solution that houses all the customers you have talked to and the interactions you’ve had with them. It can also be used to do follow-ups, and make notes on what they like, who referred them, and more.
Building relationships is more sales, but it crosses over into marketing so you can put the most relevant products/services and information in front of your customers without wasting their time. It’s also a great way to follow up on emails so they don’t get lost in the busy everyday life.
My pick of CRM is Hubspot. They offer a great free solution that connects to the major email services, tracks interactions with customers, and helps you remember when to follow up, and it can store notes. Also, it’s easy to search by individual or company to find who you’re looking for.
Hubspot is a larger company so their system can grow with your business. Each level up does have a cost associated with hit after you graduate from their free version. They also have modules for sales and marketing so you can get the full benefit of the sales/marketing cycles.
Graphic Design – Canva/Photopea
Graphic design is one of those areas that some people like and others find more tedious. No matter what, images add value and break up the text so it’s invaluable to have some software or tool to create and edit images.
For graphic design, Canva is my preferred tool to create great basic images. They provide templates that are sized for the exact medium you are sharing the images in. These range from social media posts, header images, email images, posters, business cards, and more. They will even print them for you! They provide different shapes, images, etc. for you to drag and drop in place. It has basic functionality.
If you don’t like to put much time or work into the images, they provide more fleshed out versions that are almost pre-created images or you can strip it all down and create your own images with pictures or graphics you upload yourself.
If you want to get more detailed and creative, Photopea is a free Graphic design software solution that is a lot like photoshop but free! It gives you the flexibility to really create and tailor pictures to your needs. For instance, if you need to edit a photo to cut out unwanted clutter or you want to paste together different sections you can do that with Photopea.
Analytics – Google Analytics
No matter what your level of activity is online, if you have a website you want analytics to see what engagement is going on. Without analytics, it’s like trying to shoot a bullseye in the dark. You don’t have any idea where the target is or if you’re even hitting it. Even worse, if you do hit the target, you have no way of correcting to finally make a bullseye.
Google Analytics is my solution of choice for tracking how people are finding your site and what paths lead people to purchase your product/service. When you find what people are really looking for you can then create more content tailored to that area which helps your customers and provides better ROI for your efforts.
Overall it makes your hard work more effective and efficient so you have a light on the target.
Any solutions above and beyond those three are dependent on the area of business you’re in, what marketing methods you’re using, how much you use your website/digital marketing, and how invested you are in those forms of digital marketing.
Below I break down my preferred software solutions by the digital marketing category so you can quickly determine if it’s relevant to you and then read what’s applicable.
Moz – SEO/ SEM / Content Marketing
When you have a website, you will want to have text on your website and in the background of your website. That text will need to be optimized with keywords to help the best prospective customers find your website. To do that it’s helpful to have a keyword search tool.
Technically this isn’t software but it’s a vital and robust tool so I’m fudging the line on this one and calling it software.
My top pick is Moz. It’s is a search engine optimization (SEO) solution that helps you research which keywords are being searched and what related keywords would be best to pair with the one that you typed in. It’s a great tool to use when coming up with keywords to use in your content marketing. Moz does have a limit of 10 queries per month in the free version but that should be enough when you are starting out.
As an example of the functionality, when you type in digital marketing, it comes up with a whole list of suggested keywords that other people use related to digital marketing. This helps you bring more of those good customers that will actually buy your products/service rather than ones that ended on your website by mistake or are less sure of what they want.
When you have more funds, you can then upgrade to their full solution and use them for paid advertising and receive unlimited queries.
Buffer – Social Media Marketing
When you’re creating more than one post a week for social media channels it’s helpful to automate your posting. This saves you time, frees you up to post at times you may be busy, and allows you to post more regularly as followers like consistency.
Buffer is my go-to solution for social media marketing software. You can organize and create posts for multiple channels in one place making it easy to post across channels with one click. You can customize the post for each channel, adding the appropriate hashtags or adding additional pictures to specific channels.
Buffer also gives you a couple of suggested posting times when you first start but you can change those around to find the times that work best for you. It will even populate short links for you so your posts are more social media friendly. They still allow you to track the click-through with the links without having to do any extra work.
Animaker – Video Content Marketing
You may have heard or noticed that social media is going more towards video. To easily create videos for your social media marketing without needing a lot of skill, you can create videos using template software. Some of the solutions out there are more generic but others let you be more creative and create what looks like very sophisticated unique videos to your viewers.
My favorite solution is Animaker. It allows you to create animated videos quickly with minimal skills and provides training videos from the get-go if you need them so you don’t have to fumble around to find the appropriate settings and tools.
Not all areas of business need video marketing but they are definitely beneficial. Videos account for 74% of all web traffic according to social impact because they are more engaging than text or pictures.
MailChimp – Email Marketing
Email marketing is not something that you need to start immediately like social media marketing. Email marketing is good to start when you have a following. You can then use your email newsletters to send your new content directly to your followers who’ve subscribed. This is a great way for followers to keep up with your new content, product releases, or sales.
One of the best solutions in the arena for email marketing software for small businesses is MailChimp. It’s a free email marketing software solution for first 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails sent per month. You would have a lot of activity in a month to hit those numbers.
It’s a very robust system for free and you can use it for:
- Email blast service to reach multiple people,
- Landing pages service
- Google, Facebook or Instagram ads
- It even has some base marketing automation
It is a user-friendly system that will let you easily drag and drop to format the email the way you want. You don’t need to have any coding background making it a very easy system to use. It’s also a trusted and reliable sender making it easier for your emails to get through to people’s inboxes. When you start emailing and are using an unknown service it can hinder your emails going through to people’s inboxes. Lastly, it helps you stay within legal compliances like the CAN-SPAM act which requires you to have an unsubscribe button in emails. MailChimp has you covered on all these changes so you don’t end up with potential lawsuits.
Drip – Automated Email Marketing
As I mentioned, MailChimp also has marketing automation functions although I did not find it the easiest to set up while Drip is very easy to use and is specifically a marketing automation software solution.
Marketing automation is putting people through an automated funnel going through steps to sell and upsell them based on where they entered your newsletter service or if they clicked on certain products. Drip is a fairly basic one on the free version but it will do what you need. If you need more robust features then you can upgrade and get more functionality.
Some people think they will need a very robust or expensive solution like Marketo in order to achieve great marketing automation results but with Mailchimp or Drip you can get powerful results for a lower price.
You don’t need digital marketing software but it will make your sales and marketing efforts more effective and efficient. Luckily you don’t need to spend lots of money on behemoth solutions like Salesforce to reap the benefits of online marketing software. There are many great low-cost or free marketing solutions out there.
These are my suggestions for solutions but remember that what I consider user-friendly and what you consider user-friendly may not be the same, what features I want and what you want may not be the same. If you need help finding the best solution for your needs, we at Collab.ink can help you go through the selection process to find the best marketing solutions for your needs.