Our favorite marketing tools and resources for small businesses

by Laurie Heller

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Running a business with a small team sometimes feels like building a plane while flying it. So in the hopes of helping others, we've put together our list of favorite tools and resources, (and no, we're not getting paid to promote them) that we use daily to help us whistle while we work. 

Our favorite marketing tools for small businesses and startups (Updated March 2021)

COMPETITIVE MONITORING: We have to admit, we're a little o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with this Romanian company, Competitors.app. Much of what we do is help brands with competitive audits. But as we all know, by the time you get done with an audit, inevitably an update is needed sometimes 1-2 months after. Companies evolve their positioning and launch new products faster than ever these days. This is a tool that is easy to use, alerts you to your competitors website updates and aggregates newsletters and social media activity into a single dashboard. And they make it easy to connect with a human. 

SEO: So, we're actually including a handful of options here. At the very top of our list is SpyFu alongside SEMRush but, SpyFu doesn't break the bank and has some amazing capabilities when it comes to competitor SEO research and competitor paid search analysis.  Like most of our other picks, SpyFu is incredibly fast to respond when you have an issue or question and the ability to speak to a human goes a long way with us. Don't forget about Google Search Console. It's critical for monitoring how you're perceived in Google. And bonus points - if you are a HubSpot user you can connect it to your site and have one view of how everything is doing and know what changes to make at all times.  Other runner-ups: Pingdom website speed test and for a quick and dirty way to find broken links, Ahrefs broken link checker.  Lastly, so many folks forget to scale down the size of images on their site, especially blogs. That's why TinyPNG is a lifesaver and can help you condense images and speed up your site, stat.

MARKETING AUTOMATION & CRM: It's no secret we adore and prefer HubSpot for B2B companies for so many reasons, but for those businesses who can't afford the investment, MailChimp is increasingly a great alternative that can get up and running in a snap. It offers a great email platform, now has landing pages, pop-ups, a content creation suite and social integrations at a pretty low cost. It's CRM doesn't compare to HubSpot or Salesforce for example, but it's intuitive to use and doesn't break the bank. Things you can't use MailChimp for:  blogs and a website (well, they have a new website builder that's in beta. If your biz is D2C (e-commerce) check out Klaviyo. BTW, on blogging platforms, we also have recently fallen in love with Ghost (especially vs. WordPress, but we'll save that for another time).

CONTENT CREATION/IDEATION: Lost on what to write about? Hop on over to AlsoAsked. Type in relevant terms to your business and it will magically spit out a ton of questions you can write the answers to. Yes, we know SpyFu does this well but it's a quick and dirty way to get inspiration without having to learn yet another tool. Want a killer survey tool that has a gorgeous UX and offers lots of customization for way less than the other providers? Drumroll... meet our friend SurveySparrow. You'll thank us later.

DECK TEMPLATES: If you don't have access to an amazing presentation designer some go-to resources include: Envato Elements and Slidesgo. and for an investor pitch deck, walk on over to Slidebean - they have excellent guidance, templates and even offer the ability to create your pitch deck for you. Our favorite thing about Slidebean is they have one of the best libraries of advice and content on how to get your startup off the ground. Have a look here, their founder is A+.

PROPOSALS: If you know us, you know we ban boring. Proposals have the potential to be absolute snoozetastic. If you're in the same boat, we found this amazing little tool called Proposify and we're in love. Proposify allows you to quickly create amazing proposals, track when a prospect opens it and allows both parties to make comments in real-time as well as sign the deal all inside the tool. They can also integrate with our other faves, HubSpot and Quickbooks, which is a lifesaver for most small businesses.

DESIGN: Canva is indispensable if you don’t have a large design team, or a designer at all. You can easily create a brand kit of your brand’s colors, fonts and logos within their platform so you can customize and adapt thousands of templates from banner ads, social posts, flyers, brochures and more, in just a few minutes and for only about 10 bucks a month. It even lets you auto-publish posts to channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more.. Also, our new and a bit more polished fave is Figma. Might require a bit more designer knowledge but it's great for folks who don't need pre-established templates and need to work in a more sophisticated setup, especially when it comes to creating and editing SVG files.

VIDEOS: Chances are you've all seen the same hoopla that we have, videos are everything (we'll debate this another time). BUT we do agree they help with engagement. If you have blog content that's not exactly scoring the most likes, try Lumen5. It converts your blogs into videos in minutes (if you're a perfectionist, it'll take longer -- but still a great tool). If you don't mind their branding, you can use it free. Need an explainer video (who doesn't?!) you can do one on the cheap that looks pretty good with Biteable

SOCIAL: There are SO MANY options these days, but a cost effective one we love and use is Sked Social, especially if your strategy is Instagram heavy.

PDF REPLACEMENT: ADIOS PDFs. We're hungry for Flipsnack. Suddenly stagnant outdated PDFs can become beautiful embedded animations. Our creative pal Juan Ogando turned us on to this and we are infatuated.

There you have it. If there's something we missed that you can't live without, send us a note.


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