As a startup, especially in the early days, let’s be honest, money is scarce. It’s a classic chicken and egg situation. I need to grow my business so I can earn money but without money how do I grow my business? Thankfully for us, we’re living in an era of such rapid technological advancement that most software providers have been forced to offer free versions of their products to keep up with the competition. Yay for us!
In this article Lisa Toner, entrepreneur and Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot, will show you some of the many free tools out there and how you can leverage them to grow your business without spending a cent.
1. YOUR WEBSITE
First things first, you’re going to need a website; there’s no getting around this. The most popular choice for a free website or blog is WordPress but in order to get your own custom domain and remove WordPress advertising, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid account for four euro per month. This is definitely worth it… no self-respecting business is going to have a website URL with .wordpress.com at the end. WordPress is a good option because you don’t need to know anything about web development, coding, or graphic design to build a good looking, functional, and mobile optimized website. There are plenty of well designed site themes to choose from so you can simply add your content and start sending traffic to your website and generating sales in no time at all.
2. LEAD GENERATION
A question I get all the time is, “how do I find leads for my business? Should I cold call potential clients?” And the answer is no, cold calling is rarely a good option for most businesses. Think about your own experience, have you ever enjoyed being called unexpectedly by a salesperson and have you ever bought something from a cold calling salesperson? No, I didn’t think so. So what’s the solution? A well built website can generate plenty of warm and hot leads for you to follow up with. And the good news is, there are free tools to do it for you!
HubSpot has a free Marketing product that does the following things on your website:
- Enables you to add forms to your website to collect people’s contact information
- Let’s you build a popup form to get a visitor’s attention when they’re on key pages of your site e.g. the pricing page.
- Collects and stores data from those forms in a free contact database (CRM) that tracks all user activity including which pages they visited on your site.
- Sends an automated email to anyone who fills out a form to let them know you’ll be in touch soon (or anything else you want to tell them).
- Analyses where your conversions are coming from so you can continually optimize your conversion rates.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
When it comes to promoting your business, it’s super important to dedicate some time to building your social media presence. However, it’s even more important to be on the right social networks for your business; you don’t need to be on all of them if your audience isn’t. For example, if you’re targeting primary school teachers, it’s rare you’ll find them on Linkedin so you might want to omit Linkedin from your social media strategy.
Once you’ve chosen your networks, it’s much more scalable to adopt a social media management tool that lets you bulk schedule your posts so you can spend less time updating your accounts and more time on other things that are important to growing your business. There are a couple of free tools you could use:
4. GRAPHIC DESIGN
The way you present your brand is extremely important to your credibility and building trust with your potential clients. This includes everything from your social media graphics, website, business cards, leaflets, presentations, and anywhere else you’re displaying your brand image. Consistency is key. Do you know your brand palette? What are the three main colours you use across all your brand assets? What is your brand font? If you don’t know these things yet, that’s step one.
The next step is to design all of the assets you need in your brand style and the great news is, there’s a free tool for that, too. There is absolutely no need to hire a designer for this stuff, all you need is a Canva account. This tool will change your life. Here are some examples of images that are pre-designed for you that you can edit any way you like to make it fit with your brand and messaging, download, and use wherever you like. 100% free!
5. INFLUENCER MARKETING
Influencer marketing has really taken off in the last couple of years and there are some amazing people out there that can help you get word out about your business, and it shouldn’t cost you anything if you do it right. Firstly, if an influencer reaches out to you and offers to review your product for a fee, say no. True influencers are not reaching out to find clients, they’re inundated with requests from businesses.
Secondly, this is not a tactic that can be automated. You need to put some time into researching who the right influencers are for your business, find out why they might want to work with you, how you can offer some value to them (in lieu of payment), and then reach out to each one individually with a tailored and personalised message. You can use a free tool like Followerwonk to find people with a large following and who mention your keywords in their bio. For example, if I wanted to find an Irish influencer in content marketing I would use the following bio search query:
I set the maximum following at half of the minimum followers because I want someone with true followers, not just someone who followed a ton of people to get a re-follow.
Here are the results I get for that query:
This is a good list to start researching and finding ways to collaborate. For example, could I write a guest blog post for Business World? Could Social PR run a joint webinar with me? Could I send Paul McNulty a free trial of my product and have him do a review to his audience?
None of this should cost anything if there is value for both parties. Typically the value exchange is content for audience. If you can write really great content for their audience, or vice versa, this is usually a strong foundation to build a partnership on. You can also use a free tool like Buzzsumo to find the people or publications who are already writing the most popular content for the topics you care about — and then write something 10X better.
Here’s the results page for a query on ‘content marketing’ on Buzzsumo:
From these results, I could try reaching out to John Boitnott with an extremely well written contributed article and request he publish it on Entrepreneur in his own name and include a link back to my website.
6. CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
Every business needs a central database to store all of their contacts and customer interactions. Fortunately, HubSpot CRM is 100% free and always will be. It’s user-friendly and automates a lot of the admin work that traditionally put people off using a CRM. For example, when you email someone in gmail and they reply but HubSpot CRM detects there is no contact record for them already it will automatically create one and store the email communication in their contact record.
It will also notify you on your desktop once a lead or customer opens an email you’ve sent them so you can time your follow up calls perfectly.
Any website pages visited will be tracked in the CRM. Any emails sent, opened, clicked, all stored in the contact’s CRM timeline. Basically, you’ll never mix up a client or potential customer’s details again. You can even call them for free right from within the CRM.
There are hundreds more tools out there that can help with various parts of your marketing strategy but be aware of tool overload. The more tools you adopt, the harder it becomes to focus on what matters most and the growth levers you can pull to have the most impact because it gets harder and harder to report between those tools. The last thing you need as a busy entrepreneur is to spend hours in excel spreadsheets trying to figure out what’s working in your marketing and what’s not.
I personally use every HubSpot tool I can for ETTCH and would be lost without them! If you are planning on trying out any of the HubSpot tools mentioned and need some guidance or have questions, feel free to reach out to me, I’m happy to chat about how you can get the most from them.
Written by Lisa Toner
Lisa Toner is a Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot and owner of ETTCH, a subscription box for empowering children and teenagers. At HubSpot, she leads a global team of content and acquisition marketers responsible for driving new business for HubSpot. She’s a regular event speaker on topics such as content strategy, sales and marketing alignment, acquisition strategy, and sales process.