Grow your small (or large) business with the help of these tools
As a startup, small-, or even medium-sized business, you want to grow and scale your business effectively, whilst being aware of costs. It’s a careful balancing act. You want to do it all. But your budget says: “do less!”
You probably also know that to have a successful business, you need to do a number of things: have a great product or service; focus on customer service and support; market your business; ensure your product or service has a unique selling point from your competition; you need to price correctly; you need to have a business strategy to know where your business is going, and you need to run your business efficiently, among a myriad of other things.
Sometimes, all of this can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry. There’s probably an app for that. Kidding! Apps won’t solve the world’s problems. But there are, definitely, tools out there to help you automate or streamline the processes in your business and do things that manually might take up valuable time.
From accounting and operational efficiency; to talking to your team remotely; managing your projects digitally and even understanding your customer behaviour to better target them with the right marketing communications, there are tools to help you in every phase of your business growth.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 36 free and paid marketing and business tools to help your business grow more efficiently.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Google Keyword Planner (free)
The Google keyword tool can help you discover new keywords (primary and secondary) as well as get search volumes and forecasts on how they could perform.
This is a great tool for finding any gaps in your SEO strategy and helping you to plug them. Get domain overviews; do competitor research; identify keyword gaps; backlink gaps; and perform SEO audits.
Yoast (free and paid)
Not only is Yoast a beneficial tool for identifying SEO gaps, but it is also a great learning tool. The website has multiple learning tools to help you learn all about SEO basics. Yoast is essentially a plug-in for your website that gives you a step-by-step guide on how to rank better on search engines.
Automation and content marketing tools
Google Analytics (free)
Not only is Google Analytics free, but it’s probably the world’s leading analytics software for your website. And the best part is that the platform is constantly evolving.
Google Analytics gives you access to information relating to user behaviour (what they do on the site when they arrive), such as which content they looked at; or most popular search terms; acquisition (how you got users to your website or platform) and then detail around users, such as demographics, interests, technology, and further insights around behaviour. You can segment data; look at different timeframes; compare timeframes and deep dive into data in whichever way you like. You can see:
- The number of visitors to your site by day, week, month, or any time period you choose.
- Where these visitors are coming from – referrals from other website, organic search, ads, social, or direct.
- The keywords people are using in Google to find your site.
- The demographics and interests of your users.
- How long each user spends on your site, and which pages they visit.
Google Alerts (free)
It may have been around for a while, but Google Alerts is still one of the best free marketing tools. You can set a Google Alert for anything of your choosing, and then get a daily roundup alert in your inbox every time that keyword is mentioned. So, you can keep track of industry updates, your brand, your products, and, even, your competitors.
Social media is important, but it can be an inconvenient necessity if you need to post something and aren’t near your computer, or have to be elsewhere, or even just need to focus on something else for a while and don’t have access to the files.
That’s why scheduling tools exist. Tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and others allow you to upload content in advance all at once, so you can time block moments when you can schedule, and then focus your time doing something else. These tools also provide advanced reporting tools so you can get insights in one place. You can also track mentions of your brand, your competitors, or any other keywords you would like to track about the industry.
If you’ve got a small marketing budget, you probably want to focus your budget on high-performing platforms. Google Ads allows you to target incredible accurately, at those moments when someone is actively searching for relevant products or services. You also only pay for ads when people click on them. The analytics associated with Google means you can also learn and understand more about your customer. Unfortunately, Google Ads is notoriously tricky to set up and get right.
Studies show that you need to spend roughly 5 – 20 hours per week on Google Ads to really get it right, otherwise you are just wasting your money. That’s where agencies usually come in, as they have expert campaign managers who optimize and manage your ads for you. Agencies are expensive though. And that’s where Adbot comes in. For a relatively small budget (as little as R49 a day, but you can even choose to spend less or more) you can set up your Google Ads account in less than ten minutes and spend less than one hour per week setting up your ads, helping the Adbot machines learn more about your adverts. And then the Adbot automation does the rest.
Sprout Social (paid)
Sprout Social is the gold standard in social media tools. From small businesses to enterprise level needs, there is something for everyone. It has multiple capabilities, including:
- Social media engagement: reply to comments or messages through a unified inbox, and ensure your team is replying to all messages sent to your brand.
- Social media monitoring and listening: you can see what is being said about your brand and competitors using keyword searches, allowing you to uncover trends and insights.
- Scheduling and publishing: Upload content and publish it direct from Sprout. It also allows you to see your calendar overview, so you can see when content is going to go out using a calendar overview.
- Analytics: Get rich social media data and analytics across channels.
Hemingway App (free and paid)
This. Is. Genius. Do you ever write long rambling sentences, and wonder whether they’re descriptive, or just plain flowery? Hemingway App shows you where you might be overdoing it and offers guidance for simplifying your content.
According to the website: “The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.”
Meta Business Manager (free)
This is Meta (Facebook’s) answer to top-line management of multiple Facebook accounts, and allows you to manage your brand page or pages from one place, including posting to Instagram and Facebook from desktop, or cross-post between the two channels; access insights and ads; manage your planning calendar and your inbox and notifications all in one space. You can give your team editorial and read only access; allow media teams to manage ads only without disrupting editorial content and give finance teams access to billing and finance. It also enables you to track team management of Facebook products.
Mailchimp used to be the platform for email, but now it’s so much more. From building a website, to social media scheduling, online sales, appointment scheduling and digital ads. You can also:
- Segment your database for different customer groups,
- Schedule emails and social posts,
- Build emails within the platform,
- Send out surveys within the platform,
- Use CRM tools,
- Get predictive analysis, and
- Build forms.
BuzzSumo (free and paid)
Buzzsumo is one of many tools online that allow you to perform several social media tasks. It allows you to discover which content is working, monitor comments and brand mentions, and identify influencers who might be relevant or already talking about your brand.
What you can track:
- Volumes of conversation from around the web on a particular topic
- Trends in conversations (such as peaks in mentions)
- Trending content online
- Competitor tracking
- Influencer searches
- Brand monitoring tools
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) (free and paid)
This one sort of falls under SEO and content marketing but either way, it’s a great tool for any brand wanting to build a content marketing strategy that wins. HARO connects journalists seeking expertise to include in their content with sources who have that expertise. So, a brand that specialises in selling premium dog products, could subscribe to HARO, and whenever any comment is required on the pet industry, the CEO could respond quickly.
Linktree (free and paid)
Linktree allows you to put multiple links in one place, so customers don’t have to go in search of your content. It’s especially helpful for platforms like Instagram, where links aren’t hyperlinked (annoying). So instead of asking your customers to retype a link in their browser, they can head to your bio, click on your linktree link, and see all your curated links in one place.
Surveys are a great way to get customer or employee feedback, and analyse results. More detailed survey tools like Survey Monkey allow you to collect data quickly; keep track of your brand; test ideas; or even just check in with your audience. There are multiple tools, including Mailchimp’s built-in survey function.
SurveyMonkey gives you access to hundreds of survey types by need from market research to customer service and brand awareness or even website feedback.
Google Forms (paid)
You can build your own survey in Google Forms. The tool has template options, or you can set up your own from scratch.
Trends, Research and Ideation
Facebook Business (free)
Inspiration. Insights. Trends. Multiple resources. All of this, all in one place. The Facebook Business platform gives anyone access to research and resources for anyone looking to upskill or find ideas and insights. You can explore insights around audiences; industries; planning and buying; podcasts; and get access to multiple reports. There are even tools for small businesses to enterprise level, as well as online courses and certifications for every level of marketer relating to the whole Meta business suite.
Answer the public (free)
Want to know what people are searching for online? Want raw insights, direct from consumers? Looking for content ideas?
According to the website: “AnswerThePublic listens into autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword. It’s a goldmine of consumer insight you can use to create fresh, ultra-useful content, products and services. The kind your customers really want.”
If you’re struggling to come up with blog or content ideas, Portent is a great – and amusing – idea generator. It essentially gives you blog title ideas, which can spark ideas around your specific topic.
Google Trends (free)
See what the world is searching for on Google. From Taylor Swift to football, you can see popular search volumes; the Year in Search; and what is recently trending.
Think With Google (free)
Think with Google is an untapped resource by Google which gives marketers and business owners access to multiple trends, insights, ideas, and case studies from around the world. From consumer insights to marketing strategies and innovations, there is a wealth of information available on the platform.
Bonus, Think with Google also has its own Toolbox which marketers can tap into.
Pinterest Predicts (free)
The Pinterest predicts website aims to find trends before they become popular. From fashion to décor and design, you’ll be able to spot what’s going to blow up before your competitors do.
From the website: “People use Pinterest to plan for the future. That means we know what’s next. In fact, 8 out of 10 of our predictions for 2021 came true.¹ This isn’t another year-end trend report. This is a not-yet-trending report—a window into the future, from the place where people go to plan it. Let’s look forward to 2022.”
Future 100 – 2021 (free)
These forecasting trends are drawn from culture, technology, travel, branding & marketing, food & drink, beauty, retail, health, business and finance sectors.
TED Talks (free)
TED talks gives you access to talks on multiple trends, insights and innovations. You can find information regarding any topic you can imagine.
Collaboration, visualisation and productivity
To work effectively, it’s important that communication is not bottle-necked because of formal channels such as email. Sometimes you just need to quickly message someone; or share a document. Other times you don’t need a meeting, but you do need to check in with a team on a project. These tools are designed to enhance collaboration, not hinder it. Tools like Slack and Discord are two such portals. Both have a few great functions, including:
- Direct messaging
- The ability to set up channels for different projects or teams
- Search functionality, so you can easily find files, messages or links
- Integrations with other tools
- Automation integration
Miro (free and paid)
Want to be able to visualize and contextualise your thoughts? Showcase your data in interesting ways, or brainstorm effectively? This is a whiteboard platform that enables teams and individuals. Multiple levels within a business can take advantage of the capabilities of Miro, from marketing and strategy to operations and development, sales and many more. Miro even has templates for you to use, so you don’t have to build from scratch, enabling agile workflows, mapping, and diagrams to more easily display data and thinking.
Canva (free and paid)
Canva is a free and paid tool that gives templates for drag-and-drop design without needing specific design knowledge. You can upload your own photos within pre-defined templates and fonts, colour palettes and effects.
These are primarily tools for prototyping user interfaces for websites and digital products, however the collaboration and design capabilities mean that it’s relatively simple for even a novice designer to create lovely designs for social media, mock-ups for website changes or designs, and, even, to collaborate with designers on mock-ups.
Free royalty-free stock images that you can use in your social media imagery.
Hubspot (free and paid)
An organization running multiple campaigns across various tools and systems will sometimes be overloaded with data and tools. Hubspot provides a solution for that. The all-in-one software is very pricey, however there are free and paid versions of the tool which can be useful for small and medium-sized businesses.
Hubspot is a complete CRM platform, with multiple functions and tools; from sales leads management, customer service management, and content management.
Other features of HubSpot include:
- Content optimization tools
- Optimized landing pages
- Email templates
- Marketing automation
- Lead management
- Social media management
Zoom and Google Meet (free)
Video conferencing tools that allows you to do remote work with multiple people. You can present presentations, hold group meetings and much more.
Trello (free and paid)
Card-based project management tool that allows you to track progress on your projects among your team. You can set up boards, invite people to join, create checklists and assign tasks to users.
Evernote (free and paid)
A handy way to keep track of thoughts, notes, and meetings. You can capture all texts, images, photos, files, links, and sync everything for offline use. Evernote is a great organisational tool for both personal and professional use, and you can organise in a way that suits you.
XERO is actually a bookkeeping tool, so it isn’t technically about operational efficiency. However, we’ve found it an incredibly valuable tool for keeping track of your business expenditures, especially if you’re a small business. It allows you to automate all your bookkeeping by allowing you to keep all bills and records and scan them directly from your mobile, and it even pulls in your bank feeds, and automatically attributes spending, so you don’t have to hire a bookkeeper.
And that’s it! If you have any other tools, you’d like us to add to the list, or would like to set up a demo about how Adbot can help grow your business online, why not chat to us today.