Here are some of my favorite marketing tools if you are looking to start your own marketing plan for your business. I’ve come to rely on all of these tools and I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise! These meet marketing industry standards, and I have always preferred to choose tools that are free or cheap. Most of the following have mobile apps as well, so you can check on critical work, or get helpful notifications, on the go! Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Mailchimp

I think it goes without saying that all businesses must have a platform to collect email addresses for leads or customers, and connect with their following on a regular basis. Mailchimp and I have had a relationship for over 4 years. Before that, I used Constant Contact for a couple of years with one of the first positions I had in Marketing, but I feel like Mailchimp has a stronger platform overall. They also have a great on-demand chat for technical support if something ever comes up. The great news is that Mailchimp offers a free plan where you can send up to 1,000 emails per month; and collect up to 2,000 contacts. You only have to upgrade after you exceed one of those buckets, and it is so worth it for businesses of any size. You’ll get access to customizable sign-up forms that you can embed directly on your website, allowing you to build your email list seamlessly. Mailchimp is #1 on my list for must-have marketing tools because of the versatility of their applications, and let’s face it— pure necessity. Marketing relies on email campaigns for success! After working in retail and wine sales for many years, I’ve witnessed many times huge spike in sales after each and every email marketing campaign deploys. Mailchimp even offers postcards, auto-posting your campaigns to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they offer Ad set up too, Website development (new), Surveys (also new), Landing Pages, and so much more. If you’re not already on the Mailchimp train, you should hop on soon! Mailchimp Pricing can be found here.

2. Later

This website has been immensely useful for scheduling and planning social media posts. I discovered it during a deep search for a better tool to use than Planoly, and Iconosquare. Don’t get me wrong, those other two platforms are good too, but I have found Later to be my 1-stop-shop for all things social. Their analytics reports have everything I need to know how my posts are doing, and their scheduling, planning, and asset management sections are quite dreamy if I can be totally honest. I’ve worked with companies that have a lot of team buy-in on what posts go out, and what the captions say. What I like most about Later is that you can build the posts out into the future, and then send a link with the proposed captions to those other stake-holders to review. The only thing I would recommend that Later implements at some point, is a way to capture feedback during that process, which it doesn’t have quite yet. Overall though, Later is #2 on my list because Social Media is the second most important marketing tool there is (in my opinion). It’s important to have the tools you need to be successful rather than taking a shot in the dark, or wasting precious time scheduling posts directly on each individual platform directly. The best part though is that they just made it free. Forever. Free forever. Need I say more? Check out Later.com for more info.

3. Ring Central or “Glip”

I discovered Ring Central in kind of a strange way. I am not even sure that it’s meant for the way I use it, in fact, I know it’s not. BUT, that hasn’t stopped me from really enjoying it’s calendaring tool. It’s a free desktop application (it’s accessible online too) where you can invite your teammates, work collaboratively, and visually see events planned for your business needs. Such as: emails planned well into the future, you can then backdate the work, and any approval steps needed to plan ahead for. I created a different “Team” for each purpose. For example, one Team was labeled “Email Marketing”, another was “Social Media”, “Holidays”, “Event Planning”, “Vacations”, and so on. In the calendar, you can view all events stacked together (oh, I almost forgot you can color coordinate each Team), OR you can view them each individually so you can focus on one at a time. Right out of the gate, it will have on some pesky notifications, but you can turn those off in a flash. This app is totally free. There are other planning softwares such as Asana, Trello, or Monday that also have calendars built-in, but somehow I have latched onto this tool, and haven’t let go yet. It’s very user-friendly, simple, and easy for everyone on your team to learn. I do have to tell you though that my dream would be having a spreadsheet version of all the events plugged into the calendar, because I maintain separate spreadsheets manually with the same data to plan out my calendars. One day I hope to find the perfect tool for that. Here’s more information about Ring Central.

4. Wix

Number 4 on my list of must-have marketing tools is Wix. Wix is a website design platform that’s easy to use. They have two ways you can go about making your website. The first is using their “Wix ADI”, a selection of great templates you can start out with, which also offers suggestions as you build your website and turn it into your own. When you are ready to upgrade to something more robust to add complexity, or if you want to start from scratch, you can choose the “Wix Editor”. I am listing this down as #4 because you may not need a website, you likely already have one! More about Wix and their pricing plans can be found here. I would suggest starting out with the Free version to see if you like it and the design you’ve created, then when you’re ready to connect a domain name, you’ll unfortunately have to upgrade. I recommend all small businesses start with the lowest tiered plan, $13/mo, and then upgrade from there if they need more features. I’ve found that while sometimes Wix is a little tricky, it’s much easier than Squarespace or WordPress can be. Oh! Lastly, Steer away from using their in-house Marketing tool, Ascend. Unfortunately you’re going to be super limited when it comes to design for their email marketing platform, and I haven’t found it to be useful. Connect with me if you’d like to learn more about how to integrate your Mailchimp signup form on your Wix website.

5. Unsplash

Unsplash is a great website to find a lot of free images online. There have been so many times I have come across the need for high-resolution photography in my marketing experiences. If you can hire your own professional photographer, and get original content that you love, that is always going to be the best way. However, sometimes you need a stock photo. We’ve all been there. They usually come at a cost if you’re using Shutterstock or a similar site. But, Unsplash is basically here to save the day. I highly recommend it.

6. Coolors.co

For branding purposes and web design, Coolors.co is pretty fantastic. You can generate color palettes with ease and export the palettes to JPEGS to show to clients and get their input, you can save them, mess around with them, and it’s all free. It’s one of the most wonderful branding and design tools I know. If you’re looking for your perfect color palette, Coolors has got your back.

7. Google Suite

Google Suite, or gSuite, should probably be #1 on my list. It falls to #7 only because I assume most people already have it as a literal extension of one of your limbs to be honest. It’s really interesting sometimes when I find people aren’t using Google Suite for business yet. If you’re not, and you need a way to store files in the cloud, Google is the best friend you never knew you needed, and you won’t turn back to flash drives and external hard drives after you get converted. I store all my client files in my Google Drive, I use Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Forms, Google Slides, Google Fonts, Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Business, Google everything. It will change your life. Simplify what you are doing and get with Google. Plus, it will scale with you as you grow and as the internet changes, so you don’t have to worry about finding a “new” google, as the times change. That would be silly.

8. Google Sheets

I wanted to point out Google Sheets for one reason in particular as it relates to Marketing. This is about designing your very important Email Campaign Calendar. I keep a Google Sheet that my team has access to, so everyone can see the schedule live. Changes are sure to come up and change around, so when they do, I use both Google Sheets and Ring Central to make the changes to the schedule. Starting with Google Sheets, I plan out my email content for the next fiscal year ahead. I pencil in my holiday email campaigns, especially surrounding Black Friday, (Non-Marketers call this crazy weekend Thanksgiving), Cyber Monday, and Year-End (or Christmas/Holiday sales). It helps to have a spreadsheet for all of your campaigns to backdate photography spending plans, plan ahead, track sales and KPI’s, and even look back upon last year to see which campaigns performed the best and which ones are worthy of repeating. You can go crazy with what you track, but keep it simple or you might have to hire a Marketing Analytics person specifically for this purpose.

9. NameCheap.com

Ah yes, the fun stuff — domain names! You can save a ton of money if you buy your domain through Name Cheap vs. buying it via Wix. Before you do ANYTHING when starting a business, this should be your first step. Well actually, you’ll want to make sure no other businesses already have your business name. BUT THEN… Purchase your domain name right away! With NameCheap, you can save about â…” the cost to renew your domain that it would cost on Wix (which they undoubtedly will try to get you to do). I highly recommend NameCheap specifically for cost-saving purposes. Be sure to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of domain purchases and transfers, or do a lot of research before you get started. There are a lot of intricate (or delicate rather) aspects to maintaining your domain, and you want it to be seamless. Click here to head to NameCheap.com.

10. Skillshare

I’m so happy we have made it to #10! Skillshare is my favorite marketing tool for learning. I love Skillshare because if there is anything I do not know, anything I want to brush up on, improve on, or learn a new skill as it relates to creative work, or marketing in general, Skillshare is my go-to. I could be on Skillshare full-time if I wanted to, to be honest. I have found so many teachers on there that make learning so fun and easy.

And just like that, that’s it for my first blog here on alexbentson.com! I hope you enjoyed it. Leave me a comment if you have some other tips and tricks you’d like to share with me about Marketing tools!