You have to spend money to make money.

While doing research for this post, we came across an entrepreneurial Redditor with some excellent insight on the quote, “You have to spend money to make money.”

In case you’re too lazy to click the link, our online pal dished out some solid advice we want to make sure you read:

“The phrase ‘You have to spend money to make money’ is the most accurate phrase I have ever heard. I use to try and do things for the least amount of money and for some people that may be Okay.. but in reality it’s incredibly hard and could ruin your chances at success. Here are a few things I think you should not bootstrap or try and buy for pennies.

 

  • Your web development. Please do not spend low amounts of money on this unless you can develop yourself at an intermediate level. You can shop around for a good bargain but don’t look for dollars on the penny. A website is crucial to your business and in most cases your website is your business in terms of ecommerce stores. A website isn’t just a visual thing there is also background technical aspects that come into play that can ruin your business and is the reason why you should put the money forward for a good developer(s).
  • Hosting. DO NOT! waste money on hosting. You can purchase a baby plan from hostgator or whatever at the beginning but once you see your business gaining traction online (even if it’s only been a month) please reinvest some of your hard earned money into upgrading your plan appropriate to your websites growth. The last thing you want is your website crashing at 1000 users with them all browsing your store, at the checkout or good forbid going through the payment process this can kill a business. Think about it, have you ever been at the checkout and the website is slow and you end up thinking “f*** it” and don’t end up purchasing what you wanted? I sure have.
  • Employees. If you have employees. Hire the right employees for the right amount. We have all seen videos of the UPS people tossing packages out of the trucks, ruining merchandise. This is all due to them not being paid enough for the tiring work they do. Obviously shipping is not your fault, but this example relates to those who have small boutiques or brick and mortar stalls. Don’t hire the lazy, apathetic stoner for 9 bucks an hour, instead hire the ambitious, hardworking college student who won’t accept anything lower than 13 bucks an hour.

 

These aren’t cardinal rules, they are just tips for people who might be doing what I was doing when I started my businesses. Once I had changed these small things, I noticed the growth and I realised that the money I spent ended up being repaid in the long run. There are plenty more but these are the most important ones.

If you click the link and venture on over to Reddit, you’ll see a lot of other entrepreneurs and business owners backing this person up.

Now, for the sake of this post we’ll assume you already have a company website. If you don’t, that’s the first place to start. Web marketing is relatively inexpensive when you compare the ROI of a website to what it cost to build that website.

Need a website or a website refresh? Click here to get in touch.

With that said, while this is a list of 5 inexpensive marketing ideas for small business owners, we’re not telling you to cut corners. We’re giving you some of the most cost efficient ideas you can use to start marketing your business.

If you prefer to skip ahead to a particular section, this is everything we’re going to cover:

Let’s get started.

Inexpensive-Marketing-Idea-1-Word-of-Mouth-Marketing-Ask-for-Referrals

Inexpensive Marketing Idea #1 — Word of Mouth Marketing (Ask for Referrals)

Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is probably the most cost-efficient idea on this list because it’s truly free. It’s also incredibly powerful and incredibly crucial to the success of your business.

About 62% of consumers search online for reviews and information before buying a product or service and a massive 90% trust their friends brand recommendations.

Another cool thing about Word of Mouth marketing (besides the fact that it’s free) is that there are multiple ways (strategies) to implement WOM into your overall marketing strategy.

For starters, you can encourage user-generated content (UGC) — sorry about all the acronyms.

UGC is content that’s created and shared by consumers about brands, products, and services. It’s honest, builds trust, and it gives you extra collateral to work with. In fact, a recent UGC Report from SoicalMediaToday unveiled:

  • 75% of respondents surveyed claimed that UGC makes content more authentic
  • 48% of marketers believe that UGC helps humanize their marketing efforts
  • Brand engagement rises 28% when consumers are exposed to a mixture of professional marketing and UGC

Another way to boost your small business marketing efforts via WOM marketing is to share customer testimonials/reviews.

Customer testimonials/reviews help reassure the value of what you claim you can do and they make consumers feel more comfortable about doing business with you. There’s a reason they call it social proof.

Once you’ve got a testimonial/review repurpose it into your marketing by utilizing it in:

  • A case study
  • On a dedicated landing page
  • On relevant product/service pages
  • As lead generation content

To get the most out of Word of Mouth Marketing you should also make it possible for people to leave ratings on your Facebook Page or website. Why?

  • 63% of visitors are more likely to buy when a website has reviews/ratings
  • Reviews can produce an 18% increase in sales
  • Reviews are 12x more trusted than brand descriptions

Other WOM marketing tactics you might research when you’re Googling how to market a new business include:

  • Offering incentives — give consumers a discount or free gift in exchange for referrals
  • Creating a referral program — this is usually a more organized, tiered version of offering incentives
  • Reaching out to industry influencers and thought leaders — quote them in your content or let them try your product/service for free

Inexpensive-Marketing-Idea-2-Video-Marketing-Collaborations

Inexpensive Marketing Idea #2 — Video Marketing (Collaborations)

Implementing a video marketing strategy isn’t a brand new idea. What has changed is how important video has become in (y)our overall outreach and campaign efforts.

According to HubSpot Research

  • 54% of consumers want to see videos from brands in comparison to:
  • Email newsletters — 46%
  • Social image based content — 41%

HubSpot also found that video was the most memorable (43%) in comparison to test (18%) and images (36%).

The good news about video marketing is that it can be as inexpensive or expensive as you want to make it. Again, we’re not saying you should cut corners, but if you’ve got:

  • A smartphone — and we bet you do
  • A YouTube channel — it’s free to create
  • A Facebook Page — it’s free to create
  • An Instagram account — it’s free to create
  • An imagination and some creativity — those are free too

You can start making videos for your business. Creating video is a small business marketing idea that’s proven to be successful time and time again because there’s just so much you can do with video it’s ridiculous.

You can make:

  • Demo videos
  • Brand videos
  • Event videos
  • How-to videos
  • Testimonial videos
  • Live videos
  • Personal message videos
  • Vlogs

The list goes on and on. But, if you’re just starting out and you’re looking for a good advertising idea that’s inexpensive and easy to create, we suggest trying your hand at making any of the video types above or a collab video.

A collab video is made when you reach out to another person/brand and offer to feature them and in your video and work with them on a video for their business in return.

The collab needs to be mutually beneficial so reach out to people whom you know you can provide value to. When you do find someone to collab with it can increase your (and their) audience reach, thereby providing you with a new place to market your business.

If you start out with nothing but your smartphone and some Instagram videos, that’s great! It takes guts to make videos and share them on platforms for other people to watch. But if we can be so bold as to give you one small business tip:

Invest in making video(s) as soon as you’re in a position (and have the budget) to do so.

Get yourself a decent camera, some editing software, and an idea board. Video is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today and while it’s inexpensive to get started with, you should plan to budget for it as you grow and make more money to invest back into your business.

Inexpensive-Marketing-Idea-3-Content-Marketing-Publish-Great-Content.jpg

Inexpensive Marketing Idea #3 — Content Marketing (Publish Great Content)

Another not so new, but oh-so-powerful inexpensive small business marketing idea is to, get this, publish great content. But gone are the days when catchy headlines and crystal-clear copy are the main measures of quality.

A great content marketing strategy is fundamental to success as a business owner. But in order to have a great content marketing strategy you have to ensure that any and all content you put out — copy, video, graphics, podcasts — are optimized for SEO, optimized for human beings, optimized for social media, optimized for locality, and that’s just to name a few.

Don’t let that scare you off implementing content marketing though. The benefits are just too good to pass up. For example:

  • 82% of customers have a more positive outlook on a company after reading custom content
  • Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages than a business without blogs (making it easier for customers to find you)
  • 74% of companies find that lead quality and quantity goes up as they introduce a content marketing strategy

What we need to do here though is get down into the nitty-gritty of what makes great content so you can start bagging some of these benefits of content marketing for yourself.

In our opinion, great content connects with people and fosters relationships. This is what generates leads for your business. It’s also one of the most effective ways of building relevance and credibility.

To start, content marketing is an inexpensive marketing idea because all you need is a topic, the willingness to do a little research, a basic understanding of SEO, and a place to publish what you’re writing about. There are plenty of free options to publish written content including:

If you want to publish video content, like we mentioned in the previous section, there are plenty of free options for publishing video content too, including:

  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

All of these places are totally free (and paid) options for publishing content relevant to your business and your audience.

Once you’ve established where you want to publish great content, take a step back and look at how you want to market your small business and evaluate your goals. This will determine what kind of content you want to incorporate into your marketing and publish:

  • Blog Posts
    • In-depth articles
    • How-to posts
    • Listicles
  • Videos
    • Tutorial videos
    • How-to videos
    • Vlogs
  • Ebooks
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies
  • Visual Content
    • Infographics
    • Photos
  • Social Media Content

Pro Tip: If you want to keep your content marketing relatively inexpensive, you need to have a plan in place that will help keep you organized and on budget.

We can help you with this if you don’t know where to start.

Speaking of social media content…

Inexpensive-Marketing-Idea-4-Social-Media-Marketing

Inexpensive Marketing Idea #4 — Social Media Marketing (Engage on Instagram/Twitter)

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Or something like that.

Platforms like Instagram and Twitter are great places to do some inexpensive marketing as they’re both free to use with the option to also run some incredibly well-priced ads.

These platforms also make it insanely easy to engage with other people. They’re hot places to network, collaborate, and lend a helping hand to others. But if you’re serious about doing some social media marketing, you’ve got to be committed to consistency.

Consistency is crucial for successful social media marketing.

Sending out one tweet every other day and posting to Instagram maybe once per month is not going to help you grow, nor will it help you connect with others on the platforms. Every platform moves at its own pace, but once you’ve figured out what that means for your business (look at how often your competitors are posting and what they’re posting) you need to tie that into your own social media marketing strategy.

Here are some tips that will help you out:

  • Write down how often you plan to publish on each social media platform that’s relevant to your audience/business
  • Make a list of the type of content you want to publish on each social media platform
  • Pick a tool to help you stay organized and keep your social media queues full — there are plenty of options out there but we use Buffer

When you’re building up your brand and marketing what you do on social media you have to publish consistently so your voice doesn’t get lost in the sea of the hundreds and possibly thousands of other brands and influencers your audience follows on these platforms.

That’s not us saying to go tweet 30 times a day or anything crazy like. We’re just saying that once you know what’s right for you and your audience, stick with it.

Be a picky poster, too.

In addition to being consistent with your social media posts, you should also be picky. Build your brand and marketing your products/services by posting quality content.

  • Post content that’s relevant to your audience
  • Post content that’s helpful to your audience
  • Post content that’s entertaining for your audience

A/B test posts until you find out what type of content your audience prefers to see from you on Instagram, Twitter, etc. and then give the people what they want. If you’re giving your audience what they’re looking for on social media, they’ll give you what you want–their business.

Don’t be a bystander.

Perhaps most importantly, though, you can’t be a bystander on social media if you want your social media marketing to be successful. You have to get out there and interact with other people and brands. Engaging interactions are a game changer in social media marketing.

Things you can do as a business to engage with others on social media include:

  • Liking tweets on Twitter
  • Retweeting tweets on Twitter
  • Liking posts on Instagram
  • Replying to other people’s posts even if they haven’t @mention you on both Twitter/Instagram
  • Commenting on other people’s posts on Twitter/Instagram
  • @mentions on both Twitter/Instagram
  • Use/search hashtags that your audience is familiar with

Posts work just like conversations. They should always be a two-way street, open to both sides (poster/viewer) to participate in.

The only thing the items on the list above cost are some of your time. If you’re serious about it, you can do a lot of successful marketing for your business. In case you’re not convinced, here are few fun stats about social media marketing:

In other words, social media marketing is a great inexpensive marketing idea for small businesses because there’s a lot of benefits to reap for not a lot of money-focused investment. Truthfully, it really just comes down to the amount of time you’re willing to invest.

Inexpensive-Marketing-Idea-5-Content-Marketing-Recycle-Content

Inexpensive Marketing Idea #5 — Content Marketing (Recycle Content)

We already talked about content marketing once before in this post. But we’re going to talk about it again because content is your greatest ally and best option for inexpensive marketing.

Once you’ve created some content you shouldn’t just post it once and wash your hands of it. Content can and should be recycled. Especially if you think about the amount of time it takes to produce a piece of content. Take this blog post for example. If you factor in:

  • Research hours = 2
  • Writing Hours = 2 (at the time of this sentence)
  • Proofing/editing = 1 hour
  • Image production = 1-1.5 hours (estimated)

That’s about 6.5 hours invested in this one blog post. Roughly one work day if you were to subtract a lunch break and coffee break from a regular 8 hour work day.

Looking at it broken down like that, doesn’t it seem silly to just publish this blog post and then move on to the next? Especially if it performs well upon being published? Of course, it does!

That’s where content recycling comes into play. You look at your best performing content, and we’ll hypothesize this blog post is a piece of our best performing content, and make:

  • 1 Instagram post
  • 1 LinkedIn post
  • 2-4 Facebook posts
  • 3-6 Tweets

And later on down the road we could also take something as comprehensive as this post and turn it into:

  • An eBook
  • A SlideShare
  • An infographic
  • An email course
  • A podcast episode series
  • A video series

The point of recycling content as an inexpensive marketing idea is to help you squeeze every last possible drop of juice out of your post. We want as many eyeballs as we can possibly get for every piece of content we produce because we strive to produce relevant, helpful content for our audience.

You should too.

We didn’t just slap this blog post together randomly one afternoon.

We did a lot of research to ensure this was a topic people were interested in. Then we took the time to create images we believe fit the post and would resonate with our audience.

And the benefit in doing that is that we will be able to repurpose this one piece of content into a minimum of 10 more pieces of content. This saves us both time and money and provides you with multiple resources and places to find information about inexpensive marketing ideas.

A good content marketer will strive to create less and promote more. You need to be efficient to stay relevant to the game, especially when you’re a small business that’s just starting out.

If you were to stop us on the street today and ask how to market a small business, this is what we’d tell you:

  • Create content
  • Recycle the content you create

If you do those two things, you’re going to get off to a great start. However, we do want to make a few disclaimers:

  • You can repurpose every piece of content you create whether it starts out as a blog post, a video, or an Instagram story; doesn’t matter, any type of content can be transformed into multiple types of content
  • You shouldn’t repurpose every single piece of content you create
  • You need to repurpose the content that’s high-performing, evergreen, and provides a lot of value

Keep these three things in mind when recycling your content and you’ll be just fine. Not only is recycling content an inexpensive marketing idea but it’s also rewarding in that:

  • It helps you expand your reach and reach new audience members
  • It helps you diversify the types of content you’re putting out in the world
  • It provides you with more backlink opportunities
  • It strengthens your messaging

Put out good content. Maximize the number of eyeballs you get on that content. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. It takes patience, but you will see success if you utilize content marketing in your small business.

Recap: 5 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Here’s everything we just covered:

  • Word of Mouth Marketing — getting referrals
  • Video Marketing — making collab videos
  • Content Marketing — publishing great content
  • Social Media Marketing — engaging on Instagram and Twitter
  • Content Marketing — recycling content

This post was a long one but we felt like it was important to go really in depth with this topic. There are plenty of other people out there who will tell you they have the secret to all kinds of inexpensive marketing ideas and then just give you a dumpy list with no actionable advice to follow.

We’re not into that. Hopefully, if you made it this far, or even if you just decided to skim the end of the post here, you’ll be able to pull a marketing idea or two you’d like to use in your own small business.

Instagram’s shopping feature picked up a lot of hype towards the end of March as the shopping tool was made available for online stores based in:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • France
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Australia

According to Instagram:

Shopping on Instagram gives your business an immersive storefront for people to explore your best products with a single tap.

In other words, life just got a whole lot better for online retailers.

We’re not retailers, but while we’re talking about Instagram, let’s connect on our favorite platform 😊 Click here, give us a follow, let us know you came from the blog and we’ll give you a follow back.

At the moment, shopping on Instagram is only available for businesses selling physical goods in select product categories that fit Instagram’s Privacy Policy.

If that’s you, or if that’s going to be you soon, let’s talk about how to set up Instagram Shopping.

Why Can’t I Tag Products On Instagram?

A lot of people are concerned about their current inability to tag products so let’s go ahead and address that right now.

First things first, it just may be that the shopping feature hasn’t hit you yet. To find out if this is the case or not, determine if you can enable the ability to tag your products on Instagram.

To do this, your Instagram business profile must first be associated with a shop on Facebook or a catalog in Business Manager. To do this properly, run through this checklist:

  • Is your Instagram app up-to-date?
  • Is your Instagram account a business profile?
  • Are you an admin on a page or business manager account?
  • Do you have a shop on Facebook or a product catalog with Business Manager?

Once you’ve confirmed your accounts are linked properly, this is how to enable the ability to tag your products on Instagram if the feature is available to you:

  • Go to your Instagram business profile
  • Tap Get Started at the top of your profile
  • If you don’t see Get Started tap the settings icon
  • Tap products
  • Tap continue
  • Select a product catalog to connect to your Instagram business profile
  • Tap done

Boom. You’re all set up to tag products on your Instagram posts!

Don’t panic if you don’t see these options yet though. Your account may still be under review and it just hasn’t been approved yet. Give it some time.

Once you’ve got the green-light, Instagram has some tips for using the shopping feature we highly suggest paying attention to / doing. They include:

  • Create at least 9 shopping posts to activate the Shop tab for your audience
  • Tag multiple products to help your audience explore and browse your inventory
  • Use stories to show your audience they can now shop right from your Instagram page
  • Mix it up — tag a single image or a carousel
  • Make sure each tag touches the correct product so nobody gets confused about which product a tag is referring to

Tagging Instagram Product Posts the Right Way

Tagging Instagram Product Posts the Right Way

Instagram has made it super easy to provide a user friendly shopping experience via your business profile. As long as you follow the rules and pay attention to the tips Instagram offers, you’re going to see some positive results.

Review the tips above, most importantly:

Make sure each tag touches the correct product so nobody gets confused about which product a tag is referring to.

With that tip in mind, here’s how to tag products on Instagram:

  • Select a photo, add a caption/effects/filters
  • Tap the product(s) in the photo that you want to tag
  • Enter the names of the products you want to tag and select them when they appear in the search box
  • Tap Done
  • Tap share

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Instagram allows users to tag products in posts both new and old from your business profile. It’s exceptional to say the least because if you’ve been promoting your products on Instagram for a while now, you already got a ton of posts you can get tagged up before rolling out even more awesome stuff.

Note: single image posts have a 5 product tag limit and multi-image posts have a 20 product tag limit.

Also keep in mind that product info from your tags and product details on your page will display in the language and currency of your catalog to a global audience. It’s recommended you pay a visit to your Insights to get a feel for your audience, and use the catalog containing the most relevant language/currency for your audience.

Why Instagram Shopping is Generating So Much Buzz

Instagram has been the go-to platform for visual storytelling since it debuted back in 2010.

But why?

We think it comes down to four things:

  • Mobile Friendliness — Instagram is easy to use no matter where you are or what you’re doing. In fact, that’s the whole point. The ability to edit and post images “in-the-moment” is what attracts people to the app. Plus, it’s just so easy to use.
  • Functionality — Instagram is a unique app that caters to a wide audience. That ain’t easy to do but Instagram does it well. They haven’t limited themselves to just one social function, which makes them more approachable and more appealing to a wider group of people than say Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Visibility — Human beings are visual creatures. A good chunk of us know and understand this by now. Instagram caters to our visual nature. Of course it’s going to be popular.
  • Novelty — What sets Instagram apart the most is its simplicity. It does a great job of attracting younger audiences and is only gaining momentum (unlike other social media brands who have gained and plateaued).

Mix all of those things into a pot with the ability to shop sprinkled in and you’ve got a winning recipe. Think about this:

As of September 2017, Instagram boasts 800 million monthly active users and it’s projected that number will reach 111.9 million by the time 2020 roll around. Instagram is especially popular in the United States with 48.4% of the US social networking population on the app.

And think about what we know regarding the online shopping landscape:

  • 54% of millenials make purchases online and 49% of non-millenials make purchases online [Pulse of the Online Shopper]
  • 40% of US males and 33% of US females age 18-34 would “ideally buy everything online” [Forbes]
  • 85% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations [BrightLocal]
  • 34% of online shoppers said that social media influences their purchases [Pulse of the Online Shopper]
  • 23% of online shoppers purchased products on a social media network [Pulse of the Online Shopper]
  • Referrals from Instagram spend the longest time on eCommerce sites, with an average session duration of 3.12 minutes — almost double Facebook [Smart Insights]

It will be fun to see how those last three stats change over the next 12-18 months with the introduction of Instagram shopping. Why? Because with shoppable posts, consumers have an amazing opportunity to connect with brands they love at a whole new level.

Instagram is simplifying online shopping by helping you meet consumers where they’re browsing for products and reviews. They’re also empowering you with the ability to provide relevant information with the tap of a finger without anyone ever needing to leave the app.

It’s convenient for you as an online retailer, it’s convenient for your customers, and it’s a great way for Instagram to stay on top as the engagement leader of social media platforms. Win-win-win

Honestly, if you think about it, the only risk you have here has nothing to do with using the shopping feature and everything to do with not using it. For example, if somebody sees an item they like in their feed, but they can’t buy the item or find a link to your site, you risk losing that money.

How many times do you reckon this happened before Instagram rolled out the shopping feature? It’s scary to think about.

Track Your Instagram Shopping Success

Once you start tagging posts and promoting your products on Instagram with the shopping feature, be vigilant about tracking your stats.

To be successful you need to know how your shopping tags are performing. Lucky for you, Instagram provides insights on the click-thru on Instagram Shopping to your site. Use those insights to continuously build and grow your shopping strategy.

With Instagram Insights, you can track the following stats for your business profile:

  • Weekly Impressions
  • Weekly Reach
  • Profile Visits

And you can track the following stats for individual posts:

  • Views
  • Likes
  • Reach
  • Comments
  • Profile visits

You can even view insights for stories you’ve posted by doing the following:

  • Click the stats symbol (the bar graph looking image) in the top right of your business profile
  • Scroll down to stories

You can view insights on your current story or tap “older stories” to view insights on Instagram stories that you’ve posted in the last 14 days. You can’t watch a story again once it’s expired (after 24 hours) but the stats are good for 2-weeks post story share.

Do us a favor though and don’t forget that shopping on Instagram isn’t an advertising thing. It’s about building an engaged audience and providing them with a better shopping experience. Don’t let any increase you see go to your head.

Keep your posts genuine and don’t make it all about selling. Instagram users need a personal reason to connect and engage with your business. The moment you turn into a money-hungry salesman on your Instagram account is exactly when you’re going to see a dip in your stats.

Build Your Instagram Powerhouse

Build Your Powerhouse

Instagram is a powerhouse for you to tell a story that showcases an experience. Instagram Shopping isn’t about marketing your product; it’s about marketing the experience that comes with owning your product.

If you’re an online retailer (or any brand honestly) Instagram is the place you could build your powerhouse of a brand. Don’t be afraid to give this a shot. It’s a free tool that can potentially help your business explode.

And don’t forget, we’re more than willing to help you put together a strategy that builds the experience you want your customers to have when shopping with your brand.

You can always reach us via contact [at] zcoastmedia [dot] com.

Or, if you’re more comfortable reaching out on social media you can connect with us

Hit us up on any of those platforms/give us a follow, let us know you came from the blog and we’ll follow back and tell you something nice because we believe kindness goes a long way too when it comes to building an engaging social media community.

Xx Paige & Nick xX

Let’s take a break from the in-depth posts this week and have a 1-on-1 chat. You up for it?

Cool. Let’s talk about how weird branding yourself is.

Everybody’s always talking about how to brand yourself right? (Even us.)

How to brand yourself as a hairstylist. How to brand your consulting business.  How to brand your band. Branding yourself for success. Branding yourself on social media.

〰〰〰

Talking about “branding yourself” makes a lot of folks really anxious. They’d rather be perceived as someone who is humble, not an obnoxious self-promoting narcissist. Unless they’re a narcissist. But most people aren’t narcissists.

The truth about branding yourself isn’t about having a fat head. It’s about enthusiasm. And people enjoy working with other people who genuinely love what they do.

This doesn’t mean you have to be hype 24/7. It just means you’re proud of who you are and what you’re doing. Do you know what people who are proud of their work do?

They talk about it. And that’s okay!

They start YouTube channels and they make awesome Insta-stories and they make an effort to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that.

It’s easy for people to tell the difference between natural enthusiasm and calculated enthusiasm. So if you’re faking it won’t take long for folks to figure it out.

Self-promotion isn’t bad. Branding yourself isn’t bad. Talking about how dope something is that you don’t believe in is bad.

〰〰〰

Being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing, but being uncomfortable because you feel like a fraud is a warning sign. If you’re uncomfortable and feel like a fake when promoting yourself or your brand or whatever, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re even doing it.

What’s the point of doing something you’re not totally passionate about for the next seven years? To keep you busy until something better comes along?

If that’s the case quit now because you’re never going to get anywhere.

Harsh.

The truth hurts sometimes but it’s better if you come to grips with it now than seven years down the road when you’re looking back on all the time you wasted trying to build something you didn’t 100% believe in.

Let’s put it another way: if you don’t like talking about what you do or why you do it, why would anybody ever want to buy from you or hire you or do any kind of business with you ever?

Think about it.

If the guy telling me jumping out of the plane is totally safe and he’s done it a thousand times has the personality of a walnut, I ain’t jumping out of the plane.

But if the guy telling me to jump out of the plane is telling me it’s totally safe and he trusts his life with this parachute and the rush is nothing like anything else I’ll ever experience and he still isn’t over it even though he’s jumped a thousand times, I’m going to be more willing to swallow my fear and jump out of the plane.

Why? Because he’s being genuine with everything he says and that’s how people connect with each other.

People want to see your passion. They want to see your fire.

Don’t worry about branding yourself. Don’t hide your flame. Instead, take the advice of one the most well-known brands in the world and Just Do It.

Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or what they have to say. Your brand is your brand and nobody else’s. Build it the way you want. And if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, it’s okay. The thing that matters is having the guts to try.

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right but if you’re truly passionate about what you’re trying to build, it will happen. We believe that with every fiber of our beings.

Later,
Xx Paige & Nick xX

*Note: If you take up residence under a rock, Just Do It is Nike’s slogan.

 

So you’ve just launched your new business and you’ve got something you want people to know about. It’s dope and people are going to love it, but you feel awkward telling them about it and you don’t really know how you’re going to get the word out anyway because you’ve barely got a budget as is — if you’re lucky enough to even have a budget in the first place.

We’ve been there.

No money.

No direction.

No clue what to do next.

Thankfully, though, we live in the digital age with all kinds of tools at our fingertips that marketer’s past could only dream about.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way my friends, and if you believe in your business you’re always going to be on the lookout for new ways to help it grow. Starting out is tough, but promoting your business with a cheap (or no) budget isn’t impossible.

It’s actually far from it and we’re here to share some of the secrets of the trade with ya. Hope you enjoy!

Sometimes it’s Good to be a Cheapskate

If you’re reading this post and you know me or Nick on a personal level, you know we’ve both got a reputation for being cheap. In fact, you’ve probably called us cheap at some point.

And that’s fine.

There’s a time to splurge money and there’s a time to save money. There’s also a time when you don’t have the option of doing either because you have no money.

It usually happens when your fresh baby-face has just been thrust into the real world, far from the safety of your childhood bedroom as you try to forge your own path among the grown-ups. Or when you’re starting your own business.

However, you’ve got some options available to you as you dwell in the land of ramen and regret. You can learn how to make things work as best you can in your current situation, or you can give up before you even give yourself the chance to get started and run home to mom.

Nick and I prefer to learn from where we’re at and build up from there. Hopefully, you do too. You should never let lack of budget hold you back.

Especially when it comes to promoting your business. So yeah, we may be a little frugal at times, cheapskates if you will, but we never let money stop us from going as big as we can with Z Coast Media (ZCM).

Sometimes we cut back on eating out if we know site domain renewal is coming up, or we rethink that extra album purchase in favor of paying for our Google set up, but we do things like that because ZCM is a priority.

It’s not a sacrifice when it’s something you want to do because your business is something you believe in. But you can still promote and build your business with little to no budget at all.

One of our top priorities at the beginning of every year is to set aside money to cover all of the following expenses:

  • LLC License
  • P.O. Box
  • Google Accounts
  • Domain
  • Hosting

These things have to be paid for to keep Z Coast running at its most basic level so we make it a priority to get these things paid for at the start of the year before we make room in the budget for anything else.

Once our top priority items are taken care of we then take the time to budget out the remaining money for any upgrades, new software, or anything else we know we’ll need or want in the coming year.

If there’s not enough leftover in your budget after taking care of the basics to help promote your business with, don’t worry. Cheap/free promotion tactics are what this post is all about.

Facebook is a Cheap At Twice the Price Option You Should Take Advantage of Yesterday

If you’re not familiar with the saying cheap at twice the price it just means extremely inexpensive. And Facebook is an extremely inexpensive way to promote your business.

But what about Facebook Ads?

What about ‘em? Yeah, they’re cool to have and maybe one day you’ll have the budget to run someone day but you’re here because you’re looking for inexpensive ways to promote your business, remember?

Facebook is a tool you just can’t afford to ignore when starting out. Just maintaining a healthy presence alone can help you engage people and grow awareness for your brand and that doesn’t cost a cent.

If you haven’t already, create a Facebook Page for your business. PLEASE. This will act as your home base for promoting your business on the social network.

When you’re setting up, make sure your Business Facebook Page aligns with your brand:

  • Use your business logo as the primary photo for your page (your profile pic)
  • Pick a cover photo that’s attractive and showcases what your business does or stands for
  • Don’t neglect to type up a few sentences in the description about your brand

Now that you actually have a page, invite people to like it. There’s absolutely no shame in inviting friends and family to like the shiznit out of your FB page.

If people you know aren’t being supportive of your new business it might be time to start surrounding yourself with new (supportive people). Just saying.

For example, my mom and Nick’s dad never fail to like a single post that goes up on ZCM’s Facebook page and they’re pretty good about sharing posts too (though there’s room for improvement there…); thanks, y’all!

But the point is you need to invite people you know to like your page and encourage them to direct their other friends *gasp* to check out your page so, hopefully, they’ll like it too.

Word of mouth boys and girls. It’s as free as every red-blooded American and it can do wonders for promoting your business.

 

People-like-my-Facebook-Page-Now-What

People like my Facebook Page…Now What?

Congrats, you have friends! Once you’ve got the page up and running do what we do and share, share, share!
Don’t go overboard or anything though. Typing that three times was just for emotional effect.

If you want to keep people coming back and new folks coming in, you’ve got to post interesting content that’s relevant to the people you’re attracting/want to attract.

People who like your page are gonna see your posts show up in their main news feed — although according to Mr. Zuckerberg that might be changing soon.

According to this article in USA Today, “Soon, Facebook says you will see more status updates from family and friends that spark meaningful social exchanges.” Zuckerberg wants people to spend less time passively scrolling and more time engaging in meaningful conversations and posts.

Facebook’s feed is still prime real estate that doesn’t cost you a penny. Make it count by taking the time to post thoughtfully to your page and share content that sparks the interactions Facebook wants to create with their upcoming feed changes.

The most successful Facebook posts today are videos but if you’re not comfortable making videos yet — and don’t say you can’t because you don’t have a camera ‘cause I bet you’ve got a smartphone that’s perfectly capable of taking video — get into the habit of sharing videos from other sources you enjoy.

You can mix it up with short, visual posts that drive people to comment, share, and like and Boom! you’re in the promoting business baby.

Post things like photos from inside your store, a behind the scenes look at your workspace or your latest blog post. Then head over to your Insights Tool.

Yep, Facebook even gives you a free to use insights tool with your super free Facebook Business Page. Dope, ain’t it?

Keep an eye on your Insights tool (you can access it via your Admin Menu) because it can tell you what time people look at your content, how many people see your content on average, and other cool stuff like that.

Some other Facebook business promotion tools you might consider

If you’re operating just above free and have a little budget to help promote your business on Facebook you might check out:

  • Promoted Posts — Promoted Posts enable you to boost the visibility of a specific post on your Facebook Business Page. How much does a promoted Facebook post cost? It varies, but it’s rare that you’ll see the option for less than $5.00.
  • Facebook Offers — Facebook Offers is a tool that allows you to create coupons that people can redeem online or in your store. You pay to have Facebook push your offer onto news feeds and your budget determines the number of people who will see your offer.

Of course, there’s always Facebook Ads but we’re here doing things on the cheap so we’re bypassing ads today and heading straight on to Instagram!

Instagram is Here to Help You Promote Your Business on the Cheap

According to Statista, as of September 2017, Instagram has 600 million monthly users.

600 million.

Are you kidding me?! That’s insane! But it’s fantastic news for you (especially if you’re selling something.) Why?

I’ll tell you why. Shoppers turn to social media for references. In fact, HubSpot uncovered that 79% of all online shoppers spend at least 50% of their shopping time researching products.

And where do they turn for recommendations from their friends and family? Yep, social media. So, you better believe people are looking for products, services, and recommendations on Instagram.

Don’t have a business Instagram account? Don’t sweat it. It’s easy and free to set up. Just remember it must be separate from your personal Insta.

 

Professional-Instagram-Account

How to Optimize Your Professional Instagram Account

First things first, take care of that bio.

Your bio is the one and the only opportunity you have to direct somebody from Instagram account to your website in a single click. So always, always, always have a link under your name/description.

It can be a link to your website, a landing page on your website, your blog, or your YouTube channel depending on what you do. Just do yourself a favor and take advantage of the opportunity to place a link in your bio.

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Now that you’ve got a link in your bio you can safely move on to creating a recognizable image. All the Instagramming in the world ain’t gonna mean sh*t if it’s not consistent with your brand.

The key to success on Instagram–and we’re defining success as brand awareness–is to make yourself instantly recognizable. This means you should have a checklist of things that consistently match your other social profiles across the board, including but not limited to your name and profile image.

Create Posts People Want to Follow & Double Tap

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words but very few of us ever actually harness that power. But man is it powerful for your brand if you do.

The reason Instagram is so popular and keeps growing is that it’s an image-based platform. We’ve known for years that images get twice as many comments as text posts so it really shouldn’t be a surprise.

However, as a business account, you’ve got to be careful with your posts because it’s a lot easier to turn followers off from following (and engaging) with you as a brand than as a personal account.

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One way you can do yourself a favor is to avoid hard selling. Instagram is a social culture above all else but people go to great lengths to avoid the used-car salesman, right?

Friends hold the top slot when it comes to influencing people on Instagram, but 38% of people on social media say they’re buying decisions are influenced by a brand’s social media.

In other words, your posts have a lot of sway so let the images you post do the talking for you without the added pressure of a sales pitch as the caption. Get creative and remember you’re here to participate in the culture of the platform.

△▲△

How are you supposed to get yourself heard if you’re supposed to avoid the sales pitch? Post attention-grabbing photos that are unique to your brand and full of personality. Easier said than done, we know, but it’s clearly not impossible.

You want to improve your brand awareness. You want to do it for cheap. You need to get creative. Use your photos to establish relationships instead of flaunting your goods and you’re going to get some attention.

It should also be a priority of yours not to post any photos that are cropped funky, blurry, or stray from these suggestions for posting quality photos.

Note: Instagram also provides a lot of awesome editing tools that help you enhance the colors and moods of your photos. Use them. Play with them. Learn them. They’re free. They’ll make your photos look better.

Don’t forget to post lifestyle photos that capture your brand culture! People want to see the actual people behind your brand. The ones that make your brand, your brand. Lifestyle photos are also a great way to strengthen the feelings people associate with your brand.

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So far we’ve covered how to use the photos you post to Instagram to promote your brand itself and the services/goods you provide but you can do more with Instagram.

You can:

  • Offer promotions and exclusive announcements to your followers
  • Widen your discoverability with the use of hashtags
  • Promote events
  • Run contests

The list goes on. The point though is this: You have a lot of options to promote your brand and other things associated with your brand on Instagram. Which means you have a lot of opportunities to increase your brand awareness.

The best part? They’re all free. Yes, you can do ads and post boosts on Instagram just like you can with FB and maybe one day you’ll want to try those features out.

But for now, if you’re operating within a limited budget, Instagram is a phenomenal option for promoting your brand for free.

Promote Your Business Cheap as Chips with LinkedIn

Did you know LinkedIn is more than just a stuffy social site for business for professionals? It’s also a great place to promote your brand cheap as chips (we threw that one in there for you, over the pond readers).

And it’s really not that stuffy once you get to know it.

Anyway, there are something like 65 million people on LinkedIn and we don’t know about you but we wouldn’t waste the potential of all those connections if we were you.

LinkedIn is much different from social platforms like Facebook and Instagram but it’s an excellent place for networking, mentorship, and getting referrals.

You can’t get referrals or network if nobody knows about your brand, right? Off to LinkedIn with you! It’s free to set up a profile.

Getting Started on LinkedIn

To kick things off on LinkedIn you’ll need to:

  • Learn how LinkedIn works
  • Create a login
  • Set up your company page and avoid being boring; keep it consistent, with your other social profiles

Once you’ve got the basics in place you have everything you need to start spreading the word about your brand and making connections with like-minded people.

Just have a company page on LinkedIn can help you build connections. But there’s no need to be lazy. Update your account regularly (truth: we forget to do this sometimes) to gain the attention of potential clients, customers, and partners.

This alone can help you:

  • Gain exposure to people searching for the products or services you offer
  • Obtain testimonials that provide credibility to your account
  • Meet new potential clients

Pro tip: try to post regularly and focus on how what you’re doing can help others achieve their goals. People love stuff like that.

You can also get involved with groups related to whatever it is you do and build up your reputation as an expert in your industry by contributing to conversations.

Talk is Cheap, and So Are Podcasts

We saved the best platform for promoting your business cheaply for last.

This is something we’re about to get into ourselves, in fact, we may have already posted our first podcast by the time this blog post goes live. If so, check for an update link at the end of this post.

Anyway, podcasting is huge and it’s a content platform that’s still growing. There are opportunities everywhere and people who are interested in what you’re talking about will find you.

Why are podcasts so easy to consume (and therefore such an easy way to get the word out about you and your business)?

Because podcasts are easy to consume. People listen to podcasts at the gym, in the carpool line at school, at the grocery store, in the shower, the list goes on.

Podcasts are also easily accessible. They can be consumed on basically any device your audience owns — smartphone, laptop, tablet and unlike a radio show, they’re available on-demand.

Podcasting allows you to create a one-on-one connection with your audience (a lot like video does, which is another cheap option for promoting your brand). With podcasting, you get to be directly in your listener’s ear for however long you record.

As long as you aren’t boring. Please don’t be boring.

But most importantly, podcasts are free/cheap to create. Sure, you’ll eventually want to invest in some professional microphones and stuff like that but when you’re just getting started and looking for free ways to promote your brand, podcasting is the way to go.

We’ve already given you a ton of ideas to promote your brand for next to nothing, and if you’ve made it this far thank you for reading and bravo.

With that said, if you’re serious about learning how to promote your brand via a podcast, we suggest you check out this comprehensive guide on how to start a successful podcast from Shopify.

No, we’re not getting paid to type that or refer you to Shopify (though we’d totally be open to that Shopify, *winks*); honestly, I’m just tired of typing at this point.

That’s one heck of a guide you just read there, don’t you think?

 

How-Will-You-Promote-Your-Brand

How Will You Promote Your Brand?

If you found anything in this guide useful we’d be seriously interested to hear how you plan to put it to work for promoting your brand on the cheap.

Do us a favor and drop a comment below telling us some of your favorite ways to promote your business for practically nothing. What worked for you when you first started out?

Of course, if you’re shy, you can always just shoot us an email. See you back here in about two weeks! Thanks for reading!

In the meantime, feel free to connect with us on our YouTube channel. Vlogs go up weekly and videos go up bi-weekly.

What is Digital Marketing?

Well, kids, that’s a great question. But to answer you we’re not going to quote some crappy Wikipedia article (no offense Wikipedia) or leave it to the big boys like HubSpot to define it for us.

No, we’re going to tell you how we define digital marketing here at Z Coast Media. Keep in mind, we’ve been doing this for a while now so we’ve had some time to really think about what the term digital marketing means to us. Ready?

Digital marketing is any type of marketing that involves an electronic device.

Click here to get help kicking off your digital marketing strategy and download our free guide to building a digital marketing strategy that works.

Being totally transparent here, digital marketing is just an umbrella term. A buzzword if you will, used to describe all the different forms of marketing and marketing tools that can be categorized underneath it.

From the beginning, the whole point of marketing has been to cater to the goals of your business by keeping and satisfying your customers. So it’s no surprise that digital marketing has become a thing. Especially if you look at these stats from Statista:

  • 65% of people in the US with electronic devices use their devices to browse the internet
  • 45% of people in the US with electronic devices use their devices as primary forms of communication
  • 39% of people in the US with electronic devices use their devices to browse and buy items/services

As a marketer, it’s only natural that you’d want to meet your customers where they’re at — online via an electronic device such as smartphones or tablets. And in order to do that, you’re going to adopt digital marketing tactics.

What are some digital marketing tactics you can use?

  • Content Marketing
  • Blog Posts
  • SEO
  • Web Design
  • Paid Search / SEM
  • Mobile Marketing (SMS, MMS in-app marketing)
  • Social Media Ads

The list goes on. But this list of digital marketing tactics won’t do you a lick of good without a plan. You’ve got to have a digital marketing strategy.

What is a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Knowing which digital marketing tactics you want to use is great but if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy, how will you know that your marketing is in the right place and appealing to the right audience at the perfect moment?

Spoiler: You don’t have a way of knowing any of that without a digital marketing strategy and that’s probably why you asked Google what a digital marketing strategy is in the first place.

Allow us to break it down for you:

  • Strategy asks the who, what, why and where questions.
  • Tactics answers the who, what, why and where questions.

A lot of people like to try and come up with the tactics part first and then develop their digital marketing strategy but we prefer doing things the other way around.

To quote one of my favorite books,  The Art of War by Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” In other words, your digital marketing strategy will only work if you’ve got the tactics in place to execute your plan.

Putting together a digital marketing strategy can feel intimidating if you’ve never done it before so we put this little guide together to help you out. It’s summarized below but you can download the full version by clicking here so you’ve got an easy reference if you need it.

How to Build Your Digital Marketing Strategy

How to Build Your Digital Marketing Strategy

  1. Get your buyer personas together. Ask the question: Who am I selling to? 

    Your marketing strategy, whether it’s digital or not, all comes down to who you’re marketing to. If you don’t have a clue who you’re targeting you won’t be successful. Sorry, but that’s just the truth.

    Your buyer personas should be a complete representation of your ideal customer(s). You can create buyer personas by researching, surveying social media, and interviewing your business’s target audience. Do your best not to make assumptions and base your notes on real data instead. Assumptions can literally make an ass out of you when building buyer personas because they can quickly take your digital marketing strategy down the wrong path.

    To put together the best buyer persona’s possible include an even mix of current customers, prospects and people outside of your contact lists that align with your target audience.

    While building your buyer personas, you’ll want to look at things like:

    Location, which you can use Google Analytics to easily identify
    Age, gather this by identifying trends in your existing prospect/customer database
    Income, gather this in one-on-one interviews
    Job Title, look at your existing customer base
    Goals, ask customers what their goals are and how your product / service has helped or is helping to achieve that goal
    Challenges, talk to your customers
    Hobbies and Other Interests, talk to your customers
    Priorities, talk to your customers and find out what they value 

  2. Identify your own goals and the tools you’ll need to achieve them. Ask the question: What are my goals and what tools do I need to achieve them?We just talked about this: strategy first, tactics second.

    Define the goals of your business, but whatever those goals are, just remember that you need to know how to measure them. Every business will measure the effectiveness of their digital marketing strategy differently.

    What’s vital is your ability to measure the effectiveness of your goals. 
  3. Take inventory of your digital marketing channels and assets. Ask the question: What do I currently have to work with? 

    Once you’ve got your goals down take a look at your available digital marketing channels and assets. You’ve got to figure out what role they’ll play in your digital marketing strategy. The easiest way to categorize your digital marketing channels and assets is to group them into the three groups below:

    Owned Media — Owned media refers to the digital assets that your business owns. This may include but is not limited to your blog, your social media profiles, or imagery.

    Earned Media — Earned media refers to the exposure you’ve earned via word-of-mouth. This may include but isn’t limited to things like guest posts, the customer experience you’re providing, or recognition on social media (shares for example)

    Paid Media — Paid media is pretty self-explanatory (we think) but just in case…paid media refers to any channel that you spend money on to catch attention and capture leads. This may include but is not limited to FB ads, Instagram Ads, or Google AdWords.

    Once you’ve gathered all this info together, categorize it in a spreadsheet so that it paints a clear picture of your existing paid, earned, and owned media.

    Now you can easily see what you might try to incorporate more of into your digital marketing strategy and what you might cut back on based on the results you’re seeing. 

  4. Audit your owned media. Plan your owned media. Understand that owned media is at the heart of digital marketing. Ask the question: What’s working for me? 

    Yeah, we said it. Owned media is the heartbeat of your digital marketing strategy. At least, it should be.

    The thing about owned media though is that it almost always takes the form of content and that’s why you need to audit it and plan it. If you’re serious about building your digital marketing strategy, you have to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals.

    Auditing your existing content is hard work but well worth it in the long run.

    To audit your existing content, make a list of your existing owned content, then rank each item on the list according to what performed best in relation to your current goals.

    The idea behind auditing your content is to figure what’s working, what isn’t, and how to set yourself up for success with your future content plans. After this is done you should discover any gaps in your existing content and be able to formulate a plan on how to fill them.

    For example, if you’re a camera company and you find out that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is figuring out how to set up lighting for videos on a budget, but you don’t have any content that addresses that issue, it might be time to create some.

    Based on the gaps you identify you can put together a content creation plan. The basics of any content creation plan should include:

    — Title
    — Format
    — Goal
    — Promotional Channels
    — Why you’re creating it
    — Priority level

Once you’ve accomplished this just repeat for your paid media and your earned media. After you’ve completed all the steps above you should have:

  • A clear picture of your buyer personas
  • At least one digital marketing-specific goal (more is great)
  • An inventory of all existing owned, earned, and paid media
  • An audit of all existing owned, earned and paid media
  • A content creation plan

Now for the fun part! It’s time to bring it all together.

Your Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

Your Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

You’ve done all the hard stuff! Yay! Now you get to build your digital marketing strategy doc. Your strategy document should map out what actions you plan to take to achieve your goals. It should answer all the questions you asked while researching and auditing.

Again, it’s probably best to use a spreadsheet for this — they’re a necessary evil — and if you want to go extra easy on yourself, map out your strategy according to the media framework you’ve used up to this point.

You should also think long-term when creating your strategy. We suggest a minimum of 12 months depending on how your business operates. For example, you might cook up something that all ties together like this:

  • January — Start blogging. Publish a new blog on a bi-weekly schedule for the whole year.
  • April — Start repurposing content from blog posts in Q1 into videos for your YouTube channel
  • July — Run a summer giveaway that requires audience members to watch a video, share a social media post, or download a piece of content to enter
  • October — Start focusing on FB ads and Instagram Ads

Those are just some snippets from our own digital marketing strategy for 2018 but we hope it’s enough to inspire you to get started.

If you’re interested in learning more or chatting about building an effective digital marketing strategy for your business, leave us a comment below or get in touch with us by clicking here.

What tools do you use for online marketing?

Are you limited by your budget? Stretching it too thin on enterprise level marketing tools?

Guess what: you can take care of all your online marketing needs without spending a dime.

That’s right buddy. You don’t have to spend a penny on your marketing stack, a.k.a all the tools you use to cover your online marketing needs. There are free options available for everything from email to social media to content marketing and beyond.

As entrepreneurs and SMB business owners, we know that it’s no easy feat assembling a 100% free marketing stack. But we know it’s possible because we’ve done it.

There’s a lot of great choices out there—free and paid—but boy are we grateful to all the companies who are so passionate about what they do, they’re willing to help the little guys out too with freebies.

Shout out to y’all ‘cause you rock.

whats-in-your-marketing-stack

Yo Z Coast, what’s in your marketing stack?

We’re glad you asked! Here’s an overview of our favorite free marketing tools and what you can expect to read more about in this post:

  1. Facebook Audience Insights
  2. Buffer
  3. Pablo
  4. Google Analytics
  5. WordPress
  6. Keyword.io
  7. Hemingway
  8. HubSpot Marketing Free
  9. Open Site Explorer
  10. Screaming Frog
  11. Canva
  12. Answer the Public
  13. Google Trends
  14. Simply Measured
  15. Zoho
  16. Quora
  17. Grammarly
  18. Latest.is
  19. Website Grader
  20. MentionMapp
  21. Flipboard

Let’s talk about why these marketing tools are awesome—besides the fact that they’re free.

Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Audience Insights is an unbelievable tool for doing market research. You can check out specific demographic information about your audience and learn more about them in the process.

Audience Insights also works well as a content research tool. For example, if you’re a local SMB you can type in your service area or location, toggle your advanced options, select “home” and start learning exactly what homeowners in your local area are interested in.

Buffer

Every small business, entrepreneur, marketer, however you label yourself, should have a go-to social media scheduling tool. Buffer is ours. Scheduling out social media posts in advance helps you save bookoos of time.

We use the Forever Free / Individual Plan that allows you to connect a profile from each of the following social networks:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

You can even link a Pinterest account if it’s on-brand with your business to have a page there.

Buffer makes it easy for us to stay ahead of the game and connect with our audiences on social media. It’s a must-have in our marketing stack.

Pablo

Speaking of Buffer, they also offer a free image making tool known as Pablo to help add a little spice to your social media. As a free Buffer user you have access to 600,000+ images via Pablo that can make anyone look like a social image pro.

Not everyone is a designer at heart and Buffer knows this. Pablo makes it super easy by providing you with a base image that you can overlay with text, logos, filters, and then download and share.

It’s a nice little time-saver and you don’t need to know the first thing about Photoshop to be good at using it.

Google Analytics

Sometimes it still amazes us that Google just gives us everything we need for free. You too. It’s out there for the taking, just waiting on you. And the best part about using Google Analytics? It pretty much does everything for you.

You can use Google Analytics to:

  • Track website traffic
  • Track traffic from specific social networks
  • Check engaged reading time by page
  • View real-time site stats

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It can feel a little overwhelming at first given the monstrous amount of information Google Analytics just hands to you for free, but once you learn your way around, the value you gain from the insight it provides is priceless.

Wary of setting up and using Google Analytics for yourself? We can help you with that.

WordPress

Aah, WordPress. You’re the best for hosting websites and you’re also an amazing free option for creating kickass landing pages that convert.

WordPress is an excellent choice for blogging but sometimes it gets overlooked as a resource for creating static pages too—eBook downloads, webinar signups, and so on. Use it! It’s really just as easy as going to Pages from your dashboard and creating the landing page.

Keywordtool.io

We’ve talked about Keywordtool.io on the blog before, here.

It’s definitely worth another mention. Keyword research is essential to every SEO campaign you ever run. With Keywordtool.io you can gather ideas from all kinds of different places that help you figure out what terms you should be targeting.

You don’t get search volume or keyword competitiveness at the free level but if you have a few extra bucks it is an available option. Just saying.

Hemingway App

Clear and simple writing is something all content marketers strive for. Hemingway helps make that possible.

All you have to do for Hemingway to do its thing is paste your copy into the editor. The app then analyzes your text and highlights the dense parts, unnecessary adverbs, and more; telling you what to keep and what you can do without.

Hemingway is a great tool for running blog posts, landing page copy, social media copy and more through for one final edit before posting.

HubSpot Marketing Free

HubSpot Marketing Free works on any website for any small business and it’s really good at helping generate email leads.

In fact, using HubSpot Marketing Free is like looking through a crystal ball and seeing everything a lead does before and after they fill out a form on your site.

It quickly gathers email addresses from your website and provides key data points. This tool will even show you which pages are converting higher than others.

Open Site Explorer

Pop quiz: Name something crucial to establishing your domain authority.

If you answered understanding your link profile in addition to your competitors, you passed. That’s where Open Site Explorer comes in. Use this freebie to find all the sites linking to you and your competitors and get the upper hand.

Screaming Frog

We’re sure you’ve heard of Screaming Frog before. That’s because they’re the go-to crawl tool for basically everybody. They have a paid version of their tool but the free version is often more than enough to suffice for SMBs.

With Screaming Frog’s free tool you can crawl up to 500 pages for free and:

  • Find broken links, errors, and redirects
  • Analyze page titles and metadata
  • Review meta robots and directives
  • Audit hreflang attributes
  • Discover duplicate pages
  • Generate XML sitemaps

Canva

Canva is another cool freebie for creating images but it’s useful for more than just social media images. In fact, there are over 2 million people out there who trust Canva to help them create awesome images for blog posts, banner images, infographics and much more.

A free Canva account comes with optimized image sizes and templates that make it easy to create the perfect image for whatever platform you’re posting to.

Answer the Public

Answer the Public is a visual keyword research tool we mentioned in the same post as Keywordtool.io. So why mention it again, here, in a post about free online marketing tools?

Because we’re sharing our marketing stack with you and it’s an integral part of our own content strategy. We use Answer the Public a lot. It helps us determine what topics and questions we want to rank for around our primary keywords.

You should do this too. When Google looks at which websites have the best information about a topic, you’re more likely to rank. Following this strategy, you’re also more likely to convert visitors because you’re answering the questions they have.

Google Trends

Did you know that you can take a peek into what the world is searching for? For free? You can with Google Trends. You can also see how interests have shifted over time regarding certain topics. Heck, you can even look at how a common interest has shifted over time in different places all over the world.

For example, “growth hacking” and “artificial intelligence” are terms that we’ve been hearing a lot about lately. You probably have too. Put those terms into Google Trends and you can see for yourself if there’s been a sudden interest spike in either.

Simply Measured

Among the many free tools and reports you can grab from Simply Measured, here are some of our favorites:

  • Facebook Content Analysis
  • Facebook Competitive Analysis
  • Facebook Insights Report
  • Instagram User Report
  • Traffic Source Report
  • Twitter Follower Report
  • Google + Page Report

 

Disclaimer: All of these reports are free to run, but Simply Measured will ask for a Twitter follow or FB mention in exchange for the reports they give you. Totally worth it.

Zoho

Have we mentioned that you can run your entire business with Zoho for free?

Oh, well, now you know! Zoho is the bomb and our favorite CRM out of any other free or paid option out there. Zoho Free is available for up to 10 users and loaded with features and information, as the very best CRMs should be.

Zoho Free features a responsive dashboard and refreshing UX that includes sales, email marketing, reporting, and customer service all in one modern, intuitive package.

Recommended reading: Business Daily, Zoho CRM Review

Quora

More and more marketers are starting to use Quora and we’re big advocates of this trend. It’s useful for researching topics, digging into emerging trends, and starting conversations with your audience.

Quora comes in handy while doing market research, content research, and monitoring buzz and concerns among your target audience.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a nifty little Chrome extension that checks your spelling and grammar. It’s nice to have around as it can help prevent any social media or blog post mishaps before publishing.

Highly recommend you keep this one in your back pocket at all times. You know, just in case.

Latest.is

Latest.is is not breaking news.

Nor is it trending hashtags.

It is simply an automatically generated list of the best links being shared on Twitter. The list is sourced via an algorithm that focuses on people who “always tweet the best links first.”

However, we’re never told who these people are. By taking advantage of the links you can find via Latest.is, you can generate a little extra buzz and engagement on your own business Twitter account.

Just remember to double check where the link goes and make sure it’s a topic that’s relative to your audience; if you run a clothing store and start sending out a bunch of tweets about understanding V8 (Google’s open source JavaScript engine) it doesn’t matter how trendy it is at the moment, it’s probably going to cost you followers, because it has nothing to do with them or your industry.

Website Grader

Website Grader is another freebie from HubSpot that gives you the overall performance score and grade of your website.

Factors that determine the grade of your website include:

  • Mobile responsiveness
  • SEO
  • Speed
  • Security

If you’re lacking in any of these areas, Website Grader will offer up some tips on how to improve. This is a good tool for your own website and it can also be useful when wrapping up web design projects with clients.

MentionMapp

MentionMapp is a phenomenal tool. It shows you how Twitter users are connected with each other and maps out all your connections in an easy to explore visual format.

MentionMapp delivers unbeatable insight into people, places, events, and conversations that you shouldn’t miss out on. It’s great for unveiling opportunities and connections for your SMB.

Flipboard

Got some favorite topics, industry influencers, or thought leaders you want to keep up within one easy place? Download Flipboard.

Flipboard is like your own personal magazine that makes it easy to organize all of your interests. Read stories. Collect stories. Share stories. That’s what we do anyway. Flipboard is great for sourcing curated content and gathering inspiration.

Your Turn: What are your favorite free online marketing tools?

What are some freebie tools you’d add to this list?

See any you haven’t tried before?

We’d love to chat with you about what free marketing tools you find most helpful and if you plan on trying any from our own marketing stack. Don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts in the comments.

Rather chat in the privacy of your own inbox? You can shoot us a message if you like.

 

Facebook, as we all know by now, is the #1 place to connect with friends and share things online. But it has quickly become so much more than just a social media platform.

Facebook has exploded into a place where businesses both big and small can market themselves through interaction with customers and self-promotion. And the best part?

You can do a lot of it for free.

That means you don’t have to be Coca-Cola to use Facebook as a powerful marketing tool. If you’ve got a business, do yourself a favor and start using FB to promote it.

Don’t know where to start? No worries. We’ve got some tips about what you can do to break through the noise in your follower’s News Feed’s.

How do you use Facebook to promote your business? Share your top tips with us in the comments.


How to Promote Your Business on Facebook

#1 Use a profile picture people will recognize.

Being easily recognized is super important to being found and liked. How do you expect people to know who you are or how to determine it’s a real company account if they don’t know what to look for? Your profile photo gets prime real estate at the top of your profile page. Make the most of it.

#2 Pay attention to your insights page, bro.

Facebook came in clutch when they introduced Facebook Insights. This is a free and powerful tool you have at your disposal right in your business profile. You can use Facebook Insights to help you determine the best days and times to post and engage with your audience. Posting strategically, which often reveals that less is more when it comes to Facebook, can have a huge impact on your clickthrough and share rates.

#3 Coordinate the most visible parts of your page.

We already covered getting your profile picture in order but coordinating your cover photo, CTA and pinned post are a pretty big deal too when you want to use Facebook to promote your business. The best thing that you can do? Make your messaging match across all of these features (and your other social profiles while you’re at it).

#4 Tailor your posts to your audience.

Give the people what they want! Facebook gives you everything you need to successfully promote your business. We’re talking tools that help you segment your organic posts by age, gender, education, all kinds of stuff. This my friends is important to getting the right posts in front of the right people at the right time. Easier said than done but important nonetheless.

#5 Mix it up!

Speaking of getting the right content in front of the right people at the right time, you can’t be afraid to mix up what you post to your business page. Keep people engaged with visual elements, graphics, and video which can generate up to 94% more views. Just remember not to go overboard and post so much so often people start hiding you from their feeds.

#6 Try using Facebook Ads.

This is the only thing we’re suggesting you do to help promote your business on Facebook that isn’t free. However, if you start doing everything else on your list ahead of this one, you can get better ROI on your ads by promoting content you already know works. Strategic advertising at its finest.

We know that using Facebook to promote and market your business can seem a little scary, especially if you’re just starting out. But we’re here to encourage you to go for it!

Take a look in the mirror and remind yourself that you’ve got a great product or service that the world needs to know about and you’re going to make sure it gets out there.

If you don’t want to do it alone, you don’t have to.

Tell us how we can help you get the most out of your Facebook business profile and we’ll be happy to help you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself in 2017.

Talk to Us

The road to becoming the digital marketer on everybody’s wish list isn’t always paved. But we can tell you that if you want to make the ride a little easier you need to put some work in on developing your technical skills.

Right about now you might be thinking, “Well, you’re sending me mixed signals, Z.”  We promise we’re not! It is possible to be both creative and technical.

In fact, it’s almost crucial if you want to have a career in digital marketing. For clarity’s sake though, we’ll answer your questions real fast before we dive into our must have technical skills list.

What’s a technical skill?

Honestly, it depends on who you ask. Answers to this question could include:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Analytics
  • Content Writing
  • Sales copywriting
  • Graphic Design

Then again, if you go looking somewhere like The Balance for your answer, you’d get something like this:

Technical skills are abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks. They are practical and often relate to mechanical, IT, mathematical, or scientific tasks. Some examples include knowledge of programming languages, mechanical equipment, or tools.”

Technical skills are in demand

The search for digital marketers with technical skills, technical marketers if you will, isn’t new, but they do seem to be in higher demand than ever before.

More and more brands are going digital and the more digital a brand becomes, the more technical their approach is. V3B summed it up nicely when they wrote:

“…marketers of the future will need to add a technological skill set to their creative talents if they want to take advantage of the opportunities digital marketing offers.”

And we’re here to tell you that the future is now.

 

technical-skills-every-digital-marketer-needs

7 technical skills every digital marketer needs

The skills we listed below weren’t just pulled from a hat. They’re technical skills that we use every day in marketing. They’re also widely used by other marketers we know outside of Z Coast and our day jobs.

Do yourself a favor and add these bad boys to your skill set:

  1. Basic Code Skills – HTML/CSS/JavaScriptOnly add JavaScript if you’re feeling frisky. Get familiar with HTML/CSS first. Ask anybody if you should learn some basic front end development and we’d be real concerned if they told you no. Why? Because knowing HTML/CSS/JavaScript makes you more valuable as a digital marketer.Knowing these coding languages it means you can whip up landing pages that don’t look like crap, fully operate within a CMS (like WordPress) and interact with the web more confidently—SEO requires a good understanding of HTML for anything technical or on-page.

    If you know JavaScript, you’ll get a lot more out of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager because you’ll enable yourself to work with custom variable and advanced tracking.

    Just because you didn’t get a formal education in front end web development doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of awesome resources out there for you to learn.We’d suggest starting with W3Schools or Code Academy (which as come along way in the past few years in terms of courses offered).

  2. Content Support Skills – Content Management SystemsSpeaking of Content Management Systems (CMS), it doesn’t hurt to know how they work either. WordPress and Drupal are two of the most in demand CMS skills on digital marketing resumes so you might want to familiarize with at least one of them.It all depends on what you plan to do. WordPress is very easy to use, Drupal is best suited for enterprise sized websites and both are mobile friendly. Take your pick.

    Our personal preferences drift towards WordPress but here’s a resource for each so you can choose for yourself which you would rather learn:

    Learn WordPress

    Learn Drupal

  3. Data Support Skills – Google Analytics

    You may think you know Google Analytics (GA), and we hate to be the ones to break it to you, but you’re probably not getting as much out of it as you could.Analytics technology in general, not just GA, are constantly getting more sophisticated and there’s an increasingly diverse number of tools available to help you get the job done.It’s inexcusable not to have a basic understanding of how tracking and measurement works as a digital marketer. Let us help you out. Give this a whirl:

    Google Analytics Academy

    Learn. Go forth and be successful.

  4. Data Support/Social Media Skills – Google Tag Manager (GTM)Tag management is the new kid on the block but it fits right in with analytics.GTM is a completely separate tool from GA. It’s a user-friendly solution to managing the tags, or the snippets of JavaScript that send information to third-parties, on your website or mobile app.

    To learn about GTM in more detail, we suggest reading this informative article from Lunametrics.

  5. Content Support Skills – Graphic DesignSpecifically, you need to add some skills from Adobe CC to your resume. You may not necessarily need to have the skills as a full-blown graphic designer but your life will be a lot easier (as will the lives of the designers you actually work with) if you pick up some design skills in your spare time.This can be an especially useful technical skill if you work on a small team with less than a handful of time-constrained designers. The better you are at visual design, the more deliverables you unlock.

    If you’ve got an Adobe CC subscription, there’s already a ton of great tutorials at your disposal. However, we’d also suggest poking around Lynda.com to step up your design game.

  6. Data Support Skills – ExcelWe thought long and hard about including this one on the list because we have a serious love-hate relationship with Microsoft Excel. It’s one of those necessary evil kinda things.Knowing Excel is a valuable technical skill to have because you develop an entirely different expertise with the software than your friends in the accounting department.

    For example, you could hone your Excel skills for anything from task management to complex predictive analysis. Learn it:

    10 Excel Tricks Every Marketer Should Know

    Microsoft Excel – From Beginner to Expert in 6 Hours

  7. Marketing Tool SkillsThis one is a little more “generalized” but it’s just as important as everything else you’ve read up to this point. You can’t be a digital marketer if you lack knowledge in common digital marketing tools like:

    MailChimp

    Buffer

    HubSpot

    Salesforce

    Just to name a few. If you’re in email marketing, master a tool like MailChimp. If you’re area of expertise is more social media related, get to know a tool like Buffer. Of course, it never hurts to know both HubSpot and Salesforce too.

    Salesforce and HubSpot even offer free certifications that can help you stand out from the crowd. Why not grab them?

And there ya have it folks, the technical skills that make great digital marketers. You don’t have to be an expert in all of these things and by gosh if you’re a killer copywriter, nobody’s going to care if you think AJAX is just a dish soap.

Fun fact: it’s not.

But if you want to be a well-rounded digital marketer, learning any of the above technical skills will help you achieve your goal.

How have these technical skills helped you in your job? Which do you want to learn next? Let us know in the comments.