The best free marketing tools for small business

Growing your small business—or running one with smaller profit margins—can mean getting creative with marketing. Luckily, we’ve got the Internet! There’s an abundance of easily accessible, free marketing tools for small businesses on the World Wide Web.

In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into marketing channels and marketing tools small businesses can use to grow their company—all for free. 

Learn how to bring more eyes to your business without breaking the bank. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for one of the most overlooked free marketing tools your small business has.

What is marketing for a small business?

If you run a small business, marketing needs to be at the top of the list. But what is marketing for a small business?

Simply put, marketing is letting people know that your business exists.

It’s getting your brand in front of as many potential customers as possible. 

Even though the definition’s pretty simple, marketing your small business can be overwhelming and confusing. There’s a lot of noise out there on the best ways to get the word out. With more and more tools coming out every day that you can use to market your business—think TikTok and Snapchat as two newer options—how do you know which ones to use? 

What are free marketing channel examples?

Marketing channels are tools that help businesses market themselves to potential customers. Let’s take a look at the top three free marketing channels that small businesses can use to grow their business. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a pretty great start.

Build your business a website

In the digital age, you need a website. Period. The easiest way for you to communicate to potential customers all of the information they could ever possibly need to know about your business is through a website. Websites are accessible to most people since smartphones are in everyone’s back pocket. Think of it as a digital business card.

Hubspot has the data. “There are over 4.5 billion active internet users worldwide, and over 90% of them accessed the Internet via mobile devices.”

Some other pluses? A website as a primary marketing channel increases your credibility, makes your business more visible—and as an extra bonus for location-specific businesses like restaurants and salons—allows Google to recommend you to local customers.

In terms of search intent, these statistics really drive home how important a website is for a local business:

  • 46% of searches on Google include local intent
  • 97% of users use search to find local businesses
  • 28% of users purchased an item after a local search
  • 70% of users will visit a store because of what they found online

Those are some pretty convincing numbers to get you started on building that website today.

Don’t sleep on email marketing

In the age of social media, email marketing has become the forgotten middle child of marketing. But did you know that email marketing has the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel? New data says that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $36 is returned on investment. That’s an ROI of 3600%! 

But you don’t need to invest in a full email marketing campaign right off the bat. Sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter to keep your customers up-to-date on specials and offerings is enough to see more customer loyalty and more money in your business.

Social media is where your customers are

Social media is one of the most utilized free marketing tools. 4.76 billion internet users—or 59.4% of the world’s population—are social media users.

The term ‘social media’ is pretty broad. It encompasses Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, What’s App, and Snapchat—just to name a few. More and more social media channels are being invented all the time (and in Elon’s case, sometimes taking a dive). Small businesses are at the forefront of using social media for creative free marketing.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed using social media as a free marketing tool though. There are so many options it can be hard to narrow in on what one(s) are right for your business without getting overwhelmed.

Knowing your customers and where they hang out online is your first step to successfully marketing your business on social media. If you’re a salon that loves to do vibrant colors, TikTok’s the place to showcase your stylist’s skills. If you’re a restaurant in the financial district of a big city, LinkedIn’s where your clients are most likely hanging out.

Pick your social media channel and go all in, and don’t get wrapped up in trying every single one.

Why should small businesses use marketing tools?

The days of word of mouth and paper flyers are over. It’s a digital world, and we’re just living in it. People reach for their phones to ask their friends for their opinions on where to go, where to shop, and where to eat. 

The next thing they’re going to do? Google your business or look you up on socials. So you better be ready for it.

The advantage of using these marketing tools is that they’re widespread. They can reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have known your small business exists. 

They can also relay a ton of information about your business quickly. As we mentioned above, a strong online presence means future customers can quickly and easily see your hours and location, saving them from having to call your store to see if you’re open (and thus, saving you from spending time and labor to answer these phone calls). Customers and clients can also see your menu, a list of your offerings or products, your pricing, an assortment of testimonials, what deals you may be running, any special events, new offerings, and on and on. All of this at their fingertips.

Ignoring free marketing channels and free marketing tools can really put a dent in your bottom line as a business. The math’s simple. More eyes on your business = more sales.

This is why every small business needs to be using marketing tools.

Best marketing tools for small businesses (and they’re free!)

Now that we know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of marketing tools for small businesses, let’s look at the ‘how’. Here’s a list of the best free marketing tools for small businesses.

1. Use Wix to build a simple free website for your small business

If you need a basic website, Wix is the way to go. It’s one of the only website builders that offers a completely free option. While you can add customizations, the free version doesn’t have any bells and whistles, which could suit you just fine. You can literally build a website that acts as a business card with simple information all your customers need to know in a day.

If you do want to start adding things, like a custom domain, the monthly plans start at an affordable $7.50 per month.

2. Mailchimp is your free email marketing best friend

Mailchimp has been known as the best free email marketing tool for years because it’s so easy to use. It has the added bonus of being free for up to 500 subscribers. You can easily create sign-up forms for your website, landing pages to build your list, and drag-and-drop email designs.

Mailchimp will make your email marketing a simple task. That’s the goal when marketing your small business.

3. Mailerlite is the new email marketing kid on the block

If you want to research your options for email marketing, Mailerlite is the new kid on the block. It offers all of the same benefits of Mailchimp like landing pages, sign-up forms, and easy-to-use email design. Where Mailerlite has Mailchimp beat is its subscriber numbers. Mailerlite allows up to 1000 free subscribers, doubling the quantity you’d get with Mailchimp. 

If volume is a big part of your business, then Mailerlite may be the better option for free email marketing.

4. Canva can make your marketing pretty

Canva’s the free marketing tool that makes every small business owner a designer. It can help you create graphics for your website, a header and blocks for your emails, and your posts for socials to stand out. All on brand.

With Canva you can upload your brand colors, your fonts, and logo. They offer hundreds of templates you can easily alter with your uploaded colors and fonts so everything’s in line with your small business branding. 

Canva really is a no-brainer for marketing. Not only is it a money saver, it’s a time saver. That’s a big win for small businesses.

5. Use Buffer to save time scheduling your socials

You can’t be on social media all day: you’ve got a business to run. Save time scheduling your socials by using Buffer. You can create a whole month’s worth of social posts for a variety of channels, plug them into Buffer, and have them go out on a schedule. Just set it and forget it.

Buffer offers free scheduling on three social media channels. Find out where your customers are hanging out online, create those posts in Canva, and then use Buffer to send them out. Voila!

Free tools to market yourself as an employer 

When people think of small business marketing, they think of marketing to customers. But one of the most overlooked marketing tools for a small business is its employees.

Employees are your first line in word-of-mouth marketing. They tell customers what it’s like to work for you. They encourage their friends to apply to work for you, bringing in more great talent.

Harvard Business Review did a massive study of Glassdoor data. Happier employees give better customer service. Better customer service leads to happier customers. Happier customers tell their friends and family about your business.

Yes, marketing brings in more customers, but your employees retain those customers.

Let’s explore two free marketing tools that can help make your small business an amazing place to work.

1. Foster meaningful workplace relationships with team communication

Studies have shown that friendships in workplaces create strong teams. Outside of scheduling people who actually like each other on the same shifts, offer them a work-appropriate (and monitored) place to communicate.

Foster meaningful relationships. Who you work with matters. According to Harvard Business Review, “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.” Moreover, “people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.” Build teams that foster friendships and use your current team members to tap new talent. If a member of your team has a strong working relationship with a former colleague and friend, don’t hesitate to bring that individual on board. Good people surround themselves with good people.” 

Homebase has a free built-in messenger tool that allows for easy team communication. You can communicate with your employees and employees can message to help each other at work, communicate important information, or organize a team outing.

2. Offer flexible pay options when your employees need it

There are many ways to work on employee happiness, but getting paid well and on time is at the top of most employee’s priority list. 

Homebase has Cash Out, a free tool that provides your team with early access to up to $300 of their paycheck. No liability and no cost to you. 

Having flexibility around their pay dates and not having to worry about payday loans or interest charges can really boost employee morale.

We know it may be a new marketing concept, but don’t underestimate the power of your employees being one of the best marketing tools for your business. Using free Homebase tools can help you prioritize their happiness while simplifying things for you.

Marketing tools for small business FAQS 

What are marketing tools for small businesses?

Marketing tools for small businesses are tools you can use to spread the word about your business. They’re tools you would use to get more potential customers to discover your business.

What are marketing channels?

Marketing channels are tools that help businesses market themselves to potential customers. They’re ways to get more eyes on your business. Free marketing channels include websites, social media, email marketing, and SEO traffic. There are also paid marketing channels like PPC ads, Facebook and Instagram ads, influencer marketing, and mass marketing with print or television ads.

Is it expensive to use marketing tools for my small business?

It doesn’t have to be expensive to market your business. You don’t need costly ad campaigns and mass media marketing if you’re just starting out, and they’re definitely not required. There are tons of free marketing tools on the Internet. Explore free options like Wix to build a free website to advertise your business. Or, explore free email marketing tools and social media marketing tools, like Canva and Mailchimp. Start small with free tools and as your business grows, you can move on to more expensive marketing tools.

Why do I need to market my business?

There’s no way around it: you need to market your business. Personal referrals are great—and they can go a long way—but if you want sustainability in your small business, you need more eyes on your business on the regular. The more people who know you exist, the more people will walk through your doors.

Want to scale up your small business?

Get Homebase and spend less time managing your team and have more time to grow your business. Get started with Homebase’s marketing tools for free.

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