Looking for inexpensive marketing ideas for small business? You’re in luck!

Plenty of prospective clients have told us they’re “waiting to see what the economy does” before investing in small business marketing strategies and tactics. While we think a slow-down is the perfect time to invest in future business growth through measurable marketing, we understand that the economy has some small business owners bracing for impact after a couple of already tough years.

We’ve been through it with you, friends.

That’s why we’re sharing some of our favorite marketing tools that anyone can use to learn, measure, plan, and implement lots of marketing tactics for free.

  • Why give away this list of free stuff? Because we’ve been there. Plus our tools are way cooler than the coolest free ones.
  • Why 16 free tools? We ran out of time to do more.

If you want to do your own small business marketing for free, and you have some time on your hands, we think you should have some tools you can use to do it. One caveat: sometimes, you do get what you pay for. Free tool subscriptions are usually limited to one website or project, so if that’s all you need, great!

Let’s get marketing.

First of all, you need to know what you’re looking to do before you can identify the right tool with which to do it. Are you preparing to launch a new company or product? Then you need a branding strategy, and there’s no free tool for that.

Do you need to create a Google ad? Do better about posting to social media? Find out where your website traffic is coming from and what a bounce rate is? That’s the stuff we’re talking about today.

Here are a few of our favorite free tools that don’t actually give us a headache when clients say they use them, plus some bonus inexpensive marketing ideas for small business. You’re welcome!

16 free tools and bonus inexpensive marketing ideas for small business

1. Canva

Use the free version to design just about anything. Size your design correctly from the beginning, and access tons of free templates to create flyers, emails, social posts – you name it! You can even animate your images to add some pizzazz. Before you jump into designer mode, consider these tips about designing eye-catching and on-brand images.

inexpensive marketing ideas and design tips for small business
Know where this image was designed? Yup. In Canva.

2. Google Analytics

Find out who’s visiting your website, where they’re coming from, and what they do when they get there. Google Analytics can shine a light on problem areas for user experience (UX), especially when it comes to on-page behaviors and bounce rates. (HINT: you want your bounce rate low and, if you’re adding pages and sharing those links on social media or through ads, you want it to continue dropping.)

Here’s a guide from Forbes on how to get started using and understanding Google Analytics.

3. Google Business Profile

This is one of the best inexpensive marketing ideas for small business with the fastest reward: claim and set up your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) to optimize local search and map listings and start posting. You can post to your profile just like you would social media, and you should be asking for reviews, posting questions and answers, and responding to messages and reviews ASAP.

4. Google Keyword Planner

The Google Ads platform is good for creating ads, but in general, you don’t want to take ALL of the advice the platform gives you. It’s set up to get you to spend more money, not necessarily create better-performing ads. One tool that makes all that bearable is Google Keyword Planner. Use it to identify keywords for your ads, yes, but also for SEO content and blog post topics.

The possibilities are endless when you find out what words people use to find you (or your competitors). Make sure you’re logged into your Google Ads dashboard to use the planner.

Hold up! Do you need help setting up Google Ads and understanding the terms used in the dashboard? Here’s a Google Ads tip sheet from HubSpot with a glossary to get you started. We also like this guide to building Google Ads on a small budget from Hootsuite. Also, of course, we have more tips in this digital advertising article. Give it a read.

Inexpensive ways to Increase Digital ROI
Obligatory inline photo to talk to the Google algorithm. Google loves photos and videos. See? There’s another tip! #wecandothisallday

5. Grammarly

Check content for grammar, spelling, punctuation, readability, and passive voice (you want active) using Grammarly. You can also check to make sure you’re not reusing the same content on more than one page on your site or (gasp!) using plagiarized content.

One note: Grammarly isn’t always right. The nuances of U.S. dialect seem to befuddle it sometimes. When in doubt, double check.

Find more content-related inexpensive marketing ideas for small business in the Cowtown Creative blog, where we post new stuff twice a month. Promise!

6. Hootsuite

Using this free version of Hootsuite’s popular social media scheduling platform, you can post to up to two social media accounts and schedule up to five posts at a time.

7. Hotjar

In this blog post, we talk about what heatmaps are and why they’re a great tool for seeing user behavior on your site. It’s like you’re looking over your site visitors’ shoulders! Here’s the video we shared in that blog post, for quick reference.

Hotjar helps you identify hotspots on your website (the things that are working to get more clicks and conversions) and opportunities for improvement. The free plan with Hotjar is pretty much all you’ll ever need, since you can run up to 35 web pages a day through it.

How do you improve UX on your site and beyond? Check out this quick UX strategy quiz to get started, then run through this website checklist to see how you’re doing so far and come up with inexpensive marketing ideas for small business to improve your website in no time.

8. Hubspot

You can do so much with Hubspot, even agency-level clients are just scratching the surface of its CRM, email, social media, and lead analytics functionality. To get all the goodies Hubspot offers, you’ll have to upgrade, but the free Hubspot version is worth exploring to see if it’s the right platform for you. You can still do a lot using the free version.

9. MailChimp

If you need an easy and free way to design and send email, try the MailChimp free version! You can create landing pages and send up to 2,500 emails a month (500 a day).

10. Moz

Moz is a multi-functional site that offers lots of free SEO tools. Just enter a URL in the search bar, and you can learn all about a site’s competitive advantage, keywords, backlinks, domain authority, and more. We’re not saying you should put your competitor’s URL in the search bar, but…

Yes, we are saying that. Do it now. Also, check out the Moz blog for more inexpensive marketing ideas for small business.

11. SEMrush

We recommend SEMrush for keyword planning and some high-level site analytics. You can actually create some detailed reports using the free version of SEMrush to identify keyword gaps, broken links in your website, and backlink opportunities and issues. The company also offers some great tips in its blog, and it’s a resource we frequently check out.

Inexpensive marketing ideas for small business SEMrush
One of our noobs ran this backlink audit using the free version of SEMrush while learning the platform. Does this mean we’re certified non-toxic? Can you label a marketing agency organic? BTW this was a whole website ago. Our new, free-range website scored even better! 😀

12. Ahrefs Free AI Title Generator

Use this tool from SEO big wig Ahrefs to generate article titles with a hook to get people interested. We’re not advocating writing clickbait titles here – but, there are certain headline elements that get more clicks than others. When you use a number in the title, for instance, and a phrase that promises value or a solution to a problem, you get more views.

The original title of this article was, “Inexpensive marketing ideas for small business.” (We like this title better, too.)

13. TweetDeck

Schedule Twitter posts and use trending hashtags using this scheduling tool from Twitter itself. It’s free!

14. Ubersuggest

Marketing dynamo Neil Patel created Ubersuggest, a tool like Google Keyword Planner that helps you identify keywords people are using to search for your business and your competitors.

15. Unsplash

Find free stock photos with Unsplash. We don’t love the use of stock photos in all your brand assets, but in a pinch, it’s handy to have a library of images you can use in Canva designs or on social media. Here are some tips for finding the best stock images for your needs.

16. YoastSEO

YoastSEO offers a free WordPress plugin that helps you optimize on-page content in your website. While you won’t see every optimization suggestion unless you upgrade to Yoast Premium, it’s handy to have the plugin to guide you as you start integrating keywords into your twice-monthly blog posts.

Yes, blog twice a month, at least. With SEO keywords. #youvegotthis

Summary: There are a lot of marketing tools you can get for free in the wild.

We understand that this list is a lot to unpack, but it started out as like 50 free tools and we had to narrow it down for the sake of time. We ran out of time at 16.

Check out all the resources you can, especially the blog links in this article, for more inexpensive marketing ideas for small business. You’ll find some actionable information that can help you, at a minimum, decide if you’re ready to tackle any of the many things that go into keeping your brand current, approachable, and building relationships.

And, if you do decide you’d rather focus on something else (like building your business), Cowtown Creative is here and ready to get started as your company’s marketing department. We help small and mid-sized businesses develop and implement customized marketing strategies using the latest cool tools and analytics to show measurable results.

We can do it for you, too.

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