Marketing on a Budget: 10 Free Digital Marketing Tools for Success – Bitly | Blog

Marketing on a Budget: 10 Free Digital Marketing Tools for Success - Bitly | Blog

Digital marketing done well can completely transform a business. It can literally launch an obscure brand to nearly overnight success.

The trouble is that “done well” part. In a sea of digital marketing noise, it’s tough to stand out. And while digital marketing is inexpensive compared to legacy marketing, your budget will only get you so far.

One cost-effective solution is using free digital marketing tools to grow your business’s momentum. 

Many tools offer a free tier that’s perfect when you’re just getting started with digital marketing. Below, we’ll show you 10 of the best free marketing tools in existence. All of them are either 100% free or offer a meaningful free version, and together, they’ll add a wealth of new functionality to your marketing toolkit.

In this article:

Bitly is an affordable suite of tools with several free features that helps marketers organize, track, and more effectively implement links and QR Codes into their marketing materials. 

Bitly’s link shortener turns long, complex URLs into short, easy-to-type ones. And with custom branded short links, your Bitly links can even reflect your brand and image.

Shortening and improving the look of your links is important, but what’s going on behind the scenes is even more significant. Bitly links are fully manageable from your dashboard. With a premium Bitly account, you can track link performance, redirect existing links, enhance campaigns, and track other data associated with your Bitly links.

Bitly’s QR Code generator offers a similar behind-the-scenes experience using QR Codes instead of short links. With the QR Code generator’s advanced customization features, users can enjoy additional branding opportunities, such as custom logos, patterns, corner styles, frames, and colors (depending on your plan).

Last, Bitly Link-in-bio gives you a better link-in-bio landing page, one that redirects your social media visitors to the destinations you choose. But it also provides tracking that goes way beyond what Google Analytics and social media platforms offer.

Buffer is a social media management platform that allows users to schedule, publish, and analyze posts across various social media platforms. Using Buffer is a great way to streamline your social media marketing efforts because you no longer have to manually post “in the moment.” 

Instead, you can plan your content well in advance and then schedule posts to push that content across every platform simultaneously. Ultimately, Buffer saves your company time—and plenty of manual work. It promises to help businesses grow their social reach organically and sustainably.

Like most of these tools, Buffer is free only to a limited degree. On the free plan, you can connect up to three social media channels. If you need more than those three, you’ll pay at least $6 per channel per month.

3. WordPress

WordPress is an incredibly powerful and versatile content management system (CMS), mostly used for creating and maintaining websites and web pages.

Just how popular is WordPress? Approximately 43.1% of all internet sites are built using WordPress.

That’s a lot of websites!

WordPress isn’t as user-friendly as newer competitors like Wix and Squarespace, but it’s more flexible (and it’s still way easier than building a website from scratch).

Part of what makes WordPress so great is the extensive plugin ecosystem. WordPress makes it (relatively) easy to create plugins that tie other services into WordPress. And because the platform is so widely used, there are a whole lot of these plugins—including a Bitly WordPress Plugin we’re rather fond of.

Be aware that while the core WordPress experience is free, hosting is not. (This can get confusing because you can get hosting through WordPress via WPEngine, and if you do, WordPress won’t look or feel very free.) Many themes, templates, and plugins also cost money.

Boost your marketing game with Bitly!

Get started with custom short links, QR Codes, and Bitly Link-in-bios.

Canva is the ultimate graphic design tool for regular people. 

Of course, no one’s stopping professional designers from using Canva. But Canva is there to fill a gap since the more pro-oriented tools are either too confusing or too expensive for most of us. Canva ranges from free to relatively cheap, and its interface is intuitive enough for just about anyone to pick up and get started.

If you need to create eye-catching visuals and marketing materials, Canva’s design tools will help you do so. Its features will help just about anyone create professional-looking graphics, even without advanced design skills.

5. Wistia

Wistia offers video hosting and related marketing capabilities that help you with brand storytelling and audience engagement. It’s a simple and straightforward way to create videos (like product videos, tutorials, and webinars) and even edit video content using their cloud-based platform.

Once you’ve created those video materials, Wistia will host them so you can embed them onto your website or use them anywhere else you need—all with a super-fast connection.

Wistia includes powerful analytics tools and in-video calls to action, so you can understand your audience’s behavior and push viewers to become leads and customers.

You can try Wistia for free on up to 10 videos with basic analytics and free automated captions. Some key features, like the video editor and in-video lead capture forms, are only available to paying customers.

6. Mailchimp

Email marketing is always a smart investment. Numerous studies have shown that every dollar spent on email marketing generates at least $36 in revenue—that’s a staggering 3,500% return on investment!

But doing email marketing at scale is impossible without a dedicated tool or service. Mailchimp is one of the oldest and best-known email marketing suites, and its free tier is amazing for smaller businesses just getting started in email marketing.

Mailchimp’s free plan gives you: 

Other important Mailchimp features include audience segmentation, email automation, and A/B testing—but these features are tucked away in the paid plans.

With Mailchimp, you can build attractive, effective email campaigns that resonate with your customers. Plus, you can keep refining your email approach, thanks to the analytics and reporting (and A/B testing, if you upgrade to a paid plan).

7. Hotjar

Hotjar is behavioral analytics software that can give you insights into how users are interacting with your digital assets. Hotjar’s website analytics tools include heatmaps and user recordings that can show you where users are spending time—and where they never seem to stick around.

When you’re in the business of marketing, it’s vitally important to understand user behavior. When users aren’t responding how you want them to (or how you expected them to), you need to know where and how before you can solve the why. 

Hotjar gives you the tools to answer these sorts of questions, enabling you to optimize your website design and improve your user experience. 

8. Sumo (formerly SumoMe)

Sumo is a free email capture tool that assists businesses with list building and social sharing. It helps you target visitors and gives you the ability to install an email opt-in form on your website in just one click.

Sumo generously gives users an unlimited number of subscribers and up to 10,000 emails per month—for free. You can build out a welcome email and entire email campaigns. And whatever you build in Sumo, you’ll get analytics to help you build it better.

If you need to increase lead generation and website traffic, Sumo is the easiest way to start doing so using an email opt-in capture. 

Google Trends is a free tool that shows you what’s trending right now across the internet. It’s a great way to understand what people are into right this minute, which can play into a brand’s social media strategy. 

It’s also a helpful way to find out how much interest a specific keyword is getting over time. If your brand is investing in search engine optimization (SEO), paid search, or social media advertising, then keyword research is a must.

Here’s an example: You can use Google Trends to find out when, in a calendar year, a search term is most popular. If you’re selling mulch or Halloween costumes, there’s a right time to crank up your ad spend (hint: not December). 

It’s common knowledge that people will need these items, but perhaps less obvious when they will start looking for and buying these items.

10. Trello

Trello is a powerful free project management tool for organizing and executing marketing campaigns. It’s one of the simplest project management solutions out there—and also one of the most popular. It’s perfect for marketing teams and their myriad of short projects with fast turnaround times.

For example, say you’re in charge of building a social media content calendar for the upcoming quarter. Without a project management tool like Trello, you’re probably emailing or Slacking someone the details on what you need them to do, then following up repeatedly. 

If the first draft isn’t right, you’re stuck jumping on a call or emailing back and forth. This can get tedious in a hurry, and it’s definitely not very efficient.

If you use Trello, you can just create a card (or series of cards) and pop them onto the appropriate Trello board. Your entire team can see what needs to be done, who’s supposed to do it, the order of tasks, and due dates. 

Communication about a task is connected to the task, not in a random email thread. And when a team member finishes a task or step, they can drag and drop the card for that task into the appropriate place.

To sum it up, Trello provides visibility into task status, clarity about who’s doing what and in what order, and a cohesive place to communicate task details. 

Boost your marketing game with Bitly!

Get started with custom short links, QR Codes, and Bitly Link-in-bios.

Understanding the value in marketing tools

Incorporating the best marketing tools and techniques into your marketing approach can completely transform the way you market—and the results you get.

Remember, the goal of investing in the right marketing tools (even free ones) is to increase your reach and your sales. Ultimately, you need to gain an advantage over your competitors by making and keeping customers happy. 

Offering a better product or service is one step, but getting that product or service in front of the right eyeballs is just as vital. And that’s what these tools can do for you.

Incorporating new tools into your marketing strategy

Adding new tools to your marketing tech stack is an important way to expand your capabilities, but often it’s not as easy as just signing up or clicking a few buttons. 

Here’s what you need to know about incorporating new digital tools into your marketing efforts.

Integrate with existing systems

A new free marketing tool is great—unless it requires you to rebuild your entire marketing infrastructure. So before reinventing the wheel, look for the tools that can easily integrate with what you’re already doing.

If you’re already using a project management platform, collaboration app, CMS, or CRM, check out which of the tools on this list have integrations with your core apps. Of course, not every tool needs to integrate with every other tool, so it’s worth taking some time to map out your digital processes.

Set realistic expectations

Even when your new digital tools integrate seamlessly with your existing ones, you’ll still experience some disruption. Everyone has to learn how (and when) to use the new tool, and there could be a ramp-up period as people get comfortable.

Don’t expect every tool to reach 100% adoption and efficiency right away. Instead, set achievable goals and milestones, then celebrate the small wins. When a new tool accomplishes something you wouldn’t have achieved before, shout it from the rooftops!

Remember, significant results may take time and consistent effort.

Continue to scale successful strategies

As you adapt to your new tools and workflows, you’ll start to identify certain strategies that are generating outsized results. Whenever this happens, work to replicate those strategies across different marketing campaigns.

Use the analytics data you’re collecting with these new tools to identify what’s not working, too. These performance metrics can guide you as you adapt and iterate, scaling success and retooling underperforming strategies.

Expand your marketing approach with Bitly’s tools

Expanding your set of online marketing tools is key to sustained success, and some tools and capabilities provide a solid foundation for all the rest. 

Bitly’s tools are some of these foundational elements. Because one thing’s for sure: Whether your goals are expanding reach via content marketing, developing your email list, or growing your ecommerce sales, you’re going to be creating links. 

Lots of links.

When you use Bitly to create short links and QR Codes, you can deliver trusted, meaningful connections that help your audience find you more easily. And with branded links, you can even display your brand’s personality in your Bitly short links.

Best of all, the core Bitly experience is available absolutely free.

Start building a better marketing approach—

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