“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy to be remarkable?” ~Seth Godin
With the advent of the Information Age, barriers of entrepreneurial entry have been demolished and there’s now a staggering amount of marketing tools available; the very tools that a founding team will use to lay down cobblestones to reach the right people at the right place and time.
Yet, with nearly a hundred digital marketing tools in the tool chest, it’s quickly becoming a sea of “perfect competition,” as Peter Thiel would say, with only slight variations of 5 fundamental categories:
- Marketing Automation
- Social Media
There’s lots of noise!
A startup should keep it simple, define what tools could be helpful at each level of their customer’s journey, and adopt tools when they’re a necessity, not a “nice to have”.
After digging through 50+ tools, I’ve gathered the 6 essential that I consider not only to be 1) the most valuable tools and certifications for a lean startup, but also happen to 2) receive little fan fair, 3) be a market leader in its category, and 4) come free of charge.
We’ll start at the top of the marketing funnel (i.e. the objective for a respective strategy, plan, or campaign), highlighting benefits of each tool and any special features that make them second to none.
To Drive Awareness
When you’re…designing your site, developing banner ads, social posts, & other advertising creative
- High Level: Cloud-based app that “empowers the world to design” and lets non-design people be creative
- Features: Can be used to create: social media posts, presentation decks, blog graphics, posters, infographics, brochures, banners, and even logos
- Special Features: Limited stock images & graphics free for use, png, jpg, pdf file exporting, print ordering, brand identity dashboard
To Educate & Engage
When you’re…publishing content and driving traffic to your site
- High Level: The godfather of free analytics. Provides a complete analysis of your audience and valuable details about them (quantity, where they are coming from, where they go after your site, how they’re converting)
- Features: Home dashboard, audience insights, traffic channels & sources, behaviors, conversions
- Special Features: Goal setting, conversion tracking (link your site to Google Search Console to make this possible)
To Measure Conversion
When you’re….reaching & tracking your users through their journey to purchase (or sign-up)
- High Level: An objective look at how a customer engages with your landing page through their clicks, movement, and scrolls
- Features: Heat mapping, recordings, conversion funnels, feedback polls, incoming feedback, surveys
- Special features: Find out what needs to be optimized directly from your audience through user testing and feedback polls
- High Level: Free certification from Google to equip you with the knowledge of how to effectively launch and optimize pay-per-click search campaigns
- Features: Fundamentals, mobile, video, shopping, DoubleClick advertising basics, bidding strategies, keyword planning
- Special Features: Manage several accounts and campaigns using Google AdWords Manager, auto-optimize and streamline using AdWords Express (note: $50 spend per day minimum)
#5: Facebook Ad Certifications (Blueprint)
- High Level: Free certification from Facebook to equip you with the knowledge to advertise on Facebook and Instagram
- Features: Free courses include: Expand Your Business With Instagram Stories, Facebook & Partner Measurement Solutions, Send & Receive API With the Messenger Platform
- Special Features: BluePrint Live (in-person meetups for real human training and guidance)
To Get Advocates
When you’re…recruiting advocates to promote your product (outside of organic super users & employees)
- High Level: The largest affiliate marketing program where influencers, bloggers, and online personalities promote a product while everyone shares in the profits
- Features: $1000 to join, dynamic commissioning, online & offline promotion, partner tracking, dynamic attribution
- Special Features: Amazing customer support, culture of transparency, guarantee of high quality affiliates
*NOTE: Not free but if you truly have an incredible product the ROI could be well worth the cost. Other networks with lower membership fees can be found here.
The real beauty of these tools is that once you learn the fundamentals, you can 1) automate or iterate to get the best conversion rate possible (Google AdWords, Facebook Advertising) and 2) outsource campaigns and experiments (Canva, HotJar, Paid Social) to your teammates so you can focus on other important tasks.
Given the self-serve format of almost all of these tools, it’ll be easy to get them up to speed. Happy marketing!