free marketing toolsLet’s face it, marketing on a shoestring budget can be a challenge, and trying to find valuable tools with little or no overhead can be even worse.

The good news is that there are really great marketing tools with free versions available. And if you’re a new marketer, they are just the right introduction to the more complex marketing tools that you’ll run into with the growth of your company.

The bad news is that you will have to carve out a few hours a week to nurture your marketing strategy. Since we are saving you the time-consuming search of sorting through reviews and listening to hours of sales pitches, we hope that it will be an even trade in your favor.

Today, we’d like to share some of our favorite freemium tools to help effectively communicate with your audience, tell your brand’s story, and better understand your community.

These mobile-friendly tools have little or no overhead, attentive support teams, and measurement tools so you can determine what works best.

1. WordPress

WordPress is a user-friendly content management system (CMS) that lets you create quality content optimized for both people and search engines. WordPress can be utilized as a website provider or a blogging platform. For this snippet, we will be focusing on the benefits of using it as a blog platform in your content marketing efforts.

People love WordPress because technical ability is not required and it genuinely benefits the content marketer on a budget. WordPress offers thousands of easy-to-use customization options, a loyal support community, and a scheduling feature that allows you to write a quick post and publish it in the future. If readers like what you have to say, they can easily share your content to their social media profiles with the click of a button.

We love WordPress for many, many reasons, but the most notable would be the various plug-ins that make SEO much simpler and the analytics that help you to better understand your readers. You can track how many people visited each post, where they are from and how they found your blog.

Tip: Need inspiration for future blog posts? Look for ideas in this Copyblogger post: How to Find More Content Ideas than You’ll Ever be Able to Create.

2. MailChimp

MailChimp has an impressive brand personality. Their support rocks and they love to give away free stuff. MailChimp has an easy to use interface, various templates to choose from, a library of resources, and an enthusiastic monkey helping you along the way. What else could you ask for from an email marketing solution?

My favorite part is the analytics. I’m a little obsessed with the real-time analytics that track the activity of each subscriber. It shows you when they open the message, where they click through and how the CTR and open rates match up against industry standards. Each campaign can be linked to your Google Analytics to track where your subscriber goes beyond the click through in your email.

If you are a new email marketer, you’ll be happy to hear that MailChimp is free up until 2,000 subscribers. If you opt for the paid version, I highly recommend the Social Pro feature. For each subscriber, Mailchimp provides you with their corresponding social network profiles.

Tip: Install the email subscribe button on your website and add the tab on your Facebook brand page to grow your subscriber list. Starting from scratch? Try these email list building tips from Waldow Social to help get the ball rolling!

3. HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

Who doesn’t love free publicity? HARO is an online service that lets journalists quickly get feedback from the public. Basically, writers use HARO to find sources to include in upcoming stories. After signing up, you will receive regular emails that you can sift through and answer questions that pertain to you or your business. When pitching, remember the K.I.S.S. method, keep your responses brief, relevant and to the point.

Tip: If you have a blog, you can use HARO to help create valuable content. Sign up as a reporter to submit a query. Ask readers to respond to questions or offer opinions to include in your next blog post. In fact, we used HARO to source our Small Business Spotlight series!

4. Hootsuite

Social media monitoring tools can help save time and your sanity. Hootsuite lets you listen, engage and measure community activity across multiple social platforms in one location. In addition to the major social networks, you can keep up with activity on additional platforms like WordPress, Foursquare, Instagram, YouTube, MailChimp and through Hootsuite Apps.

For Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, you can monitor feeds, publish and schedule posts ahead of time. Built in analytics allow you to determine what works best for each network. At this point, posts to Facebook via Hootsuite are not measured in Facebook Insights, so I would recommend publishing posts through the Facebook scheduling tool to make sure you can measure engagement properly.

In addition to monitoring activity within your communities, you can create streams to track specific industry keywords, competitors, brand names and news stories. If you find extra time in your day, you can use the monitoring tools to network with other professionals over event hashtags, Twitter chats and live webinars.

Tip: Install the “Hootlet” browser extension. When you find yourself browsing your favorite blogs and reading compelling content, use the Hootlet extension on your toolbar to send it out immediately or schedule it. It only takes a few seconds.

5. SurveyMonkey

Survey Monkey is a web-based survey tool that lets you conduct polls, market research or customer questionnaires across a variety of sources like social media and email. You can choose from a variety of professional templates and pre-defined questions or tailor the look and content of your survey to your brand. The analytics provided are basic but effective and can be exported for reference purposes.

Tip: Use the positive feedback to create customer success stories, case studies and testimonials for your marketing materials.

What are your own favorite freemium tools? What does it take for you to upgrade to paid plan? Share your opinions in the comments!