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10 Free (or Cheap) Marketing Tools Your Association Should Be Using

With so many digital marketing tools on the table, having the right tools is necessary to help you keep everything organized and optimized.

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You’re only as good as the team you have behind you...but truth be told, having a few additional marketing tools to lighten your load is a pretty big advantage, too. This is particularly true where digital marketing is concerned. Marketing gets more and more technical with each passing year, and if you’re not staying ahead of the tides by using the tools of the trade, chances are you’re already falling behind. Thankfully, you don’t have to shell out a fortune to make use of the best in marketing tools. We’ve compiled this list of our top 10 free and cheap digital marketing tools to help you advance your professional association marketing while still keeping your ROI high. Take a look!

1. Email marketing: MailChimp

As far as automated email marketing goes, MailChimp has been the go-to for years. There’s a free plan that allows you to design and automate your own campaigns, a $10/month plan that offers advanced testing options and unlimited sending, and a $199/month pro plan that gives you even more bang for your buck with multivariate testing and increased reporting.

The free option gives you all you’d need for an audience of up to 2,000. You can send up to 12,000 emails a month, all customized with your own formatting, design, and message. You can even send your association newsletter through MailChimp, then use the analytics and reports to see its open rates and click through rates. You can also track your emails’ performance over time, so you know if your campaigns are on the right track or not.

2. Social media optimization: Likeable Hub

Digital marketing in 2017 is nothing without a heavy social presence. As far as marketing tools go, Hootsuite offers some of the best versatility and features for planning your posts and gauging your online engagement. Choose your plan depending on how many users you’ll have logging in and how many social platforms you’ll be managing. Plans range from free, to $19.99 a month, all the way up to $499. Not only can you create, automate, and see data on your campaigns, but you can also integrate with your other marketing tools and even receive free training to help you advance your social media engagement even further.

3. Graphic design: Canva</strong

What good is digital marketing without some visual effects? Canva allows you to create images for your social media, blogs, and emails quickly and easily - whether you have a graphic design background or not. You can upgrade to paid options if you want some advanced features or need more users, but really you can get just about everything you could need in the free option. With thousands of templates and simple drag-and-drop mechanics, Canva is an easy way to develop unique images to complement your posts. Customize your images to fit your brand and messaging, then simply download and add to your marketing. Easy, peasy works of digital art - and it’s free!

4. SEO:

SEO is a critical part of your digital marketing strategy. After all, at over 6.5 billion searches performed each day, your website needs to be as visible as possible, and optimization is what gets you there. uses Google Autocomplete to show you hundreds of keywords options that are relevant to your content - from top rankers to more niche, longtail keywords. Best of all, not only is it free (ok, like all the others, you can upgrade to a paid program if you want), but you don’t even have to sign up for an account! It’s quick and easy to use, plus incredibly accurate, so you can continue to put good SEO practices to work and improve your rankings.

5. Online advertising: Google Adwords

Organic searches are important, but paid ads play a crucial supporting role that is often overlooked. Google Adwords is yet another freemium tool that helps you create and implement your own paid search, display, video, and retargeting ads. Using this tool, you’re only charged when someone clicks through to your website (or calls your advertised number, if you have this feature set up). You can also test your ads, set them up for local or global, and track performance. It’s one of the most often-used PPC tools, simply because of its universality and ease of use.

6. Data and reporting: Google Analytics

While we’re on the subject of Google, Google Analytics is among the must-haves on this list. If you have a website you’re probably using some sort of analytics already, but this marketing tool offers comprehensive data on a number of points: bounce rate, time spent on each page, pages per session, new sessions, conversions, and much more. These are incredibly important metrics for judging just how well your website is performing, and, if we can be perfectly frank, your website is the cornerstone of all your digital marketing. Without a strong website, the rest of your efforts are wasted, so start tracking your analytics to see just how and where your site needs to be improved in order to increase conversions or achieve other goals.

7. UX optimization: Crazy Egg

Another way to optimize your site and see how users are interacting with each page is by using heat mapping. This method allows you to actually see where users click, and you can filter the heat map to show you new vs. returning visitors. You can even get more granular and see exactly how long each person was on the page before they made their click. Crazy Egg’s heat mapping tool gives you a 30-day trial and after that you pay a subscription, but as they put it, it’s way cheaper than focus group testing!  This type of tool, combined with the functions of Google Analytics, can allow you to enhance your website down to the minutiae so that when you redirect with ads or other digital marketing campaigns, your audience has a positive experience and will be inclined to return to your site in the future.

8. Brand management: Mention

Of course, all the digital campaigns in the world can be undone by something as seemingly negligible as a poor review or negative comment on social media. But thankfully, there’s a way to fix that, too!

Marketing tools like Mention allow you to keep track of every time your brand is mentioned across a variety of channels (hence the name). Using a digital dashboard, Mention shows you where your brand is getting the most chatter and what perceptions are out there. Additionally, this tool will even help you keep tabs on what your competitors are doing so you can stay one step ahead.

9. Visual media: Wistia

Does your association post informational videos to educate your members or promote events? If so, Wistia may be the marketing tool for you. This video platform allows you to customize your media and use it for everything from lead generation to general promotion.

You can track total plays, viewer engagement, integration with other platforms, and viewer history tracking. It allows you to not just promote, but to follow every aspect of your video promotion, so that you can gauge your campaign effectiveness and continue to shape your future videos.

10. Data analysis: RapidMiner

If you want to get really detailed with your data analysis, you can go for a tool like RapidMiner (again, a freemium type of package). This type of tool analyzes data for you, then uses this information to create predictive models. For professional associations, this can be especially useful for helping you to really dig into who your target is and how it’s evolving. For the team that doesn’t have the data background to perform their own data analysis and modeling, this type of tool can be a huge advantage.

*Bonus: Strategy and Communication: Xtensio

If you are part of a marketing team that creates materials used in promoting a company's product or service you can agree that creating engaging marketing collateral can be very time-consuming. This is where Xtensio can be helpful. The platform allows users to collaborate, create and present beautiful living documents in one place. The drag and drop functionality works like a page builder where you can easily add text, images, videos, graphs, checklists, resize, change backgrounds and colors. Users also have the option to choose from a wide range of existing templates. Xtensio marketing teams can focus on creating a presentation that drives engagement and sales.

With so many digital marketing tools on the table, having the right tools is necessary to help you keep everything organized and optimized. Most people don’t have the time or resources to perform all of these functions themselves - outsource to a digital tool and save yourself time, effort, and money, all while increasing your engagement and effectiveness.