Storytelling on a Budget – 5 Cheap and Easy Marketing Tools

I recently worked for the SPCA of Northern Nevada as the Marketing Manager. Like many nonprofits and small businesses, the SPCA of Northern Nevada didn’t have a large amount of money to spend on marketing, so I became great at marketing on a budget! I discovered and regularly used free, cheap, and simple to operate marketing tools to help create content for the organization. And people responded! I was able to significantly grow traffic to the website, increased Facebook followers by over 4,500 users in under two years, and ran fundraising campaigns that raised over $20,000 during about a 6-week period. Below I’ll share with you some of my favorite tools I used, but first, a couple of quick lessons I’ve found to be extremely valuable.

Be Yourself

Marketing today is all about being original, authentic, and connective. Your social media, blog, and website marketing needs to help tell your story from a personal perspective. Many demographics (especially millennials) will quickly tune out if you use stock images or canned copy. Sometimes, this poses a challenge for small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. How do you bridge the gap between creating compelling original content for your website and blog, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing and you aren’t a trained graphic designer or web developer?

Experience Isn’t Everything

Don’t worry! As I mentioned above, there are a lot of inexpensive (or, gasp! even free!) tools that are designed to help even the novice marketer develop original, creative, and stylish content for social media, blogs, and websites. Plus, you can learn so much from free, online tutorials. (I’ll share some I found to be very helpful in a later blog!)

One last note before we dive into the cheap and easy marketing tools…marketing isn’t a beauty contest. You don’t have to have the most gorgeous, posed photos to make an impression. But you do need to connect. You need to catch people’s attention and show them your true story in order to make them feel something for you and your site. To do that, you need to (or you need to hire someone who can) create original marketing content.

Roll up your selves and get started!

Here’s a breakdown of some of the tools I relied on to make beautiful marketing pieces for social media, websites, and blogs.

Canva – a free app for graphic design that can connect to your Facebook profile (if you wish). It comes with templates for creating common social media pieces like banners, FB posts, Twitter posts…etc. It also has templates for creating post cards, e-invitations, infographics and more. There are options to pay for some of their designs or to buy certain elements, but many of their tools are free and you can upload your own images to manipulate them easily.

GIMP – GIMP is a free, downloadable photo-editing program that is open source. It’s kind of like a free version of Photoshop. I often used it for basic photo editing, resizing, and even image manipulation.

Small tan puppy
This cute picture of Phil was edited using GIMP – the open source photo editing software!

Adobe Spark Video – Video is one of the most engaging types of posts you can do on social media (and your website!). If your post is more engaging, it will have a larger reach, meaning more people will see it. Adobe Spark Video is a free app you can download to your computer or smart phone that allows you use to photos and easily overlay text and music to create short, professional-looking video posts. It’s easy to use and best of all, it’s free! (There are paid versions of it with additional features if you get to the point where you want additional functionality.) It will quickly up your social media game.

Adobe Lightroom – this photo editing software does cost a bit; plans start at $9.99 a month (but you can try it out for free). That being said, it comes with built in “presets” (filters) and makes photo editing a snap! It’s easy to navigate, you don’t need experience, and it catalogs your photos quickly and efficiently. Using the filters, your photos will look like they have been professionally edited and can give your social media, website, or your blog a polished, consistent look that your audience will notice.

Sleeping puppies
Adobe Lightroom allows you to quickly edit your photos with filters so they look professionally edited. Your audience will notice!

Hootsuite – this free tool is fantastic for scheduling social media posts across multiple platforms. There are plans available with additional features that cost money, but I’ve always been satisfied with the free version. It allows you to have a centralized location for most of your social sites including Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest. It not only shows your feeds, allows you to post, and tells you about mentions across platforms, but it also has a built in scheduler so you can plan social media posts ahead of time. When things get busy and you don’t have time to worry about tweeting, you can still stay in touch with your followers by having scheduled posts!

Google Analytics – this is a must if you don’t have it installed on your website. It’s a free tool that gives you incredible insight into the people who visit your website. Metrics include the number of users, the behavior of users (from which page them come into, to flow on your site, to exit pages and beyond!), it will also tell you where your users came from (like Google or a social media site), and their demographics! Not only that, but it can tell you what time they visit your site, how long they are there, and what language they speak. The amount of information you can get about your users and the way they are interacting with you is priceless…especially when you act on that data!

I hope you find these tools useful! Do you have any questions about them? Do you know of other cheap marketing tools that could be useful? I’d be happy to talk to you about this! Leave a comment below to start the conversation.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill says:

    Beautifully written! I particularly enjoyed the tips on programs to use for free or low cost- I had used GIMP before but not the others, so I will have to check those out!


  2. Hallie says:

    Thanks so much for the awesome tips!! Looking forward to future posts!!


  3. Chris says:

    I heartily endorse the GIMP competitor


    1. Thanks for your comment! I have never tried but I’m definitely going to try it out!


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