LAST UPDATED ON April 9, 2021
21 Small Business Marketing Tools You Need in 2021 [Tried & Tested]
Marketing tools are the great equalizer for a small business.
Using the right tool appropriately can allow you to level the playing field to compete with the heavyweights in your industry and put your business’ growth on steroids (don’t worry, no lifetime bans here).
In this guide, we’re going to look at the best digital marketing tools for your business, how to use them, and how to improve your marketing efforts overall.
Top Small Business Marketing Tools for 2021
Here’s a list of 21 marketing tools to check out in 2021, including pricing info and pros and cons with each one.
Remember, we’re focusing on small business marketing tools, meaning what might be a “pro” for a multinational corporation is actually an expensive “con” for a small business.
No two businesses do marketing exactly the same way or have the same goals, so every business needs a unique combination of marketing tools to thrive.
We hope this guide helps you equip yourself with the right digital marketing tools for your business.
Email Marketing Tools
A great platform for getting started with email marketing, whether you need a simple digital marketing tool or advanced solution.
Price: Pricing plans vary. You have the choice of monthly billing or credits, depending on your use. A limited free plan is available if you have under 2,000 subscribers.
- Easy to use.
- Great email templates
- The Freemium version is excellent.
- Limited marketing automation features.
As the name suggests, Campaign Monitor is more than an email marketing automation tool.
It’s an email marketing campaign management hub.
Price: $9-149/month. Advanced features and unlimited sends become available at the “Unlimited” $29/month price point.
- Advanced integrations and campaign management features.
- Design flexibility.
Email marketing software designed for professional bloggers and content creators.
Price: $29/month for 1,000 subscribers.
- Includes a landing page editor.
- Expensive, especially if you’re starting out. It can take a long time to reach 1,000 subscribers.
- Limited design and templates.
CRM Tools For SMBs
Hubspot built their brand around inbound marketing (e.g. attracting potential customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them), which is probably the most effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses.
Price: Varies. See HubSpot’s plans. The “Starter” plan is $45/month.
- Outstanding integrations.
- Includes resources to help you learn how to use a CRM.
- Add-ons add up. Full functionality is expensive.
Zoho delivers vital features and integrations at a competitive price. It is PC Mag’s top pick for CRM software in 2021.
Price: $12-45 per user/month. The most popular option is $35
- One-stop-shop for many small businesses.
- Includes email marketing automation and communication tools.
- Features are limited at the lower price levels.
This one lives up to its name by focusing on the main features that matter to small businesses.
Price: Starts at $10 per user/month
- Easy to use.
- Good price.
- Reporting features are basic at best.
Project Management Tools
A simple chat platform is all the project management software most small businesses need. Slack delivers that better than anyone.
Price: $6.67 per user/month for small to medium businesses. $12.50 per person/month for larger enterprises looking for advanced tools.
- Simple and easy to use.
- Widely adopted thanks to the work-from-home revolution.
- Constant notifications can be distracting but turning them off completely defeats the purpose of instant messaging. You may need to experiment to find the best way to use Slack for your team.
A brainstorming and project management platform built around kanban boards. This is a helpful tool for coming up with a digital marketing plan.
Price: Free for small teams, $9.99 per user/month for “Business Class.”
- Enables remote brainstorming.
- A good choice for visual thinkers.
- Lacks important integrations, like billing.
A well-designed platform for keeping your team on track.
Price: Free – $24.99 per user/month.
- The free version is enough for many small businesses.
- You probably don’t need most of Asana’s features.
Social Media Tools
The one-and-done social media online marketing tool with a post scheduling tool and analytics and monitoring features.
Price: 1 User for $49/month, 3 Users for $129/month.
- Informs scheduling with insights and analytics.
- Hootsuite is good at a few things but not great at any one thing. You may still opt for the simplicity of Buffer even though Hootsuite has a scheduling feature.
Want to Tweet 24/7 from your social media account without having to be on Twitter at all times? Buffer is a great social media marketing tool for that, it makes that possible across all your social channels via scheduled posts.
Price: Free for one user, 3 channels, and ten posts/day.
Paid plans are $15-99/month.
- Browser integrations make it easy to share content you find online.
- High per-user cost.
- Analytics are just okay.
Alt text: buffer add to queue
A social media platform with social media post scheduling as the main feature and WordPress integration.
Price: $29/user per month.
- Perfect for bloggers who want to schedule content across social channels.
- High price.
- Most small businesses don’t need advanced content calendars.
Honorable Mention: Sprout Social – A pricey (but worth it) social media management tool, purpose-built for businesses.
As mentioned above, the secret to getting the most out of data is interpreting it. BuzzSumo lets you run a search to quickly discover content ideas, uncover data insights and identify passionate influencers on social media.
This digital marketing tool adds insights to raw numbers to help you unlock content opportunities and generate ideas.
- Includes competitive insights (to help you spy on the competition).
- Helps you identify influencers in your space.
- Expensive for small businesses.
Helps you analyze the conversion funnel from the time a visitor arrives on your page to the time they convert. Instead of using old school link tracking software or a link tracker this tool enables you to identify prospects and nurture leads—a powerful marketing tool in the right hands.
- Designed to give you insights that will help you get the most out of all your marketing tools.
- Goes beyond just a regular click tracking software, allows you to group your audience to buckets according which actions they have taken and where they are in the conversion funnel
- Example: If you are running an ad campaign in facebook or a ppc ad you can create a funnel and view:
- everyone who clicked on the ad into first bucket
- of those in first bucket everyone who visited your landing page into second bucket
- of those in second bucket everyone who bought into third bucket
- Not very useful if you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of leads yet.
- If you already know who your customers are (like if you run a small-town bakery), a lot of browsing data is meaningless to you.
- It’s a tracking tool so you do need to install an additional tracking pixel on your website
Honorable mention: CrazyEgg – CrazyEgg is a tool developed by blogging expert Neil Patel to analyze customer behavior on your website. Instead of link tracking it uses eye-tracking and heatmaps to figure where website visitors ’ attention goes—pretty cool, but not something you need before you have a lot of traffic.
The best analytics tool out there also happens to be free. This is a must-have in every marketer’s toolkit.
- The best tool of its kind. Period.
- Your data is only as good as your ability to interpret it. In other words, this is not a tool for analytics noobs.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
A content optimization tool which use AI and machine learning to help you optimize and improve your content so that you can outrank your competition on Google.
Price: Starts at $79/month
- Simple to use – you input your article URL and the keyword you want to rank for and the tool will tell you:
- which topics your competition has in their articles
- how you score on topical depth for your keyword
- which topics you need to add to your article to outrank your competition
- If you do not have an article written yet the tool will just ask you for a keyword and generate a content brief with questions you should answer and topics to address when writing the brand new piece of content
- Takes some time to get used to when you first start using it.
A keyword research tool which gives you search volume, competition and other stats for any keyword you search on Google and shares suggested keywords for you to consider.
Price: Free. Does require $10 one time purchase to get started.
- Simple to use – it’s a browser extension and takes 10 seconds to install
- Very easy to see suggested keywords and their competition and search volume
- Takes some time to setup the one time buying of the credits when you first setup the account.l
An SEO tool recommended for small business and medium businesses.
- Ideal for small-medium businesses.
- UX quirks, like list management, take some getting used to.
An SEO beast built by SEO experts. It’s hard to find a reason not to give MOZ a try. Whether it’s just checking the domain authority of any website to see how popular it is or doing backlink analysis, keyword analysis or checking the spam score for a website – this tool should be your go to.
- Like Hubspot, Moz has an epic library of educational resources. Read their blog. It will make you a better marketer.
- Great price.
- Too many features for a small business.
Another one from Neil Patel, UberSuggest was designed to help you reverse-engineer SEO success.
- Good for auditing your current SEO.
- Advanced users might find it a little too basic.
Content Marketing Tools
WordPress is a blank canvass for building any kind of site you want. If you’re looking to write a search engine optimized blog, WordPress is the way to go. Fun fact: 40% of websites on the internet are built with WordPress.
Price: Varies depending on domain availability and whether or not you build your own site.
- Better for SEO than other platforms like Squarespace.
- Not easy for novice users.
- Shopify is better for ecommerce shops.
A free and easy way to collaborate LIVE on written content (like the first draft that became the article you’re reading now).
- Google integrations.
- Compatible with other word processing software and file formats.
- Offline functionality is limited.
A drag-and-drop design studio for folks who can’t afford professional graphic design.
Price: Free – $9.95/month.
- Easy for beginners with no design background.
- Finished designs can feel generic (because they are).
Main Types of Marketing Tools & What They Do
Now that we’ve covered the top digital marketing tools in several important categories, let’s take a closer look at what these categories mean and what you can do with each type of marketing tool.
Type 1: Email Marketing Tools for SMB
Email tools help you design and send marketing emails and then monitor the results of your campaigns so you can improve open rates and conversion over time.
Why is email marketing such a big deal?
Did you know that email has an ROI of $42 for every $1 you spend?! This makes it by far the best use of digital marketing dollars for most businesses.
It’s also the easiest way to reach customers online:
- 99% of consumers check their email daily.
- 73% of millennials say email is their preferred way to interact with brands.
The most exciting thing about email is also the most obvious:
It allows you to address customers directly at scale.
And as if that isn’t cool enough, email is basically a self-publishing platform that you own.
Image: AOL… only 90s kids will remember.
Type 2: CRM Marketing Tools for SMBs
CRM stands for “customer relationship management.” A CRM platform is a bundle of tools that help you perform a range of marketing and sales tasks, from lead generation to lead-nurturing to email drip campaigns.
A good CRM will integrate with your other marketing tools and act as a nerve center for all things marketing.
Type 3: Project Management & Communication Tools
All businesses, big and small, need some form of project management software. This is where a marketing team can collaborate remotely and put ideas into action.
Luckily for a small business owner or solopreneur, a team of two or three can get by with the free version of most project management tools.
Type 4: Social Media Marketing Tools
Social media tools make it possible to post constantly and organize your social media presence. They’re especially helpful for scheduling posts in advance so you’ve got a steady stream of content ready to go in your queue.
You don’t need any special tools to be on Facebook or Twitter. But it’s hard to get the most out of these platforms without social media management tools.
These tools help you:
- Schedule and automate social media posts.
- Grow your following.
- Organize leads from social channels.
- Share content.
- Coordinate your social and content marketing.
- Use A/B testing to determine what’s working.
Type 5: Content Marketing Tools for SMBs
Content marketing is a broad term that covers everything from SEO copywriting and blogging to podcasting and user-generated videos.
What kind of content you put out depends on your business, your target audience, which marketing channels you’re using, and what you’re good at or can afford to hire people for.
Content marketing tools help you develop and publish content. That includes all sorts of tools, from Photoshop to grammar-checking software. In this article, the content marketing tools we mentioned focused on building a website and designing basic graphics since those are two content marketing fundamentals every business needs. Once you have a website and a blog, you can build out your content from there.
Type 6: Analytics Marketing Tools
Analytics tools are where digital marketing meets data science. Numbers and insights from analytics software will tell you if your marketing is working. You can also use this info to target new customer segments, fine-tune your messaging, and drive more traffic to your website.
Type 7: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools
When was the last time you found what you were looking for on the 8th page of Google? The truth is, if your business is on page 8 or even page 2, people will have difficulty finding you. SEO is the art and science of improving your position in Google’s search results. Without SEO tools, it’s hard to know where your site ranks in relation to your competition and which keywords to target to improve that ranking.
SEO research tools help you:
- Discover which low search volume keywords to include in your blog posts and web copy.
- Identify opportunities to improve your search ranking.
- Analyze what’s helping and what’s hurting your ranking.
- Compare your SEO to competitors in your field.
We have some resources for learning SEO in the “learn more about digital marketing” section at the end of this article.
How do I Know Which Marketing Tools I need?
When you were reading this list, did some tools jump out at you as “must-haves”? Did some make you scratch your head and think, “This sounds good, but do I really need it?” We can’t tell you exactly which tools are worth the money for your business, but we can give you a few key things to keep in mind while you’re tool shopping.
A two-person business working side-by-side in the same room probably doesn’t need advanced cloud-based project management tools.
If you don’t run a B2B SAAS company, you probably don’t need all the features of a CRM platform. That’s why there are so many alternatives to SalesForce geared toward a small business.
When you’re selecting tools, find the ones that work for a business of your size but still give you room to grow. This is where tiered pricing comes in handy. For example, MailChimp is free if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers. By the time you’re ready to upgrade to a paid plan, your newsletter might be paying for itself.
Some tools are idiot-proof. You don’t need to have a digital marketing background to schedule posts in a buffer queue.
Other tools are powerful in the hands of an expert but useless to a newbie. For example, SEO insights don’t mean anything to someone who doesn’t know how to write SEO copy.
Your marketing skills will determine which tools are right for you.
Here are three potential use cases where different marketing skills call for different tools:
- A one or two-person ecommerce store without marketing experience or the budget to hire freelancers.
These guys should focus on social media and networking while they learn digital marketing skills on the job and gradually branch out into more advanced content marketing.
Tools: Social media management tools like Buffer and Hootsuite.
- A successful online business hiring a copywriter to write blog posts and email campaigns.
This business has the resources to hire a copywriter to build out their content. But they’re still going to be responsible for generating content briefs, an editorial calendar, and an overall strategy. These folks should also take free inbound marketing SEO classes like the ones offered by HubSpot Academy.
Tools: CRM tools to organize content. SEO and analytics tools to inform content strategy.
- A small business or startup with a dedicated marketing person or team.
This business will get the most out of advanced tools. They should invest in the best tools they can afford (see the next section on budget & funding). That said, talent will still trump tools every time. This company should invest in fancy tools only after they’ve hired or trained for pro-level SEO and content marketing.
Tools: If you’re in this category, you already know what you need. Focus on leveraging a combination of the tools mentioned in this post to maximize your marketing ROI.
Image: HBO/Silicon Valley, Jaimie Trueblood
Budget & funding
The cool thing about a lot of the software mentioned in this article is you can try it out for free.
When you’re pricing tools, invest in your “must-haves” and try to find freemium workarounds for your “nice-to-haves.”
But if you’re, say, a well-funded startup, and money is no object for you (must be nice), remember that tools have costs besides subscription fees. Overspending on tools you don’t need will cost you time and energy. A solid rule no matter what your budget is: don’t pay for tools you don’t really need.
Existing tools and overlap
It’s worth pointing out that many of these tools do the same things and you don’t always need a dedicated tool for each marketing function. For example, your project management platform might cover your content scheduling needs.
So when should I invest in a standalone tool?
The answer: it depends.
- If your content marketing strategy relies heavily on an email newsletter and you want the best templates, invest in email tools.
- If you run a small business and manage to stay organized using one Slack channel, maybe you don’t need a project management tool.
When in doubt, free trials are the perfect way to decide if a tool is worth investing in. If that tool starts to feel more like an obstacle than a lubricant, you can always leave it behind.
What do I Need to Know about Marketing?
The most important feature of any marketing tool is the person using it. A skilled marketer with basic tools will always out-market someone with advanced tools who doesn’t know what they’re doing. If you want to get the most out of your marketing tools, you need to work on your marketing skills and become a student of marketing.
Here are some tips to get you started.
How do I market my business with no money?
The broadest definition of marketing is telling your brand’s story in a way that clearly shows customers how you can meet their needs. There are plenty of ways to tell your story without spending a dime.
Here are a few marketing plays that are free or really cheap:
- Email newsletters
- Networking on social media
- Sharing user-generated content
- Reaching out to influencers and other businesses for collaboration and co-marketing opportunities
How do I get good at content marketing?
Maybe you’ve heard the expression “content is king.” (FYI that phrase originates from a 1996 essay by Bill Gates, which remains an extremely accurate assessment of the role of content in the digital economy to this day.) That phrase may be overused, but it also happens to be true. Content should be at the heart of all your digital marketing activities and content creation is the number one marketing skill to focus on improving.
Here are a few tips to step up your content marketing game.
Nail your copy
Copywriting is an essential marketing skill. Without it, you can’t do SEO or email marketing and things like your Twitter content will fall flat. There’s no way around it: either learn to write well (we’ve got some links for you coming up) or hire someone who can.
Take great images and video
There’s no excuse to have crappy images on your site and social channels. Smartphone cameras are so good now that you don’t even need professional equipment.
Source user-generated content
Studies have shown that people are 137% more likely to buy a product if they see customer photos of it. According to some experts, content that’s obviously homemade often outperforms professionally produced content. The best way to get user-generated content is to ask your customers for it!
Where do I Learn More about Marketing?
Marketing is a craft that can’t be taught in the conclusion of a blog post. But here are a few tips and links to help you get started on the journey to becoming a marketing master.
Make a swipe file
When you see content you like, bookmark it for inspiration. Keep an email folder of promotional emails that made you click or made you purchase. Marketing professionals call this library of inspiration a “swipe file.”