For the small sustainable brand needing a marketing boost on a tight budget, Akepa recommends essential marketing tools to grow your business at zero expense.
We’ve noticed a common theme among the environmentally-driven businesses we help. Sustainable business owners have a great passion and deep knowledge for their world-improving products. But they find marketing this message online a frustrating struggle.
It’s easy to see why. Brands compete for attention online like plants compete for sunlight. In the online jungle, large companies use ad spend and pricey software to shade out competitors. But there’s still hope if you’re a seedling company. Countless tools and apps now exist to help your sustainable business take root online. Best of all, many have free versions that are more than good enough to get going with.
In this article, we’ll share some essential tools that helped our clients to grow for free. The tools cover six foundational parts of your marketing, centred around your audience:
- Keep your visitors engaged with… Mailchimp
- Connect to other businesses with… LinkedIn
- Gather content ideas with… Answer The Public
- Wow your audience with… Canva
- Understand people with… Google Analytics
- Test what your audience sees with… Website Grader
These tools cost nothing but some time to learn, so you could say they offer an almost infinite return on investment. You don’t find that kind of value every day…
Keep your visitors engaged with… Mailchimp
Mailchimp lets you create and maintain a mailing list with almost no effort.
For any company without a customer mailing list in 2022, now is the time to be landing in inboxes. 60% of consumers have made a purchase based on a marketing email, four times the social media average.
Mailchimp is a market leader in this field. It offers easy-to-edit templates and a straightforward way to manage customer data. You can send up to 10,000 emails a month for free, more than enough to get your following started.
A mailing list is especially valuable for a sustainable business. Your followers actively seek new ways to make their life more sustainable. Provide them value through sustainable lifestyle tips, and you’ll stay fresh in their minds. When it’s time to give a sustainable gift or recommendation to a loved one, it’s your email they’ll go to first.
Extra tool tip: Already using a mail list? You can even boost your following with this free HubSpot web pop-up tool. You’d be surprised how effective pop-up forms can be, but be sure to not mess up the timing – they shouldn’t appear too soon, usually no later than 10 seconds.
Connect to other businesses with… LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a professional social networking platform with over 830 million users. Often overlooked by small businesses, LinkedIn can be a powerful marketing tool if you use it well. This especially for businesses expanding into B2B sustainability.
The hashtag #sustainability has over 13 million followers on LinkedIn. This reflects the rising importance of sustainability in modern business. Companies are feeling the need to walk the walk, and they’re going to LinkedIn to discuss the way forward.
By building a presence on LinkedIn, you can access key sustainability decision makers for free. Get seen by the right decision maker, and your product could become a company’s next onboarding gift or used in a corporate team building experience. Making sensible connections means you could do this without even touching your marketing budget.
By some counts, 80% of B2B leads generated on social media come from LinkedIn. So we recommend viewing LinkedIn as the indispensable professional face of your sales efforts.
Extra tool tip: when you’re at the point of growing your sustainability business – give Linkedin’s job functions a whirl. There are lots of people looking for jobs with sustainable companies, all over the world, and you can have one active job post live at a time, free of charge.
Gather content ideas with… Answer The Public
Answer The Public is a nifty tool that reveals the questions that people search for around a given topic. It’s an important habit to consider when it comes to sustainability: environmental searches quadrupled during the lockdowns and have continued to grow at at least 30% per year since.
Not only that, the tool also gives you some intuitive visualizations to download, as well as spreadsheets.
But what can you do with this information? Well, one of the actions you can take is to create useful content around these questions. You can then supplement the content you’ve created with search-engine optimisation, to give your articles a chance of appearing when people search in Google and other search engines. Simultaneously helping your audience and getting them closer to related services that you offer.
Here’s another post on content marketing for sustainable brands that goes into more detail about the whole process.
Extra tool tip: a quicker way to find out the same kind of information is to use Google’s auto suggestions. Just start typing the beginnings of a search and the completed phrases that Google proposes are also based on what people search for.
Wow your audience with… Canva
Canva is a free-to-use online graphics creator which gives your visual creations a professional edge. If you feel the graphics in your new mailing list and LinkedIn are lacklustre, Canva is here to help.
Canva has the one-person marketing department in mind. The simple drag-and-drop interface and cloud storage mean your works of art are easy to share for your next email or Instagram post.
This nifty design tool also offers a range of free editable templates, many of which are designed for sustainability. These can save you time and serve as a useful inspiration for next week’s social media posts. Or, when the next sustainability day sneaks up and you need something apt for Instagram (at the time of writing this is International Primate Day on the 1st of September).
Extra tool tip: Looking for visual assets to enrich your Canva creations? Try adding high-quality, commercially-licensed photos for free with Unsplash. Or add some stylish free icons from The Noun Project.
Understand folk with… Google Analytics
Google Analytics offers businesses free data insights on their website. With it, you can transform online tinkering from guesswork to informed, measurable results. Analytics can tell you a surprising amount about the people clicking on your sustainable mission. Analytics tracks many data points, including user age, geographic location, and even how people arrive at your page. This last feature – called Acquisition – is especially helpful to know which sites bring people to you (and to what pages) so you can target your efforts.
Don’t let the overwhelming display put you off. At first it can feel like you’re drowning in charts and data points. But just a few hours of learning could make you think of your marketing strategy in a whole new way.
Extra tool tip: integrate Google Analytics and Google Search Console for a boost to your SEO data and technical setup.
Test what your audience sees with… Website Grader
Website Grader scores your website’s performance and then offers guidance on how to improve your online home. From mobile friendliness to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the tool checks every part of your web design in minutes. It’s free for as many times as you use it, allowing you to tinker, optimise, and help give your website a nudge in the right direction.
Tools like Website Grader cannot offer the deep insights of a digital marketing agency. That said, we still recommend them as a rough guide for best practice. Bad website experience will make almost 90% of users think twice about returning to your site. You can’t rely on your sustainable mission to keep people clicking back.
Extra tool tip: While you’re in the testing mood, you can check the readability of your website’s words for free with Hemingway. You could then verify the quality of your website’s SEO with Semrush’s free offering.
And if you’re feeling braver, consider Google Optimise. This offers free A/B testing, letting you experiment with alternate versions of your webpages to find the most effective version.
So there you have it. Our recommended toolbox for growing every part of your digital marketing:
We hope these tools will give the boost your business needs to find its online niche.
If you ever need more, it’s worth noting that paid versions exist for almost all the tools above. But we’d always recommend trying free before investing, to keep your marketing budget lean.
Still need guidance after trying these tools? Akepa helps small to mid-sized sustainable brands find and convince environmentally-conscious people online. Email us and we’ll tell you how: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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