Tools are great. They free up time, give you data to help you make better decisions, and often have oddly satisfying interfaces that are hard to resist.
Problem? The good ones are deep within the jungle of app stores and listing websites with all their endless options.
We've hacked through the jungle so you don't have to.
Here's a list of amazing and free (or inexpensive) marketing tools you probably haven’t heard of, and that we find very useful.
Create Visuals for Content
It would be nice if it wasn't true that visuals increase the desire to read content by 80%, because creating them takes time. Here are some shortcuts.
Summary: Incredibly elegant and streamlined drawing tool you can use right away.
There are many drawing tools out there. But very few will give you immediate access to the good stuff just by clicking a link. AutoDrawautomatically smooths brush strokes a little like Adobe Illustrator, making for super clean lines.
It has all the fundamentals (fill, text, shapes) and you can share your files without even logging in. Also, it's an AI experiment. Cool.
Price: Free or $10/mo for pro features
Summary: A mind mapping software with a more organic feel than most other options.
Any mind mappers out there? Those who read Tony Buzan's book on the subject will probably agree that most software doesn't hit that organic hand-drawn feel. Speed is the trade-off, because you get to create them quicker with software.
Ayoa bridges the gap. You can create mind maps with that hand-drawn feel thanks to a more dynamic branching system. It's great for visual note taking that can later be used to bring your content to life.
Summary: All the stock photos (in one place).
Stock photos are great. One problem is that they're scattered all over the internet on various sites, so it can take time to find photos you're happy to use in your content without worrying about copyright issues.
The Stocks gather key stock photo sites all at one location, letting you find what you need faster. Maybe it's not the most exciting tool in this list. But it definitely saves a lot of time.
For Data Nerds
Maybe not a newsflash, but 95% of the most successful marketers use data to measure content performance. Here are some tools to help you with that.
Summary: Shorten your links and get the "pro" features for free.
A link shortener? In 2020? Booooriiiiing!
Except when they're not. Most features offered by other shorteners (such as analytics, link thumbnails and other paid features) are free with BioLinky.
These features are VERY useful. Especially for tracking your content's performance in social media, so it's great to get them for free.
Price: $0, $10, or $20 per month. (Also enterprise options)
Summary: The spreadsheet app that "took silicon valley by storm."
Most data nerds are familiar with Airtable by now. But for the aspiring data nerds a little behind the curve, here it is. This spreadsheet-on-steroids lets you drop just about any type of file you could think of into cells.
The 'views' feature lets you change how your data is displayed. Choose between a calendar, a kanban board, a gallery and other useful views less likely to make your brain melt that a heavily populated spreadsheet.
You can send contributors comments via the revision history for each change made, and many other awesome features.
Summary: Early access to what could be a game-changer
Google Data Studio has made it possible to create all kinds of interesting visual data shenanigans inside spreadsheets. But it's pretty, complicated to set up.
That's where ActionDesk comes in. It's a simple spreadsheet, with some kind of eerie black magic plugged into the back-end that lets you integrate different data sources directly to the sheet. It's in early access right now, so get your email in.
Get a Content Inspiration Shot
Ideation can really stretch your idea of what constitutes 'hard work'. Nothing like a shot of inspiration for when that happens.
Summary: Useful case studies for education and inspiration
Case studies are great, and not just because the solid results they demonstrate are great for closing sales. There's something so helpful about seeing a campaign broken down into digestible chunks and tracing tactics back through a strategy.
Marketing Examples, is a no-strings attached (not even an email required) free source of inspiration.
Summary: A curated list of cunning micro copy from around the web to save you searching for inspiration.
You know those times when you're digging deep to find smart and clear microcopy, knowing you're overthinking it? Browsing the web for inspiration does help.
Microcopy Inspirations gathers those snippets into one place for a more concentrated dose to snap you out of it.
Summary: An alternative to Google Trends geared towards early indicators of hype trains about to leave the station.
This tool was designed by Brian Dean over at Backlinko. It's essentially a rival to Google Trends with an emphasis on identifying trending topics before they're officially trending.
If you work on a time sensitive-publishing schedule, Exploding Topics is a godsend. But, even if you don't, set up alerts for industry-relevant news you can piggyback via social or other content. It's a good strategy for some quick attention flowing through your marketing funnels.
These apps are for workflow. One of them is actually called Workflow, so no need for the double take when you scroll down a little. The final app has some genius marketing. Check it out.
Price: $0, $9, $19 or $59 per month
Summary: The ultimate blend of spreadsheet and flowchart.
You may have found that, with some processes, it's tough to decide whether you should use a spreadsheet or a flowchart. Each has their strengths and occasionally, you'll find a process that kinda needs something in the middle.
Cue SheetGo. It lets you map out your spreadsheets in a flowchart. Each node represents a spreadsheet and can be clicked for a more granular view. It's an excellent way to organize processes.
Summary: Automate stuff on your iOS devices.
Automation can be as fun as it is productive. Exploring automation with Workflow in your iOS devices is a blast, and if you focus hard enough on achieving something and not just messing around, you can save a ton of time.
If you like the concept but want something for desktop where more real work tends to happen, the Wildfire Chrome extension is also worth checking out.
Price: $0, $7, or $17 per month
Summary: An all-in-one business cornucopia for hungry entrepreneurs.
Even if you never use this tool, their cyclical landing pages are worth a visit. I chose the anxiety-themed option for our website link above. Click it and you won't be disappointed.
More importantly, the tool is a customizable all-in-one tool solution for your project management, CRM, and just about any other tool you can think of. Swiss army knives are a played-out analogy, but you get the idea.
That means a single monthly fee and a UI that's consistent across all your tools, which is easier than learning many. Fibery is built with scalability in mind, so all of your tools can grow with your businesses instead of needing to be replaced when your business takes off.
Got Tools to Share?
If you know any super neat and relatively inexpensive tools, share them with me and our readers. If we like them, we'll add them to the list and give you credit for sharing.