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Blog Articles and Tools of the Trade to Market Small Businesses and Nonprofits

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TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Software and tools for marketing, graphic design, and business operations. 
This is not a comprehensive list of marketing resources, but rather the tools that I use and  recommend based on personal experience. 

(Please note, this list includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission.)

SEO

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Semrush

This is the program that I use to do SEO keyword research, conduct monthly SEO audits of my website, monitor my link profile and page rankings for specific keywords and so much more! I chose this program for my business because I have been using it in previous corporate jobs for years. I first learned about Semrush at a conference called the Digital Summit. One of the speakers, who was an SEO expert, recommended Semrush and Ahrefs. While I have not used Ahrefs, my understanding is that both of these tools offer similar capabilities, and both offer free and paid versions.
Google Analytics logo

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is free and should be set up as soon as you build your website. Google Analytics contributes to your SEO efforts by tracking website performance and gathering visitor data. With out-of-the-box and custom reporting options, you can use this data to evaluate the success of marketing activities, monitor goal achievements, identify patterns in user engagement, and better understand your target audience.

Also, if you set up Google Analytics years ago, but haven’t looked at it since, you may have issues that you need to fix ASAP! In 2023, Google switched from Universal Analytics to G4. I’ve had several clients tell me, “yes, I have Google Analytics…” but when we go to look at the analytics we find that their account is no longer working because they didn’t switch to GA4.

Google Search Console Logos

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google to help you monitor your site’s presence in Google Search results. It can assist you in understanding and enhancing how Google perceives your site. With Search Console, you can confirm that Google can find and crawl your site, resolve indexing issues, request re-indexing of new or updated content, analyze Google Search traffic data for your site, receive alerts for indexing, spam, or other site issues, and track which sites link to your website.
Rank Math Logo

Rank Math

Rank Math is a WordPress plugin to help with SEO. While I think WordPress is a great website builder in many ways, my big frustration with it is the built-in limitations related to search. Rank Math solves those problems by allowing you to create an SEO title, short, keyword focused URLs, Schema Markup, and so much more. You can also monitor your SEO progress within RankMath. Yoast is a similar, well-known plugin.

The reason that I chose Rank Math over Yoast SEO is that I did extensive research before selecting a plugin. On many Reddit threads and other forums, people complained about Yoast bloating the website size, which negatively impacts SEO. A website designer I know also had had negative experiences with Yoast. That said, I have not personally done a side-by-side comparison, so I cannot confirm the website bloat issue.

Rank math has both free and paid options.

Graphic Design

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

Adobe Creative Suite

I went to school for graphic design and worked in creative services for a portion of my career, so I prefer to use professional design tools. I use the Adobe Creative Suite, specifically InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Aside from my training, experience, and comfort with the programs, I value the time savings that I can achieve by building automated workflows for common tasks. However, the user interface in these programs can be quite challenging to understand if you haven’t been trained in how to use the tools. I don’t recommend the Adobe Creative Suite unless you are committed to learning design. 

Canva

Canva is probably the most popular graphic design tool for those who are not professional designers. There are thousands of pre-built templates, and you can set Canva up to help manage your brand, ensuring visual consistency in all your communications. For individuals there is a free version and a paid “pro” version with additional features. Team versions are paid, but you can test it out with a free trial.

I’ve used Canva to assist with brand management in previous corporate jobs. Now, I occasionally do work for clients in their Canva accounts.

Video

Zoom logo

Zoom

Zoom is probably the best-known video conference platform out there. I also use it to record direct-to -camera videos for social media. I use Pictory (mentioned below) to edit the video and size them appropriately for Instagram Stories and Reels.
Pictory Logo

Pictory

Pictory is an AI video editing tool that makes it easy for video armatures (like me) to make basic video edits. You’re not going to create an award-winning documentary with this tool, but if you want an easy way to cut out your ums, ahs, and off topic tangents this is the way to go.

You upload your video, and it outputs a pane of all the text in your video. You use the text to delete sections of the video. It’s similar to working in a word document and deleting words, but it uses your text edits to edit the video. Brilliant! It also has built in frame sizes, which makes it easy to take your widescreen video and remake it as a vertical Instagram story sized video.

Lumina Logo

Lumina Webcam

Lumina Webcam enhances your video call experience with background bokeh, adaptive color correction, and an AI Cameraman. These features keep you in focus, looking vibrant, and perfectly framed. I also use this with Zoom for my direct-to-camera videos. I can get a better quality video from zoom using this camera, and I then edit the video in Pictory as needed.

Moment Lens system

Moment is a company that creates lenses that can be added to your mobile phone to capture better quality images and video as well as use filters to improve image quality or create special effects. I have several of these lenses and filters that I use depending on the situation.
Rode Microphone logo

RODE Wireless GO Lavalier Microphone

I have the RODE Wireless GO II Single 1-Person Compact Digital Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System/Recorder Kit. While this might seem like overkill, I knew that my office setup was less than ideal for capturing quality sound on video, and I would need to overcome that problem to create good video content. In relation to video content creation, I have read many times that viewers will forgive low quality visuals, but they will not put up with low-quality audio. This microphone was recommended by Dave the Tech Guy in Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy for scenarios where background noise during video recording is an issue.

CRM

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Hubspot

The HubSpot CRM platform includes a comprehensive suite for managing customer relationships. It empowers businesses with tools for contact management, sales pipeline tracking, a customer service portal, and email integration.

I selected this CRM for my business because it has free a low cost options. It also has a user-friendly interface. As someone who has used Salesforce in past jobs, I find Hubspot much easier to navigate and figure out. I highly encourage all businesses to use a CRM for marketing to streamline processes and track data. Without good data, you cannot make good marketing decisions.

Email Marketing

ConvertKit logo

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is a powerful email marketing platform designed for creators. It simplifies email automation and segmentation, enabling personalized communication with subscribers. Its analytics provide insights for optimizing campaigns, fostering meaningful connections and driving growth.

I use ConvertKit for my evergreen newsletter. While I do some email automations in Hubspot, the lower-cost tier that I have does not allow extensive automations and email segmentation. The higher-level tier of Hubspot, which does offer those capabilities, is cost prohibitive for me at this point in time.

I combine ConvertKit with Hubspot to expand my email marketing capabilities at a lower cost that Hubspot’s premier tier service.

AI

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ChatGPT

This one needs no introduction. I’ve recently been using the free version of ChatGPT (GPT 3.5) more. I started my AI journey with Hyperwrite, which I think is a great tool if you’re just starting to experiment with AI writing.
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Hyperwrite

Before ChatGPT had the more friendly user interface that it does now, I started using Hyperwrite, which is an app built on GPT. What I like about Hyperwrite is that it has prompts built in, and provides guidance on what the user needs to input to get the response they would like. Using this tool helped me learn how to write prompts, which makes it easier for me to use ChatGPT now. I use the paid version of Hyperwrite, but there is also a free version.

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Pictory

I mentioned this above in the video tools. Pictory describes its service as “powerful AI enables you to create and edit professional quality videos using text, no technical skills required or software to download.”

My take on Pictory is you’re not going to create an award-winning documentary with this tool, but if you want an easy way to cut sections out of video and add text to the video, this works very well. You upload your video and it outputs a pane of all the text in your video. You use the text to delete sections of the video. It similar to working in a word document and deleting words, but it uses your text edits to edit the video. It also has built in frame sizes, which makes it easy to take your widescreen video and remake it as a vertical Instagram stories sized video.

Hubspot Logo

Hubspot

Hubspot is a leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform that helps businesses grow by allowing them to manage their sales, marketing, and customer service all in one place. AI capabilities are included in the platform to help you automate tasks and reveal valuable insights in your customer data. An AI writing tool is also built in to help with your marketing copy.

Business Administration

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Freshbooks

FreshBooks is a user-friendly accounting platform tailored for small businesses and freelancers. It simplifies invoicing, expense tracking, and time management, streamlining financial tasks. When I was selecting an accounting software, I considered Freshbooks and Quickbooks. I had some familiarity with Quickbooks since I had used it in the past, but I opted for Freshbooks because it was slightly cheaper than Quickbooks. Also, I don’t have product sales, so I didn’t need that capability. (From the research that I did, my impression is that Quickbooks is the better product if you sell physical products.)

I have been really happy with Freshbooks. Their customer services has been great! I was especially impressed that after the free trial, my customer service rep reached out to talk to me about my business and when I explained I was just starting out and basically had no revenue, they offered me a lower cost intro plan while I was getting my business up and running. I really appreciated that personalization and willingness to work with me.

Limited Time Offer – 60% Off for 6 Months.

Google Workspace Logo

Google Workspace

Google Workspace is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere and on any device. It’s simple to set up, use and manage, so your business can focus on what really matters. Here are some highlights: Business email for your domain Look professional and communicate as you@yourcompany.com. Gmail’s simple features help you build your brand while getting more done. Access from any location or device Check emails, share files, edit documents, hold video meetings and more, whether you’re at work, at home or on the move. You can pick up where you left off from a computer, tablet or phone. Enterprise-level management tools Robust admin settings give you total command over users, devices, security and more. Sign up using my link https://referworkspace.app.goo.gl/M6qR and get a 14-day trial.

Website Build

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WordPress

WordPress is a versatile website builder with intuitive interface, vast plugin library, themes for all needs, empowering users to create unique sites easily. I like WordPress for its flexibility and endless options. The builder option associated with your chosen theme has a big impact on how easy (or not) it is to build a site in WordPress.
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Hubspot Plugin

With the HubSpot plugin for WordPress, you can seamlessly integrate HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and CRM tools into your WordPress site. The plugin makes it super simple to add HubSpot forms to your website to capture leads. You can also track user interactions and personalize content to drive engagement and conversions.

Rank Math Logo

Rank Math Plugin

Rank Math is a WordPress tool for optimizing websites for search rankings. My one complaint with WordPress is that the platform by default includes issues that negatively impact SEO. To address these, you must use an SEO plugin.

I chose Rank Math because it was recommended by web designers I know personally. Also, I when I was researching solutions, I came across some Reddit threads saying that Yoast “bloats” your website causing slower load speeds. Load speed is another important factor in SEO; it is important for your website to load quickly.

(For the record, I have not personally done testing to see if Yoast really has a negative impact on load speeds, so I can neither confirm nor deny that information.)