Thursday June 14, 2018

Free Tools to Take You from Design to Hitting Send

free marketing tools

There’s nothing quite like a well-thought-out and executed marketing strategy. Weeks of planning culminates in an impeccably put together editorial calendar and beautifully designed content pieces ready to go. 

That’s the ideal scenario, but sometimes you might need to get a professionally made marketing piece out the door ASAP, and if you don’t have the resources of a marketing team or agency to help you put it together, it can be a stressful situation. 

If you’ve ever found yourself in that position, let’s take a look at some free tools you can use to help put together on-demand marketing content, whether it be emails, handouts or another form of collateral. 

Grammar Check

It probably goes without saying, but poor grammar can instantly discredit any marketing effort. Imagine receiving a marketing email, only to find a really bad misspelling right in the first line. Straight in the trash, right?

While spell check and other built-in word processor tools are helpful, consider supplementing with a free grammar assistant.

Grammarly, the Google Chrome extension that catches any typos and suggests quick grammatical fixes, is my personal favorite. If you ever find yourself wondering whether a comma should go in that sentence or not, give Grammarly a look.

The extension comes in two versions: the free version with basic fixes to your grammar, and the paid, which can point out and offer more drastic fixes for awkwardly phrased sentences. 

Get Your Fonts Right

If you’ve ever had a marketing agency do any design work for you, then your organization likely has a style guide that consists of fonts and colors associated with your brand. If you have to rush and put together a quick email, however, you might not have the time to dig that guide up. 

WhatFont is another Chrome extension that makes finding branding information like fonts and colors easy. After installing the extension, visit a webpage (say, your homepage), click on the WhatFont icon then select any page element you’d like more information on.

For example, after clicking on some header text from our homepage, I see the following:

 free tools 

This gives me helpful information like the font name, size and the color code. Using this information, I can then easily replicate header text in an email. Now you can ensure your branding is remaining consistent, even in a pinch. 

Free Imagery

I’ve written at greater length on this in the past, but there are many free photography websites that you can use to enhance the appearance of your collateral.

My personal two favorites are:

If you can’t find an adequate image on one of these two sites, then you will probably have to use a pay site like Shutterstock.

Easy Design

You don’t have to be a designer to quickly add text to an image or other design elements — though it certainly helps.

A tool like Canva allows you to accomplish basic design enhancements and also features a good amount of free templates and images you can use to put together a solid looking design.

So, let’s say you need a header image for your email. After setting up your free Canva account, you can create a design based off your own size specifications (600x400 pix, for example) or use one of their preset sizes (email header, Facebook cover photo, etc).   

From there, you can choose from whole templates to craft your design. Keep in mind that many of these come with preselected images, fonts and design choices like image filters, lines and so on.

As a general rule, never just slap your specific text information over one of their templates; take a few minutes instead to upload a more appropriate image, adjust your fonts to match your brand (where WhatFont comes in handy) and personalize it a bit. Canva’s designs are nice, but if you stick with their basic layout, your image won’t stand out much.

Distribution

Last but not least, you need to get your marketing material out there. If you use a paid email subscription service but find yourself either unsatisfied with its functions or doubting the ROI, a free service like MailChimp will allow you to easily build and send emails.

A very user-friendly service, MailChimp will walk you through the process of creating emails, setting up limited marketing automation and managing your lists. The tool comes with a good number of templates that, while basic, will likely meet your needs if you’re simply trying to send a monthly email or one-off offers.

MailChimp can also tie into a variety of ecommerce platforms like Shopify, letting you set up automated workflow emails that can let your customers know their order has been processed or request feedback on their purchase.

There are a couple things worth noting, however. The free version limits the amount of contacts you can have in your database to 2,000 subscribers and, as noted above, the email templates are nothing fancy. Furthermore, the steps and processes that MailChimp recommends for setting up workflow emails, for example, are general and may not match up directly with your audience’s expectations or needs. 

A Guiding Hand

While these tools are useful for creating in-house marketing content in a pinch, if your needs extend beyond the occasional marketing email or announcement, you need a long-term solution. 

You could hire an internal marketing position dedicated to putting together these rush marketing jobs and sketching out an overall marketing strategy to minimize these occurrences. If you anticipate that your organization might need a broader skillset and want to employ a variety of strategies and channels, however, your best bet is to hire a marketing agency. Here you’ll have a full team working to maximize your marketing efforts and craft long-term, in-depth marketing strategies.

To learn about how an agency like Simple Machines can help your organization, contact us here.

Written by Scott Rogers | Tags: Email Marketing

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