Zero budget marketing: software solutions

This blog covers areas of B2B marketing where you absolutely must be both active and have software solutions.  Recommendations are made for specific zero budget software because premium paid for versions exist for when you chose to beef up your activities.

I use the word budget rather than cost, because as a leader you can carry out the marketing suggested below even when you have zero budget to play with: the recommended software will not cost you anything.  You could start your new marketing as soon as you have got to the bottom of this article.


For this article to be of use to you, you are likely to be a leader of an established 1-50 employee B2B business in any one of the following situations:
  1. You know you should be on the digital bandwagon, but aren’t,  and convinced that you should be getting more sales bang for the same marketing buck
  2. You undertake digital marketing but you are looking for the confidence that you are doing the best possible.
  3. You are the leader of an existing business, looking at launching a new venture.

Your vision (ie, where you want to end up)

  • You wish to have the confidence that you have the right marketing strategy, doing the right marketing activities, and using the least resources necessary (time and money).
  • Doing all this will give you the best chance of sales success.
You want to maximise the utilisation of software because automation:
  • minimises the amount of expensive labour time you have to fund.
  • increases the volume of marketing messages going out the door.

Your starting point

Minimum starting point
It is very likely that you have a great deal more than that listed below, but just to labour the point that, these days you need so little in order to deliver great zero budget digital marketing. All you need is:
  • Hardware – computers and phones!
  • Soft stuff
    • a place to host your website
    • a domain name with email address(es)
    • perhaps a website, but not a problem if you don’t because suggestion on free web software is made below.
You must have a plan (a strategy), or are planning to have a plan (!) even if only a simple one. Sometimes, there is a need just to get started.  Progressing with no cost software has got to be a good place to start.

If you already have more than the minimum

This article addresses marketing software that costs you nowt.  Of course,you might have already got a solution in place or you are choosing to invest more.  This might get you there faster (if you already know what works and what does not):

  • However, you should have turned down the no (least) cost options first, as this maximises your return
  • If getting there faster involves making an investment, then everyone would do so if the return was acceptable and achievable with a high probability of success.

Your rock solid principles

What ever you choose to do, the following must be the principles you adopt, otherwise all else will fail over the long term.  Perhaps you have yet to deliver on these principles, but you have every intent to do so.
  1. You know that a reliable and ongoing stream of sales comes only come from a sustainable, long term, uninterrupted programme of marketing activities
  2. You have a vision (the soft, aspiration, over the horizon sort of stuff) that you are telling others about. If you didn’t have a vision, then you know that you will be persuaded by others (employees, friends, etc) to fill the void by seeking justification for your actions based on what others have done in the past, by what has worked in the past or by what your competitors are doing.  This is frontier stuff and you know that a vision energises your as a leader, and others, in blazing a unique journey.
  3. You have targets: hard numbers.  You have a plan that says we want to achieve this, by this date, using these resources.  If you don’t have the targets, you know it is impossible to know if you are on the right path, going at the optimal speed for the resources that you are investing.
  4. You measure your progress.
  5. You will be fully subscribed to the fact that everything about marketing and sales is different now to where is was 10 years ago.  If you learnt your marketing and sales craft back then, or from a current company that is still stuck in the past (there are plenty of those) then you are dead in the water.  You are open-minded to the concepts of inbound-marketing , social media, content marketing, web 2.0 and the like.
  6. You know that marketing has to be owned by a leader in the business.  It is that important.
  7. You acknowledge that this is a marathon (one long, endurance race) and not a short term sprint.
  8. You know that you have to test, test and test again.  There is no silver bullet out there, though plenty of people selling their wares will tell you otherwise. The principle is that all marketing starts with you setting a hypothesis.  You know that there is only one person (or category of person) who will tell you if you are right with your hypothesis and this is your client.  And not any type of client: a client who chooses to give you their money, not once, but repeatedly.
  9. You know that you have to do the right bits in a whole plethora of integrated marketing activities.  You know that if you were to ask a PR guru what you should do, you know that they will tell you that you should do some PR. But you know that business life is more complicated than this.

Recommendations for zero budget software.

The software solutions are my recommendations; the associated marketing activities are imperative.

1. A customer relationship management (CRM) system

The benefit of a CRM system
Operating a CRM system is the only route by which an individual target prospect will appreciate that you have a joined up, professional, relevant and ongoing dialogue centred around their needs. For you is it the only way to minimise (and measure) the amount of effort you put into holding a dialogue with a large number of people simultaneously. This dialogue needs to involve email, phone, face to face (F2F), social media, whitepapers, documents, photos, and any other medium through which you can influence your individual prospect.
The no cost, one user solution:
This could be a simple as excel spreadsheets, email folders, a task manager, a calendar  and a personal project/productivity/ task management system such as Evernote.
You might feel that the future benefits of going with a free multi-user system (see below) from the word go, is worth the little additional time investment now.
The no cost, multi-user solution
A specialist CRM software such as Capsule.
This enables a prospect to see that you are not only engaging them in a sophisticated, joined-up dialogue, but also that they can benefit from all the different skilled inputs from across your team.  A multi-user CRM system is the only way to deliver a client centric business.


2. A website that is built for dialogue

The benefit of a website build for 2 way dialogue
These days a business can not exist without a website.  However, it is more than that. Your business can not exist with a website that simply tells people what you do (a brochure website).  Clients want to form relationships with companies that care about them and companies that are seen to be thought leaders.. You need to be asking your client what they think and what they want.  If you do this through your website, all the associated activity of holding 2 way dialogue will push your website up the search rankings. And of course, the higher you are  in search rankings, the more clients you will attract.
The no cost solution
WordPress.  In my mind there is simply no other alternative because this platform is:
  • open source.  This means it is free to use and also that there are people across the globe who are continuously adding free functionality that you can bolt onto your website.  You can pay a modest amount of money for enhanced designs, but you don’t need to.
  • based around blogging functionality.  This enables you to continuously post leadership comment and for you to engage in reader feedback.
The following free ‘must have’ plug-ins further improve either the visitor experience of your website or your ability of measure the performance of your website:
  • Webengage – build customer feedback forms on each page
  • Yoast SEO  – improve the way you use copy on your website so that the website performs better in search engines
  • Google Analytics – measure the way that visitors are using your website
  • Mailchimp – capture visitor contact details so that you can keep them engaged through newsletters, offers and the like
  • AddThis smart Layers – enables visitors to social share every page.

3. Social media accounts

The benefit of social media accounts
Buyers do 70% of their buying in the background, before they approach you to express an interest.  This means that they rely heavily on the internet.  Furthermore, the internet has encouraged an explosion in sharing information with others.  Those who find a gem (your company!) want to feel good about themselves by sharing the gem with others. Social media platforms are a brilliant way to do this. You need to place your information on social media platforms and engage with people with the specific purpose of encouraging them to visit your website (a more complete tool for engaging with them and for perhaps conducting a financial transaction).
The no cost solution
The specific social media platforms used by your target clients are highly reflective of your client profile, whether the market is B2B or B2C and the product or service that you sell.
Although you can spend money on the following platforms, you can also be active on them for free.  These platforms are also those most likely to work for most B2B markets.
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

 4. Email broadcasting software

The benefit of using email broadcasting software.
Emails are another mass medium for encouraging visitors to your website.  Of course, this is a medium that operates differently to social media and therefore attracts a different type of client, or satisfies a different type of need for the same client (eg more extensive information).  Furthermore, emails must only be sent on the permission of the recipient.  Sending out mass emails from your email client server will get your company  blacklisted (the internet police will treat your mass emails as spam). Therefore the only way to capture email addresses automatically from client requests, and to send emails to large numbers of people legally, is through specialist email broadcasting software.
The no cost solution
In my view, Mailchimp is No. 1.

5. Project management/personal productivity software.

The benefit of project management software
Everyone’s lives are so busy these days and involve working on a vast number of simultaneous projects across work and home life. This involves collecting, storing and working on information from a number of different electronic sources (email, web pages, downloads, spreadsheets, images etc). Having a simple, cloud based system that enables you to assess the information, no matter what device you are using and where ever you are in the world, increases your productivity massively.
The no cost solution
In my opinion, nothing beats Evernote.

Having been in the game for 30 years I consider myself a mere marketing and sales amateur: there is so much more to discover. However, I hope that my headstart can be used by a select number of ambitious leaders of £1m+ revenue businesses who are based in Oxfordshire, or nearby, and who sell products or services to other businesses. My mission is to help them sell faster, at least cost and avoid the many mistakes that I have made along the way, whether during service in established big brand outfits, successful challenger brand companies or my own former 80 employee business. I am very grateful too to those who ask me to talk, run training sessions, mentor or judge on the Oxfordshire entrepreneur circuit.

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