What are the best marketing tools for small businesses?

  • Marketing
Contra Tips
· 11 min read

Running a small business is no small feat. Between managing daily operations, accounting, HR, and actually selling your products or services, just keeping the lights on feels like a full-time job. But experienced entrepreneurs know that neglecting marketing is one shortcut that can really cost you down the road.

So where do you even start with promoting your business when you’re handling everything else solo, too?

It’s an intimidating question for entrepreneurs trying to prioritize limited resources. Should you focus on social media, SEO, email, paid ads...the list goes on? And with so many tools promising to optimize each area, simply selecting the right software is an overwhelming decision in itself.

We get the struggle. With tiny teams and even tinier budgets, every marketing dollar and minute matters when you're a small business owner. You need solutions that simplify complex tasks rather than create additional work. The idea of mastering multiple systems that don't integrate makes you want to wave a white flag in surrender.

But don’t stress! In your first few years, zeroing in on a few key elements can work wonders if you leverage the right tools. With smart software automating the heavy lifting, you CAN effectively manage a winning marketing strategy even as a solopreneur. We’ll explore the fundamentals to tackle first, along with our favorite platforms designed for the very type of bootstrapping small business you’re bravely building.

What are marketing tools?

As a small business owner wearing many hats, wrapping your head around the slew of marketing options can feel overwhelming. But don’t sweat it! Boiling things down, you really just need 5 essential categories of tools to execute strategies effectively:

Automation Platforms 🤖

Marketing automation software acts as mission control, coordinating your broader efforts. Unify critical capabilities like email, workflows, CRM, landing pages, forms, and analytics under one roof. Top options include HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Keap, or Ontraport.

Email & Lead Gen 📧

Email marketing and list building lays the foundation for all other initiatives to build upon by capturing audience attention. Rely on Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Omnisend, or Drip for creative email campaigns, lead magnets, pop-up opt-ins, and subscriber care.

Analytics & Optimization 📊

Analytics turns campaign data into actionable insights guiding refinements. Monitor performance and uncover trends with Google Analytics, HotJar, or Kissmetrics, and then use their findings to optimize site pages and UX elements.

Project & Social Management 👥

Efforts can easily spiral without organized systems for publishing, task planning, and team workflows. Tools like Asana, Trello and Sprout Social impose structure amidst potential chaos.

Design & Creation 🎨

From graphic design to copywriting, content creation is easier than ever with user-friendly DIY software like Canva (design) or ConvertKit (landing pages). Don’t let a bare-bones team stall your message.

The best marketing automation platform powerhouses 🏭

If you’re just dipping your toes into digital marketing, automation tools should be your very first stop. A market automation platform allows you to coordinate a myriad of tasks in one central dashboard to streamline lead generation and sales processes. We suggest picking one all-in-one solution suited for small businesses to serve as the command center orchestrating your broader strategy.

For savvy automation with easy onboarding at an affordable price point, here are our top contenders:

HubSpot 🏆

With email marketing, landing pages, workflows, CRM, and analytics unified on one connected platform, HubSpot delivers robust capabilities tailored to the needs of a small business. Hubspot has a free CRM plan that lets you try before you buy while still supporting sophisticated features like contact segmentation, email templates, lead scoring, and workflow automation.

We love HubSpot for small companies because one bundle solution means faster ROI without the hassle of complex integrations. As one of the best market automation software options on the market, you can do a lot with the tool - and their Hubspot market integrations make it an all-in-one market platform for nearly any element of your business marketing needs.


While a tad less beginner-friendly, ActiveCampaign competitor closely with HubSpot when it comes to marketing automation power blended with approachability. Their 500+ pre-built market automation software features skip the coding nonsense, allowing you to trigger personalized emails, SMS, and post-purchase messages based on customer behaviors. Integrated analytics offer insight to optimize your initiatives while native CRM and calendar management tackle your lead tracking and task organization needs. 

Sure, it may not have all the bells and whistles that Hubspot can offer, but if you need email market tools and the ability to track lead management in a CRM, you're all set with ActiveCampaign as a market automation software.


Formerly Infusionsoft, Keap allures as the sales automation selection focused squarely on strengthening small businesses. living up to this ambition. Robust real-time dashboards deliver visibility on pipeline health while emphasizing intuitiveness despite their depth of capabilities spanning email, ecommerce, CRM, landing pages, and beyond.

If complex sales are core to your model, Keap deserves a close look - it stands strong next to Hubspot and other leading market automation software options.

Critical marketing tools for your arsenal ⚔️

While marketing automation handles the big-picture coordination, supplementary programs target specific tasks to optimize. Treat these specialty tools like powerful weapons expanding your small business arsenal. From email market platform options to lead generation and email campaign market software, you'll find it in these tools:

The best market tools to wield email marketing magic 📧

Email consistently drives the highest return on investment across all marketing channels. Seventy-eight percent of small businesses confirm email’s revenue-driving results. But designing, sending, and tracking professional campaigns is no simple feat. Rely on these email heroes to capture subscriber attention and direct it towards conversions:

Mailchimp 📪

With an iconic brand loved by over 13 million users, Mailchimp makes email marketing easy and beautiful for entrepreneurs. Access gorgeous templates, automation, and insights to engage your audience while growing your list. The free plan supports up to several thousand subscribers with basic analytics.

OptinMonster 👹

Lead generation and list growth represent this tool’s superpower. Deploy popups, exit intent messages, content upgrades, spin-a-wheels, and more to convert website visitors into subscribers. Seamlessly integrate various types of opt-in forms with your other software for unified data.

Omnisend 📧

Offering advanced triggered automation, dynamic subscriber segmentation, superior analytics, and robust integrations, Omnisend caters to ecommerce email power users despite its simple editor friendly to beginners too. Mid-tier pricing works for high-volume product promotion needs of growing DTC brands.

ConvertKit 📈

With a focus on creators, ConvertKit simplifies complex email sequences designers can master for sales funnels. Tag subscribers for workflows, trigger customized replies, and track revenue data tied directly to your email initiatives. Pricing rises based on sends but works for bootstrapped operations initially.

The best market tools to crunch campaign numbers 📊

Understanding what's working (or not working) is impossible without measuring performance data. Monitoring key metrics lets you course-correct ineffective efforts and double down on what drives results. While slightly boring on the surface, analytics provides critical visibility guiding your strategic marketing decisions.

Google Analytics 📈

The OG free analysis platform delivers an incredible depth of digital insights from across your properties. Access query customization, real-time reporting, funnel visualization of drop-off points, campaign attribution modeling, audience segmentation, and more tools to tune your approach. With 90% market share, integrations abound for this lead management management tool.

HotJar ☀️

While Google Analytics expansively assesses site performance, HotJar hones in on optimizing user experience through techniques like heatmaps spotting popular clicks, visitor recordings showing common areas of confusion, conversion funnel mapping to pinpoint fallout, feedback polls, and more. Once you know why people are (or aren't) clicking, you can automate email campaigns with those HotJar analytics - making it an excellent email market automation tool partner.

Kissmetrics 💋

Less broad than Google Analytics yet more user-focused than HotJar, Kissmetrics nicely slots as a middle-ground option. Gain perspective on buyer journeys across channels, cohort analysis tracking groups over time, funnels focused on product experience, and deep segmentation to determine high-value user actions. Pricing works for early-stage companies.

Review your reports frequently to detect updates needed across all elements—email copy problems, ineffective social posts, publishing inconsistencies, promotion offer issues etc. Measure, assess, tweak, repeat!

The best market tools to organize your operations 🗂️

Juggling endless marketing responsibilities while simultaneously handling all other aspects of your business is no easy feat as a solopreneur. The chaos of wearing so many hats can quickly snowball from task overload. Luckily, these digital gems provide structure to rein in the mayhem so you can work smarter:

Trello 🧩

Trello’s elegant project management interface lets you plot marketing workflows on shareable Kanban boards. Visualize initiatives through lists of tasks, due dates, attachments, comments, and more to maintain order amidst shifting priorities across multiple campaigns. Things stay visible and on track.

Sprout Social 🌱

This portal is your social media command center, consolidating publishing, inbox monitoring, advocacy measurement, analytic reporting, and competitive analysis in one intuitive dashboard. The basic plan (free forever!) still includes three user profiles, social listening streams, and standard analytics. Say goodbye to toggling through multiple confusing Twitter tabs.


Similar to Trello, Asana provides a framework for building project plans out of manageable checklist tasks assigned to owners with due dates. Tag initiatives for quick filtering and tap into timeline views for assessing realistic workload bandwidth. Integrate with 100+ apps for deeper optimization opportunities, too.

Capsule CRM 🤝

Don’t let customer relationship management slide through the cracks in your daily hustle. Capture relevant interactions, transaction histories, communication frequency, and personal details to segment contacts for highly customized marketing messages tailored to their needs. Capsule’s forever free plan works for solo business use.

Implementing systems like these to schedule your social posts, monitor engagements, plan evergreen content calendars, oversee email campaign roll-outs, and generally direct marketing action items ensure key tasks don’t slip through the cracks. Organization fuels productivity and profit when resources run thin, yet ambition stays high.

Tips for using your new toolbelt of marketing tools

With the software supports selected, it’s time for the fun part—mapping your killer small business marketing strategy! Lean into these essential elements as the pillars upholding the rest of your plans:

Create lead-nurturing workflows 🤝

Make your automation tool earn its keep by developing tailored workflows to guide prospects from stranger to customer. Build sequences like abandoned cart messages or new lead follow-up templates to turn interest into sales.

Keep your landing pages optimized 🔍

Direct website traffic towards one focused landing page for each offer or campaign. Eliminate distractions to highlight the one intended conversion, whether email signup, download, purchase, etc. Paring down to a singular goal per page drives more success.

Remember your email marketing best practices ✉️

Well-designed emails make all the difference between engagement and the trash folder. Ensure excellent open rates by perfecting copy, layout, mobile optimization, calls-to-action, and send timing based on analytics.

Look for actionable analytics and insights 📈

All the campaign creation means nothing if you don’t tune tactics based on performance data. Define key metrics for each initiative, monitor frequently, and optimize efforts according to insights uncovered.

Stay up on your CRM management 👥

Use your automation platform’s CRM capabilities to categorize customer details, including interactions, activity history, and personalization specs. Segmenting contacts this way lets you deliver targeted, relevant messaging driving conversions.

Ready, set, market! 🏁

From lead generation automation to email design to project collaboration, we’ve explored a host of capable tools optimized for lean yet mighty small business marketing needs. Rather than overload your precious bandwidth and attempt mastery of everything at once, focus on selecting solutions for priority functions first. Start small while keeping an eye on the scale.

Remember - marketing technology should ease the workload for resource-strapped entrepreneurial teams, not complicate things further. If any tool instead creates added chaos or confusion, don’t hesitate to switch things up again. 

And if evaluating options still proves an unwelcome time-suck given everything else demanding attention, consider delegating tool research and setup to a freelance marketing pro! Skilled solopreneurs can quickly identify and implement the ideal solutions guaranteed to deliver ROI.

For finding 5-star freelancers near-instantly, check out Contra. As the leading on-demand talent network, Contra vets digital marketing, creative, and business consulting professionals so you discover the perfect fit fast. Why not eliminate recruitment legwork while gaining an automation ace?

List your project now and get matched with talent fast. The Contra global community waits, ready to help drive marketing success so you can focus on big-picture priorities. What needs tackling first via freelance support? Contra makes delegating easy.

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