If you feel like the marketing industry is becoming more complex by the day, you’re not alone. It seems as if every day there is something new to explore, whether it’s a social media algorithm update or a new software to consider. Marketing your business is something that requires resources—your time and your money.
In a world where a free tool might sound like a good idea, that may not always be the case. Return on investment is important, but you should also always consider how a tool can support you as you grow, and that’s why free and cheap tools won’t always get you very far. Here are some reasons why it’s important to do your research as you invest in your marketing channels, technology, and tools.
Free Only Gets You So Far
Some free tools are great, like social media. It’s easy to set up accounts and post content to your heart’s desire and connect with your audience, but when you think about CRMs, email marketing, and the likes, there are caveats to think about. Free plans often don’t allow you to use all the features within the tool itself, offer extremely limited customer support (or none), and you can easily max out on the limitations. For example, a free version of a tool may offer you only one user seat, while paying to use the tool allows you to add another team member (or more, depending on your plan). Or, you may only get basic analytics with a free account, where signing up for a paid version unlocks many more stats that can really help you take your marketing to the next level by better understanding how email recipients interact with your emails, or followers with your social media posts. Long story short, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is especially true when it comes to free tools.
There are some instances in which free or cheaper options can be beneficial. For example, if you’re a newer business, MailChimp’s free version could be a good place to start testing the waters of email marketing. Once you get the hang of it, and your list starts growing, it’s definitely time to invest some money in the tool so you can continue growing your list and not be limited by the number of contacts you can add. While the pay-as-you-go option might work for the short-term or only if you are sending occasional emails, if you really want to invest in email marketing, a monthly plan may serve you better because it gives you the room you need to grow your audience.
Another exception would be nonprofits. There are many marketing tools out there that recognize the great work nonprofits are doing in our world, as well as their limited resources, and offer their platforms either for free or at a significantly reduced rate. For example, Canva offers free Pro subscriptions to nonprofits, which offers more bells and whistles within the platform than a standard free account. Nonprofits simply have to submit an application and be able to meet the eligibility guidelines and provide certain documentation as proof of nonprofit status.
So How Do You Decide What’s Worth It?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to that question, but we have a few tips. First, if you’re looking for new tools or technology when it comes to your marketing, we suggest researching and comparing different platforms and the features each one has, as well as what type of plans each one offers and whether they are priced similarly. G2 is one of our favorite tools for finding and comparing software and technology options.
We also highly recommend requesting a demo or exploration call to see how the tool works and ask questions, such as if a free trial is available. If so, give the ones you like a test drive. In our experience, many services will do a follow-up call with you to go over your experience and address other questions to help you make your choice. We’ve even had a few that were kind enough to extend our free trial period to give us more time to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision.
Of course, if you’re at a point where you need to start looking at new tools or need advice on how to get started, you can request a marketing consult with our team. We know keeping up with what’s happening in the marketing world along with your day-to-day responsibilities can be hard, and we’re always happy to look at what you’re currently doing and offer advice on how you can be sure you’re investing your marketing dollars wisely.