Branding on a Budget
My Favourite Free Startup Tools 2019
Your startup will hit the ground running with these essential online tools
If you are on the startup journey, it’s likely you are are ideas rich and time-poor. Depending on what stage funding your company is at, you may also be cash poor.
Because I’ve been in your shoes and felt the demands of managing visionary projects being executed by talented teams on a shoestring, I’d like to share the best ways that I have found to maximize productivity whilst conserving my hip pocket.
1. Brand names
A startup needs a compelling name that will scale with the company. It needs to match your brand personality and be unique (i.e. not trademarked!). It needs to embody your ideals, your shared values and what your ideal customers will expect from you. And it needs to meet SEO requirements — so be easily ranked on search engines and not lead search engines astray.
The solution? A.I. Your ideal tool, Namelix:
Business Name Generator - free AI-powered naming tool - Namelix
Namelix uses artificial intelligence to create a short, brandable business name. Search for domain availability, and…
There are premium and basic options to choose from. I suggest find a name from the basic options, and check if it’s available as a .com domain. (don’t know how to pick an ideal name? talk to me)
Need to know if your chosen brand name is available across social media handles? For the fast answer use https://thenameapp.com/
You have the perfect name, and hopefully, the domain and social media handles to match. Now you need a logo. You could go to Fiverr, Upwork, or any of the bulk graphic designer services that you can find on the internet. But if you really want to have an unlimited variety of options to choose from, and have complete control, again, AI is your solution using Looka (formerly Logojoy).
Free Logo Maker & Intelligent Brand Designer
Design a logo, make a website, and build a brand you love with Looka (formerly Logojoy). Our online logo maker is fast…
You can customise color, font, symbols, and many other options. You can buy from a variety of full .ai logo suite options at the end to cover all your social media, stationery and swag needs.
You need a bucket load of business skills to successfully run a startup over the course of a runway, and companies and accelerators will try to get you to give away the lion’s share of your startup in exchange or charge exorbitant fees to just to have the honour of teaching them to you. The results may not be what you want.
If you are a member of Linkedin premium, you could use their LinkedinLearning service. Or Hubspot Academy is free and a comprehensive alternative.
HubSpot Academy - Homepage
HubSpot Academy is the worldwide leader in inbound marketing, sales, and customer service/support training.
4. Know your Customers
Before you go to the effort of creating a startup, you should know who your customers are, what their pain points are and what they want. You also need to know what things make them feel good and make them happy to remove friction in your CMX.
Pivoting happens when you understand your customer wrong. It is time-consuming, and comes with lots of inertia and lost momentum as you plan your next move. To help remove the need to pivot, you can spend time creating customer profiles, so that you can segment your marketing from the get-go.
For this, you can use another free HubSpot tool.
I just created my buyer persona in minutes with @HubSpot's new #MakeMyPersona tool, try it out…
Create professional, customizable buyer personas in minutes with the help of our intuitive free generator.
After using this tool to create a persona, you will still need to map their values and customer experience principles — so come reach out to me at strategygoto.com and request a preliminary free 15min consult link.
5. Content Marketing
Content marketing is focused on creating and distributing valuable content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and drive profitable customer action. It allows marketers to work around ad blockers, giving your consumer segment significantly more value in an engaging format. It’s also the key element in social media marketing.
Here are some stats that show how impactful brand blogs have become. 47% of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content prior to engaging with a salesperson. B2C companies that blogged 11 times per month got more than four times as many leads than those that blogged only four to five times per month.
But what to write about? Hubspot has the answer:
Blog Ideas Generator
@HubSpot's free Blog Ideas Generator tool gives you a year's worth of blog post ideas in a matter of seconds.
Of course, you still need to write the articles— come talk to me at strategygoto.com
6. Social Media
Videos and images are far more appealing to a B2C millennial than text heaving pages. You’ll need the tools to create complementing social media cards across platforms that have the same look and feel again and again.
Your go-to platform:
Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software - Canva
Create beautiful designs with your team. Use Canva's drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print…
On Canva you can create Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, even Tumblr and Linkedin designs.
Pick your palette based on your branding, and rather than create a new design each time simple “copy” and create a design with multiple pages that have the same look and feel, using the same fonts, layout and filters.
If you want to choose from Canva premium images and designs you will need to subscribe.
Canva Team is also increasing its capabilities so you can share your new social cards without ever leaving the platform.
I haven’t tried it for social media sharing but given that other social sharing platforms can get very exxy very quickly, it might be worth using Canva for this function.
From a customer experience perspective, it makes sense for Canva to be expanding its product ecosystem in this way. Why go to the friction of saving an image in Canva only to upload in Hootsuite if you can share straight Canva? So unless Hootsuite can add Canva-like functionality (and Canva just purchased the free image platforms Pexels and Pixabay) they have a serious disruptive competitor here for segments of the market that don’t need all the listening and tracking capabilities of Hootsuite.
7. To-Do lists
Did I hear To Do lists? With Google Keep, it is To Done lists!
Google keep is a free platform and chrome extension that lets you write labeled notes and reminders. It’s simple to use and always at your fingertips.
8. Time Zone Coffee Dates
As a startup entrepreneur, you will need to schedule meetings. Lots of meetings. All in different kinds of time zones at all times of day and night as you meet with VCs, collaborators, team, and stakeholders.
Calendly makes it stress-free. Just sign up and put in your available times and how long you want the meetings to go for. When someone wants to meet with you, just send them your personalised Calendly link, and they can book a time that suits both of you with zero fuss.
No more emails back and fro trying to find an agreed-upon time, only for someone to get the time zone wrong or forget the meeting entirely! (Only someone who has gotten up at 2am, brewed a hot drink, and powered on the computer for a no-show can feel my pain here….)
Attendees can use Calendly to cancel and reschedule and it sends reminders to attendees, plugging straight into your chosen calendar.
If you are seeking a favour from someone, or funding, it is however more polite to ask for their Calendly rather than share yours, as you will need to fit in with their schedule rather than the other way around.
Calendly - Scheduling appointments and meetings is super easy with Calendly.
Say goodbye to phone and email tag for finding the perfect meeting time with Calendly. It's 100% free, super easy to…
9. Online meetings
And how will you have these online meetings? Well step right up because Zoom is your answer. You can have meetings for up to 45 minutes with anyone in the world, and multiple attendees, absolutely free. Zoom plugs straight into Calendly when you connect them.
Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Webinars, Screen Sharing
Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio…
You have to know about AngelList. It’s the number one spot to list your startup, and list positions that you need filled — e.g. “co-founder”. It’s nothing like other stuffy old school recruitment platforms that go through trusted intermediaries — the people on it looking for work understand the startup mindset, and in true millennial spirit are in it for what they can give to the world rather than what the world can do for their paycheque. It’s free to list your available roles, and Angel List will send you emails when people apply.
I know everyone has Slack (love it or hate it). And I know Asana is really spunky. But Jeesh, sometimes, after a while, you’re lucky to see a tumbleweed blow on these platforms after all the new-team enthusiasm has died down. Hands up if you have 10+ dead Slack rooms on your app.
So I am going to suggest HeySpace as an alternative that I think has a much cleaner CMX than Slack, and has Trello, Hangouts and TimeCamp integrations as well on the free plan that turns it into a comprehensive project management tool. It has:
- Private and group messaging
- Planning to-dos in lists and board view
- Adding messages into to-do lists
- Collaborating with an unlimited number of users
- Offline mode for being on top anytime and anywhere
You can join with your Gsuite, and you can even move your emails to Gsuite cards in HeySpace, and VOTE!!!!!! on cards too. How cool is that last option, and a great way to involve your internal brand ambassadors and make the team feel completely listened to and appreciated — a potential boon to productivity which many early startup teams overlook.
12. Mailing Lists and CRM
The more market segmentation your CRM allows, the more targeted marketing you are able to do. Which means the more personalised it can be — and people like personalised.
You want a mailing list that has automation, allows you to add tags, and email segments that are either less or more highly engaged than your average subscribers.
You can’t go past Mailchimp as a free option up to 2000 emails. This will be enough for a very early stage startup. If you are wanting a paid platform with greater functionality, that you can plug into your Facebook marketing campaigns etc look at Active Campaign.
Your marketing universe-all in one place | Mailchimp
Email marketing, ads, landing pages, and CRM tools to grow your business on your terms. Get the word out with email…
Accounting is the bane of any business, including startups. My friend karen cohen “Blockmum” recommends the Wave platform. Wave is a web-based integrated accounting solution exclusively designed for small businesses, freelancers, and consultants. Wave provides features including accounting, invoicing, billing, payment tracking, payroll management, finance management, and receipts.
Wave Financial: Financial Software for Small Businesses
Free invoicing & accounting software with credit card processing & payroll services
14. Instagram Stories
The marketing trend of 2019 is definitely Instagram stories for B2C as people unlock even more creative ways you can showcase product information to customers.
Whereas a content sharing platform will share to Instagram Feed (e.g. Planoly or Loomly) sharing to stories generally requires you spending valuable time wiggling a finger over your phone.
To avoid this, I recommend Storrito, which has a free plan.
With over 400 million daily active users, it’s clear by now that Insta Stories is the place where your audience is at. Their popularity is unprecedented, but their importance in marketing strategy is only growing. In other words, brands who haven’t been using Stories as a vital part of their social campaign are going to have to start doing it now, while those who have been paying attention to Stories are only going to amplify their efforts. — blog.storrito.com
Storrito - The Story Tool
With Storrito you can create beautiful stories for Instagram. Just define when they should be posted and Storrito will…
We made it all the way down to 15, what is the lucky last tool a startup needs? You need a platform to post all your amazing content ideas that you discovered with Hubspot.
For simplicity, beauty, and sheer traction in numbers, you can’t go past Medium. Having your own website is only useful if you have traffic, and you need multiple ways to generate that traffic.
You may like to leave your content outside of the metered paywall distribution setting if you want all your readers to access it freely — however allowing your content to be curated does permit Medium Staff editors to find it and add it to a relevant section, increasing discoverability and traffic.
If you want a paid blogging platform with many Medium features but with more versatility, you can access http://publishnow.com by Myk Pono and team (who also has worthwhile marketing and customer mapping content on here BTW).
Do I have to link to Medium? I mean, you are already here…
Medium - a place to read and write big ideas and important stories
Welcome to Medium, a place where words matter. Medium taps into the brains of the world's most insightful writers…
OK so what have I missed? What should have made the Top Ten Free Startup Tools of 2019? Link your favorite platform below!
PS — can’t get enough free tools? Here’s a list of HUNDREDS from Airtable —
Free Tools for Startups by Encharge.io - Airtable
Explore the "Free Tools for Startups by Encharge.io" base on Airtable.
Would you like to be mentored by a Superhero Startup mentor? Reach out to Akasha at superherostartup.com
Unleash your inner unicorn
Between us, Alice and Akasha have spoken to hundreds of startup founders. Together, we have curated the Women in…
Download your free Brand Nation Startup Sauce Workbook:
Brand Nation Startup Sauce Starting a Business Workbook 1 | Akasha Rose Indream
Bold, colourful, and blissfully simple, this workbook series designed to be printed and written upon guides anyone…
And this is me:
Akasha Rose Indream is founder of WIBI.io an online group for women in blockchain leaders; consults on brand, content marketing and customer experience managing for startups via strategygoto.com; and mentors startup founders via superherostartup.com.