6 (and mostly free) marketing tools that save my life as a B2B marketer

2013 is an incrediblly exciting time to be a B2B marketer. Never before has it been so easy to plan, execute and measure marketing programmes. And what's more, you can do it all with technology that is within even the most modest budget, and in some cases at almost no cost. 

Key to being successful is using data and digital marketing tools to better drive your marketing. So here's the 6 tools that i can't do without, and that have not only made my life as a marketer easier but also extremely fun too!

1. salesforce.com I remember a time before salesforce.com. It was a bleak and dark time where marketers in small businesses used simple "database marketing" tools and those in larger companies splashed out $$$$ on inflexible CRM systems such as Siebel. Salesforce came as a breath of fresh air in terms of ease of use, accessibility and cost. Pioneers of CRM, no software and no cloud I don't know why any business doesn't use salesforce for their CRM. Its an invaluable tool for me to connect with my sales team, and has been the backbone of my last 6 years as a marketer.

2. Marketing Automation. If you haven't done so already, you have to get on the marketing automation (MA) train. It'll save your life in terms of reducing workload, improving ROI and providing clear results for your business. Modesty prevents me from recommending my current employer's offerings in this area, so I'll stick to the general concept. I've implemented MA over many years and its transformed my life. It lets you automate customer interactions (online, email, social, mobile), getting not only the right message to the right prospect at the right time, but also engaging your sales team at the right time too. It also changes the internal discussion about marketing, especially with sales. In my past everything centred around awareness, events and brochures. Now its about Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), inquiry to MQL conversion rates, Cost per Lead and $ attributed to marketing pipeline.  Plus you can push back on sales activity further down the pipeline. A much more grown up, business-oriented role awaits you!

3. Hootsuite. My preferred tool to connect with the social media world. Its great for managing multiple accounts (twitter, facebook & Linkedin). I've tried others (tweetdeck, bottlenose, socialbro) but I find myself coming back to it every time. I make heavy use of lists which allows me to order those I follow into manageable columns. So my "B2B marketing" updates get separated from my "craft beer" updates. (BTW you can add accounts to lists without having to follow them. Which means follower counts become a little inaccurate).  Also i love the auto-scheduling feature. This lets the system decide the timing of a tweet/post based on its knowledge of when your followers/fans actually click on your content. So sometimes you'll see posts from me at odd times of the day.

Finally I've set up key phrases for my business, and check daily for any buzz/customer support issues around my company's domain, competitors and our brand itself. Useful to stay up to date on what's going on in my industry

4. Google analytics. Get over this "i'm not giving my data to Google" attitude. Unless you're Apple or Microsoft your business probably isn't that important to Google anyway. If you haven't done so already, install GA on your site. It's free, and gives you a fire hose of great information. Whilst I don't run an eCommerce business I use it to monitor macro traffic trends, ensuring we get the biggest share we can of that Search Love.

5. Squeeze. A new addition to my marketing armoury, but an incredibly useful tool to track content usage. Use it to create URLs for your content, customized for twitter, facebook, G+ and Linkedin. This allows me to track which channel is most effective for when i distribute this blog post for example. Not only that, you can also track which of your content is more popular, letting you refine your content marketing strategy. Pretty neat, eh?

6. LinkedIn. Whilst I can monitor and post content to Linkedin via Hootsuite, the underlying connections in the Linkedin network are the what delivers most value to me. Its not just a site for people looking for jobs. I've forged new business relationships, unlocked interesting partnerships and discovered exciting new companies. It's the core of the network I manage as part of my daily business life. So if you haven't already, invest time in getting your profile updated.