Editor’s roundup of marketing tool recommendations for marine industry based on cost, ease-of-use and best return on investment
With so many marketing tools to choose from, sometimes getting a referral from a friend or colleague can be very helpful to select the best options for your business… particularly from someone in your own industry like boating.
So consider this list my best recommendations based on personal first-hand experience. I’ll tell you what tools I am using now, or have used in the past, and why I think it’s a smart pick for marine businesses.
For distribution of press releases I think that PRWeb is a really good choice, and the SureShade team has been using them for several years now. I like that they have a specific category for boating / maritime releases so that our releases are showcased within a relevant industry group. Your releases are also in a good mix of larger companies and smaller companies.
Their tools to set up a press release for distribution are super easy to use – you can upload numerous photos with captions, have a quote call out, link to your website (with preview) and add links within the body of the release. There are multiple regional and industry options you can select for distribution, and you can set it up to post directly to your social media accounts. Their pricing for basic and standard releases is very reasonable (use this referral link to save 10% on your first release with PRWeb).
Domains and Web Hosting
If you are setting up a website with WordPress you need to buy a custom domain and set up web hosting. My pick for domain name registrations is GoDaddy simply because of ease-of-use and familiarity with how to use their domain manager tool. I don’t use their hosting because it’s usually recommended to keep your domain name registrations and web hosting with separate companies (in case you ever run into a problem with your hosting company you can always easily redirect the domain with the register).
For web hosting I use HostGator web hosting and I could not be happier with their service. The few times I ran into technical issues with transferring sites they fixed it up superfast. If you have multiple sites they have a very affordable plan for unlimited domains. The combo works really well for me because I can pop up a new website very quickly and affordably (like a special event micro-site I am working on now).
For email marketing programs I use several different services for different reasons. For SureShade, we use iContact email marketing for our monthly newsletter and quarterly dealer/builder update. The pricing is reasonable, but we chose them mainly because of their ease-of-use and design customization capabilities (and it paid off because we won a MMA award for best digital newsletter in 2011!)
For my own sites – SBMarketingTools.com and MarineMarketingTools.com – I chose to use VerticalResponse email marketing because I think their pay-per-email is the best pricing structure for a monthly newsletter with a smaller (yet growing!) database of contacts. The pricing and functionality of email marketing services is so similar it may come down to just picking the one that seems the easiest for you to use.
If you are looking to start an email newsletter (which every business should regardless of industry), then I recommend you sign up for free trials of at least two different services to compare them. A good list of email services is available in our direct marketing tools directory.
To keep costs down, I try to keep everything as digital as possible. But there are times when you need printed materials – like sales flyers, brochures or business cards. Recently I have started using PrintPlace.com for ordering printed materials when I have a good lead time – particularly business cards. They have an online design tool that is so good you don’t need to get a proof. Their pricing is also pretty good, unlike some other online printing companies where you can only get a good deal if you use coupons or referral codes.
Managing multiple social media accounts for my different business initiatives has started to become challenging, so I recently decided to use HootSuite social media management. The ability to schedule posts for multiple social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and more – really makes it a useful tool to keep up with managing a flow of content on social media. Like most online tools, they have a free trial to test it out – you can use their free service or go for a pro account for more social profiles and features.
Free Tools to Use
There are also countless free tools that I use to be more productive in marketing and business in general. Some of my top picks (and how I maximize their use) include:
- Gmail – although I have email accounts for my website domains gmail is invaluable to help manage them all – its easiest for me to check in with updates for everything on one gmail email account. For example, some of my contact forms I have submitted to me via my gmail so I can react quicker. I also love their new tab feature that automatically segments email like social updates and promotional emails.
- Google Drive – super easy way to share files and collaborate with a designated user or publicly. You can even create folders to organize files or photos by category.
- StatCounter and Google Analytics – for website tracking and analytic reports I always set up two tracking mechanisms. Statcounter.com is a really easy tool to do a daily check of traffic – in one dashboard I can see all my sites at once, and I can easily drill down for recent traffic stats. For more detailed in-depth website reporting I use Google Analytics – a must for slicing and dicing your traffic performance over time.
- Blogging – Although I am still running a personal blog on Blogger, I prefer to use WordPress.org now for developing new websites and blogs. The platform itself is free, but of course you’ll need to get set-up with a custom domain and web hosting (both very inexpensive) to tap into all the customization and special features.
These are the main picks for my favorite marine marketing tools, and I hope you find this helpful when choosing marketing tools for your business! You can also check out our full directory of marketing tools to find other resources for growing your business in boating.
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