Over the past few years, the marketing technology landscape has exploded. There’s a dizzying number of digital tools that help businesses do marketing faster, cheaper, and smarter. ChiefMartec.com’s latest “Martech 5000” graphic, released last month, features over 7,000 digital marketing solutions—up from just 150 in its first incarnation in 2011. These tools and services span a range of categories, including SEO, content marketing, email marketing, social media, digital advertising, and others.

Many marketing tech companies now offer “lite” versions of their enterprise plans. This means that small businesses can access the same technology and competitive data that big brands use—and apply them just as effectively. The right marketing toolset can boost efficiency and reduce labour costs. It can also provide valuable insight into competitive data, so you’re not marketing blindly.

With these benefits in mind, here are three areas of small business marketing that you can automate with technology, and a few of my favourite tools for getting the job done.

Keyword Research

You probably don’t need a tool to help you figure out which broad keywords you want to rank for. But ranking in the top ten search results for those high-traffic, highly competitive queries is another matter. A good keyword research tool can give you a major edge by helping you identify long-tail keywords your site can rank for without extra SEO work.

Most keyword research tutorials focus on Google’s popular free tool, Keyword Planner. While I’m a fan of using free tools wherever I can, when it comes to keyword research, I’ve learned that premium tools have a bunch of data and features that free tools generally don’t. For instance:

  • More precise monthly search volumes
  • A greater number of keyword suggestions
  • Keyword difficulty score (a proprietary metric that predicts whether your domain can rank in the top ten without additional link building)
  • Rank tracking functionality

The best way to discover the benefits of keyword research is to sign up for a free trial of any popular keyword research tool and play around with it. Input a few seed keywords, and the tool will output a list of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of keyword possibilities. By applying filters like search volume, keyword difficulty score, and cost per click (CPC), you can shortlist the best keywords for your site in seconds.

The geographic scope of your target market (i.e., local or international) will determine your choice of keyword tool. Local keyword tools provide localized search volumes, rankings data, and difficulty metrics.

My favourite tool for general keyword research is Long Tail Pro. For local keyword research, KWFinder is helpful.

B2B Email Outreach

Cold email outreach can be an effective way to generate leads inexpensively for your small business. However, keeping track of sent emails and follow-ups in an Excel spreadsheet is a royal pain. With a cold email tool, it’s possible to run entire outreach campaigns in your sleep (although I wouldn’t recommend doing this if your prospects are in the same time zone!).

My favourite tool for automating B2B outreach is Woodpecker.co. Woodpecker sends emails to your prospects one at a time, unlike some other tools that send emails in one blast. This smart feature improves email deliverability.

The tool also sends follow-ups according to your specified frequency. When a prospect replies, Woodpecker stops following up. The service integrates with email, so replies from prospects land in your inbox.

Here are a few more cool things you can do with Woodpecker:

  • Track open, reply, and click stats
  • Easily put campaigns on pause and resume them as needed
  • Personalize your pitches with customized text snippets

Social Media Management

Staying on top of social media is time-consuming. A social media scheduling tool can automate a lot of the work, helping you passively grow your audience while you focus on other aspects of your business.

Social media automation works best as a supplement to real-time posting, which is better for engagement.

There are some good free social media scheduling tools, like Hootsuite and Buffer. One of my favourite premium tools is SmarterQueue. A couple of its most useful features are the ability to continuously recycle evergreen posts and organize your posts into categories. For example, you might create categories for My Blog Posts, Curated Content, and Promos, and create a different posting schedule for each category.

With all these digital tools at our fingertips, it’s possible to run small business marketing campaigns more cheaply and effectively than ever. What area of your marketing could you be spending less time on? Whatever it is, there’s probably a tool to help you do it better and faster.