Q&A with Jon Hainstock of Zoomshift on driving leads & customers

Posted by Steve James on Jul 11, 2013 7:33:00 AM

jon hainstock zoomshiftJon Hainstock (@jonhainstock) is co-founder of Zoomshift, an Online Employee Scheduling Software company. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to grab lunch with both Jon and co-founder Ben Bartling (@benbartling). As a startup with a limited budget they have strategically used SEO and Inbound Marketing to build their traffic and more importantly drive leads and customers. They have a great product and story, hope you enjoy!!
 

Q: What is Zoomshift, who is it for?

A: ZoomShift is simple employee scheduling software for small businesses. We really focus on solving the scheduling problem for businesses with under 100 employees.

zoomshift software

Q: What marketing/advertising have you done in the past?

A: We’ve tried cold calling, direct mail, Facebook ads, Google AdWords, PR and SEO to try to build awareness and increase leads.

Q: What marketing initiatives have worked the best?

A: SEO has been the best marketing channel for us. Interruption (outbound) marketing wasn’t working well for us, mostly because business owners were not ready to change their scheduling process, even if it was terrible. When someone is actively searching for a solution, they are usually fed up with their process, and are ready to try something new.

Q: How does content marketing play a role in your daily activities?

A: We spend a lot of time interacting with customers everyday via support and chat, and we are able to build better content based on their feedback. Our initial goals were to climb the SERP’s for a handful of keywords, but now we are really focusing on using the language of our customers to build better content.

Blogging gives us the ability to build trust and provide fresh insights on how small businesses can streamline their processes. We are also tweaking existing content and building new pages on a daily basis to test if they will be valuable for our SEO campaign.

Q: What tools do you use for your inbound marketing/seo efforts?

A: We use Juxseo, an on-page SEO grader, to optimize the content on our site. We have also used Scribe to make sure our content is valuable and readable for our target market. We use Positionly to track rankings on a day to day basis. We track domain authority and trust with Moz’s tools.

Q: What are the results so far?

A: We are always amazed at how well SEO works. While SEO is only one arm of the inbound game, it brings in over 60 signups every week, and converts into around 3-5 paid customers per week, all on it’s own. Some of these conversions had assists from social interactions or referrals, but a majority of them convert from a keyword.

Q: What advice would you give to help others with their SEO strategy?

A: Go for the low hanging fruit. Start by doing a lot of keyword research, using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Google Suggestions, and Übersuggest to give you keyword ideas. Then find the keywords with the most search volume, highest buying intent and the lowest competition. Use those keywords as the main pages of your site and as categories for your blog.

 


About the Author: Steve James is a partner at Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing agency specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.

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Topics: off page seo, Steve James, SEO, business blogging, inbound marketing, search_engine_optimization, stream creative

Tools and Tips to Make Blogging Easier

Posted by Jeff Coon on Apr 20, 2013 8:01:00 AM

By now, most marketers and business professionals understand the importance of blogging. Two of the biggest obstacles we've seen that prevent business owners from blogging more frequently are: lack of time and fear of writing.

Here are a couple of simple strategies and tools that let companies tap into the collective expertise within their organization, which can help build a blogging team and create efficiencies in the blogging process. These are also great strategies to help prevent writer's block and burnout.

Our first tip is to leverage an app called Dragon Dictation. In their own words, "Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text content for everything from email messages to blog posts on your iPad™, iPhone™ or iPod touch™."

It’s up to five times faster than typing on the keyboard!

Dragon Dictation App

Dragon Dictation features include:

  • Voice-to-text transcriptions that may be sent as SMS, email, or pasted into any application using the clipboard
  • Submit text to social networking applications – Twitter and Facebook
  • Convenient editing feature that provides a list of suggested words
  • Voice-driven correction interface

At Stream Creative, we use this app. In fact, the outline of this blog post was created on my commute using Dragon Dictation. After dictating the outline, I emailed the draft to myself and cleaned it up for posting. It's a great way to make the most of travel/commute time (just make sure your focus is still on driving!).

We've found Dragon Dictation to be very accurate. You do need to speak a bit slower than normal. It works best if you only speak 2-3 sentences at a time and then pause to let the app render the results. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

The second tip is to arrange brief meetings or phone calls with your internal experts (e.g. sales team, customer service reps, etc.). Keep the meetings short (max of 30 minutes). Develop a list of questions that you can send to the person being interviewed ahead of time.

Use your laptop or smartphone to record the interview session. Be sure to get their permission before recording the session. We use GarageBand on our MacBook Pro. We've found that these simple conversations can provide plenty of great content for blog posts. The people being interviewed are happy (and flattered) to share their knowledge. 

On the flip side, asking those same professionals to write a blog post for the company blog would've created some mixed feelings. Let's face it, no one wants more things added to their already full plates. By using the techniques outlined in this article, we're getting the same information but via a method that doesn't create friction.

What tools, tips or strategies do you use in your blogging efforts? What have you found to be a successful for getting others to contribute to your blog?

About the Author: Jeff Coon is a partner and creative director of Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing and design firm specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.

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Topics: business blogging, blogging tips, dragon dictation

5 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Budget

Posted by Ryan Malone on Apr 13, 2013 7:56:00 AM

According to an Ad Age survey presented by Marketing Charts, content marketing comprises an average of 12% of overall marketing budgets. A full 10% of marketers spend more than 30% on content marketing, and 9% spend 19-30%. This means that approximately one in five marketers with a budget of $100,000 would spend up to or more than $30,000 per year on content marketing. Also worth noting is that 55% of those surveyed indicated that they would be increasing their content marketing budget for 2013.

The results of the survey are below:

content marketing budget

This many marketers can't be wrong about content marketing. If you're not using this important tactic as part of your marketing strategy, you're potentially missing a major opportunity to reach more new customers.

Why is content marketing so popular?

Consumers find products and services in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular is through Internet searching. The more content you have on your website, blog, and social media pages, the more likely it is that a lead will find you. However, when it comes to content marketing, quality is just as important as quantity. Consumers respond best to content that provides value. Whether it is advice or entertainment, quality content that is regularly updated will attract and retain more leads than simple sales pitches. The best content marketing campaigns build trust, educate the consumer, help you develop a loyal community, and increase sales conversions.

Important factors for creating a content marketing budget

There are many different types of content marketing, including:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • E-books
  • Social media campaigns
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Buyers' guides

The types of content that you should use will depend largely on your target audience, but it's important to use multiple approaches. For example, if you offer professional accounting services, you might create an informative white paper that describes recent tax updates, and a series of blog posts that answer the most common questions about changes to the tax code. On the other hand, if you sell flower arranging kits, a more effective approach might be to write a graphic-rich e-book and create a series of how-to videos.

Either way, the importance of ongoing content updates cannot be understated. After a lead reads your white paper or e-book, you need to create fresh new content that will keep them coming back for more. Factor this into your content marketing budget so you have enough funds to keep it going all year long. Remember, online content provides ongoing benefits beyond the initial attention it receives. A white paper will draw in new leads long after you have seen a return on the investment, and regular blog posts have a cumulative effect of improving search engine rankings.

How do you create a content marketing budget?

If you are introducing content marketing or placing more emphasis on this important component of an effective marketing strategy, you'll need to create a budget. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Decide what percentage of your overall marketing budget will go to content marketing. If you follow the current trend, this will probably be 20-30%.
  2. Decide which types of content marketing you want to do. Remember, it's important to have ongoing content development in addition to the occasional e-book or white paper.
  3. Allocate your resources. Factor in the personnel time and costs (either in-house or outsourced) required for writing, editing, video production, graphics, distribution, and content promotion.
  4. Estimate monthly expenses. Create an annual editorial calendar so you can predict how much you will need each month. For example, if you plan to launch a new product or service in May, you might bolster your content marketing efforts around that time.
  5. Stick to it. A budget is useless if you don't actually use it. Track actual expenses so you can modify the budget as necessary. Don't forget to track successes and failures so you know where to focus your content marketing efforts in the next year.

It's clear that an effective content marketing strategy requires ongoing effort. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the talent or resources to do it on their own. This is why so many small businesses choose to outsource content development to a company that has the expertise and staff to generate quality content. 

How do you use content marketing for your business? What percent of your overall marketing budget is used for content creation and promotion?

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, a strategic inbound marketing agency and Hubspot Gold Partner based on Southern California. Go Lakers.  

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Topics: content, social media marketing, business blogging, inbound marketing, content marketing, marketing planning, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone, how to generate leads, buyer persona, content creation

Case Study: How A Very Small Business Increased Leads 300% with 3 New Landing Pages

Posted by Steve James on Jan 16, 2013 7:31:00 AM

Marketing Challenge

RIDE Adventures is in a unique type of travel business with a dependency on keywords that have relatively low search volume. (For example: “Motorcycle Tours”) In an initiative to increase Top of the Funnel (TOFU) leads through their website, Eric Lange, the owner of RIDE Adventures recognized they would have to gain new visits and contacts through keywords and topics that are more widely searched for by their prospective customers. After thorough keyword research and analysis, he confirmed that not only were keywords like “Motorcycle Gear” and “Motorcycle Travel” pertinent to their customers’ interests, but they also had remarkably higher search volume than keywords directly focused on what RIDE Adventures was selling.

The Solution

As RIDE Adventures had already been committed to creating resourceful content in blogging and videos, similar topics were also formed into downloadable whitepapers, free for visitors and researchers to enjoy. In some cases these whitepapers already existed, as they were being provided to customers upon bookings for motorcycle tours anyway. The difference in late 2012 was that instead of these whitepapers only being offered to existing customers, they were placed as calls to action (CTAs) throughout the website, as well as built into a specific page dedicated to “Free Motorcycle Travel Information.”  More content, more keywords, and more offers have led not only to an increase in visits to their website, but an amazing spike in TOFU contacts is being enjoyed as well. (Screenshots taken January 10, 2013)

ride adventure solution1

An important point to make note of (shown in the next screenshot below) is how the previous couple of years of blogging and creating content had definitely increased traffic to the web site, but TOFU leads were not increasing at the same rate. As we’re constantly reminded, “content is king,” and especially helpful if your company’s ideal keywords also have high search volume. However, in the event there isn’t high search volume for your ideal keywords, creating pertinent content on “secondary” topics related to what we’re selling is what’s needed in order see such a spike in TOFU leads.

ride adventure solution2

In addition to creating the whitepaper download offers themselves, each click by a visitor was leading them to very specific landing pages made in accordance with Hubspot’s 10 Best Practices For Landing Page development. Whereas many of these best practices had previously been overlooked or ignored by RIDE Adventures, implementation of such key features into these new pages has seen conversion rates as high as 34% as compared to their more antiquated landing pages, which tend to average around 10% conversion rates. The combination of a great offer found through pertinent keywords and a well-designed landing page is proving quite fruitful to RIDE Adventures.

This strategy helps RIDE Adventures not only in gaining more contacts, but also in terms of credibility and content as well. TOFU leads that receive these whitepapers are benefitting from the vast information provided and often coming back for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4thdownload later. Stream Creative had been consulting with RIDE Adventures and reminding them of the importance of being seen as authority on the topics their customers are interested in. As a result, customers keep coming back for more, which sets up the groundwork for workflows to be created that drive more leads to become actual customers.

ride adventure results landing page

It goes without saying that all the content, all the keywords, meta tags, and inbound links that stem from these new offers are contributing to the RIDE Adventures search engine rankings as well. In fact, the content provided in each whitepaper has been offered in short segments on their blog as well and helps the search engines discover each page and therefore each call to action leading them to a landing page.

The Results

Well, you can see them! Not only have unique visits continued to increase for RIDE Adventures, but in the final 3 months of 2012, their contact database actually doubled over what they had accumulated the previous 24 months of being in business. In addition: a) unique visits are reaching all-time highs and at steeper rates than what were typically realized, b) customers are seeing RIDE Adventures as an authority on a subject they’re interested in, and c) inquiries about the actual services RIDE Adventures is in business to provide have risen dramatically as well! Their outlook for 2013 as the 3rd year in business is looking brighter than ever before, and customers are feeling it as well.

 

About the Author: Steve James is a partner and creative director of Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing and design firm specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.

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Topics: keyword research, keyword discovery, measurable marketing, business blogging, inbound marketing, content marketing, stream creative

You Wouldn't Write a Book Report without Reading the Book, Right?

Posted by Pete Caputa on Sep 12, 2008 12:25:00 PM

Of course, in my day, there were many high school students that just read the cliff notes to do a book report. I am sure that today, kids just browse the web and cut and paste a report together. Either way, it's a shortcut that most teachers will quickly detect.

Readers of your blog, or the lack of readers of your blog, will know when you don't read other blogs too. 

You shouldn't write a blog unless you read other blogs. Reading, commenting and linking to other blogs are more important parts of growing your blog readership than writing great content is.

Get yourself an account at Google Reader and start subscribing to some blogs. Read them for inspiration. If you're human and you know how to relate to people, leaving comments and linking to other blogs will happen naturally. Guess what will happen next? People will start reading your blog, linking to you and leaving comments. Then, you'll have a successful blog.  Kinda like getting good grades helps you succeed too.

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Topics: blogging for business, business blogging

What Would Seth Do?

Posted by Pete Caputa on Sep 11, 2008 9:31:00 AM

 

I met Chris Baggott at the Inbound Marketing Summit, where I also saw Seth Godin speak in person for the first time. I twittered Seth's whole speech here. I have followed Chris's blog for a long time as he founded Exact Target, an email marketing software as a service company. 

I don't have as much of a man crush on him as he does on Seth, though. The video above is clever bordering on scary stalker dude. But, it has a great lesson about blogging. Anyone starting a blog should watch it. 

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Topics: blogging for business, business blogging

Who are the Top Twitter Users?

Posted by Pete Caputa on Sep 2, 2008 2:29:00 PM

Dharmesh and the HubSpot internet marketing software development team launched another free tool the other day.

As companions to the free SEO tool, Website Grader, and the press release SEO tool, Press Release Grader, Twitter Grader analyzes a Twitter users influence.

Unlike the other tools, Twitter grader has a leaderboard which shows the highest scoring users. Of course, it's only evaluating the users that have evaluated their Twitter profile via Twitter Grader. But, as of today, that's atleast 20,420 people, including Barack Obama, who comes in at #1 right now.

Dharmesh is hard at thought about how to help small businesses and marketing professionals leverage the social mediasphere to market their businesses more effectively.

There are some new features in the main HubSpot software which help businesses improve their blogging (Blog Analytics) and identify social bookmarking entries (HubFeed) that are related to their products and services (so they can participate in the conversation). I've started using these tools to generate greater returns on my time spent blogging and leveraging social media sites.

Twitter Grader is more of an experiment at this stage. And probably more of a "we think it'll be cool" application than anything. 

However, any thoughts about how Twitter Grader could help a company better leverage Twitter are welcome. HubSpot is listening.

When is LinkedIn Grader coming, Dharmesh?

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Topics: twitter, social media, social bookmarking, business blogging, linkedin

Claim Your Blog on Technorati

Posted by Pete Caputa on Aug 19, 2008 8:46:00 AM

Since I started blogging on the HubSpot business blogging platform on my own URL, I haven't claimed this blog on Technorati. Technorati Profile.

If you haven't claimed your blog, you should go do it. Looks like there's some new capabilities over there I'm going to explore a bit more.

Add to Technorati Favorites

 

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Topics: technorati, blog promotion, business blogging, blogging

Using Technology to Humanize Your Connections

Posted by Pete Caputa on Aug 14, 2008 9:01:00 AM

Sales training expert and client, Tony Cole, sent me a note today. He pointed to Seth Godin's article about how technology, while sometimes making us more efficient, also gives us excuses to be less personal when serving our clients.

Tony asked, "Why doesn't Seth have comments? How can I leave a comment on Seth's blog?"

It's a valid question. I don't really read Seth Godin's blog (more on that later). If I had to gander why he doesn't have comments set up, it's because he's tired of moderating comments or deleting spam comments. Or it could be because he wants people to link to him and comment on his post in a post on their own blog. Or it could be for another reason. I don't know. Seth has commented on my blog a few other times. So, maybe he'll share.

Personally, I think comments make a blog much more personal by enabling interaction with readers, whether they're prospects, clients, partners or whoever.

However, I'm not Seth. As I posited here, Seth probably has a challenge having personal relationships with the 100s of thousands of fans he has. I have challenges having personal relationships with my 70 or so clients, 700 blog subscribers and 3,000 email subscribers. I can't imagine the deluge of conversation invitations that Seth receives.

And this is why I don't read Seth's blog. I might actually get to meet Seth next month, which'd be cool. He's speaking at the Inbound Marketing Summit and I'll be attending with the marketing conference equivalent of a backstage access. But, in normal life, most of us won't meet bloggers that have 100s of thousands of subscribers. Just like my wife has little chance of meeting Joshua Allen when she goes to the "So You Think You Can Dance" concert in Boston. And I probably won't ever meet Warren Buffet. In the same vein, I will most likely never have a meaningful business or personal relationship with any of these people.

The blogosphere isn't that different. The bloggers that have huge followings aren't going to interact with you in a meaningful way, unless you're very persistent and have something that they know they need. Or you agree to be their intern or something pretty silly like that.

So to answer Tony's question, if you really want to leave a comment for Seth, write a post and link to his post. However, I'd recommend initiating blog conversations with people who might be more receptive to mutually beneficial relationships.

Seth has great stuff to say. But, so do a few other thousand bloggers that write about similar stuff.

It's not really Seth's fault that he can't interact with everyone. I never really met Britney Spears either.

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Topics: business blogging, blogging

Finding Passionate Subject Matter Experts to Help with Your Content Creation

Posted by Pete Caputa on Aug 13, 2008 8:55:00 AM

Brook Group is a client of mine. (Advice from Kara Brook.) They are also a great partner and we have a bunch of mutual clients. One of them is HaloPets. I've been advising Kara all along about how to help her clients generate more traffic, leads and sales from their online marketing.

We were talking about the Halo Pets Organic Pet Food blog the other day. Specifically, we were talking about the style of writing, as well as how to use the blog strategically to increase traffic from search engines.

A blog is a great SEO tool. Many people blog and just stuff their keywords in it. That doesn't quite do it, although as Rick Barnes mentions, traffic to a blog from SEO should justify the time spent on blogging. A successful blogger also engages with their audience. They spend as much time reading other blogs, leaving comments on other blogs, linking to other blogs, etc. This helps them grow their own readership faster, generate more comments from others on their own blog and get more links pointing to their site. All of these activities will help drive direct traffic, as well as increase the amount of traffic from search engines (because of the new inbound links).

Humans have this strange interest in connecting with humans through common interests. Yeah. I know. It's not that strange. I'm being sarcastic. But, most new business bloggers don't realize that blogging is about a conversation.

Not every blogger is great at this. It takes a knack for storytelling, relating and listening that few souls have. One of those souls who has it, is one of my best friends, Amy Breton. I've blogged about her before. But, I also connected Amy and Kara and Kara recruited her to write for the HaloPets blog. Amy has a great knack for storytelling and an amazing knack for connecting to animals and humans, alike.

Here's a video that the Boston Globe recently produced about Amy and her husband owning the oldest living rabbit, Guinness approved.

Here's Amy bio on the HaloPets blog. And here's an article that Amy wrote about why dogs eat poop. If you don't plan to read the whole article, you should know that it's generally ok that dogs eat their own poop. You shouldn't though.

Read Amy's writing. You'll see the passion. Take a bit deeper look and you'll realize that Amy's articles get more Digg mentions, as well as a few more comments than the average post on HaloPets. I expect that to increase in time, since HaloPets is now a group blog with a lot of interesting writers, and Kara's team is smart about networking online.

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Topics: SEO, search engine optimization, business blogging, seo and blogging, blog readership

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