Mineral Update for September 19th

Race For 20K Agency Challenge

Race For 20K Agency Challenge drip campaign

Hi Bright Ideas readers, Drew again from DrewSanocki.com. As a refresher, I run an agency — Mineral.io — that is competing with Groove in a race for recurring revenue. My agency focuses on delivering services to ecommerce retailers.

I want to share some updates on what we’ve been working on, as well as some open questions I’ve been pondering lately.

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How TrackMaven Doubled Their Blog’s Conversion Rate

ian-walsh-interview-2_0

ian-walsh-interview_0

Today’s interview features Ian Wash, CMO for TrackMaven. TrackMaven is a SaaS company that has been growing rapidly. Their blog now gets 50,000 unique monthly visitors, 95% from organic traffic.

TrackMaven provides competitive intelligence for digital marketers. They look at all the content that marketers are putting out across different digital and content marketing channels and help them understand how effective it is. They also help you understand how well your content stacks up to your competition.

Learn how TrackMaven defined their buyer personas, how they get ideas on what to write about, and their content vetting and syndication process.

Do you have aggressive growth goals this year? Learn how TrackMaven doubled their conversion rate of their blog (twice as many leads from the same amount of clients) and take lots of notes!

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The Third Call: The Right Way to Deliver a Strategy Presentation

,
third-call

third-call

Having a website that consistently generate leads for you is critical.

So is having a deliberate sales process that ensures you don’t blow it with any of the qualified leads your inbound marketing campaign has generated for you.

As the host of a popular podcast, I have had the opportunity to interview hundreds of other CEOs, and, much to my surprise, not very many of them reported having a really well-defined sales process in place.

Perhaps this was because many of them run smaller (under $10M in rev) companies, or perhaps it’s because they just haven’t thought about it.

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the third installment in our 3-step sales process: how to deliver a strategy presentation (and avoid writing proposals).

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How to Use Google’s New Product Listing Ads to Launch an eCommerce Startup

david-dwek_0

what are product listing ads

David Dwek is the Chief Marketing Officer for Metaverse, which is the owner of quite a number of ecommerce brands including FulcrumGallery.com. If you’ve ever heard of Google’s new product listing ads, this episode is all about PLA’s.  Best practices, what they are, why they are important, how to use them, what to watch out for, common mistakes.

David will share all sorts of PLA insights with us. If you or a client of yours has an ecommerce store, you don’t want to miss this episode.

David has been working in online retail for more than a decade. He is responsible for selling over 300,000 SKU’s on more than a dozen sites including FulcrumGallery.com and FramedArt.com. Previously he held senior marketing roles at four other internet retailer top 500 companies and was responsible for $15 to $150 million in annual sales.

Listen now and you’ll hear David and I talk about:

  • (01.00)  Introductions
  • (05:15)  Please tell me about some recent breakthroughs
  • (06:10)  What are product listing ads?
  • (07:10)  Why are PLA’s so important?
  • (10:40)  How does a PLA work?
  • (13:10)  How can changing your product datafeed impact your results?
  • (16:10)  What are some of the biggest challenges with PLA’s?
  • (18:20)  What size budget do you need to get started?
  • (20:40)  What are some of the other land mines to be aware of?
  • (23:20)  How can people learn more about PLA’s?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

If you would like a transcript of the show please visit the original interview published at GrooveDigitalMarketing.com/14

About David Dwek

david-dwekDavid Dwek is Chief Marketing Officer at Metaverse Corporation, an online retailer of art reproductions: prints, framed, and on canvas. He is responsible for more than a dozen art sites including FulcrumGallery.com and FramedArt.com. Previously, he held senior marketing roles at four Internet Retailer Top 500 companies where he drove between $15 million to $150 million in annual sales: electronics retailer Etronics, CD/DVD brick and mortar retailer Trans World Entertainment, housewares manufacturer Lifetime Brands, and surveillance retailer Brickhouse Security.

Throughout his Ecommerce career, David always worked for the “little guy” … companies most people haven’t heard of that compete against the most powerful brands in the world: Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, Target, etc. In this Podcast, he shares his tried and true techniques to profitably driving revenue through Google Product Listing ads.

 

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

The Second Call: How to Build Trust with an Exploratory Call

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second-call

second-call

When you hit your stride with inbound marketing, you are going to start to receive a steady stream of new leads, and, as we discussed in our last post on qualifying questions, not all of them are going to be worth your time.

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How Focusing on One Niche Helped Trew Marketing to Achieve Extraordinary Results

rebecca geier

rebecca geier virtual agency interview

Are you trying to decide if you should focus on a niche market? Are you considering starting a virtual agency?

Today we interview Rebecca Geier, the CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing headquartered in Austin, TX. Trew Marketing is a full-service marketing agency serving engineering, science, and technology companies. Learn why they selected this niche and how it has helped their company grow.

Listen now and you’ll hear Rebecca and I talk about:

  • (01:00)  Introductions
  • (04:10)  Why is your agency virtual?
  • (09:00)  What is your background?
  • (10:20)  How did you get your agency started?
  • (18:20)  What happened when your sales pipeline went dry?
  • (26:40)  What were some of the prospecting tactics that you used back then?
  • (32:30)  Why did you say ” No to grow “?
  • (37:20)  Why is niche focus so important? How should you pick one?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters. Welcome back to episode number 152 of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions and profits well you’re in the right place. So how do I make good on that promise? Well, each episode I bring on an expert guest to share with me exactly the strategies and tactics that they used to become successful and many of my guests are entrepreneurs just like you. So it’s really a fantastic opportunity to be able to“look over the shoulder” of another successful entrepreneur so that you can model what they did in an effort to achieve very similar results.

On this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Rebecca Geier; she is a co-founder of a very successful marketing agency called Trew Marketing based down there in Austin, Texas. In this interview Rebecca and I are going to talk about the very beginning of the agency, how they made the transition from being employees of a corporation to running their own company. We’re going to talk about what they did when their sales pipeline went dry, very early on, which was as you can imagine a pretty scary experience.

We’re going to talk about how much of a pay cut she took and how long it took her to regain the level of her salary and of course how much beyond that she has now gone thanks to taking the plunge and running her own business. We’re going to talk about why they focused on a niche, what that niche is and how incredibly beneficial focusing on a single niche has been to their organisation and so much more. This is really a wonderful interview and I think that you are going to get a lot out of it.

Before we get to that, quick announcement; I get a lot of emails from people asking me for recommendations for typically software to use in their business, for landing pages, or video hosting or split testing, you name it. I have a list of all of the tools that I use and you can get to it at GrabTrentsBonus.com. The reason for that funny URL is that many of the links on that page are affiliate links, so if you use those links to make a purchase, I get paid a little bit of money.

My way of expressing my appreciation to you for using the Bright Ideas affiliate link and there is instructions at Grab Trents Bonus on how to do this, but basically you send in your receipt and then I give you a choice of a couple of my paid products and you can choose one of them, which I will then give to you as a free bonus as a thank you for using the affiliate link.
So with that said please join me in welcoming Rebecca to the show. Hey Rebecca, welcome to the show.

Rebecca:
Thanks Trent

Trent:
It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I’m excited.

Trent:
So we’re going to dive into the story of how you have built your agency into the success that it is today. But, before we get into all the details of what it is that you have done, and how you got there I’d love my audience to know who they are listening to so please take a moment and just introduce yourself.

Rebecca:
Ok, my name is Rebecca Geier, and I am CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing, a marketing agency headquartered here in Austin, Texas, but we actually have a team of people all over the country.

Trent:
So you are a virtual agency, everybody works from home?

Rebecca:
We are, we’re home office and virtual with people in Boston, Denver, Portland, and LA as well as Austin.

Trent:
I’m going to take a sidebar here totally of the scripted questions, do you ever have clients that are concerned about that? You and I both know that it doesn’t make a hell of a difference and I think most clients do, today?

Rebecca:
Yeah

Trent:
Has that ever cost you a deal?

Rebecca:
Never, and in fact it is interesting because a lot of our clients, as we will get into our story more and you will see they’re very conservative people and they’re intrigued by it. They actually think it is cool, so no; it has never hurt us at all.

Trent:
So lesson number one for any would be consultants in the office: don’t ever worry about the fact that you work from home. On the show I have interviewed countless, very successful agencies, all doing 7 figures, many of whom are entirely virtual, don’t have an office and never will.

Rebecca:
Cool, that is good to know. It is reassuring. It was a leap for us when we started because we came from a big corporation but being in Austin, it’s interesting because one of the earlier doctors have virtual settings of all people, of all companies as IBM, and they’ve been doing it for years. If I would say it is an advantage, certainly on the expense line as well as inner coolness.

Trent:
Yeah, and in my own experience with one of the people that I hired, at my agency recently which is also virtual like yours, was able to get someone very talented, that I probably couldn’t have afforded, if I said you have to drive and she doesn’t even live in the town we live in. If she did, which would have made it harder to find someone of this particular skill set and experience, she would have wanted more money. She says: ‘I place a massive value on being able to get the work done when my schedule allows for it to be done”.

Rebecca:
Yeah, we have found that it is a significant appeal for certain people who have a long commute, who maybe are looking for more balance, who want that flexibility in their lives. Being virtual does not withstand being very professional and I think people sometimes think well if you are virtual or you’re home office in some ways there is a risk there of seeming not professional.

We take it very seriously, our audio mic’s, all the logistics, to make sure that we sound clear on the phone, that we’re professional in all that we do so that we still give that perception and create that value around professional working. That would be one thing that I would say is that you can’t skimp on a good headset, good internet access and making sure you have all the right infrastructure. That would be one cavy I would say.

Trent:
The other thing too, I think you can make the case for being virtual requires that you be even more organised and have better systems and processes, and that should give a client comfort, and the great thing about doing what we do is that what we do for ourselves is ironically we’re doing the same thing for our clients that we do for ourselves so when we show them all of our internal processes and checklists and they are interested to see it we’re going to say, “Hey this is the same stuff that we’re going to be using to manage a relationship with you.” I think that goes a long way to giving people comfort like, “Wow, these people are really organised.”

Rebecca:
Yeah, what I like to say at Trew, we try to model good marketing behaviour and so we do the same thing using ourselves a lot.

Trent:
Alright, rabbit hole number one, and who knows how many more there will be. So, Trew Marketing, where are you at today, just so that the audience has some idea of how big or little your company really is?

Rebecca:
We are on our path to 7 digits, that’s our goal this year. We are a team of about 20, a mix of partner and employee and like I said we’re all over the country with our team and we have a very unique niche. At Trew Marketing we are a full service marketing agency, very specifically working with a very narrow market of scientists and engineers and companies who are targeting very technical audiences, so that’s a little bit about Trew.

Trent:
Let’s talk a little about your background because I’m sure that there are some people listening to this, who might be a marketer at a corporation and thinking: “Man, I would really like to go to it on my own” and then there are obviously some others who are consultants, I know I have a fair number of consultants and independent freelancers etc. that listen to the show. So, what did you do before and let’s talk a little bit about the transition, because it’s a really scary part, for especially for people who have never been an entrepreneur, that going out on their own kind of thing for many of them it’s just too much and sadly they never end up doing it. So, a little bit about your background and the transition.

Rebecca:
I can totally relate, I’m so risk averse, so the fear is huge for me, but to backtrack; I came out of college, had a few different jobs at Start-up at actually one of the large ad agencies here in Austin and then I got into a position at one of America’s best companies, a company headquartered her in Austin, called National Instruments. I worked there for 14 years in a variety of different roles from product positioning and go to market strategies, building campaigns around technical products both software and hardware as well as on the communications side, from corporate communications and executive level to Wall street and even internally with employees; a wide variety of marketing roles.

We had a phenomenal team internally and they still do today and they did almost all of the marketing internally, so even though I was more focused on the communications and the product launching side of the business, I was sitting around the table day in and day out with the people heading up events and the web and content and design, so I was in direct marketing etc. I was exposed to all of integrated marketing which was a huge benefit for me, a real blessing.

That gave me the background to be able to go out and have a good understanding of integrated marketing as we started the full service agency. We made a very specific decision, a very intentional decision, to not start an agency that is just PR or just content or just web. We really believe holistically in integrated marketing and so we like to say we channel diagnostics starting with business schools of an organisation trying to understand; what are they trying to accomplish, who do they want and need to be in their market, what does the competition look like and then how can marketing serve those goals, and then picking the channels and the right mix that make sense in an integrated way, to achieve those goals.

Trent:
Tell me a little bit about the transition, what was it that gave you sort of the courage to jump off the ship, so to speak and go into the rubber dingy?

Rebecca:
It was definitely a really, really tall ship and a vast ocean with I would even say a life preserver. I had been at the company, at National Instruments for 14 years, and I could easily have been there 14 more and have a wonderful career, but for me personally, I was looking for a challenge.

I really want to have a challenge, I want to be adding value and I also got to a point; and this isn’t uncommon in larger organisations, I became much more focused in my day to day and in my time, and managing other people in hoping to clear paths for people to be successful, in being in a lot of meetings, slow moving decision making and again not to any large company; it’s just that is how it needs to be the right decisions come out that way.

But I had really moved away from the craft of marketing and I really love and I’m very very passionate about marketing and it was such a phenomenal company that I was at, and my business partner Wendy, the thought of going to another company was really big shoes that they had to fill to entice me to come over, so we just started talking over long lunchtime workouts and late night happy hours and just started talking about it. She’s more open to risk than I am so we’re a good mix in that way in our business, even today. We really just balance each other out, but we kind of went back and forth between: “Ok we’re ready to do this,” and mostly me taking a step back; “I’m not sure.”

In the end it was a matter of just getting an Excel spreadsheet out, trying to crunch some numbers on what we’ll need compared to our existing salaries, what our families could withstand for a year or two in a greatly reduced income. Just the hard facts, the hard discussions with our spouses of moving out of the really comfortable safe corporate job to the scary world of business ownership.

I decided in the end, and this may be helpful for people listening: ok, I know I’m a smart person, I have been successful in marketing so far and it’s not that I’m new to marketing and so I had the foundation to build on. My husband and I sat down and we decided, “Ok, I’m going to do this for a year, if it fails, that is ok; I will have learned a lot, I will have spread my wings, I will have had a great challenge.”

I knew there might be an opportunity for me to go back to the company that I had come from, or I may decide to spread my wings, small business didn’t work out, I know I could go and do something else. I took the pressure off myself of; I have to build a successful company and instead I’d try to break it down into a smaller chunk and say:

“I’m going to take a year off from what I’m doing and I’m going to try something really scary and really exciting for a year,” and if I don’t like it or if it doesn’t work out financially, or I wasn’t at good at marketing as I thought I was, for whatever reason; that’s ok. Then I’m going to give it a year and I’m going to do something else, or may, like I said, go back to the company.

Taking that pressure off myself of a long-term salary that I have to start bringing in, and just trying to think of it as a pilot for a year, I had the benefit of being able to do that, that really helped.

Trent:
How much of a pay cut did you end up taking in that first twelve months?

Rebecca:
My business partner stayed at the company about four to six more months after I left, so we split her salary. I had a couple of customers that were more aligned to my service area, so I left first and we were able to start bringing in some income and then we started to look at the pipeline. Then Wendy ended up leaving and joining me, so then we lost her salary, I would say a good 75% pay cut.

Trent:
How about in year two?

Rebecca:
Year two was the year after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and everything want to hell in a hand basket economically so probably again 75%, maybe 50% towards the end of that year.

Trent:
How about now?

Rebecca:
Probably 50% greater.

Trent:
Yeah, I knew there had to be a role model there somewhere.

Rebecca:
I was back to salary in probably in year three, in year four I was passed it and now we’re 50% more and probably will double.

Trent:
Early on and I asked you about this in the pre-interview, your first six customers came from the corporate role at ex, people that you knew and then your pipeline went completely dry and you kind of had a really big A-ha. I think it was after a mentor or competitor asked you a question. What was that question?

Rebecca:
This was another agency here in Austin, a very good friend of mine, Austin has a very entrepreneurial collaborative business environment, we’re all very friendly and supportive of each other and he invited me down to his office and said: “Ok Rebecca, you’ve been in this about six to nine months, who are the next three customers that you’re going after, that you want in your portfolio?”

I had absolutely no answer to that question, and it was at that moment that I realised; and as I went back and told my business partner: “Do you know the answer to this question?”That we realised that we had been very reactive.

Again it was a blessing, we came out and had some great opportunities and we reacted to those and we’re executing on those. We didn’t have our eyes ahead and we were not being pro-active and intentional about who we wanted as customers, as first as who we could get and that was very transformational for us.

Trent:
What did you do to solve that problem?

Rebecca:
We took a real hard look in the mirror at what is our unique value-add. There’s wonderful marketing agencies out there in Austin and all across the country, what can we uniquely do that compliments what they do? Not necessarily better, but what do we uniquely bring to the table that other people just can’t bring?

When we had that hard reflection in the mirror and with each other, we realized that what we’re passionate about is marketing, but more specifically we’re very passionate about working with engineers and scientists. The people who are literally improving health, improving life, improving safety, doing phenomenal work in services and in products in our country and certainly across the world.

When we started thinking in that way then we said; “Ok, who were the companies that we want to have working, that we want to work for, that we want to help that we know we can uniquely add value to,” and we started to carve out those companies and an event that they were going to be at and put up a plan together of how to go after them.

Trent:
Do you have a piece of advice for; let’s say that there’s another young agency or young consultant listening to this episode, and maybe they are good at marketing, but maybe they don’t have the experience with science or engineers that you have, and they are listening to this and they are going: “You know, that’s a good idea but I don’t know how to figure out the answer to that question.” Is there any advice that you would give them?

Rebecca:
I would just go back to that very first question which is: “Who are the next three customers that, if you had the choice you would have?” It could be a size of company, it could be a geographic location, it could be a particular marketing need that they have or it could be very specifically related to skill set that you have.

Maybe here the first thing you would do is make a list of twenty and then you start to prioritize and maybe even number them on to twenty and then sit back, and try not to think about why, just number them; gut feel. Once you numbered them then sit back and say: “Ok, why is that one company, why are they number one or why are the top five, why are they top and why are the fifteen to twenty ending up down there?”
What is it about, and try to extrapolate out the why; of why some companies seem more appealing to you than others?

You might start to be able to deduce what that unique interest or capability or attribute of those companies are that might be a good guide post for you, to try and find more like them, maybe you can get those ones or others like them, it starts to give you a base of criteria.

Trent:
At this point for the audience’s benefit, I would like to interject a book that I’ve read and it’s called: The Ultimate Sales Machine by a guy by the name of Chad Holmes and for those of you that have been following my posts on building Groove, you’ve heard me talk about the term Target 100, and I learned that from Chad. I would really encourage anyone who wants more meat on this particular point, to grab a copy of Chad’s book, read it, learn about the Target 100, learn about a thing called: The Core Story and you’ll find immense value in that part.

There’s only a couple of chapters of the book which really is the most salient, so it won’t take you long to read at all. I can’t underscore the importance enough of having that core group of people whether it be ten or twenty or fifty or whatever, but it’s not 500.

Rebecca:
Trent, what’s the name of the book again?

Trent:
The Ultimate Sales Machine, and one of the central points; I’ll hijack here a little bit, one of the central points of the book is this thing called The Stadium Pitch. If you think about it, if you were on stage and there was a 1000 people in the audience, you could say: “Who here is in the market for a car right now?” About 3%, according to Chad’s research, about 3% of the room is going to put up their hand. Who is looking for a house? Who is looking for a dentist? Who is looking for a plumber? There is always about 3% of a given audience that knows they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution.

There is about another 7% that are open to the idea of making a change or buying something new. The other 90% of the audience really is not open at that point in time, so to try and sell them is a waste of your breath. Part of the idea of having a core story is that instead of having a sales pitch that’s about features and benefits etc. you want to use education based marketing.

Chad wrote this book quite a while ago; I do not know what the exact published date was but well before this whole content marketing buzz word thing became so very, very popular and if you educate rather than sell, you’re going to appeal to a much larger percentage of the stadium and have a greater opportunity.

So if you combine two key concepts of having this list; he calls it the Target 100, that you’re pursuing on a ongoing basis and instead of saying sell, sell, sell, you are educate, educate, educate you are much, much more likely to get some of that commodity that is so incredibly difficult to get to their attention. Of course, once you have their attention, conversations increase, engagement and relationships and obviously the ball starts rolling in the direction that you need it to.

Rebecca:
That’s super; I’m definitely going to read that.

Trent:
We talked as well in our pre-interview about some prospecting tactics, do you remember that part?

Rebecca:
I do.

Trent:
I want you to talk a little bit about the prospecting tactics that you used, and I, sadly in my notes I don’t remember whether you did this for a certain phase of time in the beginning or whether you still do this, I can’t recall.

Rebecca:
This is something that we primarily did in this transformational time of really narrowing our focus. We still do some of it online, but we found that it works best when you have an established awareness of each other and maybe even a relationship in the past. When we looked at our pipeline and thought about this question of what were the three next customers that you want, we put a list together like I was talking about and many of them were partners of the past company that we had worked for.

They have a large partner network of hundreds of partners but they have a small subset of really well established, sophisticated, growing partners that were right in our niche that were growing in their marketing and needs.

The corporation was interested in seeing them really growing their brands and become more established and sophisticated in their marketing, so it was a good match. We identified those, about twenty companies and between Wendy and I discussed who had the better relationship or history with maybe the owner, or one of the sales people or someone that could introduce us.

We found people, if we didn’t know them personally, we found people that would introduce us to those companies and then we offered to do a scoped audit of their marketing. They had to fill out a questionnaire, so there was some skin in the game for them, they would fill out the questionnaire, we would do some audit of our own, do a cursory audit of our own.

There was an event here in Austin in August where they all were going to be at, so we asked for a one hour consultation with them, where we would share our findings. What we also brought to that meeting was a brief scope of work of what it would cost for to hire us to implement those recommendations. We probably ended up having ten meetings, or so, maybe eight to ten and of those three converted to customers, and two of those three are still customers today, six years later.

Trent:
Very nice. I want to hang onto this one for a minute; think about if you have, because Rebecca have just imparted some incredibly good advice in these last two questions. What a lot of really inexperienced people do is, they just spray and pray and they figure that success is in the numbers so they don’t have this list first of all. If you think about it intuitively, you will look for an event in your town and look at who is going to attend the event and then the great thing about marketing is that you can look at a company’s website and you can look at their marketing.

Rebecca:
Absolutely.

Trent:
You can pretty much figure out if they suck or not. You then make your list of your twenty companies that really aren’t doing very well with their marketing and then you find this event that they are going to be at. You focus yourself on engaging them on social, and sending helpful articles to them and basically just being helpful. Just because who doesn’t want someone to be helpful? Everybody is receptive to good ideas. It’s not going to take long until these people know who you are and you attend this event.

Now they meet you, and maybe your next step is asking for a meeting, or maybe your next step like one of my other guests did when she first started was a webinar. She only got twenty attendees to her first webinar, but three of them converted to clients, so all I’m trying to say is that the power of concentration can be very, very effective when combined with the right education based message.

Rebecca:
This is actually something that we don’t do the audit per se and ask for the consultation, but we have some very targeted trade shows, primarily in the bay area that we’ll take the expense. My business partner heads up more of this Davens Hillside and we will just take the expense, we’ll have some people helping her on the team, we’ll go through the entire exhibitor list.

Exactly what you are saying Trent, we’ll go to the website, we’ll look at their PR, we’ll look at their social accounts, see what they’re doing, when was their last news release. We have a list of just ten or fifteen things that we go through and do just from the information that’s available online. Then we see if anyone from those companies is in our database and then we do a very targeted email to them, we go in LinkedIn and try and find their email address of some person in marketing.

A trick is often you can find the person who has contact information on a news release, so if you actually go in and open a PDF, and often it will say for more information for the media to contact, they will actually have an email or phone number in there. Between that and LinkedIn we will find a person that we can email, and we will email them a very direct custom email just to them.

We will do about twenty of these asking for a meeting, we’re going to be at the show and we would like to stop by for fifteen minutes and introduce ourselves and learn more about your company. Those have been fairly successful for us and I’m not going to lie; there are shows that we spend 750 dollars on hotel and flights and head out there for a day and a half and come back.

In the near term it didn’t looked like anything happened but even then sometimes we’ll get an email back six months later. It takes patience, but that very targeted custom approach has really paid off for us.

Trent:
Absolutely. So at some point in time when you do all of this stuff, you start to get some momentum, and you start to get some clients and you start to get some referrals. You made a decision to, as you said: “Say no to grow”.

Rebecca:
Correct.

Trent:
What does that mean?

Rebecca:
That means that we stayed true to our niche, and we refer business on to other agencies, or other partners that we have, who are a better fit for that organisation. The way that this came about was that we did the audit, we went to the event and in 2009 we had great success coming out of that. At the same time I’m an avid Wall Street Journal reader and they were doing a contest for small businesses to nominate themselves in particular describing how they not only have survived but thrived through the downturn.

You have to remember that this was the fall of 2009 so we were still on the throws of the downward trend line. I decided, on a whim, with about two days to go before the deadline that we would nominate Trew. I had one of our interns who helped me, who did a phenomenal job; we got it in just by the skin of our teeth.

We waited a couple of months and low and behold we were selected as one of the ten most innovative entrepreneurs in America, Wendy and I, my business partner. In that interview with the Wall Street Journal she asked what set us apart and why I think we were selected was I think the irony that in a downturn we turned business away, and that was really intriguing to the Wall Street Journal editorial staff.

The idea was that every time we take an opportunity that is outside of our niche, it’s less reinforcing to the sceptical engineer who doesn’t really believe in marketing, doesn’t understand it, thinks it’s expensive, they are very formulaic and marketing is becoming more and more formulaic but certainly there’s a lot of qualitative intuition to it as well and there’s a lot of best practice and methodology to it.
The more examples that we can show of engineers placing their trust in us, the more that another new engineer will be more open to the idea of working with us.

So if we have a children’s hospital or a non-profit or a municipality or hotel; come to us and they see that on our website, engineers they don’t relate to that, but if they see these are just some of our customers doing Wi-Fi into human implanted medical devices, or they see customers testing the arming on the F35 or they see customers testing dynameters of automobiles, or doing embedded software of highway machinery like massive John Deere tractors, or measuring the vibration of the earth.

They may not necessarily know what all those applications entail, or how to do them, but they understand that we are working with people that are like minded and that was really, really important for us. In that Wall Street Journal interview in our nomination, we said: “We say no to grow” and that has been the key to our growth and success. Absolutely.

Trent:
And to your profit margin too.

Rebecca:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Trent:
Before we wrap up, what haven’t we covered; if you were a brand new agency and you’re listening to this interview, you would have loved to have heard or even just an entrepreneur, not only an agency, an entrepreneur looking for inspiration and for ways to grow their business?

Rebecca:
It’s a great question and I get this question a lot and certainly meet with a lot of people here in town and actually I have a meeting tomorrow with someone in Chicago for the same reason. It really comes back to a saying that the CEO of National Instruments said that was really an inspiration for us and was an inspiration for them and now they’re a multibillion dollar company and it’s this idea of determining what your niche is and then dominating it and then growing from there.

The Target 100 that you talked about Trent or the making the list of twenty, extrapolating out from that what your unique capabilities are or what the unique appeal of those top 5 companies are that your really intentionally want to be working with.

It’s hard, it’s scary to turn down an opportunity and I certainly don’t recommend it when you are first starting; you got to take the opportunities that come to build up your services and your operations and just bring in cash.

That’s just the reality of that, but as you grow and you can really refine what your brand is as an agency and what you want to mean to people and what you don’t want to mean, it’s very powerful. It doesn’t have to be something that you do overnight, you can grow into it, but having that and really taking some time out to think about that vision of who you really want to be, can be very, very rewarding both just professionally but also financially as you mentioned.

Trent:
I want to chime in on this one as well as I do get quite a number of emails from people who are listeners and readers saying: “How do I pick a niche, how do I pick a niche?” I would say you don’t sit down on a weekend when you’re starting out and pick a niche, I think that there’s an immense amount of risk in doing that because if you pick it wrong, you’re going to spent all this time going after a niche where you maybe just don’t get any traction for whatever reason you were unable to predict beforehand. I think, Rebecca, what you just said is right, look at your first year and say first of all we need oxygen so that we do not die and cash flow is oxygen.

The mistake that I think you didn’t make and a lot of people make is at the end of that first year they still haven’t picked their niche and they are still taking anybody and everybody, because they maybe didn’t even just think about the strategy behind their growth, they are just taking client after client; they’re on the treadmill they’re running.

The take away that I hope people get from listening to you is that: once you get enough oxygen that you know the patient is not going to die, take a moment and start thinking about who do we like working with the most, what is the best mesh of our personalities, what type of clients are most profitable, what are the trends that are in the industries that we are dealing with and are those trends headed in the direction that we would need them to be if we are going to be focused on this niche?

Maybe talk to some of those customers and ask a few of them for referrals, just use the feedback that you get from the people who are already dealing with you to assist you in making the decision of what is this niche that you should focus on.

Rebecca:
I think that’s exactly right and Trent, you just hit on something that I think would also be a recommendation that
I would have. One of the things I mentioned early on is I’m totally risk averse, I am the kid that sits in front of the class, turns the homework in a day early. I’m the most risk averse person to start a business.

One of the things I told my business partner is: “You know what, it will make me feel better, I would like to meet with three or four people who own businesses before we start and just ask them a bunch of questions, it will help us as partners, hear from each other and reflect on what they are telling us, it doesn’t even have to be in marketing”.

We had probably three or four hour dinner meetings with people that we trusted, family, friends, an agency here in town who has been a mentor to me for years and just asked them so many questions; “How much cash did you start with, what would you do differently, what’s the best part, what’s the worst part, if you had it all over again would you do it?”

We had twenty to twenty five questions and we just asked them and we learned so much. You can do that with as you’re thinking about starting your own business with other business owners but I like what you said Trent; think about the customers that you would like to have and pick a few whether they are on your target list or are similar to them or maybe it’s a friend and take them to lunch, use that time to work through your questions. In that period of time also ask people what they think your strengths are, if they know you in a professional capacity.

You can really start to learn a lot about yourself by hearing what your brand means to other people and what they associate you with and start from a position of strength and build on that.

Trent:
Yeah, I could not agree more. Alright Rebecca, let’s wrap it up here. I think that we’ve covered everything that I had hoped to cover in this interview and I would like to thank you very much.
Rebecca:

Thank you.
Trent:
If people would like to get a hold of you is Twitter a good way to do that?

Rebecca:
Sure, Twitter is fine, it’s RebeccaG.

Trent:
Ok, I’ll put that in the show notes. RebeccaG. Ok Rebecca, have yourself a wonderful day and thanks for being on the show.

Rebecca:
You bet. Thank you so much Trent.

Trent:
Alright to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/152 and if you enjoyed this episode please do me a favour and help me spread the word by going to BrightIdeas.co/love where there is a tweet awaiting the click of your mouse. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so very much for tuning in. I look forward to having you back for another episode soon.

Take care, have a wonderful day, bye bye.

About Rebecca Geier

With 20 years of global marketing experience, Rebecca leads the TREW team in building strategic, thoughtful, and sustainable plans for a wide variety of projects, from redesigning an organization’s website and leading in-depth research to defining the positioning and messaging for companies, products and campaigns.

Rebecca and TREW co-founder Wendy Covey were named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the Ten Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and TREW Marketing has been named as a Top B2B Agency multiple years.

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Welcome to the Bright Ideas Community of Entrenpreneurs

The First Call: How to Qualify a New Business Prospect

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first-call

business prospect

Thanks to our consistent blogging and optimized calls to action, we get a LOT of leads from our blog. Sadly, not all of them are a good fit for our services, so ensuring that we focus our attention on the right leads is absolutely critical to our success.

Read more

August 2014 Traffic Report: Finally, a Quick & Easy Look at the ROI of Content Marketing

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August-2014-traffic-report

 

August-2014-traffic-report

When it comes to your website, do you ever wonder, What’s working? What content is most effective? Are we getting an ROI on our marketing dollars?

If you’re doing a great job with your content, it will be effective and engaging, and you’ll be generating not only brand awareness and traffic, but measurable ROI in the form of leads and sales.

(These are all areas we cover in detail in the process we go through with our Groove Digital clients.)

So how do you know your content is effective, and is actually leading to increased sales? How do you actually evaluate the ROI of content marketing?

To answer this question, we supplement the excellent data provided by Hubspot (which really helps us look at the leads and sales end) with data from Google Analytics (GA), which gives us an overall picture of our traffic and its effectiveness. The nitty gritty details of the GA analysis is exactly what I’m going to reveal in my monthly traffic report for August. (To see July’s report, click here.)

In the past, I’ve found GA to be overly complicated and hard to use. I always knew there was gold in the data, but GA’s poor design makes it difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on. Each month it took time and effort to dig around for the statistics we wanted to view, and each month we knew there were more that we could be looking at. This month, we began using our latest GA dashboards, and I couldn’t be happier.

The data we look at for our traffic report helps us to answer the questions of What’s working and what’s not? What’s most effective? and What is the ROI of our content marketing – how many leads is it getting us?

Here’s what we found for August:

Business Stats

Our high-level traffic and conversion data is available on our Business dashboard. Here we find out:

  1. Are we getting more visitors?
  2. Where are our visitors coming from?
  3. What is the trend in conversions (in our case, subscribers)?
  4. Where are conversions coming from?
  5. Who are our top social media referrers?
  6. Are visitors consuming more content? Are they spending more time on the site?
  7. What percentage of our traffic is from mobile?

BIBusDashTraffic & Referral Sources

Our traffic has risen more or less steadily since we started blogging regularly on Bright Ideas. Here’s a look at the month to month increase:

BI-traffic-inception-thru-August-2014

 

For the month of August, we continued our focus on Groove Digital Marketing agency activities. Even with the majority of our posts published on Groove, Bright Ideas received a lot of traffic, as would be expected from a mature site where we’ve been blogging for almost two years.

August-2014-traffic

This month, our increase is due largely to increased referral traffic – we had a couple of posts go viral on StumbleUpon again (more on this in the Popular Content section below).

Subscribers & Referral Sources

To get truly useful data from GA, you want to know not just what traffic you have, but how many conversions you’re getting. In other words, how many of those visitors are you converting to subscribers? Or, if you have online product sales, to customers? In our case, we measure conversions in terms of subscribers.

In order to do this you need to set up what GA calls conversion “goals”, so that this data will be available. This was something that until recently, we didn’t have working (it’s trickier than it should be!). We finally hired someone to help with this.

Click here to purchase these dashboards for your business (includes goals setup).

We had significantly increased conversions in August. Most of the increase was from email; the numbers in the other areas remained similar to July’s conversions.

August-2014-conversions

Significant Conclusions:

  1. We are getting more visitors. Much of our increase in August was due to increased StumbleUpon traffic.
  2. Conversions were significantly increased over July, much of which was from email.

Content Analysis Stats

Our Content Analysis dashboard helps us answer questions such as:

  1. Which content was the most popular?
  2. Which entrance pages got the most traffic?
  3. What pages had the most conversion “assists”? (A page “assists” a conversion if visitors view it before conversion.)
  4. Where are visitors exiting my site?
  5. What is our overall site engagement? (How long are people spending on each page?)
  6. How engaging is our top content?
  7. Where in the world is my traffic coming from?

BIContentDash

Popular Content

By far our most popular pages are lumped together under ‘Other’. This is actually a really good thing as it indicates we have a lot of different content that appeals to our visitors.

August-2014-content

After ‘Other’, the most popular content were the posts that went viral on StumbleUpon (Lessons Learned from 50 Marketing Agency CEOs and How to Start a Business with No Money). These were actually both great posts (the former is a summary of the best of the best I’ve learned from other agency owners, the latter a podcast interview where I was the interviewee and my friend Wes and I talk about what it takes to make it in business), but as we’ll see below, most of the StumbleUpon traffic was not high quality and didn’t convert well.

Click here to purchase these dashboards for your business.

Popular Entrance Pages

Again, our StumbleUpon posts showed up as popular entrance pages, as people went directly from StumbleUpon to those pages.

August-2014-entrance-pages

Similar to last month, traffic direct to our homepage increased as well. This month it was up almost 10%.

We also sent traffic to some of our new posts last month (including Tony Wright’s interview and our July income report).

The remaining popular pages are older posts that seem to be receiving significant organic traffic: my analysis of Infusionsoft vs Ontraport and Infusionsoft vs Mailchimp. With these posts, we used focused keywords and smart SEO tactics when we first published them, and our domain authority with respect to all things Infusionsoft is strong.

August-2014-entrance-page-details

If we look at the pages that received a lot of StumbleUpon traffic (Lessons Learned from 50 Marketing Agency CEOs and the How to Start a Business with No Money Interview), we see that most of the people who visited those pages also left our site without exploring any further. Compare our top couple entrance pages with our top exit pages:

August-2014-exit-pages

Conversion & Conversion Assist Pages

These are the pages that were most likely to convert a visitor to a subscriber (we also have PPC goals set). Our increase in conversions from July to August was mostly due to these PPC goals.

conversion_assists_per_page_July_2014

Significant conclusions:

  1. We had a variety of popular content.
  2. Besides our homepage, the pages that received the most traffic were those that went viral on StumbleUpon.

Click here to purchase these dashboards for your business.

Additional Information

In addition to the Business and Content Analysis Dashboards, we have Site Performance and Realtime Traffic dashboards.

Site Performance Stats

Our site performance dashboard answers the following:

  1. What is the average page load time?
  2. What is the page load time for new vs returning visitors?
  3. What is the average load time for popular pages?
  4. What is the mobile page load time?
  5. What is the average server response time?
  6. What is the server response time for new vs returning visitors?
  7. What is the average domain lookup time?

BIPerformanceDashThese page load times reveal longer loads than we’d like. Luckily the averages are a bit misleading, as there are spikes in page load times a couple of days a month. Still, we’d like to have pages that consistently load quickly. We have actually switched our site around on the back end a number of times to try to reduce our page loads. This report would indicate that we still have more room to improve.

Realtime Traffic Stats

Our Realtime Traffic dashboard answers the following:

  1. How many active visitors are on the site right now?
  2. What are their locations around the world?
  3. What pages are they on?
  4. What keywords brought them to the site?
  5. How many pageviews have there been in the last 60 sec?
  6. How many pageviews have there been in the last 30 min?

Realtime Dashboard   Google Analytics Aug 8When we look at how our site is performing month-over-month, we like to see averages and trends. However, if you want a snapshot of what’s going on on your site right now, the real time traffic dashboard is where you’ll find it.

Want Dashboards Like These?

If you’d like to purchase these dashboards for your own business, you’re in luck! We have a dashboard package available that includes:

  • The Business Dashboard
  • Setup of GA goals so your conversions appropriately reflect your leads or online sales (as applicable) – necessary to make the conversions portion of your Business Dashboard work correctly
  • The Content Analysis Dashboard
  • The Site Performance Dashboard
  • The Realtime Traffic Dashboard
  • Plus a training call to be sure you know exactly what each part of the dashboard means

Click here to purchase these dashboards for your business.

Summary and Insights

If you thought this post was helpful, please be sure and share it!

Our dashboards quickly revealed that:

  • We’re getting a lot more organic traffic.
  • We’re getting many more conversions, a significant number of whom are interested in Infusionsoft.

Best of all, it didn’t take a lot of time to figure this all out.. have I mentioned how much I’m digging those new GA dashboards?

Click here to purchase these dashboards for your business.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

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Thanks so much!

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How Zapier Went From 0 to 250,000 Users with Wade Foster

WADE FOSTER FC RS 14

how to raise money for your business - wade foster interview

Are you looking for inspiration and specific tactics and strategies to grow your business? Want to know how to raise money for your business?

Trent interviews Wade Foster, the CEO and one of the co-founders of a rapidly growing company called Zapier. Zapier integrates SaaS tools from different vendors using triggers and actions.  It currently works with 300+ SaaS apps and is growing by about 10 apps per month.

Zapier has about 250,000 users and has raised $1.2 million. Among the investors are 2 of the most prominent venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley.

Listen now and you’ll hear Wade and I talk about:

  • (03:00)  Introductions
  • (06:45)  What did you do at the very start to test the idea?
  • (14:10)  What did you do after you signed up the first few users?
  • (15:30)  How long did it take to get to 1000 users?
  • (13:00)  What did you do after reaching 1000 users?
  • (17:30)  What was it like to be a part of Y-Combinator?
  • (19:00)  What had you accomplished by the end of the 3 months?
  • (22:00)  Tell us about the process of raising money.
  • (26:00)  What did you do with the money you raised?
  • (27:00)  What kinds of marketing activities worked for you?
  • (29:00)  What are some of the impacts of more integrations?
  • (30:00)  Tell me about the biggest mistake you’d made by this point.
  • (32:00)  How did you go about getting more integrations and users?
  • (34:30)  Why did you decide to be a virtual company instead of having an office?
  • (38:00)  What are the pros & cons of having a VC on board?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters. Welcome to episode 151 of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation, to dramatically increase the growth of their businesses.

If you are an entrepreneur and you are looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions and profits, well my friends you are in the right place. How do I make good on that promise? What I do is I bring proven experts onto the show and I get them to explain to me exactly the tactics and strategies that they use to achieve the results that they’ve achieved. In other words I find someone for you, who have been super successful and you get to look over their shoulders, with hindsight to their benefit and see exactly how they got where they arrived.

In this episode I’m very pleased to announce that my guest is a fellow by the name of Wade Foster, who is the CEO and one of the co-founders of a very rapidly growing company called Zapier. They have about 250 000 users, they have raised 1.2 million dollars and among the investors are two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists.

In this interview Wade is going to share with me the story of how they got started, how they found the idea, how they tested the idea, how they got their first 1000 users, how they got into Y-Combinator, what it was like to be in Y-Combinator, it’s a pretty exciting thing to be part of to say the least and so much more. So if you’re looking for some inspiration, or you are looking for specific tactics and strategies to grow your own business you are going to absolutely love this interview. Get your pen and paper ready because there’s going to be lots of notes that you’re going to want to take.

Before we do that: quick announcement: I’m constantly emailed by people asking me what tools and resources I use to run my businesses. I have made a list of all them and on that page some of them are affiliate links so if you to GrabTrentsBonus.com and you choose to use any of those affiliate links to buy whatever software that it is, my way of expressing my thanks to you for doing so and there’s instructions at GrabTrentsbonus.com for this.

Just send me the email receipt for the purchase you made will verify that our affiliate link was in fact credited
and you’ll have the opportunity to choose from of some of my paid products and I’ll just give one of those to you as a free bonus as a thank you for using that link. With that said please join me in welcoming Wade to the show. Hey Wade, welcome to the show.

Wade:
Hey Trent, thanks for having me.

Trent:
No problem at all, thanks for making some time to come on. We’re going to talk about the story of how you’ve grown Zapier and you can tell me if I pronounce that properly enough.

Wade:
Zapier makes you happier, is the trick.

Trent:
Being from Canada, I’ve got the French-Canadian thing in the back whenever I see ‘ier”.

Wade:
Yeah, you’re not the only one.

Trent:
Probably not. There is probably some folks listening to this who don’t know what Zapier is yet. We’re going to get into that and it’s an app that I use I think is really, really cool but before we get into that stuff and the story of how you build it, let’s first introduce you, who are you and for the folks in my audience who don’t know you are, who are you and what do you do?

Wade:
Sure, I’m the co-founder and CEO of Zapier, I was born and raised in Missouri, live in California now and I spend all my days trying to help businesses make their tools work a little bit better for them and that all happened through Zapier which is a tool to connect other tools.

Trent:
Ok, give us the simplest definition I guess, you want to call your elevator pitch, or whatever you want to describe it, what exactly is Zapier?

Wade:
It’s a tool that connects other tools, I kind of use this metaphor of triggers and actions, so you can do things like; when I get an email it automatically create a trailer card, or someone fills out my unbalanced page and automatically saves them to Infusionsoft. It works with 300+ SaaS apps, so pretty much any tool that you might be using under the sun, you can hook up and do these cool little automations between the two of them.

Trent:
Ok, so folks in my case, how Zapier came onto my radar screen, is as some of you probably know, I use HubSpot and I use Infusionsoft and I wanted to be able to connect the two so when certain things happened in terms of triggers in HubSpot, I wanted the record automatically copied over to Infusionsoft and I wanted additional triggers to happen and I wanted it all to happen automatically. For example when someone completes the middle of the final web form in HubSpot I wanted a record created in Infusionsoft and I want my cellphone to go off without writing any code at all, because I don’t know how to write any code at all.

I was able to make that happen and I to use one other tool called PlusThis.com but I was able to make that happen in five minutes. Zapier does make you happier and in my case it does. Alright, where are you at now, what can you talk about, can you talk about revenue, number of users and traction, what kind of traction?

Wade:
Yeah, the latest numbers we published is that we are at 250 000 registered users. Quite a lot grown, 10% plus month over month, adding probably ten apps or so to the platform every month; good growth and trying to go faster.

Trent:
Absolutely, which is the name of the game. You have also raised some professional capital from angels and a couple EC’s and of course that puts a lot of pressure on as well. We’re going to talk about how you did that, but before we’re get to that, now that people understand that this is a company that is going places, let’s go back to the beginning because so many entrepreneurs, they’re always wondering how I get started, how I take this idea, how do I find an idea or how I take this idea that I got and actually test it out without blowing a bunch of time and a bunch of cash. So way early on what did that look like for you guys?

Wade:
The idea was originally my co-founder Bryan Helmig’s and I know Bryan playing music and we’d gone to the same to the same school together and we were always working together on projects and things like that, he is the developer, I’m marketing. We just kind of tagged team on various things, one of the things that tended came up a lot was we’d get clients that asked things like: “Hey can you make my Woofoo contacts go into MailChimp for me?” Or “can you get my CRM contacts to go into Google contacts for me?” Just like these little import export sort of deals between two different services.

We would write the code to do that and it was more hassle than what it was worth, it was small enough and easy enough thing to do but it’s not particularly fun or enjoyable but was clearly valuable to the customers. We start to think about what would it look like if we tried to do this, is there really that big of a problem.

I remember going to 37 Signals’ high-rises, the CRM that they have and I remember going to their Hope Forum and there was a thread about Google contacts integration that was probably about four years old and it had, I think somewhere around 300 to 400 comments of people saying: “Plus one, I really need this, most important thing in my business” that sort of stuff. 37 signals’ replied saying: “Hey, we would look into this, if resources came along we might take a look at it,“ that sort of thing.

But after four years it’s clear that they do not have the resources to really make it happen and on the priorities
I couldn’t really tell you why it hasn’t happened. So I started looking at other forums for SaaS companies to see if the same thing was occurring and it absolutely is and people were asking for integration in their forums and it was just too much work for a lot of SaaS companies really.

So what we did we started by building a couple of integrations in trigger action style thing, so we started with PayPal, High-rise and sms. The three very first things that you could do on Zapier was when someone pays you, you could get a text message about it via PayPal, or you could save them to High-rise. So that’s how we started, it was only that, but it was small enough that we could start. If people had that specific problem then they had a tool that would work for them.

Trent:
Ok, so this is really good stuff. How long did it take to code that?

Wade:
We actually did it at a start-up weekend which is these 54 hour hack-a-thon deals; we have the very first prototype up in less than 54 hours.

Trent:
So you got this prototype, you tested it, you know how it works now you need to get users and when you got no users, getting users is really hard to do, so what did you guys do? Did you go back to that discussion forum and started answering these people’s questions?

Wade:
Exactly, we would jump on the comments and I wouldn’t just forum spam them and tell them you should sign up for Zapier today, I would actually try and be helpful and say to them here is the API doc’s for this service and here is the API doc’s for that service, here’s how you might go about solving this problem with existing tools that was out there.

Here is Odesk or Freelance.com or places where you can hire people that who know how to do this. Then I would also though mention Zapier would say on the very end I’m working on a project that can solve this problem, here is a link if you are interested in talking to me about it at all, you can give me your email and we can chat.

That was all we needed to do, when we would put those comments in forums, we wouldn’t get a ton of traffic from that, we might get ten visitors or so a day from a single comment, maybe even less, but about 50% of them would reply and give us an email and start a conversation with us, which was fantastic. When we just started we didn’t need 10 000 people on day one, we just needed ten people to talk to and get feedback to know if this was working.

Trent:
Yes, classic program to do things in the beginning that don’t scale, you can talk to people.

Wade:
Yeah.

Trent:
There’s no better feedback than being able to talk to people. You had some of that conversations, you get people using the stuff, what then?

Wade:
Once we had people using it, there was many months, probably six, seven months of just polish that had to go into it, the product; the initial prototype that we build out quite frankly was not very good at all. People would sign up and would be barely be able to use it, I’d have to handhold them on Skype and get them on calls like this and walk them through setting it up, which was of course is not scalable at all, but people was still eager enough to use the product and we kept refining it and refining it and making it better and fixing things that they would bring up to us.

We kept driving traffic to the site, trying to get more people to get more interested in it and after six or seven months we were able to have, I guess what we would call a V1 and it wasn’t a NVP any more, it was like something that was good, it wasn’t great but we were proud enough that we could ship it and open it up to the public and let anyone sign up.

Trent:
Got to love those early adopters, huh?

Wade:
Yeah, yeah.

Trent:
So this six or seven month window of time, is it just you and your co-founder, are you guys full-time and if you are, because there is no money coming in, where you on angel backing that point, we’re you on credit cards saving accounts, how’d you pay the bills?

Wade:
It was myself, Brian and Mike and we were living back in Missouri at the time and it was a part-time project, we had day-jobs. Mike was actually in school still, we would work after work for another probably eight hours honestly and we’d work on the weekends. We would try putting just as much if not more time into Zapier as into our day-jobs at point in time, trying to get stuff going and get the wheels turning, get a machine going that we could actually start making money.

Trent:
Were you guys all first time entrepreneurs at this point?

Wade:
Effectively yes, we’d done some freelance work, we had some mini projects but nothing substantial ever came out of that.

Trent:
OK, those 2 were writing code, what were you doing?

Wade:
I was spending a lot of time trying to drive traffic to the site and get people to talk to us and use the product, get feedback about how it’s working.

Trent:
This is a real labor of love at this point, probably three guys sitting in one room pounding back Coke’s and pizza’s on the weekend and that kind of thing.

Wade:
That’s not too far from the truth.

Trent:
Alright, you get to your V1 and you realize that there’s something here, any idea how many users you had at that point in time, after the six or seven months.

Wade:
We had about a 1000 people who had signed up and paid an amount of money to use it that was actually interesting, our Beta was paid for as well so you had to pay to get onto our Beta.

Trent:
Ah, brilliant, so you really knew that you had a product that people really needed, how much would you charge them?

Wade:
It varied, the very first one’s all paid, yeah I think the first dozen or so paid a hundred bucks, but then we moved it around after that just testing the waters and feeling where people’s paying points were, I think it got as low as five dollars at some point in time and maybe as high as $200-$300. It was a onetime fee, you paid that amount of money and we told people you get in for the lifetime of the Beta, we don’t know how long it’s going to be, but for long as it lasts, you’re in.

Trent:
Ok, so those people aren’t getting a free ride anymore now they have to pay like everybody else?

Wade:
Correct, but when we actually launched, we gave them a year free and try to be very generous with them.

Trent:
Absolutely, give the love to the early adopters as a big old thank you; they played a pivotal role on helping you figure out what to do.

Wade;
Absolutely.

Trent:
Ok, then what? You had a 1000 users, seven months deep, you get a little bit of…..was the amount of money coming in, was that enough to cover the expenses like hosting and all that kind of thing?

Wade:
I don’t think so, but we didn’t have many expenses in terms of hosting or anything either at that point in time. It was relatively small.

Trent:
So it paid for the pizzas and the beer?

Wade:
It did, it paid for very little, but it paid for something, a few hundred bucks a month at the time.

Trent:
What did you do at this point, you got a 1000 people that have given you money, you’ve validated your product, then what happened next?

Wade:
We started to think about we’re still part-time at this point in time, we really want to make this go, we got this thousand people who paid to get into this Beta, we also got an email mailing list that has about ten thousand people on it and we’ve got about twenty integrations with popular SaaS services and a lot more people that want to integrate with Zapier or that we want to integrate with them. We really wanted to go faster and so we started to think about how might we do this, we ended up applying to Y-Combinator and went through their interview process and getting in for the summer 2012 batch.

Trent:
Nice.

Wade:
Once we got in, we moved everyone out to California and that happened to coincide right with the public launch of Zapier, the V1 launch was almost at the exact time we got into Y- Combinator.

Trent:
For those people who do not know what Y- Combinator is, you want to tell them?

Wade:
Sure, it’s a startup incubator. Companies that you might have recognize that have gone through there included Dropbox, Air BNB, Reddit, Stripe, some really big internet brands have gone through Y-Combinator. It’s a bit of university for start-up if you will, but condensed into three months, but that doesn’t do it entirely justice, but that’s probably the best.

Trent:
What was that experience like because you are going to be around a whole bunch of really smart, well connected, driven people, it got to have some impact?

Wade:
Yeah, absolutely, we’re in with about 80 start-ups in our batch, they have a dozen partners or so, who has all been involved with start-ups, some really big name start-ups, big acquisitions and worked with some really smart people, you kind of just inundated with people who really know what they doing, which is a fantastic learning environment.

Trent:
Give us an example of what it’s like once you moved to California, day to day basis, how did your lives change?

Wade:
Probably the biggest thing was we rented a small two bedroom apartment and we hold up honestly for three months we’re mostly spent the time with each other, just coding and trying to get customers, just doing that pretty much twelve hours a day or something.

Trent:
Six days a week, seven days a week?

Wade:
Six, seven days a week, we pretty much took breaks when we wanted them, we’d go and see a movie here and there, but most part Zapier was the only thing we cared about for three months.

Trent:
At the end of the three months what was the outcome?

Wade:
By the end of the three months we launched publically, we had over 30 000 registered users at that point in time, we’d gone from 20 integrations to 60 integrations, we’d launched our developer platform which allowed other people to do integrations with us and then we went out and raised our seed ground of money.

Trent:
During these three months you’re in Y-Combinator, what did they give you in the way of resources?

Wade:
There’s a hand full of things, for one they had network that has hundreds of founders that are, either still running companies or have exited and are now working in place like Google or Facebook or SalesForce, so you have access to that network. You have their expertise as well, so you do office hours with the partners probably once a week, where you get to talk about the biggest problems that you’re struggling with at the time. It could be customer acquisition, it could be some tech problem, it could be whatever, some partner on the staff that has gone through that and knows that and you get to borrow from their expertise.

You get a small amount of money, but it’s honestly trivial compared to the other stuff. The biggest thing is the focus that you get out of it, the fact that we moved away from all our friends and family, for three months we we’re hold up in the apartment and weren’t doing anything other than Zapier, was probably the most important thing that we’d done. We we’re able to achieve far ship, far more code and we achieved far more in that three month period than probably any other time because of that focus.

Trent:
No kidding. And was burn out ever a problem during those three months?

Wade:
Not too much, I think because you knew that there was an end in sight, at the end of the three months its going be a little bit back to normal. You never really felt too burned out about it.

Trent:
So you get out, get your 30 000 users, you’ve got a ton of street credit because you’ve been in Y-Combinator, did they prove pivotal in raising the money that you raised next or how did that happen?

Wade:
I think that YC has best said, is it gets you a meeting, somebody will at least take a meeting with you, doesn’t guarantee that you will raise money. Interestingly enough of the people that we raised money, I think only one of them did we meet after we went through demo day, almost all of them we talked to before demo day or even before we got into Y-Combinator so they’d express interest and they’d been following along with us for quite some time.

Trent:
Were these friends and family or were they private equity guys? What kind of money?

Wade:
We had a few friends that we’ve made in the business world, so to speak, some angels that we’ve met through working on Zapier who’d been early customers or early adopters of Zapier and then we had two institutional VC’s involved.

Trent:
Give me some details, because there are a lot of people who have not been through the process of raising money and is quite amazed the first time you go through it, so give us some insight having gone through that.

Wade:
Yeah, the interesting thing is, now as a first timer you think the best thing that you can do is pitch VC’s or pitch investors or whatever, but I think that actually it is a bit of the wrong way to go about it. The best way to go about it is build a good company, build a company that gets traction, build a company that people want to pay attention to even if it’s not a ton of people at first, especially in tech, especially if you’re doing B2B tech, consumer tech that sort of stuff.

Investors are paying attention, they’re watching products trends, they’re watching hacker news, they’re listening to what their portfolio companies are using. So what was happening to us was we started hearing from investors who wanted to take meetings with us saying: “Hey, I heard about you from so and so, I really think your company has potential, I’d like to chat and see how we can partner.” Which was cool and is actually pretty flattering at first, but then you realize afterwards it’s their job to take meetings, they can invest, they have the option to invest in 100% of start-ups that they talk to and they can’t invest in the stuff that they don’t talk to. Their job is to try and get to talk to you as much as possible, but the fact that they reach out is a good sign.

Then from there a lot of what YC helped out with too is perfecting your pitch, understanding what it is that they care about and hoping you tell a story that is interesting to them when you are ready to raise money. What we ended up doing, the process that we took which may or may not be applicable to others, was that through YC while we’re going through we actually turned down all the meetings, we said, “Hey we are not looking to raise money right now, but we’ll reach out later when we are and let you know if that’s all right with you.” And most people were totally fine with that. Once we were ready to raise money we reached out to them and say: “We would like to chat, we would like to have a meeting now if you’re interested. ”

We tried to line up as many of those meetings back to back to back as possible, I think I took 40 meetings in a span of two weeks with various angel investors or venture capitalists that I could, pretty much anyone. The approach that we took was breadth first, depth second so as many, many meetings as possible to just get a sense of who’s the most interested, who might commit quick and is really interested vs. who is more just surface level interested. So by doing those 40 meetings at once, we narrowed it down to a handful of folks that we thought could really be good. Those were the ones we worked on closing and we were able to get that done in about three weeks or so.

Trent:
You raised a total of how much?

Wade:
$1.2 million.

Trent:
Are you able to disclose what the valuation was for the money raised?

Wade:
No, we actually raised on convertible notes, which is another thing you people will probably want to read up on, if you search for convertible notes, you can find out about it from Quora and I think there is pricing stuff on YC site about convertible notes as well, which is not equity, you raise at an evaluation cap that says like; the next time you raise are the amount that we invest and will convert as this amount or less, depending on what the evaluation is that you raised at that time is. It was actually raised on a convertible note and not an equity run.

Trent:
Was there any debt service on the notes in the meantime or is it just the fact that they’re locking in their conversion rates.

Wade:
Basically locking in their conversion rates is the thing that they’re trying to do.

Trent:
After you raised that money, what happen then? Did you go the status quo and started hiring people like crazy; did you spend on marketing, where did it go?

Wade:
The biggest thing that we wanted to get right away was someone to help out with customer support, at the time I was spending probably: I would wake up at about 8 o’clock in the morning and I would work from about 8:30 till 3pm just doing customer support and answering customer queries.

We wanted to get someone to help share that load that was the first person, we hired that person and then from there that actually bought us a lot of time to figure out how exactly we wanted to go tackle things. We knew we wanted to get more integration on board and we knew we wanted to do a lot more in terms of on the marketing frame, customer acquisition front and I was able to spend a lot more time on that.

Trent:
What was some of the marketing activities that you started and worked well for you?

Wade:
The biggest thing that we started doing was we got a lot more serious about how we worked with our partners, so when we launched an integration we made sure to follow a bit of a checklist, we would do a couple of things. We would write about it on our blog, we would make sure it was in our newsletter.

We would make sure that there is an in-app announcement; we’d make sure it was shared on social and things like that. In return we would ask that of partners to do these things because these things will work well, some of them would do some of them, some of them would do all of them, that was really helpful for us because our best customers are their customers.

It’s really targeted so when they send an email out to their customer base and say you can integrate with all these other things through Zapier, it is a really good messaging, really good touch point for us. We made sure that we were doing that sort of thing on an ongoing basis and doing guest posts on their site, getting listed in their market places and things like that, which would help drive more targeted traffic.

Trent:
Did you have enough traction at his point that these people were coming to you and saying, “We would like you to integrate with us” or are you still reaching out to people saying “We want to build an integration for you?”

Wade:
At this in point in time it’s probably 80% of people reaching out to us and 20% of us reaching out to them. We launched a Zapier developer platform that actually does allow them to integrate with us.

Trent:
Ok.

Wade:
That’s where we were pointing most of those people to, if they were interested its’ like go there, that’s the official way to hook into Zapier. And because we had so many integrations by then, in August of 2012 when we launched that platform, we had about 60 integrations, each month it was growing ten to fifteen integrations a month. It became work impelling for a service to hook into Zapier because of that.

Trent:
The more integrations that you have, does that mean you also have more integration to maintain, I would imagine that it does and that’s going to drive up you costs?

Wade:
Yeah, the more integrations we have, there is more of a lot of things, that’s more customers we can talk to, that’s more ways that you can hook up tools in interesting ways, there is also more support, it’s more ways that people can get confused when they sign up for the site, it causes a lot of other interesting things as well that we have to work through from a product standpoint and from trying to figure out the best ways to introduce people to the integrations that they really care about.

Trent:
So up to this point in the story, with hindsight to your benefit, what would you say is the biggest mistake that you made, because being an entrepreneur is really just a series of mistakes and hopefully not anyone of them kills you and get smarter as you keep going? We all know you made lots of mistakes. For the benefit of the audience to try and help them to avoid making mistakes, what would you say is the biggest one that you made so far, at this point in the story?

Wade:
I think probably the biggest one is we had 10 000 people on our sign-up email list, who would express interest in Zapier, which is a fantastic number for a launch list, it’s a nice beefy list to market to and potentially get to use your services once you are ready, however we made the mistake of never emailing them until we launched. Some of those email addresses were six months, nine months old before they ever heard from us.

As a result it was pretty stale, we got pretty poor open rates, pretty poor click-through rates, we got some people there, we got some conversions, simply because of the size of the list, but it was not nearly as effective as it could have been, had we been nurturing that list on an ongoing basis and staying in touch of them. If I could rewind the clock, I would have made sure that we would have at least written an email to those folks once a month at minimum.

Trent:
Yeah man, “Hey, this is what we accomplished in the last month, thanks for being interested in Zapier.”

Wade:
Yeah,I think the reason we didn’t do that, I think we just kind of got scared, someone in tech and I’m not a huge fan of getting a lot of marketing and promotional emails and things like that, so we just kind of talked ourselves out of doing it, when in reality the worst thing could have happened is someone said: “Hey I am just not interested in this anymore”. At least the ones that were, would have remembered who we are.

Trent:
Exactly, I think the mistake you made, you made their decision for them instead of letting them make it.

Wade:
Exactly.

Trent:
Because there’s and unsubscribe button and they can click it any time they want. This phase in the story, this is middle 2012?

Wade:
Late 2012.

Trent:
Late 2012, what was the next big thing that happened?

Wade:
From here the path is kind of laid out for us, at least in the short term. We know that we need to get integrations, we know that we need more users, so a lot of the things that we spent our time on doing was: how can we get more integrations on board and how could we get more people to sign up.

There’s nothing really special or fantastic about this, we didn’t have a crazy press event, some epic milestone that send lots and lots of people our way, it’s just a bunch of daily commitments to do, work on new integrations and work with our partners to continually get education and resources out there. Over time our traffic grew from smaller amounts to much, much larger amounts and our conversion rates increased and just kind of spent a lot of this stuff that you have to do on a daily basis to run a web business, just optimizing those bets.

Trent:
How many people were on the team at his point in time?

Wade:
We had four when we hired the support person and we were pretty meticulous about when we brought new people on, we brought someone in December of 2012, we brought someone on in March of 2013 and we brought someone on in August of 2013. As we felt needs, we’re spending a lot of time spending doing X, we could bring on a person who’s full time job could be X. That’s how we really thought about it, it was just a series of how can I fire myself from this thing that I am doing that is maybe a little more structured than some other task that I need to go figure out next.

Trent:
Absolutely, so no great landslide events, just steady digging in the dishes every day, coming up with a routine, executing the routine, finding people to fill the void where you need them. Have we pretty much come to the end of the story?

Wade:
There’s a lot of things that we ended up doing differently, like for instance early on we had to decide are we going to be a co-located team or distributed team, we’re a distributed team, so that was a big decision we made.

Trent:
Let’s talk about that one for a bit because a lot of people are faced with that decision. Why did you choose to go distributed vs. co-lo?

Wade:
Mike, my co-founder, when we finished YC, moved back to Missouri because he had a longtime girlfriend that was still in school there and wanted to be close to her. It was a decision made for us, we could have kicked him out of the company but that wasn’t really a decision, which was not an option in our minds truthfully. It was made up for us, he’s going to be distributed why not other people, so when we started hiring folks, we just didn’t pay attention to location.

We learned some lessons along the ways on how we do communication, how we do hiring, how you structure meetings and things like that, for a distributed team. We spent a lot of time just thinking about, not just how we build a product but how we build a company, a team and things like that.

Trent:
With hindsight to your benefit, do you think there was any downside to going distributed vs. co-lo?

Wade:
Sure, I think there are downsides; I do think the upsides far outweigh the downsides. The downside of course is when you’re in-person some tasks is a lot easier, like brainstorming tasks can be lot easier, sketching out product features and things like that can be a lot easier in person. Fortunately things like brainstorming are less important when you have a roadmap in front of you, you spend 10% of time brainstorming and 90% of your time just executing on that thing.

One of the things that we do to try and mitigate that downside is every six months or so, twice a year, we fly everyone out to a location somewhere, usually in the United States and get together for a week and brainstorm on some of those things, work on the product together, mostly just enjoying each other’s company because we don’t get to see each other except for those two times during the year.

Trent:
So it sounds like that there are maybe seven or eight people on the team at this point?

Wade:
We’re actually at thirteen now.

Trent:
Thirteen, and are you at a point where the cash coming in pays all the bills?

Wade:
Yeah, pretty much so. We mostly re-invest all of our profits into the company, so we are at about net zero every month, but revenue pays the bills.

Trent:
That’s a nice place to be. I’m curious what percentage of the 1.2 million got spent, before you were able to achieve cash flow or break even?

Wade:
Not much honestly.

Trent:
Wow, that’s nice.

Wade:
Yeah.

Trent:
It is and it isn’t because in hindsight you think why did we take all that money, we could have owned the whole thing; however I’m sure you would attest the benefits of the relationship that probably came along with that money, were they substantial?

Wade:
Absolutely, we still work with our partners, our investors on a monthly basis. I make contact with them usually more frequent than that with at least with one of them. You know with help of a partner, with help on a situation around this, just to get their advice and their feedback because these are smart people, been there done that before. They may not know our exact situation, but they can at least provide insight on how they have seen it happen elsewhere.

Trent:
Having a venture capitalist as an investor, I have in my travels read all sorts of good and all sorts of bad. What do you think the best and worst parts of having a VC in the bed is?

Wade:
There are a lot of good things, one is you get access to their portfolio companies, which can be important for us.

It’s great because you’re integrating with a lot of portfolio companies, you get to learn from their experiences, their access is really pretty, pretty, broad, you get access to a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t get access to, which is fantastic for when you have problems, you trying to learn about something, you’re trying to meet with customers, meet with partners, you can short cut a lot of that stuff.

The downside is that you’ve got someone now that’s not you, that you got to work with, I guess. It’s easier to make decisions when it’s just you, just make a decision and go, but it’s nice at times too to have outside sparring partner as well, it’s kind of good and bad on both sides of the table. Somebody give you a gut check, play devil’s advocate, things like that. The downside of course is you give up equity and some of your company but for the most part it’s worth it if you’re thinking about building a high growth tech company.

Trent:
And as long as you’re meeting their expectations I’m sure they’re actually quite pleasant to have, it’s when you fail to meet their expectations that it’s not so much fun.

Wade:
Sure and you know they are used to it, their business model’s is that 1 out of 10 is going to get ahead, most of the time your company’s not meeting the expectations they have, hopefully if you’re working with someone good, especially in the venture community, they’re going to help you work through a lot of those issues.

Trent:
What do you think your next hire is going to be?

Wade:
We’re actually hiring right now for a *inaudible* partner marketing, someone to really help work with our 300 plus SaaS companies to get education, help promote the partners, help promote Zapier and just do a lot of content creation to teach people of all the awesome stuff they can do at Zapier.

Trent:
What would the compensation look like for them because I’m sure there’s a few people listening to this that might think, “Hey I’m interested in that?”

Wade:
We pay very competitive salaries, depending on your experience, how long you’ve been in part; it will probably be able to meet your needs.

Trent:
And do they get equity?

Wade:
Yeah, equity is on the table as well.

Trent:
Interesting, ok, what have I not asked about that you think that we should cover before we wind up the interview?

Wade:
You’ve covered a lot of the nooks and crannies of Zapier, I’m sure we could go deeper on specific topics or marketing tactics and things like that but that could be an entire different chat.

Trent:
All right Wade I want to thank you very much for making some time to be on the show and chat with me. I found it very, very interesting and I hope that you have enjoyed yourself.

Wade:
Yeah, thanks for having me Trent, this was a blast.

Trent:
No problem at all, take care.

Wade:
You too.

Trent:
Alright, to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/151 and if you really enjoyed this episode and would like to help me spread the word, you could very easily do that at BrightIdeas.co/love and I thank you in advance for doing that. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, it’s been my pleasure to have you come back for another episode of this show and I look forward having you back for another one soon.

Take care and have a good day, bye bye.

About Wade Foster

Wade is co-founder and CEO of Zapier. His work has been featured on sites like WSJ, Forbes, Mixergy and TheNextWeb.

 

 

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Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters welcome to episode number 150 of the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you are looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, increase conversions and ultimately increase your profits, well my friends you are in the right place. The way that we do that is we bring proven experts on to the show to share with us exactly the tactics and strategies that they used to become successful.

So if you would love to get a similar result to somebody else and you would love to look over their shoulder and see how they did it, well guess what, just listen to the episode and that is exactly what is going to happen.

In this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Ashley Jacobs and she works for a company called Wise Bread which is a personal finance blog. A very popular one. And for the last three years she has been in charge of; among other things, their tweet chats.

And I have never done an interview with anyone on a tweet chat before as a matter of fact I have never participated in nor have I ever hosted a tweet chat although now I am thinking I should take a stab at it and in this episode we are going to talk about tweet chats.

First of all if you don’t know what it is we’re going to explain it. We’re going to talk about why you might want to do it, we are going to talk about how to plan it and do all the coordination, we are going to talk about the benefits of doing it.
We are going to talk about using a very specific and unique hash tag and pretty much everything you need to know to get started on the road of either participating in or hosting your own tweet chat.
So before we welcome Ashley to the show; short announcement as always, I get a lot of emails from people saying

“Trent, what do you recommend for managing Twitter or doing social media promotion or hosting video or doing landing pages” or any of the other things that I do as a part of running my online businesses.
And you get a list of everything that use and recommend at GrabTrentsBonus.com. And as that name would suggest if you choose to use any of those affiliate links to buy other people’s stuff of course they’ll send me a little bit of a commission for directing you to them and my way of expressing my thank you to you is to offer you a bonus.

When you go to GrabTrentsBonus.com you’ll be able to see all the instructions, if you click an affiliate link to send your receipt according to those instructions. And once it’s been confirmed that you did use our affiliate link

I will give you a choice of a couple of bonuses to choose from.

Pretty cool huh? Or I hope you think that is cool.

So with that said please join me in welcoming Ashley to the show.

Hey Ashley, welcome to the show.

Ashley:
Thank you so much for having me Trent I am really excited to be here.

Trent:
Yeah, no problem, I am pretty thrilled to have you here as well because I have never yet done an interview to talk about a tweet chat and found you online, I don’t even remember where. Maybe you remember because I know I contacted you after reading the article but that escapes me just for the moment.

Ashley:
Yeah you actually contacted me through Twitter.

Trent:
Imagine that

Ashley:
It is fitting

Trent:
Absolutely, you know a lot of people ask me, “Trent, how do you get all of these guests on your show?” And I say, “Well I just send them a Tweet most often.”

So for the folks who don’t have any idea yet of who you are, before we dive into everything that we are going to talk about all things Twitter chats, maybe just take a moment and introduce yourself to my audience with a who you are and what you do.

Ashley:
Of course, like you said my name is Ashley Jacobs and I work for a personal finance blog called WiseBread and we are basically a frugal living blog so we teach people how to save money on everything and anything that they end up spending on in their day to day lives.

We cover various personal finance topics on top of that such as investing, retirement, insurance, you name it, we cover it. My primary thing that I do for WiseBread is tweet chats so that is kind of my bread and butter. I do a lot of marketing for them and some sales but I’ve been running their tweet chats for about three years now.

My favourite part job, I constantly tell my boss, do not take those chats away from me if you assign me new tasks to do for WiseBread because I love doing them and if you take them away will quit and I will be very disappointed so yeah; the tweet chats are what I am known for.

Trent:
Alright folks so listen up because you’ve got a tweet chat expert on the podcast here. Anyone who has been doing one thing for three years obviously knows what the heck they are doing.
With that said, for those people who may not be familiar with the tweet chat, let’s start there, what is a tweet chat?

Ashley:
Basically a tweet chat is a live chat on Twitter where people can discuss certain topics in real time. They typically utilise a particular hash tag so that people can keep track of the discussion and they are just kind of a way for brands and blogs, journalists, major companies and consumer to come together to discuss and learn about various topics.

Trent:
Alright and so are they particularly good for engagement, are they particularly good for audience building, is there any one area where you think that they are better than others?

Ashley:
Engagement, definitely they are a great way for companies or blogs to reach out to their readers or consumers or customers/clients and have that interaction in real time with them. They’re fantastic for engagement.

In a lot of social media you post something, it is in real time but you are not getting instant back and forth interaction whereas with the tweet chat people know that you are going to be on and know that you are chatting with them and it increases the ability to engage with your clients and readers in real time.

Trent:
Okay so why should someone host a tweet chat? For example with WiseBread; is there certain objectives that you are trying to accomplish when you host your tweet chats?

Ashley:
Yeah, our primary objective with our chats at WiseBread is to help educate people on various financial topics. This week we have a chat on with Experian on credit tips for new graduates. We’ve done chats on things like how to save on your food bill, how to save on gas, is it better to buy or lease a home.

On our end it is more of a way to help educate people and increase their knowledge level on different topics. Doing that, it kind of establishes whoever the host is as an expert in a particular field because if you’re hosting these chats and you’re sharing knowledge and engaging and giving people new insights and tips and tricks and advice that they may not yet have known about.

It definitely establishes you as a go to Twitter handler site or company for people to go to get educated and increase their knowledge base. Another benefit like I said it also gives you a way to interact with your readers and customers and build more customer relationships with them.

For example I’m trying to decided whether or not to shop at Coles or Target and just participated in a tweet chat with Target I am probably going to be more inclined to shop at target because I have developed some sort of relationship with their social media channels.

And have that one on one personal relationship with them as opposed to a business that I have never had that interaction with.

It also kind of enables you to build relationships with other companies or bloggers or journalists through cross promotion which is really important I feel in today’s world and having other companies, brands and blogs and journalist know who you are to get the word out about you.

Trent:
That actually is a great Segway to the next theme of this interview. I want to talk; for people who have never done this before let’s go through the steps that you would need to coordinate your own successful tweet chat. So let me just put a couple of questions up so you got context for the answer. If you don’t have a big following is that a problem?

What should you do to prepare? Who do you invite and how do you invite them? Talk about creating a hash tag. And that is probably enough to keep you talking for a while.

Ashley:
So if you don’t have a big following, probably the best thing that you can do to get started is attend other people’s tweet chats to get yourself out there and engaging with people who do enjoy going to chats and do enjoy having the ability to get that knowledge that they are looking for in real time.

To find these chats there are a few different ways that you can go about doing that. One of the easy ways, something that I do for everything in my life that I question about is Google it. Get on Google and search for chats in your area of interest and that tends to be a good way to find chats that are going to help you find your target audience.

Another thing that you can do is once you have found a chat that you like you can follow people that attended that chat because frequently people who attend one chat tend to go to a lot of different chats.

That is kind of another way that you can find other chats to help build your audience up. Another thing you can do is check the United States trends list on Twitter; frequently you’ll find hash tags on there that correlate with different chats.

And that is just another way to discover new chats and start participating to increase the amount of followers that you have and increase the potential engagement if you do decide to run your own chat.

Another thing you can do if you don’t have a lot of Twitter followers and you do want to start your own chat is to consider offering prizes. Offering prizes is a great way to get people excited and get them to come to your chats.

At WiseBread we offer at least two $10 Amazon gift cards every week to our chatters and that definitely increases the number of participants that we get.

If we ever have sponsored chats we end up offering upwards of $300 in gift card prizes and this just increases the number of participants. Those are some strategies that you can use to get people to come to your chat and make them aware of it.

Trent:
If you’re going to host your own, do you need special software to do this?

Ashley:
No, actually there is quite a few tools online that you can use to track the chat. The one that I tend to use the most is Tchat.io and basically what you do for that is you just go to the site and you enter the hash tag for the chat.

Typically each chat has its own hash tag to help you keep track of the conversation. A service like Tchat.io will help you monitor that hash tag by inputting the hash tag into the system and then creating a live stream of users who are talking using that hash tag.

I know other blogs and chats use Twabs and there is another one that is called TweetChat.com. There are various tools out there that can help you see the whole discussion of that particular hash tag in real time.

Trent:
Have you guys ever published any blog posts that we should be linking to on how to plan or how to run your own Twitter chat?

Ashley:
That is a good question and we actually have not. I have done interviews on it, I have spoken at a couple of FinCom events on how to create a tweet chat but we have never actually posted anything about how to run your own tweet chat.

Just because the majority of our audience that reads WiseBread are mostly consumers and stay at home moms or people who are looking for information on retirement or personal finance topics.
So they are not necessarily the type of people who are looking for information on how to run their own chat so sadly we don’t have anything quite like that on our site.

Trent:
Well, that is what Google is for.

Ashley:
Exactly, just Google it.

Trent:
I’ve been Googling it as Ashley has been talking and there’s as you might guess no lack of blog posts explaining in detail how to do this stuff.

Next one on my list is what are the top three benefits, in your Experiance, of hosting a tweet chat?

Ashley:
I’d say the top three benefits of hosting, I kind of touched on this a little bit but establishing yourself as an expert in a particular field. If you are running weekly chats on a personal finance topics or whatever your area of expertise is.

And you become that go to Twitter handle to find the information that people are looking for and you are hosting chats on those topics you end up becoming peoples’ expert that they tend to go to when they are looking for information on a particular subject.

It helps to set you apart from the rest of the field in regards to being that site people can go to for information because you’re interacting with them in real time and you are developing that relationship and establishing yourself as an expert in that way.

Again, having the opportunity to interact with your readers and customers builds more personal relationships with them. It is just another benefit, there are so many big companies out there that aren’t necessarily responding to their customers in real time.

It is almost like talking to a logo if you are trying to get a response from major company. So if you are a big company and you are looking for ways to engage with and develop those personal relationships with your clients or your customers this is a good way to do it.

Because your actually taking the time to set aside an hour of your week and talk to them and just have that interaction that they might not normally get with other companies.

The third one; it allows you to build relationships with other companies and bloggers and journalist, just to get your brand out there more. It is basically just a tool to help brand yourself.

Trent:
I went to Tchat.io and I just typed in #inbound marketing and hit the start chatting button. Obviously people are using that particular hash tag all the time, all day. So that isn’t necessarily a tweet chat by the definition we are talking about. Is that correct?

Ashley:
Right, basically; and I guess I will Segway into what goes into choosing a hash tag for a chat. There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you are thinking about starting your own chat. The first thing is you are going to want to make your hash tag original.

Don’t use a hash tag that tons of other people are using for general commentary for example inbound marketing or let’s say if you are hosting a money chat you should probably stay away from using just hash tag money.

Or hash tag finance because there is going to be so many other people using those hash tags just for random conversation or article promotion and it is not necessarily a hash tag that is going to differentiate you from the rest of the conversation.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you are choosing a hash tag you are probably going to want to choose one hash tag and stick with it through all your chats. That way people know exactly which hash tag to look for if they are looking for your chat. If you are constantly changing up your hash tag people are going to have no idea how to find you from week to week.

Or if you are doing it every two weeks, every two weeks or so; it is important to pick one hash tag and stay consistent with it. For example if you are going to be hosting a chat on topics that revolve around technologies. Something like #techchat might be a good option.

I know Experian hosts a weekly chat, they are our company. Their weekly chat hash tag that you can always find them under is #creditchat. Or if you want to make it more about your brand as opposed to the topic that you are planning to talk about you can choose a hash tag that will present your brand.

For example WiseBread uses #wbchat which is just a shortened version of WiseBread chat. There is another site out there called Money Crashers and they do a weekly chat and they use #mcchat which is you know short for Money Crashers Chat.

Those are the things to keep in mind when you are choosing a hash tag and using hash tags to help people track your chats.

Trent:
So the most important thing is make sure nobody else is using that hash tag.

Ashley:
Exactly

Trent:
Okay, I was typing in #bichat BI for bright ideas and sadly, can’t use that one because somebody else is already using that in their thread so I’ll have to come up with something more original.

One of the things that I wanted to go back to was how to find these Twitter chats. Because that was something else that I typed in while you were talking; I was trying to find tweet chats and of course I’m trying to multitask so maybe that is not the best way to do it. But I wasn’t really having any luck.

Are you saying to just go to Google and type in; let’s say that I wanted to find a chat about inbound marketing. Are you saying just type in the phrase inbound marketing tweet chat?

Ashley:
Yeah you could try doing that, inbound marketing is definitely more specific so you may even want to look for just basic marketing chats; just kind of to broaden the horizons. If you can’t find a chat out there that you are looking for, that is probably a great opportunity for you to fill a need in the space that hasn’t already been filled and start a chat on it.

But yeah, using Google to just find chats that you are interested in, if you Googled finance chats you’ll be able to easily find chats that come up; marketing chat, same thing. I know that there is a few different websites that; I believe that they have calendars of when certain chat are happening and when you can find them.
I believe that TweetChat.com is one of those that has a long list of chats that are out there so definitely check that out and see if there’s anything on their calendar that is of interest to you.

Trent:
Okay terrific, that clears it up. I guess the first search that I did was a little too vague but as soon as I took the inbound out and did marketing I found calendars and all sorts of things. So as to anything it comes down to the search phrase that you are using.

Ashley:
Exactly

Trent:
Obviously with Google the details that anyone needs to make one of these happen is readily available to anyone who wants to do a little bit of homework. Before we sign off is there anything that we haven’t talked about that with your three years of Experiance you would say, “Hey don’t do this or make sure you do this.”

Ashley:
Yeah, absolutely, I guess the first thing on my list would be definitely make sure to have fun. These are supposed to be fun, they’re supposed to be interactive and if you are running a chat and you are not having a good time with it, you’re doing something wrong.

So many of our chats like; we are talking about a certain subject but we’ll totally get off topic sometimes. We actually run our chats at noon pacific time so all the west coast chatters are on their lunch breaks and what not.

They’ll start randomly talking about what they are having for lunch and how hungry they are so be willing to kind of go where the direction of the chat is taking you and have fun with it and interact with people.
Another thing to keep in mind is obviously your chat is important for your branding but you don’t want to come across as someone who’s just in it to overly promote themselves and put themselves out there.

So a good way to avoid coming across as super self absorbed is to find other articles or other company recommendations or just whatever it is that you can share from other sites or other journalists or bloggers or companies within the chat to help do some cross promotion and promote other people as opposed to simply promoting yourself and coming off as super spammy.

Being super spammy is not good. Definitely try to avoid that.
And another thing to try to do is if you are planning on doing a chat try to make it at a time where it is convenient for people to attend. So think about your audience, think about when they are going to be available to be on Twitter and participate in your chat.

For example say that you are looking to run a chat where your target audience is single moms. You’re probably not going to want to schedule it for dinner hours when they are trying to get dinner on the table. It is probably better to schedule for times that the kids are in school.
Those are just a few things to keep in mind in regards to do’s and don’ts.

Trent:
Alright and Ashley if people want to be able to reach out to you I imagine Twitter is a pretty good way to do that; what is your Twitter handle?

Ashley:
Yes, our Twitter handle is @wisebread.

Trent:
Okay, Ashley thank you so much for making some time to come here on the show and enlighten me and the audience on what a Twitter chat is and why we might want to consider using one. It has been a pleasure to have you with us.

Ashley:
Oh thank you so much Trent I really appreciate you having me on, this has been wonderful.

Trent:
No problem at all, take care.

Ashley:
You too

Trent:
Alright to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/150 and if you enjoyed this episode and would like to help me spread the word please go to BrightIdeas.co/love.

So that’s it for this episode, I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid thank you so much for tuning in to yet another episode of the Bright Ideas podcast look forward to have you back for another one soon.

Take care. Bye-bye.

About Ashley Jacobs

Ashley Jacobs is the Director of Marketing for Wise Bread. She runs Wise Bread’s weekly tweet chat that frequently trends on Twitter and tweets from the award-winning Twitter handle @wisebread.

 

 

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