Transcript of The Key to Success? Taking Care of Your Community

Transcript of The Key to Success? Taking Care of Your Community written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Who doesn’t love Copyblogger? Really been around since the dawn of the online era. Brian Clark and I have been friends for a really long time and they have certainly set the standard on how to build a business, how to build a brand, how to take care of a community. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I catch up with Brian and we just talk about a whole host of things. Why don’t you sit in and listen with us? You don’t want to miss it.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Brian Clark. He is the CEO of Rainmaker Digital, founder of Copyblogger, host of unemployable and curator of further. Brian thanks for joining me. This is about your third time on at least.

Brian Clark: John, it’s always good to be here. Always good to talk to you.

John Jantsch: Yeah so you’ve got a lot going on in your world always. We always enjoy, I think, we forget there’s an audience listening even sometimes and enjoy just chatting about this online world that we’ve both been in for a long time. Tell me what’s new at Copyblogger and Rainmaker.

Brian Clark: There’s two big developments that have happened in the last six months or so. One was the launch of Studio Press Sites. For those that are familiar with Studio Press, it was pretty much the industry standard for word press things for many, many years powered by the [Janis 00:01:44] framework, which is our design framework that makes word press more powerful and easier to use. That was a company founded by Brian Gardener who is a principle here in Rainmaker Digital. We came together in 2010. That was part of our overall initiative to build what became known as the Rainmaker platform. As a bootstrap company without investors we always have to use cash flow as our development and maintenance funds.

Studio Press was a work horse for many years as we did development of Rainmaker, which was released in 2014 and then a couple years of rapidly trying to iterate that more ambitious marketing automation website email total solution type thing. When we finally came up for air, which was last fall, we started thinking about an idea that we had had for several years which was the idea of a hybrid between an all in one solution like a Square Space or a Wix, but without limiting all the functionality that you can do with word press. It’s a hard thing to do because what makes word press so powerful is just being able to use any plug-in, any theme, mix and match, put it together your own way.

Of course, as an open source project when you start mixing all these elements together from different sources, you have possible compatibility issues, you have security issues, you’ve got ease of use, who can you trust, who do you go for support, all that kind of stuff. That’s what we tried to solve with Studio Press Sites which is a little up market of say a Blue Host or an entry level thousand on a box type very inexpensive solution. Still, nowhere near the higher pricing that you would see. That rolled out at the very beginning of February. We’ve been thrilled with the reception level while we’re taking in all the feedback and improving and trying to do the same thing there with rapidly making that more in line with what we’re hearing from our customers, which has been pretty good.

There’s that side of things. That was our chance to revitalize Studio Press. The brand was always so important to us, but just again, by the nature of being a small bootstrap company even though we made it to eight figures in the last couple years, you know how it is when you’re running a small business you choose your priorities and you focus. At least that’s what we do and that’s the only way we’ve been able to make things work. That was a revisiting of Studio Press, which we’re really excited about.

On the Rainmaker side we evolved the platform. It’s kind of like Hub Spot if you will. That’s the easiest way for people to understand what it is. It was designed to be more accessible and more affordable because we started with word press and then we tricked it out heavily just as we do for our own sites. We got to thousands of customers and millions in recurring revenue. We started seeing the writing on the wall, I’d say at least a year ago where, again, you’ve got to listen to your customers. If there’s frustration, if there is something standing in the way of your customer’s success, even if it’s their own staffing, it’s their own skill levels, anything, ultimately it becomes your fault. Right? If you don’t solve the customer’s problem and provide a mechanism for success. We saw people, they were just running into roadblocks whether it be content development, design, any myriad of subset of that SEO, which of course you’re having a nice focus on custom development. All of that kind of stuff we realized we needed to do that, even though from the beginning that wasn’t really what we aspired to do. We weren’t trying to have a client type business. It was always at the customer level.

The thing we found with that model, to make it affordable and easy to use, you spend an incredible amount of time on onboarding, documentation, just trying to figure out every possible way to keep a paying customer on track and successful. I think we did a pretty good job at that, but when you spend all your time on that type of stuff, not all of it but a substantial part, that’s just taking away from development of new features. Again, even beyond that it was still take my credit card. Why can’t you just make me the content? Why can’t you do design for me? Why can’t you just set this up for me? It was amazing how much of that we got.

John Jantsch: You and I talked about this a couple times I think probably about a year ago. I think that’s always gonna be a challenge in there are 700 million variables and how you plan for every one that every person wants. Right? Everybody wants their thing. In the end, like you said, everybody really just wants somebody to do it for them. Rainmaker, I think, at the outset was incredibly ambitious. What’s the right term? You’ve enhanced it? Is that the right term?

Brian Clark: I think what we’ve done is listened to the market. It’s going to be a little bit upstream, not enterprise level, but certainly more than 150 bucks a month just for the platform. We’re gonna create just more bundled solutions as well as a la carte services. We had started that, and again you’re right, you and I had a conversation because of course you have this network of talented consultants and our friend Michael Port same thing. There’s some congruency here. Of course, that’s what Hub Spots model was and other similar platforms, they rely almost 100% on agency reseller arrangements. Right? They’re the point of contact for the sale, but they’re also doing the substance of work for them as well. We had to consider are we gonna be a me too, again, we didn’t take 100 million bucks like Hub Spot and we’re not trying to go public, so for us it made sense to why don’t we make power house hybrid agency where you have technology solutions, website, email, marketing automation, but also the creative services that back that up. Everything from strategy design, SEO, and whatnot.

Really when you think about it, I have two Rainmaker sites. I wouldn’t go back to word press if you paid me. Just the interface alone of word press scares me sometimes because I’m spoiled now with what we did with Rainmaker. I’ve never had an issue. Here’s the difference, my Rainmaker sites were set up for me by someone on the team, my designs were done by [Raphal 00:09:15]. You know? It was seamless. I don’t ever have a problem. I just go in there and I post my content and I do what I need to do. I send my emails. It’s wonderful. I can imagine if I had to start from scratch, even with all the onboarding work we did, even with all the extensive documentation and videos and everything, for me, I’d be like just do this for me. My time is more important than my money. Right? Now imagine you’ve got someone in a similar position to me, but they haven’t been doing content marketing for 20 years. They need a whole lot more help than even I need. That’s just the reality of where we’re at.

John Jantsch: Well and I think the other thing that a lot of people really neglect to is I find increasingly we used to live in a world where you could go get somebody to design your website and then you could get a content producer to help you produce content and then you could get an SEO person to SEO it all. I think we increasingly live in a world, a business and marketing world, where all that stuff has to be done together. Developing your website is strategy now and developing your content is strategy and developing your SEO is strategy.

Brian Clark: Right. We’ve been preaching that for awhile. You have. I know [Lee Odin 00:10:33] wrote a whole book about it. It is true. It is one thing. I think people are coming around to understanding that. That’s one aspect of it. Then also look at where we’re going with consumers and prospects are expecting personalized experiences as long as you don’t creep them out with your automation and whatnot. That’s just adds another layer of complexity. Within the strategy, it’s not just content and SEO and design, it’s entire choose your own adventure sequences of if then, then that so that you’re creating, not only from a conversion standpoint, but from their perspective, their experience of this is perfect, this is for me, without them ever knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s when you pull back the curtain on the wizard that people get creeped out by automation technology. Right? That takes skill and that takes strategy. That’s a whole new brave world. I don’t think there’s that many people on the planet who can say they’re really good at that. But that’s where we’re going.

John Jantsch: What’s gonna be the role, I’m gonna go down a whole path I didn’t know I was gonna go down here, but what’s gonna be the role of AI in all of that?

Brian Clark: That’s the interesting question. That was another thing that kept me up at night. Again, we’re a successful, profitable company, but we don’t have a war chest. We don’t have investors. I started thinking we may be on the cusp of seeing the website radically, what’s the word here, just when you think about it, websites have changed a lot in the last 20 years, mainly by content not by structure. We’ve had the same metaphors for navigation, organization, some better than others, user experience interface, but if you look at how people use chat bots and if that experience can get to true AI, and plus machine learning on the fly, that is the first chance I think we’ll have where we see the website that’s been with us since the nineties essentially radically reinvent. You’re still gonna need content, you’re still gonna need design, everything, but you could get caught flat footed as a CEO of a company like mine if that change happens before we could adapt to it. Then all of a sudden we find ourself losing customers, not making new sales because we just couldn’t move fast enough.

Now, I am encouraged because everything from chat bots to AI to even some machine learning stuff, is being developed so that it can be plug and play. That’s encouraging. You start with your core platform and then you have something like [inaudible 00:13:27] for integrations and then we should be able to do anything. It still return to me that desire for it to be done for them, then again, my own experience, would I take the time to do all this myself. That doesn’t make sense to a person in my position right now. If you’re just starting out and you don’t need all the bells and whistles, hey we got Studio Press for that. But eventually people who are successful, I think, are gonna have to look long and hard about what is the next level of experiential marketing and personalization that people are gonna start expecting because the leading edge companies are gonna start doing it and then it’s gonna start becoming expected. To answer your question on that, as far as timing, I don’t know. What do you think about that John? How fast do you think the potential for change is happening given the rapid acceleration in AI technology?

John Jantsch: I think it’s gonna be like a lot of things. Remember how long we talked about mobile is coming?

Brian Clark: I made that comment just today. Every year since ’98 was the year of mobile and it didn’t really happen until the iPhone 2007.

John Jantsch: I feel like AI is gonna be the same way. Everybody’s talking about it, they’re seeing like demonstrations of it, people are experience good and bad of it, but when it becomes behavior that dictates … It’s like unseen. It just dictates, you expect it, to me that’s a few years off. There’s so many forces, I think, that are driving at that. Everybody’s developing this stuff, Facebook’s embracing it. Then you’ve got Google. Google still today, whether it’s gonna go away or not, who knows, but I think still today drives a great deal of how websites are positioned, how websites are designed. I think they want to keep everything. Now to find a local business, quite often we don’t need their website. Their website has to inform Google. It has to tell Google what the phone number is and what the address is and what the hours are, but there’s a lot of consumers today that click three times inside of Google and find themselves out of business and never went to that person’s website. I think Google holds a lot of the reigns on what role a website actually plays for a business.

Brian Clark: That’s a good point. To think that there are still millions of websites out there that are effectively brochures. They missed the entire last 10 years of the content revolution. Things to move slower than those of us who [inaudible 00:16:11] worrying about what the next level of change is, and yet I was afraid that that type of thinking might put me in a complacency a little bit. No matter what happens, I think our new model in which we’re effectively taking the Rainmaker portion of the business, you know we’re a multi-product line company, and forming a new entity that is merging with an existing agency. One thing that we did not feel like we were gonna try to do on our own was try to start an agency from scratch. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at all.

We’ve done a lot of work on the technology side and that was a valuable asset that allowed us to remain the majority partner in this new effort, but really all we’re doing is responding to what we’re hearing, what people want, and then also being able to be in a position to where if things do radically change with AI concepts, that’s so much easier to deal with on a custom development level than it is from trying to make something one size fits all. Can you imagine the onboarding process when you have to start programming in? Effectively you’re trying to create a person. They’ve got chat bots off the shelf, but you’re gonna have to personalize that even further. It’s interesting times John. I’ll tell you.

John Jantsch: Hey thanks for listening to the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Are you an independent marketing consultant or an agency owner? You might want to check out the Duct Tape Marketing consultant network. It is a growing group of independent marketing consultants and agencies that are partnering and collaborating and using the Duct Tape Marketing tools and really scaling their business. Check it out at

Is the new venture live and online or is it still in beta? This is June of 2017 when we’re having this conversation. Is it ready to roll?

Brian Clark: Yeah. We’ve been moving pretty fast, but not that fast. Basically we announced what we were doing in May. As we’re recording this the platform, as it’s currently sold as online [SAS 00:18:30] where you do a free trial and then you put in your credit card and then you buy, that’s coming off the market in a couple days. That was the next necessary step. From there, I would say around August 1 would be a target date for when we start rolling things out. We do have a substantial customer base that we’re gonna to first. You know, what can we do for you? Some of you have definitely been asking. That will be a way to roll it out behind the scenes. Then of course, basically it becomes agency record for Copyblogger. Beyond that, you know how it is, you just have to see what the reaction is, see what the further demand is, and tweak and go from there.

John Jantsch: Let’s change gears a little bit here. I like asking people this question because you and I have been doing this for a long time, blogging seems easy to us, but if somebody’s starting out today what would you tell them, and they wanted to build an online business or they wanted to build a brand, what advice would you give somebody starting out right now? Where should they focus?

Brian Clark: I came back to writing on Copyblogger this year after really being neck deep in development and other I guess you would call traditional CEO stuff and I got away from writing as much, so when I came back at the beginning of the year I had already decided that the thing people need to start with that most people don’t, even at the [b to b 00:20:14] content marketing level, these are high powered companies with big ticket prices and they have no documented strategy whatsoever. Right? Only 34% according to Content Marketing Institute take the time to document their strategy, what they’re trying to accomplish, which is insane. Now think about the average blogger and why thousands of blogs are started probably every week and a fraction of those ever stick around or succeed. I think it’s for the same reason, which is you got an idea for a topic, maybe it’s something you’re passionate about, that gets you going, but that’s not gonna sustain you number one, and number two, you’re not really gonna be mindful of attracting the right kind of audience. The right kind of audience has to match what your actual goal is. Are you selling products, services, advertising sponsorships? You have to have a general idea of what you’re trying to accomplish.

I started trying to document the process I use and really all of us use inside the company when we were launching something new. The only caveat to that I’ll say for a lot of stuff with our existing audiences, I’ve been with them for a decade so the most important part of strategy is knowing who you’re talking to. Right? You know that. I have a good feel. I’ve got a good relationship with this audience. It gets easier. If you’re just starting out, you’ve got to sit down and figure out why am I doing this, who am I trying to reach, my important point on that is choose your audience according to your own core values instead of trying to put out content that offends no one. You’ll just get ignored. Right? It’s almost like these days if someone doesn’t dislike you then no one likes you. You’re trying to engage heavily with some people. You’re never gonna please everyone. Number one mistake people make. They don’t want to offend anyone. They don’t want to get trolled. It’s gonna happen. You’ve got to just deal with it.

You’ve got to know what type of information this people need. What kind of journey do they need to go on in order to feel like they’ve been helped by me? They’re the hero of their own journey, but you become a hero to them by helping them out. Right? Then what’s the order of that information? Then finally, it’s how do you say it, which I think a lot of new bloggers come … They want to be writers. Maybe they are accomplished writers with a great style and voice, and yet they’re writing for themselves and not necessarily in a language and the terminology of the audience. That’s fine. If you just want to start a blog and express yourself, great. But if you are trying to make a commercial venture out of something or promote an existing business, you really need to sit down and come up with a documented strategic plan.

John Jantsch: Alright so last question. What are you most excited about right now? What’s going on out there in the world or in your world that you’re most excited about right now?

Brian Clark: Well for the last four months since we launched, I guess it’s a little over four months now, launching Studio Press Sites. I’ve been really into that because we tried to create something that was unique, that filled a market need that we kept hearing needed to be filled. I’ve been jazzed about that, which is interesting because, again, I think some people thought we were just taking Studio Press for granted. That wasn’t the truth at all. I was excited to get back to that. We’ve been experimenting with what’s gonna work. Right? You watch the conversion rates go up. That to me is just the old school reason I started Copyblogger in the first place, which is the thrill of using words and content that provide value in order to get people to buy stuff. Still to this day never bores me. I’m not jaded yet.

On the other hand, I haven’t done client based marketing since 2005 when I swore I’d never do it again. What I swore is I’d never personally serve the clients again. In my role on the new side of Rainmaker I am evangelist and trainer as opposed to the guy who does the work. I’m excited about that because this is really a new animal for us. We’ve been a multiple … We’ve launched I don’t know how many things over the last 11 years. They’ve all succeeded. That’s been all great, but this is a different animal and I think there’s a need for it. It’s also a personal challenge. That’s what keeps me going each year, John. It’s like what can we do new and different that’s gonna excite me instead of that feeling where I got to go to work? I never want to have that feeling. That’s, I guess, what drives me.

John Jantsch: Yeah. There’s no question the need for what you’re talking about immense and growing every day. I think that where you have a really interesting spot is there are a lot of people out there that have the expertise and the partnerships and the services, but your technology platform, I think, is gonna be in a way an interesting test of if that gives you a leg up or not.

Brian Clark: It has been interesting and it did influence my thinking. We get pitched by vendors all the time for various things. We had a company that had developed technology that made Q and A testing, a SAS platforms more efficient. It’s software with a service. That’s where you’re seeing the market evolved to. Stand alone SAS, unless it’s for a very simple repetitive task, say something like buffer or [inaudible 00:26:15] those are great SAS’s because anyone can just sign up for it. It’s not that hard. Figure it out. It makes your life easier on a repetitive task. Once you get a little bit more complicated than that … Okay. Let me put it this way. The hard part, despite all the technology advancements that we’re seeing and continue to see, the hard part is the content itself. There you have it.

John Jantsch: Biggest source of stress for business owners today I think. Absolutely. Well Brian it’s always great to catch up with you. Congratulations on the new ventures and hopefully we’ll see you soon somewhere in Colorado.

Brian Clark: Absolutely. I would love to see you in October. See if we can work that out.

John Jantsch: Hey thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. I wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you leave an honest review? Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise I read each and every one. Thanks.

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Transcript of How National Companies Can Infiltrate Local Markets

Transcript of How National Companies Can Infiltrate Local Markets written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: For national companies trying to infiltrate the local market the community organizations may be the best and last frontier. On this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Megan Hannay. She is the co-founder and CEO of ZipSprout dot com that is doing a very innovative take on helping organizations wherever they are matched with local nonprofit and community organizations as a way to create marketing partnerships, a very, very innovative approach, check it out. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Megan Hannay. She is the co-founder and CEO of ZipSprout dot com. Megan, thanks for joining us.

Megan Hannay: Yeah, thank you for having me. You got my last name right on the first try, which not everyone does. That’s many points for you.

John: Years of doing this, this was an easy one.

Megan: Awesome.

John: Right off the bat, tell us what ZipSprout is.

Megan: Sure, we are an agency although we have some tech components as well. We work to match our clients who are businesses, sometimes they’re local regional businesses and sometimes they’re national brands or international brands. We connect them with local sponsorship opportunities in cities across the US and Canada. We help match them with non profits, events and associations that they can sponsor and reap marketing benefits on the local end.

John: I want to get into the process, you know exactly how that works because I think it’s a pretty innovative approach to marketing or calling yourself an agency. I’m curious, what was the genesis of the idea? Were you sitting around one day saying what’s kind of a cool new innovative way we can actually go to market? Was there a non profit that you did this for and went, hey this is an idea?

Megan: Yeah, actually the impetus for ZipSprout came from the agency side. I was working for ZipSprout’s parent company which is a company called Citation Labs. We were doing local sponsorships as a marketing effort for a client. Basically we just had this idea for a client like hey, what if you did local sponsorships in some cities that you’re trying to get attention in. I took on that project. It was so interesting. We started in San Diego and just speaking to all the local organizations in San Diego and how eager so many people were, I felt like yeah, I’ll take a business sponsor, hey I’ll work with you.

People were very eager, they were very flexible and they were just fun to work with. I worked with [Garret French 00:03:04] who is the CEO of Citation Labs and we were like this could be a lot bigger. That was December of 2015, November, December and around March of 2016 we hired a few people to help build out ZipSprout to do more cities so it would available for more clients and it’s just been growth since then. Yeah, it started as a project that we realized once we got into it, there was so much more in that space and no one was really doing quite what we were doing that we could find. We just got excited about it.

John: I have actually written about this as a marketing tactic in my first two books. Not obviously the platform that you built but just this idea of the implied referral of getting involved with a community organization and the fact that you run a special and promote that non profit, they have a real, great motivation to promote you and your products to their boards and volunteers and donors. Not in a way that’s taking advantage of look at me, I’m doing good work, it’s just such a great kind of win win.

Megan: Yeah, actually the thing is like you said I don’t think the idea of doing sponsorships is a new idea at all. I can’t take credit for that. I think a lot of times when especially larger companies try to do local sponsorships it just becomes difficult when they’re trying to scale it. There’s so many organizations to get in touch with and so many details to worry about that I think sometimes even the companies that are doing it don’t always do it the best way or don’t really find great ways to work with local organizations. I agree, I think it can be a way that’s a win win for both the local organization and the business as well. It’s definitely not a way of trying to take advantage of local organizations. We talked to a lot of organizations that are actually very eager for business sponsors especially because for them it’s just another way to earn revenue, to help do local good.

John: I always found because I used to do this with all of my clients, I always found that the best sponsorships were really partnerships. That it wasn’t just like here’s somebody we can give some money to and put our name on. It was like how can we help their mission, how can we get involved in their events, how can we create volunteer opportunities. Are you able in a sort of platform approach if you will, are you able to kind of really go deep enough to know who the two players are that you’re partnering?

Megan: Yeah, it really depends on the client. We’ve done things that are more big picture with some clients. Then we have some clients that really want to go more detailed like you’re talking about. We’re working with one client, it hasn’t launched yet so I can’t mention the client but they’re opening, they’re doing some grand opening of stores in a couple of towns, it’s actually reopening. The store closed and it’s now reopening. They wanted to build a lot of buzz around it. In their grand reopenings they wanted to give some of the profit from this event, the grand reopening event to a local non profit. In our work to find them local sponsorships we also looked for a particular local non profit in the very close area of some of these stores that really matched with their target demographics and really would be just a great recipient of these funds.

We’re kind of building that relationship for them in addition to finding some regular sponsorship opportunities. It’s worked out really well. For them, it’s like a lot of these stores, they’re brick and mortar stores so they do get people coming in a lot saying hey, will you sponsor our organization. It’s not like they don’t have anyone to sponsor. For them it’s often because they’re getting people coming to them, they don’t see the whole big picture of the community. There might be some great organizations who just aren’t thinking of coming to them, who might be right down the street who they may never have heard of and not know to donate to. We’re kind of able to get that big picture look and say hey, these guys over here are actually just a perfect match for you.

John: Do you have, I’m going to call them local scouts in some fashion in those cities? Non profit landscape is sort of a political landmine and you kind of have to know who’s who and what’s what. How do you kind of figure out the lay of the land in a local community?

Megan: Sure, yeah well we’re getting there. I would definitely say that’s true. We found that every city has it’s own personality when it comes to organizations. We’re all based out of one area. The team is all based out of Raleigh Durham, North Carolina where I am. We have match makers. The team of match makers, basically their job every month or every few months, a match maker takes on a new location and does just kind of outreach to as many local organizations as we can find in that location.

We do emails. We do phone calls. With all of our matches we establish a relationship ourselves before we match them with a client. We’re getting in touch with organizations. We’re talking to them about sponsorships and what kind of sponsorships they have and would they be interested in working with this particular client, if all is good then we match them. We don’t have on the ground people yet. It’s something that Garrett and I have talked about and we’re like it would be so cool to have a person in each city. I also as a manager of a team, as a head of a company I love having all of my team members where I can meet with them frequently. I think that’s just a really important part of being co workers and on a team is that you’re getting some face time with each other. That’s the direction that we went in.

John: Maybe explain the whole process in a kind of a succinct way then. Let’s say I come to you and I say I’m opening three stores in these towns. We think that partnering with some folks locally would be a good thing to do, help us out.

Megan: Sure, so yeah first of all we would kind of spend a lot of time talking to you. What are the people that you want to get into your store? What is your target group that you’re trying to reach? What are some of your interests as a company? Do you already have, some companies already have passion areas where they do a lot of giving already for certain causes. If a company has those we’re like hey, let’s build that up, let’s pursue that, let’s make that bigger but locally and find some organizations that are tied to that cause. Once we know exactly what you’re looking for and also the benefits of sponsorship that you’re looking for, some companies want a lot of in person things. Some companies want just more digital sponsorships.

Once we know all that information, that’s when we do our research. We go into a city. We look for as many local organizations as we can find, we often just use Google saying okay, who’s here. Then we outreach to like I said, everyone that we can find in that local city. We will place a phone call, we’ll send an email, getting in touch with these local organizations and then talk to a lot of people. The match makers talk to dozens of people a day, just finding out who the local organizations are in a particular city.

Then based on what our particular client is looking for in that area, they put some of them in a list that we present to the client and say hey, these are the organizations of all the ones that we talked to that we really think are the best fit for you. This is the sponsorship that we really think that you should do.  Then the client looks it over, they say yeah, this one looks good, this one looks good, maybe not this one so much. Then we go back and facilitate the sponsorship and tell the organization hey, this company wants to sponsor you and make sure it happens from there.

John: Where do you find that this type of tactic fits into the marketing mix? Do you have agencies coming to you? Do you have the PR department of an organization coming to you? Where do people kind of put this?

Megan: Yeah so we started out in the local search space. I think a lot of times it will be at the beginning especially it’s people that are in the [SEO 00:11:13] space that are coming to us that are like you can help us really get recognition in the local area for our search traffic.

John: That might lead to local back links or something.

Megan: Yeah, exactly. I think also as we’ve grown, we’re getting people like I said in franchises or we work with start ups that are launching in a particular area, people who are kind of wanting to build attention for their product or service or store in a particular area that they kind of want to make splash at one particular time. I think that can be a good thing for us. You’re coming into this city brand new, we can help you build these relationships that you can then sustain year over year over year. Yeah, I would say that those would be the big ones. Then we also do have some agencies that come to us as well. We always tell people we don’t exactly white label but we can definitely work with agencies and try to allow agencies to manage their own clients as much as they want to and we can just work with them however they see fit.

John: I recall that you were a finalist in the street fighter local [inaudible 00:12:22] and I have a confession, do you know what that confession is?

Megan: What?

John: I was a judge.

Megan: No way, wow, okay.

John: I remember reading the application, I must admit there were lots of them. I remember being impressed with the fact that it was a very innovative approach. At that time you really were positioning it more as a kind of local SEO play I think almost.

Megan: Yeah and that’s what we grew out of. I appreciate just being nominated honestly I was so excited to be just to get the nomination, so thank you.

John: Tell me, do you have a couple favorite examples where this has just really been a home run for somebody?

Megan: Yeah of ZipSprout in particular or just local sponsorships in general?

John: Yeah, one of your clients where this has really made an impact.

Megan: Sure, yeah we’re working actually on a case study. We haven’t completely released it yet. We’re working with a company called closet box dot com in Chicago. I’m so excited about everything we’ve been able to do. This has kind of been our perfect, like we’re building it ourselves sponsorship program. We’ve been able to, they were launching their services in Chicago. They have a particular demographic that they’re looking for which is people who are home owners between certain age ranges. We’re able to find about ten local sponsorship opportunities that really fit for them. Then we did a lot with just kind of maximizing every benefit of sponsorship possible.

We worked with organizations who were giving out social media shout outs, email newsletter mentions, giving out coupons at events, that kind of thing. We made sure that every single time that closet box was being mentioned as a sponsor, we weren’t just having the brand be mentioned but we were including a coupon code, we were including a link to an article that was about moving within Chicago. It was specifically addressed to people who live in Chicago. We are making sure in every way that when closet box is mentioned as a sponsor, we’re really maximizing their marketing potential as well. It’s been awesome so far. Seeing the emails come in and seeing the coupon codes go out and all of that happen in Chicago has been pretty exciting.

John: Do you play a role in defining that or do clients sometimes come to you with hey, here’s our performance metrics for this sponsorship?

Megan: Yeah, it can depend. I’ve done a lot in terms of trying to help clients see the maximum potential of every sponsorship and saying hey, can you send me coupon codes, is that a possibility. Can your team write a blog post for this city? I think a lot of times clients come to us and they’re like we know local sponsorships are cool and maybe they can help our search presence and we’re not quite sure what else is in there. I’m like okay, here’s the idea. Here is what you can really do. I try to set goals for us so that our clients can see the value of what we’re doing and so they continue hiring us.

John: Okay, so let’s get down to the really hard part. How do they pay for ZipSprout?

Megan: Yeah, so our clients pay us fees over and above the cost of sponsorships. That’s something that I really like about ZipSprout as well. I think there are a lot of companies out there that work for the non profits but then they charge non profits to find them sponsors. We charge our clients. We really push it, it is a marketing effort on behalf of the clients so they pay us additional amounts on top of the sponsorships. That way, when we’re coming to these local organizations it’s a really easy connection for them. It’s like hey this is free for you and we’re finding you a sponsor.

John: We found you some money, do you want it?

Megan: Yeah, exactly. That way it really lessens the friction. I think if we were charging local organizations, first of all I would just kind of feel weird about it. Also, I think it would just be a lot harder to get the right matches because a lot of people would be like no, I don’t really want to pay you. It really works the best for us when we’re charging our clients.

John: Is that sort of an engagement fee or a percent fee, how do you factor that?

Megan: Sure, it’s per opportunity a lot of the times. We have a flat rate per local opportunity that we find for a particular client. Sometimes if they’re working at a certain scale, we’ll just charge a flat fee for if you want local sponsorships in Philadelphia and you want a bunch of them, you can pay us this flat rate and we’ll do all the research for you. We’ll come up with a list for you and then from that list you can choose. It kind of depends on, we’ve varied it a lot with different clients for what works for particular clients, what works for us. It’s definitely still a lot of times working on our pricing model but yeah we are always paid over and above the cost of sponsorship.

John: What’s the hardest thing about being a co founder and CEO of a start up?

Megan: Goodness, I would say the hardest thing is knowing where to focus your attention when you still have a small team. For me, I do a lot of the management of the team, the day to day, which is probably more of the COO role technically. I kind of am a CEO and a COO because I do also things like this, like being on your podcast. In any given day it’s like well I could write that blog post that could probably generate us traffic or I could spend some time digging into the numbers to figure out how to make us more efficient, which would save us money. It’s like this constant pull of where to draw my attention, where to push myself. It feels like there’s always something else you could be doing I would say is the hardest part.

John: With a small company you got to take the trash out too.

Megan: Yeah.

John: Speaking of focus, what’s the future hold? Are you going to try to get a bigger footprint in a number of cities? Do you feel like maybe you can take this concept and start saying okay, what else can we do with the partnerships that we’ve developed?

Megan: Yeah so as far as cities, we actually have found that pretty much anywhere in the US and Canada a client wants us to go, we’re able to go. We have a lot of flexibility there. I would say the future really is kind of the latter we’re building up what it means to be a local sponsor. I think like I said, we started off on a local search space. I think a lot of our initial clients were like you can help our rankings. I think that’s big but I really want to infiltrate other market places. I want to get ZipSprout in front of people who are in charge of branding, who are in charge of PR and really show what local sponsorships can do for those area. I think they have just as much power even if you don’t really care about your rankings or if that’s not a primary concern for you.

John: Well Megan, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and tell us about ZipSprout. Hopefully we’ll run into you out there in one of those local cities soon.

Megan: Yeah, John thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

John: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. I wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise, I read each and every one. Thanks.

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The 25 Most Expensive Keywords in AdWords – 2017 Edition!

top most expensive adwords keywords

Way, way back in 2011, when the world was young and fidget spinners weren’t yet a thing, there was lore floating around in the search marketing world that “mesothelioma” was the most expensive keyword to bid on in Google AdWords, costing upwards of $100 per click. But was it true?

I had a little idea: What if we used data from our Free Keyword Tool to determine which keywords had the highest costs per click (or CPC’s) in Google AdWords?

The infographic we created based on that data is still one of our most popular and most linked to pages ever, but people often ask us for updated data.

Those people, and curious people everywhere, are in luck! We’ve completed a new, comprehensive analysis of keyword data for five different currencies in English-speaking countries (keep an eye out for the data for GBP, CAD, AUS, and ZAR over the course of this week). This time around, we determined the top 25 most expensive keywords (meaning these niche markets are super-competitive) along with their average CPC – and six years later, the results are substantially different!

Ready to see what the most expensive keywords are in 2017? Here we go:

most expensive keywords in google adwords

About the data

Here’s how we got the list: We pulled all the data collected from anonymous AdWords Performance Grader reports across all industries between June 1, 2016 and June 12, 2017, then looked at the top 1000 most expensive keywords seen during that time period and categorized them by core intent.

For example, we lumped the keywords “bail bonds” and “bail bonds los angeles” into a single category since the core intent is the same. Likewise, keywords involving different types of lawyers (such as “malpractice lawyer” and “injury lawyer”) or insurance were grouped together. We used a similar methodology last time so as to avoid featuring too many specific long-tail or local keywords that wouldn’t have broad applicability to a large number of businesses. We separated distinct services (pest control vs. termites) as much as possible.

We also filtered out keywords with less than 100 clicks from our data set. We only looked at advertisers bidding in USD, AUD, CAD, and ZAR, and analyzed different currencies separately. We also eliminated non-English ads and duplicates (where both the keyword and the CPC were exactly the same) from that set. The results you’re reading about in this article are in USD.

Shout out to everyone who helped compile, analyze, and illustrate the data: our data analyst Josh Brackett, our web team leader Meg Lister, and our designer Kate Lindsay.

What are the most expensive keywords in AdWords?

The top 25 most expensive keywords in AdWords are as follows:


Top 25 Most Expensive Keywords
Keyword Average CPC
 Business Services $58.64
 Bail Bonds $58.48
 Casino $55.48
 Lawyer $54.86
 Asset Management $49.86
 Insurance $48.41
 Cash Services & Payday Loans $48.18
 Cleanup & Restoration Services $47.61
 Degree $47.36
 Medical Coding Services $46.84
 Rehab $46.14
 Psychic $43.78
 Timeshare $42.13
 HVAC $41.24
 Business Software $41.12
 Medical Needs $40.73
 Loans $40.69
 Plumber $39.19
 Termites $38.88
 Pest Control $38.84
 Mortgages $36.76
 Online Gambling $32.84
 Banking $31.43
 Hair Transplant $31.37
 Google AdWords $30.06



What makes these keywords so expensive?

Generally, AdWords keyword costs get driven up in particular niches for one of the following reasons:

People have a bad problem they really need to fix now

When people are desperate for help, they’re willing to spend more on services or products to get that problem solved. That means the companies doing the advertising can charge more for those services, and they can often achieve strong ROI on their ad spend even with high costs per click.

These spaces are also highly competitive, because people don’t necessarily spend a long time deciding where they’re going to shop – they want help NOW! For example, one of the top keywords in the “medical services” category is “emergency room near me.” If the advertiser is in the right place at the right time, they can profit big. (Not that I think private companies should be profiting off people who need emergency care…)

Examples of keywords related to urgent problems include:

  • “Bail bonds” at #2
  • “Lawyer” at #4
  • “Cash services & payday loans” at #7
  • “Rehab” at #11
  • “Plumber” at #18
  • “Termites” at #19
  • “Pest control” at #20

adwords expensive costs per click

High-priced items or services

Last time around, insurance-related keywords were at the very top of the list. According to our data, insurance is no longer king of the hill. That’s good news for marketers trying to drive leads in the insurance industry, right? (Sort of – they’re still almost $50 per click on average. And there are outliers, like “malpractice insurance,” that can cost over $300 per click!)

Now, the most expensive keywords are in the category “business services” – stuff like “data room” and “network security monitoring” – most likely because these services tend to be costly. Companies offering business services are willing to bid more per keyword because there’s so much to gain when a prospect does convert, whether it’s a single big purchase or a service with a high customer lifetime value.

Our last infographic showed that finance-related keywords (like loans keywords and mortgage keywords) are some of the most costly. You can see similar trends this year – see “asset management” at #5 ($49.86 per click) and “banking” at #23.

Law keywords are still way up there, and on average keywords related to legal services are even more expensive ($54.86 per click compared to $42.51 in 2011). This is part of why marketing for law firms can be a challenge.

Fulfilling your hopes and dreams (and addictions)

People will pay a lot to have their dreams come true. For some, those dreams are about getting an education. Y’all love learning and “degree” remains a very expensive keyword (too bad for those of you marketing in the higher education industry).

Once you get a degree, you can get a higher-paying job, and then reward yourself with a big vacation. Travel-related keywords like “Hilton timeshare reviews” make an appearance this year at #13 on the list.

what the most expensive keywords in adwords

But people clicking on ads haven’t kicked all their bad habits – “casino” is way up there at #3 ($55.48 per click) and “online gambling” makes an appearance too, at #22. Who needs a Vegas vacation when the fun’s right there in your laptop?

You’re also talking to psychics and getting hair transplants. #questionablechoices

The 25th most expensive keyword in Google AdWords is … Google AdWords?

We weren’t expecting this one.

Sometimes people google “google,” and sometimes people bid on “google adwords” in Google AdWords. (OK, we admit it. You’re looking at some of those people right now.)

Want to know what keywords are popular (and how much they’ll cost) in YOUR industry?

We can help with that!

Our newly revamped Free Keyword Tool has a cool feature that lets you filter your results by industry. For example, let’s say you want to find keywords related to cars, but you’re in the finance industry and you’re only interested in terms that are relevant to your business. Type in “cars” and select “Finance & Banking” as your industry, and you’ll see results like this:

wordstream free keyword tool

Your results include terms like “new car lease” and “new car incentives.” However, if you chose “Arts & Entertainment” as your industry, you’d see results like “cars film” and “pixar cars”:

free keywords

This can really help you to zero in on only the keywords that are going to help you build out your search marketing campaigns, filtering out irrelevant terms so you don’t have to weed through them yourself. You can filter your results by 24 different industries.

Check it out yourself.

What about those top 25 keywords – were you surprised?

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Announcing the New (& Much Improved) Free Keyword Tool

Ever since I’ve been at WordStream (2 years, 3 months, and 2 weeks – if you’re counting), our Free Keyword Tool has been a donkey in a sea of unicorns. Though it’s been popular since we introduced it in 2011, updates for the tool haven’t kept pace with changes in the paid search industry or with the features we’ve introduced to our AdWords Performance Grader.

Keyword research is one of the first – and most crucial – steps in any search marketing campaign, organic or paid. Driving search engine traffic requires the right mix of keywords, specifically targeted towards your audience. Every paid search workflow should include a process for expanding your keyword lists over time. But most free tools offer limited results and limited utility, especially when it comes to keyword research for PPC.

free keyword research tool

Here’s the awesome news: We just updated our Free Keyword Tool to make it prettier, faster, and specifically useful for paid search marketers looking for more and better keywords to add to their AdWords accounts.

Our newly updated tool gives you hundreds of relevant keyword results, plus additional, actionable information like competition level, estimated CPC, and a proprietary Opportunity Score to help you prioritize, all for free! Even better: your results are tailored to your geography and industry, and personalized to your business’s account performance.

If you’re already excited to try it – or bored of reading – you can check it out here: You can run an unlimited number of free searches per day, and I encourage you to connect your AdWords account to unlock personalized metrics and recommendations.

Top 3 Highlights of the New Free Keyword Tool

1. Tailored recommendations by industry and/or country

There’s nothing worse than spending time building out your keywords, crafting a compelling ad, and then paying for a click from a user who was looking for something else. Our Keyword Tool tailors results for your industry and geography so you can narrow in on the right intent and you add the keywords your target users are searching for.

For example, searching for “cars” in the Autos & Vehicles industry returns these results:

free keyword tool for paid search marketing

While searching for “cars” in the Arts & Entertainment industry returns results about the award-winning Pixar film:

free adwords keyword tool

Advertisers targeting specific geographies will benefit from building out country-specific keyword lists. For instance, the results of searching “siesta” keywords in the United States are mostly about the crystal-sand beaches of Siesta Key, Florida:

best free keyword tool for ppc

While searching “siesta” in Spain returns keywords specifically around the honored afternoon naptime:

free keyword tool results

This feature can be particularly helpful to local advertisers with physical locations, or those who provide services across different countries!

2. Personalized competition and CPC metrics based on your account performance

Once you connect your account, you’ll see competition levels and cost-per-click estimates specifically tailored to past performance in your account. Competition is populated as either a “high,” “medium,” or “low” rating, based on current bidding trends. CPC metrics take into account your Quality Score and past performance metrics to give you a realistic estimate of what you can expect to spend per click on each keyword.

3. Opportunity Score: Prioritize keywords with the biggest potential impact on your account

True to our mission of making paid search fast and easy for everybody, we’ve created one metric to help you identify the quickest wins in your account. Our WordStream Opportunity Score is based on an algorithm that incorporates a keyword’s search volume and competition levels along with your account’s performance, and is based on learnings we’ve made from analyzing over $70 billion in AdWords spend.

Once you connect your account, your keyword results are sorted by Opportunity Score from 10 through 1. An Opportunity Score of 10 represents the quickest win for your account – so what are you waiting for?

Using the Free Keyword Tool as Part of Ongoing PPC Management

When you create an AdWords account, one of the first things you need to do is keyword research. Keywords will form your ad groups, which will in turn form your campaigns, building out into an orderly account structure that looks like this:

keyword account structure

There are a couple of ways to get started. Let’s say you have an e-commerce site. You can search for keywords to target based on the structure of your existing website – for example, you might create one campaign for men’s clothing and one for women’s clothing, then create ad groups for each of your different product categories (women’s tops, women’s pants, women’s dresses, women’s accessories, and so on):

how to use the free keyword tool

If you’re not sure what keywords to bid on aside from, say, “dresses,” drop it into the Free Keyword Tool and see what crops up:

wordstream free keyword tool relaunch

Another option: Just drop in a competitor’s website address to see what keywords they’re bidding on!

Of course, you should be doing keyword research regularly to expand and refine your existing campaigns. Bookmark our keyword tool and scout out new terms to target on the regular. You can download all your keywords in a CSV format that’s easy to upload right into your AdWords account. Prioritize adding keywords with low cost and low competition – or just use the Opportunity Score to guide you!

Try it out!

We’d love to hear from you – let us know what you think of the new tool!

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From Using & Understanding Google My Business Insights – FREE PDF DOWNLOAD

Using & Understanding Google My Business Insights

understanding google my business insights screen post

Google My Business provides a wealth of data and useful tools such as Google My Business Insights to help you get more from your Google business listings.

If you have a Google My Business account, you’re a few taps away from knowing every who, when, what, and where of how customers interact with your Google listings with Google Insights. These actionable insights show you the trends in your industry, in your area, so you can make the improvements that can put you ahead of your competition.

Data Points Google My Business Insights Gives for Each of Your Locations

Your free Google My Business account and listings not only help you show up in Google searches and on Google Maps.  You also get Insights (also known as analytics) on your GMB listing engagement that show how people find your business and where they are coming from.  You can also see how search users interact with your listing once they have found it.

  • Total Searches
  • Direct Searches
  • Discovery Searches
  • Total Views (Search & Maps)
  • Search Views
  • Maps Views
  • Total Actions
  • Website Actions
  • Directions Actions
  • Phone Call Actions

What’s New with Google My Business Insights?

BULK INSIGHTS FROM GMB DASHBOARD – Access 18 Months of Insights Data

Bulk insight was added to the Google My Business dashboard back in April.  Why should you care?  Because you can now select a custom date range for the data you need instead of relying on the one-week, one-month, or one-quarter standard report dates.  This allows you to compare data in custom ranges to pinpoint improvements and negative trends in your optimization efforts.

If you manage multiple accounts with the Google My Business API, then you could download Insights data in bulk since January, but this is a huge GMB improvement for anyone managing multiple locations through the dashboard.

Getting More Out of Your Google My Business Account

Looking at search engine result pages, the local pack and knowledge panel give Google search users a large collection of useful information that makes it more likely they will click through to your website or request directions to your location.  Google My Business Insights lets you see how customers are using the information you have on your GMB account to choose your business.

Off-site engagement such as map views and click to calls aren’t shown on your Google Analytics or Search Console reports.  Use GMB Insights to discover how customers are interacting with your business on Google Search and Google Maps.  Search users are highly engaged and primed to act on the information they find in search by visiting your website or location.

All the information you need to improve your search engine marketing and search engine optimization is just a few clicks away with Google My Business Insights.

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

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Weekend Favs June 24

Weekend Favs June 24 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Smartlook – Smartlook records anything visitors do on your website for free.
  • Later – Later is the simpler way to plan your visual content marketing for Instagram.
  • Subscribe with Amazon – Make your digital subscription purchasable to millions of highly qualified shoppers who trust Amazon to be their primary shopping destination.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

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WordStream Named a Top 20 Place to Work in Boston!

With fun golf outings, a winning softball team, an Xbox in the office, and an endless supply of cold brew, WordStream has once again been named a best place to work in Boston!

Best Place to Work in Boston

Our WordStream Team at the awards ceremony!

While WordStream has its formal perks—great benefits, an unlimited vacation policy, great social outings, and opportunities to volunteer—employees have so many more reasons to love coming to work every day.

We all know the story about how Larry Kim created WordStream in a Panera. We also know how our veterans survived through multiple desk and office moves, putting in long hours for our customers, and sticking with the tradition of recognizing each other for “being great” monthly. Just this year, we hit the huge milestone of 200 employees and moved to an amazing new office in the Prudential Center. We’ve come a long way!

And we couldn’t be prouder.

Last night, we brought home the Boston Business Journal’s Best Places to Work of 2017 award, coming in at number 20 in the medium-sized business category. We accepted the award with a quick video showing off our WordStream culture.

The Boston Business Journal announced 80 honorees on April 19, which were divided into five different categories based on the size of the business. The companies were selected based on survey responses from employees, which were scored by Quantum Workplace. According to the Boston Business Journal Market President and Publisher, more than 300 companies submitted surveys, and Best Places to Work is considered one of the most competitive programs.

Best Place to Work in Boston

The WordStream softball team [not pictured: free drinks, great music, and celebratory home-run dances]

We’re always looking for awesome, motivated workers to join our team! Check out our jobs page for open positions.

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