In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, I interview Chris Handy, Founder and CEO of Think Handy, a Fort Worth Texas-based inbound marketing agency. Chris shares his experience developing an inbound marketing campaign for a Spanish-immersion preschool launching a new location in Fort Worth.
Learn how Chris was able to deliver big results for a small business on a limited budget.
Listen to the episode here, or read the show notes (below).
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This week, my guest is Chris Handy, CEO of Think Handy, and inbound agency and silver level HubSpot partner in Fort Worth Texas. If you have a minute, check out Chris’s website - specifically the bull on the home page and the little thing behind the bull. I had a good laugh when I saw it and I love how different it is.
Chris started in the corporate world working in an eBay store. If you’ve ever seen the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin, you might recall the love interest in that movie worked in an eBay store where you would go and they would sell your stuff on eBay.
He had a network of stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and a series of trucks that would go and pick up the things that people wanted to sell on eBay. This was back in 2008, right when smartphones were just coming out.
For Chris, working at the eBay stores was a really interesting experience. Because it was a start-up, he got to do a lot of different jobs, from helping to build the shipping department, to joining the creative team and helping a team of photographers and writers develop the content needed to sell a little bitty item for $50 on eBay.
Through this experience, he learned a lot about conversion copywriting, presentation, etc. - all things that he uses today in his career as an agency owner. At the same time, Chris learned a lot about running a business in a way that is financially viable and can support future growth.
Although the eBay store was charging a hefty percentage on each sale, they still weren't making enough money to cover the cost of the work they put in to marketing and selling each item.
The one exception to this was cell phones. They found that everybody had a drawer full of old cell phones that they weren't using, and they could capture the value of those cell phones really quickly by taking a photo of any damage specific to that phone, then using the same model description across all of the phones they were selling.
Focusing on cell phones allowed them to scale the business in a way that they had not previously been able to do, and they ultimately shut the eBay store down and turned the cell phone business into a company called E-Recycling Corp.
Chris’s role at E-Recycling was to start up new operations, and as the company began to mature and those entrepreneurial opportunities were fewer and farther between, he decided to go out on his own and start a marketing agency. Today, Chris’s wife Bethany is his business partner and he has a thriving agency in Think Handy.
Many of Think Handy’s clients have been in the software as a service (SaaS), healthcare, and franchise spaces. The company has seen quite a bit of success in those areas and has now begun to branch out.
In this episode, Chris talks about using some inexpensive, out-of-the-box tools that helped him get great results for a small business client.
The Inbound Marketing Campaign
Chris and Bethany’s daughter Harper is two and has been at a long running preschool in Fort Worth, Texas that they love, but they recently discovered that she needed to be challenged more. As much as the school was caring and nurturing and they loved the people there, they started looking at alternative such as STEM learning environments and Spanish immersion. In the course of doing this research, they saw that a contact of theirs who was originally from Fort Worth and had moved out to Philadelphia to start a Spanish immersion preschool was coming back to Fort Worth to open a second location.
Chris and Bethany attended an information session for the school, which is called Mi Casita, and were sold on the spot due to the school’s project-based learning approach to Spanish immersion. They loved the school’s philosophy and started speaking with Melissa, who is the Founder, about how they could work together on the launch of the new location. Mi Casita ended up engaging Think Handy to manage the marketing of its launch with the goal of acheiving full enrollment in Mi Casita's inaugural classes.
Bethany and Chris had a distinct advantage in taking on the marketing of Mi Casita because they fell squarely within the school’s ideal target audience. The school was looking to reach young mothers who are well off, and that are either working or not working but are definitely interested in looking at a private school education for their children.
Chris grew up in the Fort Worth area and was very familiar with the private school landscape there. Through his experience, he was able to identify other schools in the area that the target audience would tend to gravitate to, and used that for demographic targeting.
Because Chris was sold on the school after attending an information session, he wanted to explore how they could fill the funnel with more events that would allow prospective families to experience the same thing he and Bethany did. His feeling was that having the teachers there and showing families what the school is like would be the best way for parents to experience what their child would at the school.
When they began working with Mi Casita, the school didn’t have many existing systems set up to manage sales or marketing. They had a Google Drive spreadsheet that they used to track opportunities and make notes on what was happening with each one, but there was no mechanism for follow up. One of the first things Chris and the Think Handy team did was set Mi Casita up with the HubSpot CRM and Marketing Free tools so that they could use the Lead Flows feature.
Lead Flows is a free tool in HubSpot that allows users to add popups to their websites. It's not a full landing page to thank you page experience - just something simple that, within a matter of a couple of hours, began generating leads for Mi Casita. In this case, the popup that they created said “Let Me Know About The Next Information Session In Fort Worth” and was exclusive to the Fort Worth area of the website.
This is a free tool that Think Handy was able to get up and running on the Mi Casita website in less than an hour’s time. Prior to installing the popup, Mi Casita was getting about three leads per week from their website. Within the first two weeks after the popup went live, they generated 12 contacts from organic search alone - double the number they generated previously.
Using what they knew about the target audience and private schools in the Fort Worth area, Think Handy developed a number of campaigns aimed at increasing brand awareness for Mi Casita within the Fort Worth market. The result was a brand awareness campaign centered around a carousel ad on Facebook.
The goal of the Facebook campaign was to increase the school’s reach (as opposed to directly generating leads). They wanted to get as many people to see the ad as possible, and then to repeatedly expose the audience to it as a way of increasing brand recall. Based on research and data including how many times individual users saw the ad or how they engaged with the ad, Facebook can measure the degree of brand recall.
Mi Casita budgeted $500 on the Facebook ad, which ran for 30 days. The estimated reach for the ad was about 25,000 people and of those 25,000, Facebook identified 3,500 that met its criteria for brand recall. Because the Facebook campaign was set up to spend $1 for each person that acheived "brand recall", they only wound up spending $350 of the total $500 budget.
In addition to Facebook advertising, Think Handy was able to leverage Bethany’s membership in a local Facebook group for Fort Worth area mothers. Members of the group were talking about Mi Casita and much of the discussion centered around the differences between it and another Spanish language preschool that had been in the Fort Worth area for quite some time. The other school was more worksheet-based rather than the project based learning style that Mi Casita used, and they realized that the marketing campaigns they were running needed to highlight that difference.
Think Handy adjusted the Facebook campaigns they were running for Mi Casita to focus on the project-based learning approach as a way of pushing their audience into conversations around the school’s key differentiator. At the same time, they used Facebook events to register Facebook users for the school’s information sessions, which they organized in conjunction with local taco restaurants and other locations that people might associate with Spanish immersion.
One of the most impactful things that Mi Casita was able to do via Facebook was have a teacher read children’s story books in Spanish on Facebook Live. The teacher started doing this on her own and was getting hundreds of views. The Think Handy team boosted those videos to get them in front of more people and as a result, they saw a direct correlation between the timing of the Facebook Live videos and organic visits (and lead conversions) to the website.
When Think Handy began working with Mi Casita, the school was already using MailChimp for its email marketing. Working with the school’s existing email contact list, Chris added new segments targeting: 1) People who had been to an event, and 2) People who had not already been to an event.
Using the newly segmented email lists, they reached out and invited anyone who had not previously attended to come to an upcoming information session. While this might seem like a small change, it was an important one. Because the school’s lists were not previously segmented, they were sending every email to every person on this list. Chris sees this type of overkill a lot, especially when he begins working with new clients, and in his opinion, it can make the company (or school, in this case) look desperate.
In edition to segmenting Mi Casita's lists, Think Handy also made some small adjustments to the calls to action (CTA) in the emails. Whereas the school had been using its emails to announce when and where events were going to be held, without any specific call to action, the new emails that Chris developed included a CTA asking the recipient to go to Facebook and RSVP.
That simple change - giving email recipients very specific direction (in this case, “mark yourself as attending on Facebook”) - made a big difference and Mi Casita saw an immediate improvement in their event attendance.
Instagram Influencer Campaign
In addition to leveraging Facebook, Think Handy identified an Instagram influencer who was a good fit for their target audience and put together a co-marketing campaign. This is still in the early stages so there aren’t many results to report, but early indications are that it is working and Chris plans to explore this more with future campaigns.
Webinars and Virtual Events
When Chris and Bethany attended the original information session, they brought their daughter Harper and found themselves preoccupied with having to keep her entertained while they tried to pay attention to the presentation. They knew that they couldn’t be alone in this challenge and suggested that the school offer a Lunch and Learn webinar.
To capture the same experience that parents would have if they attended an in-person information session, they had Melissa (the school’s founder) at the Philadelphia location walking around showing different aspects of the pre-school via a video feed. Because the Fort Worth location wasn’t opened yet, this was a great way for parents to see the action, meet the teachers, and get a behind the scenes look.
Chris used his Zoom account to manage the webinar, which they promoted the same way they did their in-person events - via a Facebook promoted event campaign. In addition to allowing people to register in advance to attend the Zoom meeting, they did a live simulcast on Facebook.
There were 15 people who signed up in advance, and several more that watched on Facebook Live. Later, when they compared the list of families who enrolled their children in the school with the people who participated in the webinar, they realized that at least five or six that converted and enrolled their children had attended the webinar (so, from an original list of about 15 attendees, that is about a 30% lead-to-customer conversion rate).
From his experience with Mi Casita, Chris shared the following lessons learned:
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. When you have too many messages targeted at too many different audience personas, it can be difficult to get results, particularly with a small team.
Experiment. Test out some of the newer forms of Facebook advertising, but approach these as tests and pay attention to the results you’re getting so that you can refine as you go. If you do this, you don’t need a really large budget.
Full landing pages are not right for every situation. It's okay to use little popups and slide in CTAs such as those available in the HubSpot Free product for a bottom of the funnel sales pitch.
Use popups wisely. Putting the popup before the content can be very disruptive, but exit-intent popups (which appear when your mouse movement indicates you are about to leave the page) are a great way to capture information on someone who otherwise would have left the site. Similarly, slide-in CTAs or popups that appear after a user has scrolled a certain percentage of the way down a page are a minimally intrusive way to introduce an offer.
Try adding live chat functionality to your website. Chris uses Drift and has seen that yield 10x increases in lead conversions on some of the sites where he has installed it.
Do you have more questions for Chris? You can find him online at www.thinkhandy.com or visit thinkhandy.com/kathleen to access information Chris has specifically put together for listeners of the Inbound Success Podcast.
Thanks for joining me this week!
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