This is our Deep Dive Into Local from February 12th, 2018. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Hi, welcome to Deep Dive in Local. This week, we have Megan Hannay from ZipSprout joining us. Just as by way of announcement, several things. One is that this is available in transcription at localu.org. So if you’ve listened to us and want to dig back in for more details, it’s available there. It’s also available as a podcast. If you’re listening to it on the site, you can subscribe to our podcast feature. The other announcement is that we are doing a Local U Advanced in Austin on April 12th, and we would love for you to join us. It also is a great town at that time of year and great weather, and as always, great people.
So with that, Megan, maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you’ve been doing for the past couple of years. ZipSprout and the whole…the topic here is using sponsorship from marketing in the local market but driving it at scale across multiple markets. So with that, I’ll turn it over to you and you can introduce yourself.
Megan: Cool. Thank you, Mike. And thank you guys both for having me on the Deep Dive. So Yes, ZipSprout, we’ve been around for just about two years now and we’re an agency first and we started by helping our clients find local sponsorships at scale. So especially for national brands, which is what we first started with but now we’re working with a lot of agencies as well, want to helping them focus in on a particular city, pretty much any city in the US or Canada, from New York City to Poughkeepsie or Philadelphia or something like that, and find ways to put their brand in touch with local sponsorship opportunities, local events, local nonprofits. So it could be a 5k.
Mike: Question. So last week I had a small legal firm with, I think, seven locations, and who will be expanding more. Is that an appropriate candidate for this kind of exercise in terms of finding local sponsorships? I mean, they were in different cities across the country.
Megan: Yes, absolutely, and that’s exactly right, I think the people who can benefit the most are people who are in maybe a few different locations and it’s really sometimes hard to manage doing local marketing in those locations, but their customers really are the people who are local to those cities. So it’s about getting their brand out in a way that’s more than digital ads, not that there’s anything wrong or bad; Google Ads obviously work, social media ads work.
But a lot of times, doing that local branding, for us, we see that as another channel, another way to get the word out about your company. And really it’s really an awesome way if someone is at a local 5k, they’re at a local parade. They’re doing something, maybe even a local association or nonprofit, and they’re seeing your brand, they’re seeing that you’re there too. And it’s just a really great way to connect with people at a much more local level.
Mike: So what are the nuts and bolts of this at a local level? First, there’s this issue of partnerships, but then what is that…let’s take the example of the seven location legal firm in seven different cities. What do they expect out of the relationship? What do the not-for-profits expect out of the relationship? How does that interaction get leveraged digitally and offline? What do the specifics look like? How does it work? Before we get into your tools in your agencies, just sort of high level give us a sense of that.
Megan: Honestly, it can work in so many different ways and that’s something we’re trying to, I think, hone in on and help people out with. But really, I mean, if you are…want to each local organization is its own entity. So really, a lot of this involves reaching out to local organizations seeing, “Okay, you have an event. How can we partner with you?” A lot of events already have ways that they can be sponsored, so a lot of times they’ll have like, okay, at the Bronze level, you’ll be able to have a booth and we’ll talk about you on social media. We’ll put a link to your website on our website, that kind of a thing. And maybe at the Silver level, you get something else, their newsletter mention.
So it’s really about thinking about for your brand, for your company, what are the ways that you really want to reach local customers? What are some of your biggest local marketing goals? Whether that is actually getting on the ground and meeting people, whether that’s social media, whether that’s local link building, what are some of your primary things that you want to achieve locally that maybe you haven’t been able to achieve in other ways, and thinking about partnering with local organizations to help you do that, to help you reach people who are native to a particular city. And who also maybe are in your target demographic.
So if you’re a law firm, maybe you’re looking for…want to depending on what type of law you do, maybe you’re looking for just general branding. Maybe you’re looking for business people if you are sort of a B2B sort of law firm. So you can actually find local organizations that reach the type of people that you might be looking to have as your customers.
Mike: So in the ideal sense, it’s both offline and online, right? In that you’re meeting real customers, you’re understanding real customers, you’re interacting with potential customers while simultaneously leveraging both your donation and your presence in just an online visibility in the form of links and mentions and email newsletters and Facebook and all this other stuff.
Megan: Yes, exactly.
Mary: So the two ways I try to explain this to my small business clients are, one, you’re building your brand, and two, you’re earning community karma. And that seems to be something that they can understand. In fact, Mike and Erin and I spoke at a Jacuzzi event, Jacuzzi dealer event. And some folks that we had been coaching last year came up to me this year and said, “We did what you told us to do as far as the community karma type things, and we won an award for community involvement this year.” Not because they did anything new, but they just started bringing attention to the fact that they were already doing a lot of things in the community.
Mike: Well, hopefully, they got a link out of that.
Megan: At least one.
Mike: So I know that you started out as an agency, so you did this manually. And I know that I’ve participated in at least one beta with you. I know you’re trying to scale some of the skill sets, some of the tools more broadly. So just talk about, first, the levels in your organization and then which tools might be of appeal to agencies.
Megan: Sure, Yes. And that’s exactly right. So when we started, a lot of our first customers were enterprise just because we were an agency. And there’s a lot of nuts and bolts involved with that and then more overhead, I think, with an agency. But what we’ve been really trying to do over the past year is make what we’re doing with ZipSprout from an agency side available to people, even to other agencies, to local regional businesses who may not be able to fit another agency into their budget. And so what we’re working on right now is essentially a tool where it’s a lot easier to find and connect with local organizations.
Right now, a lot of people who do local sponsorships, you just use Google. You search around like, “Okay, what’s a race happening in Philadelphia that I can sponsor or something?” Or if you’re a small business, people might come in your door or maybe your next-door neighbor is doing a thing. So in some ways, it’s organic, but in some ways, you’re not getting the big picture of what’s going on in a particular city. So we’re creating tools to help people both easily find based on the topic area of things that they’re looking for, event date, even cost, that sort of thing, easily find things that are going on in their city, and then also potentially to help them start that conversation. want to to reach out to that local organization and say, “Hey, we’d like to sponsor you. How do we get this conversation started?” So it’s kind of making it a little bit easier so they don’t have to hire an agency, but they also don’t have to start from scratch.
Mike: I see. So is this what’s called the Local Sponsorship Finder? Is that the tool?
Megan: Yes, that is the Local Sponsorship Finder.
Mike: So I got it right. It’s not Megan’s tool, it’s the Local Sponsorship Finder.
Megan: I think that would be a great name.
Mike: I think it’d be a great name. It would match up with Darren’s tool on the other side of that kind of…so how do you price that and how do you make that available? Is that still in beta? Is that out of beta?
Megan: So Yes, actually the version that both you and Mary have seen was our beta version. So we are, if people are really interested in giving us some feedback on some of our early versions, you can go to zipsprout.com/tool and sign up for our beta and then you’ll have a meeting with me where I walk you through and ask you some questions about it. But for just the general population, we’ll probably be releasing later this spring or early summer the actual first version of the tool that’s publicly available to everyone.
And as far as pricing, we don’t have specific pricing yet. But we’re really working to create pricing levels that work…are comfortable from a subscription standpoint for that small agency, even for a small business that’s not going to be a sticker shock, but also to be able to scale up so that if there is a very large agency or even an enterprise who wants to use the tool, that they’re able to have a very robust tool, maybe at a budget level that is appropriate for that.
Mike: So as part of this tool and I think you also wrote about it at “Search Engine Land”, you had developed a concept called Reach Score. Is that part of this tool or that’s separate?
Megan: It’s actually both. So it’s part of our internal agency and it’s also something we’re working into the tool. So for Reach Score, essentially as we have been promoting the idea of doing local sponsorships, one thing that was difficult is when we’re having those conversations with customers or potential clients, a lot of times we’ll talk about maybe domain authority. Or they’ll ask us with each local organization to list the number of Facebook followers, the website visitors, it’s a lot of numbers to look at at once to really understand a particular entity.
So we basically developed a score that envelops all of that into it. So we have a statistician that we’ve worked with and also our programmer that have worked together to build out something that for each particular city looks at all of the organizations in that city and then looks at their numbers and ranks them on a scale of 1 to 100, just in terms of how many locals they’re reaching.
And one thing about Reach Score is, want to there might be an organization that has a 24 and there might be an organization that has a 60. But if the 24 is really reaching people who are in your niche audience, maybe that’s what you want. So bigger isn’t always better necessarily, but it’s a really good way to know where an organization stands in terms of how loud it is, how vocal it is in the community, and how many people are interacting with it on social media or coming to the website, that sort of thing.
Mike: So Reach Score is not something that somebody can just go to your site and play with a free tool. It’s going to be part of this is still tool or…
Megan: Yes, both. So there is a landing page on our website where you can plug in the numbers of any local organization, or if you are a local…want to if you’re in charge of a local organization, you can plug in your own numbers and just see where you land in your city. But it’s also something for the new tool. We’ll be able to easily see like, “Okay, so this is the Reach Score of this organization and that organization,” just to give a little bit of an understanding of where they are.
Mike: So obviously, enterprise agencies and businesses are concerned with measurement. want to know what actually happened to these customers? Did they visit your website? Did they convert? I mean, not just predicted reach but actual reach. How do you suggest people measure that and is there a way to ascribe attribution or is it still, as like in many of our areas, on the horizon not to be done today?
Megan: Yes, so I would say there’s a little bit of both. So as want to because we’re both at the Street Fight event two weeks ago now, and I think it was so interesting. So Street Fight has a lot of ad tech companies that come and have conversations, and attribution is something they talked about a ton and just how even with more traditional digital ads, there’s a lot of mess or people aren’t quite sure of that last touch attribution or where a certain person came from when they walk into a store.
With ZipSprout, we do have a few ways to be able to do that. So when we’re talking about local sponsorships, if there’s something like a share on social media or even a website, you can just use things like UTM codes and see which local organization in particular new customers are coming from. We also recommend people use coupons if they’re able to send coupons to a local organization to hand out at an event, or if they’re able to have a booth at an event. So there definitely are ways to see who’s coming in, but also I really do feel like there’s some magic in branding.
And sometimes I feel like the conversation around attribution, it’s something that I think the digital world has promised and hasn’t quite lived up to that promise yet. And I think it’s taking away from the idea of like… Mary’s example where just doing good things in the community will get you that karma. It will pay itself back over time. And sometimes that’s hard to measure with exact following the trail of a particular person.
Mike: But minimally, and this is something I see all the time, that websites and campaigns all need to have measurement built into the core of them.
Mike: So that while you may not be able to assess total value or all the value offline and on, you can at least measure it relative to other activities and see once these people hit whatever goal you wanted, came to your website, did they then take the next step and fill out a form or reach out to you with a click to call? And I see all too often, one, no measurement, and two, no effort to even model broadly attribution. Even simple models would work to give you some sense of a thousand customers, 300 website visits, 20 closes or whatever. I mean, it doesn’t have to be exact. It just needs to give you a sense of the relationship between the top of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel.
Megan: Absolutely. And I think that’s why, one of the most important things with sponsorships, just like any campaign, is you really want to start with, okay, what are our goals? What do we want to get out of this because it’s really hard to do local sponsorships or to pick the right partnerships to engage in if you don’t have that what are we really going for at the end of the day? This is something I ask all of our new clients, what will make this successful for you? At the end of three or four months, when you look at the numbers and when you look at everything that’s happened, what will make you be able to go back to your boss or to your clients or whoever that is and say, hey, this worked out really well? And let’s build that, let’s go into this campaign with that goal.
So even if you’re doing this on your own, I would say, want to to start any campaign and be like, “Well, we’ll just see what happens,” Yes, you can’t really do that. You have to build attribution in that way because however you’re looking to get customers out of that campaign, we’ll be like, “Okay, let’s make sure to include some measurements that account for that.”
Mike: Great. I think with that, we’ll call it a wrap. I just want to thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure speaking with you. And hopefully, we’ll see you or a Megan proxy in Austin for Local U Advanced. And thank you for joining us. Have a good day.
Megan: Yes, thank you. Thank you, both.
Mary: Thanks, Megan. Bye-bye.