Most of the time, before becoming a customer, a person will go through what’s called the marketing funnel (or buyer’s journey). It consists of different stages that flow from people poking around your website to doing something on your website.

Anyone who has a website wants visitors on their website to take certain actions. It’s common to want visitors to sign up for something, fill out a form, or buy a product.

When somebody takes an action you want them to take it’s called a conversion. The visitor converts from just browsing to doing that thing you’re hoping they do. It’s a marketer’s job to give visitors the push they need and inspire them to take that action.

Think about ordering a pizza online somewhere like Dominos.com. There are a few steps, a funnel, that visitors must go through before ordering a pizza. They must:

  • Go to Dominos.com 🍕
  • Start their order
  • Choose the pizza/food item they want to eat
  • Add the pizza/food item to their cart
  • Place the order

There are other steps/actions that hungry pizza lovers can take between each of these mandatory steps, but it makes no difference to the funnel. For example, the customer could add a 2-liter drink to their order, or swap out the pizza for a pasta dish. But it isn’t a mandatory action to complete the order.

Why is it called a marketing funnel/buyer’s journey?

Because your marketing funnel represents the journey your prospective customers take from the moment they find out you exist to the moment they make a transaction with your business.

The marketing funnel consists of five stages:

  • Awareness — This is the stage where people are looking for answers like “who delivers pizza near me?”
  • Consideration — This the stage where people are doing research and comparing their options—Dominos, other pizza chains, local pizza joints.
  • Conversion — This is the stage where people decide to become a customer and purchase a pizza
  • Loyalty — This is the stage where customers are retained by instilling loyalty through things like rewards programs. Sticking with the pizza theme, one way Domino’s does a great job of this is via their “earn points for free pizza” program. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s smart. Customers create an account for a speedier checkout and earn points every time they purchase a pizza until they have enough to redeem a free one.
  • Advocacy — This is the stage where customers take to platforms like Twitter and Instagram to tell people how bomb the pizza was they just ate with photos of the food, by tagging the pizza place they ordered from and stuff like that.

Industry, business model, audience, product, and pricing all play a role in the shape that a funnel takes, but all marketing funnels are built on the foundation of these five stages.

To help you understand how the marketing funnel (buyer’s journey) differs between B2B and B2C brands, we’re going to highlight some key points for ya.

The-Difference-Between-a-B2B-and-B2C-Marketing-Funnel

The Difference Between a B2B and B2C Marketing Funnel

  • B2C consumers often take a trip down the marketing funnel by themselves or with a small group of people they trust, such as family or friends
  • B2B consumers set off down the marketing funnel as part of a larger group often made up of multiple people from multiple departments across the business
  • B2C consumers may never interact with a sales rep (especially when we’re talking about ecommerce sites) and that’s totally normal
  • B2B consumers often interact with a sales rep as they approach the lower end of the funnel and that’s totally normal too

The-Multi-Dimensional-Funnel

The Multi-Dimensional Funnel

There’s some debate among marketing professionals about the relevancy of the marketing funnel because the funnel is no longer linear.

Leads come into the funnel at different stages for different reasons. For example, someone might jump straight into the conversion stage and buy a pizza from Domino’s because their best friends advocated for the brand and they trust the referral.

That’s why the term buyer’s journey is so hot when talking about the marketing funnel. It better describes what’s happening as more and more customers take advantage of technology and social media to do their own brand research.

However, when referring to the marketing funnel/buyer’s journey one term does not hold more weight than the other. Both are used by marketer’s and so both are relevant.

The marketing funnel is still a thing. It’s just evolving into a multi-dimensional process that involves less hand-holding and more gentle guidance than before.

What-Makes-A-Funnel-Worth-Anything

What Makes A Funnel Worth Anything?

Data.

Marketing funnel reports will show you exactly where you’re losing customers. Let’s go back to our Domino’s example. This is what we said the funnel looks like for them:

  • Go to Dominos.com
  • Start their order
  • Choose the pizza/food item they want to eat
  • Add the pizza/food item to their cart
  • Place the order

When you add a pizza to the cart, you get a popup to add some breadsticks (or some other side item) and a drink. Do customers have to purchase these suggested add-on items? No.

But it’s a good idea to track how many people abandon their order after this popup and how many people still purchase the pizza they put in their cart. Some people are turned off by pop-ups and some people just don’t pay attention – they may take a quick glance, think they have to spend more money to qualify for the delivery of the pizza they want and just decide to go make a sandwich instead.

Tracking this movement in the funnel tells Domino’s whether to keep the pop-up/how to trigger the pop-up based on the data they gather about whether this pop-up converts or acts as a roadblock for their customers.

There’s always room to improve the funnel and bump up those conversion stats but you must track the data first to make informed decisions that are going to impact the buyer’s journey.

Optimizing-the-Marketing-Funnel

Optimizing the Marketing Funnel

Optimizing the marketing funnel (buyer’s journey) starts with optimizing your landing pages. As much as you possibly can, you want to control the pages on which potential customer’s land and begin their journey with your website/business.

Landing pages are places for raising awareness about what you do and make potential customer’s go, “Hey! I want you to do that thing for me. Take my money!”

Here are some tips for optimizing your landing pages:

  • Write strong headlines. They’re what you use to attract prospects to your landing page to begin with. Don’t be afraid to test a few when designing out your landing page and determine which option performs best with your audience.
  • Highlight the benefits of what you do with your copy. A landing page is the place for your business to shine. Don’t blow it.
  • Include relevant images that also highlight what your business does. Tie your copy and images together to paint a picture for your customers about what it is you do and why they should choose you over everyone else.
  • Test fonts, colors, image sizes and layouts to better understand your customers respond to and engage more visitors

CTA’s (calls to action) are another crucial piece of your marketing funnel. It’s the tool you use to tell people what to do next after your landing page copy convinces them to sign up, buy something or do whatever it is you want them to do.

Your CTAs are what take people from the consideration stage of the marketing funnel to the conversion stage.

Here are some tips for optimizing your CTAs:

  • Keep your CTA short and sweet
  • Write a CTA that’s results-oriented – Instead of writing “Order Your Pizza Now,” try “Get Your Pizza Now”
  • Use contrasting colors to make your CTA button standout
  • Test, test, test! Test the colors of your CTA, test the copy of your CTA, test the placement of your CTA on the landing page and find out what performs best

Note: none of this (the landing page and CTA stuff) will matter if you’ve got a landing page that’s slow to load. People will bounce in a heartbeat if they’ve gotta wait.

And you can’t convert prospective customer’s if they never stick around long enough to see what your landing page is offering. Here’s a tip for checking your landing page load time:

  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights to run a detailed report of the load time for all the pages on your website and make any necessary changes to improve speed

After taking steps to optimize your CTA you might think there’s nothing more you can do to optimize the funnel. Wrong. There are still a few actions you can take to make the conversion portion of the marketing funnel (buyer’s journey) as smooth as possible:

  • Reduce the number of form fields your prospect needs to fill out to get whatever you’re offering. Only collect information that’s crucial for the purchase/acquisition they’re making.
  • Incorporate a one-step signup option where people can register or log-in with using other profiles like their Google Account or Facebook
  • Minimize the steps required for making a purchase/signing up for the service you offer

Like we said before, there’s always room to improve the marketing funnel (buyer’s journey). You just need know where to look.

To answer the title of this post, we think of the buyer’s journey (marketing funnel) as something that should be a seamless and memorable experience for potential customers/customers.

ZCM believes that simplicity is always best—it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about web design, content marketing, social media, or the marketing funnel. The foundation of every answer we give to every question you ask will be simplicity.

Because the fact of the matter is we have no business complicating any of these things beyond what the customer wants and what’s best for them. You don’t either.

Sorry to be frank but…not really. It’s the truth and it’s important that you hear it.

So, when you’re thinking about your marketing funnel/buyer’s journey and are wondering what you can do to make the most of it, ask yourself:

“How can I make this as easy as possible for prospects to navigate?”

If you’re always looking to make the buyer’s journey as simple as possible for prospective buyers, you’ll convert those prospects into customers and you’ll be just fine.

…and we’re not just saying that because we’re prepping to launch our own podcast, Between the Coffee and Us.

Every entrepreneur, influencer, and small business owner who’s interested in growing a business, selling something, or sharing an idea should learn how to produce a podcast. The power of voice in marketing is on the rise and there are plenty of places to be heard:

Audio-first consumption is exploding like a 2-liter Diet Coke full of Mentos.

You know what this means right?

We-Smell-An-Opportunity

We Smell An Opportunityyyy

Gather round kids. We’re about to blow your minds with some trippy podcast stats:

    • 64% of Americans have heard of podcasts. And more Americans know what a podcast is than know who the Vice President isonly 40% of Americans can name the US VP.
    • 44% of the US population has listened to a podcast before
    • 12 million people listened to a podcast for the first time last year
    • 26% of Americans listen to podcasts every month
    • Monthly podcast listening among American women jumped 14% between 2017 and 2018
    • Podcast fans listen to an average of 7 shows every week — up 40% from 2017
    • 80% of podcast listeners hear all or most of each episode they consume
    • 49% of podcasts are listened to at home
    • 23% of podcasts are listened to in the car
    • 69% of American podcast listeners primarily listen on a mobile device

Every single business owner/entrepreneur out there, we don’t care what you do or sell, should already have or be working on producing a podcast right now. Not because of the revenue opportunity, and boy is there a lot, but because of the marketing opportunity.

The Marketing Opportunityyyy

Y’all, there’s no other way to say it. It’s huge. The marketing opportunity with podcasting is huge. Gargantuan. Elephantine. Monumental. For example…

Let’s say somebody gets on one of the audio platforms we listed at the start of the post looking for advice on how to dominate Fortnite: Battle Royale — a super popular, super free to play,  co-op survival video game that everyone and their Nana is playing right now.

And just for giggles, we’ll say you, your cousin and even your Nana play this game together practically every day. You freakin’ love it. It’s great for bonding. And better than all that bonding stuff, you’re good at Fortnite. You’re obsessed with it.

Good! Use that!

You’re talking about it all the time when you’re not playing anyway so you, your cousin and Nana decide that just for the heck of it, you’ll start recording yourself talking about Fortnite because it’s fun and you want to share your pro-tips and talk Fortnite with other players who love the game as much as you do.

All it takes is that one somebody who comes across your podcast that finds the conversation you’re having about Fortnite interesting and the tips that you’re giving away valuable and you’re in. So is Nana. No more bingo for her. She’s a go-to gaming expert now.

Thanks to the knowledge bombs you and Nana are dropping on the podcasts, you’ve got the opportunity to hook a listener who’s going to go tell all of their video game fanatic friends about your Fortnite podcast and before you know it you’ve got a couple thousand listeners.

You have your own community of gamers/podcast listeners. People are watching you play on Twitch now (which is another post for another day). And then you start earning revenue from talking about/playing Fortnite with your Nana every Thursday – Sunday night.

What is this life?!

Freaking awesome is the answer.

The Revenue Opportunityyyy

In addition to the marketing opportunity podcasting presents there’s also a substantial revenue opportunity that can come with producing a quality podcast.

Popular podcasts can get some sick ad offers but podcasting also opens up the door to diversify revenue beyond just advertising. We’re talking merch, subscription services, partners.

The revenue earning potential for voice is insane right now.

How’s that even possible?

It’s where all the people are. It’s because podcasting is on track to replace talk and satellite radio in 2018!

Podcasting revenue exploded 85% between 2016 and 2017. Big brands and advertisers are going where the listeners are and it’s not radio anymore — its podcasts.

Marketers and advertisers know that by sponsoring/getting their ads on podcasts, they can reach people who skip ads elsewhere who they can no longer reach via more “traditional formats” like radio and television.

And if you’re lucky enough to get your foot in the door on a video game sensation like Fortnite, dude, just think of all the possibilities.

We Ain’t Stupid

Since the start of 2018 Z Coast Media has had a podcast in the works. It’s not going to be about Fortnite because even though it’s an awesome game, it’s not what our business is about and it’s not something we want to talk about on a podcast.

That’s rule number one for creating your podcast. Talk about what you’re passionate about. People can tell when you’re faking it and if you or Nana are feigning your interest in Fortnite just because you know it’s a popular thing to talk about right now.

Don’t taint Nana’s image like that. You’re better than that. But moving on…

This is where we’re at with our own podcast:

  • We have a name: Between the Coffee and Us
  • We’ve picked a format: We want to do “8 episode seasons” where each season has a theme and each episode covers a topic related to that theme
  • We’ve got gear: We’ve got our mics, recording, and editing software and we’ve started experimenting and recording trial episodes because we’ve never done a podcast before

After another test run or two, we’re going to record all 8 episodes of season 1 of the podcast and release it. We’ll let you know when we’re getting close. Until then we’re just gonna keep documenting the journey and what we’re learning along the way.

You can do this too. You don’t have to be an expert to start podcasting. Nobody starts out being an expert in anything. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Experts are born when people are willing to take risks and open up their mind to learn more and more every single day.

The only way you’re going to be found/considered an expert in your field is by figuring out where people are looking and then building your castle there.

And if podcasts are where people are looking/listening?

We’d all be stupid to ignore it.

Xx Paige & Nick xX

Stats courtesy of Convince and Convert; and Podcast Insights

Owning a business and not having a business website is insane.

We get it. Your speciality is costume design, or roadside BBQ, or selling kayaks.

You do alright with word of mouth referrals and your Instagram account is okay. But you wouldn’t have a clue how to get started if somebody offered to help you build a website tomorrow so you keep missing out on a crap ton of potential new customers day after day.

Don’t be that person. Please. We know there’s a ton of literature available for people out there who already have sites and the interwebs are lacking with helpful guides on how to get started with your first website.

Hence this post, friends. We want you to be 100% confident in yourself when you’re ready to get (your business) a website so we’re going to help you prep. Right here, right now.

Let’s do this.

“This post looks bomb and all but I’d rather just email and ask y’all how to create a website for my business.” — You? Click here.

Skip to the section you’re most interested in by clicking a link:

Where to Start With Your Website Name

Your website’s name, otherwise known as your domain name, is your identity on the web so choosing one is an extremely important decision. Great domain names help you build a brand that sticks with your customers and draws new ones to you.

*Disclaimer: You’ll probably see me use website name/domain name interchangeably. They’re the same thing so it doesn’t matter, I don’t feel like picking just one to go with, and I’m feeling rebellious towards my editor.

*Disclaimer: I’m also the editor.

If you already have a business that you’ve named, you’re most likely going to want to try and snag that as your website name. Why? Because if you’ve already named your business then that means you’ve already found the name that perfectly fits who you are and what you do.

But then again, you might just be starting out or you’re looking to refresh your brand. That’s cool too! Just make sure you take the time to pick a domain name that:

  • Speaks to who you are and what your business does
  • Is easy for you to promote to your target audience
  • Is available

Picking your website name/domain name isn’t something to rush into. Take your time. Your website name is one of, if not the first piece of marketing most people who don’t live in your hometown are going to see.

And you know what they say about first impressions.

How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Business

When choosing a domain name, or helping a client choose a domain name for their business, I like to keep this quote from Kurt Vonnegut in mind:

“Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

In other words, you want your domain name to spark interest and compel people to visit. You don’t want to attract just anybody to your business website though. You want to attract the people who are looking for what you do or sell.

We’ve already admitted choosing a charming website name is hard. But it’s not impossible and we’ve got a few tips to help guide you as you try to settle on the perfect website name:

  • Get to the point.
    The longer your website name, the harder it’s going to be for potential customers to remember it. Keep it simple. Ideally, your website name will be short and memorable.

    Charming people don’t waste time on small talk. They get to the point and invoke emotion in their conversations. The same thing should be applied to your website name.

    Folks should have a  pretty clear picture of what kind of website they’re visiting when they come across your domain. Which goes back to why it’s important to choose a business name that reflects what you’re all about and what you actually do.

    Another good rule of thumb is to pick a name that’s easy to pronounce and spell. Test out some of your ideas on friends and family. Show them your potential website name / business name written down on a napkin or whatever’s close by and ask them to read it out loud.

    If there’s even the slightest hint of a struggle, go back to the drawing board.
  • Keep it real.
    Dude, it’s so important to just be you / let your business be your business when picking a website name. Building a brand that stands out from your competitors isn’t a walk in the park.

    Be creative. Be unique. Be brandable. But most importantly: be yourself. Tips:
    + Try merging two words like TechCrunch or WaterAid
    + Try tweaking words like MVMT and Tumblr
    + Try making up your own unique word like Tattly or Bombas

    As long as your website name is on brand, short, and simple we say go for it. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it and try something new if it’s who you are.

    Authenticity goes a long way. You can’t believe everything you read and see online but people should be able to look at your website name and know who you are simply because it serves as a testament to your brand.
  • Research it.
    Just because you think you’ve come up with something totally original and true to your brand doesn’t mean you have. Sorry, but the internet is a big place.

    And sometimes people register domain names just to make a buck off somebody who really wants it. Yeah, that’s a thing.

    Do yourself a favor and make sure your website name / domain name isn’t trademarked, copyrighted, or being used by another business. It could cost you all kinds of legal problems (and loads of money) if you don’t.

    Some places we suggest doing your domain name research:
    + GoDaddy
    + Namecheap
    + 1 and 1

Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a Domain Name

Alright, so we gave you some tips for picking your website name but it’s also important that we cover some of the things you need to avoid when picking your domain name.

Like:

  • Numbers and hyphens. Numbers and hyphens are easily misconstrued. For example, let’s say you’re in a band called 29 Jellyfish and instead of using a website name like thatjellyfishband.com or a nickname your fans call you, you registered the domain name 29jellyfish.com.

    Yes, that’s totally on brand but let’s say somebody hears you open up for another band and remember your name but they can’t remember if it’s Twenty-Nine Jellyfish or 29 Jellyfish. They search twenty-ninejellyfish.com on Google and wind up with about 556,000 results for jellyfish books and reports.

    Some people would try searching again until they found your domain if they really liked your music. Some of them would get lost in jellyfish research in the deep places of the internet. But most of them would just move on and assume you don’t have a website yet because people are lazy and that’s what we do.
  • Paying too much for a domain name.We’ll cover setting a website / domain budget more in depth later on but we’d like to go ahead and make a note here that you shouldn’t pay a fortune for your domain name. Ever.

    If the domain you had your heart set on is going to cost you an arm and a leg, go with your backup plan. If that one’s super expensive too, drop back to option C.
  • Forcing your domain name to match your business. We can go back to our band example again, 29 Jellyfish. Many people start bands and businesses without considering if a matching domain name will be available.

    Or if there’s already a band / business out there with a really similar name, like Jellyfish (a power pop band from San Francisco who broke up in 1989).

    When you make this mistake you can wind up stuck with a domain name that has no relationship to your business so if you haven’t gone too far yet, we suggest researching your business name and domain name at the same time.

Where to Start With Your Website Hosting

If you aren’t familiar with website hosting it’s cool. That’s what this post is here for. To help you learn.
Web hosting is a service that allows you to post a website on the internet. Most hosting companies require that you own your domain to host with them so that’s why you need to select/purchase a website name first.

What is A Web Hosting Account?
A web hosting account is a place where you choose to manage your website with a hosting service provider. A lot like pizza, the different types of web hosting accounts can best be described as using the same ingredients in different combinations.

The web hosting account you choose should be based on how much computing power you really need. The three most common types of web hosting accounts are listed below but if you’re just starting out we suggest launching with a shared hosting account.

  • Shared Hosting — Shared hosting (which is a type of hosting account you can get through GoDaddy for example) is a very common type of web hosting account.

    With shared hosting, the service provider (i.e. GoDaddy) hosts many websites on one physical web server. Since most websites don’t use a lot of server resources, shared hosting lets providers offer good services at a low cost.

    Click here for a  helpful video to help you determine if shared hosting is right for you.
  • Virtual Private Server Hosting — Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS Hosting) mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment. Essentially, it’s both shared hosting and dedicated hosting (see below).

    VPS hosting offers more server power than basic shared hosting, but it still costs less than dedicated hosting (which is super powerful). It’s a good option if you need more power than entry-level shared hosting but you don’t need all the power or cost of a dedicated server/hosting yet.

    Just like shared hosting, VPS hosting puts your website on a server that has other websites running on it. There’s just a lot less of them. If you’re more drawn to VPS hosting over shared hosting, you should know it can set you back anywhere from $20 to $100 per month.
  • Dedicated Hosting — Dedicated hosting will set you back $100+ per month. Dedicated hosting is ideal for websites with really heavy traffic–we’re talking a huge number of visitors every day.

    With a Dedicated hosting account, you have a server (or servers) dedicated solely to you. This is why it’s so much more expensive than VPS or Shared hosting. But if you’re looking at Dedicated hosting, that usually means you’ve got a website that’s generating a ton of traffic/money so you’re not too worried about the cost.

How to Pick a Web Host Provider

We listed a couple of examples previously when talking about domain names that could serve as your hosting provider too. But you might choose someone else and that’s fine. You just need to make sure you know how to pick a web host because it’s kind of a big deal.

First, you need to know what your hosting needs are. This means asking yourself (and answering) questions like:

  • What kind of website am I building?
  • How big or small can my website traffic volume be?
  • Will I need support for a specific script (like PHP)?
  • Will I need something common like a WordPress blog?
  • Do I need any special software?
  • What upgrade options are available with the hosts I’m considering?

The no-brainer rule is to always start small with a good shared hosting account because they’re affordable, easy to maintain, and more than sufficient for new websites. It also allows you to focus on building your website without worrying about stuff like security and database maintenance.

You can always upgrade to VPS or Dedicated hosting when you get bigger–just make sure the web hosting provider you choose offers the options you want.

Next, you need to compare server uptime and reliability between your top candidates for a web hosting provider.

People can come to your website from all over the world from any time zone, any day of the week, so you need a web host provider who’s stable and that you can trust. Hosting providers with a 99.95% average uptime is considered normal and acceptable. Anything less and you need to move on down your list.

We suggest reading reviews from customers of the web host providers you’re considering to get a gauge of how satisfied customers are with uptime and how good the provider’s support is when things go awry.

What do their prices look like?

Unless you’re willing to hop between web hosts every year (not recommended) there’s no way to avoid renewal costs — which are often much more than your signup cost. This is just part of owning/hosting a website.

However, you really shouldn’t sign-up with a web host who jacks up renewal costs more than 100%. Example: if you’re considering a web host provider whose sign-up price is $60 per year, but their renewal cost is anything over $120 a year, screw ‘em.

How easy-to-use is the hosting control panel?

A user-friendly control panel with extensive functionality is super important. It doesn’t matter if it’s cPanel or Plesk (we prefer cPanel though) as long as it’s easy for you to use.

Double check the email features.

If you’re planning to host email accounts with your website then double check the email features of your potential web host provider before signing up.

Most companies have the ability for you to host your own email but it’s always good to make sure. There’s also the option to own an email account at your domain through G Suite, which is a service by Google that allows you to own your own emails, hosted on Google Servers starting at $5 per month.

Can you back, back, back it up?

Technology fails. It’s a fact of life as certain as death and taxes.

If your web host does site backups on the regular, then you’ve got nothing to sweat about. If something ever goes wrong, the web host provider you’ve chosen should be able to restore your website in no time flat.

When picking a host, ask them stuff like:

  • How regularly does your web host provide full backups?
  • Can site backups be done manually via the control panel?
  • How easy is it to restore backup files if I don’t want to wait for support staff to do it?

Speaking of support, make sure your web hosting provider offers a live chat option (usually goes much quicker than over the phone) and has good reviews. You need a support team ready to toss you a life jacket as soon as you start hollering help.

Where to Start With a Website Budget

Let’s look at what you know you’ll need to spend just to get a domain name and somewhere to host your website before we start building out your budget for the website itself:

  • Domain name — On average, your domain name is going to cost you between $10 to $15 a year if you purchase through GoDaddy, Namecheap, or 1 and 1.
  • Hosting — Pricing will vary from host to host but on average you’ll be looking at spending $2-$10 per month for your basic shared hosting plan

Keep in mind domain and hosting are recurring expenses that are just part of owning a website. Once you launch your website, you should be aware that you’ll be spending roughly $240-$300 annually to keep your site up on the internet.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website?

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked this question. The truth of the matter is, it all depends on what you need and want. The advice that we like to give is to first figure out what you need/want and this will help you budget an accurate amount of money for your website.

  • What can you realistically afford? Be honest with yourself here. Remember, the cost of building a website includes more than the initial setup and design. You have to consider ongoing maintenance too.
  • How are you going to manage your website? Do you want to be in total control or would you prefer to hand things off to a designer / developer?
  • What does your site need to have right now and what can wait until later? Think of all the potential customers who will visit your website. What needs to be in place from the get-go and what are some “nice to have” features you can wait on. This is important to think about as it can help you more accurately budget for the launch of your site and budget for additional work in the future.
  • Are you going to deal with the hosting, security and other technical stuff that comes with owning a website yourself? Operating a website takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of technical work. Are you the person for that job or should you budget to have someone help you maintain the site?

How you answer those questions will determine the ballpark your estimates appear in but we can pull back the curtain a little further for you. Just remember none of these numbers are set in stone, they’re simply meant to serve as a guide so you don’t choke on your doughnut when web design agencies start emailing you back with quotes.

Budgeting for Your Website

Let’s start with a suggested budget for a basic website. We’ll say you’re looking for a basic website to help brand and market your business but you’re not looking for it to do much more than serve as lead generation. Pretty simple stuff. So we’ll say you need the following for your basic website:

  • 5 web pages — no copy included because you’re going to do that yourself
  • 1 landing page with a form for lead capture — no copy included because you’re going to do that too
  • Email list management setup — so you can do something with the leads you get from your new website

When you get the breakdown of your quote that details all the work these items require, you shouldn’t be surprised if you see something in the $3000 – $5500 range.  

If you require any custom coding beyond your site being responsive (which should just be standard nowadays) that price range will be closer to the $5500 end. Same goes if you would rather have an SEO expert write the copy for your website.

With that in mind, now we’ll pretend you need something more advanced.

Depending on how custom you want your website–the coding and level of design–the content management system you’re operating on, the number of pages and forms on the site, and the amount of copy needed for the website itself, you could be looking at a quote anywhere between $8000 and $40000.

Most people are really surprised by that when they’ve never had a website built before because of drag and drop builders out there like Wix and SquareSpace.

What we often fail to remember is how much those builders restrict the design of your website and maintenance ability after it’s been created.

Not every out of the box solution works straight out of the box. What happens when you need to troubleshoot your theme, or make something responsive but don’t know how? Who do you call?

As web designers, we’ve spent years learning (in addition to years of trial and error) how to manipulate a website into doing exactly what we want. Web design is a profession. The option to DIY is always there but if you want a professional website, you need a professional.

That’s because building a website is about so much more than just making it look pretty. There are a lot of strategies that play into it most people never think about like photo choice, copy placement, menu layout, or how many clicks it takes a user to get from point A to your contact form or shopping cart. The list goes on.

Should you ever feel stuck between “building” a website yourself or looking for a web designer to help you create a website for your business, try to keep in mind all of the other little things that come with it.

Are you up to creating and strategizing everything by yourself? Or would you rather have a professional bring your vision to life?

How to Hire a Website Designer / Web Design Agency

For the sake of this post, we’ll say you’d rather hire a web designer / web design agency because you don’t have time to become a self-taught web designer.

You’ve got a business to run.

And since we’re nice people and you’ve been kind enough to read this far, we’re going to give you a cheat sheet of questions you should always ask when hiring a web designer.

Why? Because even if you don’t choose  Z Coast Media (us) to help out with your business website we still want you to get the best bang for your buck and the website that’s going to accelerate your business to the next level.

11 Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Web Designer

  • What services do you offer? Many web design agencies offer more than just website design. There’s also web development, hosting, copywriting, and digital marketing services. Ask for examples. You might decide you want to make the web design agency your one-stop shop or you might find you only want them to do the design and go to someone else for marketing help.
  • Do you create a custom website or use templates? Often time the design agency will offer both because the needs of clients differ. Tell the team what your website needs and ask for a price comparison: “Can you quote me for a custom website with these features and quote me for a templated one? Thanks!”
  • Will you review my current site before deciding how to make this project happen? This question is only necessary if you already have a website of course. If you aren’t creating a website for your business for the first time it’s a good thing that the design team you hire be eager to analyze your site for strengths and weaknesses before making any major changes.
  • What strategies do you think will help my website generate revenue? Your design agency should be just as gung-ho about generating revenue for your website as you are. They should be able to give you a list of proven strategies that will be incorporated into the site design that align with your goals.
  • How will you manage my project? Websites are typically created in phases that include strategy/research, design, development, and launch/evaluation. At Z Coast Media, we like to provide a proposed timeline up front when sending out a quote for the work requested by a client.
  • What happens if I hate the design? Most project agreements outline either unlimited changes or a certain number of changes. This is often based on budget and timeline. It’s always best to review the process for revisions with the design agency before signing anything.
  • What do you need from me to get started? Depending on the type of website you’re contracting out, the design agency may need you to provide things like images, copy, and other things you want on the site.
  • What’s the billing procedure? It’s totally normal to want additional services outside the original scope of the project once things are underway. Find out how billing works from the design agency you’re interested in so you’re not surprised when other features and elements are added into the budget.
  • Will my website be responsive? If the answer is no or there’s any hesitation before the word yes, run. Go find another web designer.
  • Do you offer maintenance after my website is live? You should ask up-front if the agency offers maintenance services and how they are provided: ongoing, as-needed, or a retainer arrangement.
  • How do you measure results? Your relationship with the web design agency you hired shouldn’t come to a screeching halt once your site goes live. They should stick around for a little while to track things like page views, visits, bounce rate, conversion rate, and stuff like that.

    It should be included in your quote somewhere that they plan to keep an eye on and update you with these stats for x amount of time-based on the contract you’ve agreed on.

Well if that’s not comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about creating a website for your business I don’t know what is. Did you find this helpful? Do you have questions? Let us know in the comments. Feel free to point it out if you feel like we missed something important.

Creating a website for your business is one of the best things you could possibly do.

If you’d like to discuss creating a website (whether it’s your first or a refresh for something you already have) we’d welcome the opportunity to talk things over with you.

Just shoot an email to contact@zcoastmedia.com and we’ll be in touch.

Thanks for reading!

Xx Paige & Nick Xx

The amount of options we have for posting content on the internet is ridiculous.  Every major platform out there (that you’re probably already on) supports video in some way.

Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are all stellar for short videos and sneak peek clips. Facebook Live and YouTube are phenomenal options for long-form videos, ads, interviews and anything else you can think of.

One of the best things about having all these options for video and live streaming as a business owner is that this stuff isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Check out our infographic for some insanely compelling stats that are going to make you want to get up and start recording immediately.

Creating videos and video marketing is far beyond an “up-and-coming” tactic at this point. It’s here and it’s getting more powerful by the minute, especially when it comes to:

  • Telling your brand story
  • Building relationships
  • Explaining your value prop
  • Growing awareness for your business/products
  • Staying connected with an ever-evolving mobile audience

Video is now an invaluable tool for helping business owners convert customers and increase engagement no matter what your business does. Find the platform that makes sense for your business — the place where your audience hangs out — and start providing them with the content they’re looking for.

Own an auto shop? Start making how-to / tutorial videos on YouTube for basic at-home car maintenance. Have a salon? Create short before-and-after videos / boomerangs on Instagram featuring your clients. Sell makeup? Ask your customers, friends, and family to send you questions or challenges in regards to the products your selling. Then go and fire up Facebook Live and prove in real-time that your products are capable of everything you say they are.

Creating content isn’t easy. It requires a lot of creativity and a lot of hard work. That’s why so many people don’t make videos. But their lack of effort is yours for the taking. All the audience your competitor is missing out on because they don’t want to take the time to figure out how to do video is yours for the taking. Be yourself. Be real. Just get out there and try.

That’s what we’re doing. If you haven’t seen already, we’ve got a YouTube channel where we publish:

  • A weekly vlog
  • 7-Minute Saturdays (marketing) Videos
  • Tags, Challenges, and Games

We started the weekly vlog, ZCM Vlogs, because we want to document our journey from the bottom up. We know it takes time to make it big so we’re going to make the most of the time by showing other small business owners we’re in the same boat, we don’t always know what we’re doing, but we’re going for it anyway.

7-Minute-Saturdays is a bi-weekly series where Nick and I sit down and film a 7-Minute video covering topics related to marketing, web design and small business ownership. We share our knowledge and are working on developing a rapport with our audience so we are having consistent conversations with people.

We want this to be all about communication. We want to know what we can film that will help you out with your own marketing and business efforts and then we want to give you the answer in video for free.

Our Tags, Challenges, and Games playlist is where we show our less serious side (not that we’re very serious to begin with) and just film the weird, fun, and crazy stuff we do to cut loose and ensure we’re promoting a healthy, creative, team vibe at Z Coast.

Check us out if any of those things appeal to you, we truly appreciate it if you do.

Have a suggestion for us? Drop it in the comments below or shoot us an email: contact@zcoastmedia.com.

Thanks for stopping by the blog this week!

Reminder:

  • New blogs go up bi-weekly on Tuesday
  • New vlogs go up weekly
  • New 7-Minute Saturday episodes go up bi-weekly on Saturday
  • Podcast coming soon!

 

So you’ve just launched your new business and you’ve got something you want people to know about. It’s dope and people are going to love it, but you feel awkward telling them about it and you don’t really know how you’re going to get the word out anyway because you’ve barely got a budget as is — if you’re lucky enough to even have a budget in the first place.

We’ve been there.

No money.

No direction.

No clue what to do next.

Thankfully, though, we live in the digital age with all kinds of tools at our fingertips that marketer’s past could only dream about.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way my friends, and if you believe in your business you’re always going to be on the lookout for new ways to help it grow. Starting out is tough, but promoting your business with a cheap (or no) budget isn’t impossible.

It’s actually far from it and we’re here to share some of the secrets of the trade with ya. Hope you enjoy!

Sometimes it’s Good to be a Cheapskate

If you’re reading this post and you know me or Nick on a personal level, you know we’ve both got a reputation for being cheap. In fact, you’ve probably called us cheap at some point.

And that’s fine.

There’s a time to splurge money and there’s a time to save money. There’s also a time when you don’t have the option of doing either because you have no money.

It usually happens when your fresh baby-face has just been thrust into the real world, far from the safety of your childhood bedroom as you try to forge your own path among the grown-ups. Or when you’re starting your own business.

However, you’ve got some options available to you as you dwell in the land of ramen and regret. You can learn how to make things work as best you can in your current situation, or you can give up before you even give yourself the chance to get started and run home to mom.

Nick and I prefer to learn from where we’re at and build up from there. Hopefully, you do too. You should never let lack of budget hold you back.

Especially when it comes to promoting your business. So yeah, we may be a little frugal at times, cheapskates if you will, but we never let money stop us from going as big as we can with Z Coast Media (ZCM).

Sometimes we cut back on eating out if we know site domain renewal is coming up, or we rethink that extra album purchase in favor of paying for our Google set up, but we do things like that because ZCM is a priority.

It’s not a sacrifice when it’s something you want to do because your business is something you believe in. But you can still promote and build your business with little to no budget at all.

One of our top priorities at the beginning of every year is to set aside money to cover all of the following expenses:

  • LLC License
  • P.O. Box
  • Google Accounts
  • Domain
  • Hosting

These things have to be paid for to keep Z Coast running at its most basic level so we make it a priority to get these things paid for at the start of the year before we make room in the budget for anything else.

Once our top priority items are taken care of we then take the time to budget out the remaining money for any upgrades, new software, or anything else we know we’ll need or want in the coming year.

If there’s not enough leftover in your budget after taking care of the basics to help promote your business with, don’t worry. Cheap/free promotion tactics are what this post is all about.

Facebook is a Cheap At Twice the Price Option You Should Take Advantage of Yesterday

If you’re not familiar with the saying cheap at twice the price it just means extremely inexpensive. And Facebook is an extremely inexpensive way to promote your business.

But what about Facebook Ads?

What about ‘em? Yeah, they’re cool to have and maybe one day you’ll have the budget to run someone day but you’re here because you’re looking for inexpensive ways to promote your business, remember?

Facebook is a tool you just can’t afford to ignore when starting out. Just maintaining a healthy presence alone can help you engage people and grow awareness for your brand and that doesn’t cost a cent.

If you haven’t already, create a Facebook Page for your business. PLEASE. This will act as your home base for promoting your business on the social network.

When you’re setting up, make sure your Business Facebook Page aligns with your brand:

  • Use your business logo as the primary photo for your page (your profile pic)
  • Pick a cover photo that’s attractive and showcases what your business does or stands for
  • Don’t neglect to type up a few sentences in the description about your brand

Now that you actually have a page, invite people to like it. There’s absolutely no shame in inviting friends and family to like the shiznit out of your FB page.

If people you know aren’t being supportive of your new business it might be time to start surrounding yourself with new (supportive people). Just saying.

For example, my mom and Nick’s dad never fail to like a single post that goes up on ZCM’s Facebook page and they’re pretty good about sharing posts too (though there’s room for improvement there…); thanks, y’all!

But the point is you need to invite people you know to like your page and encourage them to direct their other friends *gasp* to check out your page so, hopefully, they’ll like it too.

Word of mouth boys and girls. It’s as free as every red-blooded American and it can do wonders for promoting your business.

 

People-like-my-Facebook-Page-Now-What

People like my Facebook Page…Now What?

Congrats, you have friends! Once you’ve got the page up and running do what we do and share, share, share!
Don’t go overboard or anything though. Typing that three times was just for emotional effect.

If you want to keep people coming back and new folks coming in, you’ve got to post interesting content that’s relevant to the people you’re attracting/want to attract.

People who like your page are gonna see your posts show up in their main news feed — although according to Mr. Zuckerberg that might be changing soon.

According to this article in USA Today, “Soon, Facebook says you will see more status updates from family and friends that spark meaningful social exchanges.” Zuckerberg wants people to spend less time passively scrolling and more time engaging in meaningful conversations and posts.

Facebook’s feed is still prime real estate that doesn’t cost you a penny. Make it count by taking the time to post thoughtfully to your page and share content that sparks the interactions Facebook wants to create with their upcoming feed changes.

The most successful Facebook posts today are videos but if you’re not comfortable making videos yet — and don’t say you can’t because you don’t have a camera ‘cause I bet you’ve got a smartphone that’s perfectly capable of taking video — get into the habit of sharing videos from other sources you enjoy.

You can mix it up with short, visual posts that drive people to comment, share, and like and Boom! you’re in the promoting business baby.

Post things like photos from inside your store, a behind the scenes look at your workspace or your latest blog post. Then head over to your Insights Tool.

Yep, Facebook even gives you a free to use insights tool with your super free Facebook Business Page. Dope, ain’t it?

Keep an eye on your Insights tool (you can access it via your Admin Menu) because it can tell you what time people look at your content, how many people see your content on average, and other cool stuff like that.

Some other Facebook business promotion tools you might consider

If you’re operating just above free and have a little budget to help promote your business on Facebook you might check out:

  • Promoted Posts — Promoted Posts enable you to boost the visibility of a specific post on your Facebook Business Page. How much does a promoted Facebook post cost? It varies, but it’s rare that you’ll see the option for less than $5.00.
  • Facebook Offers — Facebook Offers is a tool that allows you to create coupons that people can redeem online or in your store. You pay to have Facebook push your offer onto news feeds and your budget determines the number of people who will see your offer.

Of course, there’s always Facebook Ads but we’re here doing things on the cheap so we’re bypassing ads today and heading straight on to Instagram!

Instagram is Here to Help You Promote Your Business on the Cheap

According to Statista, as of September 2017, Instagram has 600 million monthly users.

600 million.

Are you kidding me?! That’s insane! But it’s fantastic news for you (especially if you’re selling something.) Why?

I’ll tell you why. Shoppers turn to social media for references. In fact, HubSpot uncovered that 79% of all online shoppers spend at least 50% of their shopping time researching products.

And where do they turn for recommendations from their friends and family? Yep, social media. So, you better believe people are looking for products, services, and recommendations on Instagram.

Don’t have a business Instagram account? Don’t sweat it. It’s easy and free to set up. Just remember it must be separate from your personal Insta.

 

Professional-Instagram-Account

How to Optimize Your Professional Instagram Account

First things first, take care of that bio.

Your bio is the one and the only opportunity you have to direct somebody from Instagram account to your website in a single click. So always, always, always have a link under your name/description.

It can be a link to your website, a landing page on your website, your blog, or your YouTube channel depending on what you do. Just do yourself a favor and take advantage of the opportunity to place a link in your bio.

△▲△

Now that you’ve got a link in your bio you can safely move on to creating a recognizable image. All the Instagramming in the world ain’t gonna mean sh*t if it’s not consistent with your brand.

The key to success on Instagram–and we’re defining success as brand awareness–is to make yourself instantly recognizable. This means you should have a checklist of things that consistently match your other social profiles across the board, including but not limited to your name and profile image.

Create Posts People Want to Follow & Double Tap

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words but very few of us ever actually harness that power. But man is it powerful for your brand if you do.

The reason Instagram is so popular and keeps growing is that it’s an image-based platform. We’ve known for years that images get twice as many comments as text posts so it really shouldn’t be a surprise.

However, as a business account, you’ve got to be careful with your posts because it’s a lot easier to turn followers off from following (and engaging) with you as a brand than as a personal account.

△▲△

One way you can do yourself a favor is to avoid hard selling. Instagram is a social culture above all else but people go to great lengths to avoid the used-car salesman, right?

Friends hold the top slot when it comes to influencing people on Instagram, but 38% of people on social media say they’re buying decisions are influenced by a brand’s social media.

In other words, your posts have a lot of sway so let the images you post do the talking for you without the added pressure of a sales pitch as the caption. Get creative and remember you’re here to participate in the culture of the platform.

△▲△

How are you supposed to get yourself heard if you’re supposed to avoid the sales pitch? Post attention-grabbing photos that are unique to your brand and full of personality. Easier said than done, we know, but it’s clearly not impossible.

You want to improve your brand awareness. You want to do it for cheap. You need to get creative. Use your photos to establish relationships instead of flaunting your goods and you’re going to get some attention.

It should also be a priority of yours not to post any photos that are cropped funky, blurry, or stray from these suggestions for posting quality photos.

Note: Instagram also provides a lot of awesome editing tools that help you enhance the colors and moods of your photos. Use them. Play with them. Learn them. They’re free. They’ll make your photos look better.

Don’t forget to post lifestyle photos that capture your brand culture! People want to see the actual people behind your brand. The ones that make your brand, your brand. Lifestyle photos are also a great way to strengthen the feelings people associate with your brand.

△▲△

So far we’ve covered how to use the photos you post to Instagram to promote your brand itself and the services/goods you provide but you can do more with Instagram.

You can:

  • Offer promotions and exclusive announcements to your followers
  • Widen your discoverability with the use of hashtags
  • Promote events
  • Run contests

The list goes on. The point though is this: You have a lot of options to promote your brand and other things associated with your brand on Instagram. Which means you have a lot of opportunities to increase your brand awareness.

The best part? They’re all free. Yes, you can do ads and post boosts on Instagram just like you can with FB and maybe one day you’ll want to try those features out.

But for now, if you’re operating within a limited budget, Instagram is a phenomenal option for promoting your brand for free.

Promote Your Business Cheap as Chips with LinkedIn

Did you know LinkedIn is more than just a stuffy social site for business for professionals? It’s also a great place to promote your brand cheap as chips (we threw that one in there for you, over the pond readers).

And it’s really not that stuffy once you get to know it.

Anyway, there are something like 65 million people on LinkedIn and we don’t know about you but we wouldn’t waste the potential of all those connections if we were you.

LinkedIn is much different from social platforms like Facebook and Instagram but it’s an excellent place for networking, mentorship, and getting referrals.

You can’t get referrals or network if nobody knows about your brand, right? Off to LinkedIn with you! It’s free to set up a profile.

Getting Started on LinkedIn

To kick things off on LinkedIn you’ll need to:

  • Learn how LinkedIn works
  • Create a login
  • Set up your company page and avoid being boring; keep it consistent, with your other social profiles

Once you’ve got the basics in place you have everything you need to start spreading the word about your brand and making connections with like-minded people.

Just have a company page on LinkedIn can help you build connections. But there’s no need to be lazy. Update your account regularly (truth: we forget to do this sometimes) to gain the attention of potential clients, customers, and partners.

This alone can help you:

  • Gain exposure to people searching for the products or services you offer
  • Obtain testimonials that provide credibility to your account
  • Meet new potential clients

Pro tip: try to post regularly and focus on how what you’re doing can help others achieve their goals. People love stuff like that.

You can also get involved with groups related to whatever it is you do and build up your reputation as an expert in your industry by contributing to conversations.

Talk is Cheap, and So Are Podcasts

We saved the best platform for promoting your business cheaply for last.

This is something we’re about to get into ourselves, in fact, we may have already posted our first podcast by the time this blog post goes live. If so, check for an update link at the end of this post.

Anyway, podcasting is huge and it’s a content platform that’s still growing. There are opportunities everywhere and people who are interested in what you’re talking about will find you.

Why are podcasts so easy to consume (and therefore such an easy way to get the word out about you and your business)?

Because podcasts are easy to consume. People listen to podcasts at the gym, in the carpool line at school, at the grocery store, in the shower, the list goes on.

Podcasts are also easily accessible. They can be consumed on basically any device your audience owns — smartphone, laptop, tablet and unlike a radio show, they’re available on-demand.

Podcasting allows you to create a one-on-one connection with your audience (a lot like video does, which is another cheap option for promoting your brand). With podcasting, you get to be directly in your listener’s ear for however long you record.

As long as you aren’t boring. Please don’t be boring.

But most importantly, podcasts are free/cheap to create. Sure, you’ll eventually want to invest in some professional microphones and stuff like that but when you’re just getting started and looking for free ways to promote your brand, podcasting is the way to go.

We’ve already given you a ton of ideas to promote your brand for next to nothing, and if you’ve made it this far thank you for reading and bravo.

With that said, if you’re serious about learning how to promote your brand via a podcast, we suggest you check out this comprehensive guide on how to start a successful podcast from Shopify.

No, we’re not getting paid to type that or refer you to Shopify (though we’d totally be open to that Shopify, *winks*); honestly, I’m just tired of typing at this point.

That’s one heck of a guide you just read there, don’t you think?

 

How-Will-You-Promote-Your-Brand

How Will You Promote Your Brand?

If you found anything in this guide useful we’d be seriously interested to hear how you plan to put it to work for promoting your brand on the cheap.

Do us a favor and drop a comment below telling us some of your favorite ways to promote your business for practically nothing. What worked for you when you first started out?

Of course, if you’re shy, you can always just shoot us an email. See you back here in about two weeks! Thanks for reading!

In the meantime, feel free to connect with us on our YouTube channel. Vlogs go up weekly and videos go up bi-weekly.

A Letter from Us to You

Hey y’all.

The blog has been a little lackluster as of late, hasn’t it? We know. And we’re sorry about that. We are a web design and marketing agency after all. One of the things we preach on the regular is how important it is to figure out your blog schedule and stick to it.

Then we go and let things get quiet for a little while. However, we feel like we have an okay enough excuse that you’ll forgive us. We’ve been busy. On it’s own, that’s not really a sufficient enough excuse so let us tell you what’s happening behind the scenes and what you can expect from Z Coast Media in 2018.

Brand Refreshing

We’re Refreshing the Brand

We’ve been super occupied behind the scenes really trying to zero in on what we want Z Coast Media to stand for and how we can best portray that on our website, in our social media, and to any past, present, and future clients.

Finally, after several months of hard work and late night conversations, we’ve figured out what it is we really want. You see, the funny thing about starting your own design and marketing agency (or any small business for that matter) is the growing pains that you go through. They can make you feel like you’re just missing the mark sometimes. But you should never let that stop you.

Growing pains are a good thing and it’s okay if it takes a little time for you to figure out what it is that you really want to demand from yourself and your brand.

Now, we’re not saying there’s going to be a dramatic change in what we do at Z Coast Media, we just feel like we can do better at more clearly expressing what it is we love to do and how we can better help you do what it is you love to do.

So we hope you keep an eye on the website. We’ve got a lot of exciting things we’re gearing up to reveal in 2018 and we can’t wait for you to see them. Please, don’t be shy about letting us know what you think when we do launch our refresh. Leave a comment on this post or hit us up on social media when things start rolling out.

Sneak Peek: We might be bringing some new color into the branding palette. What do you think?

We’re Setting Up our Editorial Calendar a Little Differently

Our new brand refresh is going to have an impact on the blog and other types of content we’ll be putting out into the world and we really hope you like it. We’re almost done with our 2018 marketing and editorial calendars so we wanted to give you a heads up about what’s coming.

Longer, more in depth blog posts — We want to be a resource for you. We want to be your helping hand, your cheerleader, and maybe, just maybe, your new project partner. But we both know you’ll never trust someone with your project if you don’t 100% trust that we know what we’re talking about.

That’s why we’re planning to start publishing longer, more in-depth pieces of content on the blog. Almost like mini-guides to all things marketing and design for your small business. It’s one of our goals to be your one-stop shop for resources and tools no matter where you are in your own branding (and business) journey.

With that said, we’re planning to adopt a bi-weekly posting schedule with posts that are 1500+ words or more. That way you’ve got something valuable to reference that you can bookmark and look back on as you need it. If you’ve got any requests about something you’d like to know more about when it comes to marketing or design, we’re all ears. Just hit up the inbox.

Videos! — That’s right boys and girls and people of all ages, Z Coast Media is going to start putting out video content. It’ll be entertaining, we promise.

As of the writing of this post we just started Vlogmas over on our brand new YouTube channel so we hope you go check it out. You can visit our YouTube channel by clicking here. You can also subscribe to the channel when you get there so you don’t miss out on any of the action.

Complete transparency here: neither of us has ever done much with video before. We’re learning just like a lot of you reading this post probably are/want to. That’s why we decided to dive straight in and just go for it. Vlogmas is a fun little YouTube “challenge” that we thought we could make good use of to get our feet wet with talking to the camera, recording, and video editing.

After December, in addition to regular vlogging, so you can see what goes on at Z Coast Media, we’ll also be doing more structured videos that we hope serve as another valuable content resource for anyone who needs it.

If you’ve got any video suggestions or requests, feel free to shoot Paige a message here: paige@zcoastmedia.com

Our Project Load is Ramping Up

And we are so pumped about it!

If there’s one thing we’re super thankful for this year it’s our clients. We like staying busy and helping other people create stunning websites, exciting new eCommerce stores, and beautiful new branding elements.

You can expect some exciting new case studies in 2018 outlining and describing some of our most exciting 2017 projects. We can’t wait to introduce you to the brands we’re wrapping up the year with and if you’re reading this blog, we think you’ll be excited to see a showcase of some of our latest work too.

Keep your eyes peeled in the New Year. Things are going to be more active than they’ve ever been here on the blog, on YouTube, and on our social media.

If we’re not connected yet, let’s do that! We love making new friends so we’ll make it easy for you to find us:

Closing The Year With Christmas Cheer

Closing The Year With Christmas Cheer

So do you forgive us? Even though the blog has been quiet we haven’t stopped working. In fact, we’ve been working harder than ever before. But we do promise to do better in 2018.

Hopefully, you plan to stick around and see for yourself. With that said, this will probably be the last Z Coast Media blog post of 2017. We still have a lot of work to do and then a lot of little finishing touches after that.

The plan is to kill two birds with one stone and make the most of this holiday season while ramping up our new YouTube channel and come back in 2018 with all kinds of exciting goodies for you and anyone else who visits the site.

Everyone at Z Coast Media hopes you have a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!  See y’all in 2018.

— Paige & Nick

If you’ve ever asked yourself how the heck you’re supposed to find content marketing ideas and hot topics that are on-trend and relevant to your business, this post is for you.

Using nothing but free tools, we’re going to show you how you can find ideas, produce relevant content for your audience, and attract engagement. Buckle up boys and girls because we’re about to blow your mind with some easy content marketing hacks.

What’s Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a fascinating subject but a lot of people find it more intimidating than they should. It’s okay if you’re one of them, you won’t be by the end of this post.

Everybody, no matter what type of business you’re running, has to participate in content marketing. What is content marketing? According to CMI:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Instead of just throwing your products and services in people’s faces all the time (which is a real turn-off), content marketing shows that you really care about your prospects and customers. You’re going the extra mile and providing useful information to people because you want to help them solve a problem.

The hard part is finding out what information your prospects and customers are looking for.

Or is it?

5 Free Tools for Finding Hot Topics to Produce Content About

Because we’re cool people, we’re going to give you a sneak peek into how we hunt down on-trend content ideas for Z Coast using nothing but freebies.

We’re going to use the actual topic of content marketing because, ya know, we do that here: Proof. But these tools and tactics are for everybody, no matter what kind of business you’re running.

  1. Quora

    Quora defines itself as, “A place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” It totally lives up to that definition. If we’re ever at a loss for topic ideas, one of the first places we go troll is Quora.

    You can use Quora just like a search engine by taking advantage of the search bar. So, as an example, we logged into Quora and searched “content marketing” to see what we could find.

    With Quora, you have the option to just search for the term or search by topic, we like searching by topic.

    Anyway, we searched the topic “content marketing” and it took us to a feed where we have the choice to view by:

    — Read
    — Answer
    — Topic FAQ
    — Most Viewed Writers

    They’re all cool to search through but we’re partial to browsing through Most Viewed Writers So that’s what we did.

    Why the preference? We like the top ten list this view returns. We tend to gravitate towards the middle of the list but you should always pick whatever piques your interest the most.

    When you pick a writer and click through on an article you think looks interesting we recommend that you also look at the number of follows and number of answers in the article.

    Follows tend to vary wildly but the more answers an article on Quora has, the better indicator it is that it’s a hot topic at the moment (just check the date to make sure).

    However, the most important thing is the number of views and upvotes an article has. You don’t have to look for anything outrageous but you’re in good shape if anything’s got over 300 views and/or 50 upvotes.

    So, continuing on with our example we’ll say you found an article on the topic of content marketing about startup content marketing that had 511 views and 64 upvotes. Next stop…

  2. Reddit

    Otherwise known as the front page of the internet. When we got to Reddit, we searched “startup content marketing” and Reddit gave us some subreddit ideas but what we’re looking for is actual topics.

    Remember, we’re looking for recency and engagement so we found a post about investing in content marketing that was published about 7 months ago that has 269 points. Good number.

    Of course, you should always read the post. But once you’ve got an idea about the context of the topic what you really want to look at are the comments and replies at the bottom of the page.

    That’s where the good stuff is and where you’re going to find some more ideas.

    Pay attention to the types of questions people are asking about your topic and look for ones you know you and your business can address.  That’s what we did.

    Follow the breadcrumbs!

    Quora led us to the idea of startup content marketing which is one on-trend content marketing idea we could use by itself. But then we searched that term in Reddit and it led us to a post about investing in content marketing, another topic we could pursue.

    The questions and answers section of that article is full of discussion about content management systems and which ones are right for different business sizes.

    Boom! It only took a couple of minutes and now we have 3 new ideas for Z Coast blog posts and other types of content we could produce all about content marketing.

    But we’re not done yet!

  3. YouTube

    We also like to use YouTube when we’re looking for content marketing ideas. And you guessed it, we went to YouTube and searched startup content marketing there too.

    Note: YouTube makes it super easy to find recent content. Just use the little Filters tab at the top and filter by whatever timeframe you want for your search.

    After searching startup content marketing we filtered by “This Month” and found a nice little video from Miles Beckler: DIY Sales Funnel Part 2 – Start Content Marketing & Learn How To Customize Your Theme On WordPress.

    It was published 1 week ago, has 1,152 views at the time of writing this post, 50 likes, and 53 comments. Not bad.

    The video is definitely worth a watch but after watching we headed to the comments section ‘cause we’re on a mission here. In the comments, we found more questions and comments about:

    — Content management systems (especially WordPress)
    — Hiding sidebars with CSS and other tricks
    — Image uploading issues in WordPress
    — SEO tactics

    Great stuff! Now we have a whole Google doc full of hot content marketing ideas (literally) based on the types of questions people are asking all over the web.

    And finally…

  4. Answer The Public

    AnswerThePublic.com is the bomb for three reasons:
    1) The old guy on the homepage who doesn’t give a crap that you’re there.
    2) It’s visual keyword research.
    3) You can search specifically by country. You’ve got to try it.

    We’re in Atlanta, GA so we searched in the US setting. ‘Murica.

    Since using the Answer The Public, we’ve found that broad terms work best when you’re looking for ideas so instead of searching startup content marketing here like we did on Reddit and YouTube, we just searched content marketing.

    By doing so, Answer The Public presented us with an infographic of 85 popular questions around the topic of content marketing such as:

    — What are content marketing methods?
    — Companies who use content marketing?
    — When to use content marketing?
    — How does content marketing make money?

    Now the really cool the thing about Answer The Public is that you can click on any of the questions it gave you and it will literally search in Google for you. Then, you can see who ranks and for what in relation to the question you searched.

    Pretty dope, right?

  5. Google

    You didn’t think we’d get through this post without mentioning Google, did you? Of course not. From Answer The Public we clicked on the question, “How does content marketing make money?” When we got to Google we checked out some of the top posts but the real reason we’re here is to look at searches related to how does content marketing make money at the bottom of the search page. We found eight. All of which we’ll save in our Google doc of literal on-trend content marketing ideas.

You Can Be A Content Marketer Too

All 5 places we visited looking for topic ideas can be used for anything. You can take the same methods we use and apply them to your restaurant, your art studio, or your pet grooming business. We just used the actual topic of content marketing here because we literally specialize in content marketing at Z Coast Media.

Over the course of a few minutes, we showed you how we generate ideas to blog about, write emails about, and do other cool content marketing things with. We started with nothing and ended up with 10+ new ideas that’ll keep us busy for weeks. We know you can do the same!

Questions about content marketing? See an idea we disclosed in this post you’d like us to write about? We’re not mindreaders! Share ‘em in the comments.


Opening Credits: 15 Of The Best YouTube Channels For Startups

One of the realities of going into business for yourself is that you always have to be open to learning something new. And where are we most likely to turn when we want to learn something new? That’s right, Youtube.

The internet is an endless source of information and sometimes it’s just a heck of alot easier to watch a video and learn about pop-ups and modals and how they interact with SEO than sift through articles (though written content is important to, don’t forget that).

YouTube provides us with the easily digestible bite-size information so many of us crave. Subscribing to the right channels can keep you in the loop and help you grow your startup without wasting hours and hours of precious time and money.

We’ve compiled a list of the best (our favorite) YouTube channels for startups that will educate and inspire you.

Never stop working hard to grow and expand your skillset. Your business depends on it.

 

The Main Show

Gary Vaynerchuk

If you don’t know who Gary Vaynerchuk is, buckle up ‘cause you’re in for one heck of a ride. Vaynerchuk is a kick*ss serial entrepreneur and the undisputed master of generating engagement. His ability to use video in different ways and slice and dice content to maximize view on both YouTube and any other social media platform you can think of is uncanny.

The guy just loves what he does and it shows. Anytime we sit down to watch one of his video clips we always come away with a fire in our bellies to get out there and succeed at everything we do. No excuses. No options. You will too.

Watch: Creative Is The Variable of Success. It’s fire. Disclaimer: Gary V is known for his use of expletives so there’s no shortage of colorful language in his videos.

Ted Talks

Did you really think we’d make a list of the best YouTube channels for startups and not include Ted Talks? C’mon. It’s free access to some of the most inspiring and thought provoking lectures in the world.  

Watch: Know Your Worth And Ask For It. This video is sooooo important. Especially for entrepreneurs, startups; anyone who’s ever played with the idea of going into business for themselves.

You’ve got to know how to communicate your value. You have skills that set you apart and allow you to provide your clients with unique products and solutions that meet their needs.

Act like it.

Moz

We linked to a Whiteboard Friday Moz video at the beginning of this post. Why? Because even though video is insanely popular right now, it’s hard to have a successful website without knowing about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

And it’s hard to have a business today without having a website. See how that all ties in? SEO might not seem all that important to you right now but it’s vital to your business.

Moz’s YouTube channel is one of the best places to learn about the latest strategies and trends—they’re always changing—for optimizing your website and ranking blog posts. In fact, it’s so good we’re going to suggest another video for you.

Watch: The 10 Types of Content That Work Best for SEO. Presented by The Wizard of Moz himself, Rand Fishkin.

Google Small Business

The entire purpose of the Google Small Business YouTube channel is to help startups and small businesses succeed on the web. This channel is packed full of valuable content about how to use Google’s services to propel your small business to the top.

Because duh, it’s Google. Of course that’s what all the videos are going to revolve around. So take advantage of it!

Google honestly lays out everything you need to get your startup going. You just have to be willing to put in the work to learn how to use everything they’re giving you to your advantage.

It’s worth it. We promise.

Watch: Turning Your Company Into A Legitimate Business

This Week In Startups

You were waiting on this one to show up, weren’t you? We knew it.

If you’ve got a startup and you’re not watching This Week In Startups, ditch the cat videos and dive into this channel. There are 2400+ videos on this channel just waiting to be watched.

The content and guests on this channel are some of the best out there for calibrating the mindset of a successful founder. These videos never fail to deliver an insightful, compelling, timely and timeless look at the startup ecosystem.

What are you waiting for? Watch: Hunter Walk, Homebrew Investment Strategy

Behind The Brand

Bryan Elliot is the bomb. Mostly because he manages to get us a backstage pass into the minds of people and brands like Ariana Huffington, Warby Parker,  Seth Godin, and Lori Greiner.

Behind The Brand is all about unmasking the challenges entrepreneurs we look up to faced along the way and allowing them to share important advice to other people trying to build their own brand.

See the appeal? Watch: Lori Greiner — Advice To My Teenage Self

Marie TV

Marie Forleo of Marie TV was named by Oprah as a “thought leader for the next generation.” She was also one of Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies in 2014. Of course we watch her YouTube channel.

Marie’s channel is full of wit and actionable tips to help you start a business you’ll love forever. But more than that, her videos are just full of wisdom that can be applied to everyday life beyond your business.

The life of a small business / startup owner can be crazy busy and overwhelming at times. It’s important to have daily reminders that although work is important, there’s so much more to life than working all the time.

Watch: Find The Courage To Keep Going Even When You Feel Like Giving Up

Y Combinator

Get out your notebook (or favorite note taking app) because you’re about to go to startup school. Y Combinator is the world’s most powerful startup incubator so they kinda know what they’re talking about over on their YouTube channel.

Twice a year, Y Combinator invests a small amount of money in a large number of startups. Basically, they help startups actually get started and make something of their ideas.

In between investing in other companies, Y Combinator keeps up a pretty popular YouTube Channel we highly recommend you check out.

Don’t know where to start? Watch: How To Manage with Ben Horowitz. This video serves as an excellent reminder that you aren’t the only person your decisions impact as the founder and leader of your company.

Derek Halpern

Every business needs marketing, right? It doesn’t get much better than Derek Halpern when you’re looking to expand your knowledge on that subject.

Halpern is an excellent resource for pointers about pricing products, building email lists, dealing with aggravating clients, split testing, and a lot of other stuff.

His videos aren’t boring either. They’re entertaining and make learning fun. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Watch: How to Write Better Sales Copy

Shopify

If you’re not familiar with Shopify we’re willing to bet you’ve at least heard of them before. Shopify is a powerful commerce platform that makes it possible for anybody to sell online.

Even you. Seriously.

Their YouTube channel is full of helpful tutorials for starting an online business, insightful interviews, and the occasional “behind the scenes” video. This channel is full of personality and does a fantastic job of encouraging entrepreneurs to just go for it and pursue your passion.

Watch: The Struggles of Entrepreneurship

The Good Life Project

The Good Life Project summed up: Live your life with purpose.

Like we said before, there’s more to life than work. The Good Life project is all about finding joy in everything you do both inside and outside of work, and living a life full of deep meaning and connection.

This is arguably the most inspiring YouTube channel on this list.

Go out there and live your life. Live it confidently. Live it successfully. Have a little faith in yourself and your dreams. Surround yourself with encouraging people and be an encouraging person.

We’re genuinely rooting for you. We’re dreamers too.

Watch: Tiffany Dufu. Author of “Drop the Ball,” Tiffany Dufu is a force of nature. Don’t put off listening to this interview.

Casey Neistat

We’re just going to let Casey Neistat’s YouTube Channel speak for itself.

Watch: Do What You Can’t

Project Management

Part of running an awesome startup and being an impressive entrepreneur is knowing how to manage your projects. Now, we get in the beginning that sometimes it’d be nice just to have one project, but don’t be discouraged.

The day is coming when you’re going to have so much business you won’t know what do with all of it. That’s why you need some project management skills.

You need to have the ability to initiate, plan, execute, and control your projects and the team working it in order to achieve your goals and meet the criteria you determined would spell success.

Get on it by incorporating the Project Management YouTube channel into your daily online video watching ritual.

Watch: How To Improve Your Team’s Efficiency

Creative Mornings Atlanta

Shameless backyard plug! We love Atlanta and all the creative people in it. We also love all the creative, boundary-pushing videos they put out. We wouldn’t put them on the list if we didn’t think you would too.

Watch: All of them!

Spartan Up

Running your own business takes a lot of hard work and dedication. We’re firm believers that in order to truly successful in this life, you have to be in great shape mentally and physically to do it.

Building your startup takes time and energy. You’re not going to make the kind of leaps and bounds progress we all know you’re capable of if you’re not functioning in prime mental and physical condition.

Spartan Up’s YouTube channel inspires us to work hard and play hard. It reminds us that there’s no excuse for not getting the job done. It challenges us to be better people in business and our personal lives.

But above all, it encourages us to be warriors and go make something of ourselves. What about you? Ready to get up off your butt and make something of yourself?

Watch: The Not To Do List

 

The End

Even if you only watch one of the suggested videos on this list we promise it’ll make a difference in how you operate on a day to day basis. Every channel on this list echoes the same message in a unique and inspiring way: get over your fear of trying something new and going after your dreams.

Don’t let lack of knowledge hold you back from launching your startup and going after the goals you’ve set for yourself. As you just saw, there’s a heck of alot of YouTube channels out there serving up free content to help make you a more intelligent and business savvy entrepreneur.

Take advantage of it y’all.

What’s your favorite YouTube Channel for learning something new about entrepreneurship, startups, and running your own business? We like suggestions as much as the next guy!