“Speeding Up the Web Design Process Ft. Charles Drengberg of Belch.io” (Inbound Success Ep. 50)

Website redesign projects are typically of high strategic importance to companies, but they can be painstaking and time consuming.

Charles Drengberg

Charles Drengberg

On this week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Belch.io Founder Charles Drengberg talks about how he has shortened the amount of time needed for website redesigns, made it easier and faster to update sites over time, and in doing so, helped clients see a greater return on their website investments.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about Charles’s approach to website redesign projects and how you can apply these lessons to your own site redesign.

Transcript

Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. My name’s Kathleen Booth and I’m your host. Today, my guest is Charles Drengberg, who is the CEO and co-founder of Belch.io. Welcome, Charles.

Charles Drengberg (guest): Thanks, Kathleen. I appreciate you having me on.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 9.40.58 AMCharles and I recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah, I’m excited to have you here. A little story before we get into this. I met Charles at HubSpot’s INBOUND Conference in 2017, and I was standing at IMPACT’s booth. We sponsored the conference and had a booth in Club INBOUND. If you’ve ever been to the conference, it’s a huge conference. I think there was like 20,000 people this year. Club INBOUND is like the central nervous system of the conference. Everybody passes through there. It’s a packed space.

We had our booth and I was working. Charles was at the booth next to us and was super friendly and came over and introduced himself. I just wanted to tell this story because it’s one of the things I really love about, at least my experience that I’ve had to date in the HubSpot world, which is that whether it’s other HubSpot partner agencies or other sponsors at the conference … I think some other conferences you go to and people feel competitive. Like, “What do you have at your booth? Why are people there and not at mine?”

For whatever reason in the HubSpot world, things are so collegial and friendly. I just appreciated that. I remembered our conversation and enjoyed it, and then was very excited when I had the opportunity to have you on here.

Charles: Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s a little odd at first when you go to the HubSpot Conference, because you’re like, “When is the shoe going to drop?” I’ve been to a lot of different tech conferences, marketing conferences, and there’s definitely more of a family feel. Everybody wants to work together. They have the same mission, so it feels organic.

Kathleen: Yeah, it’s really refreshing. I think part of it is that INBOUND mindset of, “It’s not about keeping things secret or holding things in.” It’s, “If you’ve got a great product or a great service, you shouldn’t be afraid to,” as one of my mentors used to say, “Open the Kimono and share it with the world.” You don’t worry about competition, you worry about doing your stuff better than anybody else, right?

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Charles before we jump in and talk about websites, which is one of the things we’re going to discuss today, I’d love it if you could tell our audience a little bit about you. You have kind of an interesting background that has spanned the service industry, as well as SaaS and IT and technology, so tell us a little bit about your history.

Charles: Yeah. Every time I tell this story to different people in different positions in marketing, it’s interesting, especially with agencies, it’s interesting to hear everybody else’s story. Sometimes they line up, and sometimes people are like, “That’s crazy that you’re at this point coming through this path.”

Where it really started was, I guess, 10, 12 years ago, something like that, a friend and I started a sports blog. I had been writing content and getting published in local newspapers and magazines and things like that for different stuff, like sports and news and politics and a lot of satire and comedy type of writing.

We started a sports blog. When we started that sports blog, we had no money. We were doing it for fun. I learned a lot from that process. We grew very, very quickly, so I was forced to learn a lot of things, like how to build a WordPress site once you maxed out what you could do on Tumblr is, I think, where we started originally. I had to learn how to build a website. I didn’t have capital to start it up. That was my first time even learning how to code anything.

I used to ask my wife how to add embed codes to MySpace, I think we went back that far. Once we did that, we grew to about a million readers a month, visitors a month unique. It kind of spiraled into something else where a friend of mine brought me onto his team. He was working at an IT services organization, it was a Microsoft partner. He knew I was a sales guy. He knew I was a content type of person. He knew I had a lot of ways to use digital to help him get this off the ground within that organization.

I only spent about a year and a half, two years with them, but I learned a lot about what was happening in corporate marketing, where the deficiencies were with the agencies we were working with. Even our internal team at the company that I was at, they were doing … A lot of the things that they were trying to do were right, but the execution wasn’t there. I felt like I needed to step in and start doing some of that stuff myself. My entire salary and compensation was tied to success.

I kind of introduced the idea of putting content out there and bringing people in, teaching them about cloud, launching Office 365 and the cloud products. We had a lot of success. I think our company became best region partner of the year for Microsoft Cloud, which was a big step for them at the time. I proved what I believed, which was put out good information, be helpful, bring people in and then just have a good process of continuing that through the sale.

As I got more confident with that, a lot of people started pushing me towards doing this on my own. I had clients at night. I had startups that I was helping write pitch text for. It was all stuff I learned with my first couple of companies, my first couple of online businesses. We had a lot of success with the small clients. Then, eventually it flipped. Once you’re doing more work and making more money at night than you are during the day, it’s time to make that the day job.

I opened up Big Presence quietly, very gently, in 2014 and just worked with contractors for a year, got my footing, found what I wanted to do. Found HubSpot as the right solution, bailed on Marketo because it just wasn’t a good fit for small businesses at the time. Once we got HubSpot in place, I started hiring people in 2015. From there, it’s turned into let’s create products. Let’s create things that people could use that make their lives easier, and that’s where we’re at today with Belch, which we created out of Big Presence originally.

Belch is a HubSpot builder. It’s a visual builder for pages, for emails, creates templates but also curates the actual pages. We’re just literally trying to make marketing easier for digital marketers who are being asked to do five jobs at once when, in the past, they only had to do maybe one or two, be a content writer, maybe do email marketing. Now, they’re doing branding pages and campaigns and strategies. We know it’s piling up on them, because we’ve watched it up close. We’re just trying to make it a little bit easier for everybody now.

Kathleen: Yeah. It’s really serving a big need in the marketplace. I mean I know this because, gosh, I owned a digital marketing agency for 10 years before I joined IMPACT. Like you, I am very self-taught in a lot of things. Maybe, unlike you, I don’t have as much of the technical background. While I know enough to be dangerous with a WordPress install, I wouldn’t say I’m the best website builder on the planet. In the earlier years of my agency, I was super scrappy. I would get out there and figure it out and build little websites, but I would be way out of my depth today.

Things have evolved so much, even WordPress, and HubSpot has too. I think that’s because, at least in my opinion, what marketers are asking to be able to do on these platforms has gotten more and more sophisticated. We want to be able to use smart content. We want to be able to create these really slick experiences that are super mobile friendly for people. What you gain in functionality and features, you might lose a little bit in user friendliness. I would never try to build a website today. I would be terrible if I did. I would certainly never charge anybody for it.

I think there are … And HubSpot tries really hard to be user friendly. I think it is a very user friendly CMS. At the same time, the average person jumping in can be very overwhelmed. Most of us are visual learners. To have a builder that is more visual and doesn’t require you to understand any CSS or HTML or anything like that is a tremendous, tremendous asset not only for when you first build your site, but when you have to then maintain it.

Let’s be honest, getting a website launched is just the first step. Then, you have your whole marketing life ahead of you where you have to add content and update it and make changes. I see a tremendous need for it, which is one of the reasons I was excited to talk to you.

Charles: Yeah. It’s become obvious. I mean I picked WordPress as my platform of choice in 2013. I knew where it was going. I had watched it evolve pretty quickly from 2009 to 2013. The introduction of page builders for WordPress was huge for a lot of people, especially small agencies that don’t have developers. I went the hard route where I had to learn how to actually code for whatever amount of time until we got to a point where I could hire a good developer that could do those things for me.

Then, we found page builders. It was, for me, it was like an a-ha moment. I knew it was going to get this point. MailChimp, Unbounce, LeadPages, all the ones that have good drag and drop builders that are really intuitive, are easy to use, that’s where all software is going. Software is meant to get easier, not more complicated. The people using it are going to have probably less technical knowledge than ever when you’re talking about marketing. Most of the people working in there are 22 to 28, and it’s one of their first jobs, their first, second, third job.

They don’t have those skills yet necessarily, unless they want to be a developer. Not a lot of developers want to work in marketing. We’re trying to get rid of the need for developer in marketing, because we just know that people don’t have them, especially HubSpot customers. That’s the whole reason our agency exists I think.

Kathleen: Yeah. Even where you do have developers who want to work in marketing, because we certainly have a bunch of them on our team, those really good developers are incredibly hard to find. I think my experience has been, not so much with IMPACT, but with other companies with which I’ve worked, they get poached really easily by big tech companies. I work out of a home office in Annapolis, Maryland, even though IMPACT is up in Connecticut.

In this area, this is where I used to have my agency, most good developers would get hired by Under Armour, because they’re the 800 pound gorilla in town. They can pay a lot of money and there’s some pretty sexy projects that you can work on. A lot of the agencies in Baltimore really struggle to find and keep developers. If they find them, they have to pay them ungodly sums of money. That’s not necessarily an option for a lot of companies out there.

I would add, a lot of companies don’t have enough work to keep a developer occupied full-time. If you’re a company that is selling, I don’t know, a widget for construction or something, you’re probably not updating your website so much that you constantly need to have a developer on staff.

Charles: Right. The other thing that we’re seeing, agencies are a little bit different. We have developers at our disposal and we can use them for those things. One thing we’ve learned on the agency side is the customers that we deal with don’t have a developer. Or if they are a software company, which a lot of my clients have been software companies, they don’t have anybody that’s going to step into marketing and help out with marketing. They’re building applications, they’re doing things that are more mission critical maybe to the operations side of the business.

For us, we’re looking at helping agencies is one thing, especially smaller agencies, but customers too. Those are people that they go direct to HubSpot. They might not have an agency attached yet and they still have one marketer who has to design the assets, who has to write the content, who has to put it into HubSpot. If they get hung up on trying to build a custom template and that’s somewhere they’re uncomfortable, it slows things down. They end up cutting corners. They start using the same templates over and over. We know for a fact that reduces the conversion rate on those templates that you’re using over and over and over all the time. 

Kathleen: We’ve talked about why there’s such a need for this. Clearly, having a good website is important. Clearly, keeping your website up to date is important, but it’s challenging. I want to take a step back from what we’ve been talking about here, which is why Belch came into existence, and I want to talk about really the underlying pain point, which for most companies is having that awesome website and in my years of doing this, I’ve seen so many companies come to me with dramatically outdated websites or they don’t have a website at all if they’re a new company and they need to either do a redesign or create a website from scratch and particularly in cases where companies are redesigning sites, that can be a very long drawn out, very, very painful process, but it’s vitally important for them to get to the other side because that’s where they know they’re going to have a site that accurately reflects what they do. That is a better selling tool for their business, et cetera. You’ve been involved in a lot of website redesigns. I mean, that’s really what led you to creating this product. Do you have any examples of a website redesign projects where there have been pretty dramatic improvements before and after?

Charles: Yeah. I hate to say to us but a lot of the clients we’ve worked with for the last three or four years were in bad shape or like what you’re talking about. They had something but it wasn’t serving them at all. One thing we do is we literally will track people before we do a redesign, see what people are doing on the website and specifically find what we need to improve, so that when afterwards, we’re looking back at the stats, we’re seeing numbers on average, double organic traffic on a redesign on the month or two or three, whatever we measure following a redesign. So organic traffic is usually number one. Most companies with a bad website, SEO is the last thing that we’re going to probably do with a bad website.

So we see traffic there, but the bigger part that we really focus on is conversion rates. If we’re getting people into the site, we’re obviously going to be more and more work to push into the site. But if you’re not converting people on the site, you’re not getting data from people when they come in, like email addresses to reach out to them later, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity and that’s the biggest place that we focus is, just get email addresses, let’s build databases. People with bad websites generally have bad databases, usually fed by salespeople who bought lists.

So one, we’re coaching them and teaching them, that’s not gonna work anymore. GDPR is a good reason to pull out in 2018 to point to. But it also just doesn’t work. Lists are dead. It’s the worst thing ever to be on a call team and have to do cold calls, which I’ve done in the past. So when we do a redesign, we’re trying to solve problems, but the biggest ones that we see are organic traffic through the roof after a redesign, and then also the conversion rate, usually double or triple within a couple of months than they before.

Kathleen: So can you share maybe a story of when you’ve been able to do that?

Charles: Sure. So one company that I can point out is XQ Innovation. XQ does something that’s really cool, which we’re partners with them and we’re friends with them now, one of the owners is a former fraternity brother of one of the guys that works for me. So that’s how we got introduced to them. What they do is executive coaching, emotional intelligence training. They work with executives, they work with teams, they help them communicate better and they do it all based on like data driven assessments. So anybody out there that’s listening to you or done DISC assessments and gone through that whole thing, it’s that but like on steroids. So what we did with them, if you went to their website a year and a half ago, it looked like an institutional website with tons of content, which was good. They had a lot of tons of content, lots of research, lots of studies and all these things.

But I think if you went to it, you would never have hired them necessarily because yiou didn’t really know what they did. It was very confusing. We’re going to coach you on this, some classes for this and help you with that. But it wasn’t focused. So we did a rebrand for them last year, I think, the beginning of last year. A full rebrand and then redesign the website. The key was really who are they and what do they do. So I sat down with their ownership and helped them decide like, “This is who you are, this is who I think you guys are, because that’s who you are to us.” They said we nailed it on the first try. So now when you go to their website, it’s very, very clear, XQ Innovation, which is at www.xqinnovation.com, if anybody wants to look at it.

It’s very clear what they do. It’s very clear how they help people. They have their free assessment on there, which is kind of their offer right now. We have eBooks and stuff like that too but a free assessment is what everybody should try because it’ll give you a report, tell you exactly who you are, what your behaviors are, kind of tell you why your behaviors are the way they are in many ways. Then if you take it with somebody else on their team, they can match you up and say, “This is how you two need to communicate with each other.” It changes the dynamic of a company when you go through it as a team. So with them they’ve seen an immediate lift.

I think they’re in Bahamas right now doing a training for a huge furniture company down there that they got from their website, that they wouldn’t have gotten before and that’s a big deal for them. They’re a small startup, but everybody needs what they do. They just needed to present it in a new way. I think we’ve done a good job with that because they don’t really call me and they just … They’re always on a trip. They’re always meeting with a new company. We’ve used every aspect of HubSpot, it’s going to do that for them. So we built the HubSpot site using Belch, so we could get it up quick and easy for them and now we’re just running everything through HubSpot as far as marketing too.

Kathleen: So if you had to say what the top three or four factors were in kind of the transformation that you made on their site that delivered such great results. It sounds like if I’m hearing you right, one of them is putting in place a really good lead magnet, which is this free assessment. Another was the messaging, being really clear about what they did. What would you say the other two would be?

Charles: I think simplicity of the design of their site. There’s not a lot of content on it right now. There’s content on their blog and resources and things, but if you go to their services pages, you want to learn about their assessments, you want to learn about their coaching programs, it’s very straightforward. It’s only enough to get the conversation going and hit the pain points that people have inside their business and let them self identify. Because we want them to talk to the guys at XQ, the whole team at XQ because once they talk they can find out what the real problem are, is. For example, if I went to their website three years ago before I met them, I would have thought my problem was getting the most out of the younger people on my team, how do I motivate them, I don’t have enough time, maybe I’m not the right coach for them and I’m not and we found that out through the assessments, but I wouldn’t have hired them because I wouldn’t have seen that part of it.

When I look up on their site now is performance. When I see the word performance, I’m immediately drawn to it. Then when I go and talk to them, they’ll say, “Oh, well that’s not your problem. Your problem is really that everybody just needs to be more self aware.” That’s something that we’re working on as a team. It wasn’t me being a bad coach. It wasn’t them being lazy or anything like that. It was people needed to be in the right job with the right responsibilities that motivated them and we needed to know what motivated people and some people don’t know what that is. So they helped us kind of understand like I’m not motivated by money, I’m motivated by helping other people and I’m motivated by building something that can be proud of but not necessarily money.

So learning that about myself helped me understand like, “Okay, I need to focus more of my time on this. Let somebody else worry about the money aspect of what we’re doing because that’s not going to motivate me everyday.” If I have to look at it, I’ll probably get annoyed after awhile.

Kathleen: Yeah. I don’t think there’s anybody who couldn’t benefit from learning more about those aspects of themselves. I think that’s so powerful. I’m a huge believer in DISC. I’ve probably taken it 20 times over the years. I used to teach a class that involved it and I’ve used to make everybody at my agency take a DISC when we hired them and I’ve taken a number of times. Anybody who knows me would not be surprised at all to know that I’m super high D, but I’m fascinated by what it can tell you because it’s not about … I always look at those assessments and I think it’s not about like, “Okay, this is who you are, get used to it.” It’s just it’s self awareness, it’s understanding what drives you and what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and learning how to adapt from that. The best example I ever saw of what to do with that information is I took a communications class about two years ago and it was a company that I wound up sending everybody who worked for me to take this class and the man who taught it had everybody do DISC.

Of course I came in with my usual extremely high D and then I think I have some C and I’m like barely any I and S at all. So you show everybody your results and then at the end of it he says, “Can anybody guess what I am?” Everybody was kind of stumped on that one and it was so interesting because he’s probably one of the best listeners I’ve ever met. Like really able to pace himself in conversations and let … Draw other people out and this and that and if you know anything about DISC, you know that Ds like I am are super impatient, we like to … We cut people off a lot. We interact. We talk over because our minds are thinking fast and we’re impatient and we just want to get it out. I was totally shocked that he had the exact same DISC profile as me and we could not have been more different. I was like, “Wow, you’re my role model. I aspire to be you because I never would have pegged it.”

Charles: Sounds very similar to my situation with Joe at XQ. We’re the same profile, actually three of us, Joe and Cyrus, we’re same profile, but Joe’s 60, I think he’s in his 60s. Sorry Joe if you’re not. Cyrus is my age. So it’s funny because we’re watching Joe and going, “I want to be as relaxed as him. I want to be as calm as him,” and that’s literally what I work all the time. It’s just slowing the D down, that’s the problem.

Kathleen: Yeah. It’s like they’re more evolved human beings.

Charles: Yeah, self awareness for everybody on our team has been huge. So, that project was probably as beneficial for us as it was for them. I know they’re doing better, but we’re also doing better just working with them.

Kathleen: That’s so cool. Well, I can’t wait to take that assessment. I’m curious, how long did that website redesign project take you guys? Because I know from experience these things always A, take longer than you think and B, they generally take a very long time.

Charles: Yeah. This one didn’t take very long at all. We have iterated on it since then, initially, I would say from start to finish maybe a month and a half or two.

Kathleen: What?

Charles: The key was that Joe and Cyrus were very trusting of me in making a lot of the decisions of how we want to lay this out, what the content needs to be. Because I think I put a lot of energy into the brand development and helping them identify who they really are that Joe admitted this to me, he’s like, “I just want to let you do it because I’ll just get in away. I don’t know marketing.” One of the greatest things you can ever say to a marketing agency by the way, I don’t want to get in the way.

Kathleen: I trust you. Yeah.

Charles: So it went quicker. Then we built it with Belch. So if we have built this just with built our own templates and we did it with the design tools inside of HubSpot, probably would have taken an extra 25 to 40 hours somewhere in between there of development time, but I didn’t have to pass it to a developer. I’ll admit I can’t build on HubSpot that well, that’s not my thing, but I can build with Belch. So as I was designing it, I was building it with Belch and publishing the pages and then just linking up the pages inside of HubSpot. So we were ready to launch it instantly. There was no hold over, there was no waiting. There’s no staging and moving it or anything like that. So it was a little faster than a normal project and the site’s not that big. So I don’t want to take too much credit.

Kathleen: No, but what I think is meaningful about what you just said is it would have taken an extra 25 to 40 hours of development work and if you consider that most marketing agencies bill out somewhere between call it $125 to $175 an hour, that’s what? That’s at least $3,000 to $5,000 of money saved.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: By using Belch to design because you didn’t have to spend that extra 25 to 48 hours.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: Or 40 hours rather to hire a developer.

Charles: Yeah. The other good part about it is like saving money is a big part of it, obviously. Saving the pass through back and forth from design to developer, developer needs to change something because it’s not going to work, we don’t have to think like that when we’re designing and building with Belch because we know what it’s capable of. We know what’s going to work so we don’t design something that’s not going to work inside of it and if we do it’s custom and we’re just going to build up inside of HubSpot anyway. But it’s a lot more clear cut and the steps are a lot faster because there’s not as many people having to touch it. My designers can literally be my developers at the same time, which is huge.

Kathleen: Yeah. And then you avoid that game of telephone that happens when you have your designer sketch something out, and then it goes to a developer, and it may or may not always come back looking exactly like the designer wanted, so you don’t have to deal with that at all. The thing that I find kind of compelling about the value proposition is shortening the time to develop this site. I mean, yes, it’s nice to save a couple thousand dollars, but for most of these companies, that’s … They would be willing to spend more to get something great, but what’s really valuable is getting the new website faster. When, you know, you were talking about how they’re traveling all over doing these workshops and things from leads they got on the site, every month, week, whatever that the site has not been launched is a week, or a month, or what have you of time when you’re not getting those leads, and it’s lost business opportunities.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: So, the time to realize ROI from the project is much shorter if you can finish that website faster.

Charles: Yeah. That, and after the project, adding new pages, adding new content, changing the content. So, the way that Belch works is, we’re not an external builder that isn’t going to work inside of HubSpot. It’s not going to be a static template that you can’t change. We’ve written it, and we’ve integrated it in a way that, you publish something out of Belch, and it goes into HubSpot, it still functions as if you had built it in HubSpot. You still have rich text editing, you still have all the modules that you would normally have, so for our client, if they don’t want to call us all the time, they’re a startup, so they don’t really want to spend 150 an hour on us doing custom development on it or whatever.

So if they want build another page, they literally could just use some of the existing templates, and they can just clone them, change their content, anybody on their team, and they have no developers over there, anybody on their team can build a new page, add a new service, and add a new row, put something else on a page that didn’t exist before, so their cost, long-term, is much, much lower than it would have been if we had built it custom, and then they’re locked in to stuff and had to call us every day. That’s good for an agency to keep getting calls and keep bringing in money, but eventually a client may get tired of paying for things that they don’t see as necessary, and they see all these flashy tools every day in their emails saying, “Website builder,” and “Build a website in an hour,” which you see on TV with Wix all the time. It’s like, please stop telling people that because it’s making it hard for us to validate what we’re doing over there. It’s not that easy.

Kathleen: Yeah. And I think when agencies create websites in a way that their clients can’t update them, it breeds resentment. Because, I can tell you, we have a client at Impact that we’re working with, and we’re about to redesign their website, and they came to us from another HubSpot partner agency, and one of the reasons they came was that agency built their site in a way that it was totally locked down, and this client couldn’t go in and change or update anything without not only booking the agency’s time, and sometimes that can take a little while, but paying them, and it’s ridiculous. It is completely ridiculous. If you have people on your staff who are able to do this, they should have the ability to update a website, and it just bred such resentment on the part of the client that they couldn’t change anything.

We can’t change anything in it they way they set it up. So, this other agency, they’re going to have to unlock the functionality, or what’s probably going to happen is we’re going to completely redesign the site because they just don’t want to deal with it. It’s a horrible situation, and I would actually say to anybody listening, if you are not from an agency, if you’re in a company that has a website, that is a major red flag, in my opinion.

This is something that I’ve believed strongly since I started my agency a long time ago, which is that you should never be shackled to the agency you’re working with and dependent upon them. The relationship should be one of, more of them empowering you, and if you want them to take things off your plate to save time or be more efficient, great, but you should never be completely dependent upon them.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: And that goes for, you should have all the passwords to everything, you should … I’m a big believer that you shouldn’t have your agency host your website. You should have your own hosting account. You should own all of that because your website, in this day and age, is your most important marketing asset, so why would you give some other company control over it? It’s crazy.

Charles: Right. Yeah.

Kathleen: Anyway, end rant. But …

Charles: It’s a good rant, though. It’s what I preach, and I’m still in it, so I’m still doing this with people every day, and every time I run into a site like that I pull my hair out, I get frustrated, I get angry at the other agency, and that’s why we build on WordPress, on HubSpot, on Shopify. Everything is built so I can hand it to my clients and say, “Do as much as you can with this. I want you to be able to use this. I want you to be spending your time in there and building. I want you calling us when there’s something that you don’t know how to do, or there’s a strategy that needs to be created, or a new process needs to be developed, or there’s just skillsets that you don’t have internally. I want you to call us for that, but managing a website in 2018 is something you should be able to do on your own.”

Kathleen: Yeah. You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of the old Gold’s Gym membership model where you had to commit to 12 months, and then if you didn’t submit your cancellation in, like, the two-day window 30 days before the 12 months ended, you literally had to, like, send them your death certificate to get out of the membership. I mean, I remember, and I will say it on air, I had my cousin who owns a company in New York fake an employment offer letter so that I could get out of my Gold’s Gym membership because they were never going to let me out of it. I literally was going to be like an indentured servant to Gold’s Gym for the rest of my life.

And what you’ve seen is that that model has disappeared because people hate it, and if you are in a position where your customers are literally lying to get out of your agreements, something is fundamentally broken in your business model.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: And that’s what that reminds me of, is just, you know, trapping people into keeping their websites with you is not a way to grow a great business. So …

Charles: And I think this is why we all get along at the HubSpot INBOUND Conference. Because I think all of us feel this way, and if we all had this conversation with a hundred people we met at INBOUND, it wound be the same thing. 

Kathleen: God, I hope so.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, it’s terrible. So, listeners, if that’s your situation, run, flee, get out of it, and find another agency.

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Well, cool. That’s a great … it’s a great story, and I think it holds some important lessons. You know, it’s all about, you’ve got to have a high-performing website, and it shouldn’t take forever to build it, it shouldn’t cost an ungodly sum of money, and then you should be able to maintain it going forward. Barring, you know, really highly customized or specialized features, you should be able to add content, add pages, so that not only are you moving fast, and being agile, and keeping the site up to date, but you’re keeping your costs down, and you’re not dependent upon an agency.

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: So, if somebody is listening and they’re interested in using Belch, who is it right for?

Charles: Really, anybody that’s creating landing pages, website pages, or emails for HubSpot. Right now, the HubSpot … I’ll give you an example. We built an additional tool that goes side-by-side with our builder. So, if you want to try the builder, it’s app.belch.io, and you can go right in. All you do is log in with your HubSpot account, so everybody should at least go try it. You get free trial. As you enter into it, you can publish for free, so don’t worry about having to pay to publish anything.

But even just something simpler for people that maybe want to kind of put the toe in the water, we built a form styler, too, using the same technology, the same kind of interface, at forms.belch.io, and all you have to do is go in there. You can either put the embed code for your HubSpot account if you don’t want to connect it to the form styler, or you can connect through HubSpot and pick any form in your database and change all aspects of the design of it, the width of it, the height, the padding, colors, background, inputs. Anything that you can do CSS, you can do with the builder, and it takes … Anybody can use it.

So, we want creatives, we want marketers, we want the people that are driving marketing to be the ones that are building marketing, and we think it’ll be faster, more affordable, more will get done. We’re trying to break that mold of, just use what’s there, and just plug in whatever you have. We want people to feel like, “I need an email that has this, this, and this in it. I’m going to go make it,” and a half hour later it’s ready. It should be that easy, and we’re just trying to get people there a little bit faster.

Kathleen: So, we’ve talked a lot about websites, but now I want to make sure that I understand correctly. Belch can be used by a non-developer to design a website, an email, style a form … Anything else on that list?

Charles: And landing pages.

Kathleen: And landing pages. Okay, great.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: And that form builder tool, is that a free tool that anybody can use?

Charles: Yup. It’s free. Just, forms.belch.io. We’re leaving it open. We want people to learn how to use our builder, and that’s really just … That’s something that … I’m also just tired of seeing the default form out there, the HubSpot form.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Charles: No offense to HubSpot, but just tired of seeing people with that on their site. You should have that branded. It should look clean. That’s the gateway to your lead, and if you’re just leaving it there, and it looks like whatever, people are not going to treat it with the same respect, so we want people to be able to do that. You don’t have to call a developer to style your form. 

Kathleen: Nice! Well, I will definitely put links to all of that in the show notes, so check that out if you’re interested in styling your forms, gettin’ ’em stylin’. All right. So, before we wrap up, two questions for you that I ask all of my guests. The first is, and I’m curious to hear your answer because you’ve been in different aspects of the world of inbound marketing, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Charles: Yeah. It’s hard to pick one, so I’m going to give you three, but for three different reasons, too. Design, I’m always about Google’s marketing whether it’s what they put up on their site and draw people in with, the videos they make. The emails: how simple, and clean, and to the point they are. So, I always look to them for design inspiration.

When it comes to content and substance, Shopify has done a really good job over the last two and a half years of upping their game as far as creating good content, but also sending email marketing that feels really tailored to me. I don’t feel like I need to swat it down or unsubscribe. I feel like if I don’t need it, it’s okay. I can look at it later. But they do a good job of giving me the right content.

And then I’d say methodology. Databox, which is also a HubSpot … A lot of HubSpot agencies are using it. We are, too. The method that they’re using for inbound marketing is awesome. Like, I’m even learning from what they’re doing over there. Give Pete Caputa some credit ’cause he knows marketing very well. They’re good at creating content through their users, through their customers, which was something that was, like, why didn’t I think of that? That’s a good idea. If you have a lot of users, and they’re engaged, they want to contribute to your content and say, “Here’s how I’m doing it,” “Here’s how I’m using your tool,” “Here’s a great way to do this,” that’s something that we could all learn from. I think they’re doing a really good job of it.

Kathleen: Yeah. I actually interviewed Pete Caputa for the podcast. He was one of my earlier guests, and he talked in detail about how he does those crowdsourced blog posts, and I think he got a 600% increase in organic traffic in six months doing that. And it was funny. When I interviewed him, he said, “I tell people all the time how I do this, and nobody ever goes out and copies it, so who’s going to be the first one?” And I haven’t seen too many people do it since then, so I’ll put that link in the show notes, too, and people can check that out again.

Charles: We’re on our way. Well, I’m watching very carefully. I talked to Pete last week …

Kathleen: Nice.

Charles: So, I’m going to be doing more and more of that. We’re kind of more focused on getting the app ready for everybody, and we launched it only a few weeks ago, so … The web app we only launched about three weeks ago, so for us it’s, we’re building that up, and we’re having those conversations with customers, and now we’re going to start creating that type of content ’cause it works. It’s a great way to get people involved.

Kathleen: That’s great. I can’t wait to see what you guys do with that, and then you’ll get the gold star badge for being the student who finally did what Pete told everybody to do.

Charles: Perfect.

Kathleen: Second question. With the world of digital marketing changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date and how do you educate yourself?

Charles: That’s a good question. Being that I’m in the thick of it so much and we’re working with so many other technologies that are kind of at the front, I feel like I’m in it. So, when things are changing, we’re part of the change and we’re usually leading some of the change; but I read everything. So, I’m subscribed to every newsletter that anybody’s probably subscribed to for marketing and I’ll take an hour or two every other day to read through those and find things that are new; because I’m only focused on new. I’m not looking at optimization necessarily, I’m not looking at other tricks, I’m looking for what’s coming out.

So, when something comes out, we can be out in front of it and know this is going to be impactful for these clients or these clients, or this is something we need to wrap into Belch that’s going to help people do things. So, Google’s newsletters, everything. SEO partners, development, marketing, AdWords. All of it, to me because I am the technical side, I understand enough of it. I know how it drives things for marketers. I know how it affects different parts of marketing or sales. So, I’m watching everything that’s happening with cloud platforms. From posting to partnerships, to acquisitions; and then our partners. So, Shopify, HubSpot, WP Engine, Amazon, Google obviously and then a lot of the other ones. Even SharpSpring nowadays. We’re talking to them more and more.

Watching what they’re doing and watching the features of the ad and the thing that they’re focused on and the things that they talk about are generally a good indicator of what’s happening with their customers and if we have customers that they have, we’d need to be paying attention to it too.

So, even little things like news. This is something that’s important, or a new hire. Sometimes just watching who HubSpot hired, or who Google hired, or Shopify hired will tell you a lot about what they’re about to do the next year or two. So, I pay attention to those things too, just in small press release that kind of go unnoticed because you can get out in front of things that way.

Kathleen: Yeah, there’s just so much information out there and so much to absorb that I always liken it to drinking from a fire hose.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: It’s tough. But yeah, you kind of have to know which companies you admire and follow those.

Charles: Absolutely. Partners are a good thing to do. If you have good partners and they’re doing good content, which all of ours do great content. It makes it a little bit easier because they’re doing a lot of the hard work for you but a lot of the times, we’re bringing stuff to them and saying, “This is something you don’t realize is a problem yet but you should.” Because we’re … I work in the agency world, we do different things. From eCommerce to software companies, international companies. We hear about things and we feel it coming a little bit sooner than maybe the bigger players, who might not be thinking about it yet but when you’re down on the ground, you feel it and you know you have to do something different. Which is why we built something like Belch. We saw the complaints, we saw people didn’t want to pay for custom templates and that generated a need for us.

So, hopefully everybody else sees the value in it now too.

Kathleen: That’s great. Well, if somebody has a question about what you’ve talked about, wants to reach out to you individually, what’s the best way for them to find you online?

Charles: Yeah, you can just email me, Charles@Belch.io. That’s really … I spend all my time in my inbox. Not on Twitter, doing much over there. So, yeah. Just email me directly, especially if you want a demo. I’m happy to walk people through how to use it. Not everything is obvious as far as benefits of Belch. So, we like to hear what people are thinking about trying to solve and if you’re trying to build a website, there’s a right way to do it. There’s tricks and there’s work arounds to making the HubSpot CMS more user friendly as far as managing a website. So, we’re helping people through those things and we’re building things into our app every day. Literally every day something new is coming in there and we need people to tell us what they want.

So, my best conversations are customer feedback calls, where they’re saying, “Hey, this is awesome but what if it could do this?” Or, “What if it could do that?” And it’s cool that people are willing to tell us what they want because we can build it. We just need to know that there’s a real need for it.

So, you can always reach out to me via email.

Kathleen: All right. I’ll put your email on the show notes too and thank you so much for joining me this week. Really interesting to hear about how the product came about and where it’s heading and the problem that it’s solving.

If you are listening and you liked what you heard today, I would love it if you would consider giving the podcast a review in iTunes or Stitcher, or wherever you happen to listen to podcasts; and if you know somebody who’s doing kick ass inbound marketing work, Tweet me, @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them.

That’s it for this week. Thank you, Charles.

Charles: Thank you, Kathleen.

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