How Inbound Marketing Transformed Our Small Business [Customer Story]

Sally Black
Sally Black

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Sally Black

Fifteen years ago when we started Vacationkids.com, we were one of the first niche travel agencies online. Our goal has always been to help parents to get out and explore the world with their children.  And over the years, we’ve stayed true to our passion. With a copy of “ HTML for Dummies” and a halfway decent website with some enticing travel photos, we were able to garner some national press attention. We were off and running, doing what we love to do best.

But while we were all busy booking family vacations, the online world around us changed dramatically. It became crowded and fractured. Search and SEO tactics changed, blogging arrived, social media, YouTube, and mobile sites emerged in a shifting landscape, and suddenly our organization -- once ahead of the curve -- found ourselves WAY behind the eight ball. Our CRM consisted of paper files in a few old boxes in the corner. Most of us felt too stupid to even use a smart phone. Our leads and customers dwindled. We didn’t know which direction to turn to, or even how to evolve. HubSpot became our company’s lifeboat. 

Inbound Marketing Saves the Day

Vacationkids.com came on board with HubSpot after attending Inbound12. But while we were excited, we also felt completely clueless and overwhelmed at the mountain of work ahead of us.

Blogging and Social Media 

After attending HubSpot’s initial online training, we created our goals and updated over 1000+ pages of content. We launched our new and improved Vacationkids in January 2013. We’ve started not one, but two blogs. One blog offers family tips, advice, and inspiration, while our DiswithKids blog is dedicated to all things Disney. We update both blogs three times a week. Our blogs are supported by social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.  We even planned our first family destination wedding this year entirely on Facebook, using an event page and private messaging to guests.

Using our HubSpot analytics, we identified some dramatic differences between our two main customer groups. First, we noticed that the suggested posting times for our Vacationkids and Diswithkids blogs were different. It seemed bizarre that the suggested blog post times in the HubSpot blogging tool should be different for the two blogs, since both blogs are travel tips geared toward parents looking to take family vacations. We were convinced that the personas for our two blogs were one and the same. So why should they require different posting times?

We compared HubSpot's suggested blog posting times with our Facebook engagement analytics, and sure enough, the highest engagement times for our Disney customers and our regular family travel customers was COMPLETELY different. 

We had two distinct personas on our hands.

For our regular Vactionkids clients, engagement peaked at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm on weekdays, with the highest impact on Fridays. The Disney-specific clients' Facebook engagement was highest Thursday through Sunday with peaks at 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. Using these findings from HubSpot allowed us to sharpen our client personas. We are now putting ALL of our personas under the microscope so that we can get to know our clients even better and engage with them more effectively.

Inbound Sales

Since joining HubSpot, we’ve hired eight new travel agents to help us handle all of our new leads and travel requests. Our agents are learning how to use HubSpot to gain customer intelligence, build sales strategies, and simply work smarter. They're looking at customer profiles and the Sources tool, and also looking at the number of page views in order to prioritize how serious clients are. They're even beginning to experiment with "assignment selling" before scheduling phone consults.

Special thanks goes out to Marcus Sheridan for the advice he gave on his HubSpot guest webinars. One favorite piece that left a lasting impression was his advice to use assignment selling in order to better qualify your sales leads and to really leverage blog posts to talk about precisely what clients want to know. 

We followed his suggestions and were able to rank #1 in Google for a Disney keyword. When a little travel agency in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania can compete with a global brand like Disney -- that’s powerful! Our efforts have resulted in 35 major keyword rankings in the top 3 and 85 others ranked in the top 10.

Moving Ahead

Flash forward to Inbound13, and what a dramatic change we’ve experienced in just one short year. Our team now has the confidence and tools we need to evolve and expand our business by working smarter, not harder. One of our major goals for next year is to produce videos for our preferred destinations and to convert our top ranking blog posts into a video format.

We also want to triple our email participant list of 1200 and to develop new workflows to nurture and engage our fans. We want our customers to be as happy with Vacationkids as we are with HubSpot.  

One of the high points of our Inbound13 experience was hearing  Arianna Huffington’s inspiring Keynote address. I even contacted Ms. Huffington after the event and as a result of that interaction, Vacationkids.com family vacation blog posts now appear on the Huffington Post!

I really wish I could say there was one specific HubSpot “thing” that made the biggest difference for us, but honestly it’s just a long-term, accumulative approach. Perhaps it’s different for big teams with specific job responsibilities, but for a small business owner like me, it’s about tackling one problem or task at a time, then moving on to the next challenge. Ask plenty of questions and ask for help (HubSpot is great at delivering the right answers). Use all of the support available to you, and especially the invaluable training that HubSpot offers.

For a small business like Vacationkids, having HubSpot is like having a “Geek in a Box." All of the HubSpot systems integrate and work seamlessly together. We now have all of the tools and insights we need to stay ahead of the curve, while allowing us the time and freedom to focus on what we love to do best, which is caring for our families. Best of all, HubSpot's technical support and continuing education is second to none. Thanks again, HubSpot. We here at Vacationkids can't wait for Inbound14. See you there!

I HubSpot because... their customer support and training is AMAZING. They give us all of the tools we need to allow our travel agency to compete with the big travel brands. 

 

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