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Zoomstra’s Look Back at 2012

December is a great time to look back at the year and spend some time thinking about the great new friends we have made, the transformations along the way and the progress we have enjoyed as a business.  The team at Zoomstra wanted to share our year in review to give you a glimpse inside of our start-up….

March 2012 – Welcome Zoomstra! 

On March 1st we launched the first production version of Zoomstra along side with our first commercial customer Parallels.

April & May 2012 – Customer learning front and center

Our first commercial customer launched a program using Zoomstra to provided partner enablement worldwide. An embedded SurveyMonkey survey captured partner feedback with a resounding 100% recommendation rating. We were delighted to say the least.

After our initial release, we focused on learning as much as we could from our initial customers and hundreds of trial users. We heard the good, the bad and the ugly about our baby and we loved every minute of it (okay, maybe not every minute of it, but we heard what our customers were saying).  When people have strong opinions about what your software needs, you know they are using it and want to keep using it!  So we listened to the customers and put together a plan to significantly re-design of several pieces of the product.

July 2012 – Beta2 introduces the new Workbook builder

In July we introduced a much improved Zoomstra Workbook builder. This lets you aggregate a wider variety of content from the web, from your computers and from your head.

August 2012 – Giving back with the PR guide for Start-ups

During the second round of beta we learned a lot about our messaging and about getting exposure for Zoomstra.  We focused our efforts on getting listed across as many beta sites and start-up sites as we could find.  We captured the sites, the processes and curated some of the best content into a Zoomstra Workbook that we make available to anyone for FREE! Get access by clicking here.

September 2012 – The importance of good plumbing & the Zoomstra API

The more that our customers and partners used Zoomstra, the more we heard of the needs for a published API. Customers wanted to integrate with Zoomstra for automated provisioning, subscription management and more.  We felt that this was an important aspect of our future growth so we quietly focused on making sure that the inner workings of Zoomstra were rock solid and efficient.  We then began creating our API that we released to our partners in September.

October 2012 – Founder’s Workbook companion to The Startup Owners Manual goes live

The well known authors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf teamed up with Zoomstra to add an online companion to their hot selling book and new age guide for entrepreneurs - The Startup Owner’s Manual. This created a model for other content authors to follow while offering their how-to guides and training companions for a fee. And just like that, zWorkbooks.com was born!

November 2012 – Keeping it simple for participants

In November we focused on making it easier for participants to get into workbooks and ways to keep them coming back. Participants told us that they wanted the delivery of new workbook content directly to their inbox with a simple click to automatically grant access to the available information. We gave them what they asked for! As of November, Zoomstra workbooks have weekly reminder notifications and one-click access to make it incredibly simple to get access to workbook content.

December 2012 – Salesforce Integration V1 complete-ish

Customers kept asking us for the same thing: Salesforce.com integration. It was like listening to a broken record. We knew it had to happen, but kept putting it off because we lacked  experience on the Salesforce platform.  Luckily we found a great developer that was able to help us out and get the first version of  our Salesforce.com connector completed in short order. This connector will allow companies to add Zoomstra Workbooks and Zoomstra Collections directly to the detail record of a Lead or a Contact without ever leaving Salesforce.com. We’re wrapping up beta now so stay tuned for the launch.  We have a few more steps to complete in conjunction with Salesforce to offer this connector on the AppExchange.  If you would like to be notified when the Salesforce connector is available please drop us a note.

Thank you for a successful 2012 and giving us a great outlook on 2013! 

Starting a B2B software company isn’t the sexiest of all ventures.  It doesn’t land you on the front page of Tech Crunch, it doesn’t get you into the hottest Tech Incubators with all that free press.  But what it does get you is access to a market that is willing to try new solutions and pay for those solutions that prove they solve real problems.  As a bootstrapped company, finding the early acceptance has been key to our ongoing progress.  We thank the thousands of people who have been using Zoomstra, providing feedback and helping us shape the next generation of our solution.

Remind me! One click access and more…

As we turn towards the end of October we have a few interesting updates to let you know about.  Based upon customer feedback we are introducing weekly email reminders for workbook participants, simplified one click access capability and we are making really good progress on the salesforce.com application.  Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail….

Automated Weekly Reminders are here! 

Today we rolled out an automated reminder system for Zoomstra workbooks.  By default the system will now generate a weekly reminder email for each distributed workbook.  The reminder email will include the table of contents for the workbook as well as current progress information.

Zoomstra will automatically send out a weekly reminder as long as the participant is accessing the workbook and making progress.   If no activity is detected after 4 reminders have been sent, the system will automatically stop itself.

Reminder emails are an easy way to keep your information in-front of your audience and keep them engaged in your workbooks.

Although we set the default to weekly, Participant users can adjust their reminder settings from within the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ by clicking on the profile link.  The default of “weekly” can be changed to monthly or reminders can be turned off completely.

Check out the One click access via email

You know how you hate having to remember a user id and password every time you want to access some information.  We feel the same way so we have stripped away the burden of setting a user id and password for a participant user.  The participant can simply click on any link in the invitation email (or reminder emails) and they will be taken directly to their workbook in the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+. Under the covers we have embedded special login tokens that allow for the tracking of the user and access to personalized workbooks.

For those of you with sensitive data or company policies that don’t allow token based access, don’t fret. As a site administrator you can decide to turn off this feature and require a user id and password.

What’s going on with Salesforce Integration? 

In our last blog post we teased you about a Salesforce.com integration that was about to get underway.  I’m happy to report that the Zoomstra APIs have been completed and the salesforce.com application is nearly finished. We are getting really close to submitting the application for security clearance from Salesforce.  So with any luck we will be able to post a demonstration of the app in the next week or two!

Thanks beta2, we’ll never forget you…

We have officially exited our beta period for the latest version of Zoomstra and learned a lot of great lessons that we won’t soon forget.  Here are a few of our learnings and improvements you’ll find inside of Zoomstra…

Speed & scale improvements

Our top learning during the beta was all about speed and ability to scale the distribution of workbooks to large audiences.  During the beta the Zoomstra application launched thousands of workbooks, sometimes creating long queues behind the scenes resulting in slow response to users.  We returned to the drawing board and re-worked the fundamental architecture and processes used to create and distribute workbooks.  We are now confident that we can scale to tens of thousands of workbooks and keep response times within acceptable limits for a web application (i.e. – immediate!)

Improving interactivity in the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ with user created notes

Zoomstra workbooks are finding their way into several different niches like ebook companions and how-to guides.  As we worked with several authors the need for additional interactivity within the workbook itself was needed.  We have added a new feature that allows participants to add notes to individual checklist items so that they can not only track their progress, but they can keep track of their thoughts and ideas at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customization of icons in the Workbook table of contents improves adoption

If you are a channel manager you’ll like this one.  We learned that creating visually appealing workbook invitations that are delivered via email is key to adoption when it comes to partner enablement.  You can now use your own icons to represent each lesson in a workbook.  Here is an example…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salesforce.com integration is coming

One last piece of information we want to share is that we heard you loud and clear that integration with Salesforce.com is a requirement for partner enablement programs.  We are actively building the integration and plan to have a preview of this connector application before the end of October.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our beta and providing feedback.  If you have a Zoomstra account from the beta we’ll be contacting you shortly with an offer that will let you continue to use the application as one of our early adopters.

Create a sales kit in about 3 minutes with Zoomstra

Let’s take a look at how quickly you can put together a sales kit to nurture leads from webinars, tradeshows and online marketing campaigns.  The video below walks you through the steps to pull together a marketing presentation, a video overview and a next step for the audience.  The video is just under 3 minutes.

I even turned on self-registration for this workbook so you can interact with it yourself. It’s not smoke and mirrors. This is truly how easy it is to use Zoomstra. Click here to self register to access this Introduction to Zoomstra workbook.

Zoomstra beta2 pivots towards marketing automation & lead nurturing

Earlier this week we launched the second beta for Zoomstra.com.  This release makes significant strides as an automated system to help sales and marketing people nurture leads coming in from a variety of marketing efforts.  You may be thinking “Say what Zoomstra, I thought you were all about workbooks and partner enablement”….so let’s take a deeper dive…

During our first six months in the market we spotted a common problem that our prospects wanted to address using Zoomstra.  We started our sales discussions around partner enablement challenges and these meetings easily turned into demos. It was during those demos that time and time again our prospects turned the tables on us and started asking how to use Zoomstra to nurture leads.

In one meeting we created a custom demo using random content and marketing tools from the company’s website.  We created an introduction to their platform  in the form of a Zoomstra workbook including an introductory PPT presentation, a video testimonial, a product data sheet and a few next steps – all wrapped into an easy to follow along Zoomstra Workbook.  After the demo, the VP of Marketing  looked at us and said “this is pretty much the best interactive sales kit I could imagine for new leads, lets get started.”

So after hearing about this problem about a half dozen times in a row, we started to really pay attention and began working to disprove a theory that Zoomstra workbooks could effectively automate lead nurturing for those great unwashed masses.

Our research helped us learn that that companies spend a lot of money on awareness and lead generation yet they have a hard time engaging with each and every one of those people after the fact.  Companies feel that they they have a great story and a good collection of marketing materials. Where they fall short is on the resources needed to individually coach each and every possible lead on their product or service.

This was lean startup customer development at its finest.  Our own prospects identified for us a use for Zoomstra workbooks that has tremendous value. By talking to our buyers we learned that workbooks can be used early in the sales cycle to provide step by step guidance needed to build the initial trust with the potential lead.

We ran a few pilots hand in hand with customers using the first edition of Zoomstra. We learned first hand about the types of content companies already have and the way that marketing managers want to organize and distribute these sales kits. And that’s how we re-factored Zoomstra for this new beta2 release, and we couldn’t be happier.

We went on to look at the real dilemma behind this problem.  We found out that companies of all sizes spend tens of thousands of dollars attending trade shows, hosting webinars, and buying ads on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn with hardly any plan on how to nurture and convert those leads into prospects beyond a followup email or two.

And this is where Zoomstra Workbooks really shine.  With the new workbook builder the marketing or sales person can pull together a collection of existing materials into a step-by-step guide in a matter of a few minutes.  The marketing person can add context to existing materials, integrate content from the web and even make up their own checklists that basically tell the marketing contact exactly what to do next.  It’s pretty brilliant!

We’d like to invite you to try out Zoomstra during our beta2 as we shake out the rest of the bugs and complete a few additional development sprints.  Access to the beta is free during this time and you’ll be able to see how the system works. To gain access you’ll need an invitation code – so let me give you one right here.  After you visit www.zoomstra.com and enter your email address you’ll be prompted for an invite code – use the code zoomstrabeta123 to gain instant access.

We look forward to your feedback and seeing how you can use Zoomstra Workbooks to nurture leads and convert more contacts into prospects.

 

 

 

Zoomstra Beta2 is almost here

Over the past 4 months we have been in re-design mode for the Zoomstra application.  We have taken what we have learned from real customers and applied it to our product and to our business.

We plan to share the Zoomstra Beta2 by the end of July.  With this new release marketing managers will be able to create sales kits, partner enablement programs and lead followup faster than ever before.

The theme behind the new version is rapid adoption.  Rapid adoption applies to both sides of the equation – the creator of workbooks as well as the consumer of those workbooks.  Here is a sneak peek at the new workbook builder.

We want the marketing manager at a company to be able to assemble and publish a Zoomstra workbook in a matter of a few minutes.  We want them to be able to leverage all of the content that they already have in multiple formats and systems across the business.  We want them to be able to rapidly adopt Zoomstra Workbooks to bring partners up to speed on a new product release, followup with attendees from a tradeshow, interact with prospects from a online marketing campaign.  The new workbook building in Beta2 will make it easy to simply drag and drop files, add web content, build pages, create smart checklists and even insert a quiz or two along the way when you want to check knowledge.   All of these new improvement are aimed at rapid adoption.

For the user of the workbook we want to increase their adoption rates too.  Beta2 focuses on reducing the friction for the ultimate user of the workbook.  We have improved the visual design of the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ and changed the way that the lessons are represented.  We are also working on a seamless way that users can open and interact with a workbook without having to provide a password.  Stay tuned for more information coming on that.

We are in the final stages of testing this release so keep an eye on our blog or our home page.  We will be offering a limited number of invitations to beta2 and want to hear your feedback. Stay tuned…lots more to come!

…The Zoomstra Crew

What is Zoomstra?

In just a few days we will be rolling out a shiny new website for Zoomstra.com.  Since our beta launch we have spent lots of hours talking to our early adopters, prospects and people like you who have businesses to run.  The result is a fabulous website that will help the visitor envision using Zoomstra to solve several different types of challenges.   One of the items we created is an info-graphic style overview of the Zoomstra solution.  In this graphic you can visual What Zoomstra Is and maybe even see ways you can apply it to your own business challenges.  Here is a sneak peek at the graphic….

VIDEO: Integration between Unbounce and Zoomstra in action

Last week we posted a blog article about using Zoomstra  as a content marketing tool with Unbounce Landing Pages.  We have had several questions about how this works and what Zoomstra Workbooks look like.

This quick video (1:48) will show you how AgentMethods.com is using an Unbounce Landing page as the target for their online marketing campaign.  Once the visitor arrives and adds their email address to the form, behind the scenes Unbounce sends Zoomstra the information needed to setup the user and send out an invitation to the Step-by-Step Workbook.

Zoomstra gives you the ability to take your expert knowledge and step-by-step instructions and mash them together into an easy to follow along guide we call zWorkbooks.  With zWorkbooks you can create highly effective partner training guides, sales playbooks, new customer welcome kits and of course – step-by-step  ”how to” guides for use in marketing programs.