The WordPress Photography Podcast
The WordPress Photography Podcast
Episode 44 - One Stop Shop for Support & Maintenance w/ Brandon Hopper


Brandon HopperBrandon Hopper is the owner of the company The Hopper Company LLC based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He provides web design services, website support and maintenance, and marketing integration. In addition to his web services, Brandon also helps businesses develop their online marketing strategies.

Prior to starting The Hopper Company LLC, Brandon spent more than 10 years working with companies in a wide variety of industries to develop, maintain and grow their online presence. From recommending different marketing tools and technologies to optimizing websites for higher search results rankings, he has overseen various facets of online marketing.

Outside of work, Brandon enjoys working out, spending time with his two dogs, roasting his own coffee and all things Buffalo Bills.

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Transcription was done by Rev.com

Scott: Welcome to episode 44, my name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and I'm joined by my guest, Brandon Hopper. Brandon is the owner of the company, The Hopper Company, based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He provides web design services, website support and maintenance and marketing integration.

In addition to his services, Brandon has also helped businesses develop their online marketing strategies. Prior to starting The Hopper Company, Brandon spent more than ten years working with companies in a wide variety of industries to develop, maintain and grow their online presence. From recommending different marketing tools and technologies to optimizing websites for hire search engine rankings, he has overseen various facets of online marketing.

Outside of work, he enjoys working out, spending time with his two dogs, roasting his own coffee, which is something I've always wanted to do, and he's a big fan of the Buffalo Bills. Why the Buffalo Bills though?

Brandon: Oh, the Buffalo Bills, man. Ever since I was a kid, it was just one of those things, they were always on TV, they were a team that was really exciting, they had the "K-gun" with Jim Kelly and everything really came together and I'm living the curse right now, I think we're on 17 years now without a playoff berth, so ...

Scott: That's funny.

Brandon: True fan, true fan sticking with it in the good times and the bad.

Scott: Yeah, you gotta stick with it if you're a true fan ...

So for some time now, Brandon has been my personal go-to recommendation for photographers who need customer services. If you are somebody who is looking for something in this area, then this is an episode you're gonna want to listen to.

But before we dive into what's going on with Brandon, let's dive into the WordPress news. The first thing, we have 2 bits of news this week. The first one is, WordPress 4.8.2 is now out with nine security patches. So, like always, back up your sites, run your updates and make sure that your WordPress site is safe and secure. If your host does updates for you, I'm sure they will be doing it soon because it's an important update.

The second bit of news is, going along with all the new widgets that are in WordPress 4.9 and going along with the upcoming content block editor that's coming soon in 5.0, there is a new gallery widget being added to WordPress 4.9. This is great to see WordPress doing this, but the downside is that the gallery widget is going to be like a regular WordPress gallery that you can insert in a post or page. So, it's gonna be very basic, it's just gonna be a bunch of thumbnails, and that's it.

So yeah it's great, will you use it? I don't know photographers are gonna wind up using it, but I could be wrong. I guess we'll see what happens with that. So that's coming up in WordPress 4.9.

So what's going on with you, Brandon? What's new in your world, in Hopper company world and whatnot?

Brandon: Staying busy for sure. What I've done, is I've released a new support block system. With that support block system it allows me to do any website support and maintenance services, but at the same time, while I was implementing this, it was kinda like getting an understanding as far as what my clients are really after. They aren't only after the do it for you service, they're also after some of the educational aspects, especially with photographers. They want to learn it as they go but sometimes some of the support stuff is over their head and they're really just trying to figure out, "How do I do this? Can you show me or tell me?" So what I do is provide, not only the do it for you service, but also document that as I go along, so the next time that they go into it, they can look at that ticket or support block, read it over, just do it themselves and save money which reduces support costs.

Or, if they get too busy because they are growing their business and are successful in booking a lot of clients, I can just do it for them as well. So it's really cool.

Scott: Yeah and I've been sending some people your way and I guess they've been happy which is good, they're having you doing a bunch of other stuff, so it's nice to see. And busy is good, that's business, so that's good.

You sort of dove into our first topic which was maintenance support services, so why should people be ... I should say, there aren't many people who do think that they might need an outside maintenance support service, but why should somebody? If they're already sort of leaning in that direction, what should push them over? What would you say would be your guidance as to why they should really find somebody whether it's you or somebody else to do maintenance and support services for them as a photographer?

Brandon: Yeah, for sure. First off, it's definitely an investment, so if you're gonna spend the money and the time on your website, you're gonna want to take care of it. Usually anything that you take care of in life is gonna last a long time and provide you with benefits. If you don't take care of it, it's just gonna be like a car. If you don't change the oil, you run it to death, it's gonna break and then all of a sudden you've just wasted all that money. So investing in support services and understanding there is a difference between doing it yourself and figuring it out and breaking things along the way, compared to hiring a professional, saving time, and then allowing you to go out and work on the things that you love.

I don't know very many photographers that enjoy the website support, the SCO, any side of that, that they are trying to learn, but what they love to do is take photographs, so why not just concentrate on doing that, outsource the other stuff at a reasonable price, then you don't have to worry about it.

I have several clients that come in, and then they start talking about, "Oh yeah we need to do this, this, this, this and this." So they start naming off all these things, and I'm like, "Alright, let's calm down. Let's get to where the money is first. What's gonna make you the most money, right off the bat and how can we make sure that everything that you have is secure, safe and also making it the best experience for your visitor."

So all those things come together, it's not just support and maintenance, it's more than that. It's about understanding your clients, it's about marketing, it's about doing things that are gonna be beneficial to your business, and that's where I come in.

Scott: So when you say marketing, you could actually help, through these support blocks, you could actually help photographers build their funnels.

Brandon: Yes, exactly.

Scott: Build their actual, lead generation processes which is something that a lot of photographers struggle over, so when you're thinking of, "Okay what can Brandon's company do for me?" Don't think just, "Okay well he can do backups and he can update my plug-ins and my themes and my WordPress and blah, blah, blah and he can make sure my site is secure and ..." No. It goes beyond that. Brandon's company can actually help make you money by helping you build your lead funnels. That's a big thing.

So let's talk about how this works with the support blocks, can you talk about what the support blocks are and give us a brief understanding of how that works.

Brandon: Alright, so support blocks. What usually happens is, a customer will want to talk to me and they get a free consultation. So whenever they come, they are either referred to me or they fill out on my website and then we begin the conversation as far as what they are looking for, whether that is marketing strategy or any type of optimizations on their website or generating new leads, putting opt-in forms or understanding how they should layout specific pages.

It could be a new layout on your front page. How am I gonna get the most out of it? Also, what about the way I layout my services? Why do people just put ... I mean, photographers like to put their photos out there and putting their photos, isn't necessarily converting or doing anything because you're not giving anyone a path to go down. You have to have a form, some type of opt-in there. Wherever you provide them that path then all of a sudden you have them into your system, and then you can start working them there.

When it comes down to it, what people need to really understand is, when you're marketing to someone, think about the way that you actually sell. What point is it? Is it in person? How are you gonna get them to that point? So if you're trying to get leads from the internet and using SCO or any other marketing tactic, whether it's e-mail marketing or groups or anything of that nature, what you're gonna want to do is, concentrate on, "How am I gonna convert that person to the next step?" And moving that person to the next step is getting them to the place where you can sell them and generally that is going to be in person, over the phone or something of that nature.

The way that the blocks benefit everyone, is they come into the site, they register so not only can they have a membership, which gives them an extra 25% off blocks, but whenever they get blocks, they can purchase a set of both pricing blocks so it's 6, 12, 24, 48 and that allows additional bulk pricing discounts. So I'm making it extremely affordable from the original price for photographers to come in at a low entry, I grandfather those prices in and I also basically provide them quotes every single time.

Like if someone wants a marketing strategy, we'll schedule an appointment and that may be 2 or 3 blocks, or maybe it's 1 block, it depends on how much time we schedule out. What I do is document that, I type it up and put it in their account, so they can click on it and know exactly what day it happened, what the information is that we talked about, and then also see how many blocks were used. So throughout the process, they are being updated, informed as far as the way that their money is being spent and also being able to read back through the conversation, so it's almost like, a recording essentially. If they want to record the conversation we can record it, we can put video on there, we can do anything that they want to. It's basically however they want to learn and what they want to do, they are in complete control, I'm just here to offer professional services that allow them to one, learn, two, reduce time and three, have control over everything that they do online especially with their website instead of just buying a normal service that goes out there and says, "Alright, here is this and all the things that you get in it." Well I'm only gonna use 2 or 3 things out of the 6 that's provided. So really, you're just wasting your money.

This is all about customizing services to each individual client in the way that they want to learn and need to learn in the services that they specifically need.

Scott: And these support blocks, they can be purchased if you don't have the membership, correct? It's just more expensive to buy it without the membership right?

Brandon: Yeah, it's a little bit more expensive, it's just 25% more. What that membership does is provide you 25%, and then you get access to not only the support blocks at a cheaper price, but you also get ... I'm starting to add different things, so I'm working out more things and it's not just like, "This is what you get." And that's all it is, I'm constantly improving it and adding more things along the line. I have a couple things in the works right now that I'm working with, that I'm thinking about adding in the future, but I'm not releasing it right now. It's a little bit of a secret, so we're gonna get there.

Scott: Nice. So I look at this as more of an investment type thing, just sort of how a lot of wedding photographers they outsource their edited to ShootDotEdit or their blogging to FotoSkribe, and so on, just like you were outsource your accounting to an accountant, so I look at this in the same way. So many photographers that I interact with don't want to deal with the maintenance stuff, and a lot of the Imagely themes that came out were all designed on the Genesis framework, so that photographers can spend less time fussing with their sites and get back to just shooting, making the photographs. And I kinda look at these support blocks as that same sort of thing, in that same sort of vein where, the photographers need to go back to making the photographs because that's where they make their money, so they need to outsource the parts that don't make them the money but are just necessary evils that you have to do.

You have a website; you have to maintain it. I don't care if it's WordPress, Square Space, Wicks, Weebly, whatever it is, you have to maintain it, you have to do things to it, so if you don't feel comfortable doing the maintenance tasks, doing the SCO, doing the funnels and all this stuff, then outsource it to somebody and right here is ... you're somebody they can outsource to.

Brandon: Yeah, it's all about staying relevant, so you need to stay up with the times. You also need to stay relevant as far as any of your optimizations. Updates are provided for a reason. There is patches there is everything ... they are doing it to help you not to hurt you. I see so many websites out there that basically neglect it, and why would they neglect their website? They're susceptible to viruses, malware, [inaudible 00:14:40] injections. Things that happen-

Scott: Yeah, recently there has been like five plug-ins that were either abandoned or acquired by other developers, and these plug-ins were infected with, not malware but spam. So when people had these plug-ins on their sites, their sites were then littered with spam. Which then hurts their ranking. It was maliciously done and those plug-ins were sent to remove from the WordPress directory but without somebody paying attention to that for you, you wouldn't know.

You wouldn't be aware of this, and your site could literally be dropped from Google because of spam. Right?

Okay, can you give us, let's say three examples of tasks that you've done, you don't have to tell us the photographers that you did it for or anything but, give us three examples of work you've done to take it off the plate of photographers.

Brandon: One of the things that I've done most recently since we're on the subject of spam and basically bad things happening and people not being aware of it, I had a client I was working with that had ... basically like transferring the website, so they had, I think it was Show it, or something like that, so it was on Show it, and they also had WordPress. So they were using their blog and also Show it, and it was basically back and forth just 2 different styles.

So what I did was redesign it and develop the website to bring everything together. When I was moving everything over ... I always play around in different browsers and stuff, it's a web developers deal, you have to. If you don't then who knows what it's gonna look like on the other end? So whenever I was going through and doing that, I also pulled up Chrome and it is saying that their is a security risk. That there is malware and infections and all that stuff through the WordPress site. I was like, "Oh no, what is going on?"

It actually came down to the theme that they had installed. They didn't update the theme, they didn't do any upgrades or anything like that, and that theme was actually causing all of the malware and creating havoc on the website. So what I did was I went through, removed all the plug-ins cleaned everything up, we also transferred it over to a different host and did a bunch of things there, I switched out theme as well, then after that everything was great. She got a new design, she was able to have a clean site that was taken care of. I went through all the comments and everything to just basically clean it all up.

Scott: So in this case, not only did you clean it up but did you also, if I understood this correctly, you actually merged the Show it site and the WordPress site to 100% WordPress?

Brandon: Yeah.

Scott: Nice, so that's good to know too, that you can actually do Show it migration because there are a lot of people that want to leave because of the limitations.

Brandon: Show it, Wicks, Square space, you name it ... anything. I have been in web development for well over 10 years, I've done marketing for over 10 years, I've been working with teams, I've built teams, I've worked inside of teams, I've done a lot of things, so I've seen quite a bit as far as what the Web's built up, and what it consists of.

Scott: In the WordPress for photographers Facebook group, there is a lot of people who joined and said, "Does anybody help ... can anybody help migrate from Square space?" And I've done many of them, and I've even written an article on how much of a pain it is to migrate from Square space and how worth it is, so I'm gonna link to that in the show notes for anybody to read, but if you are trying to leave Square space, or Show it or any of those services for WordPress, contact Brandon because I don't have time for it.

So hire him to do it for you, you can can have somebody handle all the annoyances of having to do it, because it is really a pain in the butt to move from them.

So you can you give us 2 other examples of working [crosstalk 00:19:10]

Brandon: Yeah 2 other examples, I'm working on a couple of membership sites for photographers. One of them was, The art of six figures, with Easton Reynolds. So what we did was we went through a couple different launches, working through the launch and just developing a custom audience for him. He does a really nice job on Facebook advertising and his course is phenomenal. I suggest people go there, take a look at it. He does a really nice job as far as teaching that information but as far as the site, there were several challenges and stuff that we were facing and a lot of custom coding that happened in that site and it just turned out nice. Really, really nice.

Scott: That was, I remember watching the process of that, of how-

Brandon: I think he did a webinar- he let you guys in for Zoom or something like that and showed everybody what was going on as I was actually in there working on it, so things were changing and stuff like that and he actually mentioned. I was like, "Did you let people in or were you showing them something?" He was like, "Yeah."

I'm like, "But I'm working in there." So we just kinda joked and laughed about that.

Scott: I'll be sure to link to, Art of six figures in the show notes as well, it's a fantastic course for anybody that wants to learn more about marketing for their photography business. Awesome.

Okay so 1 more, can you give us 1 more?

Brandon: 1 more, I am working with, Photographer Entrepreneur, and I am building out their membership site.

Scott: So for anybody who is not watching and actually just heard it, his dogs just had a fun, barking ... his dogs just had a conversation with us.

Brandon: Yeah, they said, "Time to get back to work. Let's do this, we have stuff to do."

No, but as far as the, Photographer Entrepreneur, yeah. We're working on several new pieces as far as adding it in there, I'm working with Paul and Melissa Pruitt and it's gonna be phenomenal. I think that they have such a great concept as far as what they do and what they provide to their members, that there is tons of value, tons of benefit that's added inside of there. We're doing anything from, free courses to premium courses, to different groups inside ... just teaching them multiple things, I'm gonna get a little bit more involved inside there and there are possibly some interviews and stuff like that for me, and kind of just direct help. It's gonna be pretty nice. I think the added value and stuff Is really gonna be something big that's coming up in October, November.

Scott: Awesome, yeah I'm excited for that and I think they're even teaching a Photo plus expo, which this podcast episode will be coming out right before that so I'm looking forward to meeting them in person finally at Photo plus.

Brandon: Yeah they're really nice people, good people to talk to.

Scott: Yeah okay so let's get into the next part of the episode. What is your recommended WordPress plug-in or theme that photographers should take a look at?

Brandon: What are my favorite plug-ins? My favorite theme is Genesis, by far. That gives me the flexibility as far as what I can do with ... I can code just about anything in there and I can connect just about anything, so that's what's really cool about Genesis, I like that a lot. The plug-in that I like a lot is, WP types. Have you ever heard of WP types before?

Scott: Is that what's like a custom post types, type of plug-in?

Brandon: Yeah, it's created by Tool set, and WP types offers layouts, custom post types, there is post fields so you can put custom fields inside of custom post types. It's basically the flagship of everything that they try and sell there, you get no PHP coding. So you don't even have to be a developer in order to get in there and play around with it. Another cool part of it, is the views, it's called WP views and everything is set in there as far as grouping and what you can do is create your own custom sliders, your own ... you can even plug that in to next-gen and throw a next-gen gallery along with another slider and have multiple galleries and stuff like that in a slider that basically provides your portfolio.

So it's really cool, you can do so much with it, it's so easy to use.

Scott: That's awesome, I have to check it out I have never used it myself but ... because I usually just hard code the custom post types, I've never really paid attention to other stuff that they offer with it, so I'll have to check that out.

Okay, so the last bit is ... this is new for the podcast, we've only done this once previously in the last episode, episode 43, a question that you want the listeners to answer, either on the YouTube video if they're watching there, or go into the show notes, what kind of question would you like them to answer for you?

Brandon: What is the one thing that is most difficult for any website owner to do on their website? Basically, what's the least favorite thing that they have to take care of? Is it the website maintenance? Is it marketing? Is it the SCO side of it? What is your pain, what do you not like about owning a website and having to be that small business owner?

Scott: Nice, that's a good question.

Brandon: It's tough. People are gonna sit there and think about it because if I had to pick something, I'm not even sure where I'd start because marking can be difficult, also all the algorithm updates from the SCO side, those are difficult, maintenance, staying on top of that as far as any of the updates, the patches and then you have to make sure you put the ... you do the back up and then after the back up you run the patch and then basically make sure everything is right and then you run another back up to make sure that it's all secure, so yeah there is a lot to it.

Scott: I like it, I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody comes up with. Awesome, well thank you, Brandon for joining me today, you can fall the show notes from today's episode and where to find Brandon at, Imagely.com/podcast/44

So, until next time.

Brandon: Thanks, Scott.

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