Chad Hill left AOL to help small businesses advertise online


FALLS CHURCH, VA. NOV. 7, 2013: Chad Hill, founder and CEO of HubShout, a Falls Church based tech company selling marketing/traffic/SEO software to small businesses, in Falls Church, VA on NOV.7, 2013. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan)

In 2006, Chad Hill left his job as a business development director at AOL, looking for a new venture.

Hill had been marketing AOL’s services to retailers such as BestBuy and CompUSA. But he was really interested in helping small businesses with limited budgets and staff adapt to changing technology — like he did when he outfitted his parents’ law firm with computers and accounting software.

“I was interested in leaving the digital space for more traditional companies,” he said. “I like to root for the small-business guy, the guy who’s putting his heart and soul into something.”

Today, Hill and his partner, Adam Stetzer, run a 40-person business based in Falls Church called HubShout, which helps small businesses manage their Internet marketing. They founded the business in 2008; before that, Hill worked as an independent marketing consultant for businesses including 1-800-PackRat, a Bethesda-based packing and moving business. Stetzer was the chief operating officer of Nucleus Solutions, a software firm he founded 11 years ago to help companies manage their employee absences. He sold to Hewitt Associates in 2008.

HubShout is aimed at helping businesses develop and measure online marketing campaigns. Some retailers use HubShout’s analytics software to monitor traffic to their site: clicks on ads, monthly visitors and the conversion from clicks on ads to actual sales, for instance. Others ask HubShout’s team of writers and account managers to help them craft search engine marketing campaigns — what words or phrases are potential clients searching for on Google or Bing, and how can they use those words to bring it to the top of search results?

Still others — primarily small marketing agencies — customize and re-sell HubShout’s analytics dashboard, which displays Web traffic charts, to their own clients for a monthly fee. Most small-business customers pay between $300 and $800 a month depending on how detailed their reports are, while larger businesses pay about $5,000 to $6,000 a month, Hill said.

Especially when budgets are tight, customers are eager to measure the impact of their marketing dollars, Hill said. Until recently, one business owner in Virginia Beach who sells metal buildings was advertising exclusively in print — paper fliers or taking ads in print publications, for instance. The HubShout team determined that each phone call he received from potential customers cost him about $50 in advertising; after helping him invest in Google AdWords, which places ads next to relevant Google keyword search results like, say, “metal buildings,” the owner reduced the cost of generating a call to about $20, Hill said. HubShout’s team monitors the clicks generated by each keyword campaign and quickly removes them if they’re not working, Hill added.

HubShout currently has two offices — Hill works out of its headquarters in Falls Church, and Stetzer, along with 35 employees, is in Rochester, N.Y., where Stetzer moved after selling Nucleus.

In its first few years since its founding, HubShout is already profitable, Hill said, though it is in part because of lean operations and the owners sacrificing their own salaries, he said. In 2012, HubShout took in about $2.5 million, and the company expects revenue for the 2013 fiscal year to be about $4 million.

“There’s a lot of smart people in the tech space chasing the same one or two ideas that go big,” Hill said, noting that he’s encountered fewer small tech companies focusing almost exclusively on traditional, brick-and-mortar retailers. “I looked at the HVAC guy, small companies in different markets, and thought, maybe that’s where I should put in my time and effort — maybe it could be a very good way to generate wealth.”

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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