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The Smart Passive Income Podcast

AP 1063: My Business Started Growing, But Then It Stalled. What Do I Do Now?

AP 1063: My Business Started Growing, But Then It Stalled. What Do I Do Now?

By Pat Flynn on

Erin has a popular blog about bullet journaling that experienced rapid growth in its first year but has seemed to plateau since then. While she’s found a great niche, she’s beginning to feel like she’s tapped out her potential. What can Erin do to bring her site, ThePetitePlanner.com, to new audiences and new markets?

As someone who has tried a lot of different journaling methods, I start off by getting Erin to give me the quick pitch on what bullet journaling is and how it can help. From there, we talk about her problem, which is that her blog and course have plateaued after a period of initial growth, and she’s feeling like she has tapped out her market. We look at how Erin might be able to “niche down” by targeting a very specific subset of her audience, like I did for Episode 97 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, “How to Make a Living Selling Your Artwork Online with Cory Huff from The Abundant Artist.” Finally, we go over the specifics of fitting new channels like Facebook or YouTube into your schedule with a simple question: what would this look like if it were easy?

What You’ll Learn:
Learn how to break out of a plateau by niching down and creating focused, specific content.

AskPat 1063 Transcript

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Pat Flynn: What’s up everybody, Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 1,063 of Ask Pat 2.0. This is a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. And today we’re chatting with Erin Demoney from ThePetitePlanner.com. She’s got an amazing story, has experienced a lot of rapid growth, actually, to begin with as she teaches people how to use the bullet journal. And it’s amazing, but it’s stalled a little bit.

So today we’re going to be discussing how to get out of that stall, how to get off that plateau, which is something I’ve personally experienced as well, and we come up with some great ideas. So make sure you stick around and also hit subscribe if you haven’t already.

Now before we get to the episode with Erin, I do want to thank today’s sponsor which is Freshbooks.com. They’ve been a sponsor for years now, and I love them because they have the best cloud accounting software tools to help you automate your business finances to help you with your invoicing. In less than 30 seconds you can create a professional looking invoice, so you can get paid.

So if you have coaching students or clients, or you do any consulting or things like that and you bill people, you have to do it quickly and professionally, and you’ll be able to track that as well. What’s really cool about their system is they can even track to see who has yet to even open those invoices. So I know you’ve heard about FreshBooks already. If you haven’t yet jumped on the FreshBooks train, do that right now. You can get access for thirty days for free by going to freshbooks.com/askpat, and just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “how did you hear about us” section.

All right, now let’s get to today’s coaching call with Erin from ThePetitePlanner.com. Hey, Erin, welcome to Ask Pat 2.0. Thank you so much for being here today.

Erin: Thanks for having me, Pat.

Pat: Yeah, this is exciting. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Erin: All right. So my name is Erin Demoney, and I am first off a wife and mom, and I’m a stay at home mom full time. And I’m also a full-time blogger, which happened about two years ago is when I started my blog, The Petite Planner, and I do a lot of creative planning. And then there’s the . . . it’s called bullet journaling is the actual name for it. And it’s just kind of become this very massive trend. So that is what I blog about.

And like I said, I’ve been doing it for about two years now and making a full-time income for a little over a year. I got fired from my bartending job and that’s kind of what kicked me in the butt and got me going and saying, like, I’m going to take this really seriously.

Pat: Yeah, good for you. I mean, it sounds very similar to my story getting fired, or getting laid off and then just . . . I needed something to do and I had motivation, and look at you. I mean, full-time bullet journaling, that’s awesome.

Can you just pitch me really quick on why I need to be using a bullet journal? Because I have my hands in like 10 different journals, and I have like, I just want to hear from the source, like why is bullet journaling the thing to do?

Erin: Okay. Bullet journaling is, in my opinion, better than a planner because it’s super flexible for anybody, and it can accommodate to whatever you need it to be. So even . . . like I do very fancy, creative drawing and doodling. But the original creator of the system, Ryder Carroll, is very minimalistic, so he just writes in the day and then his task list, but then you can incorporate things like your monthly goals. Or you can track your daily habits to try to work towards those goals. So if you’re working to lose weight, you can create a tracker that every day that you work out, you would check off that you did it. And that kind of serves as motivation because there’s something satisfying about filling in that little box.

But the main thing is it’s just super flexible and then there’s not that pressure to use it every day. You can just . . . if you don’t want to use it every day, and you just want to use it like twice a week you can, and then you don’t have big, open spaces in your planner. You’re not wasting money buying new planners every six months. So that’s kind of the basic of it.

Pat: I like that. Sounds great. And you can kind of tailor it to your own needs versus some of these other ones I have, which are like, it’s very specific and rigid what I have to do. And they work great, too, but I’m just very curious because I haven’t gotten into bullet journaling yet. And the other question is do you have to be a really good artist, or drawer to be able to use it, or can anybody use it?

Erin: That’s kind of the big misconception, and it’s a lot of what I try to talk about, is a lot of people come to me and say I can’t do this because I’m not creative. Or I can’t draw. Or I can’t do hand lettering. And I like to tell people, everybody has a starting point, and some people don’t want any of that in their journal to begin with. The problem is is that when you get on Instagram or Pinterest, those are going to be what you see are those super creative spreads. But that is not how the original system was laid out. It’s supposed to be very bare bones and minimalistic.

And so you don’t need fancy supplies, you don’t need drawing abilities. If those are things you want to incorporate, then I guess you just go with your beginning skill ability and then you just kind of try to build up from there, but don’t set expectations for yourself. And if you want that minimalist look, then go with it.

Pat: I love it. Thank you, Erin, and I’m assuming you’re an affiliate for the bullet journal on your website and all that stuff?

Erin: I’m not an affiliate for the actual bullet journal. I’m not even sure Ryder Carroll has an affiliate program. I guess that would be something that I should probably look into. But so I’m obviously an Amazon affiliate, which is where the majority of my audience is shopping for their supplies.

Pat: Cool. Gotcha. Okay, awesome, thank you. And one more time, thepetiteplanner.com, correct?

Erin: Yes.

Pat: Awesome. Okay. So what’s on your mind? It sounds like things are going, but let’s kick it up a notch.

Erin: Okay. So things are going, but my big problem is, and maybe it’s just because . . . I feel like my niche is like, I’m full, like I’ve reached my potential. And I grew really fast maybe because I started my blog before this trend got so massive that there were other people—there wasn’t a lot of competition at the time. So I grew really, really fast. I went from like, I don’t know, probably 20 page views a day to 1,000 page views a day in like a couple month’s time, like two months.

Pat: That’s incredible.

Erin: And so now I’ve been doing this for two years in January. My blog is two years old. And over the last year, and maybe I’m just setting my expectations too high for myself, but I just haven’t seen that continual really steady growth. Like I have months of up—like December tends to be huge because that’s when people want to get their lives in order, that’s when they want to start a planner, that’s when they say you know, I’m going to get organized and prioritize and do all these things. So that’s usually a very huge month for me. But then it drops back down.

So now I feel like I’m full, like where do I go from here, how can I expand to a new market that isn’t seeing my work? I feel like I’m just showing it to the same people over and over and not drawing in new people. Does that make sense?

Pat: It makes absolute sense and this is a very common thing. It’s sort of a plateau that many especially rapidly growing businesses come to because—and we almost kind of get a little spoiled in the beginning with just like wow, it’s just automatically going, and I’m hardly doing anything, and look at all these people—nd then all of a sudden, and here you are on this plateau. It’s like okay.

I felt the same way with my podcast. I was sharing the podcast with the same exact people every single time, and it was like how can I get new people in here. So I’m curious to know, have you attempted to do anything to get off of this plateau yet?

Erin: So, I have recently become a bit more invested in YouTube. I was kind of behind the game on video for a long time because it just scared me, honestly. I was very intimidated by it. But I got on YouTube in hopes that there are a lot of people who prefer to watch video than to read, especially now. So I was like well, let’s jump in. So now I have built a following of 12,000 subscribers in I don’t know, probably the past seven months.

Pat: That’s great.

Erin: So that is contributing, and I’m bringing over a small portion of them to my blog, but not a huge percent. But I’m trying to reach new people through that audience. And aside from that, I have done some Facebook ads, but they have not been all that successful. I just haven’t quite found my flow with it, or I don’t know how to target my audience correctly. So those are kind of the two steps that I have attempted to take.

Pat: What kinds of people are on your brand? I mean, is there a specific market that you seem to be tapping into, or is it kind of just all over and widespread?

Erin: I would say I have a pretty good demographic. So it’s mainly women, the age range is really big. It can range anywhere from 18 to 50s. And then mainly the U.S., U.K., and Australia. But there really isn’t like, at least that I’ve found and maybe I’m not looking right, I just haven’t pinpointed their exact interest, you know? I’ve obviously pulled out that these are people who enjoy planning, or enjoy the more artsy like drawing and doodling.

Pat: Well, let me tell you a quick story. I remember with my podcast, I was feeling this plateau, and just as an experiment, actually I got some inspiration from some friends who had done something similar. I decided to create an episode that was specifically for artists and I don’t necessarily have a lot of artists in my audience, so I was a little worried. Like okay, if I create a podcast episode for artists and how to help artists sell more of their artwork online, first of all, I don’t know how to do that. So let me find a guest on who can share that information. But I was a little worried because it was so niche, and my stuff is very general, and I can cover a lot of different kinds of entrepreneurs.

So I conducted this episode, it was Episode 97 with Cory Huff, who helps people do that, and it just spread like wildfire. Actually, it was one of the most downloaded episodes that entire year because it was so specific to a group of people. It kind of worked the opposite than what I thought was going to happen. And I actually have done some research on this, and I’m seeing many people do this, too. My friend Derek Halpern at Social Triggers, he created some marketing blog posts that were specifically for people who own spas and massage places. And it went viral. His stuff went viral in that space, too.

So what I’m getting at is, you’re at this very amazing pivot point now where you have the opportunity to go back to what people do when they first start, which is to niche down a little bit. And when you do that with a big audience like you have already, it can help you reach a lot of new people really, really fast. So you could, for example—and I’m just brainstorming here, and I’d love to hear what your thoughts are—perhaps you choose an upcoming week in the future, and you make it like a fitness week, and how to use the bullet journal specifically for your fitness goals, just this week alone. And it’s like a big challenge, and you have a bunch of people kind of rally behind it and get together in like a community sort of fashion.

It sounds like you have a Facebook page already, and if you kind of like make it an event, people are going to invite other people along with the ride because they have that specific need and problem or want right then and there. And you could perhaps throughout the year do similar things, like you know, maybe it’s summer’s coming up, so you have a week that’s specifically for spending more time with your family now that everybody’s home for the summer, and using the bullet journal and teaching in a more seasonal manner like that. How does that resonate with you?

Erin: I love the idea of that. So my big thing is—and maybe you can help me here—is that when I do things because I have all these . . . I do, I have all these big plans of like okay, I’m going to do this to . . . for a week, you know, because I do know that those kind of events, they draw people in. I’ve been one to join Facebook events that are only like four or five days long and get involved. So I know that they work.

My big thing is I end up spreading myself . . . I just have this whole like, “Okay, I have to write and then I have to edit, and then I have to edit photos, and then I have to make a YouTube video, and now I have this week-long event that I have to put together live videos for and possibly like a worksheet, and all these . . .” And so I guess where I always come down to with those is, do you think that the payoff on that is worth it to forego your regular activities?

I am working to build a backup, like a base of posts and videos so that I can focus more time on that kind of stuff. But is it worth it to do something like that and kind of say, “Okay, if I don’t, if I’m not able to write this week or if I’m not able to share a post this week, this is still more valuable.”

Pat: It’s a fantastic question, and your head’s in the right space. And I think that this is very relatable because we all have new ideas and we just pile things on top of each other.

Erin: Yes.

Pat: If this were easy, what would it look like to you? This challenge, this week-long thing, if it were easy, what would it be?

Erin: Geez. If it was an easy challenge for me from the creator’s perspective, I guess, it would be putting together probably like a Facebook group, and having maybe like a daily 30-minute live stream of myself and maybe a couple pre-written blog posts that go up. And then maybe emails, maybe an email too? I guess that would be probably doable for me.

Pat: Right, like kind of MVP, minimum viable sort of product for that sort of launch. Would that have to be on top of everything else you’re already doing, or can those for example blog posts, just be for that week your blog posts?

Erin: See, and that’s a great point. Yeah, that would be very possible, that I’d just have those go right along and be released at the same time that the challenge was out. So that would work. And if they were either pre-written or just something that I incorporated into the time that I’m spending on the challenge, then that would probably work really well.

Pat: Is it feeling a little easier at this point?

Erin: Yes. Yes, I mean, it’s kind of all coming together in a way that’s not extremely overwhelming, I guess. That kind of comes back to my central point is like I want to grow and I believe that there is room to grow, but at what expense to me? Because I already feel like I put in a lot of time, granted, I’m also a stay at home mom and I have a two-year-old, so—

Pat: Hardest job in the world.

Erin: Yeah. So having a two-year-old on top of trying to work, and then I have a child in school, is like, ah, it’s a lot. So I’m trying not to stretch myself too thin in any area of my life, whether it be motherhood or my career or anything else. So I guess it just all comes back around to, I just want to make sure that I can grow, but without it being like okay, I have to put in 13 hour days.

Pat: Right.

Erin: So, yeah. But that helps. That makes it seem a lot less scary.

Pat: Right.

Erin: Intimidating.

Pat: I’m just thinking in the future, maybe one of the challenges in the future is for business owners who want to put together their own challenge and how to use the bullet journal like you’re going to use for this one to organize all of that. It can just kind of keep going and you’re living it, and people would have no excuse.

Erin: So I’m glad that you’re bringing this up because I just . . . I guess I always thought getting that specific was, and this sounds horrible, but I thought it was a waste of time, kind of the same thing you were talking about with the podcast—

Pat: I literally thought the same thing.

Erin: My thought is like, am I just going to spend ten, twelve hours doing this and have five people?

Pat: Right.

Erin: So, but—

Pat: And the truth is you won’t know until you do it.

Erin: Right, absolutely.

Pat: And the second truth is you don’t have to keep continuing to do it if it doesn’t work.

Erin: Right.

Pat: But I would, and you can answer this for me, do you think that the rewards far outweigh the risks for a mini-experiment like this?

Erin: Oh, yes, absolutely.

Pat: Cool. Do you have any ideas on what that first sort of, and it doesn’t have to be a week, it could literally be just a 48-hour challenge, you know? It could be however you want to structure it. But do you have a particular sort of group of people in mind?

It might be interesting to start with the groups of people that you know you have already, and just kind of focusing on that core group and asking them to find more people like them to come into your ecosystem. Because they would likely align with everything else that you have going on.

Erin: Right. So I have. I think that if I were to . . . I know that a big group of my people would like to, they want that creativity, they want to be more confident, and sitting down with a blank piece of paper and drawing without feeling like it’s crap. So I think maybe I could put together something that incorporated both bullet journaling and becoming more creative with your journal in a short amount of time, probably five days; do those short, 30-minute livestreams every day in a challenge group; and put together some blog posts that would go along with that.

Pat: I like that. I’d love to also ask you before we finish up, and this all sounds really great, I can hear the confidence sort of in your intonation, which is fantastic. Monetization on your brand, I’m curious to know how like, is it just mainly Amazon affiliate stuff that’s doing that?

Erin: So I do . . . I have Amazon and then I run my ads through Mediavine.

Pat: Nice.

Erin: And then I created two courses last year and put them out, and I guess that’s another thing. So, at the beginning, I made a lot of money. I had so many people sign up, it was incredible. I was like blown away. I’m telling my husband, I’m like, you can quit your job, we got this.

But then within about four or five months, that audience dropped off. I’m still receiving . . . there are some people enrolling in my course, but not nearly as many, and I guess that’s when I really felt like I had just hit my max. I was like okay, now I’ve enrolled everybody who wants to do what I’m teaching in this course. Everybody else is either not interested in becoming more creative or learning these things, or they are already above the skill level because it is like a beginner course into creative journaling.

Pat: Right. And so a couple things on that. Number one, sometimes your best customers are your existing customers. So there could likely be with your paying audience already, other offerings that you could add on top of that.

Erin: Right.

Pat: So that it’s not like you just have them buy one thing and then it’s like one and done with them. There could be more ways to serve them, and that’s how you can start to build more raving fans and a really core audience of paying customers. So that’s number one.

But number two, I mean, the cool thing about this is it’s these little challenges or little events . . . an amazing sort of way to cap those off is to go, “Hey, and if you complete this challenge, you get a coupon or a discount to my program that’s only available for 48 hours after the challenge ends,” or something like that. That way, these little challenges are great because they give people like a small win.

They’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can do it. Like I can actually do this, and I love the way Erin’s teaching me and I love her style. I mean, she’s got me more results in the last 48 hours than I’ve gotten in the whole past year. This makes complete sense. Why shouldn’t I pay her for this other stuff that she already has, and look at these testimonials, these are people just like me, and I’m so happy I found this,” and it’s the challenge that gets people to move.

Erin: Yeah. I think that’s a great idea, and I’m definitely going to do it now. I might be a couple, a month or so out, but I’m going to, I think that’s a great idea and I’ll put it together because that’s a good way to funnel people into my course. But I think you’re right, it’ll definitely make a big difference in growth and people feeling more like a community, I guess, is kind of what you want. You want that community, so then they pull other people that they know into it.

Pat: Awesome. I’m so excited for you, Erin. I’m hoping that we could get back on the call at some point after, you know, maybe later in the year to see kind of how things went and what you learned and adjustments you made. Is that okay?

Erin: That would be wonderful. I’m so grateful for this, it’s actually, I’ve got a lot of information, and I’m pretty motivated right now.

Pat: Good. I’m so happy to hear that. And the biggest thing is, now that you have this motivation and this focus, all these new ideas that are going to pop into your head probably after this, they’re there and it’s okay, but let’s give this a chance to do what it needs to do, and then you have those other opportunities after, so. Cool, Erin. Well, one more time, tell everybody where they can go check you out and perhaps sign up to this challenge whenever it might come out, and where should they go?

Erin: All right. So my website is thepetiteplanner.com. I’m also on Instagram and on Facebook as The Petite Planner. So I would love to have anybody come on in and join.

Pat: There you go. Love it, Erin. Thank you so much, I appreciate you, and best of luck.

Erin: Thanks, Pat.

Pat: All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Erin. Again, one more time, you can check her out thepetiteplanner.com. I’m looking forward to chatting with her again in the future, bringing her back on the show and we’ll do an update and see how things go. But it sounds like it’s going to be a perfect fit. And remember, the most important thing with any of these ideas that you want to come up with is number one, allowing you to focus or having that focus on just that one thing, to give it an opportunity to even have a chance to do what it is supposed to do versus what we normally do, which is cloud these new ideas with other new ideas, and then it just becomes a jumble and a mess and you never take action. Or you take action and it’s never as much as you need to for one specific thing.

And then also just trying to make sure it’s as simple as possible, and that goes hand in hand with what I just said. Because the more simple it is, as long as it’s doing what you need it to do, and you don’t let any of these other ideas or features creep in there, then you will have this opportunity and the risks are not as heavy as the rewards. So, that’s it. Erin, thank you so much for coming on, and I look forward to chatting with you soon.

For those of you listening, if you want to get coached just like Erin did today with your particular business, all you have to do is go to askpat.com and you can apply right there on that page, you’ll see an application button. It will ask you a few questions about what’s going on, and you never know, I might select you. And with Erin, she had put in her application, I don’t know, several months ago. And so the truth is, I might pick you at any time. So I won’t pick you if you don’t apply either. So make sure you go to askpat.com and you can see the archive of other episodes there as well, and obviously, subscribe to the show if you haven’t already.

By the way, I’ve seen an uptick in reviews since asking for them, and I want to just thank each and every one of you who has left a review for Ask Pat. I know you know this is a pretty unique show and you get to sit in on a coaching call, so if you have a second to give back for this stuff, that would be amazing by just going to iTunes and leaving a review for the show. That would be massively cool. And thank you so much. I appreciate you, and just keep up the good work. I’ll see you next week. Team Flynn for the win.

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