Welcome to my monthly income report for September 2015!
Each month, I publish a detailed account of what’s happening in my online businesses, from the dollars earned to the lessons learned over the past month. I do this to help me keep track of what’s going on, and I make it public so that others can follow along, too.
I’ve been publishing these posts since October 2008 after I sold my first ebook online at GreenExamAcademy.com. From my wins to my failures and everything in between, I look forward to sharing all of it with you every month.
Let’s get into September 2015, which marks the start of an entirely new era here on SPI. More on that below:
Important Goings-On in September
September was a great writing month for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written more in my entire life.
Across all of the different platforms—my blog, emails, and my upcoming book, I calculated that I wrote an average of 5,420 words per day in September.
In total, that’s 162,000 words!
Let’s start by talking about email.
A Completely New Email Marketing Strategy
As those of you on my list have experienced already, I’ve been making big changes in my email marketing strategy.
The main goal is to increase engagement with the emails that I send out. To be more specific, I wanted to see higher open rates and more click-throughs.
My strategy to achieve this was very simple: send more, relevant emails.
Easy to say, but difficult to implement because within any given audience there are sub-audiences that in many cases deserve different emails than others.
That’s where the SPI survey I recently conducted comes into play (thanks to Ryan Levesque’s book, Ask), and my new favorite tool, ConvertKit. [Full Disclosure: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]
Here’s the story:
In July, I sent a survey to my audience that more than 5,500 people responded to. After my team and I analyzed the results, we found that the SPI audience of online business aficionados was clearly divided into three major buckets:
- Those who had yet to start any business.
- Those who are at the beginning stages of their business.
- Those who had a business and wanted more advanced strategies.
Although I knew there were sub-groups like this in my audience, it was eye-opening to see such a clear division, and to learn that each of these different groups wanted to learn something different.
Up until this point, my email list consisted of one single auto-responder with forty emails that were sent out week after week.
How could I expect each email to be relevant to each of these audience groups? That is why I had moderate open rates, click-throughs, and quite a few unsubscribes with each email.
For example, one email that was about the mindset of starting out would be completely useless to those who already had an established business, and something like advanced SEO strategies would be completely overwhelming for someone who had yet to pick their domain name.
I had great content, but I was not dishing it out in the best way possible, and for that I apologize.
I mapped out a strategy that segments my list into the three different buckets, and serves each with completely different kinds of content.
Defining the Segments
In researching and reading up on segmentation (or, at least what I could find online), I found that a big struggle people had was not defining their segments clearly so that their audience could easily self-identify with their specific segment.
So, my first step was to clearly define these segments within my audience, and with some help from my mastermind group, I came up with the following:
- Does not yet have a business.
- Has an online business but is making less than $500/month
- Has an online business and is making more than $500/month
This makes it easy for anyone to self-identify with one of these segments, or “buckets” as Ryan Levesque calls them, and the content that is required to best serve each of these stages is—for the most part—clearly distinct, as well.
There is some overlap (there always will be), however articles that are meant for those who do not have a business won’t reach those who already have business anymore.
This sounds all good on paper, but how is it actually executed?
This is where my new favorite tool, ConvertKit, comes into play.
ConvertKit is an email service provider, a competitor to tools such as Aweber, MailChimp, and Infusionsoft. I’ve recently switched from Aweber to Infusionsoft, and then to ConvertKit because of two primary reasons:
- ConvertKit has all of the advanced features that I wanted which Aweber does not have, such as tagging and segmentation; and
- ConvertKit is a LOT easier to use than Infusionsoft.
I gave Infusionsoft a good 4-5 month trial run, but it just wasn’t working out for me. I wrote a 6,000+ word article that’s coming later this month that goes into detail about my migration away from Aweber and Infusionsoft onto ConvertKit, so I’ll save the juicy bits until then. But overall, ConvertKit just works, and it’s super easy to use.
Here’s a demo I published on SPI TV last week:
Using ConvertKit, I can easily create different, specific autoresponder sequences that are perfectly suited for each of these buckets, and through tagging and action-based automations, I can easily begin to have my audience place themselves into the bucket that is right for them.
For example, if I have a blog post that’s obviously meant for beginners, I can place a form from ConvertKit into this post that automatically puts people into the sequence that is meant for those just starting out.
Also, within emails I can have people click on links, and depending on which one they click, they get put into a different bucket.
I have a post titled “A Beginner’s Guide to Email List Segmentation” coming out later this month that gives you all you need to know in order to best serve your audience via email. Look out for that and more coming soon on SPI.
So far, the response from the more targeted email campaign has been a complete hit! And when I think about it, of course it is! People are receiving emails that matter to them, and it’s totally reflected in the open rates and click-through rates.
Before the switch, I was seeing an average open rate of 25%, and click-throughs around 5%.
Here’s a screenshot of the stats from a few of my emails from one of my sequences:
Thanks for all of the feedback so far on my emails, and I will continue to hone in on my strategy and share the results with you along the way.
Also, I’ve published a brand new guide specifically for those of you with an email list. It’s called Email the Smart Way, a guide on what to send your list after you’ve started to build it, because half of the battle is building your list, the other half is figuring out what to send.
This ebook covers ten email archetypes so you don’t have to wonder what to send. Just use my templates and you’ll have a more responsive and engaging email list down the road.
Click the green button below, and you can download it now for free!
My Upcoming Book
I’m excited to announce that I’m really close to finishing the first draft of my brand new book. I’ve been working on it for a while, but has been totally worth all of the effort to write it.
What’s it about?
Well, you know how there are lots of books out there about how to find a business idea, and there are lots of other books out there about how to take an idea and build it?
Well, there’s hardly anything in between that really helps you figure out whether or not the idea you have is one that is going to work—whether it’s worth spending all of that time, effort, and money on it.
And that’s where my book comes in. It’s a “validation” book that is meant to guide people through a series of tests to help figure out whether or not an idea is going to work.
There’s a ton of information and examples on idea-to-market validation. Will people actually buy or respond to it? Beyond that, and more important, is whether or not this idea works for you and your goals.
I’ve seen too many people start online businesses to get out of something bad, only to end up with a successful business but feeling even worse. They often say, “I wish I thought more about what I was getting myself into,” and that’s what I want to address and have people discover in this book as well.
I want people to read through this book and have one of two outcomes:
- I want people to put it down halfway through and say, “Wow, this idea I had is terrible, I’m glad I read Pat’s book and didn’t waste a ton of time, money, and effort on something that wasn’t going to work. Let’s start over…”
- Or, I want people to finish it and say, “Wow, Pat’s book completely supported and validated my idea—let’s get going!”
I think the reason this book has taken so long to write is because I know how important it is, and I understand exactly the kind of impact it can make on a person’s future. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with a topic like this, and I wanted to make sure it was done right.
I’m shooting for a launch in January 2016, and there’s still a lot to do after the first draft is finished, but I’ll keep you posted and share with you how you can get involved as the launch date approaches.
Thank you all so much for your support!
For now, let’s get into the earnings report for September 2015.
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report.
Expenses do not include pro-rated yearly fees. Most are related to the Smart Passive Income Blog and new projects that are currently under development.
Another great month, with a large jump due to a Bluehost deal that I pushed just to the people on my email list who had yet to start a business. The conversions were much higher as a result of sharing the deal specifically with this segment. My email segmentations strategies are already paying off, and I don’t risk frustrating those who don’t need to see that kind of email.
The expenses for the month were a bit higher than normal, especially with the transcriptions and the team fees, but that’s because we’re working hard to get ahead on a lot of things related to our content, as described in my August Monthly Income Report.
I’m excited to see how the book does, and we have a lot more planned for more books and courses coming in 2016, so it’ll be fun to compare and contrast.
For comparison, last year’s September report had a net total of $80,037.81.
What About My Other Projects?
For those of you who are both new and old to my income reports, you’ll notice that the only mention of my businesses and niches outside of Smart Passive Income in this report is within the income breakdown.
Typically, I reserve a lot of space to discuss the work I’m doing in other spaces in these reports, but I left that out of this one because I have nothing significant to report.
The reason I have nothing of significance to report is because I’m not devoting energy to those projects right now. They’re all running on autopilot, which is cool, and over the past month I haven’t actively been experimenting with new marketing strategies on those sites. I’m 100% focused on improving the experience on SPI right now.
SPI is my One Thing at the moment. With the email marketing campaign update, a complete redesign coming your way, and new books and courses in the works, I have to be head down on this right now.
With that said, I know a lot of you have been asking me what my next great experiment is and when it’s going to happen. I have a lot of ideas in mind, but I’d like to get SPI set up first in a way that it can best serve you. That way, when my new experiment goes live, it’ll be better for everyone.
I’ve learned a lot from my first two major experiments with the Niche Site Duel. After SPI is all set up and the workflows are doing their thing, it’ll switch to talking mostly about the experiments, and my content will be related to whatever it is I’m doing. I’ll be starting from scratch and taking you along the way, and when that happens, THAT will become my One Thing.
Until then, thanks for sticking with me here. I hope you’re getting a lot of value from what I’m learning and reporting as a I grow and evolve my brand on SPI. I can’t wait to share the next phase of SPI with you.