When starting the new year, there’s a lot of things you have to get in order for your business to thrive. More often than not, you’re doing the job of 5+ people as a content creator.
Enter automation. Automating work frees up time and helps you focus your attention where it’s needed.
Erin Chase from 5 Dollar Dinners joins Jenny Guy, our Senior Director of Marketing, in a conversation about what automation is and how you should treat these products and services as an “invisible employee”.
From determining what tasks you should automate to what services could be the right fit for you, you don’t want to miss it!
(This past episode of Summer of Live was brought to you by BigScoots, a service that offers completely hands-on managed WordPress hosting. Visit their website at https://www.bigscoots.com/)
- 5 Dollar Dinners
- Erin’s Meal Planning Workshop
- Freezer Friendly Dump Dinners Cookbook
- Freezer Cooking Tools
- Whis-Kid Cooking Lessons
JENNY GUY: It’s Thursday, August 20, which means that summer is winding down. Sad face for some of us. Some people are all fall and have been waiting for Halloween to begin. Since I have an awesome food blogger on today, I decided that we should kick off this episode with food talk even though she’s not really here to talk food. So for your hello, welcome, post in the comments, what end-of-summer produce are you making the most of while it still lasts? Or are you canning? Tell us in the comments what late summer goodies your loving.
Gifts, emojis, recipe links, whatever butters your bread with late summer produce, drop it in there, and that’s what we’re talking about today. And while you are spamming us with comments I wanted to let you know that this episode is brought to you by BigScoots. BigScoots offers completely hands on managed WordPress hosting purpose built with WordPress in mind to deliver industry leading performance and reliability. They proactively dig deep into your specific WordPress website to find optimizations and page speed performance improvements that other hosts just don’t have time for.
As your WordPress partner, they will be laser-focused on your individual site catching issues before they impact you or your site’s visitors. And are always working hard behind the scenes to ensure things are secure and running smoothly without having to be asked. For more information on BigScoots, check out their website. We’re going to share that in the comments for you. We are so glad to have BigScoots. They’re so fun.
Oh, yay. And we’re already getting wonderful comments from people what they’re doing with their late summer produce. We’ve got white nectarines. Yeah, Carol Bryant. Good call. Tomato cucumber salad. Yep. Canning salsa, diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, and pickled okra, Rachel. You’re putting us all to shame. OK. I will go. I will go back to the food in a minute. But for the topic at hand, as I already mentioned, my guest is a pretty big deal in the blogging world.
And for her specific food focus she really emphasizes saving home cooks– their sanity, their money, making their lives easier. And she is here today to do the same for all of our audience websites. Free up your time and your energy so you can focus on the high level and high priority tasks in your business with automations. And I have been wanting to sing the– [LAUGHS] do you know the Pointer Sisters song? (SINGING) Automatic.
I’ve been wanting to– every time I say, automations, I want to go, (SINGING) automations. Every time. So just so you know. Erin Chase is here. She is the founder of $5 Dinners and 5dollarmealplan.com, grocerybudgermakeover.com, myfreezeasy.com, and author of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook series. She is on a mission to help busy, overwhelmed home chefs learn to spend less money on groceries and get organized in the kitchen.
Her courses and membership programs have helped tens of thousands of shoppers save hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless shreds of sanity, which who doesn’t need that these days, really? Beyond the money savings, she’s helped many people come to enjoy cooking again. And help them stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed with feeding their families every single night, which is annoying that they want to eat. Why?
She lives with her husband, four hungry boys, and one furry boy in San Antonio, Texas. Welcome back, Erin.
ERIN CHASE: Hey, thanks for having me. So glad to be here and to get to share about automations, and making things easier for yourself and your business.
JENNY GUY: Yes. We love this. We were great last summer. We’re so glad you’re here this summer. Erin and I were talking all things craziness, but I want to jump in because we have so many cool automation things to talk about. Everyone out there talking about the summer produce, keep sharing those things. I’m going to go back and look at every single one of them later.
So we just heard about all your impressive accomplishments. And you’ve done all of that with four boys at home ranging from ages, seven or eight, she wasn’t sure earlier.
ERIN CHASE: [LAUGHS] I just forgot.
JENNY GUY: It’s fine. It’s fine. I’ve been talking with my co-worker and friend Susana, and she’s like, this year doesn’t count for birthdays. So whatever age you turn it doesn’t really matter because it’s 2020 so.
ERIN CHASE: [LAUGHS]
JENNY GUY: You pitched this topic to us because it was originally for our Baltimore conference that was set to be in June. So I am willing to take a bet that structure, organization and automations have played a significant role in your success. Plus, just what all of your– all the things we listed are based on making things easy and more efficient. So tell us what you use, and how they’ve helped you. How did you get into this automation series?
ERIN CHASE: So I do think that this is absolutely like the framework for being able to accomplish more and reach your goals faster and expand faster. So let me just say that that is absolutely like the– I want to say, the infrastructure within our businesses because they are plural, but in–
JENNY GUY: How many?
ERIN CHASE: Working in three different business entities. And so the structure that we operate in inside of all of them is crucial. And a lot of that is the automations. And I’m really excited to get to share this because I don’t think it’s talked about enough. Especially, I know there’s going to be a lot of food bloggers here. And then of course all the other different niches that you guys have in the Mediavine ecosystem. In the Teal world.
And so I think that and I see this a lot, and I see people struggling with it. And I see people maybe not understanding it. Here’s what I really see. I see people not wanting to spend money on things that are invaluable to them. And that is mind boggling to me because if I hadn’t have spent the money for these tools that we’ll get into to help me with these things there is no way we would have been able to produce and create and build what we have built and will continue to build.
And so I want to open this with– I want to challenge your mindset and the reason that I pitched the title of this was your automations as an employee is because you need to understand and adopt the mindset that automations, processes, systems, this infrastructure that you’re going to plug into your business, essentially operates at all underneath here where you don’t have to do anything. And it’s behaving as if it were an employee was doing this work for you. So I want that to be the mindset. And would you pay a person to do some of these things? Yes. You would.
So would you pay a software? Yay, technology. Would you pay a software to do these things for you? And the answer should be, yes. And if it’s not, then you’re thinking about it wrong. So that’s like, if you hear anything from me here, today, it’s that think in terms of how this is going to free up your own time. And how this kind of becomes this invisible employee– all these different things that we’ll talk about– become this invisible employee within your business that the payments are also automated.
Unless your credit cards are going to expire, which the automation should kick to you saying your credit card is going to expire, update it, whatever. There’s so many things that we can automate. And here, we’ll talk about in business too, but I would also challenge you to think about what can you automate in your personal life, too. Unfortunately, Alexa, please cook dinner is yet to be an option.
JENNY GUY: Which, lucky for you, based on your websites.
ERIN CHASE: Well, I will help you. I’ll get you as close to Alexa, cook dinner, as I can. [LAUGHS] But, yeah. So anyways, I think that’s kind of the underlying philosophy with this particular conversation. And why I pushed it to you guys a while back in the first place is because I think this is one, a mindset, and two, just not the way maybe bloggers think that these things should be there. But they absolutely need to be there. And so that’s why I’m really excited about this topic today.
JENNY GUY: I’m really excited about it too. And I think that part of it could be, and this is just me speaking from a personal standpoint, is one, when you’re a blogger you are so used to being that one person business where you’re doing everything in and your hands are on everything. And I think that one of the other things I’ve really learned about bloggers is they’re so resourceful, but also a lot of us are control freaks and very much like to have hands on everything. But one of the big tenets at Mediavine is scale. And you cannot scale if you have your hands on every little thing. It’s not possible.
There are only so many hours. Your hands only do so many things. So you have to be willing. We’re actually going to have a specific question a little later about paid versus free tools and where to spend the money. And also, how to determine when something is worth the money to spend. We’re going to talk about that a little bit. But one of the things, and this actually wasn’t planned, our episode today is brought to you by BigScoots. Managed hosting is one of those things that always kind of gives me a pause in confusion, when people don’t want to spend the money on that. Because I’m always like, but that’s the founda– hmm. That’s a place. That’s a place where I think you should drop– drop some dollars.
ERIN CHASE: I drop dollars with BigScoot every month. And I host 19 websites with them.
JENNY GUY: Stop. What? Did you just say 19?
ERIN CHASE: 19 URLS hanging out on my server. And it is up there in the top five things that I spend money on every month. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have any downtime issues. If we have like, we need to access something the other day to pull from our database. I needed a list of URLS that were tagged a certain way, and so we had to submit a support ticket. Five minutes later it’s completely resolved. Not only answered, but resolved. And so their support is the lightning speed.
And that’s what you need. You need those people in your corner because if I had submitted a ticket, and I had to wait you know, whatever, different company, and you wait 24 hours to get a response. No. I need it. Anyways, I need a response, now.
JENNY GUY: No, you’re right. And Leah Ingram just said, I’m switching to BigScoots next month because I’ve outgrown my hosting. So excited to reach that point. It’s definitely a milestone. And no one is saying that you should go out of the gate when you’re just getting started spending and drop a ton of money on hosting. No. We’re not advocating for that. That’s a choice that you can make, but it is something that becomes a place to invest your money when you are making money to make more money. And to level up with your site, it’s just one of those things, and so our automations as well.
So you talked a little bit about what– tell us from the beginning. What is an automation? And what can you automate? Because you were talking about a lot of things that you can automate.
ERIN CHASE: I know. I jumped into the mindset of it because I wanted to kind of explain the reason behind the title and what-not. And so I think that an automation is, the base word of that is, automate. So it is a something in your business, typically, a repeatable task that can be done automatically. And I think that I’ve kind of mentioned this already, I think that automations can be done by software, which we’ll talk mostly about that today. But I also think that automations by people are also very important. And that really involves being really specific and clear with systems and processes and writing down different things. There’s a number of different tools for that as well.
And so I think of automation is kind of in those two camps. There’s the technical, like software is doing these things for you. And then there’s the people as well. Because when you automate the people tasks it does a couple of things. It helps with brain power, decision making power, all those types of things if you’re just going to quickly do this. And it just helps with productivity as well. And so I think that I want to distinguish that too.
So in automation is pretty much anything that’s going to happen automatically within your business, either done by software or machine, whatever technology, or a human being.
JENNY GUY: Excellent. And we’ll get more into all the things that you can automate in a moment. You and I have been talking behind the scenes of this episode. And you referenced it a little bit in the question before, but what is the mindset of automations? You started talking about it a little bit. You said, it’s a whole shift in the way that a lot of us control freaks operate, and I want to hear more.
ERIN CHASE: OK. So I am the control freak of control freaks. I am a type one – type eight Enneagram. So go do that research and you will quickly see that I’m an ENTJ. So run those personality profiles real quick and I’ll all go toe to toe with you on control freak.
JENNY GUY: Good to know.
ERIN CHASE: So but I cannot accomplish what I need to accomplish by myself. I can’t. Absolutely, impossible for me to have accomplished all the things that we have pulled together in the last 12 years if I was in charge and I was doing everything. Totally impossible.
Fun story real quick. This is a number of years ago. I’m not going to name any names because I know they’ve changed. I went to a little food blogger meetup at General Mill’s. And we were just chatting in the little car on the way back to the airport after our time together. The best time. Super great group of gals, and we were talking about assistance. I was the only one in the car with assistance and I had 10. I was probably on the scale of size in terms of website and just pure metrics. Probably, I was number 6 or 7 of 10.
JENNY GUY: Wow.
ERIN CHASE: Like, size. I was completely baffled that these amazing women were doing this all by themselves. And I can tell you that the few that I have seen and make rapid growth, I know they have people working with them now. And I do think that part of our conversation and just my gentle like, hey, maybe you should hire an assistant. Here’s how that works. Here’s what you do. Really, I think was helpful. And so I think that all that to say, the mindset is you have to let go, but that doesn’t mean you stop paying attention.
JENNY GUY: Ah! I want that on a poster.
ERIN CHASE: Put that quote on a thing.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
ERIN CHASE: I think that people think when it comes to automation is that you tell someone what to do and you let them do it. I’m so sorry, you’re doing it wrong.
JENNY GUY: [LAUGHS]
ERIN CHASE: If you view it that way. OK? So all of our stuff is very much Erin driven. It’s very Erin personality. It’s very why my face is all over the place. Right?
JENNY GUY: I mean, you’re your brand. You are. That is what it is.
ERIN CHASE: I mean, my face is on cookbook covers, so there it is. But I can’t do all the work. I still check all the work, still. Every email that goes out– that when we send millions a month– like probably half of them are written by me. No less than that. Probably 30% of them are written by me. Do I read all of them before we queue them out to go out to hundreds of thousands of people? Yes, ma’am, I do. But I don’t write them. Does that make sense?
JENNY GUY: Sure, it does.
ERIN CHASE: And so I don’t think that you can let go of control without letting go completely. If that makes sense. So that’s the mindset of automations that I would challenge you to adopt is kind of figuring out that balance of, OK, I can’t do all this work. But I still need my eyeballs on everything, and you can absolutely set your infrastructure up that way.
JENNY GUY: And the other thing I’m obsessed with that quote of letting go, but not stop paying attention. Love that. Great mindset. But also the other thing is even you not only can’t do it, everything, why would you want to? And there are just people that are better at things than you are, and it’s easier for other people to do them. One of the things I will admit I get trapped into is that sometimes I like doing easy tasks for a little period of time because it makes me feel better– [LAUGHS] autopilot things. But I can’t.
I can’t do that anymore. It’s hard for me to let go of things that I’m like, this needs to be offset. I don’t know why that’s a weird thing for me. Guys out there, what automations are listeners using for their site? What are you guys currently using? Tell us in the comments. OK. What types of automations are specifically great for content creators, for bloggers, or influencers? How do you determine which aspect of your business is automating the most?
ERIN CHASE: OK, can we come back to that in a quick second?
JENNY GUY: Of course.
ERIN CHASE: Need a hot sec. OK.
JENNY GUY: Yep, take it.
ERIN CHASE: Here’s going back to the kind of the mindset and letting go. Over the next two weeks. Here’s another challenge for you. Here’s your homework.
JENNY GUY: Yes. Love it.
ERIN CHASE: Over the next two weeks, make three columns on a piece of paper. And as you’re going through your week, put tasks into the three columns and they are the following– things that only I can do.
JENNY GUY: OK.
ERIN CHASE: Things that I, the CEO of my business, can do. All right? That’s going to be high level decisions, big picture. Maybe it’s if you’re depending on the size of your site. You’re still doing all photography and videography. Whatever the things you can do.
JENNY GUY: No one else can do the big call with General Mill’s CEO. You have to do that call.
ERIN CHASE: That’s me doing that call. I’m the one working out proposals. This is me still. I don’t have a biz dev team. If I had a biz dev team, they would be doing it. We’re not to that level yet, right? So those are things that I, as the CEO, need to be doing. Then there’s the things I like to do. I like to take food pictures. Do I outsource that? A little bit. Can I? Could I do all of it? Absolutely. But I like it. Does that make sense?
The rest of it that you shouldn’t be doing, which is probably 60% of what you do every week. Hmm. OK. Make that chart. See what happens. You’re going to be amazed. OK, so back to your question about specific tools that we need to be using for automated–
JENNY GUY: [INAUDIBLE] content creators as that specific group. And we’ve got people saying, is Tailwind an automation? Yeah. Definitely. I think it is.
ERIN CHASE: Yeah. Absolutely.
JENNY GUY: Michelle says, she is automated mostly by people. We’ve got Google Sheets, Zapier, Buffer Time. All sorts of people. SocialBee. And then Brenda said, Jenny, that’s where I was stuck too. There are some tasks that I like to do, but I just don’t have all the time to do it. So I had to prioritize and outsource more of it finding that right people automation that you’re comfortable with is key. Yeah. It’s true. I mean, you just said, you could have somebody take all of your pictures for you, but you don’t want to do that because it brings you joy.
ERIN CHASE: Right. Right. And now, I do both. I have people helping me, and I do some too. And it’s very clear who’s the other and it doesn’t matter. Right? At least it doesn’t matter to me. I know there are some food bloggers who are very particular about their food photography, which is amazing. Be particular about it because that’s your brand and that’s how you roll.
OK. So what are automations, that tools? Let’s start with, I think the very most important is your email automations. Email marketing is by far, I will argue with you until I’m blue in the face. But email marketing is the–
JENNY GUY: It’ll match your beautiful room.
ERIN CHASE: Match my beautiful blue office.
JENNY GUY: It’s happening.
ERIN CHASE: Yes, I know. Everything [INAUDIBLE]. My new show, it’s all blue. Everything is blue.
JENNY GUY: I love your aesthetic. And it goes with your eyes. It’s perfect.
ERIN CHASE: Aww, thank you.
JENNY GUY: Get on with your blue. Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: Yes. Me and my blue. So the email marketing is by far your best place to connect with people. If you’re going to do any sales of any kind, it is by far the best sales channel. Even if you strike some viral something pin, or Facebook post or whatever, long term– email, email, email. OK. So now, that we’re done arguing about that.
JENNY GUY: [LAUGHS] Any objections have already been answered, so there’s no point. You’re done. Goodbye.
ERIN CHASE: No. We’ll chat later if you want to disagree with me. So I think that’s most important. So when you’re looking for an email provider I want you to think about six months from where you are right now. Most people start with Mailchimp. You go to Mailchimp and you’re like, oh my gosh, I can’t spend $200, or whatever. Maybe it’s $40, or $50. Yes, you can. Because I promise you it’s going to free up time later.
You’re going to be sending out your weekly newsletter from that. You’re going to be sending out your– here’s your free home design for 2020 guide. Your free Optin, whatever it is. Then you have your follow up sequence, and then you have your long term email newsletter that you send out to people weekly, monthly, whatever your cadence is. Right? So email is absolutely number one. And whatever program you’re using, whether it’s on the email scale. You have everything from a simple email delivery service, which you know, Mailchimp, SendFox, something like that’s just pretty straightforward. We’re just sending emails for you.
Then you have– you kind of jump into the CRM level, which CRM is Customer Relationship Management software. And then there’s a number of– there’s actually I feel like there’s two tiers there. There’s active campaign convert kit, and then you jump up. There’s a second tier that has a lot more automation power, which is where I’m at. I use Ontraport for that. And then above that you then happen HubSpot and Salesforce.
That’s a good kind of train of options for you depending on where you’re at in terms of size. And so I would encourage you to take time to research which one of those are going to be the best based on your email and sales strategies. Because depending on what they are is going to determine which one of those softwares that you wanted to choose. Does that make sense?
So first CRM slash email. Absolutely number one. That I can tell you right now with Ontraport it powers our memberships, our affiliate program. We send millions of emails a month. It powers all of that and it is worth every single penny. Because if there’s one invisible, actual invisible employee, that I am paying a human employee’s salary to, it’s Ontraport. And they do more work than a human employee does on the– you know, invisible work. Does that make sense?
JENNY GUY: It totally makes sense. I love everything you’re saying. And I agree with you. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to rewind because what I see a lot, and I know this isn’t strictly our topic, but we can look at it through the lens automations. There are so many publishers that I see who do not see email as an essential part of their business. They don’t. They see it as, it’s kind of like SEO was like, four or five years ago where people were like, I just don’t get SEO, so I don’t worry about it when I write. And now it’s become such an intrinsic part of everything.
And I think that email will get there because it is. Because those are your people that you sell to. Those are the only things you own. That’s how you have them. But talk to me about why you cannot just ignore your list. You have to build your list, and you have to communicate with them. Please, talk to me. Explain that.
ERIN CHASE: Oh my goodness. This is a whole other session, but yes.
JENNY GUY: I know
ERIN CHASE: So email marketing, just like you said, is the only thing that you own besides your website content that is published and living on the internet. And so if Facebook goes away tomorrow, is that going to happen? Unlikely. But I will tell you– I know Jenny knows this, but if you don’t know this my house flooded December 12. And I got an email. So we had to move out. It was that bad. We lived out of our house for six months. And I got an email probably– it was within seven, eight, nine days of the initial flood. So I’m already pretty stressed. [LAUGHS]
I got an email that my Facebook page was violating things. And it was a legit email. I was crying. I don’t cry. I’m a type one, type eight Enneagram. We don’t cry. Crying because what if I lose my Facebook page?
And the advice I got was, you have your email list. Fine. Over it. Next. It was like, I thought that it was going to be this big thing and nothing happened. My Facebook page was fine. Anyways. Crazy how dependent we are on these other platforms. Pinterest, actually drives the majority of our traffic. Facebook is such a fun place though. Right? I’d be devastated if I lost our page, but would it end my business? Absolutely not because we are dialed in on email. We still pepper everything everywhere, but email is what is the sales engine of our business.
JENNY GUY: I think that maybe where the disconnect is coming is that people don’t see email as a direct traffic driver to their site in the ways that they see– I know, that’s why I’m setting up. Here comes the pitch. It’s underhanded. What I’m saying is people see that it’s coming from SEO. They see it coming from social. They don’t see it coming from email. Go Erin.
ERIN CHASE: [INAUDIBLE] my analytics screenshots. So we send emails on Saturdays or Sundays. And you can tell if I send an email on Saturday or if I send an email on Sunday, which of the two days. It’s always a weekend email, but it’s not the exact same every time or every weekend. And you can tell in our traffic because I’m driving traffic back to the website. Absolutely. It makes a difference. But I don’t think that– traffic isn’t the only thing. There’s more than that.
And so, yes, traffic is a huge part of business, especially for Mediavine because traffic impressions equals revenue. But there’s so many more opportunities for revenue with other– if you have your own products, or even if you’re just doing a freebie. It is absolutely a solid way to drive traffic if you’re not using email as a sales channel, for sure.
JENNY GUY: Dennis just said– Hi Chef Dennis– he just said, since I’ve been growing my email list, my direct traffic has gone up drastically. Everyone is saying that. Larissa is asking if she can see a list of the email service providers that you mentioned. We’re putting that together. We’re sharing links too. Luke said, what about push notifications? To me that’s like email, but easier. Do you have thoughts on push notifications?
ERIN CHASE: Yeah. If that’s what you think is going to work best for your audience, then absolutely. That is a fantastic strategy. We use text notifications for some of our members just as another touch point for people or reminders, really. Push notifications on your website. Some people I know are really aggressive if they do a lot of live video, they’ll make sure people are signing up for live video notifications.
And so whatever you think is going to be best for your audience and whatever is going to help you reach your goals– KPIs, metrics, whatever you call them in your business. If that’s going to work for you then do that. But for us, email has by far been the most successful. One, traffic driver, two, sales generator.
JENNY GUY: Very exciting. OK, another area of automations for content creators would be tasks. Go a little bit more into detail on that.
ERIN CHASE: Yes. So anything that is repeated in your business can be automated, somehow. Whether it’s by technology or by a human or by yourself, too. So we have a weekly meal plan subscription service that we’ve been running for six years. And it is so streamlined and automated it takes me– this is the setup style. This is the administrative portion of this. It takes probably tops 30 minutes a week for me to do. And I have it automated into my schedule, so that it always happens on Thursday mornings. It was the second thing I did this morning. Does that make sense?
And so it’s a process that does need to– we have a software. The software does the meal plan setup for us, but it still needs a human touch point. So that’s kind of an example of tech plus human plus schedule automation. And I don’t have to think about this task that has to happen every week. I have not stressed about $5 Meal Plan setup for years because–
JENNY GUY: That is so nice.
ERIN CHASE: –it has been so automated. It happens every single week. If I know I’m going to be out of town. Or if I’m going to be on an airplane on Thursday mornings, then I’ll double up and work ahead. Does that make sense?
JENNY GUY: Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: And so that’s an example of that is something that happens every single week. We choose the recipes that go into the plan every week. We set up the plan every week for delivery. We have our editor basically, making sure that everything is exactly in perfect. Because what happens when you send out a meal plan to thousands of people? It’s not perfect.
JENNY GUY: They notice the mistake? No.
ERIN CHASE: You’ll hear about it in five minutes.
JENNY GUY: Oh, yeah.
ERIN CHASE: OK. So you’ve got to make sure it’s perfect. So we have all these between the software that we had built and the people. There’s three people involved in this weekly automated process. It is very simple. It’s very fast. It’s very streamlined. And in making sure that we are meeting our members’ expectations with the meal plan every single week.
JENNY GUY: Is there anything worse than when you send something out and there’s a mistake, and you didn’t know. I hate– that’s the worst feeling–
ERIN CHASE: [INAUDIBLE]
JENNY GUY: –maybe of all time.
ERIN CHASE: When it comes to the task though. I want you to be thinking about, OK, again, kind of go back to that list. And you could even take that list of things that you don’t necessarily need to be doing and what can you automate? And this is where it takes a little bit of time. You’ve got to research. Ask questions. Go in the Mediavine group and ask people, what are you using to automate this? And you’re going to probably hear, I use Zapier to do A to B. And there’s literally hundreds of thousands of options here from connecting point A to point B.
So I’m not going to be able to give you your specific. But if you ask, people will know and we will answer. And so another one is, If This Then That. Right? If somebody mentions me on Twitter, text me. Ask me how often I log into Twitter.
JENNY GUY: How often do you log into Twitter?
ERIN CHASE: Only when someone @’s me. [LAUGHS]
JENNY GUY: Love it.
ERIN CHASE: Right? Does that make sense?
JENNY GUY: Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: But I wouldn’t know because I didn’t get the notification. And I don’t want to get all the notifications on, you know…
JENNY GUY: No.
ERIN CHASE: But said it, maybe you use the Twitter app to send you notifications only when you’re getting a mention. Maybe you use your Instagram notifications to get a notification or a text or whatever, only when somebody sends you a message to your primary inbox.
JENNY GUY: Otherwise you’ll just be drowning. You’ll be drowning constantly.
ERIN CHASE: Because holy Instagram notifications. All of these things are there. They all exist. If you have this pain point, I wish x could happen when y happened. I guarantee you that some smart technological software developer person has built something to do this. To meet this like, I wish that this could be this. And if they haven’t, then ask.
So speaking of, Lee, asked about tailwind earlier. We have access to product pins now. And I asked to say, is there going to be product pins in Tailwind ever? They’re like, no, but great idea. Adding it to the roadmap.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
ERIN CHASE: Right? So ask. Anyways. OK, side note there.
JENNY GUY: What’s the worst that could happen? They say, no. Maybe it’s not on the roadmap now. Remind them in two months. Set yourself a reminder with that app or that automation that you have.
ERIN CHASE: Yep.
JENNY GUY: OK. A little bit of a controversial one here is social media. Automating social media because I think that’s where everyone’s mind automatically goes when we talk about automations for content creators. We’re talking about social media schedulers. The type of things you’re talking about like notifications mentioned, thing like that. And then there’s the whole can of worms about whether schedulers versus live posting. So all of that. Talk about a little bit of social media scheduling in here.
ERIN CHASE: So my social media scheduling is all human automated. [LAUGHS]
Well not entirely true. It’s human managed slash human automated. So for Pinterest I have simple pin media managing the manual pinning. And then I have somebody else managing my Tailwind that does all of our SmartLoops and all of that stuff. And so we do some software automation, some human automation. I also have Instagram and Facebook done using live posts or the– what is it called– Creator Studio.
JENNY GUY: OK.
ERIN CHASE: We do native inside of everything. And I do think that Creator Studio, for both Facebook and Instagram posts, really is all that you need. They have schedulers now for both platforms. And there’s a lot of functionality there if you take a minute to look at the options. And so I think that would be my first suggestion for social media scheduling is to use the native platforms and schedule within them.
I do think there are some really other great programs that you can use. Tailwind would be the one that we use for Pinterest. You just have to do your research. And then, if you are going to try a third party scheduler versus the native scheduler —
JENNY GUY: You can click schedule or a buffer.
ERIN CHASE: Right. So those would be third party schedulers versus the native to Facebook or now, Instagram is within Creative Studio. So you have got to watch your numbers like a hawk. And not your– how many people are commenting. Watch your traffic numbers, or your engagement, or your comments, or whatever. I have heard both sides–
JENNY GUY: Same.
ERIN CHASE: –over the years. And I worked with Coast Schedule probably like, eight years ago. It was a long time ago. And you just have to watch. And if your engagement drops, your traffic drops, your reach– that’s the word I’m looking for– reach drops, then you need to switch into the native scheduler, but I don’t know. That that’s my thoughts on that. It’s really going to be dependent on your audience. And it’s going to be dependent on how engaging your content is.
JENNY GUY: Definitely true. I’ve also seen a shift from a, I have to post four to five times on my Facebook page a day to I’m going to post when I have something really relevant like at least once a day, but maybe two times if I really have good things. But as opposed to– someone had commented, Luke, on having evergreen content being a great thing to schedule through those means and that’s great.
Sometimes that gets reach and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it just depends. But more topical, more in the moment things it’s hard to schedule stuff on social media because the point of social media is to be relevant in the moment. It’s hard. I mean, it’s a hard thing to plan for a month and a half in advance, you know?
ERIN CHASE: Right.
JENNY GUY: I also will say to people that if you’ve not been in Creator Studio on Instagram or Facebook lately, I think they’ve really improved it. When it first came out I was like, this is a hot steaming pile. Like, it was a mess.
ERIN CHASE: [LAUGHS]
JENNY GUY: When Creator Studio came out on Facebook, I hated it. I kept getting redirected there. I’m like, this is isn’t– I don’t like this. Stop. Stop it. And now, I enjoy it a lot. So I would say, go back. Dip your toe back in.
And Leah said, Tailwind lets you schedule Instagram stories now too, which is a really cool feature. So how far out do you schedule social media, Erin [INAUDIBLE] those native schedulers.
ERIN CHASE: Both like, today, Monday, next week, month from now. It’s about all of the above.
JENNY GUY: OK.
ERIN CHASE: And that’s partly depends on who is which of my two social media managers is working on what, basically. We have a mix of evergreen. We have a mix of what’s happening in our Erin’s Kitchen. And we have a mix of, these are promotions that we have going on. I try to strike a real careful balance between, here’s a promotional post like, go sign up for something. A sale, most essentially. Here is just a recipe that is seasonal, and you know, zucchini. All the zucchini. Hang on y’all, pumpkin spice is coming next week. In a week.
JENNY GUY: Already everywhere.
ERIN CHASE: It’s coming.
JENNY GUY: Time has stopped existing. I’m ready for Christmas cookies like, next week.
ERIN CHASE: [INAUDIBLE]
JENNY GUY: I know. Guys. Can we stop? I love Erin. She did not need to show me–
ERIN CHASE: [LAUGHS]
JENNY GUY: –all of her really great cookies right before we started then be like, they’re at my house though. Have a great day.
ERIN CHASE: I know. I wish I could send you some.
JENNY GUY: It’s OK. They look amazing. I can get the recipes and bake them, but they look–
ERIN CHASE: Oh, I’ll have them up real soon. Don’t you worry. [LAUGHS]
JENNY GUY: I’m excited. So you do a mix of all those things. That’s fantastic. So let’s segue a little bit on the social– from social media to the content marketing side of it and what kind of automation do you have there? Because you have between 19 websites, five of them pretty much active and posting on a regular basis. How do you balance all that out? And what are you using?
ERIN CHASE: I think that the majority of our content marketing is actually by email and then of course, social media. Those would probably be our two highest sort of social media things. So let me kind of dig into our email automations because I think that is really helpful. So like I said I use Ontraport, which is a CRM, but it also has a fabulous email delivery component that is the core of it. And then it also has membership options and course options and affiliates. It’s all built in there.
So for email, we have– I might have just archived a couple– but we probably have about 100 active email sequences. So what that means is if somebody comes onto the $5 Dinner site and they want to sign up for the weekly email newsletter. There’s one of those. So they’ll sign up for that. They’ll get the series of like, hey, this is me. Nice to meet you. You know, tell me about you. We get a ton of replies to these emails. We also send them information about the different series we’ve done in the past, different products that we have available.
And then they go on to our weekly email that I mentioned earlier goes out every Saturday or Sunday. And so that is an example for our $5 Dollar Dinners, our weekly email that has these, I think it’s right now, eight emails that go out over probably about two weeks and then after that it’s a weekly email. So I call that short term to long term nurture. Those are just my words I use for it.
JENNY GUY: I like it.
ERIN CHASE: And so that is in Ontraport. That’s actually two sequences. It’s 5DD step, and then 5DD date. So 5DD step, these eight emails are automatically scheduled based on when the person signs up for the free email newsletter. So they sign up on Monday, they get Monday, they probably get Wednesday, then Friday, Saturday, Monday. It’s stepped out that way. At the very end of that sequence there’s a rule that says, OK, they’re done here now. Please, move them to date. So they get moved to the $5 Dinner’s date sequence.
I don’t want them getting the date emails while they’re getting the first eight because that would be too many. A short period of time. Does that make sense?
JENNY GUY: Yep.
ERIN CHASE: It’s automated so that they get the step and then they get switched automatically to the date. Multiply that by tens of thousands of people. Hello, thank you very much, invisible employee. So that’s just one specific kind of email example. Here’s another one for like a course, let’s say. So someone signs up for our grocery budget makeover. We used to have launches for these.
So we had like, GBM September step sequence, but now it’s all evergreen. So it’s GBM evergreen step, and then GBM evergreen date. Exactly the same thing, just different types of emails. So the GBM step is, hey, here’s your log in credentials. Hey, here’s where you log in again if you missed the last email because it happens. Hey, here’s our Facebook group, come and join us. And then, I have automated if they haven’t logged in after a week, we send them a reminder email.
And if they haven’t logged in after 30 days, we send them another one. Because they’ve signed up for this, I hope everything’s OK. Right?
JENNY GUY: Yes.
ERIN CHASE: That’s example from the step sequence. So after those first three emails, then they get kicked on to the course delivery piece, which is then– here’s lessons one through three, here’s lessons four through seven. It kind of drips it out that way. Does that make sense? So that’s course delivery.
And then after that when they’re finished, they get put on alumni. And that’s where we send, hey, we have a new Starbucks cookie series that I’m about to write. So go check that out. Traffic driver to people who already know me, who’ve already done our course, and who want to know about cookies.
JENNY GUY: And who doesn’t want to know about Starbucks cookies.
ERIN CHASE: Especially right now. So anyway, does that make sense? So those are just two like, here’s a free weekly email and then here’s like a course. And we have a membership. We have lots of check ins and touch points and log in and credit card fails. And all of those things have to be automated. Because if they’re not automated, then you end up bogged down in customer support. Right?
JENNY GUY: Yep.
ERIN CHASE: And let me tell you, anything that we can automate out of customer support frees up both of time on support and money.
JENNY GUY: And it makes sure that you, I mean, you’ve curated experiences for people at every point in the funnel. You have them at wherever they are. You’re meeting them. And you’ve curated an experience that you want them to have. You know how they’re going to go through. And you’ve made it to where you don’t have to think about it every time. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
How often are you reviewing those series? You just said you deleted a couple. How many times a year are you going in and going through everything auditing yourself?
ERIN CHASE: Great question. Auditing is something we forget to do. And I don’t like to do it, but it forgets to get done. I very much have it built in. So let me rewind over to kind of what automation sort of setup looks like.
JENNY GUY: Yeah. Please, because that was my next question was talking about how to get into this. Let’s say like, I know that this is a repetitious task. I know that this is something I can set up and forget for a while. How do I do in it?
ERIN CHASE: There is the first two are easy. It’s the last three that people just fall off track and that’s where we get in trouble. So the first is research. What do you need to do? What program? What software? What assistance should I hire that is going to be able to help me accomplish and automate this repeatable tasks? So the research is first. Asking your friends, asking in groups, whatever.
The second is then going to be set up. So I actually just did a research in a setup this very week, it went live on Monday, for a social proof plug-in software piece of code for our store where, so-and-so just bought this two hours ago or whatever. We had never had one. I don’t know why. So I did the research. I have the setup. I did the testing. And now, we’re moving into the next. So research, setup, test it.
JENNY GUY: What does that look like? Testing? Tell us about it.
ERIN CHASE: Whatever automation, if you set up a form for your new email newsletter, stick an email on it and make sure it works. Make sure the person is redirected to the right page afterwards. Make sure that the email with the free design e-book gets delivered to them. You have to test everything because if you set it up and it breaks or it isn’t set up the way you want it to be set up, creates another customer service nightmare. And so testing.
And then the next is basically tracking or checking in. So any sort of, for me, Ontraport has an amazing dashboard, so I just go and I can quickly see like, OK, these things are not working. Or we’re down on sales on this particular product or whatever. So just keep kind of keeping an eye on it. Going back to what I said at the very beginning. And then the last is a full on audit. Full on audit.
JENNY GUY: I’m excited. I like this. This is fun.
ERIN CHASE: I do this every six to nine months by product. So I don’t do this all at once for every single product. So then I have it kind of– because we have so many different products. I have probably about every six weeks I’m auditing something. So what is an audit mean. It means going back with fresh eyes like you’ve never seen this information before and making sure that it’s still accomplishing the goals that it’s supposed to accomplish.
So in the case of $5 Dinners we recently added a new kids cooking curriculum. And so I had to go back and audit the $5 Dinners weekly so that that is now included. So while I was adding it in I went ahead and made sure that it fit right in the whole flow of all of it. Does that make sense? And so that ended up being kind of a full audit. I didn’t rewrite a lot. I did a little bit. But it’s basically coming back to this automation that you’ve setup.
And this probably happens most often with email related sequences. It could also be for social media for some the evergreen stuff that you’ve posted. We sunsetted one product, I guess, it was the end of last year. And I totally forgot we had loops for that setup. So that’s still out there on Pinterest. I found it in the audit. Pull it all out of there. And so I think that you have to go through all the way to the end and then auditing. Just put it making a little reminder on your calendar to go back six months or nine months from now and do it again. Because things do change and you will hear from people.
And that’s why we sunsetted that one product. It’s like, maybe this is not the best use of our team’s time, our promotional bandwidth, you know, all that stuff. And so I think that it’s super important for you to one, keep an eye on it, and two, do a full audit of it on the regular.
JENNY GUY: Set it and forget it for a little while, but then come back. And it’s really keep monitoring it. Keep those metrics in. And any email service provider, any of those worth their salt will have a dashboard for you where you can track your metrics and your open rates and all that sort of stuff. And like you said, as you climb that ladder and move into bigger and bigger more comprehensive programs you’ll find more and more things.
OK, let’s talk what are your favorite tools. And let’s talk free versus paid. Because I could talk to you all day long and we’re running out of time. So let’s talk about tools.
ERIN CHASE: Oh my gosh, we are. Oh, wow. OK, see? We love chatting about this.
JENNY GUY: We do.
ERIN CHASE: So free versus paid. You’re going to get what you pay for is absolutely what it comes down to. And I think it comes back to what we talked about off the top, which was automations are like an employee. And you’ve got to be willing to pay for them. If I was going to put money into anything first, it’s going to be– and assuming you already have hosting going on because your website’s live– then I would email for sure. Whatever email provider, whether it’s you have no list at all, start with Mailchimp. Get a little Optin box from Mailchimp.
All of these programs are so user friendly. I have used Mailchimp up like 10– a long time I used it compared to what it looks like now. Woo. You guys, we got it easy nowadays. It’s so easy to figure all of these things out. They’re super user friendly. The tutorials are very simple and easy because they want you to continue to use their service, right? So they’ve got to make the onboarding easy. So that’s what I would start with.
And then I would also look at like, we use a design service. And we get everything, we host everything for our team in Dropbox. And so is there a way for me to automatically get our design agencies in from Files directly into Dropbox? Like, that would be an example of an automation or something that somebody on our team does every single day. Could that be automated? You got to start looking for what could be automated. And then figuring out again back to research, and getting it set up, and then checking in on letting it run and running that full audit.
And so Zapier is great to connect different pieces. And most of these softwares we’ll tell you, hey, work with Zapier. There’s even really great automations, notification automations in like, Slack. There is also If This Then That, which is IFTT.com No, T-T-T, three T’s. I-F-T-T, I have such a mental block on that. IFTTT.com same story. Go look on there. OK, just go look on IFTTT.com and just start to look at all the different little boxes that they have. And you’ll be like, [GASP] I can automate this, and that, and that, and that.
You’ll just get inspired by looking at what they suggest. So maybe that’s a good first starting off place. The other thing too, is pay attention to the programs you’re already using. For those of you who use Canva, did you catch their new editorial calendar that came out this week? Holy, moly, guacamole, sign me up. Right? [LAUGHS] Anyways.
JENNY GUY: It’s exciting. It’s super exciting.
ERIN CHASE: It is cool. But you’ve also got to be —
JENNY GUY: But also, Canva, bring back the file sharing. That was easier, please, because it’s so hard right now. You’re killing us, Canva. No.
ERIN CHASE: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
JENNY GUY: They changed some file sharing options in Canva that our team– like, it’s not– It’s difficult. And so, Canva, fix it.
ERIN CHASE: Dropbox? We just have Dropbox linked in.
JENNY GUY: We use Dropbox some, but we’re different. Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: That’s for another day.
JENNY GUY: Another, yes.
JENNY GUY: I’m going to go to IFTTT.com and figure it out.
ERIN CHASE: You’ll be inspired.
JENNY GUY: [INAUDIBLE]
ERIN CHASE: That’s a great place to get started. And then, as you grow then you’ll want to be looking for more things, project management things to help you– Asana, Basecamp, Trello. These are kind of thinking further down the line. We didn’t really have time to get in all of this. Workflows for the human piece of this. Let me touch on this real quick, because I said this earlier.
SweetProcess. Pipedrive. We’ve actually built out essentially our own version of all of these things within Google Drive. I just randomly started building it out and it just kept going. For all of the agenda documents that we use, our master docs, our reference docs, our task docs, project docs. We have everything in this massive HQ that we all use and work from. And so basically, I essentially built our team’s version of Basecamp or Asana.
And then we have these workflows that are also built into Google Drive, but look very similar to what you would see in SweetProcess or Pipedrive. So be thinking about also not only these technical automations, but also how you can use your assistance now and yourself in your own time better to setting yourself up for this sort of process driven automation as well.
JENNY GUY: OK, I have a couple of questions. And I want to go to Larisha. I wish we could keep talking. What Larisha said, what’s your response to someone who is nervous about giving up income to pay for these things?
ERIN CHASE: You will make more money if you invest in the right tools. So if I hadn’t had invested in email I wouldn’t have made when I very first launched our very first course ever, I made $50,000 on a $300 month investment.
JENNY GUY: Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: OK.
JENNY GUY: Math works.
ERIN CHASE: I launched a course on Ontraport as a platform with an affiliate program, and all the email, all the videos. It’s all hosted on Ontra pages now. And that was the first launch. I’ve done nine since then, and it’s evergreen now. So definitely worth the investment. In that case, it was to launch a course. But it also powers so much more than that now. And so you’ve got to look at what, one, the investment amount. And you’ve got to forward think. I think we live in the moment so much. And we can’t see the return.
Of course it’s a risk, right? Of course. There’s risk in everything. There’s a risk in picking Tesla as a stock right now. I won’t. Yeah. Buy yourself a share. [LAUGHS] Well, after it splits maybe, but there’s risk in everything. And it’s just got to be calculated. So if this risk has the potential to save you $600 worth of time this month, then go ahead and give that $99 a month to whichever software it is that you’re considering. Does that make sense?
And then set it up and use it. It’s going to be complete. We all have these things that we sign up for and then we don’t use them.
JENNY GUY: Sure. Yeah.
ERIN CHASE: There’s another thing to audit, right?
JENNY GUY: Yes.
ERIN CHASE: Not just in business, also in business, but also in personal life. Things that we’re paying for. I paid for Amazon’s Prime Pantry. I signed up for the five month membership when they released it. It was probably like, 18 months ago. And then they switched it off. And I kept paying for it because they didn’t switch me off. What?
JENNY GUY: That’s not OK, Amazon.
ERIN CHASE: Anyways. But I wouldn’t have found that if I hadn’t gone looking for it. I found that earlier this year. I was flabbergasted. Anyways. All that to say, I think that you have to consider this payment to whatever program, either it’s an assistant, or a technology, or software in investment. Absolutely. If you do not reinvest back into your business and back into yourself because investing in these automation tools, or email marketing tools, or social media management tools is going to be a reinvestment to yourself. To your business, but ultimately, it comes back to help you.
And that’s what we’re trying to do. Automations allow you to focus on the things that only you can do and only you want to do, like to do. So that the other things can be– you don’t have to think about them because otherwise we’d drive ourselves into little tornadoes and run into the wall and lose our minds. And so, I think, Larisha, if you just think about this as this little investment there’s a little risk. But the little risk is going to be what motivates you to make sure that it’s working for you and the way that you need and want it to work for you.
JENNY GUY: Use the risk. Use the risk to motivate you. I love that. So I’m going to make a quick announcement. And I would love to know if you teach courses on email marketing because if you don’t, you should. Because at the very least, automating or about your drip cycles because those are amazing. Guys, next week, it is our second to last episode of the Summer of Live. We are winding down. It is depressing.
Thursday, August 27, at 3:00 PM Eastern time, I have Hillary Erickson of Pulling Curls. We’re talking about tripling your income while you sit at the pool, which should still be open, with courses. So we’re going to talk about how to market your courses. How to find what you should be teaching on. All of those things are happening next week.
Erin, can we talk you into perhaps teaching a course on email marketing for automations. I’m just throwing it out there.
ERIN CHASE: Tell me. Tell me any time. I don’t have information on this. I have thought about it. And I am a stay-in-your-lane-girl. My team has instructions to, if I start to veer out of my lane, get back in your lane, Erin. Food, food, food, food, food.
Yeah, I’ll come back and we’ll do another one. But I do not see myself developing anything. I do know I feel like I know a lot.
JENNY GUY: You do.
ERIN CHASE: I feel like I know a lot, but I am passionate about helping people spend less money on food. And so that’s the lane I’m going to stay in right now.
JENNY GUY: Well, I am passionate about having you on the lives because you’re great. And you always bring so much to it. I’m also passionate about your Starbucks cookies. Erin, thank you for coming. This has been great. And guys, thank you for coming, and we will see you next week.
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