201: Email Marketing for Bloggers with Matt Molen

An image of Matt Molen and the title of his episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Email Marketing for Bloggers.'

Welcome to episode 201 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Matt Molen about implementing and maintaining a solid email list strategy.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork talks about the tools that we use to run Food Blogger Pro. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Email Marketing for Bloggers 

Today’s episode focuses on the unsung hero, the oft forgotten promotional medium of blogging: email marketing.

It’s easy to just set up an RSS-driven email campaign, meaning that your subscribers automatically get new posts, and forget about it.

But you can be doing a lot with your email list, and Matt is here today to talk about those strategies and plans that can help you grow a healthy, engaging email list.

It’s a fun interview, and we hope you have a few takeaways that you can apply to your mailing list after listening.

A quote from Matt Molen’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'Bend over backwards, be available, answer questions, be patient, do the work.'

In this episode, Matt shares:

  • Where the name Personalized Paths come from
  • Why segmentation is important
  • What it was like to move from full-time employment to self-employment
  • Why content creators should be implementing an email strategy
  • How to get more readers on your list
  • What to send your readers once they’re on your list
  • How to solve your readers’ problems
  • How to maintain a healthy email list

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:


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If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.


Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode I talk about a helpful document from Pinterest and then Bjork interviews Matt Molen about how you can grow and maintain your email list.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, wonderful listener. You are listening to Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thanks so much for tuning today. This episode is sponsored by WP Tasty, our sister site and a food blogger’s go to resource for plug in needs. You can head on over to WP Tasty.com to learn why WP Tasty plug ins are loved by bloggers around the globe.

Alexa Peduzzi: And for this week’s Tasty Tip, I wanted to chat about a really helpful resource I found a few weeks ago. It’s call the Pinterest Possibilities Planner. Say that three times fast. You can find it by searching for Pinterest Possibilities Planner on your favorite search engine, and it’s a great resource for figuring out how users use Pinterest. This is helpful for content creators for a few reasons, and one of the most important reasons is because it can help you figure out when you should figure out when you should start pinning seasonal content.

Alexa Peduzzi: On the fourth page of the report, you’ll see a colorful graph with loads of different holidays and seasons as well as when Pinterest sees “interest spikes” for those topics. It’s the beginning of May right now and according to this document, pinners are looking for content related to the Fourth of July, Father’s Day, graduation, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and more. It’s a really cool report, and I highly suggest checking it out. Again, you can find it by googling Pinterest Possibilities Planner.

Alexa Peduzzi: And now the episode. Today’s episode focuses on the unsung hero of blogging, email marketing. It’s easy to set up an RSS driven email campaign, which means that your subscribers automatically get all of your new posts and then just, well, forget about it. But you could be doing a lot with your email list and Matt is here today to talk about those strategies and plans that can help you grow a healthy, engaging email list. It’s a really fun interview, and we hope that you have some takeaways that you can apply to your mailing list after listening. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Matt, welcome to the podcast.

Matt Molen: Thank you very much. It’s awesome to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it was fun last time that we had an extended conversation. It was in Chicago. There was a conference that we went, and you spoke at, and it was at one of those ping pong bars with super loud music and so we were borderline yelling at each other. It was the most friendly yelling conversation that you can imagine. But excited to connect here again to chat about your story and email.

Matt Molen: Likewise. I’m a friendly yeller, for sure and I … Super impress with what you guys have done, and I think there’s a lot of crossover between my interests and how you guys help people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I love about talking to somebody like you is you understand the niche that we talk about. You understand food and recipe sites and have worked with food bloggers and people who publish recipes, but that’s not all that you do. And so you have this vast perspective on what it looks like to do your area of expertise really well, which is email. And we’re going to get into the specifics of what that looks like and part of that has to do, a lot of that has to do with your history of really going deep on understanding email with the company that you used to work at.

Bjork Ostrom: So I would love to hear, before we talk about the tips and tactics that bloggers that are listening can apply to their sites, I’d love to hear a little bit about your story because I think there’s always value that we can take from stories.

Bjork Ostrom: So before you were working for yourself, before you were doing the entrepreneurial thing, you were working, doing some entrepreneurial things within a company. Can you tell us about what that company was and what it was that you were doing?

Matt Molen: Sure. So a little background for me, I’ve always worked with start ups and small businesses. For over the last 20 years, in fact, I’ve worked on companies that I have been an employee, I’ve been the owner, I have been a partner. We have had some real successes and some abysmal failures along the way.

Matt Molen: This last one that I was with, I was with for about 10 years, and it was an ecommerce website where … It was True Daily Deal. It came out of that 2008 time frame when the daily deal thing really popped up. And so our challenge was that we were 100% bootstrapped. And we had these new deals all the time. We had no money to promote them. So I had to get into marketing channels. I was in charge of all the marketing, so I had to get in the marketing channels that would get us in front of people over and over and over again.

Matt Molen: So I quickly discovered affiliate marketing, and I really dug deep into email marketing. That’s where I learned about personalization and segmentation and a bunch of the stuff that we’re going to talk about today. Because we’ve got to use email to drive that business.

Matt Molen: That was our bread and butter, actually, for a long time. In fact, we were doing tens of millions of dollars that we could directly attribute, even in this small company, to the email list itself. So it was really important to us.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so the example that I always think of is woot.com, and I remember checking out Woot! to see what is the daily deal that’s happening. So it’s one of these daily deal sites. There’s a discount for a short period of time, maybe 24 hours, and it was something that was in that industry. Is that right?

Matt Molen: That’s exactly is. So products would come up, and they’d be for sale for a very short period of time, 24 hours or less, and so it wasn’t like that you could market about the product because you don’t have enough time, so you had to build up either the sense of urgency on selling the product in the deal format or on convincing these dealaholics to come back over and over and over again and check us out. And that’s where the email side of things really fit in is we tapped into that. It was little bit of a treasure hunt every day for people to come see what was hot.

Matt Molen: And so we did some pretty sophisticated stuff, figuring out about who you were, what you liked, what you had browsed, what you had clicked, to show you what were the very best deals.

Bjork Ostrom: Was there an aha moment with that as you were working on that business where suddenly you realized, “Wow, email is super powerful” or was it more of incremental where you layered on top of that and said, “Hey, this worked, let’s try this” over and over and over again. Or was there an aha moment where you were like, “Whoa. All of these sales came in when we sent out an email”?

Matt Molen: Yeah, very seldom in my experience does … Once in a while, you’ll get those aha moments in marketing where you stumble upon something or more than likely it’s a partner that has promoted you is really what happens. The rest of it tends to be incremental growth over and over and over again.

Matt Molen: Marketing is all about solving your customer’s problems. You’re going to hear me talk about that nonstop. And how do we use email to solve our customer’s problems? For us, it was a matter of how do we find the best deals and put them in front of people over and over again. So it was both the supply … How do we find the right deals? How do we then identify the audience? Because somebody might want sport bras and somebody else might want hunting knives. Those are very different audiences.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, yeah.

Matt Molen: So putting the right product in front of people was something we had to continually work at.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting and I’m guessing that’s were the name of your business comes from, Personalized Paths, because essentially you are building these paths for people that are personalized. It’s not this generic email campaign strategy where you’re sending emails to everybody. You want to get really personal in addressing the needs of people. And chances are, even if you have a niche, there probably is some type of personalization that has to happen.

Bjork Ostrom: And the other word that you used is segmentation. Can you talk about what those two words mean? Personalization and segmentation?

Matt Molen: Sure, and those are terms that became jargon for me because I use them so much. Personalization is all about … You said it exactly right. Personalized Paths. What is the path that I can lead a customer down? What is their personal journey? What do they care about based on the problems that she has today? Not the problems that I hope my product solves and try to force feed it, but how can I make sure that I’m addressing the solutions to her existing problems today? And personalize it for her.

Matt Molen: Of course, the common ways to think about that is by using segmentation. We create segments of buckets of customers, basically, men, women, older, younger, technically savvy, technophobes. There’s a whole different strata of segmentation that we can do. And that’s how you do a lot of marketing programs is to try to hit them as best as you can.

Matt Molen: But what I think is so cool about email and so cool as it relates to specifically in the blogging world, is that we usually, as bloggers, as influencers, have a real tight relationship to our readers’ needs and wants.

Matt Molen: Bigger corporations, they have to do a heck of a lot more segmentation. But it’s still something that we can do as bloggers, but what I’m getting at, is to create that path for that reader, we’re usually closer to it as bloggers if we just stoop and think about it for a minute. There’s tons of examples of this, both in food, in DIY, in finance, get right to the heart of somebody’s problem and you can deliver amazing content over and over and over again.

Matt Molen: In fact, one of the things that my wife and I did during this time when I was working at the ecommerce company was we created our own blog. It was a Disney cruise related blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. And I know we have some Disney fanatics, so you’ve got to share what it is, what’s the URL?

Matt Molen: Okay, so the shameless plug, go to picturethemagic.com. If you’re looking at a Disney vacation in the coming weeks or months. And the idea was for us to give very explicit tips. Just get right to the heart of the matter. Because people are spending a lot of money on a Disney vacation. For many of them, it is a once in a lifetime kind of thing, and they get stressed out about it because they don’t want to miss anything. They want to maximize the magic if you will.

Matt Molen: What we have done is we create content that does that. So going back to my concept about personalization, if I understand where my reader is in her journey before she goes on her first Disney cruise, I can do some really powerful stuff in terms of serving her up the stuff that she needs, when she needs it. And that is actually the basis of my email strategy.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And we’re going to be able to jump into that and talk some specifics about what it is and this is maybe us, we will bury the lead for a little bit, because before we get too far away from it, I know that for you, personally, for Personalized Paths, this business that you’ve started, you’ve recently made the transition into doing this full-time. Obviously it takes a lot of expertise and knowledge and you know the jargon, as we’ve talked about, so this is an area where you are an expert in, but a lot of people are experts, and they continue to work for the company that they’re at, whether that be somebody that was a partner or maybe helped to build this company from the ground up, but most people don’t take that jump and start to do what you have done, which is build your own company, consulting, working with bloggers and business owners. And I know that a lot of people that listen to this podcast have either thought about that or are in the process of doing that. Or maybe they are in the early stages of making that transition.

Bjork Ostrom: I would love to hear what that has been like for you, because I know that we met at a conference, and you’ve been doing a lot of conferences, and you obviously have a strategy and intention behind this and I would be interested to hear, what have these first few months been like as you’ve made the transition into working on your thing full-time and to building your business.

Matt Molen: I’m glad you asked that. As we record this today, it’s been almost 45 days since I quit the other job and started doing this 100% full-time.

Bjork Ostrom: Love it, congratulations.

Matt Molen: Thank you, thank you. It has been a whirlwind, and it’s been a blast. My journey to do that, my decision to do that was based off of a couple of things. It happened, I have to admit, a little bit accidentally. I was introduced to the blogosphere by somebody I went to church with, and she said, “Hey, I’m running this event, will you come talk about email marketing? I know you know a lot about it.”

Matt Molen: So I went, and I talked about it and I shared some general principles and got a whole bunch of questions and a lot of contacts and that led to me doing some side hustle type work on weekends for some acquaintances and friends. And they referred me to a few other people because I did a pretty good job and over time, the list got pretty long of people that wanted to work with me.

Matt Molen: And a couple of other things. I made my course. I put that out into the world, a soft launch beta to a few people and got a lot of great feedback on that. And so it was enough for me to say, “Okay, what I have is unique, and it works.” The voice was different than what most of my blogger clients were hearing. The strategy was completely from left field for them. It was brand new, and it was buzz wording, they were talking about it.

Matt Molen: So all those elements gave me enough confidence to take that leap. It’s a scary proposition, for sure. I totally understand that. But I was mentally ready. I’d saved up enough. My wife was super supportive, and she said, “I know you want this. Let’s go.” And so that was the excitement.

Matt Molen: So as far as my strategy to build, it is pretty simple. It’s to do as good a job as I possibly can, which means if it goes beyond what I’ve allotted as far as what I’m charging somebody, I’m going to do the work and make sure that they have an amazing experience.

Matt Molen: And then second, is to be in front of as many people as I possibly can sharing this message, sharing my strategy. Even if I don’t get a client out of it and it helps people out, that’s good for me. I just want to be out there.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. One of the things that I think is really important from your story is there is a through line of you not pushing something, but the market and that’s this fuddy duddy weird term for people, people pulling it and I think that’s something that’s really important to think about as we’re creating out business, whether that be a blog, whether that be a product, whether that be a service, does it feel like we’re having to push this, or is, in some ways, the market pulling it from us? And what it sounds like with your story is that you had this expertise, you started to share that generously, and there was a pull that came from people that heard it and they said, “This is something that we need, and we’re interested in it.” And I think for those that listen to the podcast, it’s important to think about are we trying to push something or is the market pulling it from us? And the more technical term they talk about is this idea of product market fit. Is the product you’re creating, does it fit within the market somewhere? Is there a need for it? And it sounds like, for what you are doing, that there was definitely that pull, there was that product market fit, that this was something that was needed in the world and people were interested in working with you.

Bjork Ostrom: So what are some of the things you’ve learned in these first 45 day as you’ve made the transition into being your own boss? What are some of the things that you learned to … advice that you’d give to people that are listening?

Matt Molen: There’s the strategy side and then there’s the pragmatic day-to-day side. The strategy side is very simple when you’re in the services business. Just do a killer job. Just bend over backwards. Be available. Answer questions, be patient, do the work. From a service perspective, and I never set out … My goal never was to be an agency. That’s never been my thing. My whole goal is I want to be a teacher. I want to teach. I want to help people grow their own small businesses because that’s what I loved doing. So that’s from the strategy side.

Matt Molen: On the day-to-day practical side, I’ve learned to segment my days. I have to. There’s certain times when I take calls, based on my energy, and I use tools like Calendly and what not to manage my calendar so that I only take calls at the right time and when I have the energy. In the morning, that’s when my mentally best … That’s when I’m doing the hard stuff, the writing, the in depth technical work, so anyway, that’s just me and that’s just a little tidbit that I had to learn pretty quick.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. And it’s something that it have a pretty similar work norm whereas much as possible in the morning, I’m trying to do those things that are maybe quiet, intentional, focused work. I try really hard not to do 9:00 a.m. podcasts. For whatever reason it throws me off a little bit. But if it’s a little bit later in the evening or afternoon, then it feels like a better fit. So those are times where I actually block off on my calendar. Because what I realized was if I don’t, I’m just going to schedule stuff in my half present mind, where it’s like, “Hey, here’s an opening.” And if I actually have that blocked off, I call it Create A.M. so in the morning, I am creating as much as possible.

Bjork Ostrom: Creating might, for me, it might look like following up or scheduling or reviewing projects. But that’s, I think, a super smart strategy and something that Lindsay has talked about before on the podcast, too, and really segmenting her days. She’s only doing recipes on certain days and sitting down and doing email and responding on certain days. So a really smart takeaway.

Bjork Ostrom: So you’ve made this transition. You’re working on Personalized Paths. You’re starting to get some traction. Clients are working with you because the things that you’re teaching and explaining and helping people to implement are really important. But not everybody knows why email is so important, so can you talk to us a little bit about the strategy, and the high level thinking around why content creators should be aware of and be implementing an email strategy.

Matt Molen: Yeah, I think that content creators are probably the most aware of this than anybody, that they don’t own all of their traffic sources. Anybody that has paid any attention to Google’s updates or ever been affected by one, knows what I’m talking about. Anybody that missed that whole … a few weeks ago, Instagram or Facebook outage, did that hurt anybody out there? And Pinterest, my goodness, their newsfeed and all the changes that are coming in the future and that have effected us to date just make us realize that we don’t actually own that traffic. We are fortunate to be receiving it. We have done really smart things to be in the position to get it, but that’s, number one, you want to own your audience as best as you can and email’s a fantastic way to do that. Get people on to your list.

Matt Molen: Second is email’s a great way to build real engagement with people. It’s this intimate thing where, look, Bjork, I can be in your inbox. I can send a message from my machine to your inbox, and I know it’s going to get there. And if I do it right, we can have a conversation. We can have a communication, and it’s true real engagement, versus more of an Instagram stories kind of thing where people are looking at it. Sure they can comment and what not, but they’re watching in real time. It’s more like TV.

Matt Molen: The other point that I want to make is, especially for food bloggers, oh my goodness. Building a brand is more important than ever before. And people don’t want to do business with companies. They want to do business with people. How does that happen? Well, email’s a fantastic vehicle to deliver your message and what makes you special, what makes you stand out from all the other “online cookbooks” out there. And you have a unique voice, a unique style, a unique set of products and recipes. All of those things are part of who you are and what makes you special and what makes you different.

Matt Molen: Ultimately, email can help us, if we do it right, to get our message in front of the right people at the right time to solve their problems over and over again. That right there, that’s what creates super fans.

Matt Molen: You solved my problem over and over again and I will open your stuff, read your stuff, tell my friends, I’m going to buy your products. That’s a super fan.

Bjork Ostrom: So a couple of questions off of that. One of the questions is, I remember back to when Gmail made a big update, and they started splitting the inbox out, and the first thing that I did, and I never went back is I turned all of the tabs off. I just want one inbox. I want to control how things are split up. I don’t want Gmail to decide. But I think it was social, promo, and then there was, I forget what the other-

Matt Molen: Spam.

Bjork Ostrom: … yeah. And one of the things that I heard people say was this is a version of the evolution of email. And now it’s like, even with email marketing you can’t own that and get to people. So how do you be intentional to not be viewed as promo or social or whatever it would be, but to be viewed as an actual email that lands in somebody’s email inbox and, like you said, is that personal interaction where it feels like a person connecting with you as opposed to this generic email that you view as from a brand or a faceless brand, I guess. Any ideas for how to go about doing that and be intentional about that?

Matt Molen: Yeah, absolutely. Ultimately, and I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but I want you to come across to your reader as a problem solver. So not a marketer, not a company, but somebody who can solve your problems. So if you struggle as a mom to get dinner on the table, I know that many moms out there struggle with that, but you have a solution to that problem, then an email should be a solution to that problem, not the fact that, “Oh guys, guess what? I have Instant Pot ribs” because Instant Pot ribs is a little bit of a who cares? Okay? Great, I’m glad that you updated your site and that you have that recipe in your arsenal. I also have a Betty Crocker cookbook that probably has some sort of ribs slow cooker or whatever in there. What problem are you solving for me?

Matt Molen: Well, the problem that you’re solving is, guys are you looking for a fantastic way to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes, but have it be a hearty meal that everybody loves? Boom, I’ve got that for you. I’ve tested it. I have tried it. And, in fact, 5,000 other people have tried it and they’ve said nice things.

Matt Molen: So it’s a little bit of a different mindset. We have to have that mind shift to get out of this “Let me push my products” … because your recipe, by the way, is your product, or your ebook is your product … and get into the “Let’s solve your reader’s problems over and over and over again.” That is a different type of way of writing an email.

Matt Molen: The old days of the newsletters … Now if you’re Taylor Swift, you could probably send a newsletter. People care what you’re doing with your cats. But if you’re not Taylor Swift and you’re not that level yet, then don’t send a newsletter because people don’t care. Send an email that solves somebody’s problem.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, even that distinction, it’s the difference between are people … Am I the product? And I think in that case, Taylor Swift or a celebrity, Kim Kardashian, whoever it be, they are the product. They are the thing that people are interested in. They want to follow along with it.

Bjork Ostrom: Now, obviously Taylor Swift, an incredible musician as well, but she’s also a celebrity and when you are creating content on the web, there’s this interesting, maybe line in the sand, or maybe it’s not a line in the sand. Maybe it’s a very gray expanded area, and you don’t know where you fall within it, but there’s the content. The content is the product. But then there’s also the mini-celebrity that the web can create. And realistically, everybody probably falls into a little bit of each of those where the content they’re creating is the product, it solves the problem. And then there’s also probably some people that at a certain point, and you kind of said this, where they are the micro celebrity that does … the oddity of the internet can create. And some people might follow along just for those updates. But the vast majority of the people that are coming to your site, and you’d see this by looking at analytics, they’re coming for a really specific thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Like you said, that might be quick and easy meals and it could be a certain diet. It could be something that, if you’re DIY, that you’re really good at … explaining how to build a refurbished barn wood door. Those are the things that are the product. And so if somebody is thinking about that and they say, “Okay, I want to figure out how to help solve problems.” Where do they start? How do you know what problem to solve for people that are coming to your website?

Matt Molen: I think it comes down to identifying … I love looking at the analytics to start with. I’m just going to make the assumption that you’re getting some level of traffic to begin with. If you’re not, then you start with what problem do you solve for people, which is … that’s where you begin.

Matt Molen: In our case, we’re like, “We know that going on your first Disney cruise can be overwhelming.” So we just started writing content. But so that’s what people are coming into your site for. What we want to do is we want to … My favorite way to capture an email subscriber is to create what I call a quick start guide.

Matt Molen: Now a quick start guide … You guys have all seen this. I mean, lead magnets is not something new. I did not invent the concept of a lead magnet. But you’ve got this traffic that is hitting your website, and they’re coming in for the Keto ready pizza. Is that a thing? It probably is.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Matt Molen: So people are coming in for Keto pizza. Well what do we know about them? We know that they like pizza. They’re probably in the mood for a variation of their diet, and they’re trying to lose weight. That’s usually the motivations behind people that are taking the Keto diet. So what if we created, using existing content, something that would stop them in their tracks before they get that pizza, and they bounce. Because once they get that pizza, their transaction with you is done. They know that they can just go to Google next time, or Pinterest next time and search for whatever recipe that they want.

Matt Molen: What if, instead, we were able to say, “Hey, hold up, I’ve got five secrets to losing your first five pounds on the Keto diet” or five ways to overcome Keto headaches. I’m making this up as I go. People who write about this stuff will know it much better than I will. But then you’re giving them something to pause and think about that will take them out of this transaction mode and get onto your list with the promise of having more of their problems being solved for them.

Matt Molen: Then what we do is when they’re on the list, we can send them three to five emails in a row. One per day for three to five days. And each one contains a separate lesson. Using existing content that you will have already written.

Matt Molen: And one lesson might be five ways to lose your first five pounds off Keto. Might be as simple as know your macros. I’ve got this article about Keto macros and here’s how you do it.

Matt Molen: Number two might be here’s how to control your cravings at lunch. And so forth. The different lessons are all tied to this overall theme and they’ve given you permission to be in their inbox for three to five days. Now they start to get to know you as a person, your voice, and what you can do for them. Your brand starts to stand out instead of being just something they stumbled across on Pinterest or Google.

Matt Molen: This is the technique that is my favorite for people who are just getting started with email marketing that really want to grow their list, but have this existing audience that’s coming by the site constantly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So essentially, it’s saying a path to understanding the problem would be start by just looking at what’s popular on your site and from that, are there things that you could drill a little bit deeper on and explain a little bit better or go more in depth on?

Bjork Ostrom: So if you publish recipes, and you have a certain recipe that ranks really high, try and understand why are people coming? If it’s Instant Pot, so Pinch of Yum has a lot of Instant Pot recipes. There’s probably a good reason why people are using the Instant Pot and one would be simplicity. So are there ways that we could create content that would help to solve the problem of complex meals? Or meal planning would be another example. People probably want to have healthy food that’s made ahead and so it’s pretty clear what we could do to create something that would be helpful for people that want that.

Bjork Ostrom: And so it’s digging into the mindset of the people on those top pieces of content. So let’s say you’ve looked and you see that you have ten top pieces of content. Maybe there’s a little bit of a similar theme with three of those pieces of content. So you say, “Okay, I’m going to create something and put it on those pages.” Would your recommendation be to have something that is only on specific pages or that you use across your site in general? How do people know how to target the quick start guide and the email sign up as it relates to the content on their site?

Matt Molen: The answer is both. I love doing both. I want to have … With most of my clients that I’m working with on a consulting basis, we start with, okay what do you currently have? And many of them have a form that says “Subscribe here. Get free recipes.” Well everybody has that and that again is a who cares. Nobody is signing up for that. I’m not signing up for that, and you’re not signing up for that. So let’s just be real about that. So what can we do that would be better than that?

Matt Molen: Well, I’m getting all this traffic on Instant Pot. Granted, you might have other pages that are about slow cooker or have nothing to do with Instant Pot. Are we assuming for sure that these people are going to want Instant Pot? I don’t know for a fact, but Instant Pot does have broad enough appeal where I’d say, “Let’s give it a try.” And I would start there. Because in absence of anything else, it’s still better than what you have. It’s casting a broader net and you’re going to get more subscribers.

Matt Molen: Then I focus and, remember that term segmentation, this is where the segmentation starts to come in. Then when I come up with my best alternatives for Whole 30, all my recipes for Whole 30 or five ways to get started with the Whole 30 challenge. Or my secrets to impossibly soft cookies. That might be in the desserts section. We can use the segmentation to provide the people that are coming to the individual pages the best thing that’s right for them.

Matt Molen: Ultimately, if you have the email marketing mindset that I want you to have, you’re thinking about every piece of content and asking yourself what is the email hook here? I believe that growing the list is so important for your long term success that if you adopt that mentality that you’re going to be super happy with the results because you’re going to have those people in there so that when you do have a product to sell them or you want them to come back to your website for ads, for ebooks, for whatever, or you’re going to be on the Ellen Show and you need to let them all know. You’ve got a list.

Matt Molen: So yeah, segment eventually, but start broad.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And I think it’s important to think about, with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro as well, all of the different areas that we have to speak to people are valuable, and I think what can happen is because we are so driven by content and social media, we can forget about the thing that happens behind the scenes, which is email. It’s not like Instagram where there’s this front facing number where everybody sees how many followers you have on Instagram. Nobody sees how many email subscribers you have, and I think because it’s not as front and center, you don’t see it every time you log in. There’s not these same kind of psychological hooks that happen that it can get neglected but for us, with Food Blogger Pro, one of the most important ways that we interact with and engage with people and have new members sign up is through email. So it’s this really important tool, just like you said. Whatever it is that you are using to build your business, ads, product, ebook, memberships, it’s a great way to engage those people and to bring them in.

Bjork Ostrom: So I know one of the questions that people are going to have as we start to talk about getting email sign ups and engaging with people is which email should I be using? Which email service should I be using? Do you have one that you say, “Hey, here is the one that I recommend”? Even would be curious to know what you personally use. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of “it depends” wrapped up in that-

Matt Molen: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: … but we’d love to hear you talk about that.

Matt Molen: I’ve tried quite a few of them over my time and today’s email technology, I would just start by saying this. It’s fantastic. So many, many, many of the companies that have email platforms can do really cool things. So yeah, there is an “it depends” factor to it.

Matt Molen: I, for my program, I have chosen to focus on ConvertKit. I’m an affiliate for them as well, because I have spent the time to dive into how to use their software to accomplish what I want to do, which is set up automated sequences to be deliberate about this gathering of emails. And so for me it’s the nicest combination of features, of simplicity for many bloggers. But that’s … This isn’t meant to be an infomercial for ConvertKit, but that’s who I use.

Matt Molen: But you can do really cool things on MailChimp and Constant Contact and Aweber and Infusionsoft, I call it Confusionsoft, but you can do amazing things because of today’s technology.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s great. And for those that haven’t listened last year right around this time, actually it was in March we did an interview with Nathan Barry who is the founder of ConvertKit, so you can check that out foodbloggerpro.com/140 and that should bring you to the page where will share some information about that podcast interview with Nathan, the great one, and he talks about what it’s like to start ConvertKit and also some tips and insight info about email as well.

Bjork Ostrom: So we talked about this idea of a quick start guide. People sign up you’re solving a really specific problem. If you have a site that is pretty niche, maybe it’s around a certain diet, or in your case it’s around Disney, or maybe around a certain product. I know some people to just blenders for instance, you’re probably going to be able to understand what that is. If you have a broader site, like Pinch of Yum, you’re going to probably have to pick a niche with in that site. So let’s say you’ve done that. You have an idea. You’ve even crafted some of the emails that help people address this specific problem and you have 3 to 5 emails you know you’re going to send those out after people sign up over a week. Now you need to actually get people to sign up so how do you go about doing that? What’s the best way to get people to sign up in terms of pop-ups or side slide ins within the text? What do you do? What would you recommend?

Matt Molen: Yeah, all of the above actually. I use all of those because I treat my quick start guide I call it I treat that like a product. I’m really proud of it. Yeah, it’s free, but it’s solving your problems and so I have it as a hello bar, I have it in the footer, I have it at the bottom of posts, I embedded in posts. I use Thrive leads to do a pop up or something like that. So there’s lots of different options. It definitely is going to have to fit your design, your sensibility. Some people hate pop-ups, I get it. You can do them though in a way that is … I just want to make this point, because I know this is going to … I hate pop-ups, everybody’s going to say that and I get it. Now what have most pop-ups been? Most pop-ups, they show up at a very inopportune time so the timing matters. And then what do they say? Subscribe to get my free recipes, which again is a who cares. But if you give me a pop up instead that will solve my problems, five magical ways to use your Instant Pot, okay, that’s a little bit different. I agree, still some of you out there are going to go I still hate that. I totally understand. But they work, and they work for reason. And so anyway off that soapbox.

Matt Molen: But yeah, I’m putting it everywhere, Bjork, that I can to make sure that I’m promoting. I promote on social, on my instant stories, on Facebook and so forth. I’m an aggressive list builder, so this is very, very important to me and I think that others don’t do enough in this area.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. There’s actually a good example of when that happened for me just earlier today, we were doing some reading and researching around pricing as it relates to recurring businesses. So we have a few different businesses that have recurring pricing, and there was an article a cycle profit well and I was reading about it and a little slide in came in and there was this download that they had a resource about developing your SAS pricing strategy. And I signed up for it. I signed up for it because it wasn’t this generic resource that had to do with business building. It was really specifically about the thing I was reading about and the problem that I was trying to solve. And in that case, what that will do now is it will kickoff this relationship with this business where I’ll start to not only learn more about how I can solve my problem, but also learn how their solutions can help me solve it even better, whether that be services an actual software that they would be selling. So it’s an example of exactly how that happened when it came up recently.

Bjork Ostrom: So let’s say that somebody has built out these different pieces, they’re starting to get some sign-ups. People go through this quick start guide where they start to learn it addresses a specific problem. What do they do once they get to the and? How do you continue that relationship?

Matt Molen: Yeah great point. I think that the challenge that many people have is they start thinking, okay am I going to have to create a whole bunch of new content for a newsletter? Or should I just put this thing on RSS? And what I mean by that for those who aren’t familiar, if you take your RSS feed from your website and drop it into your email service provider, most of them, such as ConvertKit and MailChimp and Mailer Light will take your RSS feed and they’ll converted into an email they get sent out. And I’m here to tell you that there’s a better way. There’s a technique that I like that I think is gold for content creators.

Matt Molen: Remember my mantra, let’s solve their problems. I want to go back in time, I want to tell you a little story here. So when we set up picturethemagic.com we had these people that were signing up for our quick start guide is called What to Expect on Your First Disney Cruise and so they get over a few days, they get some emails from us that tell them what to expect. Then every week after that, one email per week, they get a thoughtful, planned out sequence of emails that I wrote one time, a long time ago, and they still send out today. The email number one that they get, the first one we send, is called The Most Powerful Disney Cruise Tip I Ever Learned. And the reason why that’s number one is because that is, legit, the best piece of content that we have ever come across. And so what were doing is we are sending the very best at the very first. It doesn’t matter if it’s January, if it’s June, or if it’s Christmas, when you’re on email number one that’s the one you get. And then we thought through email number two and number three and number four all the way down to about 25 right now. I call this a forever series because it could go on forever. If you’re a blogger that has lots and lots of recipes, it could go on forever.

Matt Molen: And what most people are doing is they’re sending the very latest to their new subscribers and not the very best. So, if you’re about building a brand … So you just went through this process of this quick start guide, you promised, and you delivered, you solved their problem, that’s why they stayed on the list so far. Why would we give that up now? Stop and think for a second and go huh, I’ve been blogging for five years, 10 years, two years, and I’ve written a lot of content. The very best thing that I ever wrote, that I’m most proud of, and I’m not talking about what Google rewards or what Pinterest rewards, I’m talking about the very best piece of content you ever wrote. Why not give that to them first? And then let them keep falling in love, because that piece of content, the reason why you think it is so good is because it solves some problems.

Matt Molen: It may be your grandmother’s super secret butterscotch cookie recipe, but you know it’s the most amazing cookie on the planet and if you share that first, and they go try it, oh man, they are hooked, right? So that’s called a forever series, basically you’re putting your email on autopilot using modern technology, and you’re just planning out their journey where I go back to Personalized Paths, what is their journey?

Matt Molen: Just one more example on that, in the Disney cruise forever series that we have, email number one is the most powerful Disney cruise tip. Email number 10 is do I need trip insurance? Which the answer, of course, is yes and then of course that’s an affiliate play for us. But if we had sent that is the very first email, that would not have had the power that by sending it on week 10, after nine previous weeks of giving them really meaty, awesome, value where they say wow, Matt and Alicia really know their stuff and if they say that I need trip insurance, then I probably need trip insurance.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah I got it. I think that’s a really important point. We talk about that in different ways, this idea of shining stars. And one of the shining stars within your site and we’ve talked about that within social, making sure you continue to go back and promote those shining stars, or even with your blog. But I think email’s such an obvious example of where you should be doing that. When people sign up, like you said, how important is it to show them that really awesome content first, as opposed to the new content, which is great, it’s new content, it’s fresh, and there are people who are going to want to see that, but for those people who are just getting familiar with your content, it makes a lot of sense to show them your best content first. It’s like if you’re going out on a date with somebody, you’re not going to wear your mediocre outfit first, right? It’s like hey, or the one you just got. It’s like, hey you know this is a really great outfit, let’s wear this right away. And that’s a great take away for Pinch of Yum. Pinch of Yum, we push out an RSS feed, but I think there is way more than that we could be doing on the strategy side of how we use email.

Bjork Ostrom: There are some ways where using it and being intentional about it and segmenting and whatnot, but I know that it’s a really untapped area for us, and there’s a ton of potential, which is why this is a fun conversation to have with you today.

Bjork Ostrom: So let’s say you’re building this email list. You’re starting to get some traction with it. You have some subscribers, and you’re starting to get a little bit more intentional about how you’re segmenting it. What does it look like to maintain a healthy list? And can you talk about what that means and why that’s important and how people should go about maintaining their list, right? We think about maintaining our website, updating plug-ins, making sure we have secure passwords. Do we need to be doing things to maintain our list? And, if so, how do we do it?

Matt Molen: Yeah, a couple of quick things and I’ll go through them as a laundry list. Number one, make sure you’re sending emails that answer people’s problems. And I’m just going to bag on RSS feeds for just a quick second and then I’ll move on.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Matt Molen: The whole thing … An RSS driven email is a machine telling another machine that the other machine was updated. That’s really all that is. Great, you posted something new. Wonderful. So instead send emails that will get opened, clicked and read, and that is by sending engaging content that solves readers’ problems. So it’s a subtle difference in what were saying.

Matt Molen: Number two, prune your list regularly. The number of email subscribers that you have on your list is purely a vanity metric. Unless you are fooling some sort of poor brand into paying you for fake email subscribers, well, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway, there’s no reason to keep people on your list that aren’t engaged. In today’s email programs or software, make that really easy to do. So keep that list pruned.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what that is real quick, and how that works?

Matt Molen: Sure, so basically if you’ve got, one of the great things about the email today is that it keeps track of who’s opened and who’s clicked. If you have people that are not opening or clicking your emails then you need to set the rules of what’s right for you but for me, if they haven’t opened or clicked in anywhere from 3 to 6 months, depends on the list, and how aggressive I’m being, I’m getting rid of them. I might send a win back and say, “It looks like you’re not opening anything, if you want to stick around click here.” I might do something like that, but for the most part I’m just getting rid of them because they cost me money. And they may not have been that excited to be on, they were just Lookey Lous. They were curious about my quick start guide or my printable or whatever.so I want them gone. And it saves me some money. And it’s better for deliverability. It signals to the ISPs like Google and Hotmail and whatnot, that people opening click your stuff, and that keeps them out of the spam folder, even out of the promos folder in some cases. So it’s an important part

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Matt Molen: And then one of the things that you need to be aware of in today’s world, and we can spend a lot of time on this and, frankly, it’s not my favorite topic, but it’s the rules, like the GDPR, and the CAN-SPAM rules. You need to make sure that your compliant with those. There’s a whole lot of discussion about that, but basically, the gist of it is for our friends in Europe, they have a privacy law that was passed a year ago that says if they did not give you explicit consent to send them an email, and you have to be very specific about what you’re going to send them, then you are not allowed to send them that email. So is just something to keep an eye on and to watch out for.

Matt Molen: So those are just some of the tactics that I do to make sure that my list is, the maintenance part, is in place.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s great. So Matt, I know that people will have a lot of actionable stuff coming out of this, a lot of things that they can be doing to build their email list and to build their business and even for us, we have some items where it’s like, “Okay we’ve got to move on this. We’ve got to really lead into this.” And those are my favorite interviews when we also come away with some stuff. And a lot of that stuff is things people can move on themselves, but I’m guessing a lot of people will want some help with that, and I know that’s what your business is all about, so can you share a little bit about how people could potentially work with you, what it looks like to work with you, under the umbrella of Personalized Paths and what the services are that you offer?

Matt Molen: Yeah, I’ve tried to create three different ways that people could work with me, depending on their needs and their current situation. The first thing is I offer a very valuable, very meaty resource for free. It’s three really impactful lessons that if you’ve liked this, you’ll like that. It’s called emailjumpstart.com. Go there. Sign up. Get the three free lessons. There’s actual stuff just right from there. Second, I have a course that I created that’s about 20 some odd modules, it’s called Email on Autopilot. That’s emailonautopilot.com. And that is basically an email course that will help you figure out how to get subscribers, what to send that will get opened in click, and how to put all that stuff on autopilot, to try to save yourself some sanity. So that’s at emailonautopilot.com, that’s a paid course. And then I do offer a consulting service for those that want help migrating their list from somewhere else and want my strategic advice and help for getting this done. This is for the type of person who’s like, “man this is really super important to me, I’ve been meaning to do this. I’m willing to spend a little bit more money on this and work with a coach, and an accountability partner in Matt who will make that happen.”

Matt Molen: And it’s an 8 to 10 week engagement where basically I’ll do something of an audit of what you’re currently doing with your newsletter, and then I will make a recommendation of what I think you should do and then if we agree on that, we have a project plan and over the next 8 to 10 weeks we work together to get that done. And I do all the technical side if it’s on ConvertKit and work together with you on brainstorming and copywriting and all those things.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great. And people can find out more about that on PersonalizedPaths.com?

Matt Molen: Yep absolutely.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool, and will link to that in the show notes as well. Matt, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really great to connect with you and really nice to have a conversation where we don’t have to yell. It was just so quiet it was so nice.

Matt Molen: It was, it was very peaceful. It was unnerving actually.

Bjork Ostrom: So thanks so much for being on the podcast, Matt.

Matt Molen: Thank you, appreciate it.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that is that, my friend. Thank you so much for tuning into the podcast this week. But before we wrap up, I’d like to feature our reviewer of the week. In this review is on iTunes, and it’s from Quackygirl33, I love that screen name. It says “I love this podcast. By day, I run the content team at a decent size company and by night I work on a little cocktail Instagram and blog for fun. Bjork’s curious approach to exploring all the sides of a food blogging business are incredibly helpful, and I’ve learned a lot. He is systematic, organized, and kind. I find is really inspirational, and it’s a few of the reasons I’ve been binge listening to this podcast.” Thank you so much for your review Quackygirl. We appreciate you listening and were thrilled that it’s been helpful.

Alexa Peduzzi: And if you have a story about how the Food Blogger Pro podcast has helped you, we would love to hear it. Simply leave a review for us on iTunes, and your review could be featured in an upcoming episode of the podcast. Well, we’ll see you here next time, friend, but until then make it a great week.

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