7:04PM Oct 2, 2020
email marketing platform
email marketing software
Welcome to this next ti talk. Today we are going to talk about a recommended platform for enabling your daily publishing. bit of context reminder, if this is your first time being here, and one of these tea talks, the expertise incubator is a framework for rapidly cultivating expertise, expertise that is rare, but it's not commoditized in the market. And we're talking about the first of this programs or this frameworks, three challenges, which is to publish something daily on the internet for 90 days. And my assumption here is that you are a current or soon to be practitioner of this framework. And so part of what you get out of these talks is what I cover in the talk, and part of what you get is learned through experience, because this is a framework that relies 100% on experiential learning.
Before we get into today's today's topic, I have an update on woodpeckers in general. So in a previous talk, I've made use of the metaphor of how a woodpecker will, you know, sort of Peck away at a tree. And the tree is so much bigger than they are I mean, woodpeckers are pretty small birds anyway. But the tree is just so much bigger than most birds would be. And so the feeling is, maybe sometimes, as you're doing daily publishing, and you're moving into some area that you want to better understand the feeling of sometimes this is so much bigger than me, this is overwhelming, the sort of difference between this mystery this area, I want to cultivate expertise and, and my actual ability to make progress one day at a time. It's an overwhelming, sort of David and Goliath situation. Here's the update, my wife was looking out the window the other day and saw woodpecker pecking away at not a tree, but the stock of a sunflower, which is much smaller than a tree, much smaller diameter. So my update is that maybe I was being a little pessimistic the first time through this metaphor. We don't always have to choose something that's overwhelmingly larger than us. When we start using daily publication as a tool to investigate some kind of mystery. We can start smaller, and that's, that's fine. And it's not that woodpeckers dictate how we approach this. But I thought it was an interesting update to that metaphor. And it reminds me that we don't always have to pick overwhelmingly large topics.
When you begin daily publication, you're going to probably in some way, be very busy. embracing this challenge will make you busier. So embracing the challenge of publishing something daily on the internet to an email list, it's going to make you busier. And even if you just stick with the publication frequency of three times a week, it's going to make you busier. And for that reason, you need every possible advantage to be able to be successful with this challenge. And so you need to eliminate any source of friction. And when it comes to publishing to an email list, there are multiple potential sources of friction. So if you said Well, I want to publish to an email list. And I also want to publish what I send to the email list to my website to a blog. Then you now have potentially double work, you have the work of Well, I mean, after write the thing, the daily email, whatever it is, and now you've got two places you've got to publish it. And that's potentially double work for you. That's a form of friction. Even email marketing software is kind of amazing. But sometimes the interface is not as amazing as the underlying product, the user interface where you go And create a new email and decide what you know who to send it to do you send it to your whole list, you send it to a segment, you you know, maybe schedule the email, there's multiple steps to setting it up. And that creates a little bit of friction. And you're doing this three to five times a week, maybe more. So that's a little bit of friction every day that you're publishing. So that's a potential source of friction. There is another, which is I'm going to read through this just one more time before I send it want to make sure it's perfect. I've got any spelling mistakes, any typos, any, you know, sort of clunky mistakes that I wish I hadn't made. And then the last one is the sort of numerous rabbit holes, that email marketing software presents us with all this information who unsubscribed which email? Did they unsubscribe to? Does that mean something that they unsubscribe to that email and not another? Does that mean I'm in some really big significant way failing to create subscriber value? Who opened what email? What does that mean? These are all from the perspective of being successful. At this daily publication challenge, these are all rabbit holes that you don't need to go down. So you need to eliminate friction. Because every little bit of friction makes this this daily publication challenge more costly from the perspective from an emotional perspective. And just from a physical mechanical, like having time to do it, perspective. So you need to eliminate friction. fun story for you.
The reason I want to tell this story is that you're wherever you are, right now you're beginning, you're not necessarily beginning, you're continuing a process of learning. If you embrace this challenge of daily publication, I hope you do your learning what that practice can help you learn. But you need tools to do it, you need to be able to send to an email list. And that requires technology tools. And because there's more than one of these tools on the market, you have to make a choice about which tool you're going to use. And if you make a choice, there are consequences. to almost every choice. One of the consequences with email marketing, is that you have started to build on a piece of software and invest in having content distributed by that piece of software. In 2005, I bought a house in Portland, Oregon, I lived there at the time, and seemed like a good idea to have a house in Portland, it was a growing city. And at that time, it was very easy to get a zero percent down mortgage for a house, they were handing them out, left and right. And so I did that. And then later, it was very easy to get a home equity line of credit to make improvements to the house. I did that. And then in 2008 when I wanted to sell the house, I found out that it was very not easy to sell that house. A lot of other people found this out too, because the market had changed. And the house was not worth what I owed on it. Email marketing software can be the same way, it is very easy to get started with all the software, all the software as a service companies try to make it easy to get going on their software I've only ever run into one in my life. That intentionally adds friction. And it's a CRM called affinity. And it's meant for a very specific use case. And so they actually put up a little bit of friction in terms of the signup process to make sure that you're the you're a good fit for the software. No sell it to you even if you're probably not a perfect fit, but still want to make sure you're a reasonably good fit. So I've only ever encountered one piece of software in my whole life where they were trying to introduce friction to the signup process. The rest of them seem to want to do everything they can to make it as easy as possible. To sign up for their software just includes email marketing software, it is easy. Once you started using whatever the software is, to expand with it, start adding more stuff with email marketing software, the big focus these days is things like marketing, automation, and segmentation. And so it's easy to start using those features that are already bundled with your subscription, and start setting up email sequences and so forth. None of this is problematic, except if you change your mind down the road later about the email marketing platform, it is hard to migrate away from unless you were just always a really casual user. But if you are embracing this daily publication challenge, you're not a casual user, you're publishing three to five times a week or more. And if you wanted to move that content away onto another platform, it's actually a bit painful. It's not that difficult. It's just a lot of work. And so the choice that you make about email marketing platforms is actually consequential. And that's another thing in terms of context that makes this decision worth putting some thought into. So let me tell you, what I recommend, specifically in the context of the expertise incubator framework.
So I recommend that you publish everything that you publish, you know that it's going to ultimately go to your email list, you publish it first, to a blog that has an RSS feed. And only blogs I've run into that don't have an RSS feed. where something that someone cooked up on their own some custom content management system or some custom blog that they created. Pretty much any blog that you would ever use, is going to have an RSS feed. That's the first place you publish to, I recommend that you use ConvertKit or MailChimp as your email marketing platform, unless you have one that you use now that you really like. You will then set up a RSS to email automation rule. And so anytime something new shows up on your blog, it's going to get turned into an email and sent out to your email list without your involvement, it's going to happen automatically through automation, and then maybe some simple segmentation. So I'm going to say that maybe you like me, have some email courses, some automated email sequences that folks can opt into. And when they opt into an email course they get a sequence of emails, and maybe you like me have assumed that that will be how people join your email list. Those folks may not need the daily emails, because then they would be getting multiple emails a day. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But that may not be the experience that you want to create for them. You may want to create this experience of they move through the email course. And then when and then when they are done with that they start getting your daily emails. And if that's the experience you want to create, then you need simple segmentation segmentation is dividing up your email list somehow. Almost, I mean, any mainstream email marketing platform ConvertKit, MailChimp Active Campaign, there are countless others, they all will have some simple level of segmentation. And so you may want to set up a very simple amount of segmentation to create to sort of create some kind of experience for folks are joining your email list. I think that's fine. I and I think, you know, sophisticated advanced segmentation is fine if you know what you're doing, or if you have a really compelling use case for it. But be careful about too much segmentation because it adds friction. And in this practice, the daily publication practice friction is I want to say deadly, its deadly to the possibility that you will get everything you can get out of this practice. So that's why I'm really trying to steer you away from any sort of friction. Okay, Past Philip is reminding me, this is where we do a screen share. And I show you what this looks like. And please feel free to in the chat those of you that are here in the live stream to pepper me with questions happy to try to answer anything I can. Now this video, this process begins with publishing something to a blog. But it's easier to show you how this looks and works. If we start with the automation rule that's in, in my case, ConvertKit. I should be clear, I don't have any kind of I mean, my financial relationship with ConvertKit is I give them 49 bucks a month to use their software. I don't benefit I think,
not directly anyway from recommending their software. Nor do I have any kind of affiliate or, you know, payment for recommendation relationship with any software vendor, just to be clear. I'm recommending tools based on they're mature, ish, they're stable, they seem well supported, they're reasonably easy to use. And they do what they're supposed to, and they're a reasonably good value. That's what makes me feel like recommending something. Active Campaign, again, is something I mentioned briefly earlier. And I think it's one I can recommend, I haven't used it myself, but enough folks I know have used it and recommend it as something close to the functionality or similar enough to the functionality of ConvertKit or MailChimp. I don't love MailChimp interface, I would probably use MailChimp. Otherwise, if I did not, I won't say despise, but I really dislike their interface. And I would use them because they let you turn off. delivery and link click tracking, which for me is largely useless information. And I like any opportunity, I like to pursue any opportunity that I reasonably can to give my audience more privacy. So MailChimp, what enabled that. But I just don't love their interface. This is my actual email lists. These are the actual way that people subscribe and unsubscribe to my email list. And that might give you a hint as to why my email list has not grown very much in the last number of years. Part of it is simply every time you email, you give someone a chance to unsubscribe. And part of it is I'm working to create subscriber value for a really specific audience. And that audience definition has changed over time. And I'm still kind of figuring out that alignment. I'm going to go to the automations tab in ConvertKit. And I'm going to click under the secondary menu here. The RSS automation, every platform I've mentioned, again, MailChimp, ConvertKit, Active Campaign and many others have this feature. It's not in the same place on all of them. They don't call it the same thing. But they pretty much all have this feature. So you can see here, the automation rule that I'm using right now it's it's in this box here. And there's a couple components. There is the RSS Feed URL. And then there's some ability to customize what happens when ConvertKit see something new show up on this RSS feed. The most important thing is to choose single, which I believe is the default rather than digest. So digest would be ConvertKit, waits until a number of new articles have shown up on the RSS feed, and then packages all those up into one email. And I think the digest is not at all a user friendly experience for for readers because it gets a machine generated summary. And it just feels that way doesn't feel like it was created by a human for that recipient. So I don't like the digest approach. I'm going to be connecting several things together here. So I'm not going to explain everything you're seeing the feed URLs is perhaps the most critical part of this with ConvertKit You could choose from among multiple email templates that you might have, and choose which one is used to create this email. Here's the most recent one that I've published, which is announcing this very same talk
that some of you're seeing right now. Or if you're, if you're seeing hip you're seeing it. And the next major thing here is that I could set some criteria. And I do in fact, send my daily emails to a segment of my list. And the segment is people who are done with taking whatever email course, was their sort of introductory experience to me. So they get through that email course. And then they get tagged with a tag that says onboarding done. And then they can start receiving the daily emails. And then down to the bottom, here, you see a ever expanding list of activity for this rule. So again, big picture, what this rule is doing is looking for new items on my websites, RSS feed, and turning them into emails. ConvertKit recently added the ability to customize the subject line, they didn't used to have that. And anything you see inside these double curly brackets is a is a template variable. And then now you can this also used to not happen, but you can customize the email content as well. So it's pretty flexible. One of the email marketing platforms that I don't recommend is called drip. I don't recommend it. Because there was a period of time it was just really ugly. After the founder, Rob walling sold the product to lead pages. And a lot of folks that I knew we were all on drip, we're all using drip. And it just had lots of deliverability problems, which is not uncommon for me an email marketing platform, but their support people were gaslighting customers and lying, I think, I mean, maybe not maliciously, maybe just out of incompetence. But their support was quite bad. And that's why they're not on my recommended list anymore.
This was clicked, it's important that this is clicked send automatically means when an item shows up on the RSS feed, it gets converted into a broadcast that's sent to the segment of the list in question. And that happens automatically. And that's critical, because I don't want to, I don't ever want to have to go into convert kits. dashboard. I don't want to see who's unsubscribed. I don't want to speculate about why they unsubscribed. I don't want any of that. So I want this to happen automatically.
Now going back a little bit in terms of the process, you publish to your website, you publish blog posts. In my case, I'm using WordPress. But again, there's a lot of websites using I mean built using a variety of tools that will work just fine. To publish your blog and create an RSS feed. That's really all you need. So there's a lot of flexibility here with what you could use. And so here's the most recent article, and here's what that looks like. As an RSS feed. It's essentially I mean, it's not it's XML it's not. But then down here, you get to what is essentially HTML. And this is the content. in HTML, that's going to get picked up by ConvertKit and turned into an email. So if you know anything about HTML, you can see the similarity here. You know, there's stuff wrapped in paragraph tags. that forms the first paragraph, and so on. So the formatting aside from simple like Word and level stuff like italicized this bold this, put this image here, the formatting comes more from ConvertKit than it does from my blog, because what I'm seeing here in the RSS feed is pretty stripped down plain HTML Now you maybe have noticed, maybe not. Maybe you've noticed here, I'm showing you this url Philip Morgan Consulting comm slash feed. And every WordPress site, unless you modify the default is going to have this. It's just slash feed is a RSS feed for all the blog content on that site. But you'll notice here, and I'm actually using a different URL. And to me, this is a really interesting, potentially useful thing. Every so in WordPress, and in most CMS, as you have the ability to categorize blog content, to group it into categories. And one of the ways that that changes things is when you put something in a category, WordPress auto generates an RSS feed for every category. And so in this case, what I'm asking WordPress to do, or sorry, what I'm asking ConvertKit to do, is to look at the RSS feed for a specific category. And that is because on my website, let's go here. I also have, I'm also using blog posts, to show podcast episodes. So each of these podcast episodes is a blog post. And I don't want those sent out to my email list, I would rather manually tell my email list about those. So I don't want the blog posts to be picked up by ConvertKit and automatically turned into email messages and sent to my email list. So the way I've dealt with that is the blog posts are categorized in a certain way. And they're categorized differently from the email content. And as for that reason, over in ConvertKit, that I'm not using the overall RSS feed for the entire website, because that would include both podcast episodes, don't come out that frequently, but they would be there and daily emails. And I don't want them mixed together. So what I do is I have this URL. The next thing after the domain name is slash category, and then the name of the category, which is in the experts list and then feed. So if we I'm going to copy that, and put that in a tab over here. And you'll see there's a another RSS feed, but it's specific, it only has items that are categorized in the way in that category called which is called indie experts list. So that's a really useful thing I am. So I am using this. But another way I could use this is, let's say that I did events once a week, which I do these ti talks,
then I might have four stuff that's announcing these ti talks, I could have a different category on my site. And that category could go into a different email template. Or there's a number of things I could do. By separating out that content, I can maybe create two different experiences for people on my list people who just want the daily emails and people who also want event announcements, for example. That's the usefulness of distinguishing things by category.
If you see here, if I have touched on everything,
that's pretty much it. I'll talk about how I write the emails just for a moment. You could write them in the WordPress blog editor I use. So we're going to be fun to see what comes up when I pull up a writer. I use a text editor called a writer. And so I write stuff here. I like it because the formatting is simple. You can format with markdown styling, and it's plain text. It's saw, you know, syncs puts files into an iCloud Drive folder so it syncs to a lot of different devices that I have so I can just pull up something on any device and keep working on it or start an idea for a new blog post, whatever. So one of the nice things that you can do with IE writer which by the way, not the only markdown editor that there is there are others, there's one called type hora. It's pretty nice. There's one if you're on Mac, called Ulysses. That's quite nice. I, a writer is cross platform. And I'm more and more appreciating that. But what I can do is I can select an email once it's written, right click it, copy as HTML. And then I'll show you what I would do. If I was turning this into an email, I would go to my website, starting a new blog post. One of the nice things about a tool like Ulysses is it has an even tighter integration with the blog. So it can publish a new blog post from within the editor. So you don't even have to go to your website, I would paste in the HTML, I would go back to the visual editor make any changes, I need to give it a title. And then when I publish it, I would make sure it's categorized as going to the indie experts list, which means that it's going to show up on the proper RSS feed, and then ConvertKit would pick that up, turn it into an email and send it to my list without me having to do anything extra or additional. which I really like.
I think that's it, in terms of how you do this.
Few more notes. So again, you're publishing to a blog, you're hopefully using some kind of editor to do your writing, that makes things easy for you. And some kind of editor that makes it easy to get it on to into a new blog post. From there, ConvertKit, MailChimp or whatever you're using uses an RSS to email automation rule to send it to your email list without any further involvement from you. Maybe you're using some simple segmentation, that's what I recommend for your tech setup. And I recommend it again primarily to eliminate or as much as possible reduce friction in the publishing workflow.
I did Thank you pass, Philip, I did remember to talk about WordPress categories. Can't believe this whole approach. It's trade offs all the way down. So it's not perfect. But note no approach is perfect. And here are the trade offs that you'll experience using this approach to publishing this particular tech setup approach. You will eventually have what Jim Thornton, who has gone through the TI framework, what he refers to as a dumpster fire of content problem. What that means is eventually, you're your website will be kind of like Philips website, and it will have a ton of disorganized content on it. And that becomes a problem for a variety of reasons that you know, at some point, search engines like Google have trouble dealing with a website like that, where it's got a bunch of content where the organization is not systematic. And the content is overlapping. And there's not like one clear, best article that talks about something. And so it basically what Google doesn't like a lot is when you've taken that approach of kind of meandering through cow paths of, you know, what about this, what I think about this and thinking through writing, and doing that at the volume I recommend and then you do that for years, which you don't have to but you may find it a really productive process, practice the way I have. And then you know, you do it for years. And then all of a sudden, you have like this big mess of content, and maybe 1000 or more articles that Google just does not know what to do with. And I'm not big on in the early days. Like I actively opposed in the early days thinking too much about optimizing your website for search engines but And I really have Jim Thornton to thank for this, this sort of clarity about what's going on is, at some point, your you need to optimize for people. And search engines can be thought of as a proxy for what people need in order to make sense of a bunch of content on a website. And what they need is some kind of clear hierarchy or some navigation structure or some way of organizing all that content so that it actually makes sense to them. So by optimizing for humans, we also optimize for search engines to be able to figure out what is our site about when should we list this site in search results as opposed to thousands or millions of other options. And at some point, that becomes something you want to figure out. Because if your goal with your expertise is to help people, then your site needs to be intelligible to people. And search engines are a convenient proxy for how intelligible it is to people. So at some point, you do this thing where you publish first to the blog, and they get it gets turned into an email. At some point, you have hundred years for over 1000 blog posts. And at that point, you have a dumpster fire of content that, you know, no one knows what to do with probably you don't either. I can, I can relate to that. And so if you don't know what to do with it, it's not very useful. And so you've created long term expertise value for yourself along the way. With this daily publication you've created, I presume reader or subscriber value. And maybe you've managed to create short term monetary value for your business as well. It's all good stuff. But it gets you to this point, where you just have a mess. And then you have to do what I'm doing, which is what I'm now currently doing, which is put some serious thought into how that mess is organized. And maybe I think we're all end up as I'll write some articles that summarize all this sort of wandering through cow paths and where it's gotten me in a way that's really designed to create value for the reader. And then just delete, or you can set blog content to not be indexed by search engines. You can request that they don't index it. And then it essentially becomes invisible to them. And it's not quite like deleting it, but it's in my mind the next best thing and that's probably
for a lot of folks I horrifying thought absolutely horrifying to think about, like nuking and deleting a bunch of content. But I'm at the point where that would be the best thing. And it's it's thanks to all this writing I've done that the prospect of deleting a bunch of content is not scary. Because I know the next pass through is going to turn out better. So that's one of the trade offs that this makes, I think it's worth it. Anything that diminishes, reduces or kills momentum, or habit formation. In the first few months of doing this daily publication challenge. I think you should seek and destroy anything that creates friction in that way. And that's what this publication stack is meant to do. Thank you for being here.