Garrett Moon’s 10X-Marketing Formula features interviews with top marketing professionals to uncover uncommon marketing mindsets, methods, and growth strategies. There’s so much you can learn from them to help your business!
Today, we’re talking to Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income, about how to crush a $300,000 launch and keep up with publishing so much valuable content. Besides starting his own software and app businesses and Websites, Pat also helps thousands grow their online businesses by sharing his process of what goes well and what doesn’t.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Initially, Pat did everything on his own. However, his team has grown over the past few years to support his mission. Now, most tasks are handled by his team. Pat handles the big ideas, not the busy work.
- Pat has been able to output more content and not fall behind as a result, including through online courses, books, and speaking engagements.
- Plan ahead when it comes to your content. Develop a top-down view using an editorial calendar to maintain efficiency and consistency. What topics do you want to cover? What are customers talking about?
- Develop lead magnets associated with topics or themes. What potential incentive can you offer to customers? Incentives could include an affiliate product or offer for an online course or Webinar. Thinking ahead of time gives you opportunities to be more strategic with your content.
- An editorial calendar makes sure all team members are onboard with the same goals and tasks. It’s about content and what teams are doing related to it. Then, they know what’s coming and what they can look forward to.
- Pat’s team meets every two weeks to review goals and accomplishments of the past two weeks, as well as items they want to achieve in the next two weeks. It ensures that they are working on what they need to truly be working on.
- If everything goes as planned, that’s a bonus. Fire drills are things that happen and blow everything up. So, you need to have flexibility built into your editorial calendar for unexpected issues and to put out fires.
- As a manager, Pat is comforted to know what needs to be done and that his team members are handling tasks. It is motivational, too, because he knows his team is holding up their responsibilities, which makes him more likely to do what he is responsible for completing. It’s a cohesive unit that supports each other.
- An editorial calendar equals freedom, flexibility, and breathing room for you. It takes the weight off your shoulders because goals and structure are developed and in place. A little time upfront means less time spent later on.
- When implementing an editorial calendar, there are some best practices to follow. It takes iteration, experimentation, and communication. CoSchedule makes it simple.
Garrett: Hey everyone. It’s Garrett, and welcome to another 10x Marketing Formula exclusive interview, and today I have the pleasure of hosting Pat Flynn. Pat, as I’m sure you know, is the Founder of Smart Passive Income, where he helps thousands grow their online businesses, and he’s also the author of best selling books like, “Will It Fly?” And “Let Go.” Today, we’re going to talk about how Pat keeps up to pace with all of this awesome content that he’s publishing. Welcome to the show, Pat.
Pat: Thank you for having me, Garrett.
Garrett: Yeah, I’m excited for this. I’d love to just start with maybe your quick backstory. For those that aren’t familiar with Smart Passive Income and your work. Bring us up to speed in a minute or two.
Pat: Sure. So, a lot of people know me from SmartPassiveIncome.com, where I teach people how to build a business online, to help save time, et cetera. But that wasn’t actually my first business. My first business started back in 2008 when I got laid from an architecture position, and long story short, I built a business helping people past a very, very niche, particular exam in that space, called the Lead Exam, and I had published a study guide, and had connected with a company to sell practice exams.
That business did over $200,000 in a year, and it really helped saved my life, really, I feel like. I’ve been wanting to pay it forward ever since, and that’s where Smart Passive Income comes from. I talk about a lot of the businesses that I’ve started. I’ve since started several others, including software companies, app companies, other websites in different niches, and I just show the process along the way. Things that go well, things that don’t go well, things I wish I had done differently, but there’s always a lesson involved, no matter what happens.
I’ve become known as this person who has just shared everything. The wins, failures, but also how much money you’re making, and what businesses are making it, and where it’s all coming from. I share that in monthly income reports on SmartPassiveIncome.com, and now I’m just fortunate to be able to have the ability to write books that people read, and speak on stages where people watch and go on amazing podcasts like this one, or just it’s amazing. I’m here to help as many people as I can and share the wisdom, because if it wasn’t for my layoff, none of this stuff would have happened, and I feel like it’s what I owe.
Garrett: Yeah. I love that story and I think one of the things that I’ve, as we’ve talked over the last year or two, your team has really grown in helping you build some of those things. Can you talk a little bit about that in terms of where your growth has been over the last couple of years, and what Smart Passive Income looks like right now?
Pat: Yeah, so for the first five and a half years, I did everything myself. When I think back I’m like, “Why did I do that?” Because I have had so much great things happen as a result of having other team members come on to help support me in my mission, who have the same mission of helping to serve others in this space. I also think it was because there was a lot of pride involved in doing a lot of the work myself, so I would edit my podcasts myself, I would do the graphics myself, I have some Photoshop experience from architecture.
Because I was already producing another podcast, and “Ask Pat” comes out five days a week. So, I tested it, as I often do with these new things, and I gave it a trial run, and it was just amazing to have somebody come on to help edit the show, and really produce it to a point where all I had to do was just record and that’s it. Everything else was taken care of by my team, everything else was published on WordPress, and on iTunes, all automatically it seemed, but of course it was this person, Mindy, who was on my team doing it for me.
Then I was like, “Oh man, this is insane. What else can I now offer other people to help me with?” I just started offering everything. So editing my other podcast, helping to publish blog posts that I had actually written, and also writing some emails of mine. Still the social media, I still control and take care of that myself, but everything else, I mean, I’m only now doing what only I can do. Everything else is being taken care of by the team, and it’s so essential, because especially now, I’m a father, I want to spend more time with my family, but also I also want to spend more time interacting with my audience and coming up with big ideas versus doing a lot of the busy work. It’s just opening up so much more time and just more fulfillment.
Garrett: I love it. How has that increase in output that you’ve been able to take on because of that new setup fueled your growth, and how has that factored into your growth?
Pat: I mean, it’s been the most important thing really, because I wouldn’t have been able to do these things, and that includes creating new online courses, writing books. Now, with the ability to go out and speak and travel a little bit, while still having the business continue to run and the team work on things, and still publication dates being kept up. I mean, that was another big thing. When I first started out, because I was doing it on my own and doing all these other things, when I was creating content which is obviously very important, I was creating it on the go.
So, I’d publish a blog post, which I always hated, because the moment I hit publish, I knew that I would have to figure out what I was going to do for next week’s blog post, right? It just got to that point where I was just so frustrated because I just was always feeling like I was behind. There was no way for me to feel like I was actually on top of things, even if I was publishing on time. I still felt like I was always behind.
The moment I started to get a team onboard and we started really planning ahead of time, and not just planning, “Okay, well what content is coming up?” But also how that relates to all the other things that are happening in the business, especially launches and affiliate promotions and those kinds of things. I mean, things just started to skyrocket. I mean, not only did I allow myself more time, but the content was better, because there was more time spent thinking about it and how it all integrated together.
And also, the promotion of the courses and the other products that came out as a result of the content that helped to support that, which can only happen if you have a top down view of a plan of what’s happening in the future, and that never happened before. We also hired a woman named Jenna who’s amazing, who helped me really think about, “Okay, well how can we create content that supports everything else you’re doing instead of just let’s come up with random things? Let’s come up with things so that everything has a purpose” and that has helped grow my email list, that has helped my bottom line, that has helped me with actually productivity and efficiency.
It’s helped spread the message, so I’m just so thankful that all that has happened. I only wish I started sooner.
Garrett: Yeah. You talk a little bit about that top down view. I know we’ve talked before about your guys’ editorial calendar. How have you used that to increase that efficiency and that consistency?
Pat: What we do is every quarter, we plan for the content that’s coming out two quarters ahead of time. In Q1 we’re planning for content in Q3, and in Q2 we’re planning for content in Q4. This allows us time to start thinking about it, and we start with thinking about, “Okay, well what topics do we want to cover?” We base that off of, “Well, what are people asking about?” I have a number of mechanisms that I have in my business that allow me to understand what it is I should be creating content about, from automated emails that go out after a certain number of emails people get in my autoresponder which I ask, “Well, what are you struggling with? What do you need help with? What do you wish there was more content about?”
That gives us some insight. Also, my podcast, “Ask Pat” is good insight, because that’s where people can send voicemail questions to me, asking me a question that I can then put into a podcast, but as a byproduct, I now understand exactly what people need help with. A lot of the content is based off of, “Well, what are people asking about?” Also, it’s based off of what’s popular, what’s happening, in my archives. Like, “Okay, well what was popular a couple of years ago? Can we bring it back?”
There’s a lot of mechanisms by which we start to come up with these topics, but then we create themes. So, every month typically, not always, but every month has a theme that is surrounded all around the same topic. That allows us to also come up with, “Okay, well what lead magnet? What potential incentive can we offer during this month, just one, that relates to all those things?” Not one for every single post that’s unique, but one that’s unique to that month and that topic.
What’s one lead magnet that we can mention every time we talk about that topic during that month? And on the podcast and on the blog and on the video channel. So, it’s all kind of an acceleration of just promotion of that particular topic, and if people want to go deeper they get into the lead magnet, which then leads into an email sequence, which can then offer an affiliate product, or an offer for one of my courses, or to get into one of my webinars, et cetera.
That has really helped and by looking at it in a monthly theme, we use our editorial calendar to really see what’s going on and to see if it makes sense to talk about topics back-to-back with each other, or to have certain blog posts. How can these actually relate to each other more? How can the podcasts and the blog posts actually speak to each other? Because I think that’s one of the most underutilized things is having your own content support your own content.
Everything technical from linking back to older content, to planning ahead, and discovering, “Okay, well if we have this topic on the podcast this week, well what would make sense for a great blog post the week after? How might that actually reference back to that podcast and speak to it?” We can actually write these things ahead of time, knowing what fits in where, and then as things are being recorded we can get a little bit more specific about call to actions in future content that relate back to those things that are being recorded now.
It’s kind of exciting to see this planning is working ahead of time, and direct results from thinking ahead of time for sure, using the calendar in that way. For example, July of last year was the first public launch of … I think it was June of this year, excuse me, 2017. Was the first public launch of my course, “Power-Up Podcasting.” To support that launch, the whole month beforehand was all content that was related to podcasting.
But it was very smart, because what each of those pieces of content did was it either showed people how to get started, so it would give them a good introduction to why podcasting was really important, and actually how to go through the motions of just getting one up and running, to also addressing every single objection that a person might have related to podcasting that would stop them from wanting to get started.
So, when they get all that content for free, and it’s valuable, and it’s helping them move forward, and they’re getting introduced to the world of podcasting, of course there’s a lead magnet involved in each of those two. That lead magnet was a PDF file called “The Podcast Cheat Sheet,” that gives people the opportunity to start crafting what their show might be about, how to differentiate itself, how to brand it, the content that would be showing up in the first few episodes and then a whole checklist of everything they need to do.
Of course, that checklist is not just a couple checklists, or a couple items. It’s a couple pages of items of all the things that you need to do to get your podcast up and running, which of course is handy to have, but also people want to learn more and want to make sure they do it right, so that’s where my course comes in.
All this content was coming out, the freebie was coming out, and we had tens of thousands of people want to grab it, and then when the launch came out, I mean, it just crushed. We did over $300,000 in sales when the course came out, because it was something that people were already thinking about and thinking about doing, and then once we finally gave them the opportunity to work further with us, they jumped on the opportunity. That also led to a potential opportunity beyond just the online course, to get involved with the workshop that we were also doing.
I experimented with creating a live workshop two days here in San Diego. We sold that in conjunction with the online course, and 15 people were really quick to grab on that. So, again, just podcast was on everybody’s mind because we planned ahead. We utilized the editorial calendar, and we hit a home run.
Garrett: I love it. So I think that’s like a beautiful transition because I think back to what you were talking about before, and you were referencing what I always call the blinking cursor problem, which is you publish one piece of content, but then you’re right back to the blinking cursor again, where you have to now come up with the next piece of content. Not only does the calendar relieve you of that, but what I’m hearing, and you can reiterate this if you need to, but is that planning ahead then leads you to all of these other opportunities to be more strategic with your content and your entire publishing schedule, that take it down the road a few times, now leads to bigger and better opportunities.
Pat: Yeah, absolutely. It’s all about just thinking a little bit of ahead of time and taking that time to do that. I mean, I think it’s called a cursor because it has the word curse in it. I mean, it is a curse.
Pat: We don’t want that anymore.
Garrett: Yeah. That’s great. So, what other problems would you say that the calendar process solved for you and your team?
Pat: You know, for us it’s just like, “Okay, well, there’s a team. They need to know what to do, and what that relates to.” It just makes sure that everybody’s onboard with the same goals, with the same tasks. It allows for us to, again, not just plan what our content’s going to be, but what our team’s going to be doing around that time, and obviously supporting that content that we plan ahead of time. If we didn’t have that, then the team wouldn’t be able to create the graphics ahead of time or create the lead magnet ahead of time, knowing that that’s the content that was going to come out that particular month.
It also enables the team to know that there’s more stuff coming, to look forward to things, and to get ready for things before they happen. Again, just all around it makes everybody just understand what’s going on and where we’re going.
Garrett: Do you guys have a monthly or weekly process that you use to review what you’ve planned for that quarter or that week? How does that work?
Pat: We do quarterly content and editorial planning, just for more overall bird’s eye perspective views of what’s happening, what the plan is, when launches are happening, et cetera. Again, that’s important too, because I also am mindful about how often I’m promoting to my audience. I don’t want to have two back-to-back promotions and potentially exhaust my email list and that kind of stuff.
Understanding when launches happen, on top of the content, or in conjunction with the content that’s coming out, can help us make sure that we’re allowing for enough breathing room between launches to the same segment of my audience, et cetera. But when it comes to … Can you rephrase the question? ‘Cause I just went off on a tangent, like I sometimes do. I’m sorry.
Garrett: I’m just thinking on a weekly basis, do you do a meeting with a team to sync on what we’re doing that week, and then how does it look as you focus on the day-to-day activities?
Pat: Thank you. So, we run in two week sprints.
Pat: We’ve adopted a strategy where we meet every two weeks, and every two weeks we start by talking about, and we review what our goals were from the previous week and what we accomplished. Then we focus on, “Okay, what do we want to accomplish within our bigger giant goals, within the next two weeks?” So sometimes, for example, creating an online course might take a month and a half to two months. So we break that two months down into biweekly goals, and that way we can just structure it very easily in terms of what we want to accomplish.
We can make sure we’re meeting our deadlines and making our way through all of that, and if we’re behind, we know to catch up on the next sprint. It just makes it very simple, and it also allows us to make sure that we’re working on what we need to work on, versus what I know a lot of other companies and especially just entrepreneurs who have small teams do, is they work on stuff that just keeps them busy. They feel like they’re working on things that matter, but it’s really work that’s just comfortable because it’s just repetitive stuff that we just always do anyway.
This way it allows us to review, “Okay, what has happened and what is it helping us do? What do we need to do?” Also, it allows us to check in every couple of weeks to consider, “Okay, well, what do we need to stop, start, and continue?” Meaning, “Okay, what are we doing that’s not working? Let’s stop that. What are we not doing that we should be doing? Let’s start that. What is working? Let’s continue to do that.”
That’s not just editorially, that’s workflow, that’s communication, everything. So, stop, start, and continue has become an important thing for us.
Garrett: One thing I talk about or I hear marketers talk about is fire drills, right? These things that happen within your month or week that just blow everything up. When you think about a calendar and you’re pre-planning things out, you’ve got to plan for a whole quarter. What happens on that week when everything goes wrong or there’s a big surprise or something that you have to respond to? How do you adjust for those types of things?
Pat: Yeah I mean, we understand that everything in the calendar is flexible, and we often go and reschedule things. We just have that be an expectation, that happens. If it just so happens that a week goes perfectly according to plan, well then that’s a bonus. I think it’s important to understand that as an entrepreneur especially, these things are going to happen, and that when they do, it’s just procedure to figure out, “Okay, what are the top priorities?” Then, “How can we fix those things?” Then also, “What can be moved that won’t make an immediate negative impact on what it is our goals are?”
Some things have moved from one sprint to another, even though they were supposed to be done. Other times we use certain days of the week which we have as open catch up days, such as for me, Friday. Friday is my day where if everything goes according to plan, I have Friday off and I don’t have to do anything. Although, I’m typically doing something anyway just to experiment or test or try something new. But if I don’t happen to finish something that I was supposed to, that I was supposed to finish earlier in the week, like a solo podcast show, or I didn’t finish writing that blog post that I had attempted to write on Mondays which is my writing day, then that’s my Friday.
That allows for flexibility and Friday’s there and open just in case some of these fires happen. Gives us some understanding that there is going to be time to put out those fires.
Garrett: One thing I’m thinking about there, too, is for yourself, as somebody who was starting to delegate tasks to a team. As a manager, and you talked about how your calendar, you guys are managing the content and your strategy, plus down to individual tasks, and what your team members are working on. As a manager, how has that type of visibility helped you in the delegation process?
Pat: More than anything, it just helps give me comfort to know that these things are happening, and it also is motivational, because also I know that my team’s working hard on these things and I see them being checked off as they go. It makes me want to make sure that I check off my stuff so I can uphold my responsibilities for the team, too. Because on our team, it’s not like just me telling everybody what to do. I have certain things that need to get done as well that also my team relies on.
For example, if I don’t record that podcast episode when it’s supposed to be recorded, then my team is held back a day, right?
Pat: Seeing that they have these things to do based off of what I do, and vice versa, it becomes a cohesive unit that all needs to work together. We organically all support each other in that way, even without saying it, which is pretty cool.
Garrett: What would you say people are missing out on if they haven’t added this editorial calendar to their process?
Pat: Freedom. The weight off your shoulder of just knowing that you have goals in what it is that you’re writing for. I mean, imagine just writing just because, I mean without purpose. I mean, writing is hard and creating content is hard. To do it with no real purpose and with no bigger vision of what the overall strategy is is wasted time that could be potentially used for, even just with a little bit of time upfront to really help make that thing that you’re spending time on actually make sense for what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.
So, that’s what you’re missing out on. Of course, down the road, you’re missing out on helping more people. You’re missing out on allowing your brand message to be spread out in a way that’s going to amplify a little bit bigger than if you were to just write post by post or podcast to podcast. Honestly, like what I said earlier, breathing room. It’s just key, and flexibility.
It also allows us to batch process a little bit easier, too. You can’t batch process if you don’t know what number two and three and four are going to be. So, by planning ahead of time, I can make sure that, “Okay, if I have a little bit of extra time, I can record the podcast for next week and the week after that, and give myself some time back.” You can’t do that if you aren’t planning ahead, so again, allows for breathing room and flexibility more than anything.
Garrett: Thinking a little bit about your team and how they approach the calendar. How do you think it works for them as a tool? What does it provide for them as they come in?
Pat: I think it provides structure, it provides goals, it provides something that motivates them as they begin to check things off and realize that they are upholding their responsibilities within the team. We each have our own responsibilities and understand how important each part of it is. I think it’s important to see that not just other people are checking off their stuff, but that you’re checking off your stuff, too.
If that wasn’t there, then it would be kind of like working for just trying to stay busy, working without that true purpose, working without actually making progress toward those bigger goals, and honestly, once you know the path, you check off those things on the to-do list on the way there, and you’re making progress. When everybody has a role in that, it becomes a team game. It becomes a win for everybody when you release that course, and you do very well, because everybody had a part in it or understood their role in it.
Garrett: Yeah. So, if somebody’s out there, they don’t have an editorial calendar, maybe it’s a written one or something that doesn’t give them the flexibility they need. I’m sure you and your team iterated a few times on the process, how this is going to work, what’s going to work for us, but what advice would you have from that learning experience about how to adopt a digital calendar or a digital editorial calendar for the first time?
Pat: Yeah I mean it’s almost like dieting or fitness. Every team has its own way that’s going to work for them, right? Every body is different and responds differently to different diets, but there are some obviously best practices, no matter which thing you do. I love using CoSchedule because it just makes it very simple and the whole team can get involved and see what we’re doing, but I think it just takes iteration and experimentation, and more than anything, communication.
We have communicated with each other quite often, especially in the beginning, as we were figuring out our best strategy for using the editorial calendar, and what it would make sense, and the workflow through it. That communication was really important where on both sides, for example, from me to the person doing the job for me, or vice visa, we needed to create open lines of communication and to allow ourselves to be brutally honest with each other with what’s working and what’s not.
That way we can get through that disaster before we master the situation. So, for example, when I hired Mindy to come on and help with editing the podcast “Ask Pat” and getting ahead of schedule on that, we spoke every day. “What if you sent me the audio file with the advertisment attached to it in the same recording? So it’s not broken up, it’d be a little bit easier for me to chunk it up and insert the voicemail from your audience in there.” “Oh, well okay. Let’s try to get it a little bit earlier, ’cause it actually takes me a day and a half to get this piece done here based on everything else I’m doing.”
Again, we wouldn’t have known that unless we tried, right? So, first, just try things. Iterate. But also, be very open and honest about what’s working, what’s not, what you should stop and start, and then continue to do as you progress forward. That’s the best advice I can give you, is to not just start, but start and pay attention, and then communicate when it’s not working, so that you can get to that point where things start to finally just fall into place. Eventually over time it’s going to get so automatic that thinking is not even required anymore.
Garrett: Absolutely. Pat, I love it. From the blinking blog cursor to a well-oiled machine built on strategy. Fantastic stuff. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on editorial calendars with us today.
Pat: Thank you, Garrett. I appreciate it.