Transcript: What I Learned From a Year of Automating My Business

December 7, 2017

AMY PORTERFIELD: Well hey there, welcome back to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I’m your host, Amy Porterfield, and today we are talking all about automation. 

I want to take you back to late last year. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was practically in tears and I was just dog tired. Burnt out is an understatement for how I felt. I was beyond stressed. I felt like I didn’t have a life, like I had nothing left in me. 

In true transparency, I go through ebbs and flows in my business in terms of working too much and then realizing, “Wait a second, I don’t like to be here. This is not why I became an entrepreneur,” and I have to rein it back in. 

I do a really good job of being aware of when my work/life balance is really off balance and I can bring it back. But sometimes I go way to far and I think I should have caught it a long time ago, I’ve got rein it back in. 

I am not perfect, by any means in the work/life balance arena. However, I am very aware of it and I’m always striving to find that white space in my business. I’m never giving up on it so that leads me into this episode. 

Late last year I remember thinking I couldn’t do another year like this again. This was not why I got into business for myself. I was working for my business instead of my business working for me. Can you relate? Can I get an amen? 

If you’re driving alone in your car I just want you to shout it out, “Amen,” If you can feel this and know what I’m talking about because I do think it happens to all of us somewhere in our entrepreneurial journey. 

Unfortunately, for me it happens a little bit more often than I would like and that’s why I have to be very aware and rein it back in. If you’ve ever listened to the episode I did with my husband, Hobie, he’s a really good reiner inner (not a real word). 

He’s really good at saying, “Whoa Amy, this is getting a little out of control. I feel like I haven’t seen you enough this week (or this month) and I need you to kind of put things in perspective here. Remember what really matters.” 

It’s nice to have someone on my side knowing when I’m going down that entrepreneurial rabbit hole and I have to come back. 

Late last year I dove really deep into it working on launches and new projects and different things we had on our plate and I felt I had to get done. When 2017 was coming around I decided to make a bold move and basically I went evergreen in my business. 

At the time of this recording it’s at the end of 2017 and I thought it was time to kind of tell you how this year went: The good, bad, and ugly. When I say I went evergreen this year that basically means I did very few live launches. 

If I did ten live launches last year, I don’t know how many I did but it felt like I did ten, I might have done just two this year. I dramatically decreased the live launches. I decided to sell my signature courses, Webinars That Convert and Courses That Convert, on evergreen. 

I did automated webinars throughout the entire year. Part of my mission with this podcast is to be totally transparent about what I’m doing in my business. Today I’m going to walk you through how my year of automation went, what I learned, and honestly what I will never do again. 

Are you ready to jump in? Let’s do it. 

Here’s how I’m going to approach this episode. It’s going to be in four parts. Part 1, how I approached the year of automation; Part 2, what happened and the results; Part 3, what I learned; and Part 4, how I’m going to move forward. What will the next year look like based on all of these learnings? 

Part 1: How I Approached the Year of Automation 

First, let’s talk about Part 1, how I approached the year of automation. As I mentioned, this year I put Webinars That Convert and Courses That Convert into full automation. That means I built out two evergreen funnels, one for each, and did the whole shebang. 

Any of my Webinars That Convert members know what I mean when I say “the whole shebang.” That means I did pre-webinar emails then I would do the webinar, which was recorded, then I would followup with post-webinar emails including a first-day bonus and a mid-cart bonus and multiple cart-close emails. 

It was very much like a live launch but everything was automated. We use a tool called PlusThis that integrates with Infusionsoft. Using those two tools together we were able to create a special timeline for everybody that went into my evergreen funnel. 

If you joined today you would be on your own timeline in terms of when my bonuses in that promotion would expire. It was very much like a live launch. If you didn’t buy by a certain date, when you click the link you would go to a page where I would be selling one of my courses but all of the bonuses would go away. 

That’s how I stay in integrity with my evergreen launches. Everybody is on their own countdown inside of the funnel. With that I was able to create urgency and scarcity. That part was really, really good. We got it all dialed in. 

Again, I had webinars and bonuses and cart-close emails and all of that with everyone being on their own timeline inside of the funnel. 

In addition to that, I ran Facebook ads to the webinar registration page. We relied heavily this year on Facebook advertising. With that we had to pay really close attention to how much we were paying in terms of cost per lead, cost per registrant, and overall we had to track very closely the profitability of each of these funnels. 

Twice a week my team and I would come together and look at the numbers. Are these webinars and funnels working for us? That was the main question. 

I also work with Dominate Web Media, an ad agency. They run our Facebook ads for all of our evergreen funnels. I don’t have that in house. I don’t have a big enough team to manage all of the ads as well so we use an outside agency. 

I kind of just wanted to set the stage in terms of what automation meant in my business. We didn’t actually focus on List-Builder’s Lab in automation, we just focused on the two programs, Webinars That Convert and Courses That Convert. 

That’s basically what it all looked like. Let’s move on to the vision for this. The vision was to set it up quickly and then have a lot more time off and a lot more white space on our calendar as a team to be more creative and take a little bit more time off to have some breathing space, imagine that, and not have to be working on so many projects at once. 

I pride myself on having a small but mighty team. I don’t ever want a big team. Because of that my team is really hands on in everything we do. I could tell everyone was getting a little bit overwhelmed. That’s why I wanted to move more into automation. 

The idea was that we would be making money every single day in the business but not necessarily having to work on a bunch of projects at once and not having the live launch. 

A little bit more about live launching, if you’ve ever done it, it can be incredibly exhausting. I’m going to give you a little hint, moving into the New Year my new focus and goal is to launch without being fully taxed and stressed out and overwhelmed in late nights. 

I’m going to change how we live launch in the New Year. I can’t wait to do it and then share it with you on this podcast because if I can teach you anything, if I’ve gone before you and you’re just starting out, I don’t want you to ever hit burnout. 

I don’t want you to ever question why you got into this, feel it is too much, and not the life you wanted to create. It is my mission to help you launch and be incredibly profitable without doing crazy launches that literally deplete everything you’ve got. 

I’ve had those experiences so we’re not doing that and if you keep following me and trust me I will start showing you a more relaxed, easy, simple, yet profitable way to launch. So stay with me because there’s more of that coming on this podcast. 

Basically that was my vision. I wanted to get this all set up really quickly and have more white space. 

Another great question to ask is, “How did I feel going into all of this at the beginning of last year?” I felt very optimistic but also incredibly uncertain about the goals that we were setting. I’ll talk about this in a moment but we had really big goals every single week for these two evergreen funnels. 

I had no idea if it was possible. I had never done it before. I’ve always had something evergreen running in the background but it always felt like icing on the cake. If it did well, great. But I was live launching and that was my bread and butter. 

Now, taking out the live launches, evergreen had to work in order for us to meet our multi- million dollar goal this year. That was very, very scary. I will tell you that I went into this excited that I thought I was going to get a lot of time off but very uncertain, I felt very scared about the whole thing. 

I did it scared and that is kind of my motto for all of you guys. So there I am practicing what I preach. 

Part 2: What Happened and the Results 

You are going to hear me scratching around with the paper as we move into Part 2, what happened, and the results that we got. As I mentioned, we had huge weekly goals. We had tens of thousands of dollars, in terms of goals, for each of these funnels. 

A lot of times we hit those goals, especially early on while putting this all together. But there were weeks we didn’t hit the goals and that made me very nervous. When you’re in evergreen if you want to catch up…let’s say a week went by and we didn’t hit our goals, catching up is tough because everything’s already laid out. It’s not like you’re going to change a bonus or change an email or anything like that. 

You’ve got it going. Now, I take that back. You can change everything but the whole goal was that we didn’t want to always be tinkering with this. So sometimes we met those big goals and sometimes we didn’t. 

Another thing, in terms of what happened, is that it took months and months and months to get these funnels where I wanted them. I’m not actually a perfectionist. So it had nothing to do with me trying to make them perfect. It was just that I had never relied on my revenue coming from these so it felt like I had a lot more riding on them. 

It’s difficult to fix an automated funnel because there’s no real engagement there. In a live launch if something’s not working you’ll hear about it in the moment and you can tweak it and you’re responding to people in real time so you’re learning so much about what’s working in your program, where your audience is struggling, what they need, and you can literally fix that in the moment during a live launch. I’ve done it many times. 

With evergreen it’s like things don’t go well for a while before you figure out what to do and fix it. Then it takes a while for that to actually get implemented and into the funnel. I felt big chunks of time went by where the tweaks I wanted to implement right away took forever. 

This is my own experience. It didn’t have to be this way but this was my experience working with evergreen. I felt the turnaround took a whole lot longer to see the results from that. 

We also did a lot of tweaking, especially in the first half of the year. Because of that the white space was a joke. We were always tinkering inside of our funnels, looking at numbers, trying to figure out why we would hit those numbers one week and then be behind the next week. 

I wasn’t used to that. I wasn’t used to not really knowing the answers of why something wasn’t working. That is a very uncertain feeling. 

I just want to share with you that I’ve always told my students that it’s important to live launch in order to know what’s working and what’s not working. Then you can put things on automation. That’s exactly what I did. 

I didn’t put anything on automation until I had live launched it a few times. Even after we launched it live a few times and then went into evergreen there was still some tweaking we needed to do. The reason for that is that we didn’t set conservative goals. 

We had really big goals. Sometimes our goals were $50,000 a week for each of the funnels. I know that’s crazy. Remember, we put money into our Facebook ads in order to fill up these webinars to hit those big numbers. And I’ve been doing this for a long time. 

I don’t suggest big goals like that for everybody but, again, this was driving our revenue forward this year. We really needed to make some big numbers in order to hit the multi- million dollar goals that we set for ourselves this year. 

Because those goals were so big, when we weren’t hitting them we had to get in there and fix things. 

Part 3: What I Learned 

Let’s transition into what I learned. Now you kind of know what happened, what took a lot of my time this year in terms of fixing the funnels, tweaking them, and working with a new ads team. We had switched our ads team mid year and wanted to try a new team to work on different things. We went over to Dominate Web Media. 

All of these things slowed us down. I think that just happens sometimes in business. I just wanted to share some of those struggles with evergreen and I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. That is the truth. 

Let’s get into what I learned. First, I want to stay positive because there were a lot of positives in terms of going evergreen. You always have to try new things in your business. I want you to look at this year and really be honest with yourself and ask yourself what you tried that was a bold move that you made. 

Remember, if you listened to my podcast in the beginning of this year I told you to make some bold moves, try some new things, and branch out. Mine was evergreen, for sure. But did you make some bold moves? 

I’m so very, very glad we went evergreen this year so I could learn all of these different nuances about how funnels work, how my team works together, how quickly or not quickly we can get things changed based on the feedback we get from our audience. 

The lessons were endless. I also will say that the funnels ended up generating over two million dollars in sales. They did incredibly well. They didn’t do as well as I wanted them with my big audacious goals but, heck, you’ve got to make big goals. 

It’s okay if you don’t always meet your goals but we’re going to have an amazing multi-million dollar year, well beyond two million because we did other stuff. Yes, the funnels were incredibly profitable for us even though I didn’t reach my big, audacious goals with these evergreen funnels. 

I will also say, when we’re talking about learning, the ah-ha moments and insights will definitely propel my business forward. I’m actually very excited to start the New Year with all of the lessons I learned about funnels, bonuses, tweaking webinars, Facebook ads, and all of the stuff I get to teach all of you. 

If I didn’t get in the trenches this year, even though it was kind of a painful year in terms of all of the tinkering and all of the changes that we made inside of these funnels, if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be as good of a teacher as I am right this minute with all of the new stuff I’ve learned. 

I only teach what I do so I had to do it. I had to get in there. That was a huge, big, great bonus to this year of automation. 

On the flip side, because it’s not all about money, if you hear me say we made over two million dollars with our automated funnels you might want me to shut up. You would give anything to make a million dollars in your business and I’m complaining that it didn’t work. 

Remember, it’s all relative, 100%. I don’t judge you, you don’t judge me. It’s all relative. I will also say it’s not always about the money. The experience in how I felt this year plays a big part. 

I know it’s about money when you don’t have it. I get that. I’ve been there. But really, truly, I know all of us didn’t get into business as entrepreneurs just because of the money. The lifestyle and choosing to live how we want to live and building a business in the life we love is incredibly important. 

Here, on the flip side, is what I didn’t like about my year of automation. I felt I lost connection with all of you this year. No completely, I still feel like we’ve got a connection but not nearly as strong as it could be. 

When you go into automation you really do lose that connection, or some of that connection. Of course, I connect with you all on social media. I’ve done a lot of live video this year that I think saved me. If I wasn’t doing live video I would feel shut off from all of you. 

I know it’s a bummer that you see me on video and I don’t see you. But in the comments we get to communicate in real time. When you live launch you get that real time instant connection at a time when people are deciding if they want to work with you. 

They are sharing with you their challenges. There are worries. There are fears. You get to be their go-to source. I think that is so important as an entrepreneur, you showing up for your potential students and customers, your audience as a whole. 

I lost some of that this year. That was a big deal to me. I didn’t realize it until third quarter of this year. I felt depressed. There was a little bit of, “something’s wrong. I feel blue.” I just don’t know how else to explain it. 

I realized I don’t have the connection I’ve always had with all of you. So, the lesson learned here is that I will definitely do more live launches, not nearly as many as I did the year before where I burned out, but I’m definitely going to show up live in promotions more. I’m just going to do them differently next year and I can’t wait to share with you as I get into the trenches and start doing that. 

One thing that’s a great example, I just live launched List-Builder’s Lab. I loved it. I was live on video during the webinars. That the first time I’ve ever done that. The comments were insane. We kept the chat box open by accident on the first Zoom webinar and after that we were like, “We’re keeping this open all of the time.” You guys were amazing. 

One person said, “I missed that slide. I wish I had taken a snapshot.” Another woman said, “I got a snapshot. Here you go.” 

Everyone was helping each other. The questions you all were asking during my List-Builder’s Lab live launch were incredibe. They were the best quality questions I’ve ever gotten on webinars. So I was back in the game late this year and it just reminded me this is where I’m supposed to be. Not all the time, but more often than totally pulling back. I pulled back way too much on the live launches this year. 

Speaking of learning, one other thing I feel is important to talk about but I don’t see a lot of entrepreneurs that teach the same stuff I teach talk about enough is that I do believe product fatigue is a real thing. You have to be very careful. 

Webinars That Convert and Courses That Convert have been out for a while. Although they are still selling well I’ve noticed that I need to definitely pay close attention to the fact that maybe they need a new bonus or maybe I need to shift this or change that or definitely keep them updated. 

I’ve been on a mission to do so. We are adding a brand new bonus to Webinars That Convert around how to launch a live workshop if you don’t have a pre-recorded course. We’re building out an entire bonus around that. 

I think that will breathe new life into it. We learned a little bit more about who our audience is this year with Webinars That Convert. We found out that many of them joined the program and have nothing to sell. Once I found that out I thought we should update the program with the brand new bonus. 

I think we need to do that pretty regularly, maybe even once a year, for the programs we continue to sell over and over again. It brings new life to them. It makes them exciting. It makes you more excited as a course creator to talk about them and it allows you to tweak your messaging if needed. It also allows more people to look at it in a different way. 

Wait, Webinars That Convert is going to help me sell even when I don’t have something to sell yet? Maybe I’ll pay attention next time I see her talking about her webinar around this program. 

I think updating a program, keeping it fresh, adding new bonuses is important, especially if it’s on evergreen. 

There are two more lessons I want to share with you. I’ve always said this and my students know this, but there is definitely an increased perceived value for a live launch versus an evergreen launch. Launch, promotion, whatever you want to call it, if it’s live people show up differently, there’s no way around it. 

I’ve always said this and always known this but here’s the thing, when you are evergreen you are promoting every single day. I have a webinar running at multiple times a day every single day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That’s every different than two weeks of live launching. 

Even though the perceived value is greater during a live launch, you can still come out even in the wash if you do it right because you’re running the evergreen promotion every day. Regardless, there is a higher perceived value with live launching so if you only do evergreen I feel you are losing that excitement and energy. 

That leads me to my final big learning and that is that the energy around live launching is like magic. It is. It might sound dramatic but people rally behind something. They get excited. You are solidifying your team. I don’t know if you guys have ever been in a live launch but if you have you know your team rallies together. 

When you meet your goals it’s a huge celebration. When you don’t meet your goals you get tighter in trying to figure out as a team how you’re going to do it. There is a magic that you lose if you don’t live launch at all throughout the year. 

I did two live launches this year. B-School was live. I did live webinars. I showed up live on video. Then I did List-Builder’s Lab. But that’s dramatically different than all of the other live stuff I used to do. I just felt I lost some of the magic going full evergreen. 

Part 4: How I’m Going to Move Forward 

I’ve already hinted at a bunch of this but for next year I’m definitely going to do a mix of live launching and evergreen. I will never give up evergreen. I think as entrepreneurs it is a great way to reach more people to promote consistently so you don’t have those huge highs and lows in your revenue. 

It’s very consistent when you have evergreen. That’s another big bonus to doing evergreen this year. But I also think it’s a great way to get your products and promotions out there but not always having to show up so you don’t burn out. 

However, I don’t need to say it anymore. That live launching component in your business is not only good for your students, it’s good for you as an entrepreneur. Next year I’m going to do a nice mix of both. 

Next week’s episode is all about how to plan out your year since it’s timely in terms of the year ending at the time I’m recording this. You will get to see me talk more about what my year will look like. Then it is literally a mini workshop. 

Next week is a mini workshop walking you through exactly how to plan out your next 12 months. I think you will find it incredibly valuable. I’m doing things a little bit differently in terms of how I’m planning. I’m sharing that with you as well. 

There’s going to be a really nice mix next year. But here’s what I’ll say to kind of wrap things up. You never want to reach burnout. But you also don’t want to reach a point where you just keep doing the same thing over and over again because, as an entrepreneur, I’m guessing you like variety and you like to change things up and you like that excitement. 

I think that’s why it’s hard, sometimes, to be an entrepreneur and have that work/life balance. You don’t want to get burned out but you want to try exciting things. You want to do all things all at once because you’re excited but you also want the white space. 

The struggle is real, for sure. But be aware of it like I am. Just be really aware and you will always find that opportunity to come back to where you feel is a really nice balance, not a perfect balance, but a nice balance for you. 

I also want to encourage you to mix things up. As we move into next week’s episode and I help you plan out your next year keep in mind you definitely want to try new things and make bold moves. I do not regret my year of automation at all but I will not repeat it. 

The lessons, the insights, the ah-ha moments, the revenue, all of that was so worth it and I know how I want to live my life. I know how I want to show up with all of you. This wasn’t it so I’ve got to change things up and that’s the beauty of calling the shots. 

When you’re an entrepreneur you get to change direction whenever you want. You’ve got to love that. 

The last thing as we wrap this up is that I want to be a fierce protector of my own work/life balance and I want to be a really good example to you. You will hear me talk about this more and more in the coming year through this podcast because I think that’s an important topic we need to remember as we dive into funnels and Facebook ads and challenges and webinars and all that good stuff we absolutely love so that is my promise to you. 

Guys, I hope you found this valuable. I talked a lot about “me” in this episode and what I did. But many of you have been asking me to share more of my own experiences in my business so you can see how it works and how it hasn’t worked. 

That’s exactly what this episode was all about. I hope you walk away with some new insights and learnings and new ways to look at how you might approach evergreen and live in your business. 

I can’t wait to connect with you again next week as we plan for the New Year. It’s a mini workshop so bring a notebook, get ready to take tons of notes, and, of course, there will be a really good freebie next week as well. 

I’ll see you then. Have a wonderful week. Bye for now. 

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