Emma Burford

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Interview with Karen MacFadyen – Transcription

Kate       Hi, I’m Kate Barrett, the founder of Shine A Light Media and the Email Marketing Academy, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with everyone from entrepreneurs to fellow email marketing experts where we will be finding out how they use email in their business to give you inspiration in your own work.

My guest today is Karen MacFadyen.  Karen is the owner Cake Coach Online and puts the icing on your cake business.  Karen, thank you so much for joining me today.


Karen    Hi Kate, lovely to hear from you.


Kate       Brilliant, Karen do you want to introduce yourself a little bit more and Cake Coach Online and what prompted you to start your own business.


Karen    Well it was strange really because all my life I had been in accounts and Pas and all the rest of it.  I had always been interested in art and it was something that I hadn’t really done in my day job as it were, although I had got a job in accounts in an interior designers, so it kind of was a bit arty and I’d gone off on a tangent at evening classes and done NLP etc. and suddenly thought how am I going to combine all of this knowledge that I’ve got about accounting and business coaching and I’d done cake decorating at evening classes, and suddenly I had this light bulb moment.  I thought if I combine everything together in a big melting pot, got a big wooden spoon, stirred it all up and then Cake Coach Online sort of appeared, because I could be a business coach to help the cake decorating community, and my vision was to be able to do it online so that I wasn’t selling my one to one time so I could do it on an international level and that was my vision at the time and that’s what I’ve been working on.


Kate       Fantastic, that sounds great, and like a lot of entrepreneurs, you are wanting to build that freedom based business that means you can work with people all over the world.  It’s not necessarily, like you say, selling your one to one time, and you’re really scaling everything up and  I loved you analogy of mixing it all together, that was fantastic.

So what marketing channels are your currently using in that business to generate sales or awareness of the business and what’s really working for you at the moment?


Karen    Well we’ve just started, this is a bit of a “duh” moment, we’ve just started doing the SCO because I was in a mastermind group and the guy was not really interested in SCO, and was like “oh you can do other things”, so we just decided that actually it would be a really good idea to get my website tuned up so that Google searches find me and up to now I’ve made some physical products that have obviously got all my branding on them and been selling them thorough cake equipment warehouses so that’s been raising awareness of what I’m doing.  I’ve done a lot of social media, not in terms of paying for anything but Facebook posts and Pinterest.  For the cake decorating community, obviously they love a nice picture of a cake, so on my boards I’ve got beautiful, I only share the ones that  are really beautiful gorgeous colours and lovely photographs, so Pinterest I’m finding that a lot of my pins are actually re-shared which does make me laugh slightly because I actually managed to put my URL in the pin, and they share that too, which is great, so I’ve got all these busy worker bees sharing my URL all over Pinterest which makes me smile, for nothing as well.  I do Linked in and Twitter and recently I’ve done You Tube so I’ve got just a couple of videos up on You Tube, which is perfect for the people looking for “how do I” and a lot of my girls are looking for “how do I price cakes” so to put some little You Tube videos up which cover that and then they go on to You Tube and search for it, so I have had a lot of success of people actually opting into my list from the You Tube videos which are up there for free. I like free!


Kate       Fantastic, that sounds great, adding value, and giving that free content that really gets people engaged with you, and what you’re doing on Pinterest that all sounds really great as well. I think what you’ve really done there is, you’ve said that your audience wants, this is what they are looking for, and you have obviously gone out there, asked them, found that out and then you’ve served it and you’ve done it through different channels.  I think You Tube is a great example of a channel  that a lot of people are perhaps aren’t using or perhaps are a bit scared to get going with You Tube. Have you got any advice to people that are scared to get on camera, as we’re talking about You Tube?


Karen    You’re talking about being on camera, it’s not me on camera.  I got really good and doing Power Point presentations.   I actually and really awful, I can do audio all day long, but if you put a piece of plastic and that’s a camera videoing me, and suddenly, I blink al lot, so I look really mad.  I don’t ever want to do me to camera.  So because I’m quite arty, I can find some pictures, and I don’t just do death by Power Point thing that has just got loads of words and no pictures.  My niche market is really artistic and really visual so just putting a load of words on a Power Point slide isn’t going to tick their boxes, so I just make sure that I have some really fun images that I get from paying from photolia or istock or wherever and then I record it on Snag It on my PC and I’m quite happy talking to myself in my office.  I have tried webinars as well, that was the other think that I did try but that was a little bit scary on the technology side, because if it all fell part I would not have known how to make the audio work if it fell apart.  To me the soft option and the sneaky option was to actually record a little mini three or four minute You Tube video and put it up on You Tube and then put links in the bottom of it to get people to come to your squeeze page put their name and email in to your website and come in and opt in to your email list so that was the plan.


Kate       Fantastic, and I think again that’s a really great tip in itself.  If you’re really nervous about doing something don’t force yourself into doing it.  Take baby steps and the way round it that you found, being very visual and that could work better for your audience because you can show them these amazing pictures of cakes or techniques and you don’t have to be on the camera, so I think that is really great advice and obviously you mentioned webinars as well.  So how do you learn about these new marketing techniques that you pick up, or update your knowledge for channels that you are already using to optimise your efforts.  How is it that you learn those things?


Karen    I was in a couple of mastermind groups for quite a long time and hence I’ve got A4 books absolutely chock-a-block of information and I used to go to a lot of conferences as well.  Suddenly in about March this year I went “Enough! That’s it, you’ve got five books absolutely full to the brim of these strategies that perhaps you have not even put in place yet and you need to do it”.

I did join the Online Edge Academy because I thought that’s something that really seems to fit with what I need to be learning next, so I do make sure that every time I get a new online program come down from that I sit and study it and work out all the things I’m not doing and try to do them in the month before the next project turns up, as it were.  So I do keep an eye on emails.  I signed up for an awful lot of newsletters but I end up putting them into my Outlook and making sure they just swished into this thing called Newsletters and I think there’s something 3,300 news letters in there, all unread, because at the end of the day how much time have you got to keep reading all this stuff and a lot of it crosses paths with the other information that you’ve already had.  I had to get to the point, yes you’ve got the information , yes you’re good enough, no you don’t need to go to anymore conferences at the moment, you’ve got more or less the cutting edge of everything at the minute because at the time the guys that were teaching me were right at the top of their game. Just put this into place and then we can see what happens from there on. It was really the money that you pay out for these mastermind groups as well as the time, the energy, the money for the hotels and everything so I had to just say, you know what, you’ve been paying out for a long time, it’s time to stop, you know enough, and that is what I did.


Kate       Absolutely, I think we can all get caught up in learning more, learning more, learning more but there is no point in learning all this information unless you then implement it in your business and  put in into practice in reality.  I think that that is a really good tip.  You mentioned that you’ve got over 3,000 emails sitting there unread of newsletters that you’ve signed up with and I think that’s a really good point.

How do you currently use email marketing and how do you aim to cut through that with the people who are receiving your emails who may be in the same situation?


Karen    Well I think a lot of it is to do with the actual heading.  Fortunately, one of the courses that I learnt within one mastermind group that I was in was copyrighting, and he was a very good copywriter, and he explained that unless you have a really good header it’s never going to get opened anyway so you could have the most brilliant offer in the body of the email, but if you’ve got a rubbish header that sounds really boring and people go to reach for the Horlicks and want to go to sleep, there’s absolutely no point, so you had to make a really spiky email.   I noticed actually, I had written a load of emails, a lot of them somebody pointed out, “oh, you’ve put questions”, and it was like “oh I have” I hadn’t done it deliberately but normally I make it a bit curious and a little bit fun as well and just to spike the curiosity really.   The last email sequence that we had going out just recently we were getting 40% open rate, which I understand is really really high and everybody was interacting with my messages, clicking on what they should have been clicking on etc etc.  I think my advice would be to make sure you get a really good header, so that that is what prompts people to open.


Kate       Fantastic, and yes, 40% open rate is definitely a good open rate to be having and getting that engagement from people. So that’s fantastic, that’s really interesting.

When you’re looking at a subject line, you mentioned two things there, so you mentioned obviously asking a question and you mentioned     provoking curiosity and absolutely, those are two of the key techniques that you can use in your subject line and you’re absolutely right and the gentleman that you were with, in the mastermind group is absolutely right in what he said, if you don’t have a really good subject line chances are people are not going to open your email and it doesn’t matter how fantastic your contents, how fantastic your offer is, if you’re not getting people to open it in the first step then they are missing out on all that other information.  Your subject line and your from address, you’re absolutely right, they’re the critical first step to look at and I always say to people, make sure you craft your subject line, make sure you spend time on it, really think about it, use different techniques to provoke curiosity, like you said, and really get the interest going and give them that information and that tease, that pull in to open your email.  You’re absolutely right there and I think those are some great tips for our audience to take away.

Why do you think that email marketing is so important to your business in particular?  How are you using it?  Are you using it to build a relationship or to generate sales?  What’s your strategy involved with at the moment?


Karen    Well both of these really because we are capturing people into the website on three different auto responder areas.  So we’re offering them something of value for free.  I did learn a lot about this, because originally it was I’ve got to make this auto responder lead generation thing, and I made this thing without really asking my audience.  So what I would say to the listeners is check with your audience what is it they would like to know and  make your lead generator free whatever it is actually marry up with what they are looking for because I went off on a tangent.  I thought I’ll just make this thing called the seven big mistakes that I made when cake decorating.  It’s not called that it’s called “Recipes for Disaster”.  We had it all deigned by the graphic designers so it was all lovely and it looked like a really pukka pdf, but at the end of the day, the people that that that attracted was not people that were specifically looking for business  help for their cake decorating businesses.  It was people that might be hobby bakers that were just curious because it was a curious title, it was like “oh what disasters did she have then?  It actually pulled in people that were not my target market  and it was a lesson learned in hindsight that I could have made a more specific lead generator that would have actually been more helpful to build an email list for.

So subsequent to that, and lesson learnt, was I have just recently made a thing called “Weigh up your cakes” which is a whole email sequence because I decided how can I do this the most cost effective way.   Ok, scrap doing a graphic pdf because then graphics have to get involved because I won’t just do it on Clip Art because for me and my niche that doesn’t look particularly good.  If I do it as an e-course, that goes out and pumps out by email then it has not got to be graphically designed, therefore I do not have to pay the graphics to do it and also it covers the base of it will give the seven touches to somebody that has just signed up to my list to warm them up, to nurture them to give them stuff of value and then ultimately we can add in a PS at the bottom and say “hey if you like this why don’t you try this out” and then take them into the sales sequence.   So that is what we’re currently doing so it was a lesson learnt with a couple of the old auto responder sequences and the lead generator that perhaps they did not quite hit the mark and now we have tweaked it and we know that pretty much we have got that right because I put inadvertently on the 4th July, and I hadn’t even thought that it was American Independence Day, I put an unpaid post on Facebook saying “hey why don’t you come and get my cakes free e-course” and I got something like 189 opt ins for free.


Kate       Wow fantastic!


Karen    I suddenly went “WHAT!” and it was coming from America and then it went across America and then it went further off around the world.  You could see then opting in and clearly it had hit the mark because I had done it on my Facebook page, I have got nearly 6,000 fans on Facebook, but as we know Facebook don’t show your posts to so many of them.  I think it eventually got shown to about 900 and I got about 189 opt ins which was pretty good, for free.  So clearly we have hit the button, we’ve actually ticked the box I think on that particular auto responder now.


Kate       Absolutely, that sounds fantastic, and having the triggered email series and the sales funnel all in place so as soon as you get those sign ups they’re straight in to the funnel and being delivered that really valuable information from you so that’s fantastic.  With your auto responders which Email Service Provider are you using to collect your opt ins and run your auto responders and send out all of your other campaigns?


Karen    I am now using Infusionsoft.  I swapped from One Shopping Cart to Infusionsoft a little while ago.


Kate       Fantastic, so what made you choose to move then?  Were there things that you particularly disliked about One Shopping Cart, and things that you particularly liked about Infusionsoft? What made you change?


Karen    One Shopping Cart had no helpline, and honestly I mean I’m not a silly technical person but actually it didn’t make any sense to me at all and there wasn’t anybody to help me and say, this is how you do a broadcast and if you do it like this, and there was so many bits on it I couldn’t actually operate it which is nuts I know, but there was also nobody who was interested in helping anybody use One shopping Cart and I needed One Shopping Cart because I needed a shopping cart in order to have my downloadable digital products so I needed an Email Service Provider that also has the ability to send these digital downloads and I understand not all of them do that.  I was paying, I did have to upgrade in order to put this shopping cart added on to it and in the end Infusionsoft, although everybody goes oh that’s really expensive.   Do you know, it’s not?  If you analyse what Infusionsoft can actually do for you I look at it as my little VA that I don’t have to moan at or anything because I have sent something like 7,600 emails in the last 30 days.  Now Infusionsoft has done that because we have automated it all.  Even when I was on holiday just recently, one of my products is a thing called cake calculator and its actually an Excel spreadsheet that helps the cake decorators price their cakes and invariably people buy it and they can’t open it or it won’t work so we made a generic email that actually covered all of their questions and what you can do in Infusionsoft is when you get an email to you and of course it appears on my Samsung Galaxy android phone, and this lady is saying that she can’t open it, I can on my phone I can get on to an Infusionsoft app which means that I can get on to her name and which means I can add a tag to her name which will fire off this sequence of one email that sends them their Q&A help with opening their cake calculator, and before we did that I was writing individual emails to everybody going here’s another copy or whatever the problem was and now because we’ve looked at the common problem and common thread with all these emails that were coming and what can we do to automate it and that’s what we’re doing with any of the little challenges that we’re having we’re intending to have an email we can fire off even from my phone so you don’t even have to be by the PC which I absolutely love, so that like having your own virtual assistant but you can do it yourself in about a minute.


Kate       Absolutely, that’s fantastic Karen and I think that’s one of main benefits of email that people don’t necessarily get themselves into, its if you plan all these thing out, in terms of what you did with the opt in offer, but also what you’ve done is look at how can I reduce the strain on my business, how can I reduce the strain on me, and use this technology to give me more freedom and flexibility but to be able to be even more on the ball and more helpful than if you were sending the individual emails to people, so I think that sounds fantastic.

I’d like to ask you now Karen, you’ve just described the highs of your email marketing, have you ever made any errors with your email marketing and how did you deal with it if you did?


Karen    I think looking at errors and thinking about it perhaps I’ve been in the past giving away too much before launching into asking them if they would like to buy something.  In terms of big error, I’m not sure, apart from links not working, we did have people who were supposed to be buying things just recently, because we are dealing with the SCO on my website, my techy guy decided he would change some of the links on my pages which meant that people couldn’t get their cake calculators, so I was getting emails saying “please its sending me to a 404 error message”, and it was like oh no, the links have gone, because he was tweaking them to make them Google friendly.   But the thing is, what I’ve learnt, if you make a mistake, it’s not the mistake that you make, it’s how you actually react to it.  One of the guys that I really respect on the business coaching world, he always says speed stuns, so because of all my emails that come into my PC also come on to my mobile phone, I actually make sure that if I get a customer query that I’m on to it like a rash really, and I have had so many emails back saying thank you so much for replying to me, and even on a Sunday and it’s like actually it was no problem, I was sat on the sofa, I saw it come in, somebody said they couldn’t open their cake calculator, I pinged my usual tag and they got what they thought was a personalised email.

So in terms of errors I haven’t made loads really.  My biggest error was staying with One Shopping Cart as long as it did and not understanding how it worked and therefore I didn’t really nurture my list at the time so of course they all went a but cold, so I would say go with an Email Service Provider that you actually understand and can work with, and has a good helpline.


Kate       Try them out, play around with them, get a demo, have a look at the system and have a play with it before you commit to it.  Again that’s great advice.

What’s your biggest email marketing challenge at the moment?  Is there anything email wise that’s stumping you a little bit, or that you’re working on a new strategy for, or to optimise, what’s your biggest challenge right now?


Karen    Right, biggest challenge is we started with Infusionsoft and we decided that we would pull apart a lot of the stuff that the mastermind chap had advised and it was very “Buy my stuff now” and actually the cake decorators need to be more nurtured than that, so we strung out the email sequences and my very first paid for product is only £2.99, so what we realised, and this was only just recently, light bulb moment!  It was if you ask people to buy something at £2.99 and you can’t put a scarcity thing on it, like you can’t make it any cheaper than £2.99, you can’t give it a discount because then it would be nothing.  So it’s like you haven’t got any scarcity in your campaigns, what are you going to do?  I was reading actually Jeff Walker’s Launch which I’ve got on my Kindle.


Kate       I’m just about to start reading it!


Karen    Fabulous, I was reading that on holiday which was really sad, but anyway I was on holiday and was reading it on my Kindle, and I was like “oh my goodness, light bulb moment, I haven’t got, and this was happening in the next product up as well, I had not got a reason for them to buy.  Now apart from saying oh you get a 20% discount, which actually not only Jeff Walker and actually Melanie Duncan have all said have actually said a little discount for money isn’t particularly compelling.  So I thought what can I do better, what could I add to my strategy now of this email campaign that were going through two or three products and I thought actually I’ve got to add in a must have product that isn’t available on my website that has got a value that expires, because with Infusionsoft you can put in a sequence and then say, sorry, offer expired which is great.

So what I did when I thought about it, we made a product, and I did this in a week.  I thought, I know, I’m going to ask, it was called a Baker’s Dozen, its 13 essential questions you must ask before pricing a cake.   So we got that made on a pdf my graphics so it all looks beautiful and then I actually recorded an audio, just talking to myself on my little zoom recorder, 20 minutes worth of why these 13 questions were absolutely essential.  We were adding this to say buy the cake calculator and if you get this within the next 5 days you will get these two added bonus products which are not available anywhere on my website, so it gives the scarcity of they will disappear in 5 days and hopefully people will buy.  We’ve only just started trailing this so ask me again in about six months’ time and I can tell you!


Kate       I will!  I think that’s the best way to overcome a challenge, is brainstorm it, what can we do here? You learnt from other people, you read Jeff Walker’s book, you found that challenge you were having and you’ve pinpointed it and you’ve worked it out and you’ve optimised it and added to it, so I think that’s absolutely fantastic.  Again, absolutely the right thing to do.

Karen, what’s going on in your business right now?  Are you launching any new products that you would like to tell our listeners about and if you are,  anything big that’s going on with you like that,  how are your future email marketing plans going to help you achieve it?


Karen    Well we are working on the sequences at the moment.  In fact I’ve got a mastermind group with my Infusionsoft techy person tomorrow.  So what we are going to do tomorrow is really hone down our list, we’re going to clean our list because we are going to get rid of the people that do not open any emails, because that’s affecting our delivery rate on our emails so we are going to have a look and see who’s on there that hasn’t opened anything and we are going to look at our bounce rate. That’s what we’re doing tomorrow.  But we are also, I have just made some lead pages, like sales pages for a product for Cake Pricing Slices, which is the next logical step from the cake calculator.  We had made a big program called Cash for Cakes which had 8 modules, and to be honest since I launched it to my list nobody has bought it and I think it’s too expensive for my particular niche.  So now we are pulling it apart and selling it in little chunks   and also Infusion soft and Paypal thank goodness, about two months ago allowed my particular app and me to be able to sell things on a standing order so that’s brilliant.   So instead of it being a big chunk of money  , we can slice it up, pump it out over an 8 month period and get people to pay a little bit and still get their program  that they can now afford so we are just launching all that now so there’s so much going on it’s a bit mad really!


Kate       That’s brilliant! Keeps you busy!  I think that great because everything that you talked about there, it’s all coming back to email marketing being your primary tool to deliver that to people or to put them into the sales funnel to give them the extra value, to get to know them, for them to get to know you because you need to build that relationship before people are going to purchase from you. I think that is absolutely fantastic.


Karen    The other thing Kate, let me just say, because when I was thinking about this 8 module program, it was oh I need this membership site, and you go, oh for goodness sake that another probably £1,500 to put a membership site together, and one of the techy guys said, hang on a minute you don’t need to do that, if you’ve got Infusionsoft  we’ll just pump out your module one a month or once a week, whatever you want it via email, so of course we made Cash for Cakes and it’s a pdf that has got embedded into it videos which are hosted on Vimeo  and we passworded them so they are all protected.   It’s a nice pdf that has got the videos in it, plus downloadable Excel worksheets, they are all interactive, so if they look at them on their PC or Mac or whatever they can actually calculate things in the worksheets and I’ve made sure that they can’t destroy my formula by protecting certain bits of the worksheet.  But we pump that product out via email and to me that was like, oh I didn’t know I could do that I thought it I was going to do this product thing that was 8 modules I would have to get a membership website and people would have to pay and be part of this thing that they have to enter but no, we have managed to pump it our via email with the clickable links within the email and of course on top of that instead of them going to membership website and just looking at your videos  I can actually send supporting emails to them over until the next module arrives so “have you done this” or “have you thought about this” whatever, in the period of time which is brilliant for a coaching program.


Kate       Absolutely, that’s brilliant, you’re holding their hand the whole way through and leading them through it and using email to get the information directly to them, using Vimeo to lock down the videos so that nobody else can get in other than the specific people that are actually supposed to.  That sounds brilliant and really great use of email there and a great alternative for people if they don’t want to build a membership site or like you said, don’t want to spend a lot of budget on it. Absolutely, think outside the box, use what’s there, and that’s what email is great for.  If you think about it, plan it through, I think as you’ve shown in the interview today, there’s some really clever things you can do with it.  I hope you don’t mind me saying, you’re not a mega multimillion pound business like a Debenhams or a Tesco, we’d all love to be there but the main point here is email is fantastic.   Even if you’ve got millions of pounds in budget to spend on it, brilliant, and there’s lots of things we can do here, but you’re really showing that just with a little bit of time, a little bit of thought, and a little bit of hard work you can create some really fantastic valuable campaigns for your audience.

Karen I’m loving everything that you’ve told us about today, and that you’re looking down, even tomorrow you’re going to deep  dive into your email marketing and look at your bounces, you’re going to look at your inactive subscribers,  these are all really fantastic techniques that a lot of people are not quite there yet to be able to go into as much detail as you are but I think it’s really great for small business owners and entrepreneurs to know that you don’t have to have millions of pounds for email marketing.  That’s the great thing about.  If you’ve got millions, trust me can do stuff with it and make it even better, but if you don’t there’s so many clever things that you can do with the systems that are out there.  That all sounds fantastic and I think we’ve got some great tips and insight from you Karen

How I always end my interviews is to ask, which business people do you admire and why?  Do you have a couple of recommendations that you can give us?


Karen    Well one of my favourites at the moment is Melanie Duncan., just because it’s clear and obvious to me that she does what it says on the tin.  She is really successful and you can see her business working so I really respect that.  I have been caught out in the past with people saying, oh I do this and I do that, and actually it turns out that actually if you analysed their business maybe they were just very good at telling people what they did but actually it wasn’t completely the truth.  So I’m very much into people that really show, who do what they say and they say what they do sort of thing, so Melanie is great. Another guy is Peter Thompson.  I just love Peter Thompson.   He is well known in the business coaching and personal development arena and his really good, he is a prolific writer, he’s got a great sense of humour and he makes great products.  For me, because I wanted to make digital online products in order to not sell my one to one time etc, he was a really good role model for me, to help me.  Those would be my two favourites at the moment.


Kate       I think those are two fantastic suggestions Karen.  Thank you so much for your time today, it’s been really lovely talking to you.  As I said, some really great insights and thank you for sharing how you’re using email in your business and what’s working for you right now.


Karen    You’re very welcome.