Today on the show, we are talking to Heather O’Donnell of Happy Humble Home. Heather got her start the way a lot of bloggers do – by cranking out as much content as possible, pinning like crazy, and trying to grow her traffic numbers. After growing organically to the point that she qualified for MediaVine, she decided to give Facebook ads a try.
Press play on the podcast player below to hear the full episode.
Growing Her Blog Organically
Heather started HappyHumbleHome.com four and a half years ago and for the first years spent a lot of time growing her traffic and her email list and developing a few products. She qualified for MediaVine and her most profitable month of income was $1,000 which felt huge to her.
But it was time for more.
Diving Into Facebook Ads to Grow
Heather’s business philosophy has been that, other than her initial investment to get started, she never puts any money into the business outside of what the business itself earns.
“I was excited to try Facebook ads, because I had kind of dabbled with them in the past but I had no idea what I was doing. And it just felt really overwhelming and scary to actually pay to make money.
“With all the organic stuff that I had tried before it was so much work. But it was just a time commitment. So I felt like the only thing I had to lose was my time. And now that I actually had money to lose, it was really scary.”
Happy Humble Home is a personal finance blog so it was very important to Heather that her business financial practices aligned with her beliefs.
“I'm kind of a frugal person in real life. And I just didn't want to put myself in a place where I was using all my family's money to grow this business. I was writing about how to save money and I wanted to do that in practice with my business, too.”
Life has a way of throwing a wrench into our best-laid plans sometimes and soon after starting the Ads Intensive, Heather found out she was pregnant and just didn’t have the energy or desire to put into learning Facebook Ads.
“I was just kind of burnt out on that business, to be honest. I don’t think I realized it at the time but as I was trying to do all the things, it just got to be too much. If you were giving grades for the intensive, I would have flunked out!
“I just kind of gave up on ads. I gave myself a very, very long maternity leave and I just took a break. While I was on my break, I heard from my blogging friends that they were having some success with ads, so I had that in the back of my mind to revisit this again in the future. It just wasn’t the right time for me.”
Pivoting to a New Business
After spending a year off, Heather was ready to come back to the blogging business world but she decided to switch her focus.
“I was feeling like I wanted to get back into business, but I wasn't really sure how I wanted to do it. I knew I didn't want to write about money anymore. At that point, my main thing was a grocery budget challenge and I was getting my groceries delivered because of COVID – I wasn't living my budgeting advice so I just didn't feel like I could write about that.
“At the same time, so many people were learning from home and confused about how to do it. My background is as a kindergarten teacher, and I just had this overwhelming feeling like I want to take everyone's kid into my house and help them teach them. I was trying to figure out, how can I help these families, and do it with a business.
“I started an Instagram account – @KindergartenReadiness and I just started sharing tips and ideas for teaching your child and preparing them for kindergarten.
“I really connected with the members of that community. I had moms reaching out to me saying, I'm trying to teach my child I am so overwhelmed. Can you tell me what to do? Can you help me? And I was like, Yes, I can. So there were a lot of direct messages back and forth and it got to be a little bit too much.”
Bringing Her Existing Business Skills Into Her New Business
Heather knew that masses of direct messages wouldn’t work long-term so she had to come up with a plan that she could use to help the most people. Because of everything she had learned about running a business with Happy Humble Home, she was able to get things up and running quickly.
“I started thinking about their felt needs and connecting that to products that I could make for them. Because even though I was kind of starting over, I was bringing my four and a half years of business experience to this new business. It wasn't like a fresh start. I kind of knew what to do.
“So I was thinking about products to create. And the biggest thing I kept hearing was, I don't know what to teach my child. So I thought I'll create some kind of guide that tells moms what they should teach their kids. I wrote about 40 pages of this guide and then I realized, no one wants to read this. This should be a course. So I just put that on the backburner after spending like a month on it to come back to later. I wasn’t ready for that yet and now I have this guide that I can come back to later and make a giant course out of it.
“So now what? I needed something else. I needed a tripwire product. I knew I wanted to make the most obvious thing that everyone knows they have to teach their child, and that was the alphabet.”
“I was just trying to create something I can use for a small tripwire. But my products have a tendency to get out of hand and become bigger. So I just wanted to make like, 50 pages of alphabet activities. But what I actually created is the Ultimate Alphabet Learning Kit and it’s 520 pages. There are 20 pages for each letter and a 20 page Starter Guide.
“It gives you everything that you could ever need to know about teaching your child's alphabet. I tell you how to move your pencil to write the letter. I tell you how to move your mouth to make the letter sounds. I walk you through it bit by bit because it's not geared towards teachers. It's geared towards moms who know their letters, but don't know how to teach it.
“It was just the closest thing that I could get to holding their hands and guiding them through it. So it was great. But it wasn't perfect for a tripwire. And I was kind of confused where to go from there. So of course, I talked to my blog friends and Erin mentioned to me that she had tried some direct-to-sales ads. That sounded like a good idea so I went back to your Ads Intensive.
“I love how you so generously give former students access to the most recent slides and lesson replays. Even though I couldn’t participate live and ask questions in the group, I was still following along and learning everything.”
Focusing on Gathering Information
Since this was a new product and new audience for Heather, her initial ad strategy was to get as much information as she could as quickly as possible. Would people buy this product?
“I set up six ad campaigns at $20 a day to six different audiences. And since I started with that Instagram account, I could use that to create a lookalike audiences on my Facebook campaign. So even though I didn't have an email list, and I was starting from scratch, at least I had that.
“So I created these six campaigns and decided to let them run for one day. And if no one buys I give up, but I'll just like make tweaks as I need to. And then they started selling better than I had ever sold anything!
“Then I was able to take those campaigns and keep going through the lessons in the Ads Intensive to figure out where to go next. People are buying this so how do I move forward? It was just so helpful to me to be able to scale them and test things with your amazing thing that you created and use that to get my product out there.”
I love how Heather was able to pick up on this need and provide something that is universally important to help people. Sometimes people can go way out into left field trying to be different than everyone else but that doesn’t necessarily work because then you have to work even harder to convince people that it’s a product worth buying.
Another thing Heather had going for her was her authority. She had her experience as a Kindergarten teacher to back up her product.
Heather checked all the boxes. People were clear that she was the expert, she knew what she was doing, and she was going to be the best resource for them.
Figuring Out the Best Pricing
Heather is selling her product on a one-day sale for $19 and after that the price raises to $49, which is still a great price for her product. She was also able to add an order bump for $9 to buy a few other learning activities she had created previously but never sold.
It’s so important to find the right price for your product. I hear a lot of instructors basically say, don't undercharge, don't undersell yourself. Of course you want to make a profit but you also have to consider what the market will support. I get so frustrated with that mindset mentality, because here's the truth, Heather’s product is worth a lot. It's worth more than $100. It’s her years of experience and it's amazing. But we have to price our products at what the market will bear and not what we think they're worth, even if we're correct.
I just want everyone listening to understand that, yes, you worked really hard on your products, and they're worth a ton, but you need to be willing to make whatever decisions actually bring you the most profit in your business, allow you to serve the right customers, and actually earn new customers.
It’s okay to test different price points and other options but it’s important to make decisions based on the data and not based on your feelings about what a product should be worth.
Heather says, “Pricing is like the hardest thing in online business, figuring that out. But I knew that this would be my entry point product. I will have a bigger product that will cost more money and also deliver tremendous value. I'm not there yet. But that's where I'm going. And I can see that path. I have to prove myself with this product and let people get to know me then they’ll be ready for more.”
Launching Without a List IS Possible Using Ads
Heather was able to see sales on the first day of her ads, which is always encouraging, but especially when starting from scratch the way she was.
“One of the things you teach us is to hold on and see what happens. But that's so hard when you're just getting started and you're not sure. No one had bought my product before I started running ads. I didn't launch to a list. I didn't have anyone to sell it to organically. I just put it out there. So I did have I think ten sales on day one. And I was thrilled with that.”
Sometimes people work very hard to build up a list in advance and still come out with only ten sales in the first day so Heather’s results are amazing!
Jump-Starting Her New Business Growth with Ads
If you recall, Heather grew her audience at Happy Humble Home organically before starting to run ads. This time she did it in the reverse order. She started the ads and grew an audience from them.
“I am spending a lot on my ads, but I don't feel like I am because I'm just putting the money that I'm making from ads back into ads. So the only money of my own that I put into my ads was the first $120. Since then I’ve just been reinvesting what I've made. The numbers are so exciting.
“First of all, my email list, with Happy Humble Home took me four years to hit 5000 subscribers organically and I was so thrilled about that growth. Now it's been 10 weeks since I started the kindergarten ads and I have 6000 subscribers on my new email list!”
(I gotta say – it’s hard not to be addicted to Facebook ads when you hear numbers like these!)
“I think for anyone who's an impatient human being, honestly, ads are a better way to go. Because that was my struggle with organic traffic. I understand the principles. I know that I can just keep pinning and pinning and creating more blog content. I know that I could figure out Google and SEO but I literally will not know what's truly working or not working until months down the road, or maybe even a year down the road. And that is painful to me!
“I understand that there's some people who have such a knack for it, that they get to that point where they kind of know, as they're writing a blog post, like, Oh, yeah, this one's gonna rank well, But again, I think it takes a couple years to kind of get to that point for a lot of people. And I'm just like, I don't have the patience for this. I just want my products out there and be able to see, do they like it? Do they not like it? And then like, literally day to day, you can see what the data shows you and you can tweak things.
“So it's just a lot faster that you're getting feedback.”
Obviously Heather has a lot of experience with blogging and online business that she is bringing to the table with her new venture. It’s not her first rodeo. But she has been able to take everything she has learned and combine it with her teaching expertise to create a new business that she can grow using different strategies.
Heather is loving her new business. “This way is so much more fun because you get to make money. With my Facebook ads to my $19 product with a $9 order bump, I've made just under $20,000 in 10 weeks! That's more than I made in four and a half years of my whole other business all put together in 10 weeks. It's amazing.”
“I'm absolutely spending money on ads. My total revenue is just under $50,000. So that's more than half. Even though my return on ad spend is over two, I've tested out so many things that I lost a little money along the way, but I had it to lose because of the way I came into this with an untested product.
“So I spent almost $30,000 on ads, but it's not my money. It's just the money that's coming in being recycled back to ads. I'm not taking $30,000 out of my bank accounts to put towards ads. I never do that.
“I just take my revenue and subtract my ad cost. And that's what I made that day in profit.”
Freebie Subscribers vs Customers
Heather’s list has 6,000 people on it currently. About 2,000 of them came to the list after purchasing the alphabet product. The other 4,000 people on the list downloaded the freebie but didn’t purchase the tripwire. Heather has seen a definite difference in the subsequent purchasing behavior of the people on her list.
“On Black Friday, I ran a parallel sale. I did one sale to my subscribers that were not customers where they had the option to purchase the new product in addition to having another chance to purchase the alphabet kit.
“Then I did a separate sale to my customers for a winter activities product that I was launching on Black Friday. The customers, even though it was a much smaller group, made me so much more money because they were hot leads.
“So I am so excited to build my list from people coming to me as customers versus signing up for this free thing and always expecting something free because I know they're gonna buy from me again.
“I made twice as much from the customers than I did from the non-customer subscribers despite having three times as many non-customers on the list.
“I don't have the exact numbers of the profit from that but it was just so interesting to see. The people who already have my thing and have already purchased from me are so much more likely to buy again.”
Businesses Are Supposed to Make Money
If you have a business, then your goal is to make money. And that's not something that we need to hide or be embarrassed about. We should be proud that we have amazing products to sell and go out there and say, here it is, and it’s a great value that you don’t want to miss out on.
Heather says, “I think that's the biggest lesson I learned from my first first four years with Happy Humble Home because all the other things have gone so much easier. I don't have to put myself out there as much to promote someone else's product as an affiliate or get ad revenue, which I thought for the longest time was like the way to go.
“So those first four years, even though I wasn't making that much money, I don't feel like it's wasted time because now it's so cemented to me like, this is the way to go.”
I love this encouragement that hey, if your business hasn't been earning the money that you want, maybe take a step back, get back to the basics. Create an awesome product and figure out how to market and sell it.
A Tip to Make Product Creation Go Faster – Templates!
Heather is about to create a new Numbers kit, similar to her alphabet kit. She shared a secret to make product creation faster – use a template.
“Here's a really great product creation hack for people creating any PDF type of product. I created a template for my letter A packet. And then I just use that same template for every single letter. I'm doing the same thing with my numbers product.
“It's the same template for every packet. So the information is different, but I'm not redesigning the wheel every time I create a new packet, right? It's my favorite way to create products. I wish I thought of this years ago, it's so smart, because I can pump them out. I'm just putting my content into the template that I created.”
Another Tip – Don’t Let Perfection Hold You Back!
Heather is a recovering perfectionist but is refusing to let perfection hold her back anymore.
“I fought perfectionism for a really long time in my business. I wanted to get everything out there and have it be perfect. But I'm not letting that hold me back anymore.
“So even with this alphabet kit, can I tell you? It's gigantic, and I proofread it like five times before I put it out there but it still wasn't perfect. I was copying my template and replacing the letters and sometimes I messed up and left the wrong letter in there. The first couple of weeks that I was selling this I got an email telling me about the mistake. So I said let me fix it and send it back out.
“I'm not letting the need to have everything be perfect hold me back anymore because it takes so much longer to get where you're going that way, and I don't want to waste any time.
“So I'm just gonna do the best I can, and I'm going to put out what I have. And if I have to fix it later, I will. And in doing that I've made $20,000 in 10 weeks.
:So, yeah, maybe someone's unhappy that it wasn't perfect, but I'll give them a better version later. And I'm just gonna do the best I can.”
There's always the ability to improve upon our products later and improve upon them as we go. And to make sure that our past customers get those improvements and they benefit from that. But it doesn't serve us or our customers to obsess and try to get everything perfect, because we're not perfect.
“I won't let myself compare it to anyone else's work because I might feel bad about how it looks. It's good enough. Compared to any worksheet that I've used in my classroom, it's fine. It doesn't look any worse than theirs. And it’s helping my customers.”
An Update From Heather
We recorded this episode at the beginning of 2021. Heather recently sent an update. She averaged $20,000 per month profit in the first quarter of the year. That’s so great! I can’t wait to see how her business continues to grow!