Ready to see how to explode your email list with an easy, fun email challenge? It’s easier than you think.
In this episode, I’m interviewing Haeley Giambalvo. Haeley is an old time blogger, but she started a new gardening blog called Native Backyards about a year ago.
At first Haeley’s email list was growing slowly. Then she created her 4-week simple email challenge, and it helped her grow her list by over 700 subscribers in two months.
Topics Haeley and I discuss in this episode:
- How to come up with your email challenge idea
- How to set up and run your challenge just using email and a Facebook group
- How to keep your audience excited during the challenge
- How to create products to support your business
- What to do when the challenge is over!
What you will see, after listening to this episode, is that an email challenge doesn’t have to be complicated. Just use Haeley’s straight-forward strategy and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can grow your list.
Table of Contents
- How to Set Up a Paid Workshop
- MiloTree Easy Payments
- Native Backyards
- Design Improvised
- Catch My Party
- Free MiloTree Blog Post Checklist
- Become a Blogger Genius Facebook Group
- All Blogger Genius Podcast Episodes
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Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. And I am incredibly excited to announce that on November 17th, Alisa Meredith and I are leading a live Zoom workshop on How to Set Up a Paid Workshop.
So, this has to do with the new product that David and I are rolling out called MiloTree Easy Payments. And this is a payment platform, a way to get paid for things like memberships, or workshops or coaching sessions.
It is the leanest solution, that’s what we set out to build. And I think we’ve done this. So, to put my money where my mouth is, I’m leading a paid workshop, it costs $10 to join. So, that I can then in an hour show you how easy it is to set up your own paid workshop.
So, instead of continually giving away content for free, this is the most awesome way to get paid for what you know. And it is not hard to set up.
Plus, it is a great launch pad for building out more workshops, a membership coaching all of these other ways that you can monetize. Next step, please go to this URL. It is workshop.milotreecart.com. So, please write this down. Workshop.milotreecart.com.
This is the sales page I set up in about 10 minutes for our workshop. When you set up your own workshop in MiloTree Easy Payments, you get the same sales page template, and we will host it for you at milotreecart.com.
So, by the end of the workshop, you will have everything you need to set up your own paid workshop. And remember MiloTree Easy Payments, we only get paid when you do we just take a small transaction fee, there’s no monthly fee to use our service.
Given that you are probably putting out a lot of content for free. We believe that as creators, we all should be able to monetize what we know. And really that is my goal. That’s why we built this, one more time workshop.milotreecart.com.
How to Explode Your Email List with an Easy, Fun Email Challenge
For today’s episode, I also have this awesome episode. I am interviewing my friend Haeley Giambalvo. And she has a new blog.
She’s an old time blogger, but she started a new blog called Native Backyards where she teaches people how to plant native plants in their yards. Now, Haeley came up with this challenge to grow her email list and it worked so well.
So, I asked her to come on the show, and literally go step-by-step so you can use her strategy to grow your own email list. There is real money in your email list. It is the best way to get your audience to know, like and trust you.
When I saw this clicking for Haeley, I couldn’t wait to interview her without further delay. Here is my interview with Haeley Giambalvo. Haeley, welcome to the show.
Haeley Giambalvo 3:59
Thank you so much, Jillian, I’m so flattered to be here. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time like I told you. I think I’ve listened to every single episode of this podcast. And I’ve been a member of your entrepreneurial membership group. So, super happy to be here.
Jillian Leslie 4:13
Oh, well, we are friends. And so, it feels like oh, I’m just getting to talk to my friend and I’ve been part of your journey. And I feel really honored to watch you grow to help you along the way.
And what I love and we’re going to talk about it, but what you’re doing is that you’re doing something that you’re very passionate about. And I think you can feel that in everything that you are building.
So, will you share your entrepreneurial journey and how you created your different businesses and where you are today.
Haeley Giambalvo 4:50
Sure. So, my name is Haeley Giambalvo. I’m based here in San Antonio, Texas, and I’m a long time blogger and online content marketer, I currently have two websites.
One is a craft blog called Design Improvised. And that’s focused on simple crafts that make a big impact in your home. So, I tried to do things that are under an hour under $20. All quick and easy crafts.
And I started that way back in 2011. So, I’ve been blogging and creating there for a decade.
Starting a Craft Blog Ten Years Ago
And I have a second website that I started just last November. And that’s when I reached out to you, Jillian, for some help and support as I was going on my new venture. And it is a website dedicated to gardening called Native Backyards.
And it is specifically dedicated to gardening with native plants that help the environment because they support pollinators and insects and other wildlife. And I can get into that a little bit more later. But those are my two websites.
And kind of a little bit of background, I started Design Improvised right after I had my first daughter and was looking for an outlet back in 2011, a creative outlet. I’ve always enjoyed making things.
And I wanted a place to share some of the projects I was working on, like her nursery design and her first birthday party. I think that’s what a lot of people were doing at that time when they were starting blogs, it was kind of for a hobby.
I didn’t have any real goals or intent with it. But I found that I was really enjoying it. And over the years I just stuck with it, I kept putting ideas out there. I kept growing and becoming a little bit more serious about treating it as a job.
And I found that what I was really good at was partnering with a handful of brands that wanted me to create original content for them. So, craft tutorials are room makeovers with some other home decor furnishings.
And so, that’s really how I was able to transition my blog into a full time business for me for the past five or so years, was just working one-on-one with brands to create content. And I really have enjoyed that.
I think I’ve now created like over 500 projects on my site so I have a lot of stuff out there. It’s a lot of home decor and holiday crafts. And a great thing for me to do when my children were young. I have two daughters who are now 10 and 12.
Like I said, holiday crafts, a lot of kids parties and kids crafts as well. But I could feel after doing it for a decade that I knew there would become a day where, I would eventually maybe run out of ideas.
Especially with holidays, there’s only so many Easter crafts you can make or so many Halloween decorations you can come up with. So, I felt that kind of natural desire to maybe transition a little bit and pivot and my interests were changing as well.
So, a couple years ago, just separate from my my blog, I pursued a program called Master Naturalist, the Texas Master Naturalist program.
And just a quick overview it’s actually a program they have them in all states I believe. It’s a way to learn about your local eco region, everything from the the plants, to the local wildlife, to your rocks, and water, everything to do with your local area.
And you become a little bit of an expert in your local ecosystem. And in exchange for that you dedicate at least 40 hours of your time every year to volunteering at local natural areas, helping maintain trails, hiking trails, native plant gardens.
Helping with bird counts, there’s a ton of cool stuff you can do it’s all nature related. And I fell in love with that program a couple years ago. It was something I wanted to do. I had a little more time since both my girls are in school.
And it really started me down this journey of becoming interested in native plants. And I can tell you what those are because I’m assuming most people are where I was two years ago. I’ve never heard of that concept.
So, native plants are just plants that have grown in your local area for thousands of years versus they’ve been out in nature. They haven’t been introduced by humans, imported from some other part of the world.
And what most people probably don’t know what I didn’t realize is that the majority of our yards here in suburban USA are full of non-native plants.
I found out that my yard here in San Antonio has a lot of plants from Asia and Africa, Evergreen kind of tropical plants. And very little that was actually from Texas. And why that matters is because native plants are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem.
Insects things like butterfly, caterpillars rely on certain plants to be involved with for food. So, if there’s no native plants around they don’t have any food to eat.
And I think an example that most people are familiar with is like the monarch butterfly and milkweed.
So, milkweed is a native plant here in the US. And without milkweed there’ll be no butterflies, but it’s something that has been really declining because of development.
People don’t grow milkweed in their backyards, although a lot are starting to because of that problem. So, native plants are just super important for helping to sustain the insect populations and a kind of as a chain reaction.
Birds need insects for their food. So, if you want to have birds, you need them as well. And I was just so like kind of mind blown by this concept that I started making a lot of changes in my own yard and gardening a lot more.
And wanting to spread the word to a lot of people that I know probably love gardening like me, but maybe aren’t aware of that they can actually make a difference from their own yard by just planting a few different things.
Launching a Second Niche Gardening Blog
So, I decided I wanted to launch a second website called Native Backyards, purely to put information out there that’s easy to understand and kind of an introduction into gardening with native plants.
So, that is why I started that website last November. And it’s been a fun journey to kind of start from scratch after doing Design Improvised for so long to do something completely new.
When I started Design Improvised, I had to learn everything from the ground up and now coming into Native Backyards. I have a lot of experience on what works, what doesn’t work, and was able to start fresh.
And yeah, try to apply what I’ve learned to have a successful website quickly.
Jillian Leslie 11:10
What I think is super interesting is you kind of backed into a business the first time and in fact, that’s a very common story. Oh, my God, I’m making stuff for my blog, hey, this is my hobby, hey, I’m getting traffic, hey, I could monetize that traffic.
Hey, oh, my God, I have a business, I could put pins up on Pinterest. And I don’t even have to have a tremendous amount of intention. I’m learning as I go. And then you came to me and you’re like, “I’m starting from scratch.”
And so, you have all of this knowledge, 10 years of SEO, things like that, but yet, also the world is different. So now, it’s all about like, niching down and being intentional and growing your list and things like that.
It’s like, oh, there are pieces of things I need to put in place to actually grow this as a business. Because 10 years ago, traffic was easier to get. And there weren’t as many people and there weren’t people who are competing for keywords, things like that.
And so, it’s interesting to see you with your second business. And the thing that I want to talk about with you is you came up with a challenge to grow your email list. And I was really impressed because you put all of the pieces together.
And I have to say, I think it’s been really successful. So, for people out there who go, “Oh, I know, I need to grow my email list. Maybe I just make like a checklist or a PDF or something like that. But I don’t even know how to do that.”
I wanted you to come on the show to go through how you thought this through what the steps were, what worked, what didn’t? And how you feel about it going forward?
And can we start with first of all, like, how was your list before you started this? And where are you now?
Growing Your Email List with a Challenge
Haeley Giambalvo 13:00
Sure. So I think at the very beginning, when I started my website back in November, I think I just had a “Sign up for my newsletter” button. And that was it. There was no opt-in or any freebie or anything like that. I just stuck that on there.
So, obviously that wouldn’t be super successful to get a lot of people signing up. But I think starting from November until I ran the first challenge this May I honestly probably had maybe 50 people that had signed up through that route over those months.
And then once I started changing all my opt-ins to be around, “Join the challenge.” This is a Native Backyard challenge. And I had a specific date that they needed to join by. So, I started kind of promoting it about a month ahead of the challenge launch.
So, starting May 1, I started to get a lot of people signing up. I think that first challenge I had 250 people sign up over that month, where I was actively promoting it and talking about it.
I created a landing page, which outlined what the challenge was, and had people sign up from that. And I had it on my homepage as well. Even on my Instagram profile, the link was “Sign up for the challenge.”
Everything was trying to drive people to the challenge. And for my first time doing it, I thought that was pretty great. And it was a pretty engaged group of folks as well.
Running the Email Challenge a Second Time with Great Results
And then I decided because it was a pretty good response and high engagement I decided to do it again in the fall. And so I’m actually in the middle of one right now that started September 15. And now we have about 700 people doing it.
Jillian Leslie 14:35
Oh my gosh!
Haeley Giambalvo 14:35
So, it’s only grown from there.
Jillian Leslie 14:38
Okay. So, let’s break this down. Where did you get the idea I want to do a challenge?
Coming Up With Your Email Challenge Idea
Haeley Giambalvo 14:46
Well, to be honest, I was trying to think Jillian, I think I got the idea when I was part of your entrepreneurial coaching group because it was one month. We were talking about like email marketing and opt-ins.
We were trying to think of opt-ins and I don’t know what sparked the idea necessarily. But I don’t know if you were talking about challenges. I’ve done email challenges before. And I think everyone likes a good challenge.
So, I was trying to think of what’s a way to get people involved. And to make it really simple for them to feel like they’re getting a start on gardening with native plants. And I can lead them through this process together.
And we can do it together as a community. That was another thing that I thought would make it fun as a challenge is that to start on a specific date, and we’re all doing it together for this one month, and we can share our progress with each other.
I created a Facebook group specifically for that purpose. I thought, maybe that could work. And this is something that I came up with. I had never done anything like that before.
And I didn’t know if anyone would sign up for my Facebook group when I created it. But yeah, it was pretty useful.
Jillian Leslie 15:50
So, let’s break it down. Who’s your email service provider? Let’s start there.
Haeley Giambalvo 15:54
Okay, so I use MailerLite, which I’ve been happy with.
Jillian Leslie 15:58
Yep, I really like MailerLite, okay. And you say to yourself, I want people to plant native plants. That right was kind of like the whole intention of the challenge.
Haeley Giambalvo 16:11
Setting Up a Challenge Through Email and a Facebook Group
Jillian Leslie 16:12
So you said, I’m going to set this up, because I was also there throughout and read your emails and things like that. So the whole idea is, you’re going to do it all through email and have a Facebook group?
Haeley Giambalvo 16:24
Correct. Yeah, I can kind of describe how it was set up. So, I made it pretty clear at the beginning, before people signed up what it was going to entail, what each of the four weeks entailed. And what the ultimate goal, the challenge was.
And I made the challenge, really simple. So, the ultimate goal was just by the end of the month to add two plants that are native to your area to your yard. So that’s it.
Jillian Leslie 16:44
So, you’re going to plant two plants. That’s it?
Haeley Giambalvo 16:46
Yes, two plants.
Jillian Leslie 16:47
Haeley Giambalvo 16:47
And, if we get 200 people to do it, and we all do it, that means there’s 400 additional native plants out there in the environment, helping support pollinators.
Jillian Leslie 16:55
One thing that I want to say, which I’ve continued, as I hear you and coach you, in your business, is that there is this higher calling to what you do, which is you’re helping save the planet.
And I kept saying to you, like, whoa, keep bringing that message in that not only are you getting people out into their gardens, but they’re doing something for humanity, like it has a larger purpose. And I think that’s good at expressing.
You’re so passionate about this. And that to get other people passionate about this.
Haeley Giambalvo 17:33
I would totally agree. And just kind of as an aside, I think that aspect of it, like I really do want to help people and I want to, do whatever I can to get more people to know about this.
It’s a big difference in approach to Design Improvised, where yes, I was putting out craft tutorials, and I wanted people to make them and I wanted to make them easy.
But to me that felt very much coming from me, being pushed out to my community versus from my community back to me, how can I help you? What problems do you have? The way I’m approaching it now.
I think, with crafting, I just wanted to make whatever inspired me whatever got me excited. And then I wanted to share it. And if other people wanted to make it, that’s great. And I think that that hurt me along the way.
I didn’t have a lot of engagement or community because I wasn’t really necessarily solving problems engaging with people in a way that I felt like there was a greater purpose there.
Old Blogging Business Model Vs. New Blogging Business Model
Jillian Leslie 18:31
When we all started our blogs 10 years ago, it was the model, like the magazine model. Your blog is really beautiful. You create beautiful graphs, it’s like you’re putting it out there almost as if you’re saying, “Hey, browse through my magazine.”
I don’t know you, you don’t really know me, hopefully you’re inspired by this pretty thing. But it’s not like we’re in a relationship.
Haeley Giambalvo 18:53
Jillian Leslie 18:54
Impersonal. And again, for us with Catch My Party that’s a similar model. We’re big site, we give lots of party ideas, and then people do upload their party. Do you feel like I know them?
But for the majority of people who come to Catch My Party, it is kind of anonymous. And it’s like the opposite of say, the coaching group that you’re in, which is really small and intimate.
And I know you and I get to really roll up my sleeves and know exactly who you are and why you’re building this. And it feels so satisfying to me as a helper. If you’re a helper, you want to help and you want to help in a personal way.
So, I feel like this blog for you has been about saying, hey guys, I want to know you. I want to know you, Rebecca, and you Jeffrey and you whomever, and I want to help you on your journey. And so it’s weird as the internet has gotten bigger.
I feel like the successful bloggers today are creators the ones that are building these one-on-one relationships with their audiences. So, it’s no longer just kind of like I have a megaphone. It’s much more like, let’s get our hands dirty together.
Haeley Giambalvo 20:03
Yeah. And I’ve had some funny kind of stories come out of that. People I feel that they, do know me, because I put my face out there a lot and talking to them on Instagram or whatever it might be.
And I’d have a lot of local followers here in Texas and around San Antonio, because I tend to talk about the plants that grow well here.
And I had one woman reach out to me and say, “I promise you, I’m not a serial killer, but I was wondering if I could bring my parents by and tour your garden, because I want to show them, I want them to start growing native plants and I want to convince them to do that.”
And, I took her up on the offer, I gave them a plant tour, I’m happy to help. I did my background research and everything to make sure that yes, it was legitimate person.
Setting Up the Challenge for Four Weeks
Jillian Leslie 20:50
That’s so great. So you say, we’re going to do four weeks?
Haeley Giambalvo 20:55
Jillian Leslie 20:56
Okay. You say, “Sign up for my challenge.” And you’ve got a pop-up on your website? How can people join this? And then what happens when they join, and then let’s go through the different weeks.
Haeley Giambalvo 21:13
Okay. So I have a pop-up, I have a landing page that really lays out each of the four weeks. So like I said, the ultimate goal is to get two new native plants planted in your yard by the end of the month.
And each of the four weeks I’ll send out kind of a mini challenge leading up to that. So week one is to first have people go out to their yards and figure out what they actually have growing now.
So, I show how you can use an app super easy app to help ID, identify plants, because that’s what I had to use to identify some of the trees and shrubs that I didn’t know what the names were.
Just to kind of start asking those questions like, what is this plant? Where is it from? What good does it do? Is it invasive?
So, that’s a lot of plants that are from other parts of the world actually are causing a lot of problems in our natural areas, because they crowd out all the natural vegetation, the native plants.
And so a lot of us might have some kind of plants that we don’t really want in our yards. This is just a way to get to know what you have growing and to just start to gain some baseline knowledge.
So, that’s like the first week is do a little plant inventory of your yard. Figure out what you have.
The second week is then to look for opportunities to add a new plant. So, where are these areas in your yard, maybe that there’s a bare spot and some landscaping or in your garden bed is there a plant that’s died that you want to replace.
Find those areas where you could add a new plant and then do a little bit of work in terms of looking at how much sunlight that area gets and how big that area is so you can plan appropriately and get the right plant for that spot.
So, I’m picking people through like if I was going to add a plant to my yard, these are the steps I want to do to do it well. And so that’s week two.
And then week three is all about researching plants that are native to your local area. So, every state in every area within a state has its own set of unique native plants.
So, it does require a little bit of researching and heading to a local nursery that specializes in native plants. And so, I give people a lot of resources. I created a state by state list of plants and local resources that they can use to help people.
And I actually offer like, if they do need help finding them, I’m happy to help them as well. So, I’ve had people take me up on that offer too. So that’s week three is to kind of start looking at plants that you could potentially add to your yard.
And the fourth week then is to get to planting so you know get out into your yard add those plants. And each week I ask people to share their progress so share photos of a spot in their yard they’re thinking of adding a plant.
Or share a picture of a plant they’ve identified and they don’t know what it is or they need some things like that. And for anyone that participates by sharing either emailing me or sharing in our Facebook group, I entered them into a drawing each week.
And so I have a fun little raffle a little giveaway for free each week. That’s been kind of a fun aspect. And this time around I have an Etsy shop now for native backyard. So, I’m using my products in the shop as the giveaway products.
I’m giving away some final stickers that say grow native plants, coffee mugs, hats and those kinds of things that I have in my shop.
If you’re a regular listener of the podcast, you know I am all about breaking things down. Therefore, when you are writing your next blog post, make sure you have my blog post checklist sitting next to you.
It will lead you step-by-step through writing an optimized blog post both for Google and for your audience to grab it. It’s free head to milotree.com/blogpostchecklist.
Again milotree.com/blogpostchecklist, print it out, put it on your desk, and you are ready to go. And now, back to the show.
Jillian Leslie 25:10
The reason why I want to go through this in such granular detail is because I want to show people, this is not hard, it is about putting these pieces in place. And we were talking about this previously, like “less is more.”
It’s not like, you’re having people re-landscape their entire yard, you’re saying plant two plants, and you’re saying it’s doable. And I’m here, and I’m your girlfriend, and I’m going to hold your hand and we’re all going to be in this together.
And how cool, at the end of this, we can all have like 800 plants or whatever it is, that’s impressive. So, it’s like making these small steps leading people through this. So, I sign up for your challenge, what happens?
How to Connect With Your Participants Before the Challenge
Haeley Giambalvo 25:54
Okay, so this got a little tricky in terms of planning, because people will be signing up for say, up to a month before the actual start date.
So, I wanted to have something for them to receive in their inbox right away, not wait a month to hear from me on day one of the challenge. So I created a little bit of a welcome series.
So, when they first sign up, I send a series of emails for the next couple days. And then maybe it’s one a week until the challenge starts. Just to give them a little introduction to myself and some of the resources I have on my website.
I ask them to reach out to me and let me know where they’re calling from, what they like to garden with. And I have a lot of people email me through that. So, it’s just a way to kind of establish a connection before the actual challenge begins.
How to Run Your Challenge
And then once the challenge starts, I send out two emails a week. So one, with the Challenge of the week, which is pretty detailed. And then a second one midweek to say, “Checking in, how’s it going for you?”
And to summarize what the challenge is, make sure they have what they need. And just a little reminder, pretty much. So that’s it two emails a week.
Jillian Leslie 27:01
Are there PDFs or other materials that you provide?
Haeley Giambalvo 27:05
Yes, for week one, where you’re doing an inventory of your yard, I do have a little plant inventory where people can write down what plants they are, where they are from, what country they’re originally from, whether they want to keep them or replace them.
So yeah, little printable I made. And then I have some others, which I did give out free during my first challenge. But I decided to put them in my shop for the second challenge, just a couple dollars each.
So, one is sunlight tracker. If you’re trying to figure out how much sunlight a certain area gets, you can use this little worksheet to help track the hours of sun hours of daylight. And then another one is I think I call it a native plant garden planter.
So, it’s got a little grid you can list out the plants you want to add to your garden. And then some other specifics about them, how big they grow, what time of year they bloom, what benefits they offer to wildlife.
So, I do have a couple tools like that, that I’ve incorporated as well that are optional, but there are people who want them.
Jillian Leslie 28:08
Have you made sales from them?
Haeley Giambalvo 28:11
So, that I would say no. I was kind of surprise.
Jillian Leslie 28:14
Haeley Giambalvo 28:15
No. I think I’ve only actually had one of those go out, the sun tracker was the only one from my shop so far. So, I haven’t had much opportunity to try to promote that. And it’s just a link in an email. I’m not making it front and center.
I think I wanted to promote that bigger, but I didn’t want to put a heavy sales pitch on that. Because it wasn’t really the intent of that.
Building Out Products to Support Your Mission
Jillian Leslie 28:41
Right. What I love though, two things. One, I love that you’re testing it and that you’re like, okay, I’m going to put links in, to see if people buy. Two, I love even if they don’t buy that you are saying I sell stuff.
Haeley Giambalvo 28:54
Jillian Leslie 28:55
Like, I am your native plant, girlfriend, but also, I got cool resources for you that I sell for a couple dollars or cool mugs or whatever it is.
Like I’m a business and then as the business part grows, they know, oh, I’ve got somebody else who’s interested in native plants, I can get Christmas gifts from you.
In fact, I’m working right now on our workshop for Thursday for our group and it’s all about like, how can you grow sales during the holidays? So, we’ll be talking about that.
Okay, so great. So, you’ll see if people will buy it. And two, you’re at least saying to people, I am a store so they might check out your store. It just broadens what you offer to them.
Haeley Giambalvo 29:42
Jillian Leslie 29:43
So they’re getting two emails a week one with the challenge like a big long description, but then other is kind of like, “Hey, let’s check in.” And then you are having your Facebook group.
So how does that fit in? What are you doing in there to build community?
Haeley Giambalvo 30:00
So yeah, I tried to direct everyone there as the preferred way to share their progress. So pictures of how they’re doing with the challenge.
Jillian Leslie 30:07
And they will add pictures?
Haeley Giambalvo 30:09
Yes. Oh, absolutely. Yep. And so each week, I’ll go into the group and just say, “Okay, it’s week, three, show me what plants you’re thinking of adding to your yard.” And people will start in the comment section of that particular post to start adding their pictures.
So yeah, that’s a good way, definitely, people have been very active on that page. And I think I have like, 150 people on there now. So, it’s not a huge group, but definitely not bad. And it’s really fun to see them offer each other advice as well.
There’s a little back and forth between the community members, which I think is neat. So, all doing the challenge together, and that’s where if there’s a winner of the week, I’ll announce it there, as well as the email.
But it’s just another touch point, because I realize not everyone’s going to open their emails, every week. And so, it’s just another way to remind people okay, this is what week we’re in and this is the challenge we’re doing.
What Happens at the End of the Email Challenge?
Jillian Leslie 31:01
Oh, that is so great. Okay, and what happens, and then they come out at the end of the challenge?
Haeley Giambalvo 31:09
Yes. And there’s a big party. They bask in the glory of their two new plants. Yeah, that’s really it. So, at the end of this challenge, I’d saved my best prize for last I’m going to add everyone’s participate into a drawing for a native plant garden sign.
So, that’s a new product I just actually listed today. And it’s something I’m really excited about, I think that will be a good one for my Etsy shop. So, after the actual challenge, as far as my relationship, continue to stay in contact with them.
I then feed them into my evergreen email series. So, anytime I have new content to share or something I want to tell them about, they’re on my list now.
And I will say that, I’ve found that the ones that are really into the challenge, the ones that are talking to me and participate in our Facebook group, those do seem to be the ones that are buying from me on Etsy.
They’re like the native backyards, super fans. So yeah, just kind of cultivating that little community.
Turning Your Challenge Into a Membership
Jillian Leslie 32:14
That is wonderful. And you know, we were talking about this before I press record, we’re building out as I shared MiloTree Easy Payments, and it is exactly before I said to Haeley, I’m like, when do you start your membership?
Because you’ve got true fans, and you’ve got a Facebook group. And all you need to do now is figure out a way through us to get paid for people to then be part of this community, where everybody is building native backyards.
And again, what I what I love about your challenge, for example, is you set it up one time, and you’ve been able to now run it and it’s just this kind of funnel of a way to get people to you to know who you are to participate with you to grow plants together.
And that you can then spin this off into a paid membership really easily we’re talking about the differences between a course and a membership. And I was saying, membership is very much like this, where you’re in it together.
And you don’t have to then do all of the work for a course because you’re just there being responsive to your members.
Haeley Giambalvo 33:27
Yeah, absolutely. The idea that I’m toying with for a membership. And I’ll be curious to know what you think about this, Jillian is, I do have such a nice local following here in San Antonio.
I almost think it would be fun to do like a San Antonio native gardening club where we get together online maybe a couple times a month, but also could do garden tours, because I think that would be so helpful.
And something that I feel like there’s not enough examples out there of how to pull it all together, how to design a garden, and there’s some great ones around the city where you can see the plants firsthand.
Some that are in the city parks where I volunteered to help maintain them. And so that as well as like I think it would be really neat to offer like a little plant box each month.
So, I have a lot of plants that I could divide up and create a ittle little box for people to put in their own gardens. It would be fun.
Jillian Leslie 34:18
Honestly, in notice that it’s just organically showing up for you. So, of course I say go test this and with MiloTree Easy Payments.
Again, there’s no monthly fee, we just make money as a small transaction fee of anything you make. So, it doesn’t cost you anything to even set it up or test it.
But I love the way that you are thinking about this piece by piece. I remember you thinking about starting an Etsy shop and we were even brainstorming like what could you do?
And I was saying too like, David and I my husband and I we walk around our neighborhood and we see all these little signs that people have and I was like, “Haeley you could make these signs and sell them. Where people say like, I’m cultivating butterflies or whatever they are.”
Because people here in Austin are very much into creating natural habitats.
Haeley Giambalvo 35:12
Awesome. Maybe I’ll give you a few signs, and you can pass them out to your neighbors.
Jillian Leslie 35:17
I would love it.
Haeley Giambalvo 35:18
You could be my sales person.
Jillian Leslie 35:20
Yes. There’s like somebody in my neighborhood. I don’t know if you’ve seen the sign. And it’s something like, we know, it looks messy, but we’re like, I don’t know, hatching butterflies or something.
It was like a great way for me to be like, “Oh, my God, these people don’t take care of their yard.” And then I’m like, “Oh, my God, they’re saving the planet.” Like, what a way to reframe that as a marketer.
I think about things like that, like, all you do is change the narrative. And all your neighbors now who think, “Oh, my God, that’s such an eyesore.” Or now like you go!
Haeley Giambalvo 35:51
They’re believers. That’s right.
Jillian Leslie 35:52
Yes. So I love that I love how you’ve been putting these pieces together and growing something in this, I will say, organic, native sort of way.
Haeley Giambalvo 36:03
Cool. Thank you. I was going to say I owe a lot to your coaching group. I think it’s been awesome for generating ideas, but also just kind of keeping me accountable to try out some of these new things.
So yeah, I’ve been really excited about what I’ve been able to put out there just in the short time since I started the blog in November. So thank you.
Jillian Leslie 36:22
Thank you, and if anybody is interested in learning more, I’ll put a link to our group. But it’s just this really special little group of people cheering each other on where David and I love to roll up our sleeves and go, “What about this? How can you, build that?”
Again, I’ve been there through this whole process of you starting your Etsy shop or figuring out what kind of printables, didn’t you start with some printables?
Haeley Giambalvo 36:49
I started with printables in the Etsy shop before I had any physical products. But now I’ve got physical products as well. So little by little.
Evolving from Being a Blogger to Being an Entrepreneur
Jillian Leslie 36:56
That’s interesting, just in terms of feedback, going from Design Improvised to this, I feel like you are a blogger, or you’re a blogger with Design Improvised, I feel like you’re an entrepreneur with a passion in native plants. They feel very different to me.
Haeley Giambalvo 37:11
I agree. I agree. I’m approaching them very differently as well. So it’s been fun to try out a new way of working, even though it’s kind of in the same realm. I’m approaching a lot differently.
So yeah, and I just love it. I’m super excited about it. And as you can tell, I’m definitely a big enthusiast when it comes to native plants.
Jillian Leslie 37:33
Okay, so as we wrap this up, as for your challenge, how often are you running it? And how are you getting people to learn about it?
How Often to Run Your Challenge
Haeley Giambalvo 37:44
Okay. That’s one thing I wanted to mention. So, I’ve done two of them, I think spring and fall, if I continue to do this on an ongoing basis would be the opportune time to run the challenge, because those are the kind of the prime planting seasons.
But what I also did between those two timeframes is I made kind of a self-led challenge. So, in the meantime, anyone that signed up for it would pretty much receive more or less the same content, but they can do it on their own.
So, it’s week one, here’s what you should do. Week two, so that still allows people to go through the challenge themselves, without having to wait for a certain start date. So, it’s another way to keep the challenge going and to continue to get email, signups.
In the meantime, I’m going to have to think about what I do over the winter, because I don’t think that’ll work as well, it’s not the best time to be planting things.
Jillian Leslie 38:38
How are people finding this? How are you promoting this?
Haeley Giambalvo 38:41
Okay, so I do talk about it a lot on Instagram, and Facebook, primarily, Instagram is where I have my most engaged and largest audience on social media.
So, in addition to posting about it and doing stories about it, I also have it on my profile, it’s the link there it says, “Join the challenge.” So, if anyone clicks through my link, that’s going to take them to the landing page.
Also, on my website, my homepage has it pretty front and center with a little bit of a blurb that will take you then to the landing page for more information and to sign up.
On all of my top visited posts I have a paragraph at the beginning of the post to say, “Hey, if you want to learn more about natives join the native backyard challenge, read more about it below.”
And then at the end of the post, I have a paragraph or two that outlines what the four weeks are and a button for them to sign up. So, I tried to come at it from a lot of different angles on my website and also my social media.
Jillian Leslie 39:41
And can you tell where you’re getting the most signups?
Haeley Giambalvo 39:45
Oh, that is a great question. Honestly I think I got a lot of signups when I had a big bump in traffic from a Google Web story I did.
Jillian Leslie 39:56
I love it. I just went live with a web story podcast episode with another member from our group, Cheryl. So, I love that. Okay, so you did a web story and what did you link to in the web story, to the landing page?
Haeley Giambalvo 40:11
No. Link to a specific blog post, and that had the signup on it. So people were, I’m assuming clicking through that post to sign up. And then I get like 100 signups in a day from that.
Jillian Leslie 40:26
Oh my God. Here’s my advice, make a web story just about the challenge for what are native plants and do it somehow, so that it just goes directly to the landing page.
Haeley Giambalvo 40:39
Jillian Leslie 40:40
Do you want native plants? Rather than having them go through a blog post.
Haeley Giambalvo 40:44
Go through multiple hoops.
Jillian Leslie 40:45
Haeley Giambalvo 40:46
I love that idea.
Jillian Leslie 40:49
Awesome. So what are you most excited about? Let’s say you get into 2022?
Haeley Giambalvo 40:58
Oh, man. I think a lot because my website and my business with Native Backyards is still so new. I felt like this past year, really have just been kind of laying the foundation in a lot of different areas. Whether it’s content on my website or developing a community.
Jillian Leslie 41:17
Products in your Etsy shop.
Haeley Giambalvo 41:19
Yeah, I feel like I’m putting all these feelers out there, sowing all these seeds, whatever you want to say I think are really going to sprout next year. I just feel in my gut focus on the right things.
And I can already kind of see some growth, with my email list and this challenge, and I just feel like next year is going to be a big one in terms of really taking it to the next level.
Using an Strong SEO Strategy to Grow Her Blog and Seeing Results
And one thing that I’ve noticed, I want to say already was with my website, by focusing on developing SEO content this time around, so I’m really looking at what are what are the topics people are searching for.
The specific plants people are searching for, and then writing content around that. I’ve had a lot of success. I only have 30 posts on Native Backyards right now. But I wrote them all, with SEO in mind.
And I now have more traffic every month from Google with 30 posts than I do on Design Improvised with like, 500 posts.
Jillian Leslie 42:20
Haeley Giambalvo 42:24
It’s working that formula. And there’s a lot more I can do there. I can’t write content all day, especially, heavy duty SEO content. So, I like to mix it up with other things. But I do want to focus on continuing down that road.
So, I can get with Mediavine and start selling ads on my site, just have some passive income that way. And also to reach more people that will sign up for my email newsletter and those things.
As far as next year, some other big goals I have, I really want to self-publish a book on native plant gardening. I think that something that’s really not out there, and I think I could write a good one. So, that is kind of one of the big things on my to-do list.
Jillian Leslie 43:09
Well, I hope to help you get there. I love that. Well, okay, Haeley, how can people learn about you, reach out to you and join your challenge?
Haeley Giambalvo 43:22
Oh, right. Okay, so I’m at Native Backyards, on Instagram, and Facebook. My website is nativebackyards.com and if you go there, you will see right on the front page, picture of me that says join the challenge.
So just click through that, and it will get you all the info you need. I’d love to have you join and feel free to reach out to me. anytime with questions. I’m happy to talk about native plants all day long.
Jillian Leslie 43:46
Oh, my God. Well, Haeley, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Haeley Giambalvo 43:51
Thank you, Jillian.
Jillian Leslie 43:52
My biggest takeaway from this episode is that less is more it’s really about showing up and supporting your people.
And we are definitely going to talk about this at my workshop about creating paid workshops, because again, I’m going to ask you, what are you an expert in? And it’s not going to be an expert with a capital E. It’s a small e.
What do you know that you can help your audience with where you are, say, one or two steps ahead? And then how can you teach them something small, but that pushes them that gives them a win on their journey? And how can you support them?
That’s the formula. That’s what Haeley is doing for her people. That’s what I’m going to recommend for you.
So, please come to my workshop on November 17th, at noon Central Time, and to sign up, head to workshop.milotreecart.com. It’s only $10 but I’m charging that because I want you to have skin in the game.
You’ll show up differently and I really believe it is so worth it. And I will see you here again next week.
Other Blogger Genius Podcast episodes to listen to:
- How Google Web Stories Can Seriously Boost Your Traffic with Cheryl Norris
- What’s the Big Deal with Email and Monetization with Liz Wilcox?
- Advanced Email Marketing Strategies You Want to Know (Rebroadcast) with Matt Molen
Imagine a world where growing your social media followers and email list was easy…
If you are looking for ways to grow your community whether that be email whether that be social media, right now head to Milotree.com install the MiloTree app on your blog and it will do the work for you. Let it do the heavy lifting for you.
Let it pop up in front of your visitors and ask them to follow you on Instagram Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, join your list, check out the exit intent but really get your community growing. And we’d love to help you with MiloTree. And I will see you here again next week.