December 21, 2021

Named a “40 Under 40” by Houston Business Journal, Nick Wolny is the founder of Hefty Media Group, a written content marketing consultancy, and Camp Wordsmithâ„¢, a business and writing incubator for online entrepreneurs. He’s a contributor for Fast Company, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur Magazine, and publishes approximately 200 articles a year on behavior, media, and online business.

In today’s interview, I interview him about writing on Medium.com to send traffic to his limited-time offer (LTO) funnels.

Watch the video of my interview with Nick or read the transcript below!

Links

NickWolny.com Nick Wolny’s Medium Profile Deadline Funnel

Transcript

Jack Born: Hey, everyone. This is Jack Born, founder of Deadline Funnel, and I’m here with another Deadline Funnel client case study. So I’m really, really excited to introduce you to Nick Wolny. He’s named a “40 Under 40” by Houston Business Journal. He’s also the founder of Hefty Media Group, a written content marketing consultancy, and Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing incubator for online entrepreneurs. He’s a contributor for Fast Company, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur magazine and publishes approximately 200 articles a year on behavior, media and online business. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California. So Nick, great to have you here.

Nick Wolny: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jack Born: Yeah, so let’s dive into your business model because I think as we get into this, it’s going to become quickly apparent that you’ve got a model that is slightly different than what a lot of my clients work with, but that’s great. I love talking to any Deadline Funnel client, but I especially love being able to interview people who are doing things a little bit differently. So why don’t you talk to us about your story, your business model and how it all began?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, absolutely. I focused a lot at the beginning on doing email marketing and digital marketing in a really specific niche. I focused on multi-location fitness and yoga studios that were family owned. And there, you can probably count on your two hands how many of those types of businesses there are in a given country, so I kind of quickly, you know, kind of capped out and plateaued in that particular niche. But what a lot of our focus would be on would be things like email marketing, copywriting, and just having the written content really dialed in. You know, to us digital marketers, it’s kind of a stab in the heart when you would hear from these gym owners, “Hey, Nick, we’ve got, you know, we’ve got 60,000 people on this email list. Should we do something from this?” You know, it’s just from all the waivers signed from all those years, right? So there was a lot of that happening, and just seeing the true power of the written word in marketing, even in today’s digital landscape, how that continues to be really, really powerful. So I eventually expanded out from that. I was doing one-to-one copywriting. I was doing sales page writing, and then this little thing called the pandemic rolled in and suddenly small business owners, online entrepreneurs were not quite so keen to do these bigger retainers or bigger project-based packages, so I really had to pivot. I’ve always been a fan of the Medium form article, articles that are 600 to 1,200 words in length. I think it’s a really underrated piece of marketing material that a lot of people can use. And so, you know, my $5,000 consulting packages were not selling at all like they would normally, and so I had to pivot. And so I went into creating some information products. So I created some various mini-courses on writing articles quickly and well, using platforms like Medium, which is my main social media platform. Medium, for those who don’t know, it’s kind of like YouTube for articles. So you can write an article on there, and if you do it correctly, you have a much better chance of that article kind of getting churned and, you know, having more longevity to it for months and years to come. So just putting together little different information products and things like that, and then selling them as limited-time offers when people would sign up for my email list off of my articles. I was already kind of doing the sweat equity with regard to writing the articles, publishing them, sometimes in media outlets, other times on Medium or on my own blog. So I’d bring in email subscribers the old fashioned way. It’s very 2007 over here, what I’m doing in LA. And what I found from putting those courses in a limited-time offer funnel, especially when powered by Deadline Funnel, is that people would scoop them up on the spot at much higher rates than I was anticipating. In that high-ticket space, you’re used to having to overcome lots of objections and perhaps it being a series of conversations. And to my surprise, people were scooping up these $47 courses on the spot. You know, we’d see maybe between a 3 to 5% conversion rate off of new subscribers, which was a lot higher than I was expecting. And so I attribute a lot of that to putting that Deadline Funnel piece in place and just having it in place so that if people were hot for me and they were ready to put a ring on it sooner rather than later, you know, then all of that was available to them, so.

Jack Born: That’s awesome. So let’s go into a little bit more detail. So what topics do you typically write about? And then walk us through, you know, someone goes through one of these articles and then are they looking at a link in the bio? Is it a link in the body of the article? Is it both? Sort of, how are you making this happen?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of the focus is on writing quickly and well. I actually don’t want you to hire a copywriter just yet if you can swing it. I want you to get the hang of writing quickly and well yourself so that you can pump out that content faster. My background many, many, many years ago is I went to school for classical music, actually. And to my surprise, to my shock, no one wants to hire a classically trained French hornist in a recession. So, I bring that up because a lot of that skillset that was focused on getting better at a particular craft, repetition, doing something over and over again, a lot of that carries over to writing and into copywriting. And I think a lot of online entrepreneurs want to outsource it too soon. And, you know, no one’s gonna be more passionate about your own message than you are. So in terms of packaging that up, putting that together into some of these little different courses and things like that, how my approach has been going for the last couple of years, and especially since the pandemic started, is that I’ll work to pump out some written articles. I’ll usually write about things like behavior, the actual process of writing quickly and well, thinking about digital marketing from, you know, from a more holistic perspective. It doesn’t have to be this super crazy funnel all the time. It’s about figuring out, you know, what are those specific objectives and also simplifying. I think too many people are, you know, trying to add TikTok, Clubhouse, Twitch and Snapchat all at once, you know. They’re the ones buying the real estate in the metaverse like we were talking about right before we hit record, right? But just, you know, lots of shiny object syndrome happening. And so it’s just saying, “hey, let’s take a step back and let’s kind of focus on what you want to accomplish with this. Do you want to be a creator? Do you want to be an influencer? Do you want to be an infopreneur? What is it?” So I write a lot about that. My call to action is almost always in the footer of the article. We actually split tested this. We tried putting the call to action inline. We did it near the front of the article, even in the opening lead before you get to that first sub-headline. Footer still performs the best. I think people are just used to seeing a call to action in the footer. They expect it. They’re a little more open to it. In the landing page, on the back end of that call to action, it converts at about 70%. I don’t think it’s because I have the sexiest landing page in the world. In fact, you know, the less my face is on it, the more boring it looks, the better it performs. But the advantage there is that someone’s read a thousand or 1,500 words from me before they even are prompted to potentially download a freebie of some kind. And so we see a really good landing page conversion from that as a result. And from there, once they confirm their email address in their inbox, they are taken to a page where we put Deadline Funnel in action. I tell them a little bit about a mini-course. It might be on writing. It might be particularly on Medium.com and how to use that. It might be kind of a basic course on email marketing, something like that. We’ll choose which funnel we want to drop them into based on the lead magnet that they download and based on what the topic of the article was. And then from there, they get to make a decision right then and there. We do the 15-minute funnel to the T, exactly as you guys recommend it. And my experience is that by the time someone is convinced enough to hand over their email address to you, they’re actually on the road, they’re on the way towards potentially buying something from you right there on the spot. They want to solve their problems. My main lead magnet is article templates to help you write articles faster, and so it’s really linear to that mini-course that’s about writing articles quickly and well. So that’s the funnel in a nutshell, yeah.

Jack Born: So I want to dive even a little bit deeper, but first, can you make sure that I heard you correctly that it’s a seven zero, 70% opt-in rate that you’re getting?

Nick Wolny: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a 70%, which is, you know-

Jack Born: Cold traffic?

Nick Wolny: Yep. Well, I don’t know how cold it is. I mean, they’re cold to the article, right?

Jack Born: Yeah.

Nick Wolny: But yeah, you know, it’s people who haven’t-

Jack Born: But by cold, I meant it’s not someone who’s referring their audience over to you, but they did read the article and I think that really speaks to the power of, you know, when you do the article correctly, that really does a lot of the heavy lifting, right?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, and I think with Medium as well, you know, those people want to read, and that is, those people are difficult to find on the internet, but Medium has a really stripped down design aesthetic. You can’t be embedding tons of videos and things like that. You can’t go live on Medium, and so that almost creates a little bit of an advantage. Your words slice through. It’s black text on a white background, and that’s all you’ve got to work with. And so it’s kind of a great equalizer from that perspective, that people who like to read and are going to hold their attention, a lot of those people are hanging out on that platform.

Jack Born: Now, as you brought that up, I’m wondering, do you have something else going for you that possibly other business owners might not in the sense that people who are on Medium like to read, and so then you’re teaching them how to write?

Nick Wolny: Right, yeah. I think outside of meta-style content like some of what I’m doing, people who are willing to read a thousand word article are probably at least somewhat interested in getting better at something, personal growth, personal development. And so, in terms of getting in front of those people, niche wise, the strategy can work for a lot of different niches. At the end of the day, usually when people are investing in an information product of some kind or perhaps a coach or a program, at the core, they want to change their behavior, they want to develop new skills, they want to sharpen their skills. And so going to those platforms that have a little bit more of a learning focus to them, and maybe not so much of an entertainment focus to them, I think that that’s kind of a good rule of thumb. I fall flat on Instagram, but on a platform where people are willing to stick with me for more than five seconds, I’ve seen a lot better results there. And so I imagine other people would too, if you have like a skill building or a learning focus to your business.

Jack Born: Yeah, and that covers a lot of our audience. So I love hearing that answer. Tell me about the average order value, because I would imagine that that impacts your conversion rates. And so what have you learned in doing this for several years?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, I think I was really surprised when we set it up that people who, like we said before, are cold, they’ve just met me after reading that first article, they’re willing to drop money on the spot and they’re willing to drop more money than I was anticipating. So the main offer, the limited-time offer that we use Deadline Funnel for, it’s a $47 mini-course. We have three of those funnels that run concurrently, but the offer is a $47 mini-course or workshop replay for all of those. We do a couple of bumps on the checkout page. We do a bump of the other courses, and then we also do a bump that is like a one-on-one coaching call with me that’s several hundred dollars. And so the price anchoring there, it makes the other add-ons look a little sexier, a little more affordable in comparison. And then we do one upsell page, a one-click upsell that’s usually about a $200 product and that’s it. We don’t do a crazy, you know, we don’t have people playing hopscotch in the funnel doing four and five upsell pages, but the average order value is $105. And so to have, you know, people dropping more than double what the initial offer was and for them to be doing it before they’ve even really received any email marketing from me, they’re being taken to the limited time offer from the “Confirm Your Email Address” email. And so they haven’t even received the freebie yet. That’s the thing that took me the most by surprise, just the power of the urgency and inviting people to make the decision now and not later, and “hey, if you like my flavor of ice cream, here’s an opportunity to get in on these.” We don’t sell the courses a la carte in any other capacity. The only other thing I sell is a membership program. So having that kind of opportunity to get something a la carte, people are taking me up on it, and they’re willing to throw, you know, an eyeliner and some mascara and a couple of shades of lipstick in the cart as well before they check out. And so I was really surprised at the effectiveness of that and that it just helps to push people through the funnel that much more quickly. 

Jack Born: So, as you’re talking there, there are so many questions that run through my head. I know that, currently, you have not been paying, you haven’t been spending any money on advertising. This is all organic traffic, which is amazing, that’s high profit, but that you’re actually thinking about moving into paid advertising. So is your plan to send traffic, I would assume, to the articles?

Nick Wolny: I think we’ll probably split test it. It’ll just come down to seeing what people’s attention spans are. I don’t love running traffic to articles in general until people are already at least on my email list, just for the sake of getting them a little bit more warmed up to me. I’d rather use those ad dollars towards a self-liquidating offer funnel or something like that. So we’re going to experiment with it. I think we’re mainly going to go out with a self-liquidating offer funnel and see what happens with it. I know a lot of people are looking at potentially writing more content. You know, for anyone who follows me, they know that I’m not the biggest fan of platforms like Substack. I think it’s just really a stripped-down email marketing. But what I will say about tools like Substack is that it’s gotten the mainstream public intrigued about writing, about writing online, and so people are wanting to write more. They’re wanting to create more content. They’re wanting to create content that they can direct people back to over and over and over again, and that’s easier to do with an article than a social media post. So we’ll see. In terms of how it shakes out, you know, I’m rusty on ads. It’s been five or six years since I’ve run them, and I’ve mainly only run them for other people in the interim, but we’ve moved about 500 units of the course, of the main article writing course, so I feel like that’s enough validation that we can explore taking a nice big bite out of the profit and seeing if that can help to grow the overall audience, so.

Jack Born: And I want to make sure I understand. You’ve got more than just one course that you’re selling? You have two or three different courses? Okay. And for each of those courses, how many, do you have one key lead magnet, or can it be sometimes multiple?

Nick Wolny: Yep, so we do one lead magnet into one funnel for that particular course, just to keep the content upgrade or the lead magnet linear to that next level offer. And so if they’ve shown interest in learning how to use Medium and some of the different techniques there, then that person would probably be a candidate for the workshop that is particularly about Medium. And the same subscriber might end up, you know, if they’re really hot for me and they’re trick or treating and trying to get everything that I’ve got to offer them, then they will see that, you know, in multiple different funnels. But we’ve found that that strategy informs what I’m going to write about and how I’m gonna kind of point back to the lead magnet in that way. And just looking at, “okay, what do we have on the back end in terms of a monetization opportunity? All right, then what’s the lead magnet that we can create from that?” And then creating the top of funnel content from that and seeing how that shakes out. The other big advantage that, sometimes, articles on Medium will go viral or just articles in general, stuff that I’ve written for Entrepreneur or Fast Company and stuff like that. And whenever that’s happening, I am always going and picking the dog up from daycare or picking up groceries or on a road trip. Like, I’m nowhere near my computer whenever an article is, like, going nuts, but to have all of that back end already done and automated. It’s a cha-ching, cha-ching experience, and to have that in place and to know that it’s really, really linear from a content perspective, the lead magnet that they are downloading and have proven interest in is linear to what they are about to be offered. We found that that nudged the numbers up a little bit more in the long run.

Jack Born: So what are some of the 80/20, what are some of the key leverage points that you’ve learned over the years really, really makes your funnel work that someone might not know trying to replicate this?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, I think a couple of things come to mind. One is our formula with lead magnets is the lead magnet’s gonna give them the why and the what, and then if they want to go deeper about the how, that’s a paid conversation. So the lead magnet is really just there to kind of create clarity, perhaps to validate some of their initial feelings. It’s the same approach with how we do webinars, as well. Like, the webinar is there to give people the why and the what. You know, “Why should you care?” And perhaps like a tiny slice of the how, but if you really want the A to Z formula, we’ve got that ready to go, it’s just gonna be, you know, a paid arrangement in order to make that happen. So I think that’s one thing that really helped in terms of lead magnet conversion to limited-time offer is to not give the farm away on the lead magnet, but to still make the lead magnet valuable and interesting for people. I think another big one is that I started to shorten up my articles a little bit more. I used to be a long-form junkie, you know, 2,000 or 3,000 words are bust. And, you know, the challenge to that, the problem with that is that fewer people make it to the end of the article, and the end of the article is where I need people to be so that we can take off in the airplane, right? So just shortening things up and really focusing on things like the 600 to 800 word article, seeing what happens there. I’ll share a quick story as well. This happened this year that- I assumed the article would have to be linear to the lead magnet, and that was actually not always the case. One of the article templates that I teach, we call it the “Popularity Piggyback”. You’ve seen it before all the time. It’s where you’re talking about someone else as a way to sort of position or pivot back into your thought leadership, right? “This is what Bill Gates ate for breakfast, and here’s what it says about your productivity patterns in the morning, blah, blah, blah.” Like one of those where you just get a little name dropping in the headline. And at first I was averse to that, because I felt like it wasn’t really thought leadership. But what we found in the numbers when we really dug in is that those articles got far higher view rates and read through rates, and then the conversion on the back end at the steps of the funnel was about the same, or sometimes it was even a little bit higher. So in terms of scalability, I don’t know that it’s always the case that you have to have your article be completely, perfectly linear to the lead magnet. You just have to have it be quality and have it be something that your target audience is actually interested in, and then when they see that CTA at the end, we saw about the same conversion rates. So, you know, take from that what you will, but you know, that’s what we’ve been seeing on the numbers on our end.

Jack Born: Does Medium give you any ability to test the headlines after it’s gone live, or is there any way that you can figure out, like, what’s really working on that platform?

Nick Wolny: You can’t test things after you’ve gone live, but you can edit something after you’ve gone live with it, so that’s nice. For Medium, the data that you get, you don’t get impressions, but you do get views. You get reads, which are what percentage of people made it to the end of the article, and then you get something called the read ratio. And so, you know, if only a quarter of the people are making it to the end of the article, then perhaps just talk less, you know, so they’ll get through the article faster, and also make it compelling so that they continue to want to read. But I think that’s one of the biggest differences that has come up. My other quick Medium tip is that Medium has a whole subculture of publications. You have many users who have created publications over the years about all different kinds of niches, startup life, love, sex, entrepreneurship, health, all kinds of different things. And you can publish an article and submit it to one of those user-owned publications, and if the publication ends up running your article, which will happen most of the time, then you’re gonna be distributed in front of that publication’s followers, so it’s a great way to get in front of people who are probably going to be interested in the thing that you do. There’s a lot of niche culture on Medium, and so it can be a great way to help find your people, which I know is one of the biggest challenges of traffic in general for all of us.

Jack Born: Let’s talk about expectations because I know that a lot of content marketing can really turn the flywheel, but it takes a while to get going. So someone looking to follow in your footsteps and implement this in their own business, how many articles should they be committing to upfront in order to make sure that they’re giving it a chance to work?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, I think once a week is a good initial goal. That tends to be less than what people expect. On Medium, posting every day, in my experience, actually is not effective. You want to post less often and really focus on quality content so that people stay on the page, they read the entirety of the article. If you have a long read time, average read time on your articles, then you’ll get some brownie points in the algorithm for future articles. I think once a week is a good initial benchmark to try to hit, and then you can go up from there. What I did as well when I was starting to build things up is that that article would become my email newsletter for the week. You could tell when I was being especially lazy some weeks, because the email newsletter would be the first few paragraphs of the article, and then, “hey, why don’t you click through to read the rest of this and see where it’s going.” And so, for anyone who’s considering a strategy like this, I get that an article is a little bit more involved than taking a selfie and posting it on Instagram with regard to content output. Leverage that content. Repurpose it. Put it into an email newsletter. Put it into an email automation, something like a Crock-Pot automation or a nurture sequence where people that are new to you today read the stuff that you wrote six months ago. And that can also really help from a flywheel perspective in just getting those touch points in that we need in content marketing while you find your footing on Medium to see where your people are, what they’re responding to, and really, you know, how long it takes you each week to pump out a new article. And then once you get the hang of that, then you can start to move it up from there. I still only do about twice a week. So, you know, I don’t think you should play for three times a day. That’s gonna be tough for most people, and you don’t need it in my opinion.

Jack Born: So if someone’s doing once a week, at what point do you think that they should be seeing some sales and some results?

Nick Wolny: Well, if you’ve got the setup on the back end, then it will just come down to traffic and checking those different points, right? You know, those first couple of articles that you write on Medium, you’re gonna get, the views are gonna be on the low side, right, ’cause if you don’t have any followers yet, things like that. But if you place your article in a publication, you’ve got a much better chance that that article’s gonna continue to be churned in Medium’s algorithm. Again, Medium is very similar to YouTube in that something you wrote months ago can continue to be churned and show up in people’s feeds when they receive recommendations. Medium also sends a daily email to all users and all subscribers, so you’ve got a good chance at being at the top of that or in that round up, so there’s some distribution opportunities there. I think that it comes down to whatever is in your LTO funnel or whatever else you’re selling, you know. I think that if you’re gonna do this, then look for an offer that’s 20 to $50. That’s what’s been best in our experience. I know that there’s tripwire culture out there where someone, you know, wants to sell you something for a dollar right after you’ve signed up for an email list. I think by the time someone whips out their wallet, they’re ready to spend $20 to $50 in order to solve their problem faster, and so that would be my recommendation in terms of that. Once you get it set up, just play for traffic. Just getting more eyeballs on your stuff and staying really consistent is gonna help build that flywheel over time.

Jack Born: Nick, you’ve been extremely generous with sharing your wisdom and your experience and really laying out a lot of the details of a funnel that’s been working really well for you. And by the way, congratulations on the success that you’ve been having with it. So if someone wants to learn more about you, it sounds like quite a bit of my audience might be interested in some of your resources on writing. So how can someone learn more about you or find these resources?

Nick Wolny: Yeah, at nickwolny.com, that’s my main website. There will be, somewhere on that page, some article templates for you to download. It’s called the Article Template Toolkit. It’s nine article templates. I am a basic B over here. I just rotate between these templates when I write articles, and it helps me to get a running start. So if you’d like to write articles and you want to do them faster, then that could be a really good fit for you. And then if you use Medium, I’d love to see you on there, as well. It’s the main social platform that I hang out on. And then I send emails out once a week, as well, on Sundays. And there’s no VA in the picture on the email side, I’m writing every word, and I’m responding to every reply. So if you want to hang out with me in the inbox, I’d love to see you there. 

Jack Born: Awesome, well, we’ll make sure to put those links near this video. So thank you so much. I know quite a few of my audience members are gonna go and check that out, so that’s terrific. Awesome. Thank you so much for your time today.

Nick Wolny: Thanks for having me.