Why You’re Leaving Money on the Table with Email Automation with Kronda Adair

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If you’ve ever heard me say, “I’m a recovering WordPress developer,” you’ve also heard me credit today’s guest, Kronda Adair. And while she started in WordPress, she quickly moved into one of my favorite areas of expertise: automation. Specifically, Kronda’s an email automation expert. And today, she’s going to tell us the RIGHT process for automation, how to test, and why your business depends on email automation.

Top Takeaways:

  • Automation is employing technology to improve your processes. You can vastly improve how you work, and your customer’s journey if you automate the right things.
  • To start, step away from the tools and focus on the process. Map what you need to do with pen and paper. Once you do that, you have a job description. And you need something to fulfill that job. That’s when you look for the tools.
  • Two things you need to do with automating email: do it manually first; this helps you make that job description. Next, go through the automation yourself. See what the subscriber will see. This may be their primary interaction with you — so make sure it’s good.
  • Intro: Getting into automation

Show Notes:


Joe Casabona: Did you know that you could get even longer interviews with some of the most successful creators? You can with How I Built It Pro. With How I Built a Pro, you get extended ad-free versions of every episode. We cover things like pricing memberships, how to make a course creation even faster, building a creator business while also parenting, current events, and more.

Plus, you’ll get bonus episodes where I offer a behind-the-scenes look at what I’m working on, the revenue for my own creator business, experiments, and video demos of the tech I talk about on this show. You can join How I Built It Pro today for just five bucks a month or 50 bucks a year. Sign up over at howibuilt.it/pro or use the link in your podcast app.

If you’ve ever heard me say, “I’m a recovering WordPress developer,” you’ve also heard me credit today’s guest, Kronda Adair. And while she started in WordPress, she quickly moved into one of my favorite areas of expertise: automation. Specifically, Kronda’s an email automation expert. And today, she’s going to tell us the RIGHT process for automation, how to test, and why your business depends on email automation.

Be sure to look for what exactly automation is and how you can improve your work and your customers’ experience using it. We also go over the right way to create your automations and to evaluate tools. And then she gives us the two most crucial things you need to do when automating email. I can talk about automation all day. Kronda is so much fun to talk to you, so I know you’re going to love this interview.

In Pro, we talk about… we basically gush about Airtable. And then she tells us about her Pot O Gold which is such a cool product. So I hope you enjoy that. Today’s episode is brought to you by GoodGames, Groundhogg, and LearnDash. You’ll hear about them later on in the show. There’s going to be a ton of show notes so you can find them all over at howibuilt.it/303. But for now, let’s get into the intro, and then the interview.

[00:02:25] <music>

Intro: Hey everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.

[00:02:47] <music>

Joe Casabona: All right, I am here with Kronda Adair. She is the CEO of Karvel Digital. And I’m really excited because we’ve kind of swam in the same circles for a while. I stole that “I’m a recovering WordPress developer” from you. I thought it was so funny.

Kronda Adair: That’s right. I forgot you did that.

Joe Casabona: I tried to give you credit every time but I just think it’s like… Well, we could talk about that later if you want. But first thing I need to say welcome to How I Built It. This is Episode 303. You’ll be able to find all the show notes we talked about over at howibuilt.it/303. And our sponsors for today are [Gap Scout?], Groundhogg and LearnDash.

Now, Kronda, how are you?

Kronda Adair: I’m great. I’m great. I’m just getting back into work mode, you know, after a break.

Joe Casabona: Yes, for sure. To break the fourth wall or whatever, as we record this, it is the new year. This is coming out a little bit after that. But I’m excited because I think we’re close enough to the beginning of the year still that automation is something really important that we could talk about. You and I love automation. In the Pro show, we’re going to gush about Airtable.

So maybe you can tell me, how did you get into automation in the first place?

Kronda Adair: Okay, I’ll cliff notes the beginning part of it because I didn’t start out to be a developer at all. I was actually working as a project manager at a tiny little startup. And I’m meeting with a freelance developer and I thought, “Oh, that guy just waltzed in here with his jaunty cap and his laptop and waltzed out. He doesn’t have to deal with my boss all the time and he’s not stuck in an office, you know.”

And I literally went back to my desk and Googled “how do I become a developer.” I didn’t know what CSS was. I was just like, “I don’t know, but I’m gonna figure it out.” Long story short, I ended up getting a degree in web design and interactive media. I worked for exactly one tech company before I got fired for quote-unquote, “culture fit.” So for those listening, I’m a black woman and I’m also a lesbian and we don’t really fare well in the tech world.

Joe Casabona: A lot of dudes in the tech world.

Kronda Adair: There’s a lot of dudes There’s a lot of bros. But I just took that as my sign, like, “Oh, I’m gonna hang out my shingle, and I’m gonna make WordPress websites.” So I did that for a number of years. You know, I started with the proverbial $500 website and went up from there.

About 2017, 2018, I figured out that a lot of people didn’t understand that the website wasn’t going to save them. Right? It’s the front door and people spend a lot of money on it hoping like, “Oh, I’m gonna launch this new website and then the customers are just kind of come rolling in.” And it’s like, no, you still have to market.

So I started learning about marketing. And that was my gateway is like, “Oh, wait, there’s whole email list thing that happens and there’s lead magnets, and there’s, you know, all this stuff. And my niche became mission-driven service-based business owners.

And service-based business owners are perpetually caught in the cycle, the feast-famine cycle of, you know, you hustle your ass off and you get some clients, and then you hustle your ass off and you serve some clients. And while you’re doing that, your marketing just dies on the line. You know, I’ve been a victim of that, too.

So I was like, Okay, automation, is, you know, something that can save people time and service-based business owners need that desperately. So I got connected with Chris Davis, who was formerly the Head of Education at ActiveCampaign for three years, and now runs Automation Bridge. And he’s got a program where he mentors marketers and he teaches automation the right way. If you listen to his podcast, All Systems Go!, he always talks about doing automation the right way.

So I got connected with him and I just went all in with his mentorship, and I became certified through him and really just started focusing on offering automation as a core part of our done-for-you side of our business. And just like loving it for myself as well, right?

You know, we revamped our email engine, sales engine back in June of 2021. I spent about 80 hours just building a complete email sales engine based on Email Marketing Heroes. Robert Kennedy over there run a great program. And it totally changed how I see automation and how I see marketing and what doing that style of email marketing can do for a business and your sales.

So that’s kind of the cliff notes of how we got here. Email is just like the pillar to kind of that we sit on at the beginning of automation. But of course, there’s lots of other things that you can automate your business.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. And I’m really excited to get into that. But I do want to touch on a couple of things that you mentioned here. First of all, Robin Kennedy, after you… So we met like IRL at CaboPress last year.

And you mentioned Robin Kennedy and I immediately signed up for their tripwire thing. And that was like all I needed to really revamp my whole… I have a welcome sequence that goes into a soft sell sequence, that goes into an education sequence now. So that was big value for me. Super helpful. So thank you for that.

And I love what you said about a lot of people didn’t realize that the website wasn’t going to save them. I had Ame Proietti on the show. She was my copywriter for Podcast Liftoff. And we basically just talked about how like, Hey, this episode’s coming out in November, Dear creators and dear web developers like you’re going to want to redesign your website because it’s slow. Instead, you should focus on the copy. Like the design matters way less than the actual words on the page.

Kronda Adair: I mean, does Paul Jarvis still just have like black text on a white page?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Kronda Adair: He seems to be doing pretty well for himself, you know?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I always point people to Craigslist. What a gross-looking site that is, but it’s still like amazing.

Kronda Adair: It does what it’s supposed to do and we all keep using it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. So yeah. Focus on the words on the content.

Kronda Adair: And I’ve been telling people that for years too. I’m like, If you have a choice to hire me as a web developer or a copywriter, 100% hire the copywriter. 100%.

Joe Casabona: I love that.

Kronda Adair: I mean, I have a Content Boot Camp, right? Because content is the most important thing, right? And then you have to have a place to distribute it. But what you actually say is actually what matters.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. I mean, gosh, I could talk about this forever, too, because I realized when I started selling products, like courses, my approach for selling websites which was like get in a room with a person and talk to them… You can’t do that when you sell a $50 online course or whatever. Or even a $500 online course. You got to have good sales copy that can convince the people at scale.

Kronda Adair: Yeah. So at the end of 2018, I quit making websites because of this realization, and I started Content Boot Camp. Because I was like, “Well, y’all don’t know how to sell using content. So I’m just going to teach that.” And it made people show up differently. And it made them… like they did the work. And then they were like, “Oh, my God, wait, this works.” And I’m always saying, like, I teach people how to be people online. Because that’s the thing.

Joe Casabona: Oh, I love that.

Kronda Adair: It’s like you can be the most amazing person on stage, in-person, at the meetup, you know. And we couldn’t even do that for two years, right, anyway.

Joe Casabona: Right.

Kronda Adair: So if you don’t know how to show up online, in text, audio, or video, or all three, such that people go, “Oh, I like them. I want to know more,” then you’re not going to make it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure. That’s amazing. So you mentioned like automation, something that could save people time. You and I use it a lot. We both have small teams. You’re slightly… Do you have employees? I’m scared of having actual full-time employees. I have a bunch of contractors.

Kronda Adair: I think everybody’s scared of that, except for the people who have already done it who are like, “Just hire already!” No, my team at this point is all contractors, but I’ve got my eye on converting one of my team members for sure this year over to employee status.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Kronda Adair: And it’s just a matter of me getting all the ducks in a row to make that happen. But I’m definitely at the point where I need people… Not that my team is not focused. But I just need kind of us all being able to row in the same direction and being able to say like, Okay, yeah, we’re all working from Monday through Thursday from 10 to 4 or whatever, so that we can just kind of like do that back and forth.

Like legally you can’t say to a contractor, “Oh, you have to be here at this time. You have to do it this way or whatever.” You know, you can’t do that. So it’s not like I want to micromanage, but I do think that I’m at that tipping point where I’m gonna need to do that.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, it’s easier to win the game when all the players are on the same field at the same time.

Kronda Adair: Exactly. But my team have been with me for two years, most of them.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Kronda Adair: I mean, they’re awesome.

Joe Casabona: I say wow, but I was just telling somebody my editor has been with me so long that he noticed that I forgot a crucial file without… And he was like, “Hey, where’s the thing that you always include?” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m a dummy and yesterday my brain melted.” The value of having people like stick with you is super, super high.

Kronda Adair: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: But anyway. So you mentioned that email is kind of your vehicle for automation. So let’s talk tools. I know some people are like, Don’t worry about the tools. Just focus on what works best for you. But we can’t really talk automation without talking-

Kronda Adair: I’m not that person. I don’t know where those people live. It’s not me.

Joe Casabona: I mean, don’t change your task manager every other day. But definitely find good automation tools.

Kronda Adair: So here’s the thing about tools. There are people who will tag me in the comments of someone who’s like singing the praises of culture and then have their popcorn ready, you know, because there’s tools I’m just like, “Okay, that’s a nice little toy tool set you have there,” or whatever. But I’m working with people who are multi-six figure business owners and trying to grow. That’s my audience now.

So if those people are coming to me talking about, you know, Kajabi, GoDaddy, like whatever, and I’m just like, “What are you doing?” Most of my tools in my stack I’ve had for five years plus. I should go back and figure out the dates but definitely at least five years, which is like 100 years in internet time.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure.

Kronda Adair: And there are people who are like, “Oh, I know all the tool. I play with all the tools.” But have you produced results with those tools?

Joe Casabona: Right. Right.

Kronda Adair: So when people are like, “Oh, what should I do?” I am really trying to retire from commenting on those inevitable like people go into Facebook groups and like, “What’s the best email platform?” And I’m like, “If you don’t know better than to not crowdsource advice like that, I wash my hands a bit.” Right?

Joe Casabona: Yeah. When I was living in Scranton, somebody said, If you ask 10 people where to get the best pizza, you would get 14 answers. And that’s like every “what’s the best” question in the Facebook group.

Kronda Adair: Right. Yeah. So I’m partial to ActiveCampaign. I’ve been using it for a long time, gotten a lot of results for ourselves and our clients with it. It does a lot of amazing things. It does it cheaper than some other things out there, although they just raised their prices.

So I’m going to tell you like this is what I use, and this is what I’ve recommend to my clients, and these are the results that we’ve gotten with it, and these are the reasons why. In fact, I have a whole podcast episode that’s just, Here’s my tech stack, and here’s why, and here’s what you should consider. Luke, which phase of business should you be in before you even consider, you know, X, Y, or Z tool. It’s Episode 14 on my podcast.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Kronda Adair: So there’s something to be said for the “if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing. And my answer to that is that if I really feel like you need something that we don’t use, that we’re not expert in, then I will send you to someone who is. Or if you’re really just like, ConvertKit for life, ride or die, I’m gonna send you to Jason Resnick.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, for sure.

Kronda Adair: So I’m not saying like no matter what I’m going to say you have to use these tools. I’m going to say, if you’re in this situation with this kind of business and you need to do these kinds of things, this is the best tool I’ve found for it.

So like my top of my stack is, you know, of course, WordPress, ActiveCampaign, Airtable, Jotform. Ooh, the form thing. The form thing is more important than people think, right?

Joe Casabona: Right. Yes.

Kronda Adair: I know people are in love with Typeform and they love their little one question per page, which I find annoying.

Joe Casabona: I know.

Kronda Adair: But Typefrom for integrations is the worst. It’s really, really hard to deal with. So if you come into the automation service provider community, you will not find any Typeform fans because we don’t want to integrate that. Whereas Jotform, you can literally take one submission and you can send that data multiple places just in one submission. Natively without Zapier.

Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s amazing.

Kronda Adair: It is, yeah. So I’m like, Oh, I want this in ActiveCampaign and in Airtable. Great. Done.

Joe Casabona: Ah, that’s so cool.

Kronda Adair: Here’s the thing about automation and about business in general, is it’s all about the data, right? So when I’m railing against these all-in-one tools… Like I have a post, it’s one of my favorites that I ever put on Facebook. And it just said, An escape room but for people trying to leave Dubsado. And I’ll go in revive it every once in a while just for funsies.

But honestly, it’s like they don’t want to give you your data. The first thing I asked when I’m looking at software is, can I pick up my toys and go home? Because you’re maybe not going to stay with that thing forever and ever and ever. So you want to know, can I get my data back out of it? And with those all-in-ones, they don’t want to play nice with all-in-ones. It’s right there in the name.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely.

Kronda Adair: They don’t want to give you integrations and help you play nice with others. So when I’m looking at and consulting people about, you know, choosing these tools, I’m also looking at, what is your process, what is your customer journey or whatever it is we’re trying to automate and how does the data need to flow?

Because you might have your CRM in ActiveCampaign but when you want to look at where are people in your customer journey, you might want to look at Airtable for that because Airtable is a database, it’s a relational database, and you can have interfaces and charts and graphs. And when you want to see information from your data, that’s where I want to look.

If you want to see, you know, how many people got a certain tag, or how many people filled out a certain form and when did they do it, it’s gonna be really hard to do just going into ActiveCampaign.

Joe Casabona: Right.

Kronda Adair: So I’m thinking about all those things. What’s the measurement gonna be like? How are we tracking things? Where are you gonna want to look at this? How can we create a dashboard so you can see, you know, what is actually going on with your leads and your customer acquisition and all that good stuff?

So these are all the things… You know, this is why I can’t with the, you know, “what’s the best tool for x” in the Facebook groups is because I know, you know, they’re not thinking on that level.

Joe Casabona: Right. Yeah. I mean, more often than not it’s always like, it depends. If people are like, what’s the best podcast host? And I’m like, Well, if you want free, then it’s Anchor, which is not good at all. But if you need a private podcast, I can’t recommend Buzzsprout because they don’t have private podcast. So I agree wholeheartedly.

As you’re talking, it makes me think of like… for my How I Built a Pro Membership, I’m using ConvertKit commerce. I thought like, I’m just gonna go super bare bones and like not need a WordPress stack for it anymore and it’ll be great. And then I realized that you don’t know when someone churns because they don’t get a tag.

You can tag them when they sign up for a subscription. But if they churn out, there’s no automation associated with that. And I’m like, “Guys!” And they’re like, “Yeah.” So I submitted a feature request, and they were like, “Oh, yeah, that would be really good to have.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it sure-

Kronda Adair: It’s actually essential. Not just really good, it’s actually very, very important.

Joe Casabona: You built a subscription tool and I don’t know when someone leaves. So, I’m like, “Should I move again?” But I think I’m just gonna hang with it. My memberships not that big right now. And I get it. Their use case was Substack. So only people who are actively subscribed will get this newsletter. But I want to send people a private podcast feed and I want to know when they leave so that they don’t get it anymore.

Kronda Adair: Okay. So this brings up a really, really good point, which is that the first thing that I do when clients come to me and we’re doing like a marketing intensive where we’re going to just deep dive into their whole business and look at all their systems is really step completely away from the tools. And it’s so important to that as the first step of actually choosing software is to step completely away from the tools and define your process and actually map it out.

One of the most valuable things that we do for people is that marketing intensive where we do that deep dive and we actually visually map using Whimsical or Miro or something you can see that you can say like, Your leads come in here. Here are all the places your leads can come into your email list. Here’s what happens after each one. Here are the discrepancies, you know, when they come in on this landing page versus this pop-up.” Like you can see those things.

And once you see them it’s just glaringly like, Oh, well, there’s no continuity. There’s all these gaping holes.” I have legit been doing consults and then like, well, there was a contact form with like six different dropdowns of what they could be interested in. And so we were just going through one by one by one. And I was like, “Okay, what’s this fourth one? Oh, that’s like our biggest moneymaker. It’s our highest-tier thing.”

I’m like, “Well, you have like four inquiries from four months ago. Has anyone gotten back to them?” “Nope.” No automation, no confirmation, no welcome, no message to the team saying, Hey, we got a hot lead. I was easily, you know, $50,000 worth of prospects who were filling out a form saying, “I am interested in this high level thing that you do.”

Joe Casabona: You’ve convinced me without a sales call to give you a ton of money.

Kronda Adair: So you have to define the process because that’s what you’re automating. And if you don’t know what it is, right? So if you had said, “Okay, I need to do eCommerce, what is it that I need? Well, I need people to subscribe and then when they unsubscribe, I need them to get a tag. Well, now what you have is a job description with which to go out and say, “Okay, I’m going to trial some software to see if they can actually do this job that I have defined in my business.” And you would have been looking for that and caught that and been like, Oh, okay, you don’t get the job. You can’t do this really key thing.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I’m going to apply that from now on. Also, don’t assume I guess. I was like, surely… And I’ve made that mistake so many times. Like I’ve tried Membership Plugin for WordPress. I should like bleep that. You know, whatever *bleep* for WordPress, and it just like didn’t do… I like got halfway through and didn’t do the things I needed and then I switched to my current stack which is Paid Memberships Pro. Full disclosure, they have sponsored this podcast in the past. I use them before they sponsored.

So evaluate before you build, like you have a job description is so it will save you like a lot of time and heartache.

Kronda Adair: And never underestimate the usefulness of the help documentation because that’s where you can find these things. Because when you’re in it and you’re way down the primrose path, and suddenly you go, “Oh, does it do this thing?” that’s where you’re gonna go.

So just go there first because you’ve defined your process. And then you go and you say, “Well, does it do this?” Or if you’re doing some kind of enterprise thing and you have a salesperson, even better. Or better than sales probably is support, right? If you’re in a trial, and you contact support, and you’re like, “Oh, does it do this? Does it do this?” then you get to see what is support like and you get to see does it do that thing?

I mean, you know, you can treat it like any other… like you hire an employee and you have a 60 or 90-day trial like to see like, hey, can you do this?

[00:26:06] <music>

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[00:29:53] <music>

Joe Casabona: As you were talking I thought that maybe I could use it Make to solve my problem because Make has better ConvertKit integration than Zapier does.

Kronda Adair: Oh, yeah. Yeah, maybe.

Joe Casabona: And I could probably query based on product, put them in Airtable, do a little diff, whatever. You know, I could figure something out with my programmer brain. But you shouldn’t have to do that, dear listener. Like you shouldn’t have to do the thing.

Kronda Adair: Well, and this is also a danger of you being super technical person is that you’re like, “Oh, I can figure it out.” I just saw… I don’t know if you follow Elyse Myers. But she just did a post, like, “I suffer from ‘how hard can it be.'”

Joe Casabona: Wow. I’m in post and I don’t like it.

Kronda Adair: So the technical people, we’ll get ourselves in the most trouble because we’ll be like, “I can work around this.” So one of our newest clients who just signed on, they make software, and the guy who is in charge, he’s really great developer, so great that he programmed his own email platform.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Kronda Adair: So he basically wrote, you know, ActiveCampaign or whatever for their company. And then he realized, “I’m the only person on earth who can run this. We don’t have metrics because I can’t get the data that I need out of it.” And that’s when they came to me. They’re like, “Can ActiveCampaign do this, this, this and this?” I’m like, yep, yep. Because now you want to scale and you need to know, you need to segment, you need to do all these things. So the technical people are sometimes the worst because we’ll just be like, “I can build that” or “I can tweak that” or I can… you know?

Joe Casabona: Right. “Why would I pay that when I can build it myself?” That’s like the mantra for WordPress community.

Kronda Adair: Oh, my God. I just had like a PTSD flashback just from you saying that. But that brings up another good point, which is if you do find yourself in this situation of technical debt, right? Maybe you chose the wrong thing and maybe you learn that in the first, you know, three or four months, or you’ve… Many people are in this situation where they’ve just been getting after it and duct-taping together whatever they needed to keep moving. And I get that and I respect that. But now they’re at a point where they’re like, “Oh, okay, this thing has to grow up. We have to get systems.”

So like, when do you make that move and how do you decide, like, are you going to tweak it, are you gonna, like, patch it together with making duct tape or are you going to start over with a process and requirements and build for the long haul? It’s a very individual decision for people but it’s worth considering and it’s also worth getting outside feedback. Because it’s one of the worst things about owning a business is if you just get in your own head, and you think, “Well, I have to solve this,” and like somebody else could fix it for you or give you clarity in like an hour.

Joe Casabona: Right. Right.

Kronda Adair: You don’t know what you don’t know so you don’t seek out the advice. Or you’re like, “Oh, well, but I have to pay for the advice, so that seems like… you know.

Joe Casabona: I always think this. I think we’re talking in the pre-show about people who’ve tried to get our time for free or didn’t want to pay for it.

Kronda Adair: Also a PTSD subject.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, seriously. And I’m just like, if my advice isn’t worth paying for why do you want it at all? Like it’s so weird.

Kronda Adair: Right? I have a podcast review from someone who was like, “Oh, yeah, I listened to Episode 4 about asking better questions and I saved $1,000 not doing something that I was thinking about doing.”

Joe Casabona: Wow. Wow.

Kronda Adair: So Episode 4, it’s free. You can go listen to it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, go for it.

Kronda Adair: So it’s not like you can’t get free… Somebody said, free advice is not specific and specific advice ain’t free.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ve learned and I’ve applied. I will tell you everything I know on my podcast as general as I can make it. Yeah, but how do I do it? All right, well, now we’re gonna get on a coaching call and you’re gonna pay me for an hour and I’m gonna save you 10 hours. It’s gonna be great.

Kronda Adair: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I thought you were gonna go in a different direction with that. I’ve gotten really negative YouTube comments. And for a while I was just like, “Oh, I’m really sorry. I’ll give you a full refund on this free content.”

Kronda Adair: Oh, man. I’ve been doing live streams with my Content Boot Camp clients and I had to turn comments off. I had to figure out how to go preemptively and turning the YouTube comments off because people started just being, you know, assholes. And I was like, “I don’t have time to deal with that.”

Joe Casabona: It’s really weird. Somebody was coming on to me during the… They’re like, “You’re so cute.” I’m like, I’m uncomfortable with this. I’m married. I have multiple children. Thank you for thinking I’m cute.

Kronda Adair: I mean, you still got game, though. So there’s that.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, there we go. That’s right. Really in my prime. That’s like 20-year-old me was an idiot. Anyway, we’ve gotten a little off track. This is so much fun, though. So we’ve talked a little bit about choosing the tools, right? You have a bit of a developer background, I have a bit of a developer background. And like you said, that’ll get us in the most trouble.

Like I hated ConvertKit forms and so I use Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms, like some forms plugin, and then a zap to connect it to ConvertKit. And then I turned that zap off to test it and forgot to turn it back on for a month. And I was like, “How come no one’s joining my mailing list? So after that I was like, “Maybe I should just use the native ConvertKit forms.” If those are broken, they’re just straight up broken. They’re not like shadow broken.

So let’s say someone’s listening to this, and despite the horror stories that we just shared, they want to get into automation. Where do you think they should start?

Kronda Adair: They should go over to the Automation Bridge website and hook up with Chris. Because there’s literally no one, in my opinion, smarter about automation than he is that’s teaching it. Like that’s his whole mission is to teach people how to do automation the right way so that you can make a career out of it.

And he has seen the back ends of so many businesses. He was also instrumental in the come up with Leadpages. I think between Leadpages and an ActiveCampaign, he helped them raise like over 200 million in funding.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Kronda Adair: Like was the guy. And he’s worked with a ton of startups. There’s nobody else you should really talk to.

Joe Casabona: That’s amazing. I’m looking at the site right now. It looks great. He looks familiar. I feel like I’ve seen some of his stuff before.

Kronda Adair: If you go to the ActiveCampaign help documentation, you’re still gonna find his videos in there.

Joe Casabona: Oh, nice.

Kronda Adair: He was the head of education for three years. He used to go around the country doing in-person all day ActiveCampaign workshops.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Kronda Adair: So yeah, his face has been around there. And I was such a fan of ActiveCampaign podcasts which he started in hosted. And I would be like, “Okay, you tell me a problem and I’ll give you a podcast episode to solve it.” And then when he left ActiveCampaign, I was like, “Where did he go?”

So I went searching the internet, I found Automation Bridge, and I emailed him like, “Hey, when’s the next podcast?” And I was the first guest on the All Systems Go! Podcast. And he told me, he’s like, “Yeah, I was kind of in a funk after leaving ActiveCampaign and that kind of got me out of it.” You being like, “Hey, dude, where’s the next podcast?” I was like, “Oh, you’re welcome.”

Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s amazing.

Kronda Adair: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Joe Casabona: Looks like he’s episodes are non-sequential and you’re still the first 5 or 10. You’re like still there on the homepage of the podcast.

Kronda Adair: Oh, really?

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Kronda Adair: Oh, cool.

Joe Casabona: Doing a show intel is really good audio-only content. Okay, so let me rephrase this question then. How does one figure out if they should start automating? Because I want to-

Kronda Adair: Okay. I think if you’re technically… I’ll tell you who really should look into automation as a strategy is web developers. Because we already talked about the fact that the website is just the front door. And I think what happens with… You know, I’ve mentored a few web developers through my Content Boot Camp and we all start out the same. Like we charge we make $500 websites, and then we’re like, “Okay, we’ll maybe… whoo $2,500, whoo, now I’m in the money.” No!

Because although I could put a website up in a day, that’s not the important thing. The important thing is the strategy, the content, the user experience, the opt-ins, like the customer journey. So Web developers are really primed to be able to add automation to their service offerings as a really great value add, recurring revenue, you name it. So that’s who should be really looking at automation.

But I think in general I think about the people that Chris has in the community. And we’re all kind of obsessed with process and documentation and efficiency spreadsheets. We like data, we like order and we like helping people. I mean, that’s my primary motivation is when clients come to me and they have gone from struggling to get clients to figuring out, okay, you have content that’s working great, now, let’s put that in a welcome sequence, now let’s put that in a sales sequence, now let’s…

A lot of people unconsciously will sabotage their sales or they won’t mark it, and they won’t know why. And it’s because they’re not confident about the experience that someone’s gonna have once they actually joined the email list. They have all the best intentions of having that weekly newsletter go out, but then, you know, travel family, holidays, life, pandemic, whatever, throw it all in the mix, that’s going to take you away from that. And so really, the experience is people get on their list and then they sit there. You know, they get that default, MailChimp confirm your subscription page, and then like nothing, or maybe one email.

So the difference between that and knowing like, “Oh, when people subscribe to my list, they’re gonna get to know me. I’ve rolled out the proverbial red carpet and I know that every single lead who comes onto my list is gonna get introduced, they’re gonna get followed up with, they’re gonna get segmented, targeted, relevant information that they care about because of how they came into your list based on what lead magnet. When that’s the experience you’re inviting people into, you’re gonna go invite a lot more people.

It’s like if you’re having a party and at your house you have one couch and a mattress on the floor and one beer in the fridge. Like, you’re not gonna invite a bunch of people over. Right?

Joe Casabona: Right. I love that.

Kronda Adair: Versus if you have a really nice spread and a pool out back and whatever, you’re gonna be like, “Yeah, come on in. It’s great.” So getting your act together and having those things in place helps people show up differently and it helps them attract the people they need to attract. And that’s what attracted me to automation is helping people do that.

So I think that should be a large part of it, like you want to help people and you also are nerdy in these ways that lend themselves to automation.

Joe Casabona: I love it. The educator in me is cringing because we didn’t define automation at the beginning of this episode. Maybe I’ll just do that in the cold open. But I think this is really important. Because when I think automation, I’m thinking my tech nerd, galaxy brain, how can I connect everything I’ve ever used into one thing? But it could just be emails that automatically go out every other day, or every day or every week, right? Automation doesn’t have to be like the virtual version of connects. Like you this crazy like Ferris wheel, right?

Kronda Adair: Yeah. Well, and talking about a definition, just employing technology to execute your processes.

Joe Casabona: Love it. Love it.

Kronda Adair: Which is great, because that means you have to have the process. I’m constantly saying, if you automate crap, then you just get automated crap. So you have to have the process. The process should be working, right? And then you can look at that and say, Okay, what parts of this can we hand over to the robots?

Even the simplest things can make such a huge difference for people. Especially when you’re talking about… We haven’t really talked about onboarding, but that’s another favorite thing of mine. The experience that you give somebody, especially if you’re selling a high ticket offer. You know, someone pays you 10 or 20 or 50 grand, like instantly they’re going to be like, “What did I just do?” Right?

Joe Casabona: Right?

Kronda Adair: So you need to have your onboarding on point so that there’s an experience there. That they’re immediately get acknowledged for what they did, you’re telling them what’s coming next, you’re telling them how to get prepared or what they… Like something to kind of welcome them into the experience. That is some of the most valuable automation that you can do is to really look at… I think we focus on marketing and sales a lot because a lot of businesses struggle with that.

But then what happens when you actually get the customer? Defining that process and making that process smooth and welcoming and delightful, that’s hugely valuable.

Joe Casabona: It’s like not really something that people think about, right? I read a book by Ramil John and I can’t remember the name of the book. But he talks about this very thing, good customer onboarding. I think he looks at Canva and a few other places, and it’s like, How do you get started quickly? How do you surprise and delay, how do you deliver their first win?

And for creators, people listening like me, who sell a digital product, it could be just as easy as like, Here’s where to find your digital product. Or, hey, there’s like four hours of content here. If you’re at this part of your journey, check here. Or maybe you already know that because they’re tagged and segmented. So you can just send that email and be like, “Hey, here’s the part of the playbook that you probably want first.

Kronda Adair: I was just reviewing my onboarding. And I have like a screenshot of exactly what it looks like when you log in. Because people need that level of, you know, this is like, what do I do? Where do I go? It doesn’t have to be expensive or a huge thing. It could be just little things that make a huge difference.

Joe Casabona: I like that a lot. I tell my podcast clients or my students, make a list of everything you do for your podcast, and then just like, put a red dot next to the things that you don’t personally need to do. And maybe that’s stuff that you can automate or take off your plate or whatever. Like you said, it’s about understanding the process first. That’s really your first step.

Kronda Adair: Yeah. When we map out stuff for people… Maybe two clients in the last five years have actually already had their processes mapped out. But for most people it’s the first time they’ve ever seen their marketing without having to log into WordPress or Leadpages or Click Funnels or whatever. It’s like you just say, “Show me your marketing,” and they’re like, “Okay, let me log into the tool.” No. I think if that’s the only way you can see it, then you instantly know what you can do to kind of elevate your process is to map it out.

Joe Casabona: That’s so funny because I always start with like drawing it on paper or a whiteboard. Like you said, I’m like super nervous about automating and then like just messing it up. One of the things that happened to me was anybody who signed up for my membership back when I was selling like 10 courses, you could buy them ala carte or you could buy the membership. Because I was relying on WordPress to send those emails-

Kronda Adair: Ooh

Joe Casabona: …a member would get registered for every course-

Kronda Adair: Oh, no.

Joe Casabona: …and then they would get an email every time they registered for a course. So somebody was finally like, “Hey, I just got like 13 emails from you.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And then I think it was Chris who was like, “Yeah, don’t send emails with WordPress. Turn all those off and use your ESP.”

Kronda Adair: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, those are always fun stories, right? Because even if you do this for a living, you’re always going to mess up. My favorite blooper is… So at Content Boot Camp we have a coaching call every week. So on Tuesday, we had a looping email basically, that would go out every Tuesday saying like, “Hey, go and fill out this form to tell us what you want to talk about on the coaching call.”

And the first time we created that automation we forgot to put the weight step. And so it just looped and people were like, “I got like nine emails telling me to go do this thing within like five minutes. I was like, “Oh, yeah, sorry.” I was actually coaching them about automation that week. And I was like, “Yeah, this is what not to do.”

Joe Casabona: That’s so funny. That’s so funny because I did like a workshop on automation for… like creator community once recently. And it was at the same time that the Blink-182 concert tickets went on sale.

Kronda Adair: Oh boy.

Joe Casabona: So I’m a huge Blink-182 fan. They were like my coming-of-age band and they’re like back together now. So I basically opened the presentation, went, “So, we’re gonna do a non-automatable task right now” and I just ordered the tickets during the presentation. And I was like, “Now let’s talk about automation.”

Kronda Adair: I love it. Priorities. I love it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. And those tickets were gone, and they’re like 500 bucks, by the time the workshop was over. So really glad I got them. They’re like, “Glad you got your tickets.” I’m like, “You are all super cool people.

Kronda Adair: Yes, priorities got to do it.

Joe Casabona: Absolutely. Okay, so let me end on this, the main segment, at least, on this, because that was always something I struggled with. And again, my developer brain was like, there should be a staging area for email automations. And then someone was like, “why don’t you just put yourself in the automation to test it?” And I’m like, “Right, I could also do that.”

So when you’re putting automations together, can you talk about your process a little bit? Do you draw it out first? Do you like…? I’m not familiar with ActiveCampaign, but in ConvertKit there’s automations and sequences.

Kronda Adair: So in Active Campaign, there’s a visual automation builder. So we have a bunch of mapping templates for the automations that we use the most. So I can usually just grab one of those and copy it over. I’ll usually kind of try to choose the colors to sort of match what it looks like in ActiveCampaign.

In Lucidchart, it was really easy to do that. I was like, Oh, it looks like one-to-one. So yeah, we have those mapped out. And it’ll be everything from, you know, the weight steps, the tags. One of the things we do a lot in testing and just sort of letting the automation… Like when they’re new, it’s like you have to babysit them. So we’ll put in Slack notifications in the steps.

Joe Casabona: Oh, nice.

Kronda Adair: It’s you want to know like, Oh, so and so got… Especially for onboarding, right? So and so got their welcome email or so and so filled out their information form.

Joe Casabona: Oh, I love that.

Kronda Adair: So we’ll do that. Conditional content is… I’m really a huge fan of conditional content where you can specify the copy that’s displayed in the email based on different rules that you set. So we have five email addresses that we use for testing. They’re all named Iris. So I’ll just set up like the different Irises with different tags and criteria, whatever to make sure things show.

Joe Casabona: Why Iris? Is it like Iris the storm or whatever?

Kronda Adair: No. I needed… let’s see. Kay Peacey who runs the ActiveCampaign Academy, she has… Hers is like Horatio, which is great, because you’re never going to have a like Horatio.

Joe Casabona: Oh, yeah. I see. I see.

Kronda Adair: Which, you know, there are some real Irises. But a lot of my tests contacts are named after people from like CW superhero shows. So it’s Iris West-Allen.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Kronda Adair: So there’s five Irises. So we can set those up differently. In the old email editor for ActiveCampaign, you can actually put an email address in and just look at the test screen. You look at the preview. They’ll show you the preview. But then they have a new email designer, which is so much better than the old one, but they don’t yet have that feature so we use the Irises.

So yeah, testing things like different conditional content, testing “if else” things… like just going through things. We map it out first. Ideally, we map it out first, then we build it. I’m trying to remove myself from more of the day-to-day. So the mapping will become even more important because we have a new team member starting next week to help build more of the automations.

And again, the issue is I like doing it and I can do it, and it’s actually a problem. So I told my team, in our first meeting this year, I was like, “Look, ask forgiveness, not permission. Feel free if I take something, take it back.” It’s really challenging.

Joe Casabona: Love it.

Kronda Adair: But yeah, we have all sorts of… And it helps too when you’re doing the same kinds of automations because we just will copy them over from, you know, like import them. You don’t have to build them from scratch all the time. So that helps, too.

So having a system that you kind of know the system and then you’re implementing that same system for multiple clients makes it go easier and faster. So yeah, those are some of our tricks. I’m not gonna tell you everything.

Joe Casabona: Nice. I like that a lot, though. I guess final question here is, how often do you review those automations? I know maybe that sounds counterproductive, right? They’re supposed to like run and then you’re supposed to forget about them.

Kronda Adair: Yeah, no. I mean, we’ve just pivoted right. So we had a done-for-you offer and we’ve kind of pivoted and narrowed that down to really focus on ActiveCampaign and doing email automation. So all the processes that we had, everything is up for discussion. So we’re rebuilding a lot of processes. So we’re looking hard at everything.

But my getting-to-know-you sequence, like, I will typically try to look at that at least once a year and rewrite it. It definitely will get rewritten because now Content Boot Camp was our flagship offer. Now it’s CRM to sales where we do the ActiveCampaign thing. So all of that is getting…

You know, my website’s out of date right now. It’s a lot of pressure being the automation person because it’s like, oh, people expect your stuff… And I just will be straight up with people and be like, you know what? We’re in a pivot right now. So everything’s not all smooth and shiny. There’s still some basic things.

You have to do it manually first and sense people through it and make sure that it’s what you want before you go through all the trouble to automate it. So I’m just real upfront with people that. I’m like, but doesn’t mean you can’t Iris because most people don’t even have the basics in place. We’re like Captain America, right? We can do that all day.

Joe Casabona: I love it. I love it because I love Chris Evans and I love Captain America. Great quote.

Kronda Adair: So yeah, I’m looking at everything right now. But in general, I would say, you know, going in like quarterly or every six months and looking at it. And like putting yourself through it. Sign up for your own thing and go through it. You’ll be like, “Oh, I missed that typo,” or “Oh I didn’t mean to say that that way,” or “Oh, this is totally irrelevant,” or “Oh, I could segment this and have it be more relevant based on these two groups of people.” Like eat your own dog food every once in a while.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. That is really helpful. I’ve signed up on my own email addresses and then I also use… Well, it was Feedbin for a while, now it’s Readwise. But you know, I use like the RSS reader newsletter subscription thing. And I was like, Oh, okay, like, cool. My newsletter doesn’t look like a hot pile of garbage in the RSS reader, which is nice.

Kronda Adair: Yeah, no, that’s good. That’s actually good. I’ll take that as a tip.

Joe Casabona: Substack do. Substack do.

Kronda Adair: I have not gotten into Substack. I’m just like, I don’t need to another playground to plan. I just-

Joe Casabona: I mean, a lot of journalists that I follow were on Substack. So I’m subscribed to them and they go to my Readwise account, and I’m just like, great, a giant Twitter button that has no purpose because it’s just the test.

Kronda Adair: Yeah. I’m so picky about… I mean, I know we talked about like, “Oh, copy is so important.” But design is important. And it doesn’t have to be like… I have a good frolleague… I got that phrase from like coach friend colleague.

Joe Casabona: Nice.

Kronda Adair: I respect the hell out of her, but her emails look like shit. And I’m just letting, kerning, spacing, whitespace. You know, I don’t want to get emails that are stretched the whole span of the Gmail window, and I’m just like, Come on, just make it easier to read.” I’m so nitpicky about that stuff. That’s one of my issues in like handing things off. But my team all know that like, oh, yeah, no, don’t do it that way and don’t mess up that space.

Joe Casabona: Nice. I like organized minimalism maybe is…

Kronda Adair: Yeah, yeah.

Joe Casabona: I use like Palladio for my templates in ConvertKit and it’s just like very minimalist, nice font, there’s not like graphics and boxes everywhere. Just like good spacing.

Kronda Adair: I’m just like, a nice Tahoma, big enough to… That’s the other thing is like I’m 51. So I’m like, If the text isn’t big enough, get the fuck out.

Joe Casabona: What? Wow. You bloomer, I had no idea. I thought we were like closer in age.

Kronda Adair: So I’m definitely at the phase of like readers and like just shaking my fist at tiny text. Fun times.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Well, Kronda, this has been amazing, as I knew it would be. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Kronda Adair: Head on over to karveldigital.com. Hopefully, by the time this comes out, I will have updated the website and it will be shiny and accurate and all the things.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. I will link to that and everything we talked about over on the show notes at howibuilt.it/303. In how I Built It Pro, we are going to spend a few minutes talking about our favorite things about Airtable. So if you want to hear that, sign up for How I Built It Pro. It’s just five bucks a month or 50 bucks a year. And don’t churn because I won’t know if you do that.

Kronda Adair: Stay forever.

Joe Casabona: Yes, stay forever. It’s great content.

Kronda Adair: You don’t have tagging.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Kronda, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

Kronda Adair: Thanks for having me.

Joe Casabona: And thank you for listening thanks to our sponsors, Gap Scout, Groundhogg, and LearnDash. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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