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Matt Paulson, entrepreneur and author, is our guest on this week’s episode. Erick and Josh ask about MarketBeat and his book Email Marketing Demystified. Some of the topics covered this episode include platform risk and tips for email list marketing.

Learn about MarketBeat here: https://www.marketbeat.com/
Get the book Email Marketing Demystified here: myemailmarketingbook.com
Learn more about Matt here: https://www.mattpaulson.com/

VO: Get ready for your semi-regular dose of random ideas from the guys at Codelation. We like to talk about big ideas companies that are winning, and those that aren't along with current events in our crazy world of software startups. So come along with Erick and Josh, who challenge you to think big, start small and turn your ideas into something on this episode of, from idea to done.

: Hey everyone, I'm Josh.

Erick: and I'm Erick.

Josh: And today we have a special guest. Our friend, Matt Paulson from MarketBeat is joining us on this episode from idea to done.

Erick: Matt, why don't you take a little time to tell us a little bit about yourself and market beat?

: Sure. So I run a financial media company based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as you mentioned called MarketBeat, but we publish a daily investment newsletter that has 1.6 million recipients about 15 page 15 million Patriots a month. And it's all news and information and research draws about stock market. Um, I think that's, that's it,

Josh: We've gotten to know each other a little bit over the last, probably two, three years at some founder retreat events. And, uh, one thing I've always wondered is, you know, how have you gotten traction in a space? That's got some really heavy competition. I think people may look at Yahoo finance or these other sites that give stuff away for free. How'd you figure out kind of the secret sauce for marketing?

Matt Paulson: Yeah, so, you know, Yahoo finance is kind of the big gorilla in our market and they've been around for 20, 30 years, you know, close to 30 years now. So they have a huge headstart on us, which we started with close to 10 years ago. Um, but what's interesting about the financial news and information business is it's not really a zero sum game. So people will go to Yahoo finance MarketBeat. They won't won't pick and choose. So that's been helpful to us and, you know, in our space, you know, people are used to paying about $6 for an email sign up. And I said, okay, I don't want to pay that. How can I get them cheaper? Um, so we've gotten some really good content marketing stuff, especially around like Google news and Google finance and, um, any kind of stock, vertical news, um, sites. So even like w we have content into MSN money, for example, uh, we've been able to use those platforms to generate a lot of organic traffic. That's not just, you know, ranking for keywords on Google, but you don't have some of the more verticalized, you know, sections of Google and in being in Yahoo to, to generate traffic for our website, you know, that turns into email sign up. So our average email signup cost is under a dollar and the industry average is about six.

Josh: Wow. So you've got content that's getting picked up by other news outlets and you're using kind of their audience to help drive your email sign-ups

Matt Paulson: Are kind of knowing dollar idea was we kind of pioneered the idea of automated financial content. So we would take a structured piece of financial data, like an earnings report. Um, and then we would use some software to create a, kind of a human readable article with that. Um, so it kind of reads like a press release, but it's, you know, this company announced their earnings today. It was this number compared to the assessment, this number, and you have that allowed us to publish content at scale into some of these platforms. So we might only have a hundred people read an article, but that's enough for us to, you know, if we do 500 of them a day or a thousand of them a day, um, you know, it got us a lot of traffic for quite a while. And you know, that, that, that hack doesn't really work anymore. But, um, you know, we kind of built our business off that idea.

Josh: Cool. And do you guys monetize off of a couple of different directions? Don't you?

Matt Paulson: Yeah, so we are a mix of subscriptions and premium or subscriptions and advertising. So we kind of have a freemium model on our subscription. So if you don't pay us there's ads in your newsletter, obviously ads on our website as well. And then if you do pass the news that our experiences is kind of ad free and then you get access to some other stuff as well. But, um, you know, right now, um, the way the business has evolved advertisements, probably 70% of the revenue, and that's not how we designed it, but that's kind of where the business took us. And that's where we're at.

Josh: Cool. If, if you could, um, you know, rewind the clock 10 years when you were starting market beat and, you know, what have you learned to date that you'd try to go back in time and tell yourself, or, you know, a lot of our audiences early stage startup ideas, but what would you, what sort of advice would you give to them as they're certain to work on their ideas?

Matt Paulson: Yeah, the advice that I wish I had had kind of picked up on it really early on was usually we have to be really aware of your platform risk. So there was a point when we were getting traffic from Google and our only monetization was Google AdSense. So it's like our entire business at that time would just, um, dependent on the whims of Google, like you to our websites and monetizing them. And, you know, our interest in Google is aren't aligned very well. So it's a, not a great spot to be in and you kind of see it happen over and over again, people get too reliant on big companies, API or traffic source and, you know, it does it doesn't typically end well. So if you can insure yourself against that stuff as much as possible, um, you know, you're starting to, you're setting yourself up for success.

Josh: Yeah. I saw that happen with the, like a lot of the Facebook chat companies when the Facebook shut off the chat bot type type stuff. Uh it's

Matt Paulson: We've been able to do that just by diversifying our traffic sources and the revenue and, um, you know, building audiences on platforms where there's not a company that owns it. So you don't have to email like Google can't just go and change the email spec without talking to a whole bunch of other companies. Same thing is true for SMS to some extent, same, thing's true for web push notifications. We've got probably 400,000 people that get our push notifications. So we focus on those things and less on like Facebook and in Twitter and that kind of stuff.

Josh: So direct, direct contact to your customers

Matt Paulson: That could be, uh, you know, it could even be a direct mail list if you wanted to go on one of the old school too, but.

Erick: old school.

Matt Paulson: I mean, if there's another company in between talking like you and your customers, and they are kind of the firewall that determines if your message gets through and you're in a bad spot.

Erick: So, you know, I found a book online called Email Marketing Demystify. And so I have it, it's written by you, it's now in my audible. And we kind of started our email list within about the same time as this podcast, basically. And our list right now is it's basically people we know, and they kind of like our content and we get nice, nice words from our friends, basically when things are done. So what, what advice would you have to people to kind of like grow? And I know that there's a whole book on this. It's like a first step someone can take to grow their email list outside of just people that they know.

Matt Paulson: Yeah. And what's difficult, which is you can do everything right. And not get an email signups, unless you have like traffic on your website or some other source of people, you know, maybe podcasts listeners or social media followers. Cause your, your email list will be reflective of your other followings. So you can like set up the perfect lead magnet at the best opt-in and still not get any signups if you don't have an audience somewhere else. So, um, people sometimes will focus too much on, you know, getting ready most service provider, having a best opt in that kind of stuff. When like, that's, that's not going to matter unless you have a whole bunch of people on your website or some other place to follow you to begin with. So you know half of it is setting up their w you know, male champion, whatever else. But the other half of it is you've got to be interesting. You've got to have something to say, and you need to have people following you already, if you're going to go the analyst

Erick: Easy enough.

Josh: So if you, if you were just starting out and you don't have an audience, you don't have a following, do you have any hacks or recommendations, you know, to, to get leverage someone else's brand or, you know, some way to, to start that, that following?

Matt Paulson: Yeah. I mean, there's a few things you can do. You can always email people and say, Hey, can I add you to my list? I'm going to write about this for your first hundred subscribers. And so, um, obviously that doesn't scale, but, you know, you can get your first hundred that way. Um, beyond that, you know, you can, you try to approach people that do have audiences and see if you can share some content with them behind an email opt in, um, you know, that works. Um, it is just, it is a slow grind to get going though. Um, um, you know, I'm doing a podcast interview right now. Maybe somebody will listen to this and Google the name, Matt Paulson. And after this land on my website type in my email, or I could say, Hey, if you want a free copy of my book, go to whatever URL, you can get a free copy of my book and, you know, required an email opt in for that. So, um, you know, have something valuable that you can give somebody else's audience and put an opt in, in front of it is kind of the first thing that a lot of people do.

Josh: Well. Any, anything else that you can think of that our audience might find value in, in terms of, you know, email marketing company, uh, not being, uh, tied to the evil Google or Facebook's?

Matt Paulson: Yeah, I mean, the big thing that I've kind of learned about email in the last couple of years is, you know, the biggest, list size doesn't matter. It's, it's how many people that are engaging with your email is what matters. So if somebody doesn't open a message from us in 30 days, we kick them off the list. And because we do that, we get 30% open rates at Gmail. And like, nobody gets that we don't have a problem with spam filters ever, because we don't have an active people on our list. We just kick them off or wait until they open an email to start sending the mail again, like if you can stay really on top of your deliverability stuff, like you just never have gone to spam.

Josh: Cool. Yeah. It's, you're, you're, you know, we're starting off, it's the bigger number, the better, but you're absolutely right. Of, you know, you need to be able to clean that list and make sure that people are actually engaging. Otherwise what's the point of even having a list? Yeah,

Matt Paulson: Because I mean, our total email list is 1,000,006. Um, but there's probably about 600,000 of them that are open an email from us within the last 30 days. So if you, you know, those are the people we email daily, you know, from 30 to 90 days, it's about weekly and after 90 days, maybe an email every other month to try to reactivate them, but it's just, you know, you're active people more and you're less active people less than, and that'll help you out a lot.

Josh: Yeah. Well, cool. I appreciate taking some time and talking with us, Matt, um, where can our audience come find you? What, what do you have to promote what's going on in your world? Uh,

Matt Paulson: Yeah, so I, I do some black posts periodically yet my domain name, which is MattPaulson.com. And then all my books are on Amazon, including Email Marketing, Demystified. If anybody wants that book, there's the URL for it. It's just my email marketing book.com.

Josh: Cool. We'll definitely get that, uh, into our show notes here and again, Matt, thanks very much for taking a few minutes and talking with us. We really appreciate it. Thank you for having me. Yeah. You know, Eric, I found it really interesting on how Matt really dove into such a crowded space. I mean, you think of, uh, financial news financial advice that there's just a ton of content out there and really interesting how he's able to kind of automate things and drive it forward with email marketing. That was really interesting to me

Erick: As a business development person, I've met 407 bajillion financial. And so, so no, I thought, you know, anytime you can dig into a crowded field, I think it was awesome. And so because of that, I started actually reading the book and I usually read Harry Potter books on the weekend, or just something fun and goofy. This is much different than what I normally reading on the weekends. But one thing I liked is, you know, I haven't got too far into it, but they, he suggested using some of the tools that we're using and we're kind of a small team and it's scary and exciting to try anything, but it's really, it's nice to hear someone successful using the same tools as us.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, for those of you who haven't picked up yet, Matt's got a great book on email marketing. Um, where can they find it out again or,

Erick: Uh, audible, I forget the name of it. I'm fine. We'll put it

Josh: In the script. Yeah. We'll post that in the description. And, um, I'm pretty sure he's a ebook on, on, uh, Amazon too, but you know, I really liked the, uh, the approach to owning your customers and not leaning on any one channel to be successful,

Erick: You know, and I never really thought of, of just of the importance of not leaning on a channel. Like I, I never really put into, like, I never had it in my mind that Google or Facebook could like change your algorithm and completely destroy your business. And then you're like, what? You're kind of stuck. You're stuck in one channel, then, then that's going to be devastating to your business. And I've never thought of that before this particular, um, conversation.

Josh: Yeah. I think a lot of entrepreneurs look at it and say, it's just too hard to build an email list and email's dead. You know, uh, Facebook bots are the next cool thing. We need to lean into that. And you know, you, you build up a, an audience on that technology, on the platform, all it takes is for Facebook to say, you know what, guys bots are going away, or we're going to change how you get to talk to your audience on our platform because those aren't your, your users they're, they're ours. So, you know, at that point you're just really dead in the water

Erick: And full disclosure. I opened up my audible and the book is called Email Marketing Demystified. I am, I apologize, but I did make up for it. And so, yeah, I think you guys for listening, I hope you know of a startup that could use a little of RI advice and random thoughts. Um, send them over to codelation-bedrock.flywheelstaging.com to hear the next podcast.

Next Episode

Mergers and Company Growth ft. Michael Zuercher

About the Show

Erick and Josh talk about big ideas, companies that are winning and those that aren’t, and current events in the crazy world of software startups.

Josh Christy


Erick Roder

Director of People
and Nerd Culture

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