How to Grow Your Online Audience with Janet Murray

Today I’m interviewing the wonderful Janet Murray about how to grow your online audience. Janet had a lot of influence and impact on me launching my podcast and growing my own audience. Out of all the podcasts out there at the moment, Janet’s is the go to podcast that I listen to every single morning. As I’m doing my makeup and my hair in the morning, I always go and search on Janet’s podcast.

What I love about her podcast is it’s super practical. Whether it’s her interviewing a guest or just herself, it’s always super valuable, really high level of content, and it really did inspire me with my own content creation.

I also have Janet Murray’s planner and that really helped me, particularly in the early days of my business, to think about using key dates in the media to create engaging content. So I was really excited and a little bit nervous to interview Janet.

I know how challenging it can be when you’re thinking about building wealth for yourself and your family, and you’re not quite sure where to get started in building an online audience. There’s a lot of very successful online entrepreneurs out there at the moment, and one of the topics we’ve talked about on the podcast before is about not comparing yourself to everybody else and remembering it’s about the small steps.

Janet Murray is the go to expert who can help you with how to get started to build your online audience. She’s a very experienced keynote speaker, and her background is in journalism. She runs a highly successful podcast called the Janet Murray Show, and she’s also got an awesome book and lots of planners and tools that you can go and have a look at.

We’re going to be talking about what kind of content to create to get started with building your online audience, the importance of engagement, not just putting your content out there for the sake of it, and also the importance of building an email list. We’re going to be doing a deep dive into how to build an online audience in terms of how that links to wealth creation.

A massive welcome to you, Janet. I’m so, so delighted to have you on the show. I listen to your podcast every week, so it’s quite strange now to be interviewing you on the other end, but a massive welcome, thank you for joining us today.

And thanks for having me.

I’ve got your planner and it really helped me with the planning part of my content. Ironically, I’m not a natural planner, so I really have to harness tools to help me to get into planning mode. So maybe we can talk a little bit about that.

For anybody who doesn’t know you, Janet, could you perhaps just give us a little bit of an introduction to who you are and what do you do?

Yeah, so I’m Janet Murray and my thing is helping people to build online audiences. When I say that people often say, “well, what does that mean?” It generally means more followers, more fans, more subscribers. Because if we have more of those, if we have a bigger audience, if we have more people following us and engaging with us, then we’re going to make more sales. We’re going to make more money.

How did you come into the online space because your background’s in journalism, isn’t it?

Yeah. So I completely fell into it by accident. I was actually a school teacher first and I did that for three or four years and decided that it was really hard work. I’m not afraid of work, but I was quite young and I was working really, really long hours and had always secretly harboured this desire to be a journalist.

So I retrained as a journalist and I spent, in the end, the best part of 18 years as a journalist writing and editing for national newspapers. The Guardian was the main one that I wrote for, and then I just kind of fell into it. People would come to me and they’d say to me could you do some training for us on how to get in the press? Can you come and train my team on how to pitch to journalists? And this was much better paid work than my journalism work. I think people often have this perception that journalists get well paid, and actually often they don’t. They get paid per word or per article. It’s not bad, but often you have to do quite a lot of work to make it a decent income.

So people would come along and they would offer me consultancy and training work, which is much better paid. And I also started to run these events called What Journalists Want, and basically we charged people to come and listen to journalists talking about what they were looking for. So accidentally and entrepreneurially I fell into this thing and I was thinking, well, people are approaching me to do this kind of stuff. They’re asking me to help them. How can I get more people to find me so that more of this work comes my way? I had this idea that if I wrote a blog, then people would just find me on this blog and then they’d book me and want to pay me loads of money to do consultancy.

Then when I got into blogging, I realised I had a bit of a following actually, because I had a bit of an audience on Twitter for my journalism work. So people were finding me, but I started to realise that I needed to work a little bit harder if I wanted people to find my content and my blog. I needed to understand how to get to the top of Google. So I just started learning about it. I started learning about search engine optimisation and that got me into email marketing.

Then I thought, okay, I can get people to my website, but then how do I actually then convert them into customers? So I started to learn about that and I got interested in online marketing and just then decided that maybe I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore. So I kind of pivoted out of it.

I started off teaching people press and PR, which is quite interesting for me now because I often have clients who come to me and they say, “well, I have got this thing that I can teach online, and it means I can give up my day job, but I don’t really want to do it.” That’s exactly how I felt about teaching press and PR. It was a bit uncomfortable for me. I didn’t really want to do it, but that’s what people wanted to pay me for. So I thought, well, if that’s what people want to pay me for: how to write, press releases, how to pitch to journalists, that kind of thing, that’s what I’ll do. So I started off with this business where I was teaching people about press and PR and I started to build up online courses and memberships and that kind of thing.

It wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but doing that gave me the experience and the process of that. I started a podcast, I was blogging more, I was really active on social media, I was building an email list, which we’ll talk about later. And then all of that helped me to build the platform. I had a platform, I had people following me, engaging with my content, particularly with the podcast. And then that gave me the numbers that allowed me to move into more of what I’m doing now, which I enjoy more and I feel it gets people better results than just focusing on press and PR.

So that’s where I ended up. It was totally accidental, and it was about me thinking how can I get people to pay me more money and how can I get people to find me online so I don’t have to go out and do the sales pitch thing. Totally accidental.

What I love about what you shared there is that it’s literally been one thing that’s led to the next. I think certainly in business, that’s what happens, isn’t it? You have to be prepared sometimes as you said to maybe do something you don’t really want to do, but as you’ve described with your experience, that consultancy work, how did that enable you then to grow your business?

What would have happened if you had said, actually, I don’t want to do this at all. Do you think that would have impacted the ability to grow your business?

Yeah, totally. I see this with my clients all the time that they have something that they want to teach people, but in business you might have something you want to teach people or you want to train people in, but if they don’t want to learn it, if they’re not interested, if there isn’t a market for it, then they’re not going to buy.

So for me, it gave me the freedom as well. I often say this to my clients. When people come into my Build Your Online Audience programme, what they want straight away is they’re like “I’ve heard about online courses and memberships. I want to be selling online courses and memberships to hundreds of people. And I want to do it next month.”

Well actually, it takes time to build up numbers to do that. And the average conversion rate online conversion rate is 1-2%. So in order to be able to sell a hundred online courses, you need quite a lot of people in your audience. So the way I always talk to my clients about it is you need to put your fire out first. So actually taking on consultancy work or maybe doing a part time gig, or building up your online business as a side hustle and doing the things that people will pay you to do right now because you have the experience and you have the expertise: that can often be a much smarter move.

I see sometimes people walk away from jobs or careers thinking I’m going to build this online business, not realising that these overnight successes are usually at least about five years in the making. And actually it’s so important just to make sure that you’ve got money coming in. So for me, that was about if I can get people to pay me to do things that I have got expertise in at the moment, that frees me up -it gives me the financial freedom to then be fiddling away at night building my blog and learning about email marketing.

I remember somebody saying to me when I was in that position – I was funnily enough on a very similar path doing consultancy first, which I didn’t really want to do, but it was my way of bringing in some money into the house so that I could invest in building the business and have some of it to live on. Someone said: imagine that your consultancy work or your employer is like your angel investor. They are paying you a salary or a consultancy fee to help you to build that side hustle business to then in the future, turn it into your full time business.

That always stuck in my head for some reason. I just loved that analogy. So if anyone’s sitting there maybe in an employed job or consulting or wanting to launch a course or a membership or a program, and they want that success quickly, what would your advice be to them as to how to get started in building that online audience?

So the first thing I would say is don’t expect it to happen quickly. That would be the first bit of advice. It takes most people a good year to build an online audience of the size that you need to sell one to many. We talk about one-to-one or one to many, which is selling in the hundreds or thousands. So be realistic about it and be kind to yourself because yes, there’s always exceptions and occasionally someone will pop up and they appear to have become an overnight success online, but usually there’s a story behind it, or it’s just very unusual. If it was easy to build an online audience and have loads of followers and subscribers, then we would all have it wouldn’t we? It takes time, it takes investment, it takes consistency. Be kind to yourself and don’t expect it to happen overnight.

When I first started teaching people, I used to try and teach them everything at once, and I used to teach them about social media and blogging and email lists. I realised actually that that’s too much. So the way that I teach people in my Build Your Online Audience programme is we start with the very first class which is about putting your fire out. So making sure you’ve got enough money coming in, you’ve got consultancy, or you’ve got some work coming in that will keep you financially stable so that you can actually go off and build this online business.

Then the second one is about your niche. Really finding out what skills and expertise you’ve got to offer, but crucially what people actually want to buy. Particularly in the coaching industry, people would take a coaching qualification and rock up with their coaching qualification and imagine they’re going to have tons of clients. Just post a few things on LinkedIn or whatever. Actually it doesn’t work like that. It’s a very saturated market and loads of people out there are coaching.

So the first thing is trying to find a niche or an area that you can get known for so that people can say, “well, Catherine, she’s the person that you go to if you need help with money or money mindset.” And a lot of people don’t have that. They don’t have a thing that people could get to know them about or recommend them. So that’s the very first thing.

The trouble with niching is it doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes it takes a while and you have to work with different types of people in order to find the right area of specialism. I also encourage people to get really clear about how to describe what they do, because again, you can get on social media and you can start posting stuff but if people don’t understand your bio, or you’ve got some really incoherent thing that people don’t understand.

I also encourage people to create consistent colours and fonts and just get the basics in place in their business. So all of that before people even start posting on social media. It’s just: who are you? What do you do? And just making sure that you’re consistent and everything’s clear.

Then the next step is to start on social media. Building an audience on social media first, because building an audience is all about content and understanding what kind of content is going to resonate with your audience. So there’s no good you getting into really complicated email marketing stuff if you can’t get somebody to engage with social media posts that you’ve written. I really encourage people to pick a platform, maybe Instagram or Facebook, and just try and get really good at that platform. When you get good at that one platform or maybe two, then you can replicate what you’ve learned to another platform.

A lot of it is understanding what kind of content will resonate with people. When people are first starting out, often they get it wrong. You know, they think that it’s about jumping online and just saying, “buy my stuff, buy my stuff. This is what I do. This is how to work with me.” That kind of content generally doesn’t get any engagement. It takes a little bit of time just to work out what kind of content is going to resonate with my audience and how do I need to talk to them? What do they need to hear from me?

You’ve touched on some really interesting points there. Niching is one of those areas where a lot of people get stuck don’t they because they’re like, “well, I don’t know. I want to help everybody.”

I remember on your podcast, and I forget who it was that shared this now, but one of the guest experts on your podcast said if you try and serve everybody, you serve nobody. But there’s this fear isn’t there that if I niche, then that’s going to limit who I can sell to. But in actual fact, what you’re saying then Janet, is that the more you niche,the easier that engagement for your content is because then you’re talking specifically to the pain points of that ideal client.

Yeah. Everything gets easier. It’s really difficult if you’re trying to please lots of different types of people or you’re trying to cover lots of different topics. When you sit down and try and think about what you’re going to put on social media, it’s a real headache. But if you know that you specialise inmoney mindset or financial planning, or if your thing is ADHD for smart ass women, or if you know that your thing is business coaching and numerology, it’s really niche.

Niche isn’t always for everyone, niche can be like Marmite, it can put some people off. Numerology and business coaching for example.

You talked a little bit there as well about creating content consistently that’s going to engage with your audience. Can you give us some examples of some engaging content that you produce Janet, for anyone who’s thinking about putting content out there?

The key thing to remember is you’re starting conversations. So it’s not about you broadcasting to people, it’s thinking about how you can start conversations. One of the things that I’ve created to help people with this is a social media diary and planner, and it’s got awareness days and key dates that you can use to spot content ideas.

I also have a club that goes with it because I realised that just having this planner wasn’t enough, that actually some people need help with the ideas. You give them an awareness day, but what do I do with that awareness day? So I send out an email every Monday to those people with ideas.

It’s just about thinking about what are my ideal audience or customers or clients like? What are they interested in? What’s keeping them up at night? What do they need to know about? What do they need help with? Let’s say for my audience, for example, I help people build online audiences. What do they struggle with? Well, they want to get more followers on Instagram. They want to understand how the hashtags work on Instagram. They want to understand what they should be posting on Instagram stories. They want to understand what they should be doing on that grid. And they want to understand how to build their email list. They want to understand how to make a lead magnet to get people onto their email list. So a lot of it is about thinking what problems can I solve for them?

Often people think, “well, it’s easy if you’re in social media or digital media,” but whatever business you’re in, you’re solving problems for people. I sell a product as well. My diary solves a problem for people who:

  • A) get stuck with content ideas – it gives them a prompt and gives them ideas, and
  • B) for people who struggle to be consistent and need a plan to follow – it helps them to make a plan.

So it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’ve got, it’s about thinking what problems do they have and what information do I have that I could give to people? So that’s part of your content.

I often break it down into three stages, because the thing is when people first come across you, they’re not always ready to buy. Most of us don’t buy cold when we first hear about someone.

The first stage is awareness content. That might be when you’re just answering people’s questions, you’re being a helpful person. And anybody really with your expertise or your knowledge could create this kind of content. So anyone who knows about Instagram could create a blog post on how to get more followers on Instagram. It’s not about me specifically, it’s just sort of generic content.

Then you also need to create content that’s selling content. You want to talk about your products or services, but if you just put out that kind of content, then people are just going to switch off. If every post you do is ‘buy my stuff, buy my stuff, and here’s the link go and buy my stuff.’

The other type of content that you need to create is what I call consideration content. So this is thinking about all the reasons why people wouldn’t want to buy from you and then addressing their concerns. And that actually might also be in the form of testimonials as well as if you’re working with people who had good results sharing some of the results that they’ve they’ve had.

So it’s three parts of the journey. The first is general awareness where you’re just creating helpful stuff, answering people’s questions. So if you sell skincare products, you might be creating content about how to deal with acne or how to look younger or how to rejuvenate your skin after a heavy weekend away. Then you might be creating specific content about what it’s like working with you. So why do you charge £45 an hour when the person down the road only charges me £10, orit might be that you do something like skin peels – well how do they work? Are they dangerous? My friend got acne when she used the skin peel, will that happen to me? It’s that kind of thing. And then you’ve got your purchase content.

So it’s about creating content for people at different stages in the journey. But what you’re also trying to do is just build a relationship with your audience. So I really encourage people sometimes to post things that are just about anything really. This is where the awareness days in my diary might come in.

Say it’s national doughnut day and you like doughnuts, there’s no reason why you couldn’t share with your audience a doughnut you just bought and ask them whether they like doughnuts as well. People are incredulous when I first share this because they’re like, “well, that’s got nothing to do with your business? Why would you talk about doughnuts?” First of all, I can usually turn anything into a business angle. It’s about thinking about the topic or the awareness and how can I get a business angle on it?

Today I'm interviewing the wonderful Janet Murray about how to grow your online audience.

People always want to share their favourite toppings. You did this last year on pizza toppings, you had really good engagement on that social media post, didn’t you?

Yeah. There was actually quite a strong business reason for it. We had four designs of my diary cover last year, and the one that was least popular had a lovely Hawaiian cover. We were getting to the end and we wanted to just finish the sales with the physical diary. We usually have sold them all out by the end of January. So we did a little fun promotion where it was ‘Buy a Hawaiian, win a Hawaiian.’ So if people bought one of my Hawaiian diaries, they got a free pizza.

In part of the promo for it we did something on LinkedIn where we asked people whether they thought you should put pineapple on a pizza and it got so much engagement.

I always think that kind of content, you don’t need to have any kind of special experience or skills or background. There’s no risk of embarrassing yourself, people like to talk about that kind of stuff. So the trick is always to try and find a business angle.

For example, July 27th is National Sleepy Head Day, and people love talking about sleep. So if you have a health related business, obviously you can talk about what’s the optimum amount of sleep that you should have. Or if you’re a skincare specialist, you can talk about how many hours sleep you need to have nice looking skin. I can think of loads! If you’re a business coach, you can talk about what’s the optimum hours of sleep you need to be really productive in business. We all like talking about ourselves and we all like talking about sleep, so even if you just posted how many hours sleep do you get a night, I bet you would get loads and loads of comments.

I’m just imagining you: “How many hours sleep do you get?” with a picture of you with like really dark circles with a doughnut and a face mask on!

Some of my best performing posts – I did one which was about Starbucks: do you give your real name at Starbucks? I make a name up when I go to Starbucks because I don’t like them hollering my name across Starbucks, and that did really well.

I did what was your first car, that did really well. I did one when I was in the hairdressers once – I went to this trendy hairdressers once in Shoreditch and I sat down and there were dogs running around the place and I just thought, Oh, I’m not sure about this. I’m not that brilliant with dogs, and I thought I wonder if it will put some people off? I posted that I’m in the hairdressers, there’s dogs running around the place, what do you think? Is this a good idea? By the time I left the hairdressers, I had a hundred comments.

So you don’t need loads of images. You don’t need photos: that particular one didn’t even have a picture with it. It’s just about starting interesting conversations.

I love that. And everyone can do that, right? That could, as you say, just be while you’re sitting in the hairdressers or you’re out walking the dog. But posting personal content like that helps the audience to get to know you as well, as the person behind the business, behind the brand.

Yeah. One of the modules in my Build Your Online Audience programme is about developing your brand voice. It’s about your brand guidelines. What do you talk about? What kind of language do you use? Do you swear in your marketing? Do you not swear in your marketing? Do you use emojis?

One of the exercises I do is I get my clients to tell me what subjects I post about, around business and personal. And they can always remember the personal things. So they always go, “Oh, you posted about running, you post about your daughter’s Irish dancing, you post about your hair.” People are much more interested in personal stuff.

The best guide is what would you post on your personal Facebook? People often think when you’re posting content about your business it has to be corporate, but actually if you think about some of your posts on your personal Facebook that have got lots of engagement, that’s probably going to give you a better steer about what’s going to do better in your businesses. It’s often a lot less serious and a lot less corporate than a lot of people imagine.

Leading from that: if people are posting engaging content on social media, whether that’s Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn, or even something like TikTok,how important is it to convert those engaged, loyal, raving fans then into your email list? Do you think that is really important to do in business?

It’s huge. So the bottom line is a lot of people jump online and think that they can just post a few things on social media and people will buy. But as we’ve talked about, people need to get to know you. They need to grow the know like, and trust before they’re ready to buy.

The trouble with social media is that yes, you can make sales on social media – I make sales every day on social media – but what it’s very hard to do is to first of all is set targets and to track those sales, because there’s not really a reliable method by which you can say ‘if I post this, I’ve made this sale and I know it was directly related to this.’ We can do that to an extent, but what you can’t do really is set targets because it’s so random.

The other part of it is that your social media could be taken away from you. So we’ve had a couple of examples of Facebook and Instagram outage when people are on launches. Instagram isn’t up today and I’ve got this launch going on, or with people losing their whole accounts. So not relying on social media is what I’m getting to. You can’t really rely on predictable sales. It’s not like you can set a sales target every month and say I’m definitely going to sell this many on my Instagram or Facebook, because it’s not really an exact science.

With email marketing, you can do that. With email marketing you obviously know how many people are on your list. You know what they’re opening, you can measure what they’re clicking on. You can measure even exactly what product or service they’re looking at because you can set tags up depending on what provider you’re using.

You can also look at your past performance. So you can say, “when I was promoting this particular product or service before, we were able to sell this many from this many emails with this content in it. So therefore we can reliably predict that we can do this in the future.” And I don’t think there’s a method really of doing that on social media.

And it’s yours: an email list is yours. Nobody’s going to take that away from you and suddenly shut down your account overnight. So email is really a way of making much more reliable, predictable sales. A lot of people shy away from building an email list because it can be hard. It’s not easy, but if you want to be able to make consistent, reliable sales and you want to build a proper business that’s turning over proper money, you really do need to do that.

What’s been your most successful way of converting people from following you on social media and engaging to joining your email list?

Using lead magnets. So that’s a resource that you create which is exactly that: it’s designed to act as a magnet. So it’s something that people want – most of us are not happy to give our email address away just because somebody says I’ve got a newsletter. People are looking for valuable information and they’re looking for a quick win as well.

I always encourage my clients to start off with a really simple PDF download with some tips or ideas, but often what people create is really generic. So you might say here’s 10 money tips for entrepreneurs. It’s very general. It’s not very specific.

What I want is that kind of shot in the arm that’s going to deal with a real pain point. Something that’s going to help me solve a real problem. It’s going to maybe help me save £500 or it’s going to help me to get £100 in my bank account by the end of the day.

Things that worked really well for me: I’ve got one download that’s 27 social media ideas for when you’re all out of ideas. It’s literally post ideas. I’ve got 31 ideas for Instagram stories. I’ve got an audience calculator that will calculate how many people you need in your audience to make a specific amount of sales. I’ve also got quite an unusual one, which is a daily email. I send a daily email to my list every morning and it’s tips or inspiration and some people sign up to that because they want a little bit of inspiration for life or business in the morning.

I used to have one that was really good, which was the things that you need to do to get to your first £1k a month in your business, £5k a month, and £10k a month. They had quite specific things that you needed to do and they did really, really well.

You can have a load of people downloading your lead magnet, but the tricky bit to get right is then converting them. There’s a little bit of work to do with your email marketing to write engaging emails. So you deliver that lead magnet, and then you write some engaging emails and build the relationship. It sounds like there is a lot to it, but you can build it up a bit at a time. You don’t have to be doing all this sophisticated stuff. I’ve got clients who’ve got their first thousand email subscribers by creating a very simple PDF download that really solves a problem, a pain point for their client. They’ve written a few follow up emails and that’s converting really well.

The other thing about your email list is only needs to be as big as the number of clients that you need. So if you need 10 clients a year, then you don’t need to have a massive email list, but if you’re looking to sell something like my diary, looking to sell thousands rather than hundreds, you would need more.

That last point is really important, I think, because like you say, if you’ve got a higher end programme you wouldn’t need as many people, although I guess conversion levels may not be so high because it’s a higher investment.

I know you’ve got a workshop coming up shortly about how to launch a planner, and I actually did your workshop on this recently. I went out to my audience and I asked them would you like a planner to help you plan out your money date with yourself every week? And they all said yes, it’d be amazing. I got loads of good examples of what planners they were using and I did loads of research. And then I did your workshop and I filled out all of the templates that came with the workshop and decided no, I’m not going to do it this year because it’s a big investment of my time, and actually my audience isn’t big enough yet to launch a planner for it to be as financially successful as I would like it to be.

So I think sometimes it is about understanding where you are at the moment and not necessarily just looking at what everybody else is doing. Thinking about what’s right for you in your business right now.

Yeah. And it’s the same with your social media audience as well. I’ve got clients who’ve got a few hundred followers on Instagram, but they’re actually buying from them. There was a big example recently of a Instagram influencer who had millions of followers and he tried to launch a tee shirt line and couldn’t sell a tee shirt.

I’ve got clients who are really quite small, and it isn’t really the numbers it’s about the engagement and whether people are buying from you and having conversations with you. You could have a tiny audience.

And the thing about the conversion rates as well is that they can vary on different products. I’ve got clients who do they do webinars, and they get 10 people on a webinar and they can convert six. So if you can do that brilliant, that’s great. With high ticket stuff it does tend to work more that way, but with something like a planner – I think I was converting at about 6-7%, which is above average but that’s because I’ve been doing it for a while.

So it may be better to stick to the high ticket stuff and build your audience up a bit and then do it later.

Amazing. You’re coming into the Money Circle in August to deliver some high level training for us. I’m really excited to listen to that, Janet. But if anybody would like to get in touch with you directly or to perhaps follow your podcast or join any of your groups, where would be the best place for them to find you?

The best place to find me is my website, which is I have a podcast which is the Janet Murray Show, easy to remember. And Instagram is the social media platform where I’m most active and I’m JanMurrayUK.


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