EPISODE 119

Bjork Ostrom’s Journey from Food Blogger to Recurring Revenue Membership Site with Courses

In this LMScast Chris Badgett of LifterLMS talks with Bjork Ostrom of Food Blogger Pro about his journey from food blogger to recurring revenue membership site with courses, and how persistence in the online workplace leads to success. In this episode you will learn how to build an online community and keep that community engaged with an online course or membership site. You will also learn some tips on how to identify your niche so that you can produce the most value possible.

Bjork Ostrom and his wife Lindsay run a successful online blog dedicated to food recipes. Bjork firmly believes that the process of success is created over time and requires a lot of work and refinement. Lindsay started out by posting recipes on social media, and this evolved into the couple starting a blog, which then turned into the membership site Food Blogger Pro that they run today.

If you are having trouble tapping into your niche or connecting with your online audience, then the tips that Bjork has to offer will be valuable for you to learn. Bjork explains the strategies he actively uses in his own business to make it successful. Tips on how to optimize your membership site or course can move you to the next level, and it is especially valuable to receive these tips from someone who is actively working in the field.

Keeping your online community engaged in your content is one of the most important aspects of running a membership site. It is important to provide the best experience for your customers, but it can be difficult to master how to keep people engaged.

Bjork discusses his strategies of keeping an online community engaged as well as how to get one started. Bjork highlights his approach to using social media and other tools he uses. He and Chris discuss the importance of persistence, dedication, and constant improvement, as well as how that plays into producing high quality content.

Running a successful membership site or course takes a lot of time and work, and it can also be confusing. Constantly putting in effort and continuously refining the process is important when it comes to staying relevant in the online marketplace. Creating content is a long-term process for membership sites, so it is important to provide not only content with high value, but also content with consistent value. As Bjork mentions, creating courses or membership sites is a lot like writing songs. You will write one thousand songs, then record one hundred of them, and then get one hit.

You can visit Bjork on his social media and on his website Food Blogger Pro. You can find out more about Chris Badgett at LifterLMS.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today we’re joined by Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro and WP Tasty. How are you doing, Bjork?

Bjork Ostrom: I’m doing great, Chris. Yeah, super excited to be here and to chat with you about anything and everything. All topics are on the table for us.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Bjork is a creator of a membership site, a blog, and inside that membership site are courses. He’s built quite a large community. I want to bring him on the show for you all so that you can learn some tips and tricks and just learn from Bjork’s experience. We’ll just get into some details around that. My understanding is that it all started with just a blog, Pinch of Yum, a food blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For sure.

Chris Badgett: What was your journey from starting blogging to getting into deciding to build a membership site?

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Many moons ago, it was probably six going on seven years ago, so this was 2010, April of 2010. My wife Lindsay who was a teacher at the time, I was working at a non-profit said, “You know, I’m super interested in getting interested in food recipes.” We had been married about a year. For the first time, she was cooking for two people instead of just herself. She started to get interested more on recipes. She’s posting those in social media and things like that. At one point, she was like, “Ah, I think that people that are following me kind of friends and family might be getting a little bit annoyed by how enthusiastic I am about sharing these recipes.” We were like, “Oh, maybe there’s a better place for that.” That’s when we had this blog conversation. At the time, I was really in to instill into audio books and podcast. I’m like the people that are listening to this right now. It’s like information junkies, right? I love that stuff.

I was listening to Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, which was like a perfect book for me to be listening to at the time. I hadn’t focused in on my business, it was really just like business in general, but I saw this one come up as recommended, and I was listening to it. That kind of planted the seed or the idea for creating a blog. Back in April 2010, we started Pinch of Yum on a Tumblr blog. At the time, we’re like we didn’t know what was going on. We post some photos and then Lindsay would post the recipe in a different post and we’re just totally clueless to the process. To do like a super fast forward through the story, we won’t spent too much time on it, but it was little by little, day by day, step by step that we started to figure it out.

It’s interesting to these interviews because I’m telling it from my perspective. A huge, huge part of it is Lindsay and her time and energy in creating the content, figuring out photography, testing the recipes and building it up overtime to figuring it out. How do we get more people to engage? How do we get more comments on it? Overtime, we slowly but surely built it up. We eventually switched to WordPress which is what we’re running the blog off of now. That’s really been our story. It’s been a story of like everyday showing up and figuring out in really small ways, how can we make this a little bit better and improve it? It all started back in 2010 with Lindsay saying, “Hey, I want to post some recipes online.”
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, yeah. Continuous improvement is what it’s all about. I mean, it’s easy to look at a membership site or successful blog and just want that. There’s seven years of hard work and not doing it alone, you’re doing it with Lindsay, and you’re committed to continuously improving things.
Bjork Ostrom: Those are all such important things for people to consider. My assumption would be people that are listening to this, there’s a percentage of people that are really successful at their site and they’re wanting to turn it up, they’re wanting to amplify their success. There’s also a portion of people that are listening to this that want that, that haven’t yet gotten it and feel like in some way they’re maybe inadequate. They look at other people that are really successful and then they’re like, “What am I doing wrong?” A lot of times, it’s just patience. It’s sticking with it and showing up everyday, even when it feels like you’re only pushing the boulder a little bit. The reason is because those people are on the other side of the hill. They’re like pushing the boulder up still. They’re like, “This is so much work. Stop. I get crushed by this boulder.”
What they don’t realize is there will be a point where they get to the top of the hill and the incline changes. Maybe it just goes to a plateau or maybe it even goes down a little bit where like they push the boulder and then it rolls on its own a little bit, but it takes a long time to get to that point. For those that are listening, I would encourage you to continue to make small improvements everyday, to not show up and do the same thing, to find ways to make improvements. Just stick with it for a long period time, because it does take a lot of time.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Before we get into courses and membership site, what are some key take aways that you learned that make the difference between average blog and a more successful blog? What did you find out in that time in blogging to what you …
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For sure, the biggest thing is just how much time it takes to produce high quality content. I think that a mindset that people can often have with content is you can go in and do something really quick and publish it, and then you check the content box like I’m doing in marketing or I’m creating content. If you have let’s say three posts that you’re doing, and there are those kind of like effort posts where you’re going in and checking the content marketing box, it’s better to combine the time that you’re using for those three posts to do one really in depth super high quality content post, as opposed to spreading that out and feeling like you’re doing the right thing because you’re producing a bunch of content.
It takes so much time to produce something that’s going to be helpful, that people are going to engage with and that people are going to share. If you really think about what it takes to share a post or a content, it’s really rare to do. Think about all the content that you read and consume and how little of that you actually shared, because there’s this one, two, three percent range where it has to be top notch and it just takes so much time and energy. I think it’s harder than most people really realize.
Chris Badgett: … That’s a really good point. Checking the content box, I like that like, “Okay, I’m going to write my 500 word posts for today,” but that’s not the approach to take. I know when I blog, if I might really get excited about a post, it’s going to take days to make it. It’s going to be images, it’s going to be video in there. There’s going to be a lot of links in there. It’s going to include research. It’s a lot of work but that’s how you make good content.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. That type of content can give back exponentially over a long period of time, depending in you’re industry. If it’s tech like you’re going to post something and it might be the iPhone 6 and then it’s outdated in six months or a year. In general, the type of content that is longer form type of content, the minute you go back and update throughout, that’s going to be content that’s going to continue to give back and it’s well worth the time and energy. The hard part is especially in those early stages when you’re doing it and it doesn’t feel like anybody’s there, that’s the difficult phase to break through is, when you’re working another job and using your free time that you’d usually watch Game of Thrones or hang out with you’re friends to do this side hassle and you’re not getting any engagement or interaction with that, and knowing that you have to put in on the content side at least, I think this is really true like a year or two years.
If you’re doing a strictly content based business or doing content marketing, there’s a real long tail, long term pay off with it. Obviously, there’s other things that you can beat in the thumb man business, like there’s infinite number of ways that you can create a business. Some of those can scale really quickly if you’re using advertising and you have a budget to spend money on advertising to create income from a product. If there’s a margin there, you could do that in a month. Right? If we’re talking specifically about content, it’s a really long term game and you have to pay your dues with it for sure, a lot of sweat equity.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If you’re listening to this and you’re like, “I just want to make online courses or make my membership site and focus content there,” I think not doing a blog of any kind, even if you just post four times a year, you need all the service. In fact, I don’t know if the listeners know this, but the reason I left LMS, the product this year are WordPress blog and for making courses. It all started for my blog post I wrote when I first started building an online course website or WordPress. I was really passionate about it and just sharing what I was doing and how it worked and everything. That blog post kind of went viral. I wrote a lot of post that not many people will check out, but that post took off like, “Oh, there’s a real need here. Maybe I’ll start offering services helping other people who were trying to figure this. I’ll do it and then later into that building of product on top of that.” Also, one blog post that I wrote at 2 o’clock in the morning four years ago.
Bjork Ostrom: We talked about it as one hit wonders. It’s like a band. If you hear that story of the Beatles and they’re like, “Oh, God. They were awesome.” They only think they did was write hit songs and in a way, yes, like later on but, what you don’t realize is there’s hours and hours and hours and hours of time and energies spent like writing songs. I think it’s true across the board with musicians, if you look at them like, “Go write a hundred songs, a thousand songs, record hundreds.” One of those will be the song that makes them as an artist. As they go, maybe they’ll add to that repertoire if they’re really lucky. I think when you look at blogs or if you look at content based sites, it’s really similar. You’ll have you’re hits and then you’ll have your supporting cast of content. You need that supporting content in order to have the hits. You need to pay your dues writing those “songs,” in order to have the hits.
I would guess if you look at 99% of websites, there’ll be 10-20% of their content will be driving 80-90% of the traffic. Your example is a great example of that. You paid your dues and wrote a lot of content and that didn’t necessarily drive a lot of traffic. If you hadn’t done that, you would have gotten to this point where you produce that one piece of content that really changed the introductory of your career and your business and …
Chris Badgett: And life.
Bjork Ostrom: … life. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Before that post across multiple websites and different topics, I’d probably written a couple of hundred blog posts.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Exactly.
Chris Badgett: It was just that one took off, I started getting phone calls for work. It’s just, boom.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. People are taking pictures, video on the screen, showing up on People magazine.
Chris Badgett: Not quite that much. I don’t care if it’s nice on the street. That’s cool. Let’s talk a little bit about the food blogger niche. To me, it sounds kind of intimidating because you know, what a massive niche like how do you compete? I know you focused a lot on creating high quality content. How did you differentiate or how did your brand emerge?
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a great question for sure. I think that for us specifically, we’re unique use case or example of a site. One of the unique things that we come to the table with for Pinch of Yum is Lindsay has the skill of food developing recipes and also this deep interest in the art of the process, both the writing and the photography. She really enjoys both of those things. I come from the standpoint of being really interested in the text side of it, right? Like monetization and marketing and things like that and we’re working on it together. It’s just really unique combination where we cover a lot of the different areas that our food content site would be focusing on. For that reason, Pinch of Yum itself in some ways has become a place for people to go to learn about blogging. That’s just do this on the decisions we made early on. I would write reports once a month and say here’s the things that we’re learning about building a blog.
In some ways, the Pinch of Yum niche is like recipes and food. It’s also a niche with like us being interested in the blogging space. I think one of the things that people often think about is like, “Oh, you must get a ton of traffic when you do photography posts and if you do, you know, the reports that you do each month.” In reality, I crunched these numbers maybe six months ago, it’s like 1-2% of the traffic to Pinch of Yum are those posts. The vast majority of it is the recipes themselves. In terms of like carving out a niche for ourselves, that’s kind of what we’ve done. I’d recommend the people that are getting into the food niche is that they find their own niche. The reason is because if you’re just going to do like broad recipe posting, it’s going to be really, really difficult because you’re going to be competing against things like All Recipes or Martha Stewart or things like that, sites like that.
One of the things that’s really exciting about the food niche is there’s so many different niches within the food niche. There’s real food, there’s dietary or research in Paleo. There’s specific types of food. You could do like all meat recipes. You could be the grill guy. There’s so many niches within the food niche, the broader food niche. That’s my encouragement to people that would be getting into it or that are starting, is to really claim a specific niche that’s not super, super small. You don’t want to be the red velvet cupcake blog, but niche enough that people can go to you and say, “Oh, I understand what you are and I know that it can come to you to meet specific needs.”
An example would be we have a baby on the way, so I don’t know when this post will go out. We have a baby boy arriving in April. I know that parenting is a really big thing for you which I think is so cool and we’re excited about that. If we were looking to start a site from scratch, that would be a great niche to start them would be like, how do you create really healthy food for a growing baby or even pregnancy? How do you have a healthy pregnancy…
Chris Badgett: Smart choices.
Bjork Ostrom: … or for a baby like maybe see you get out of that stage? There will always be babies and parents interested in like loving and caring for their kids in the best way possible. That would be a great niche to get into if you’re just getting started out.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, two big take aways I’m hearing there. One is just that to find your niche is often helpful that overlap two things. For you, it was foods and recipes, but it was also the business or the lifestyle of food blogging, which is like an interesting intersection. The other one is just evergreen. Just because you might create a site or get really passionate about a newborn for the next year that content there’s newborn is born everyday, forever.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure.
Chris Badgett: It’s just like I’m still learning stuff where there’s always people trying to teach things. It’s not to go away, it’s an evergreen topic.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: Going evergreen is helpful. Ultimately, you ended up creating food blog or pro?
Bjork Ostrom: Yup.
Chris Badgett: That’s a community for food bloggers, a membership that has courses in it. Where did that come from, in terms of why didn’t you just keep blogging and figuring out how to monetize your blog? Why did you end up also building a community?
Bjork Ostrom: I think the biggest thing was like, the easiest way for us to expand into other areas has been just like keeping our ear to the ground and like what are the consistent rhythms and patterns that we hear and the interactions that we have and then creating a solution for that. It’s like find the need, fill the need. There’s a podcast interview that I did. We have a food blogging podcast, it’s called the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We were interviewing is a couple from Steamy Kitchen, so it’s steamykitchen.com. They were talking about different ways that they are looking to build their business. The phrase they use “find the need, fill the need,” and Scott and Jaden Hair are their names and same thing applies to us. What we did is we had Pinch of Yum that was growing, we’re building that. We heard this consistent rhythm and pattern from people that were asking us questions about really specific things of the blog. How do you do XYZ, like how do you format you’re recipes in a way that they show rich pins on Pinterest, so these really specific niche questions.
It’s like we could create resources within Pinch of Yum and do that, but we were all ready and still do feel a little bit of dissonance with that first and foremost is the food blog and 99% of the people that come there are coming for recipes. If we are starting to inundate that with just like blogging stuff, then it feels like, what is this? The identity is a little bit muddy in terms of understanding truly what it is. It made sense for us to build this other brand and of this other site, and technically a different business that is a kind of a sister business or sister site to Pinch of Yum.
The reason for creating it really came out of hearing this consistent need, and the reason for spinning it off as a separate site was just because we knew we wanted to do it as a membership site. If we want it to give that it’s own personality and brand and presence, then we’d have to separate that so then this could be too clean existences, if that’s the word, on the internet and as brands. They could co-exist and partner, but they’re not the same person, they’re siblings.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. How did you get you’re first people into the community?
Bjork Ostrom: We did a pre-sale three months before we launched the site. Our pre-sale is like this, we had people that followed along on Pinch of Yum that we knew are food bloggers, so that’s where we launched it. We did a launch post and we had three different tiers. I’m not saying this is the best way to do it, but maybe some people will get some ideas from it, it worked okay for us. We pre-sold the one year membership to Food Blogger Pro and we incentivise, the sign ups by having the price increase as it got closer. If you signed up three months in advance, this was before we had a content, before we launched the site, it was $49 for one year. Then, the next month it was $79 and the month after that is $129. We just collected those, we used E-junkie and collected via PayPal so it was a super simple process to collect those payments. When we launched, we emailed those. I think it was maybe a 100-150 people. We emailed about a log in and they jumped in and started to go through the content and be members of the site.
That’s how we started it, launched it. After that, we went to just a straight, open period where people to sign up if they wanted to … We experimented with like a $1 free trial where people could sign up and they could go through a trial. At this point, what we’re doing is we’re doing an enrollment period. We’re like we got to the point where there’s enough people signing up and integrating into the community, asking questions that maybe had been asked before. To us, it felt like kind of disrupting things a little bit, that we wanted to shift away from that and really focus on doing enrollment periods where we’d have this new “class of people” joining. That would end in of itself have more of a rhythm where we could welcome them in and give them attention as they join. The other thing that’s nice about that is that it allows you to have a marketing rhythm. You have these periods where you can really talk openly and consistently about enrollment.
Before it was like, are we always going to push signing up for this, or it wouldn’t make sense to not push to sign up for this much, to offer a free content, to do a podcast. Then occasionally say, “Hey. We’d really love you to sign up for Food Blogger Pro.” That’s what we’re doing at this point and that’s worked really well for us.
Chris Badgett: How many times a year do you open it up for new enrollment?
Bjork Ostrom: We have a waiting list and we do two really big, we call them public enrollments. We talked about it on the podcast. We post on Pinch of Yum. We post about it on Food Blogger Pro. We looped in the affiliates. They do really big promotions. In between those, we do too private enrollments which is a very short window that we offered to people on the waiting list. The reason for that is we don’t know want to inundate the people that aren’t interested with content around Food Blogger Pro, so we do that twice a year. We want to cast that round net occasionally because it’s important to get to people in that aren’t aware of it. We also want to make sure that people that are interested in it and they’re on the waiting list, that they don’t have to wait like six months to get in. That’s why we do those intermediary private enrollment periods just to the waiting list.
Chris Badgett: That makes sense. Is it lifetime access? Or is it ..
Bjork Ostrom: Yup. No, it’s not. That was yup to your question, no as a response. The membership is structured in a way where you can sign up for monthly so it’s $29 a month or yearly $279 a year.
Chris Badgett: Got you. That’s really interesting. How do you keep people engage or how do you build a strong community? If they’re going to be getting monthly billed or yearly billed, what’s your secret sauce to building a strong community based on your experience?
Bjork Ostrom: It’s hard. It’s really hard with content based sites because people aren’t using it as a tool that they hook into their business. Right? It’s not quick books where if you come with that on quick books like that’s a really really big change. With content based stuff, you’re kind of relying on people’s motivation to apply that content. Especially, if you know in our case like we’re sending out a receipt every month and saying, “Hey. We billed you again, like just a reminder.” It’s really easy for people to say, “Oh, I’m not using it. I’m not going to go in and I’m going to cancel.” For sure it’s a difficult thing. Return rate ends up being anywhere depending on the month between monthly and yearly like 10-12%, which is you would probably know better than I would. I would say that’s maybe average.
Chris Badgett: I’m not sure on that one.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. I’ve heard as high as 20% quoted as the average for return rate, but I also know that in the SAS world like software as the service they would say, “You kind of want to shoot for like three or four percent.” SAS would be more of like the quick books. There’s kind of the same between where if you’re somewhere in between there, you know the 5%-20% for a membership sit, I would assume that’d be pretty good. 20% is kind of hard to maintain because you have so many people leaving every month. Our biggest thing has just been doing whatever we can to provide consistent value towards that the primary questions that people have. We do that in three different ways. The first way is we do a live Q&A every month, then we use CrowdCast to do that. That’s been a really great way to source questions, to do a live Q&A. Every once in a while we’ll invite people on and they get to interact around that live Q&A which has been a great way to do that.
A lot of times we do that on a specific topic and occasionally has special guest on for that. The second thing that we do is I do a once a month Happening Now video. The Happening Now video is a kind of like, if you and I Chris were to be at a coffee shop and you’d be like, “Hey. What’s happening now with your business?” I’d be like, “Here’s a few cool things,” and talk about the stuff that I’ve been doing in the past month.
Chris Badgett: Just in terms of the Pinch of Yum site.
Bjork Ostrom: Both. I think people are interested in both. Right? If we do a marketing campaign for a Food Blogger Pro, even though it’s talking about the site that they are a part of, I think people can get a lot out of that.
Chris Badgett: It’s behind the scenes like this is what’s happening.
Bjork Ostrom: Exactly. An example would be something as simple as I talked about using a new like screen capture tool. I talked about how I’m using that, or maybe how I’m using like videos to communicate better with teams, or talking about like when we started using slack. We talked about that. Also, bigger picture things like, “Hey. There’s this really big change for SEO that impacts rest of your blogs,” or like, “Here’s an advertising change that we made.” Super small things, but as you and I know like as business owners, when we have those coffee shop conversations, a lot of times those are the things that are like, make a huge impact on the business. Right?
Chris Badgett: Super reliable. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: They’re super valuable and it’s just a snippet of information. This is opening up that opportunity for people that don’t usually have that opportunity, because they don’t have people that they sit down with at coffee shop. You’ve been doing this for a number of years. You have connections. You know that you could maybe pin somebody on email or slack or jump on a call. If you’re just getting started out though, you probably don’t have those connections. This is a way to do like a virtual coffee shop conversation with people. That’s the Happening Now course. Then we do a course like an actual course that we do once a month. That’s ten to upwards of 20 videos that are three to five minutes long focusing on a wide range of topics. Right now, we’re focusing in on video. As you know, if you scroll through video, you see these like videos of just how to make cheese hotdog rings. It’s Buzzfeed doing like this viral video on cheesy hotdog, pretzel rings that you can feed your dog.
That’s a really important thing for bloggers both on Instagram and Facebook that we’re focusing in on that. How do you create those videos? We have somebody on our team that is shooting those and editing those. She’s taking on those courses, communicating our process along the way. That’s the other way that we add value and help people stick around. A couple little snippets for people to take away, we always include the upcoming content in the emails that we send to people, letting them know that they they’re charged. Like, “Hey. Just a reminder, you’re charged today. Here’s the upcoming courses that we have. The three next things as well as the three past things.” It’s a link to those, just so people know that type of content that we’re producing as a reminder here’s the value and here’s where you can get that.
Then we also have that on the accounts page. When people got to the accounts page, managing their membership information they have, upcoming content as well as the past content that’s been delivered. I think that’s a valuable thing for people to consume and to be aware of especially in this context when it’s content based stuff that requires people to consume the content in order to get value from it.
Chris Badgett: Thanks for that, Bjork. That’s a goldmine of value there in terms of how to create reccuring value in a content based business. It’s not about crossing your fingers with a lifetime membership, hoping people don’t turn or unsubscribe or cancel their membership. That’s like a real strategy to add occurring, repeatable value every single month with a system, but you’re not necessarily doing it all alone. Just to reiterate that’s a live what I call office hours type monthly want the many call and then you have a new course every month and then you have behind the scenes which is I like that, that’s a really unique one behind the scenes video content.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s super simple. It’s like 10-20 minutes long. People can’t see this because it’s a podcast, but it’s like you and me here chatting, except that I’m just chatting to the screen and such a little image of me and then a recording on my screen. We use screen flow for that to record that super sleek and it’s a fun thing to put together. A good thing for me to do every once month to like review like, “Hey. What are the things that we’re doing and implementing and making sure that we’re staying on top of that so we have stuff that we can communicate to people?”
Chris Badgett: On this podcast, we have over a hundred episodes here at LMScast. I could literally never run out of things to talk about relating to…
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
Chris Badgett: … courses and membership sites. If I’m a course creator and I’m now considering, “Okay. If I’m going to launch a new course every month,” that’s a little more challenging. I mean it could be a lot of lessons.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For sure.
Chris Badgett: How do you A, not run out of ideas for new courses and B, how do you choose what to do next for the monthly new course?
Bjork Ostrom: I think our niche is a little bit interesting because we’ll never run out of ideas for a course. Since in what we’re doing is we’re taking all of the different elements of building a business online and like re-scheming it and applying it to …
Chris Badgett: Your niche.
Bjork Ostrom: … It’s niche. Right. Like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, accounting, SEO, all of those things can be applied to our niche and realistically are very different. It’s not like we’re just replacing food blog whenever we say blog, or very specific things that you would differently than you would with like a normal generic content site. In some ways, it’s a little bit easier for us because that type of content will never run out. Important thing for me has been, I don’t want to pretend to be an expert on everything. It’s not like I don’t want to get to the point where I’m learning something in order to teach it. There are times where we bring in people that have an expertise in a certain course or that have an expertise in a certain subject that then teach that course. Sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll even lease a course, like somebody might have a course that exist somewhere else like on another course site or maybe they have their own site that they have this course that lives under.
What we’ll do is we’ll lease that knowing that it’s not like we’re stealing customers from them because people that we’re serving wouldn’t go to them probably. Then we pay them usually a yearly recurring fee, whatever that might be, a $100, $200 to have this course that we then have internally within our content on a specific subject. An example would be active campaign which is the mail service provider we use. I know enough to do what we need to do within it but I’m not going to be able to teach people on it. It wouldn’t make sense for me to learn that and then apply it. Our niche is a little bit unique and that we can always have this unending supply of content. In terms of deciding what’s next, it’s that you’d be the ground thing. It’s what are people requesting and where it’s the need. We hear that through the forum.
We have a forum where people interact in a community. We’re able to not formally, like we’re not taking a survey every month, it’s just naturally like anything. If the Minnesota Twins are doing really well, you start to hear people talk about it and that conversation bubbles up and you’re like, “Oh. Lot’s of people are interested in Minnesota Twins.” Term or analogy but if lots of people are talking about rest of people against on the Food Blogger Pro forum, we know that there is something there and that people are interested in that. There’s a need because that’s naturally what rises to the top conversationally so then we address that need by creating content around that if possible.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Just to give people an idea, there are people out there that licensed their courses. For example, Shawn from WP101, you can license his course on WordPress Basics. It’s phenomenal. He keeps it up to date. Every time there’s a new release of WordPress, we actually licensed his course WP101. We have a free WordPress Basics course on our site. I know a lot about WordPress but I didn’t have to create that course because Shawn has the best course out there. He has a licensing deal, it’s all automated. You go buy, you get the videos and then you’re off to the race.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s such a big take away to not do it alone.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s been a huge part for us. I would in the last year and a half, the biggest thing for us has been building out a team which is easier said than done. There’s a point where people are just happy to be creating an income from what they’re doing, but naturally what will happen is you’ll continue to build on that. As you improve, you’ll naturally more things to do then more successful you are. I would encourage people as quickly as possible to figure out ways. It doesn’t have to be full time, but even to bring somebody in ten hours a week. Maybe it’s somebody that’s their primary job or interest is staying at home with their kids, but they have ten hours a week over nap time or after kids go to bed to dedicate to helping out with some stuff.
You’re able to bring this person on to help manage whatever would be; customer support, social media, things like that. As quickly as you can, I would encourage people to get to what their salary equivalent would be, and then don’t spend above and beyond that, but then put back into the business in order to grow. It’ll be a huge thing and sustainability is important in this industry as we talked about at the beginning. That’s one of the best ways to continue to do what you’re doing, to sustain yourself is to build the team around what you’re doing.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Let me ask you a question around community. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “people come for the content but they stay for the community.”
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: It sounds like you have a forum. What else do you do to foster a community? Do you have a Facebook group, maybe other things?
Bjork Ostrom: e don’t have a Facebook group. We did for a while and it was kind of sharing Facebook group, so like people would share content. They wanted other people to share and you know, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. What we realize is it got too much to manage. We wanted to house everything in one area and really focus in on that. The form that we have is on Food Blogger Pro, it’s not a different site, it’s not a Facebook group. The other thing that allows us to do is to use that content to build the community stronger. For example, there might be a long conversation thread on somebody that’s starting to do video and ways that they’ve been able do that successfully. If that left within Facebook, it’s a little bit harder to bubble that content back up or define that content or really to internally share it. We’ve really focused in on growing the community just on Food Blogger Pro, not in other places.
The ways that we do that and the ways that we’re really within the community is, we have somebody on staff that manages the form full time. Laxa is awesome and is really focused on how do we focus in on this community, make sure that everybody is good in the questions answered, that they need answered. Her like supporting cast is what we call the Food Blogger Pro experts. We have we call the panel of people that work in a specific industry and are either in entrepreneur that have been in business, solopreneurs, industry experts, consultants that would have some type of invested interest in conducting with people in our industry, and also, potentially have some time that they can dedicate to helping the communities. Casey Markee for example. He’s an SEO professional. He comes in and he answers questions specific that people have about SEO.
We have somebody that focuses on design and development. Lauren comes in and she answers questions that people have about the WordPress designer plugin problem that they’re having. If people are interested in working with her, they go to her site which is onescup.com. They worked with her in kind of support or IT role. That’s been a really big shift that we’ve had as well and a big movement for me away from being the expert. One of the things I realize is like I can’t be the expert on everything, especially if were going to get to a growth point where I’m investing in our employees and our staff as opposed to continuing to be the expert on every same things. That’s been a really important shift that we had within the past year and a half.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well lot’s of great takeaways, Bjork. If you guys are listening, you want to hear more about this and see what’s going on here, go to pinchofyum.com, that’s the blog and then check out the membership site which is called foodbloggerpro.com. If anybody wants to connect with you or find out more, where else can they get in touch with you, Bjork?
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. I’m not active on Twitter but I see replies. If somebody wants to tweet at me it’s Bjork Ostrom and that would probably the best way. Just open up a conversation there and love to connect.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate you sharing so much. Thanks for being a shining example of how to put in the hard yards, do the work and then build a team and build a strong community in online education business. It’s awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. Super fun to chat.

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