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Create Great Content that Also Sells with Jody Allen, Stay At Home Mum


No marketing experience required! How Jody Allen turned a community group into a publishing empire for “Stay At Home Mums”.

With over 1 Million+ Australian parents heading to the Stay At Home Mum website each month, Stay At Home Mum has firmly established itself among the Australian Mum community as a relatable source of true blue, brilliant and down-to-earth content that says it like it is.  In this episode of Flex Your Hustle, Host Michelle Lomas talks to the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Stay At Home Mum, Jody Allen. Her founder story is as unique as she is.  Made redundant while 8 months pregnant, with a looming family and mortgage to consider, she needed the right information to help her budget her way through the next 6 months. Feeling hopeless she created a Facebook Community to ask for real advice to help her budget – and within days it grew into the tens of thousands. 

That’s when the idea of Stay At Home Mum was born. Realising that there was a real need for Mum’s to access relatable information to just do Mum life as best as we can, she created a website that now delivers content as diverse from laundry tips, sheet pan cooking to relationship advice, side hustles and vibrators. And it was all created with no marketing experience, no content experience, and no publishing experience. Just one woman’s natural drive and curiosity - and an openness to be brave and try anything.   Listen as Jody shares how she failed, succeeded, failed and got back up again to create the publishing powerhouse that it is today. 

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Episode Transcription

Michelle Lomas: Jodie Allen is talking to me from her home in Gympie, Queensland, true to the ‘Stay At Home Mum’ brand. She's the founder and chief creative officer of ‘Stay At Home Mum’, the author of five books, one of Queensland's most influential top one hundred and to top it all off, she's also a Suzuki ambassador. Jody's journey is one of those stories that inspires through its adversity. She started a digital publication after being fired from her job while eight months pregnant. Not knowing what to do and unsure how to ease the struggles of family finances, she created a Facebook group to ask mums for advice. A few weeks later and thousands of members later, she realised there might be something in this. That's when she decided to launch ‘Stay At Home Mum’,  a now thriving publication with a loud, passionate, and hilarious community of mums from all around Australia. And she's done it all with zero experience or training. I loved my chat with Jodie. She's an amazing woman who isn't scared to tell us how high her family's laundry pile is and knows how important it is for mums to feel truly sane. She writes about everything from baby car seats to vibrators. Jodie's failed time and time again, but what makes Jody inspiring is how she pushes through each failure and flips it to find bigger success. Jody shares her experiences with candour and a generosity in sharing her learnings is evident in this conversation. 

I'm really very excited to talk to you today. I think there's going to be some really great discussion here. I'd love to hear from you a little bit about how you came to be the founder and chief creative officer of Stay At Home Mum and built it to the success it is today. And before you start, I just want to clarify as well, that you definitely had no marketing or content publishing experience before you started. Right?

Jody Allen: No, no business experience. I was a secretary. 

Michelle Lomas: So I think that's going to be very interesting for the people listening. A lot of the people listening are going to be experienced marketers and are probably going to be wondering how did you build such a phenomenal audience? So let's start with how it all began.

Jody Allen: Well, ‘Stay at Home Mum’ started quite by accident. I had two babies in twelve months and at the same time I was made redundant from my job and we were in the middle of building a house as well. Like everything you know, the shit hit the fan generally. So we figured out that if we wanted to keep the house that we were building, that we only had fifty dollars a week to spend on groceries. So that was incredibly difficult for the first two weeks. You know, I just cried and hit walls and thought my life was over then I thought, “well, I should just give it a go’. So there's a lot of trial and error, lots of getting back to basics. Lots of getting all Grandma's books out, in between that I thought, “oh, well, I'm going to start a Facebook page so I can actually find more information on how to live frugally and how-to, you know, find all these hints that mums have” so no, it was just something silly to do one 
day and started asking people questions and then all these mums to started joining and sharing all this brilliant information. So at the end of week one, I think we had ten thousand followers. And then twenty thousand and fifty thousand and one hundred thousand. And this information was just gold. It was just so good. I'm like -  there should be an encyclopedia for all this information so that it is easily available for all mums to have. So I thought okay, yeah, got to start a website. So, but of course, I had no money like we were broke as it was. So I called all the web devs in Gympie, there’s five and four of them hung up on me when I said I've got no money. But one of them actually took down my number, one of them took down my name and in half an hour the likes on ‘Stay at Home Mum’ had gone up fifteen hundred and he rang me and said get your ass in my office right now. So I was really, really lucky. He did the website for me and I was able to pay him back over a period of time. And yeah, it's just kept growing to today and I haven't run out of ideas yet. I think we got twelve thousand articles now on ‘Stay at Home Mum’ and I’ve got twelve staff we had forty at one stage and yeah, it's still going strong.

Michelle Lomas: Tell us what the numbers are doing. What are the numbers saying to you?

Jody Allen: Oh, we're currently just above a million unique users a month. It goes really, 
really well when it's not school holidays and then during school holidays, it goes down a bit because people, you know, mums are out and things like that. And we've managed to sort of keep it just above a million, which is amazing like we don't spend a cent on ads or anything like that. So it's, it's one hundred per cent organic. And I'm so so bloody proud. I really am.

Michelle Lomas: You're like the case study in turning adversity into opportunity. And I feel like it's so unique that you stumbled across this gap in the market that so many mums have all these ideas that they want to share as well. And they're constantly looking for ideas like I'm a voracious Pinterester. I don't even use half the ideas I find in there because I'm just like, I'm saving all these great money, saving tips and smart cooking things and sheet pan recipes. And it's almost like you stumbled across it and then just grabbed onto it for dear life. Is that kind of why you think people just keep coming back time and again?

Jody Allen: That's exactly what it was. It was, it was a big opportunity. I'd always wanted to start my own business, but I too was looking everywhere,  could never think of anything that was good that hadn't already been done. And I suppose one of the biggest problems I had was that all the parenting sites that I looked at when I was a mum, it was all experts, a lot of them that didn't have children telling me how to be this perfect mum on what was a website for normal people like ….where's the normal mums website? And there just wasn't any. And that was another thing I would love to do a parenting site that is by real mums, for real mums, that tells it how it is. And yes, and that's what I've sort of kept to this day. I like to think of it as all the fancy parenting sites like Myer and David Jone, but I'm a Big W website. And that suits me just fine because there are a lot more Big W mums than there are Myer and David Jones, one hundred per cent.

Michelle Lomas: I am absolutely exhausted by the textbook child psychologist coming and telling me how to, you know, raise my son and feed him right. …like mate, if he's healthy and he's eating his food and I can still get up and do a nine to five job and everyone's happy at the end of the day - that is my job done for the day. Absolutely. Yeah, and I'm sure that's why your mums love what you do and they come back time and again because we are so tired of being preached to and have the mum guilt. And it's so refreshing to just have content that's really talking to us.

Jody Allen: So I want mums to feel good when they came to the site, not leaving thinking that they're somewhat less because that's not how it is. Parenting is really hard. One of my favourite things is to just take a screenshot of my washing pile. I quite often do that and put it on the mom. I'm like, “Come on, girls, who can beat it? Let's go!” and it's always great. You know, five hundred comments of washing piles and mums being proud of it. So no, it's so good.

Michelle Lomas: So proud to be a messy mom, I really want to talk to you about failure. Some of the, even the big phenomenal failures that you've had and your perspective on how great failure is, I thought was incredibly refreshing.

Jody Allen: Failure is fabulous. Failure is good, it means you've tried something. And it can break your heart at the time, but you just got to get up, dust yourself off, realise - okay, what have I learnt from this situation? And then just get on with it. From what I've learned and as I said, I have no business background, but to me, business is just a series of hurdles that you have to jump every single day. And it's whether you're willing to get up and keep jumping those hurdles or not is whether you're successful or not.

Michelle Lomas: And your biggest failure?

Jody Allen: Our biggest failure? We thought that we would  try a membership site on Stay At Home Mum, because a few people had done it and a lot of new sites had gone to membership sites and things like that. So we thought okay, yep. let's give this a go, so I spent probably thirty grand getting this little membership site all set up and done, and, it was all beautiful. And then as an incentive, we thought and again, very wrongly, that maybe we would have an aspirational gift to encourage people to join. So we got Louis Vuitton and like, I’m a big W mom, I should have done a bloody voucher. for Big W, it would have done better, and I think we had four people join up. So mind you, they got tickets. So it was a pretty, you know, four people had the chance to win the Louis Vuitton bag. There was about seven thousand dollars worth of prizes, our lady in WA won it, which was great. But we did learn so much from that. What not to do.. And membership sites just do not work for content sites. Yeah, we learned the hard way, but boy, do we learn it? And she so we just filed fast and started something again,

Michelle Lomas: That would have been devastating, I imagine, but I love that you just picked yourself up and just went. All right, let's keep going. And how bougie of you, Louis Vuitton, that's very Kardashian.

Jody Allen: Oh I know, fancy! Anyway, again, like we've had prizes that are worth thousands and thousands. But do you know the very best prize I think we've ever given away that went batshit crazy was a bloody Chrisco hamper. So it's funny that you know, you can have something that's only worth a couple of hundred dollars and you have thousands, thousands and thousands of entries. And you can have something really schmancy and you get four, so that's sort of really told me, stick to your demographics, stick to what mums want, stick to the Big W type theory. Yeah. Well, I did, I learned so much from it, and

Michelle Lomas: You did mention that there was a big competitor who will remain nameless but might be a very popular song by the pop group, Abba who went and did something very similar a couple of weeks later. And it was very good to see they also were not very successful, correct?

Jody Allen: That's right. It kind of, I felt a little vindicated after that, which was good. And like if they couldn't have made it work too like if they had have done it and it worked, I would have been more devastated. But the fact that they failed to. Yeah, I kind of felt a lot better about it, but I don't want to see anyone fail including competitors, but at the same time I had a little smile.

Michelle Lomas: Yes. So it's good to know it's not the way you did it. It's just your audience is saying, no, I'm not paying. 

Jody Allen: That's right. Yeah, not. 

Michelle Lomas: You're the chief creative officer and you write a lot of the content for the site yourself. And I want to understand just your creative process because in the industry at the moment, there's a lot of data informing content. And a lot of that conversation around instinct is kind of getting diluted with the data conversation. What's the data telling us? Is it going to work? Has it worked before? How do you incorporate data into your process or do you still just use instinct?

Jody Allen: It's a bit of both. I must admit that it has been purely instinct up until a couple of years ago, where the rest of the team kept like shoving data down my throat and I kind of had to listen. But it was really hard because I'm not a numbers girl at all. So now with my thoroughly researched topics, I will use it to suggest and do a little bit of research there on what's trending and keywords and things like that. But it's saying that all the articles that go batshit crazy on my mom are usually thought of that morning or in the middle of the night, written like, you know, and smashed out and they go really well. And because of that, I have just kept doing it while I've got all these ideas and I think it'll go great. I smash it out, get it out. No research and I just know that they'll love it because I write about things that I would enjoy reading.

Michelle Lomas: I love that write things that you enjoy reading. If you don't enjoy writing it or you don't enjoy reading it. Probably all those who I know. That's right, I'd love to ask what you would tell a brand or a marketer if they were looking to create content to build audiences and it comes from my own experience as well. I've led a few content marketing divisions and worked with clients, and often they start with amazing intentions. We want to create content for audiences. It's all-around people, not our products. You know, we want it to be engaging, don't worry about the brand, but then they get nervous, and they get nervous about broaching topics that audiences really want to hear. And that strategy begins to get watered down to a point that it's so p.c. that it's lost its essence and the impact that it could have. So what advice would you have for brands looking to use content as a way to build audiences?

Jody Allen: That when you take risks, you see the rewards and like I've fallen on my face more times than not, but some of the biggest traffic days I've had on our website have been where we've taken the risk and talked about taboo subjects and covered products that you know, boyfriend products seem to what that mums might normally say or letting brands let us tell the story in our own words, warts and all. Just taking that risk can be so. So good. When you're, for example, I'm a little anti thermomix. I don't like them. I think the fact that you pay two thousand dollars for a machine that hates. And you know, you can do it with a bloody bowl in a whisk. It's ridiculous. I know you have one ..

Michelle Lomas: I know I have. 

Jody Allen: But yes, I like to, I love writing about how much I hate them and, and does 
a lot, is it straight away like ten minutes? Fifteen minutes can have five or six hundred comments going? I love them. I love them. That's great. But you know, it's just good to be able to, to do that. My mums should know before they spend that kind of money. 

Michelle Lomas: And, that's really interesting. And I really thought about this a lot, to be honest, 
maybe a little bit too much, you know? Like I've talked about the fact that you, you, so are you okay with making mistakes? And I wonder why a lot of us marketers are so afraid of making mistakes. We love innovation, we love new things, but we never want to be the first. And we're always extremely cautious about trying something new. And I feel like maybe that stems from the fact that, you know, we have university degrees and we've done ten, 
fifteen years climbing the ladder to be the experts. And we have this just like a nice fear of being wrong. Whereas when you start something from no knowledge or training, you're kind of Okay to just give things a crack.

Jody Allen: I think that has been the case because my best mate, Nicole Millard, who's still a partner and Stay At Home Mum came on really early to give me a hand. She was handling the social media and she's very accomplished. She's incredibly smart and went and did all these courses on social media and was doing what everybody else was doing. And then I'm like, Nate, this isn't working, you can't do it like this. You know, let's like, let's get rid of everything that you have learnt about social media. And just try this way, which was very much fly by my gut and taking chances and risks. And it worked, it really did work and now you know, I had to beat it out of it. I had to beat the professionalism out of her to get her to take those risks too. But for us, it has really paid off because we are always willing, I have a list on my blackboard of all these things that I want to try and I'm going to try and normally, but the technology isn't there yet, or, you know, there's some reason we can't go ahead with it yet, but I love trying new things and I'm not, I just dust myself off. I mean, don't think it doesn't affect me. It does. You know, I'm human and I cry all the time. But I just think that that's, the trip, the online boost that you have to take these risks for reward.

Michelle Lomas: So I want to talk a little bit about how you make money. Yeah, the real, the meatyI stuff, how do you make your dollars

Jody Allen: the meaty stuff…

Michelle Lomas: Let's talk about that.

Jody Allen: Well, like most content sites, we make money in various ways. There are probably ten different income sources, but our biggest one is affiliate marketing. A lot of other content sites do not do it, and I think they're crazy. Yes, it takes a lot of work and I mean a lot. But over time it has just proven to be the best way of Advertising products without shopping them down people's throats. We also have things like programmatic Advertising, which we know from traffic we, we sell e-books, we sell Advertising links and article inserts and things like that. But no day-to-day. Affiliate marketing is by far eighty per cent of our income.

Michelle Lomas: Wow. Eighty per cent. That's huge. Mm. Hmm, but unsurprising. Everything that we've talked about regarding content, looks like a lot of what you've been doing. Failing testing, trying different content and getting that sort of model right, in terms of what your audience is seeking is a huge part of that success because you know what they're interested to see. What products they might be interested in. And so does that make it a lot easier for you in terms of the conversion of that?

Jody Allen: Yeah, absolutely, yes. We, we've worked with some really big brands doing just advertising campaigns over the years and they are just so much hard work. They are hard work. They're hard to convert because brands are very, you know, it's got to be this, it's got to be done this way and our demographic just see right through it. And they know that just it's a great big ad. I love affiliate marketing because I can talk about whatever topic I want and you know that that is huge. And I can find a product to weave into the story that fits the content and sell it natively. And, you know, moms don't know they're being advertised to like, oh, you know, we have all done that, you know, legalities and everything like set it up. But it's not a hard push. It's okay. This is what we use if you're interested here it is, but we're not pushy. And we've just found pushy. Advertising is just not the right way to go. Not, not for our demographic.

Michelle Lomas: And so what have been some of the most successful affiliate programs that you've run?

Jody Allen: Well, we probably knocked back more brands now than we actually do because it's got to be a good fit because we have just worked with so many people in the past where it 
hasn't quite been a good fit and it ends up a disaster. And it's really just a disaster for us. It's a disaster for them. And we, we want advertisers to get bang for their buck and we know right away whether it's going to be successful or not. I don't want them to waste their money. So I think, as a rule, advertisers really if they approach influencers and I hate that word, it's so wanky. But if there really is, if they're going to be working with websites, they have to really trust that person to be able to write about or video their product in the way that they see fit, that they know it will get it across the best possible way. Because as soon as they start putting demands on it and restricting that, you're just going to, you're not going to get bang for your buck.

Michelle Lomas: If you could just give one piece of advice to the people listening in terms of marketing, what would it be?

Jody Allen: I'm so glad I don't know it all. I think if I had have studied and done all the University and everything, I might think differently. But I think it's actually to my personal advantage that I haven't seen that side of it because I don't know what I don't know. And yeah, that works for books for us. I love it.