Josh Peacock: Our hero today is Cory Hiben, an email marketing specialist and host of the Health Hustle Podcast out of Austin, Texas. In this episode, he demonstrates why you should 100% still be building an email list for your local fitness business even today. He then reveals how to grow that email list by offering fantastic value through the newsletter itself rather than relying on these sorts of juicy lead magnets that are really popular nowadays.

Overall, building a social presence is important for growing your gym, but owned media, like an email list, is how you really build a business without further ado, Cory Hiben. Alright, welcome to the Gym Heroes Podcast. Cory, can you go ahead and introduce yourself and your background in business and fitness?

Cory Hiben: Yeah, man. So I used to be a personal trainer, actually, back in the day before I got into more or less the marketing side of things. So my journey really comes from personal training to then I worked in healthcare as an occupational therapist. Through seeing patients through seeing clients, I quickly realized that there’s a whole degree of this industry that I didn’t realize existed. And through both of those journeys, I started to learn really the marketing side of things through both having to get clients and patients myself and then also leading a lot of the marketing efforts throughout the companies that I was working for. 

And through that, I just really fell in love with that side of the business of the person, kind of more or less, you could say, behind the scenes of basically driving leads and driving traffic to people’s businesses versus actually being the one on the front-facing lines of seeing the clients or seeing the patients or actually doing in the trenches. I respect you people so much that do it. I just realized it wasn’t a good fit for me.

And so now, today, that’s essentially what I do. And the main two pillars of that really is website design development. There’s some content marketing, and there’s some email marketing within that. And then the other pillar of that is I actually host my own podcast show, really, where I’m talking to a very similar audience, which sounds like you talk to as well, in terms of gym owners and personal trainers and doctors and kairos and really anybody in the health fitness well in the space that are also more entrepreneurial-minded and business minded. So that’s what I do now, today.

Josh Peacock: Yeah. What podcast is that?

Cory Hiben: It’s called the health hustle. It’s really focused on more or less the Austin, Texas, community, more or less. But I mean, listenership is really all over the country. And as the show continues to grow, I’ll expand it out to other cities and networks as well. But really, the people I interview on the show are just more or less people in the Austin area.

Josh Peacock: That’s cool. My mom’s an occupational therapist, by the way, so that’s really neat.

Cory Hiben: Dope, I meet so few people that actually even know what an OT is or an occupational therapist.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, I know what it is because of family members that needed occupational therapy long time ago. Most people don’t understand it like. What’s the difference between OT and PT? But yeah, it can be a little bit difficult to explain if you’re not initiated. Cool, dude.

Cory Hiben: Yeah. Everyone knows what a physical therapist is, but they’re like, OT, what do you do? Do you help people get jobs? And it’s like, no, not exactly. That’s a good guess.

Josh Peacock: We help people who’ve been laid off.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, that’s what most people assume. And it’s, like, not quite a little bit deeper than that. Most people don’t know what it is, honestly, is because the industry is so literal. My professors always used to say that it’s an inch deep but a mile wide because you see OTs in mental health, to physical health, to community work, to everything in between, to geriatrics. And so that’s why most people have no idea. A lot of people have seen OTs and just didn’t even realize it.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, I mean, there are occupational therapists that just specialize in hands. It could be anything. And there are some that support, like, speech pathologists. You can pigeonhole yourself as much or as little as you want to.

Cory Hiben: Totally. No, you’re spot on. I mean, I worked with a lot of people who aren’t even in the healthcare industry anymore, and they’re actually doing more like tech-based stuff, and they work for tech companies here in Austin, Texas, but they’re still an OT by trade. I mean, really, to wrap up OT in its most simplistic form for people to understand, it’s basically just like holistic health. It’s just like the broad scope of just, like, looking at all aspects of health that it’s not just physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s social. It’s like all those components coming together and figuring out how to live a healthy life, understanding that they all matter underneath that umbrella. And so often, we forget that it’s like, no, you just, like, work out and eat healthy, and no, there’s so much more to your well-being than that. And that’s really what OT does, essentially.

Josh Peacock: Absolutely. Cool! So one of the things that you’re really good at, and the way I found you, was talking about email lists, right? So switching gears back to gym marketing. So email list is a big deal for you. Why should gym operators consider building an email list?

Cory Hiben: So I have a perfect real-life scenario as to why everyone that should be at the top of their list. I literally have a friend client of mine right now who she had about 100,000 plus people. I think it was on her Instagram following. And she was getting quite a bit of traffic, and she was doing most of her leads, and everything was coming in through this Instagram account. And then it got hacked. And the hacker was basically saying like, we’re going to delete your account, or we’re going to put out a bunch of spam, or we’re going to put up all these really inappropriate posts if you don’t give us money or whatever it is to basically get your account back.

And I tell that story because I think that so many gym owners that I see, and really anyone in the fitness industry in general, rely very heavily on their social media accounts, which is incredible for getting attention. But when it comes to the long-term relationship that you’re hoping to establish with the client or customer, it’s not honestly the ideal place to do it. And if you could look up, not to get too nerdy on you, but you can look up any of the statistics on where people actually buy services or products, and the ratio in terms of who buys from social media versus who buys from an email list is dramatically different.

People, whether you realize it or not, buy from an email list even though you think it’s like, no, it’s just like spam email. It’s just like going to their inbox and deleting and getting disappeared. Maybe there’s maybe a percentage of that, but you compare that to a social media platform, and it’s not even close. And so I think that it’s really important for anybody in the fitness space out there. Yes, use your social media account to garner attention, but if you’re not somewhere finding a way to convert that social media following into an email list where you can actually have a connection or even a phone number if you hate email lists, phone numbers are great as well. But really, the point is find a way to get them off that platform, which is we could get into that as well if you want. But that’s really the big emphasis on if you’re not building a list, you’re not building a business at the end of the day.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, we’ll get into that in a few minutes. That’s an interesting. I talk to friends sometimes that don’t know that much about marketing and so they don’t think like marketers. And if you don’t think like a marketer, you look at the exposure that you gain on Instagram, and you think, oh man, this is going to translate well to purchases. But even though in email, people think.

Or I have so much spam in my email, even with email, email is like, it’s a higher intent than Instagram is. Social media is like all of it’s designed to keep you on the platform totally. So very few purchases are actually taking on social media. Even though you get this, it’s illusory really these numbers of exposures you get, but the exposures are quick, and they’re sort of surface level.

Cory Hiben: Totally. I think people forget the depth of an email address and how personable it is to people. If you think about your own behaviors, how much time do you spend in your email box? Rather like cleaning it, archiving things, sorting things, searching through old emails, like looking up previous conversations you had, catching up on threads, following with people, if you just take your own behaviors and how much time you probably spend on your email list or just your email account in general compared to your social media is more or less just like swiping, right? Like you’re not spending a lot of time actually engaging with the platform.

Josh Peacock: Right.

Cory Hiben: And so that’s the other piece of it, too, that I think people forget is that people are very protective of their email addresses these days for that reason. Exactly. This is because they know that they don’t want a lot of trash in there, and they don’t want a lot of garbage in there. And if so, somebody is willing enough to give you their email address for whatever reason that might be, whether you’re just providing a lot of value, or they really trust you, or they really like you, or they’re your friend, or whatever the reason is, is don’t take that lightly. That’s something that’s honestly very personal.

Almost to the point where, like I said earlier of phone numbers if someone gives you your phone number, that says a lot more about that relationship than a social media account like anybody can follow a social media account. It doesn’t really garner to an actual relationship, especially for people in the gym business in general. Is like I would argue most gym owners probably have some level of personal relationship with a lot of their members if not all of their members. And so, having that even deeper level of connection through an email or phone number is really important.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, absolutely. So how can gym operators go about building their lists?

Cory Hiben: Okay, so most people in my space would tell you offer a freebie, right? That’s typically, what you’ll find at the top of the list is have some sort of freebie that they download a PDF or a video or whatever the case is, and that converts to an email address. That’s fine. I think that’s okay. But I think it’s missing the bigger picture. I think it’s taking one step back from there and really understanding what it is that the value that you’re offering somebody because kind of to a point earlier about people thinking that an email address is just an email address.

It’s just this free thing that you can give out to people very much so wrong. Like if you go to any website, which is really the bread and butter of what we do of marketing agencies is like, most people just have, like, sign up here and put your email address in. How many people do you actually think just drop their email in there for no reason whatsoever? I’d be willing to bet it’s like less than a fraction of a percentage. And the reason is because giving your email to somebody, whether you realize it or not, is actually a big step for people.

We are so protective of our email address that we don’t want a bunch of spam in our inbox. So there has to be some incentive, there has to be some reason for them to want to give you their email address. And so, to circle all the way back to your original question of how do you actually build that list, I think it honestly starts with understanding your clientele and your members and what they actually want. And that could come from literally just having ten conversations with maybe, let’s say, your favorite members at your gym and just asking them what are your challenges, what are you dealing with, what are your pain points?

What are the things that you’re working on? What are the things that you want to grow into? What are some things that keep you up at night? Really basic questions like that will very quickly give you an answer as to, like, oh, okay, I have some solutions or some offers to that problem that I could potentially offer you. And that’s when you start to get an idea of, like, maybe this is now the quote-unquote freebie or something that I could offer. Whether it’s a course or whatever you’re into, whatever you like is like, that’s how you come up with the idea, as opposed to just diving into your own soul and being like, ten best workouts for ABS or whatever it is.

Those are all fine, but at the end of the day, I think it’s really understanding your clientele and customers. And the reason I give that answer versus any other generic answer is because every gym, especially if gym owners are listening to the show, is going to have a unique clientele and population. If you have an older population, it maybe is more related to an injury or something or some sort of pain that they have in their life, or so if it’s the younger generation, it’s probably more related to wanting to get swollen and wanting to get buff and wanting to have giant biceps or like a great booty or whatever the hell it is.

So I think step one is just like understanding the clienteles of your gym and finding the pain point and then offering that as a solution for a reason as you come onto your email list. And then, on top of that, obviously, the value add is the biggest thing ever. I mean, understanding that, it’s classic Gary Vee if anyone’s familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk of, like, I think about this all the time in terms of emails of jab, jab, jab right hook, which basically just means you’re pouring way more value into them as opposed to just like asking in return.

There should be literally not exaggerating close to a ten to one ratio. Is that what I think a lot about is, like, ten emails of you just helping them out, trying to solve their pain points? And then maybe in 10th one, you’re like, hey, by the way, if you have any friends that also would love this gym or you have any family members that are dealing with this problem, maybe then you can have an ask. But really, just starting with all the value first.

Josh Peacock: Yeah. So you’re not necessarily against lead magnets, but really the newsletter itself should be offering value that your audience wants in its own. So you’re not like tricking them on email and just hitting them with sales emails. The newsletter itself is offering something that they are looking for on an ongoing basis, like workout types or tips on injury recovery things like that.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, and hack for anybody listening right now as well. In terms of the newsletter world, it’s something that I do, and a lot of my clients do as well, is also using your newsletter as essentially a blog and then also social media posts. So there’s a lot of overlap in the things that I’m already talking about anyways, and they just direct back to, honestly, the email list newsletter type thing is more or less just like a there if you want to kind of thing. It’s not so much of trying to trick them into getting on the list or having some sneaky giveaway that it’s like, oh, I’m going to give away a free massage gun, and for every person you refer, you get another vote into the massage gun pool or whatever.

Those are fine. Those will grow your list. I just take more of the emphasis of just being more of a value add standpoint of like I use it as a newsletter, as a blog, and then also social media posts as well. So it’s stuff we’re already doing, honestly, as entrepreneurs or gym owners or whatever. Anyways, it’s like we’re creating content. This is just a way to create really high-value content from a newsletter standpoint. Using that as maybe your quote unquote pillar piece of content and then cutting that up into dropping it as if they want to read it as a blog, or cutting it up into quotes on social media or even doing a recording and talking about it onto a video of the same thing you were just writing about in your newsletter.

And all that can direct back to them being like, oh, by the way, I talk about this every week or every other week or whatever in my newsletter. And then they’re like, oh okay, I loved the post about it. I’ll sign up for it because I already like your post or your content, or your blog. Anyways, I might as well get on the newsletter. So I try to just take like a more direct, honest approach because, at the end of the day, the people you want on the list anyways are the people that want to be on your list, not people that you trick to being on your list. That’s kind of a silly way to go about it, which I think is what a lot of people try to do.

Josh Peacock: Yeah. Again, that’s vanity numbers. So like, the Instagram numbers are kind of illusory. Getting people on your email list because you’re giving away a free massage gun is going to be very low intent. And so, like, one in 30 of those people might end up being a real lead.

Cory Hiben: Exactly.

Josh Peacock: I made that number up. But that’s probably what is going to.

Cory Hiben: Be the realistic, exactly right. That will just attract the people that want the free thing, not the thing that actually want to be a part of your community or have a connection with you. You nailed it. It’s exactly right. Yeah.

Josh Peacock: So that’s a great segue. How do you write a newsletter? What do you actually put in it? Because I know that some people, they view a newsletter like what’s going on in the company, what cool happened in the last three months or the last month, or what’s the sales representative, she had a child. How do you actually write a newsletter? What do you put in a newsletter?

Cory Hiben: So templates are gold. I’m going to start out by saying that is that I think so often people, and this is true for all forms of content. I’m huge in the content game. Obviously, somebody who also creates a podcast show and has my own newsletter and blogs and whatever, is that I think that people try to just sit down and create. And I think that’s a foolish way to go about it because there’s a lot of friction in that, and you want to reduce as much friction as humanly possible when it comes to content creation because otherwise you’re going to get frustrated, and you’re not going to continue to do it.

If there’s not some degree of flow or enjoyability of actually doing the task, you’re not going to do it anyways. And so templates are gold. I personally, my newsletter is called Three Tip Tuesdays. It’s literally like three tips about marketing for other health and fitness professionals. That’s my template. It’s the same every single time. There’s a little blurb at the top of just like some sort of hook. And then, there are three essentially tips about marketing for health and fitness professionals in that industry and then a little quick summary at the end. That’s my template.

The template that I can give most people, though, just like to give you a broad scope of how almost every really piece of content should be created ever is something that I learned from a guy named Russell Brunson if you’ve ever heard of him. He’s massive in the marketing world. Click funnels, guy, whatever. I learned this from him, and it’s gold. And essentially, what it is, is it’s story, strategy, tactics. Story, strategy, tactics. And the reason that order is important is because there has to be a story that really connects and resonates with people.

So everything you could write about the cool new hack or tip, or trick is irrelevant if you can’t tie it to a story that’s actually going to connect and relate to somebody. So if you wanted a super simple template for how to write a newsletter or really any piece of content, even if it was like a video or like a YouTube video or a podcast or whatever it is, it’s like start with a story. Even this podcast was great about it. It’s like starting with my story, something that people can grab onto and resonate as to why do I care. How does this emotionally attach to this or attach to me? And what is the resonating factor in this is, like starting with the story?

Then you move to the strategy, which is basically a little bit of the educational piece of what’s the strategy to actually being able to implement this thing that we’re going to talk about, which is obviously today we’re talking about newsletters. And then the last piece of it is just like the tact mix, like the hacks, the tricks, how do I get what’s a good freebie idea like all these other things. But that’s the most simple template for anybody that wants to start creating a newsletter is strategy. Excuse me? Story, strategy, tactics. There’s more than that one. There’s another one called Aida (A-i-d-a).

Josh Peacock: I think it stands for traditional copywriting.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, exactly. Formula attention, interest, desire, action, I believe, is what they stand for. Same concept, right? Like you’d write down Aida on your newsletter piece of paper, and you’d just fill in all four of them. And so having some sort of template that you follow, there’s a lot of other ways to do it, but finding one that you can stick to and one that you enjoy and one you can do consistency because at the end of the game of writing two or three newsletters is, no offense, useless. And so having some sort of template that can keep you consistent with it, I would say, is probably the most important part.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, excellent. That’s really good advice. So how often should you send newsletters?

Cory Hiben: Great question. So my rule of thumb is no more than twice a week but no less than once a month. And where you fall within those ranges matters. Two factors matter. One of them, it depends on your audience in terms of the type of feedback that you’re getting from your audience. If you feel like you’re being annoying and it’s too much, and obviously, you pull back, and if you feel like it’s not enough, then you give them more. And the other factor of that is too is like, what can you consistently do for 100 repetitions? I call it the rule of 100.

And what I mean by that is whether you’re doing newsletters or whether you’re doing blogs or YouTube videos or podcast shows or whatever it is, is what can you commit to consistently doing 100 of in that essentially cycle of 100 episodes or 100 blogs or 100 newsletters, right? So if I was to say to you, hey, do you think you could write two newsletters a week for 100 newsletters, and you get to the second week, and you’re just, like, insanely overwhelmed, it’s probably a bad number for you, right? Versus on the other end of the spectrum, if once a month is not enough, you just kind of feel bored, and you’d like to write another one, then write another one, right?

And so just whatever it is you can consistently do for 100 episodes, I think, is far more important than the actual number of emails you can put out there. I’d also say this, too, is that I think that a lot of people fear. I just want to scratch this itch because I know this is what people think about a lot is, like they fear annoying or spamming their audience. If you’re adding value, there’s no annoyance, right? Like if you could continue to show up in my inbox with something that’s like super freaking use cool to me, why the hell would I be annoyed, right? And so if you’re writing just for the sake of writing just to show up in their inbox, that’s not a good reason to show up in their inbox.

But if you’re actually providing things that you’re learning or that you’re discovering in your own gym or own things you’re learning about health or fitness or I guess whatever it is that you’re talking about that you feel like is useful to other people, of course, you’re going to share it, right? Like how many text messages you get from friends a day that are like, hey, check this out, or Hey, look at this thing. And you probably don’t get annoyed. You’re probably like, cool. I would have never saw that otherwise. Emails are the exact same way. It just depends on is it actually valuable or are you just like spamming their inbox.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, and you’re always going to have people that leave anyways that get on the list and then go. You just don’t want it to happen in big numbers. Like I recently I have an email list outside of work, and it’s maybe once or twice a month, I’ll send an email. And a few weeks ago, I ended up sending two emails within one week, and I had someone unsubscribe and then report it for spam just because of two emails within one week, which is weird, but that stuff is going to happen. Like, 99% of the email list that I have is not trying to get off the list, and they’re certainly not viewing it as spam is going to have some outlier.

Cory Hiben: Totally. You bring up something too that I’m really glad you brought that up because something I always try to remind people as well is that when somebody unsubscribes from your email list, most people take that personally, right? Most people take that as this kind of punch to the gut doesn’t feel good to the ego. It feels like you’re like going to the bar and trying to hit on a chick, and she just rejected you. That’s what it feels like, or vice versa if you’re a girl listening to this, whatever. But that’s kind of what it feels like. But I think people forget that it has nothing to do with you.

First of all, you are not your business. Let’s make that very clear. Those are two completely different things. You are not your business, so do not have your identity in that. Keep that in mind. But the second thing that I think people forget to realize as well is that they are also doing you a favor because do you want people on your email list that aren’t really going to be reading your content anyways or wanting to engage with it or responding to you of like, hey, I love the email.

Do you want them on your list? No, of course, you don’t, right? The only people you want on this list are the people that actually generally want to be a part of this community or this gym that you have up. And so they do you a favor by unsubscribing it. Like, don’t forget that it’s not personal, and you don’t want the people that don’t want to be on your list anyways. They did you a favor.

Josh Peacock: Right. So how do you think that SMS fits in with email marketing? Do you think it can augment it, or is it a totally different use?

Cory Hiben: Phenomenal question. I had a really good friend of mine, actually on my podcast show as well, to talk about this, and we were getting into this exact same conversation about the power of emails. She’s another person that, I think she has over 100,000 people on her Instagram following. She used to be like a ninja warrior. People love her, and even her, to this day, talks about the value of her email list is so vastly underrated. And then we also got on the topic of SMS, right, like text messaging, if nobody knows what we’re talking about essentially right now.

And she dabbled in it for a little bit, and I can echo this in terms of what she found with it as well, is that it can be useful because, obviously, your text messages are something you probably check more than anything else in all your digital platforms. However, it can be a slippery slope. This is the one angle where I feel like this can get annoying to people. And the reason that it can get annoying to people is that the difference between for most people emails and text messages is that emails, generally speaking, you check them when you want to.

Text messages are more or less a bit of an invasion in the sense that you get a ping oftentimes if your notifications are on and you feel obligated to check it, and you’re generally expecting it to be a friend or a family member and sometimes a coworker, right? Not generally a just random ass article or whatever it is that you’re smiling people. So I think that it has value if you’re very careful with it. But it’s very rarely something that I honestly work with a lot of clients on.

I haven’t found that it’s necessary for most of the people that I work with, just generally in the fitness gym space. To be honest, unless it’s for maybe an appointment reminder or something, I think that can be helpful. But in terms of other than appointment reminders, I haven’t seen it show up. That’s great, just in my own experience. But again, that’s just what I’ve seen with clients that I’ve worked with.

Josh Peacock: That’s what it looks like to me. I don’t have a lot of experience with SMS marketing, but in having received different kinds of SMS marketing saying, hey, I just published this blog post, I don’t think that’s received very well through text as opposed to an update on the schedule at the gym or a reminder that’s probably one of the most important ones is a reminder of a booking you have or to show up or something. Just maybe updates on events and things that are more, I guess, almost administrative, like housekeeping items, is what SMS is good for. Not really so much telling people that you put out a new video on Instagram or something.

Cory Hiben: Right, especially things too where it’s directly relevant to maybe like an event or something that you have coming up. I think that has a great use case scenario for it if you have some sort of party at your gym or there’s some event at the coffee shop or the smoothie shop or whatever. I think there’s a lot of value in that realm if it’s like event specific but for just like random updates of what’s going on or information. Rarely have I ever seen it useful or turn out for the better, I guess, in the long run. Because I think that’s the important thing that I want people to know as well is that of all the stuff that we’re talking today about, of newsletters and blogs and everything is like just keep in mind that it’s a long play.

That’s why I go back to the rule of 100 or what kind of schedule can you stay to consistently? Every one of these avenues is a long play. Right? It’s really establishing legitimate relationships with people that you actually want to have a connection with, not just people that you want to come in, sell something PC. You never right. Those are two different strategies. Everything I’m talking about today is more or less like the long play.

Like, these are people you actually want to continue to be a part of your community. That’s why growing a newsletter list can be painfully hard and take a long time, is because it’s a long play. It’s not something could you quickly grow it with a giveaway or some other cheap method of growing it. Sure, maybe. But is that really what you want? Maybe it is, and if it is, that’s cool, but just be aware of which game you’re playing, I guess, is really what I’m saying.

Josh Peacock: Yeah. Do you want to make your head big, or do you want to make your wallet big?

Cory Hiben: Nailed it! I like that!

Josh Peacock: That’s the dichotomy there. Do you want to make your head bigger? Your brag about all 1000 emails you have? Yeah, $1,000 extra.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, exactly. And on that note, too, I guess this is something I should bring up as well, is understanding the power of collaboration. Of all the years that I’ve done any form of content creation, from newsletters to podcasting to blogging, all those things again, is that I have learned in all my years of doing this that the most powerful tool by far for growing any of those if you’re in that circumstance, is collaboration. And what I mean by collaboration is it’s finding other like-minded audiences as communities that could also get value from the things that you’re talking about.

So if there are other gym owners, or if there are other podcast shows, or there are other YouTube channels, or there are other Instagram accounts, whatever it is if you can find a way to connect with them and come to them with a value add where you can do something together to collaborate, to basically smash those two communities together so that they find each other, that is, without doubt, the most powerful tool that I’ve seen by far. It’s just like finding ways to overlap with other people and work together with other communities is totally the hack for any of the building of any of the platforms across all the boards, which.

Josh Peacock: You can do with anything. But with an email list, if you have an email list, you have sort of some built-in value so you can offer another company access to your email list. Like, hey, let’s do a collab post that we’ll send out through email, and then maybe in return, you can gain access to their email list or whatever their most powerful distribution channel is.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, you nailed it. I have a good buddy of mine here in town. He’s a friend of mine, and I think he has he writes about storytelling. That’s his whole newsletter. That’s his whole game is really storytelling. And I think his newsletter, last time I checked, like 70 or 80,000, something like that, he’s pushing 100,000. And I remember talking to him and just, like, learning a lot about how did he do that, right? What are the lessons that I could learn from this very smart person that obviously grew a very healthy and successful newsletter? And I’ll never forget what he told me, man.

He goes, yeah, it’s about 20% writing and about 80% distribution. And what he meant by that is that the actual newsletter itself that he was writing was about 20% of the work because, realistically, he was writing about storytelling, which is you’re kind of saying the same thing just in a lot of different ways about teaching people how to do storytelling. But the power of growing it was like learning how to collaborate and distribute into other people that also had audiences or other platforms or other communities or whatever it is that could also get value from it and then get in front of them, essentially.

And so it was just like a huge lesson for me of just like the power of collaboration is like part of it is the content, for sure. Like, you want good content, but honestly, a bigger part of it is like, who are you collaborating with, and how are you getting in front of similar audiences that also get value from the stuff that you’re talking about?

Josh Peacock: Yeah, and especially effective distribution because you get shared on the big Facebook page, and you might not get a ton of organic exposure, but if you send it to somebody’s email list, you potentially have more people interested in actually clicking through.

Cory Hiben: 100%. Yeah, it has way more. I don’t think the power is the word. I guess just like effectiveness in terms of if it’s actually going to convert to something. I think that’s also an important note for people to remember as well, though is reducing friction from platform to platform. So if you’re trying to grow a newsletter, your best angle of growing a newsletter is to connect with other newsletter growers. If you’re trying to grow a podcast show, your best angle is to talk with other podcasts that are doing podcast show because the friction from platform to platform can be very challenging for a lot of people.

Like sending out a newsletter about your podcast show, which is something I do, the conversion of that is actually really hard. Like when you think about the logistics of somebody checking maybe an email on their desktop computer about this newsletter, and it’s trying to convert to a podcast show that they would never listen to on their desktop computer, they want to listen to that when they’re out on a walk on their phone. That’s a lot of friction.

But that’s true for all the platforms. Going from one YouTube video to another YouTube video is very simple. Right, but to go from YouTube to a newsletter that’s a little bit more friction. So that’s also something for people to note as well in terms of distribution is like whatever platform you’re trying to grow on, also collaborate with other people on that same platform.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, absolutely. What tools do gym operators need to maintain and effectively leverage an email list?

Cory Hiben: Copywriting skills. No. Sort of joking, but sort of not. I would argue really any business owner, for that matter, should have some degree of just understanding copywriting, basically just like how to write and or speak something that like really resonates with people. That’s kind of like to my original point about learning how to tell stories, learning how to give strategies and tactics. In terms of exact tools, though, man, that’s a really hard question for me to answer only because I’ve used so many of the tools out there.

I would say, first and foremost, though is like having someplace where you’re hosting the majority of your emails. This could be anything from a ConvertKit to a Mailchimp to Beehive is actually the most recent one that I would actually recommend to a lot of people. They’re actually friends of mine, and it’s an incredible platform from all things across the board in terms of collaborating with other newsletters, putting in templates basically so that you can write your emails really quickly and streamline, and then it also can convert it to a blog for you straight up on the platform.

So I definitely highly recommend that one. It’s kind of like substack if anybody’s ever used that. It’s very similar but way more powerful, essentially. So I highly recommend that for anybody, but really just like having someplace where you’re hosting the emails. And the reason I say that is because I, oddly enough, had made this mistake even as somebody in the industry. So I actually also host a community here in Austin, Texas, of other health, fitness, wellness entrepreneurs. We meet up once a month, and I have a large email list of all these people that have attended, and obviously, I use it not to do anything other than just to ask them to come to the next event or tell them when the next event is right.

And I was honestly just like copy-pasting them email. I wasn’t really using an email list per se whatsoever. And a couple of downfalls of that so that other people don’t make this mistake is that one downfall of that is that when somebody asks you like, hey, by the way, I don’t even live in Austin anymore if you could kind of take me off the list that’d be great. That doesn’t always happen because I’ll forget or whatever the case might be. And honestly, it takes work to go through these emails and pull somebody off the name.

And so that’s a huge mistake versus actually having an email list on some sort of tool or platform they can just hit unsubscribe. Like I was saying earlier, they’re doing you a favor by doing that. And then the other thing with that too is you would like to see your open rates because knowing the percentage of people, not that you should rely on this, but knowing the percentage of people that actually open and click your emails can be an insanely valuable tool of knowing what’s working and what’s not working. Don’t take it personal if, for whatever reason, the numbers are high or numbers are low. It’s just like it is what it is. It’s data, but it gives you so much feedback as to what they’re clicking, why they’re clicking, if they’re even opening it.

And it also allows you third piece of this, which I forgot to mention is it also allows you to clean your list. I think people forget that if you have a number of people on your list that aren’t opening it anyways, that’s actually not a great thing for a couple of reasons. One is because you’re just basically spamming their spam box, which now posts your name in terms of email sending, is something more likely to get registered as spam even though you’re not spam. And also, too is, it just lowers your open rate, which is another thing that can signal like oh, this could be spam.

And so you don’t want to have a super insanely low number of open rates with people that aren’t even opening it anyways because then that could potentially register for spam. So that’s probably the third reason. It’s like have some form of tool. There are a bajillion of them out there. They all have their pros and cons. I will say this, though, I guess for a lot of gym owners, based on what I’ve seen, I think it’s called Active Campaign is another one. That’s a pretty great one, from my understanding from a lot of gym owners. That I’ve talked to in terms of, like, it just has a lot of tools and functionalities and automations that are useful for a quote-unquote service-based business.

Josh Peacock: I’ve used Active Campaign before, and if you have the right plan, you can coordinate it with SMS too. So if you want to go back and forth between doing what SMS is good for and what email is good for, you can put that all in the same flow. It’s pretty good. Gym desk, we also have that too, and we have some automation, quite a few automation features, and it’s all sort of just integrated with everything else you do, your CRM, your billing, all that kind of stuff. So if you want to send out a reminder like somebody’s payment is going to expire and you don’t want to worry about that, it can do that or just a simple SMS reminder of a booking. It just takes care of that for you. You don’t have to worry about it.

Cory Hiben: That’s something too is like just to double down on your point exactly. But that is a great avenue of an SMS is, like increasing your arrival rates for appointments. An SMS text is dramatically useful.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, absolutely. Email service providers, the way I understand it, there are some technical things that they can do to kind of help you, to help protect you from, like, if somebody says that marks this as spam. If you’re sending directly from a personal email address, that could tank. You could end up in a bunch of spam folders after that if somebody reported that email directly.

Cory Hiben: Exactly.

Josh Peacock: So you’re incurring a lot more risk than you need to, especially for the life of your business, if you’re just using a Gmail address. I actually knew somebody who did this, and I told her she needs to take all of those and stick them on an actual list because I think there are even some weird laws, like if there is no way for them to opt out of that, you could potentially be in legal trouble, at least in places like California. So there’s a bunch of free ones out there. Just do it. Why not?

Cory Hiben: Yeah, most of them out there that I’ve seen is, like, until your list is over like 500 or some of them are like 1000, it’s generally free anyways, so there’s no reason not to. And you’re right. I’m pretty sure there’s legal because even when you import emails into an email list builder of some form, it basically asks you like, hey, do these people confirm that they actually want to be on this list? Because if not, don’t put them on this list, essentially.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, absolutely. And it is easier to just download a CSV file off an email service provider if you want to switch. I don’t know how you do it in Gmail if you have a list put together. I don’t even know how you get all of those emails onto another document.

Cory Hiben: Copy-paste, man. All the builders out there just let you copy-paste paste, and they figure it out. AI, man, it’s the world we live in. I don’t know.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, it works. I don’t know. It sounds like work to me.

Cory Hiben: I’d rather just download a CSV.

Josh Peacock: So, are there any resources you would recommend for learning how to write good emails? Because copywriting has kind of permeated this interview.

Cory Hiben: Yeah, I guess I’ll give a shout-out to my buddy Naval. Hold on, let me look it up. 1 second.

Josh Peacock: Yeah, no worries!

Cory Hiben: Copywriting course, that’s what it is. Yeah, my buddy Neville, he’s actually here in Austin.

Josh Peacock: That was K.

Cory Hiben: So it’s funny you say that. It used to be with a K. Okay. You’ll appreciate this. So it used to be copywriting course KK, but then they wanted to do like copywriting course classes or something like that, but then it would have been KKK. And they’re like, oh, that’s a no.

Josh Peacock: That’s a no-go.

Cory Hiben: They’re like, oh, we can’t do that. So it’s with a c. Neville is his name. Neville Madhora. But yeah, it used to be Copywriting Course KK, but I think since changed it, now it’s C’s Copywriting Course. Look him up, though. He’s a buddy of mine. He’s great. Actually, side note, I did a podcast interview with him, and we get deep into the copywriting stuff, so anybody wants more depth on the copywriting stuff specifically. I definitely did a whole episode on it with him on my show because it was just so valuable. It’s honestly not even something I normally talk about on the show, but it was just like so useful and effective.

So that’d probably be number one for me. Honestly, he’s the one that taught me about Aida, and he’s also the one that taught me that most people think that copywriting is like it’s just the words that you type onto a keyboard and say to people. And he really opened my eyes to really all copywriting is actually at its most high level is, just like trying to communicate what’s in my brain into your brain in an effective and useful manner. And he said so.

An example of that is, even technically speaking, TikTok could be a form of copywriting if you think about it from that lens. Because if I want to know how to boil an egg the most effectively way humanly possible and the quickest way that I could learn that information is to just watch a quick TikTok video about how to boil an egg versus going to a blog that has like 1000 words on it, on how to freaking boil an egg.

It’s like I don’t care to read 1000 words on a blog. I just want the information and if I can get that information in 10 seconds on a TikTok video, awesome. So that’s really honestly, at the end of the day of, what copywriting is. It’s learning how to effectively communicate the things in your head into somebody else’s head in a useful and effective manner that somehow helps and support them. And again, all this is from my buddy Neville Madhora at Copywriting Course. So yeah, definitely check it out.

Josh Peacock: The listeners should check that out. Cool!

Cory Hiben: Yeah.

Josh Peacock: Well, I appreciate you coming on, man. Where can listeners find you if they want to reach out?

Cory Hiben: Cory Hiben is my name. My podcast show is called The Health Hustle. It’s on all major platforms, and my website is Other than that, feel free to reach out. Honestly, at the end of the day, if anyone has any questions or they want somebody to connect with, or if you live in Austin you want to get coffee, I would love that. I’m honestly just always looking to help and serve people. So if there’s anyone that wants to reach out and feel free to DM me or hit me up or whatever, love that.

Josh Peacock: Sweet, man! Thanks for coming on again, and I hope we can do this again sometime.

Cory Hiben: Appreciate it, brother. Thanks again!


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