“Email marketing is dead.”
How often do we hear that statement shouted as the next shiny object of tech and social media takes center stage? … Only for that new thing to dull quickly, leaving consumers wanting more, or the next big thing.
Email marketing still works. Tried and true, and if anything, instead of losing its value, it has adapted and become even better.
In fact, I believe so passionately in this topic that I recorded a deep-dive podcast episode with Copyblogger founder Brian Clark on “Why the Future Is Still Email.”
Email is the gateway into your potential customer’s life, with opportunities at every turn to build relationships and trust … and eventually convert that engagement into sales.
And the system you use matters more than you think. Everything from automation potential, initial set-up needs, and the price tag can impact a user’s decision about the email marketing software they choose.
There’s a reason that ConvertKit, which is one of the newer email marketing systems out there (only established in 2013), outranks the competition in almost every area — user-friendliness, cost-effectiveness, options for all-sized blogs and businesses, and a team that cares to serve their customers first and in the best way possible.
Follow along as I walk you through my ConvertKit review, and why you should choose it over the rest.
ConvertKit review: History of an outstanding digital product
Nathan Barry established ConvertKit in 2013 out of a desire to sell a product to an audience of his own. The problem was, he didn’t have an audience.
He had left his job as the head of a software design team for a startup, and began working with clients of his own building iOS apps and writing about it on his newly minted blog.
During this process, he wrote his first ebook (The App Design Handbook). When he launched the book sale to his small list (only 798 subscribers at the time), he was able to sell $12,000+ in the first 24 hours.
At this point, Nathan realized there was something special about digital products. A few months later, he wrote another book, which he shared with his audience that had doubled, but he still had a relatively small amount of subscribers.
A search for more predictable income
Nathan was excited that he had been able to create a big revenue stream from his ebooks ($80,000+ in sales in the first few months alone) but wanted to create something that could offer a more predictable income between book launches.
Using his knowledge of designing and software building, Nathan set out to create a SaaS app, even though he didn’t know what he would build, and wrote on his blog about it throughout the process.
He launched the project, The Web App Challenge, with a self-set cap of a $5,000 investment because he didn’t want to invest a lot of money in something without knowing if there was a market for it.
Relying mostly on pre-orders, he began to create a digital product for an audience he knew and was a part of — an email marketing tool that focused on the needs of authors/bloggers who wanted to sell digital products.
ConvertKit was born
Basic at first, but it grew over time. Every time Nathan came across something his Big competitors couldn’t do, or how un-user-friendly they were, a new idea or thought emerged about how he could improve the tool he was creating.
Eventually, he hired Ruby on Rails to build an app, and while he hadn’t hit the $5,000 mark he was hoping for in the first six months, he knew he was onto something great.
A year and a half in, a conversation that stopped him in his tracks made him amp up his efforts to go “all in” with ConvertKit.
Nathan hadn’t made up much ground in the months since creation. His friend, Hiten Shah, encouraged him bluntly to either “take ConvertKit seriously and go all in, or shut it down.”
Nathan noted the conversation with Hiten, but did nothing for another six months, until he finally came to a crossroads of either having to, in his words …
“Double down or shut down”
He decided to double down.
Nathan shut down the rest of his businesses, invested $50,000, hired a full-time developer, and went all in on his marketing efforts, continuing his content marketing while hardcore introducing direct sales through cold-emailing leads.
Bloggers liked the idea of ConvertKit, but hated the idea of all the work it would be to move from one system to a new one.
So, Nathan went out on a limb and offered to do all the heavy lifting, for free.
Six months after offering what ConvertKit now calls “concierge migration,” its revenue stream was finally hitting $5,000 per month.
ConvertKit coined the phrases “email marketing for bloggers” and “the power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than Mailchimp,” during their new marketing focus and audience shift.
The first 50 customers of ConvertKit came from the original App Challenge, however by switching their focus to direct sales, Nathan began bringing in clients that were bigger and more likely to stick around.
Once ConvertKit had hit the $20,000/month mark, they rolled out an affiliate program, which worked great because their new target market/users were bloggers with big lists who could share their experience with the software.
Since they were known and trusted by their audience, this brought in a massive amount of new revenue, and a massive number of new subscribers.
This is the point in my review of ConvertKit where people say “the rest is history.” The revenue numbers skyrocketed as the cold sales and referrals continued to roll in.
ConvertKit review: Core values
ConvertKit’s values alone set them apart from the competition.
In fact, you can find those core values listed right on their website. That’s one of the most critical parts of this ConvertKit review.
They care about the customer and their experience, creating a better product, keeping it simple, and offering support that is bar none.
ConvertKit’s values include:
- Teach everything you know.
- Create every day.
- Work in public.
- Default to generosity.
- Do less, better.
From the list, it’s easy to see they value relationships with both customers and their team, as well as honesty.
ConvertKit review: Exceptional features
What makes ConvertKit better than the rest?
Going back to one of their core values to “create every day,” the system’s already-excellent features are always improving.
Not only are the free landing page templates beautiful and completely customizable, you don’t need a website to host them.
With no code and tons of options, you can create your landing page quickly and efficiently, so it’s ready to land in front of potential subscribers in no time.
Plus, they work seamlessly with the sign-up forms that you can create in house with ConvertKit.
Your subscribers get the first glimpse of what they can expect from you by how seamlessly they can join your email list.
Something as simple as a sign-up form makes the process of joining your email list smooth.
A major aspect to note in this ConvertKit review is that the tool has something for everyone. From gorgeous, customizable designs to forms for any need, you’re able to determine the data you need to collect and embed the forms on your current website.
But don’t forget, users don’t even need a website to use these amazing features! Sign-up forms can be housed right on the landing pages you build in ConvertKit. Win!
Bonus: Have a deliverable? You can use a sign-up form to deliver a free incentive if you have one (you should definitely have one!) for joining your email list.
When it comes to automation tools, often times, more complex means more confusing.
ConvertKit keeps it simple, with easy-to-follow steps so that you can spend your time doing things you actually want to do, like focus on growing your business.
With ConvertKit, you can build easy to set up automated funnels that are user-friendly yet packed with customizable options. The beauty of the system is that you can see everything that is happening for your subscriber, from start to finish.
Need to edit the content? Add a tag or create a segmentation? Integrate with one of your favorite tools like WordPress, Zapier, etc.? It’s all possible with ConvertKit.
Being able to tag subscribers and segment your list into separate parts or sections is by far one of the greatest functions ConvertKit has to offer. A key differentiating feature I wanted to note in my review of ConvertKit.
Tagging is as simple as it sounds. If someone does a certain action (i.e., joins your list through a specific opt-in, purchases a product, clicks a link within an email, etc.), they are labeled with the tag you’ve created.
This comes in handy during the segmentation process. In ConvertKit, you can choose to segment your list, or only send a specific email to customers with a certain tag or tags. You can choose several tags, or just one (the any or all functions). Or, you can choose to send it to “none” with that tag.
The choice is yours. Once you’ve begun creating tags, you won’t believe how easy it is to ensure the right target audience receives your message.
Auto resend broadcasts to un-opens
What do you do when subscribers don’t open an email? Do they just miss the opportunity all together, or do you resend in hopes to catch their attention?
With some email marketing systems, resending unopened emails can be a nightmare. With ConvertKit, the backend will show you the statistics of who opened, who didn’t, and give you resending options at the click of a button.
You can edit the title and the body of the broadcast, schedule the resend in advance, and have peace of mind knowing that all the automation is taken care of, so you can move onto other things in your business.
Conditional email content
When someone greets you by name in person, the conversation feels more personable and connected. So why would you want your email to be any different?
At ConvertKit, using the Conditional Content feature helps to systemize the personalization of emails. Depending on the tags you have created, you are able to add personalization like first and/or last name to your email.
The real beauty of these “conditional content” options? If the subscriber didn’t provide that information, don’t worry, they won’t see weird punctuation and errors where their name should be.
ConvertKit review: Competitors
Mailchimp is free. But free isn’t always better. The high ROI that ConvertKit offers as your email marketing system, not to mention the high value you receive, makes paying for the service worth it.
ConvertKit offers features like tagging subscribers, easy-to-use automations, and endless options to upgrade.
Plus, with the addition of ConvertKit’s new Freemium option, you can save time on bouncing back and forth between systems.
Start with ConvertKit, and as your list grows, you will already be in love with the system you use, the one with the endless possibilities, for lists big and small.
Aweber has been around, for well, a while. And while they boast lots of things, there are some features that are too important to settle on not having.
ConvertKit has options such as a/b testing, easy access to broadcast resends, and an automatic opt-in delivery feature, where Aweber lacks in all of those.
The ability to automate things like opt-in delivery saves you and your team time, and ensures that your customers receive what you want them to, when you want them to.
Total back control over your email management and your business.
While ActiveCampaign offers very similar features, at ConvertKit, the user experience and easy-to-use features are at the top of the list of importance when making improvements or changes to the system.
ConvertKit doesn’t require the hiring of an expert consultant to chart the unknowns of email marketing. The system is so user-friendly, and offers things for every level from beginning to experienced, that it actually makes this part of running a business something you enjoy.
Plus, if you really have trouble or need assistance learning a function in ConvertKit, they have one of the most responsive and helpful teams in email management.
You’ll quickly get an answer from ConvertKit, along with a ton of other helpful tips along the way. Their excellent team is a central theme throughout this review of ConvertKit.
An all-in-one tool doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes it means everything is just okay, but not great.
Because ConvertKit was created for creators by creators, they understand how important the user experience is, and what features help make the experience next level, so users can spend less time frustrated looking for work-arounds.
Things like form specific opt-ins, automatically processing duplicated subscribers (so you only pay for subscribers once), and a/b testing are just some of the features ConvertKit has, that Infusionsoft just can’t match.
Plus, when you spend less money for better results, you can put that savings toward something else in your business that will help you continue to grow your business.
Systems are meant to make the process easier, not harder. MailerLite makes things like tagging subscribers, automations, and segments difficult to figure out, or doesn’t even offer those features at all.
Users look to simplify the systems they use like membership platforms, webinar software, and survey integrations.
When your systems can’t easily work together, like they can with ConvertKit, it just causes more work for the user. Period.
ConvertKit review: Made for Creators by Creators
Because ConvertKit is Made for Creators by Creators, getting started is so easy.
In fact, they take the guesswork out and walk you through everything from creating an account to sending your first email (and every detail in between). I’m going to share those steps below, as part of my ConvertKit review.
Plus, if you don’t understand something, get confused, or need help, they have F*ing A Players. (Remember those values above?)
So if you ever feel overwhelmed, the ConvertKit team is amazingly focused on getting you back on track.
Step #1: Sign up for your ConvertKit account
At ConvertKit you pay for what you need. They offer something for every-sized subscriber list. They even just launched a Freemium plan.
The free plan includes unlimited landing pages and beautiful templates. Plus the option to refer a friend to unlock more options. (More on that below.)
The great thing to know here is that you can choose from several plan options, and you only pay for each email address once, no matter how you have them tagged. Plus, you can try it for the first 14 days for free.
Bonus: If you have 5,000+ subscribers, you can request a demo and free migration of your list to ConvertKit’s system.
Step #2: Create your first form
Making it as easy as possible for people to join your email list is essential. And a super important part of that? A sign-up form!
ConvertKit walks you through, step by step, how to create a form to embed on your website, blog, etc.
Step #3: Create your first tags and segments
Now you’re ready to start assigning tags (or labels) to your subscribers. You can add tags and segment lists however you choose for your business.
If you’re a course creator, you may want to tag everyone who has joined a certain class, or segment them to a list so you can email those subscribers separately.
Tags and segments make it easier than ever to make sure the subscribers you want to get certain information actually get the information!
Step #4: Import your current email list
If you already have an email list that you’re moving over to ConvertKit, be sure to export a CSV list from your current email marketing system.
Once you have done that, simply click on subscribers at the top of the menu, and look for the button that reads “Import Subscribers.”
After you’ve “drag and dropped” your CSV file, you can add a tag to the list before importing.
So, if you want to know if all of these subscribers were “Original List” subscribers, add the tag, then click Import Subscribers.
It really is that easy!
Step #5: Send your first broadcast (AKA email)
Whether you call it an email, newsletter, or broadcast, it’s time to send your first correspondence to your list. At ConvertKit, the system walks you through setting up a broadcast.
Click on New Broadcast to begin. Decide who the broadcast will be sent to (all subscribers, or if you tagged a certain group, you can choose that here).
You won’t find a bunch of templates here for your email. ConvertKit uses a simple, sleek look that is easy for your subscribers to read. You can add links, images, content, etc. to make it yours.
Once you’ve previewed your email and are happy with the layout, you can Send Immediately or Schedule for a later time/date.
Congratulations, you just sent your first broadcast!
Step #6: Create your first automation (AKA funnel)
Don’t be afraid of building your first sequence or automation. It really isn’t as scary or intimidating as it seems.
Start with something simple, like your Welcome Sequence (for when subscribers join your email list).
Under the Sequence tab, begin by clicking New Sequence. Name your sequence (Welcome Sequence, for example).
Begin writing your email copy (simply click add email to build the list). You can change the drip (or when they are delivered), simply on each email.
Now that you’ve created your first sequence, you can connect it to your opt-in form to create your first automation. ConvertKit makes it so simple, you’ll want to play with all of the possibilities offered.
Simply follow the prompts on the Automation tab to create a New Automation. From there, you can connect your opt-in form. You will then be able to add an action, event, or condition. To add your Welcome Sequence, choose Event and choose your Sequence from the drop-down list.
You’ve just created your first Automation! You can continue to build out larger and more complex funnels, or you can keep it simple.
ConvertKit review: Pricing (and why it’s worth it)
ConvertKit only recently rolled out an option for a Freemium version of the email management system, but even the smallest paid tier is worth the unlimited options ConvertKit offers.
Let’s talk about the Freemium version first.
ConvertKit decided to offer a new Freemium plan because they want to remove any blocks that new creators might have when getting up and running.
They found that many creators were starting on a free plan elsewhere, only to eventually move to ConvertKit because of the endless options and functions offered — not to mention simplicity and ease of use.
So, ConvertKit rolled out this amazing option. You get access to building unlimited landing pages and opt-ins, and then you can start inviting others to join your list. Once you’ve had your first subscriber, you can upgrade to the $29/month package to start sending emails.
But that’s not even the coolest part! With the referral program, if you refer someone to sign up to ConvertKit like you did (and they do), you get 100 free subscribers and unlock the ability to send emails along with tags, sequencing, and more. You can accept referrals up to 1,000 subscribers.
The pricing structure is tiered by the number of subscribers on your list, and you don’t pay for duplicate email addresses. So you only pay for what you need.
$29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers, $49/month for up to 3,000 subscribers, and $79/month for up to 5,000 subscribers.
Everything at each of these tiers is unlimited and included, except for the option for free migration concierge services. The option to have assistance in moving your list of 5,000 or more is available.
If you have more than 5,000 subscribers, simply enter the number of subscribers here to calculate your monthly price.
Is it worth the premium fees?
As I’ve said throughout this ConvertKit review, it’s an email management system that boasts everything you need. It’s easy to use, and doesn’t hold back, no matter what paid monthly membership you have.
Even the new Freemium option gives you access to setting up so much that you are ready to hit the ground running as your list grows, not to mention you have the opportunity to refer your friends to unlock more fun under the Freemium plan.
Sometimes free is better, though.
Here’s the best part: If you aren’t ready to pay $29/month because you’re just getting started, ConvertKit has another option for you without all the bells and whistles.
Just a couple months ago, ConvertKit announced a free plan that will allow you to create a landing page, so you can start capturing email addresses with their free landing pages and send emails to your first 100 subscribers.
Why ConvertKit might not be right for you
ConvertKit is not right for everyone. That’s right, I said it.
ConvertKit doesn’t have a bunch of fancy email templates to choose from. Their commitment is to sending emails that are relatable and look like they came from an actual human (because they did!).
So, if fancy is what you’re looking for, ConvertKit may not be your email management system. If you don’t sell a product, ConvertKit may not be the right system for you.
Part of the valuable system ConvertKit has created is the tagging and segmenting offered to everyone. This function is able to track subscribers, and what they click on, engage with, and purchase.
You don’t want to continually send emails about purchasing a product to someone who already bought it! So, having the tag function will help eliminate you from targeting the wrong subscribers.
If you need to separate businesses with two different subscriber lists, things could get a little hairy in ConvertKit. ConvertKit is great for tagging, but doesn’t exactly keep the email lists separate.
So, you would either want two separate accounts, or you should use a platform that can let you jump back and forth between each list.
ConvertKit review wrap-up: Other cool stuff to consider
As I start to wrap up this ConvertKit review, here are other cool features worth highlighting.
ConvertKit has a stellar help desk. While there is not a phone number you can call, the live chat support and quick email response is more than enough to get help quickly and resolve any issue you may have.
There’s a Facebook page for ConvertKit users that is more than 9,000 members strong. Plus, they just released a new Community by ConvertKit, where they have built a hub to further the “creator movement” around the world. It’s a great place to network with other creators and see what’s out there!
ConvertKit’s conference, Craft + Commerce, is known throughout the globe as one of the best conferences for creators to attend. Craft + Commerce is “the premier event for online creators to come together to build community and learn from the world’s top creators.”
What makes the conference so good? The not-to-miss speaker lineup, the exclusive number of tickets available (only 400 this year), and the chance to surround yourself with like-minded creators who are also growing and scaling their businesses are reasons enough to attend this event.
A top tool for building trust, sharing stories, and growing your community
As I stated before, email marketing is one of the biggest opportunities for businesses to get their product, service, and knowledge out in front of their potential customers.
Email is still one of the top tools for building trust with your audience, sharing relevant stories, and inviting people to be a part of your community.
Check out my deep dive with Brian Clark in this podcast episode, “Why the Future Is Still Email,” to find out why I think email isn’t going anywhere.
And head over to ConvertKit to see why I think it’s the best email management system with the best team, features, and user-friendliness, and why I think it blows the competition out of the water.
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