Over the years I’ve used a wide variety of alternative email newsletter services for my clients- everything from Constant Contact, to Campaign Monitor, to Ontraport, Aweber and Active Campaign – so I’ve seen the wide range of what’s out there. When I got started with my service-based business, I wasn’t super focused on growing my list (big mistake on my part!) and my newsletter requirements were pretty simple – I just needed one simple signup form with one opt-in offering.
But when I started shifting my business away from service based offerings to products and courses, I knew I needed to focus on growing my email list – and I needed a more powerful newsletter solution.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why I switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit
- ConvertKit vs MailChimp Pricing
- ConvertKit vs. Mailchimp List Management
- How to segment your email list with tags and segments
- Automated email welcome sequences made easy
- How to add email signup forms and landing pages to your website
- Know what’s working to get you new subscribers
- How to limit spam email signups
- Creating email campaigns
- Checklist of what you need to change when you switch
Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the resources listed below. As an affiliate, I may earn a referral fee if you purchase these products based on my recommendations. I only recommend those services that I actually use in my own business.
Why I switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit
When I was using Mailchimp, I had to do a lot of cumbersome workarounds to make it meet my new needs. For example, when I started selling my first product, The Minima Guide to Launching Your Site, I wanted to add buyers to my email list. To do this, I had to use a 3rd party tool (zapier.com) that would connect buyers I created various other “zaps” doing everything from adding people to special MailChimp groups to sending a sample .pdf from one of my ebooks. And I had 10 lists (and counting) to keep track of special offers and groups of people that I wanted to keep separate. The whole thing felt cumbersome and tricky to use. I knew there had to be an easier way.
I felt like I had outgrown Mailchimp, but I didn’t really want to move to Infusionsoft or Ontraport. I had worked behind the scenes with larger clients that use both of these services to manage 100k+ sized lists and honestly, I didn’t want to have to spend the time reading the hours of documentation to get set-up (nor did I want to have to pay a “specialist” thousands of dollars to do it for me). As a designer, the interfaces of both services are a pain to deal with. Plus I couldn’t justify the cost of either service to meet my specific needs. And I know that the harder something is it use, the less likely I’ll be to use it (and I know the more you email, the more you’ll make!)
I’ve been hearing about ConvertKit* for a while but I worried it would be too overwhelming to switch services, so I kept putting it off (yes, designers do this too..)
When I finally made the switch, I fell in love. I could tell that this was a product created by people who actually understand what their customers need. And it was so much easier to use than Mailchimp (especially after Mailchimp made some major interface changes).
ConvertKit vs MailChimp Pricing
One of the biggest draws to Mailchimp is that for years they were one of the few services that offered a free plan. When you’re just getting your online business started every dollar counts, so that fact that you can get started for free attracts a lot of folks. However, ConvertKit added a totally free plan for up to 1000 subscribers – making it that much easier to get started. Click here to start your your own newsletter with a free plan from ConvertKit.
ConvertKit vs. Mailchimp List Management
In ConvertKit you only have one list. Instead of multiple lists of subscribers, ConvertKit uses “tags” to identify what your subscriber is interested (or not interested in). Tags are similar to MailChimp groups, but a heck of a lot easier to setup and use. Since you only have one list, subscribers are only counted once, but can be endlessly tagged. (In MailChimp subscriber count is based on lists – so the same person could be counted multiple times, which can add up when you’re paying a monthly fee). MailChimp recently added their own version of tagging, but I find it not user-friendly and way harder to use.
How to segment your email list with tags and segments
One of the smartest things you can do from the start is segment your email list. When you segment your list, you’ll know what information subscribers are interested in – so you can market directly to that audience without “burning” your list (meaning, sending info that doesn’t relate to that other audience so they unsubscribe). This is especially smart if you have several different audiences you want to talk to.
Say you want to give your audience a specific free download – and you want to send those subscribers a specific sales offer. Simply create an email sign-up form and attach your download to the form. Then you can add an “automation” (what ConvertKit calls triggers & actions) to tag a subscriber with your specific tag when they opt-in to that form. Now you can see exactly what subscribers are interested in what (and no more cumbersome workarounds if someone is already subscribed to your list). Then you can send those tagged subscribers a send a follow-up email or sequence.
I also love this tagging strategy to build waitlists for your upcoming products and courses.
You can further create “groups” of tagged subscribers into a larger “segment.” Let’s say you run a course once per year. You could tag each student with the year that they took the course, then create a larger segment that includes all the students who have taken the course over the years.
Automated email welcome sequences made easy
An email welcome sequence is a series of emails sent to your new subscriber when they first opt-into your list. When your subscriber first signs up, they’re excited to learn more about how YOU can help THEM. This is a smart way to share your knowledge and sell your services automatically. ConvertKit makes it easy to make different sequences – you can send them when a user is tagged and/or opts-in to a particular form.
How to add email signup forms and landing pages to your website
I’m techy. I can dig into code. But the ability to drop a bit of pre-made code on a site and have it just work and look decent? This makes my heart happy. It takes just a few seconds to create a new form or landing page – with pre-set styles that are modern and clean. Want to get fancy? You can copy their code and customize it with CSS. Oh, they’re mobile friendly too. No more endless media query fixes that can take forever to make it look right on mobile devices.
Say someone has signed up already – you don’t want to keep showing them the same form, right? Well ConvertKit gives you the option to promote other things if that person has already signed up. So smart. And if you’re using the WordPress plugin, you can show unique opt-in forms after every blog posts – that alone is a game-changer!
Sure I could write a function to show a different form after every blog post, but that would be a pain. ConvertKit has an awesome plugin that allows you to select a specific form to show at the end of blog posts. Want a different opt-in offer after every blog post? Go crazy, because now you can. And even better? Gorgeous new landing pages integrate with your WordPress site in a snap. Check out my tutorial on how you can create your own landing page in less than 5 minutes. Need to add email opt-ins to a Squarespace site? It’s still super easy to add unique opt-in forms all over your site.
Know what’s working to get you new subscribers
Statistics was the one class I avoided in college, but now I’ve learned to love it. And ConvertKit makes it so easy to see what’s converting … and what isn’t. It’s dead easy to setup new forms for new offers. Check out this screenshot (left image) from the dashboard that shows me exactly what forms people are using to opt-in.
If you know me, you know I love testing – and now I can easily see what forms are working. Subscribers are tagged with where they signed up (even if they signed up multiple times) – which allows me to do further analysis of the customer journey based on where they opted in. Should I keep the sticky header or the sticky footer signup? Both are converting well – so it makes sense to keep both.
Email campaigns are easy to create.
I’m a designer – I always “felt” like I had to create a “designed” newsletter. And this would stop me from writing a lot. Yes you can create “graphic” newsletters with ConvertKit, but it’s really meant for clean, simple text based newsletters. And guess what – I don’t dread writing newsletters anymore.
You can create your own email newsletter templates using a bit of code and CSS (I’ve made my own slightly modified templates so I can promote offerings in the footer of my newsletter without having to type it in every newsletter.
Limit spam email signups
Spam email signups were a huge problem for me with MailChimp. I kept getting obvious spam signups (even though it was a double opt-in). Sometimes I’d get 5-10 a day. And then I’d have to manually remove them. I tried everything – from special captcha settings to anti-spam plugins. And nothing stopped the flow (and judging by the forums, I wasn’t the only one). With double opt-in email enabled on my ConvertKit forms, I haven’t had an issue with spam email signups.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about a few things I don’t love…
- There’s no app. Campaign Monitor and MailChimp both have great apps for on the go reporting. I’m hopeful ConvertKit will add this feature.
- It’s not really setup for graphically “designed” emails. So for those clients that need this feature, I’ll be sticking with Campaign Monitor. Know that you can add images to your emails (and truth be told, I find that text based emails tend to perform better than “fancy” designed ones).
- If you need a totally separate list (say for another business) you might want to set-up a separate account or use something like Active Campaign.
Wondering if you should switch?
If you’re running a yoga studio or fitness business…
You probably need to stick with your current service if you’re integrated into MindBody Online.
If you’re looking to create graphically gorgeous newsletters…
I would stick with Campaign Monitor. I use Campaign Monitor extensively with a few clients and I love it – it has a lot of the same features as ConvertKit (and a great app) but doesn’t have tagging (though you can segment your audience if you set-up custom fields). However, it does have a gorgeous drag-and-drop editor and the ability to do robust auto responders.
If you need to integrate with courses you’ve already setup…
You might want to stick with what you’re currently using if you’re already heavily invested (especially if you’re already using Infusionsoft or Ontraport).
If you’re a blogger, service provider or going to create courses and products in the future…
If you’re looking to create courses or products (especially using Gumroad, Teachable or Thinkific or Kajabi) ConvertKit might be a great option for you. It has native integration with those services, making it a snap to connect your products and courses and tag subscribers and send follow-up emails.
Checklist of what you need to change before, during and after you switch your email newsletter service
A few notes on what to do if you do decided to switch email providers.
- Make sure to export (and save) your current lists.
- Make a note of ALL the places you have linked to your newsletter signup forms and update your links. Places like landing pages, blog posts, sidebars, contact forms – and don’t forget your social media accounts and profile bios!
- Don’t delete your old account for a least a few weeks (people often open newsletters days later, so you want to make sure you get an accurate accounting). In fact, one thing I do is keep old accounts open and remove all the old subscribers – that way you keep access to your old data and content. Usually if you have no subscribers, you won’t have to pay anything.