Hey, Dustin here!
With a list of over 27,000 people going strong I thought it might be time to revisit an old post on why we switched to Convertkit. I originally posted this over on A Sweet Pea Chef here. But given that this whole blog is on creating and growing you online business it seems like it has a better home over here. So I updated and refreshed this article and we are. FYI, we are an affiliate for some of the below links. All these suggestions are based on our experience and extensive research I would never recommend a product that I don’t strongly believe in.
One of the goals I had for 2015 was to move our email system over to an email provider that allows for easier segmentation and follow up (i.e. before and after opting in and/or purchasing a product). We get a lot of questions from people just getting started (usually in the food blogging space but not always) on what email provider to use.
I used to recommend Mailchimp to start mostly because it was free and relatively easy to get started. Now that I have been using Convertkit for awhile I can safely say that I wish it was around when we got started. They have very reasonably priced starter packages, you don’t get doubled billed for certain email addresses like we did with Mailchimp and you can segment which is something I wish we had right away. So, about a year ago, we finally pulled the trigger when I saw a demo of Convertkit and fell in love. It fixed all of our problems and was so easy to use.
The Early Stages of ASPC and The Power of Email
When A Sweet Pea Chef was just getting started 6+ years ago, we had no products or services. At first we had no optin but I had read some stuff from Pat Flynn way back when and decided that we needed a lead magnet to gather emails. We looked around and, at that time, not many food blogs had one.
So we decided to create a cookbook cookbook (I think we were one of the first to offer this as a freebie). Trying to make something that stood out, we decided to give out an entire Cookbook with over 40+ recipes in eBook form. You can see the offer in the bottom left of the image.
The whole point of gathering emails for us was to build an audience and connect with them on a more personal level. Lacey would give out special recipes you could only get on the newsletter and, occasionally, we would drive traffic to the blog. Slowly, this kept improving and we created newsletter campaigns which Mailchimp was great for.
This led to us rapidly outpacing the Mailchimp free version and started causing funding issues lol.
Back when we first started we really had a hard time making enough money to keep the site running. Our traffic and email growth always outpaced our income. So we started offering products through our email list.
Why We Changed to Convertkit
Eventually, people wanted products so we created those. The first steps were to test out a few different cookbooks over time and we made a few thousand dollars doing this. But it was hard to figure out exactly what people wanted.
We learned we could use email to survey our audience and try to figure out how we could better help them. The answer we got was to create a meal planning service. We created different lists for this in Mailchimp. So, anyone that was on multiple lists we had to pay for multiple times.
In late 2014, we launched our first service and used email to do it, creating $3k in recurring revenue. This was really a life changing opportunity because Lacey was able to help people create healthy, easy dinners and we had grown into a full-time business all at the same time.
But, some people wanted different things. Just recipes or cookbooks or meal planning. This meant more lists and more money.
Then we needed to start doing some tricky things with Automation. Like remove someone from one list and add them to another send a sequence and then move them back. I found a tool called Zapier to make this happen.
Some people wanted blogging tips or photography tips, while others just wanted recipes. Some people purchased a product and needed separate emails.
This is tricky to do so we made even more lists in Mailchimp to manage it. Then, we started dealing with segments and groups and it was just really tricky to get everything to work right.
We kept trying to make it work with Mailchimp but ultimately we new we needed to test out other solutions.
I couldn’t unsubscribe from one list and send to another easily or update someone has having purchased. This all felt nearly impossible to get setup right and work everytime.
Tons of moving parts and on top of that in Mailchimp, if someone is subscribed to two of your lists(or more), that person is counted as two subscribers. For example, perhaps someone is signed up to your main list as well as a secondary list we created for food photography. That counts as two which has price implications because you pay based on how many subscribers you have.
And that’s not to mention how difficult it was to look at what lists each subscriber was on.
We realized we needed to improve this interaction for sometime now and had been looking for the best options. Luckily this is when Convertkit popped back up and I decided to start testing it out.
Why We Went With ConvertKit
So, when we finally decided to move to something new, we researched all the normal options: InfusionSoft, Ontraport, and Active Campaign. Unfortunately, at the time, they were all too expensive or too difficult or we heard about deliverability issues, etc. But, then I remembered about Nathan Berry’s Convertkit. I had always liked Nathan’s stuff on user interface (UI) which I read for “real” work purposes.
I hadn’t really considered using them, though, since they were so tiny and I really had no idea what the functionality they had was.
I dug a little deeper and realized that Nathan had recommitted to this project and gone all-in. Then, I saw a demo of it and was blown away.
Convertkit has an amazing UI that is super easy to use and is intuitive. If I had designed it myself, it couldn’t have been better. Being a software engineer who believes people should have a good user experience, a good UI is super important to me. In fact, it was why we chose Mailchimp all those years ago.
With ConvertKit, it was super easy to learn everything I needed to know how to setup tagging, courses, forms, and integrations.
The best part was how easy setting up automation rules:
I can’t tell you how awesome this feature is and the easy user experience to actually pull it off is great. An example of this would be if someone buys a product, then tag them “purchased.” Or, when they finish a course, move them to another course.
Another use is when someone finished our autoresponder sequence, we wanted to move them back into the segment that gets recipes. So, we set up a segment that is the tag recipes and another automation rule.
The dashboard that gives you insight into your list is super cool, too. You can easily see daily subs, monthly subs, subs from specific forms, etc.
The flow of everything just makes sense. You subscribe to a form and then, based off the rules, you start getting different courses. So, instead of having a bunch of lists everywhere, we allow everyone to take the courses they are interested in. There are also tons of integrations so you can sync in with Gumroad, SumoMe, LeadPages, ClickFunnels, etc… It’s made our life so much easier.
Getting Started With ConvertKit
Once we choose Convertkit we had to get started setting everything up. That meant migrating our list from Mailchimp, setting up forms, sequences, tags and automation rules.
We started the migrating process by exporting a list at a time. This was super easy just use the import subscribers button under the Subscribers tab.
Then you a drop down will pop up and you can import your Mailchimp csv file and tag everyone from that list whatever tag makes sense. For us we used tags like Recipes, Blogging Tips and Photography Tips. You can also attach them to any forms you have or sequences you want them to receive at this point. For us we just tagged them appropriately since they had already gone through our sequences in Mailchimp.
Setting Up Forms
For forms I usually set one up for every location that I have on the site. We use SumoMe for our Welcome Mat and Popup and just tie it into Convertkit since they integrate so well. We also use ClickFunnels for all of our landing pages and they have an integration as well. I make a separate form for each of these locations and inside these applications I attach that form.
Here is a sample form in Convertkit there are no visitors since its tied into our landing page we built in ClickFunnels. After you click the create form button you need to choose if you want a form or a landing page. Since I use ClickFunnels and used to use Leadpages I always just make a form and integrate in those apps.
After choosing the form option then you need to pick which is really going to depend on if your picking just email or email and name. I usually use the email and name option but you can pick whichever you want based of your design and list needs.
Up next is the settings and stuff that you need to cleanup. From this location you can give your form a name, tie it into your sequences, deliver optin hooks etc…
Setting Up Sequences
The next step is to setup our sequences. These are the automated emails that go out once people sign up for something. Sometimes its just an email with a thank you and a download or login. Most of the time its a sequence to point people to the best content and help them get started with clean eating. The Convertkit high level view has a few cool things on it – number of subscribers, open rate, click rate and unsubscribers.
Once you click the create sequence button under the sequence tab you will see a form where you enter a name for your sequence.
Once you name and create your sequence you will be taken to a sequence template. This is where you can setup all your emails and control the sequence settings.
On the left are all the emails in the sequence, the time they go out and what status they are in i.e. draft. You can add more emails here if needed. On the top you can control the status and time they go out. You can also email yourself or someone else a preview of the email. Once you click on the settings tab you can even more settings.
These are all the settings at the sequence level rather than the specific email level. Here you can exclude certain tags or forms so people don’t get emails they shouldn’t. For example all our intro emails don’t go to people that have bought our products.
You can also control the days and time the emails go out if you want.
And, finally you can control duplicate the sequence if needed.
Thousands of Dollars a Month
I honestly have not been this excited about a new tool in a long time :). Months after starting to use it I can say while its not perfect it is by far the best least confusing Email Provider I have used. Convertkit alone generates thousands of dollars a month for us with its sequencing and easy segmenting.
The only real negative we have found is the date picker doesn’t keep track of the current day and its not always easy to insert long form images. And to be honest how many problems we have had with other providers these are really small nitpicking things. Overall the experience has been awesome. Their customer support is very prompt and on top of it.
I highly recommend them and wish they were around when we got started so I could have been using them all along.
By using the tagging they have combined with the automation we can send different emails to different groups on our list which allows us to maximize revenue and create the best user experience. This was damn near impossible with Mailchimp and has been nothing but easy with Convertkit. In the end they saved us a ton of time, many headaches and allowed us to improve our systems and revenue by thousands of dollars a month.
If you’d like to check out ConvertKit, my referral link is here, and if you have any questions about ConvertKit ask in the comments 🙂