As you learned at the beginning of this epic guide to email marketing, when I started my first two online businesses in 2008, I didn’t create an email list. That was a huge mistake! Thankfully, it was one I eventually corrected. In this chapter, I’ll take you on a little journey from my earliest email marketing days to the present, and tell you about the email service providers that have been an integral part of that journey—including the one I use and recommend today.
Getting My Start in Email Marketing with AWeber
In 2009, after trying to grow my businesses without an email list, I finally got my head on straight and signed up with AWeber, an email service provider (ESP) that a number of my online business friends had recommended.
Almost immediately, I started seeing returns on my investment.
I learned how to get a sign-up form up on my site, and I dropped my first one on the homepage of one of my first businesses, GreenExamAcademy.com. There were no giveaways or lead magnets as opt-in incentive. The only thing I offered was my “exclusive newsletter,” although I quickly added copy to include “exclusive deals on my study guides and LEED-related products.”
Seven days later, I had built a list of just over 200 people. I sent a broadcast email which included a link to my ebook, The LEED AP Walkthrough, and a $5 coupon code that expired within twenty-four hours.
Within a day of sending that email, fifty-three people had purchased the book for $24.95, grossing just over $1,300 in sales with one single email to my list of 200 people.
It was the most money I’d ever made in a single day in my life, and it blew me away. This email thing actually worked!
A couple of months later, I discovered the power of having an autoresponder series—a series of pre-written emails that are sent automatically and sequentially to subscribers after they sign up.
I experimented with creating a short three-email series, which was sent over the course of seven days after people subscribe.
Email 1, sent immediately after someone subscribed, was about how to get started studying for the exam, giving people all of the background information they needed to know before getting their feet wet with the material.
Email 2, sent a day later, pitched my ebook study guide. I promoted it as everything they needed to know to pass the LEED exam, conveniently packaged into a printable PDF file and delivered immediately upon purchase. The link in the email sent people to my sales page, which had a lot more information on the features and benefits of the product.
Email 3, sent to subscribers one week after subscribing, shared an affiliate link to a set of practice exams sold by another company I partnered with.
Apparently, the experiment worked very well because sales started to increase month after month, parallel to the growth of my email list!
Next Stop on the Email Marketing Train: Infusionsoft
Things had been going well with AWeber and my basic autoresponder series. For years, the same email list and autoresponder series worked its magic, and I didn’t touch the copy or add any more emails to the series until the exam changed in 2012.
But there was untapped potential.
As a beginner marketer who tried to do everything himself, I didn’t have the tools or knowledge required to track my sales data very well. I was intimidated by all of the fancy tools out there that could possibly help with tracking and conversions. And I didn’t want to break what already seemed to be working.
I was pretty happy with the results of building my list on GreenExamAcademy.com, and with AWeber as an email service provider.
But I was also starting to outgrow AWeber. I needed access to more powerful tools that could help me track my sales and conversions. I was also becoming frustrated with some elements of the software. With AWeber, if the same person was on multiple lists, they counted more than once, which meant I was paying for them more than once.
So I took the next step in my email marketing journey, which involved migrating my list to Infusionsoft (now Keap).
Infusionsoft, I discovered, is much more than an email service provider. It’s a complete small business CRM (customer relationship management) and automation tool.
That’s one of the things about Infusionsoft—it’s so powerful and there are so many possibilities with it that it can easily become overwhelming.
And that’s what happened to me. Infusionsoft was one of the most powerful software tools I’d ever tried to use, but that power came at a steep price, which was confusion.
At points, it got so bad that I had to reach out to individual friends who were using Infusionsoft to get answers. Many were kind enough to help me out, and almost all of them said Infusionsoft took a while to get used to but was worth the initial struggle.
I was starting to feel like an idiot just trying to get my email service provider to do the things I needed it to do.
When I’d finally start to get the hang of things, I’d realize that I’d wasted so much time trying to figure things out on my own that I didn’t have much time left to actually set things up. I just wanted to focus on producing content and writing my book again. I was feeling frustrated.
Then I started to run into issues with my emails not being delivered. Even after asking for help from an expert on the Infusionsoft team, we couldn’t find a suitable answer for why this was happening.
I was nearing the end of my rope. Although it was an incredibly powerful email solution, the more I looked into what I was trying to accomplish, and the amount of time and expertise I had to dedicate to making it work, the closer I got to dropping Infusionsoft as my email service provider.
Cutting My Losses, and Stumbling onto ConvertKit
With Infusionsoft, perhaps I’d just overshot and started using something that was way beyond what I needed. But whatever the case may be, I knew I had to look for another solution—a simpler one—and I needed to find it quickly.
Although there were literally hundreds of other email service providers out there, I started with my network and reached out to a friend who I knew had started an email service provider of his own called ConvertKit. I met Nathan Barry for coffee in downtown San Diego a couple weeks later, and after catching up for a little while, he said to me, “Hey, if Infusionsoft doesn’t work out for you, let me know, and we can see how you might be able to use ConvertKit.”
We parted ways that day, and although I had yet to see a demo of ConvertKit at that point, the seed had been planted.
I was still using Infusionsoft, but I was frustrated with it, so I reached back out to Nathan to see how ConvertKit was doing. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the company was experiencing constant growth month after month. New features were being added on a regular basis, and, after a couple of side conversations with other users, I was happy to hear extremely positive reviews.
Then Nathan demoed the software for me over Skype, and I was blown away.
His talent for user interface design was the first thing I noticed. Everything just made sense to me. In five minutes, he was able to demonstrate and teach me all of the important things I needed to know.
I asked Nathan several more questions, and he took me deeper into the software to show me some cool automation tools and how tagging and segmentation worked. He also took me into the analytics and even some of the early integrations ConvertKit had created with other companies’ tools.
I was sold. I knew what my next step was going to be: making the move from Infusionsoft to ConvertKit.
The Final Hurdle: Making the Migration
When Nathan and I sat down for coffee that day in San Diego, one of my worries about him going into this space was the process of migrating people’s email lists. It’s not usually easy to migrate an email list—it’s a headache, to be honest.
I think I remember saying to Nathan that day, “I wish it could just be done for me.”
And that’s exactly what happened. The migration of my email list from Infusionsoft to ConvertKit took less than a day, courtesy of the ConvertKit team, and it was completely hands off on my part.
Soon, I was up and running with ConvertKit, and the shift couldn’t have been easier.
Shortly after I started sending emails with ConvertKit, Mindy, my team member who’d been in charge of handling the email list migration, sent me this message over Slack:
“Now that we’ve switched to ConvertKit, I’ve seen emails from users saying ‘Oh, you’re sending out emails again. I had wondered why you stopped.’”
I hadn’t stopped sending emails—Infusionsoft had stopped delivering them.
With ConvertKit, normalcy had been restored, and I started to feel good about my email service provider again.
ConvertKit: My Email Service Provider of Choice for Four Years and Counting
Ever since that day in 2015, I’ve been using ConvertKit to manage my email list, connect with my audience, and grow my business to new heights. I’ve come to love and appreciate this tool and this company even more for what they bring to the table for email marketers.
There are several huge reasons why I love ConvertKit and recommend it as my email service provider of choice.
First, the user interface and ease of use is unlike any other email service provider’s. ConvertKit is easy to use, it’s intuitive, and it’s actually useful. ConvertKit makes it really easy to see exactly what’s going on in all your campaigns, forms, and broadcasts. You can easily see and understand the trends in your email marketing performance so you can figure out what’s working and what’s not. This has always been the case with ConvertKit. Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, used to be a designer, and his specialty was user experience (UX).
Next, ConvertKit continues to improve over time as more and more advanced features come into play. And these advanced features come without advanced prices. These features—things like segmentation, tagging, automations, ecommerce integration—are actually pretty simple to use once you understand them. These are features a lot of other tools have, but with ConvertKit, they’re less expensive and less complicated to use.
There’s one more huge reason I love ConvertKit. And it’s that they care about your success. They know that they get better when you get better.
Maybe you’ve seen or have experience with Mailchimp. Don’t get me wrong—Mailchimp can be a great platform for some folks. But the company is growing at a really fast rate, and the product is expanding beyond email marketing and evolving into a full marketing platform, including things like social media integration and advertising. This is great for Mailchimp, but what does it mean for the individual creator who wants to focus on email marketing?
The big reason I’m singling out Mailchimp is it’s always been a competitor to ConvertKit. For a long time, Mailchimp was thought of as the ideal email service for beginning entrepreneurs, thanks to their free plan if you have fewer than 500 subscribers. But I would guess that very few people who get the free account actually go above 500 email subscribers. Why? If you get something for free, you’re likely to just let it sit because there’s no incentive to grow your list. But if you’re spending even a small amount every month on a platform that will help you grow your business, that’s skin in the game that will inspire you to take action.
That’s where ConvertKit stands out. Yes, you’ll pay for even their entry-level plan, but you’ll have skin in the game. And just as importantly, ConvertKit provides a ton of support and education to help you get to that next level. The help section of the ConvertKit site provides a ton of articles on everything from beginner-level basics to advanced email strategies, data security and GDPR compliance, integrations with other platforms, and much more. The ConvertKit team is interested in your email marketing success. They’re here to help you learn, grow, and succeed.
Try ConvertKit for a Month, and See If You Agree
ConvertKit simply makes it really easy to do email marketing. And if you want to get a 30-day free trial of ConvertKit, simply go to smartpassiveincome.com/convertkit.
And if you’re using another email service provider and have over 5,000 subscribers, ConvertKit offers a concierge service that will migrate your entire email system for free. That includes not just your email list, but even automations you already have in place with your existing provider.
So there you have it. ConvertKit is beautifully designed, it’s ridiculously easy to use, and it makes your analytics simple to understand. It also comes with higher-level features like segmentation and tagging, so it’s perfect for users at all levels with all kinds of needs.
There’s so much you can do with ConvertKit, and ConvertKit is adding new capabilities every day to make your email marketing experience even better. I’ve found so much success already with ConvertKit, and I recommend it wholeheartedly for you too, even if you’re just starting out.
Again, to try it out free for 30 days, just visit smartpassiveincome.com/convertkit.
[Full Disclaimer: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]
Create Winning Emails
Learn to Write Great Emails.
Once you’ve set up email marketing, you have a direct line to each person on that list. And if you provide value to these people, they’re going to want to open your emails. Every time. Score!
Write Winning Emails with These Great Game Plays
- Plans for emails to round out campaigns— Each “play” in this playbook has a unique purpose and structure.
- Timing to strengthen the relationship you have with your audience— Like a “choose your own adventure,” you select what structure works for you.
- The when, where, what, and how for your Calls to Action (CTA)— For when it's time to finally pitch to the people who trust you.