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SPI 689: The Best Way to Grow Your Email List — The Creator Network

Many businesses rely on advertising to reach new audiences. But what if instead of paying for sponsored posts on Facebook or Instagram, you could invest in creators like you and earn real money promoting the content you love?

The world of email has stagnated lately, but a new launch from ConvertKit is about to change that in a big way! [affiliate link]

In this episode, you’ll hear all about the Creator Network, which helps you find engaged followers in your niche without using any social media platforms. Listen in because ConvertKit founder Nathan Barry is here to walk us through this game-changing feature for newsletter growth, monetization, and more!

The possibilities are mind-blowing, so you’ll hear my gears turning throughout this whole session. I even got to test this tool pre-launch, and the results have been incredible! You’ll also hear Nathan sharing examples from other creators using this strategy to supercharge their email lists and create highly profitable feedback loops.

The best part is that you can leverage the Creator Network at any stage in your journey, from beginner to expert level. Don’t miss out on this chat!

Today’s Guest

Nathan Barry

In previous careers, Nathan has been a designer, author, and blogger. After learning the power of email marketing he gave up a successful blogging career to build ConvertKit. Outside of work, Nathan spends his time playing soccer, woodworking, and chasing after his three boys.

You’ll Learn


SPI 689: The Best Way to Grow Your Email List—The Creator Network

Nathan Barry: Hey, what if instead of paying Mark Zuckerberg, you could pay other creators? And you only have to pay for performance. So instead of running these ads and, and seeing how it turns out, you could just say, “I will pay $2 for every engaged subscriber that someone sends to me,” in the design space, in the small business space, like whatever community you’re a part of.

It’s peer-to-peer creators saying, “Hey, I will pay this amount.” And other people saying, “I would love to earn money on every new subscriber that I get and I refer to you.” And it’s all money in the creator ecosystem.

Pat Flynn: Today we’re talking with the founder of ConvertKit. ConvertKit you might know is the email service provider that I use. I’m an advisor to the company. I’m an affiliate, and Nathan has had an incredible story of how he’s bootstrapped this business. We talked about that in a previous episode, but today we’re talking about something pretty amazing.

You know, in the world of email, which is a fairly no offense, Nathan, dry thing to talk about. Oftentimes companies in this space lack innovation and for a while every company, including ConvertKit, seem to be doing kind of like the same things. Nobody’s, you know, like the, all the same playing field, if you will, but recently ConvertKit launched something that has been pretty amazing.

I’ve been a part of it. I was very grateful to be a part of the alpha launch of this thing. And we wanna tell you all about it and get you involved because what’s it gonna do for you? It’s gonna get you more emails, higher quality leads, and some of the plans that they have for it are gonna unlock potentially some really big things for you in the future.

So whether you are on ConvertKit or not, you’ll still get value outta this in terms of how to innovate during a, a time in your business as well as competition and how to get inspiration from other companies and all those kinds of things. But I do truly hope you eventually get on ConvertKit. Just, if anything, to get access to what we’re about to talk about.

So again, you can try out ConvertKit if you like. is where you’d wanna go. If you wanna go through our affiliate link, but for right now, let’s just have a chat. Nathan Barry this is session 689 of the Smart Passive Income podcast. Nathan Barry from ConvertKit, here we go.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he refused to wear a watch for 39 years because of the tan line and left on his wrist. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Nathan, welcome back to SPI. Thanks for being here, man.

Nathan Barry: Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Pat Flynn: You’ve been here a couple times. I remember one time we talked specifically about email strategy, which was of course relevant to the company that you had recently at the time built, ConvertKit. Then you came back on to just talk about life as a bootstrapped company.

Right, which was really fun and I always use that episode as a good example for, you know, if you’re an affiliate for a company, bring them on your show. You don’t even need to talk about the product. Just tell the story and, and, and that story was so amazing cuz you had to make some very, very tough decisions on a lot of the projects that you were working on.

And you know, long story short, obviously you’ve focused completely on ConvertKit and, and look where it is now. It’s doing amazing things. So I wanted to bring you back on to talk about a specific feature in fact of ConvertKit that has recently come out that I think will be a good lesson. Not just like, here’s the feature, go use it.

But more so like, the story behind it because I think there’s a lot of people who have businesses, whether it’s software or a personal brand or a agency or consultancy to who can just get inspiration from this as far as like how do we begin to start innovating in the environment that we’re in right now?

So I wanna save what this is for, for like a punchline. So can we go, can we rewind to like maybe ConvertKit 2020? Just email and, and that’s kind of environment, kind of feeling very stagnant, right? What was going through your mind at the time and like, what conversations were you having as a company even?

Nathan Barry: Yeah. Well, first, like 2020 was an interesting time, not just because of the pandemic, you know, us being all trapped inside and everything, but also everyone going online meant that obviously it was terrible for local businesses and restaurants and, and all of that. But it was really weird and in some ways amazing for, you know, these creator businesses, right?

Like email list and YouTube channels that were well positioned, brew like crazy. Companies like Convert It saw these big spikes. Now at the same time we had a bunch of churn from like the travel blogs all put things on pause, you know, cause their traffic went down, right? But all you know, your business and your self-help and your sourdough recipe blogs and you know, they went, they went crazy.

And so we had just this crazy amount of growth during that time. And I think we really just focused on making sure the app was scaling well and all that. We had some good features that we built, but all across email it didn’t feel like, you know, both with ConvertKit and across the industry, it didn’t feel like there was that many interesting things happening cuz all the interesting things, you know, they were mostly interesting, bad, or interesting, unique of like a once in a lifetime, once in a century pandemic, but there wasn’t a lot of innovation or things happening in that space.

And it was mostly just, you know, how do you scale a platform, support this new growth and make it fast and, and all of that. So it was really in the last, I guess the last year that the email market started to shift and some really interesting things started to happen and we had some, some pretty unique ideas.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I mean, we started to see, I think the first company to come around to kind of like, change things or create something new was Substack, right? They kind of reinvented what it meant to have an email list, in fact. And it really paved the way for, you know, paid newsletters. In fact, which ConvertKit now, now offers. And, you know, email in general I think I, I, I agree with you. It’s, it, it’s just, it’s email and it feels old almost at this point. I think we all know how important it is. Maybe we’re just preaching in the choir here because everybody listening should have an email list at this point. But for in general, new creators coming on board during the pandemic and, and starting something new, email was not at the top of their mind, right?

It was building audiences. It was TikTok, it Reels, Shorts, a lot of the short form video content platforms, YouTube having a surge as well. But when it came to email, things kind of just kind of mostly felt the same. And so I’m, I’m curious about the lack of innovation during that time. What was the reason for that?

Was it because the just team efforts were focused on, you know, the scaling and, and everything that was happening? Or, or had, you know, is in, should innovation be a part of the usual environment of a, of a company? Like looking back, would you have D done something different during that time?

Nathan Barry: Well, I think it depends on what ideas you have.

The other thing that was actually interesting about that time is that email did get really trendy. You know, like if you do a Google search for the headline, like emailed is dead, it’s been said all the way along, right? The email’s dead, we’ve moved onto something else and then obviously like total email volume and number of creators on email has just continued to climb.

And so in that time you the Sustack launch was getting traction. Twitter bought Review, which is a small email tool. They bought it, integrated it natively, made it free. Facebook because of regulatory things, could not buy an email company. They’ve had acquisitions blocked, like basically after buying WhatsApp and Instagram, the federal government was like, you can’t keep buying stuff.

You know you’re gonna own everything and have a monopoly. So they built their own tool internally called Bulletin. And so there’s this time where everybody was talking about email and a lot of the innovation was just around making it easier to publish. And really just becoming mainstream, like journalists saying, Hey, I’m gonna leave my position at the New York Times and I’m gonna start an email list.

You know, a Sustack or something else. Paid newsletters were a big thing there. ConvertKit supported those from from the early days, but I think it was really this wave. There are two companies at the same time that started doing this recommendations idea. And I think that was really interesting. So these companies were Sustack and SparkLoop.

Pat Flynn: Recommendations, meaning what? Like in in what way?

Nathan Barry: One thing that’s interesting is, is like life as a creator is very social. You and I met at a conference, I’m trying to think which one, New Media Expo in 2011. I don’t, I don’t know what.

Pat Flynn: Like yeah, it was probably Blog World Expo back, back then at the time. And it got rebranded.

Nathan Barry: You know, and then on Social Media Marketing World and all these other events, like if you were trying to get traction as a creator, and it’s still true today, like one of the best things you can do is go to an event, connect with other creators, build those relationships, have a mastermind group, learn from each other, promote each other’s stuff. And that happened in strategy and maybe like, oh, who’s on your podcast? That kind of thing. But it didn’t get built into tools and systems in the same way.

One place that I saw it happen a lot is actually with the rise of like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I don’t think this is true on TikTok as much, I’m not sure, but where when you put out content, like if I publish a tweet, And if five to 10 of my friends favorite and reply to it, they don’t even have to retweet but favorite and reply to it right away.

Like it is significantly more likely to get a million views than if I just put it out and see what happens. And so you ended up with these groups of creators who were like, Hey, I need to band together with my mastermind group or my friends to promote each other’s content and that will help us grow faster.

And so then what Substack and SparkLoop did is say, Hey, let’s build this in as a feature of the product, where basically, instead of an informal group, it’s actually, you know, if I subscribe to, let’s say someone subscribes to my newsletter, right? And then it says, It pops up afterwards and says, Hey, thanks so much for subscribing.

Why don’t you also check out these other creators that I enjoy reading? You know, Pat Flynn, Jay Clouse, Brennan Dunn. You know, you could link to a few other people and it gives them an easy way to opt in. And so then what happens is you end up in this small group of creators recommending each other, and you all grow faster because of it.

Because if you imagine if both of our newsletters are growing at the same size and we’re recommending each other and half of the people, you know, if half the people coming to my newsletter the stats are usually about 30 to 40%, but for simple numbers of half of them, take me up on my recommendation of you and vice versa.

Just on the two of us recommending each other, we’re now growing 50% faster. And if we pull two other creators into our little circle, now we’re growing twice as fast. And so it’s taken this idea that’s been around forever in the creator economy of partner with other creators, right? Like YouTube’s advice.

You wanna grow a YouTube channel, do collabs. You know, that’s what collaborate, right? That’s what they say. And so it’s taking that and building it into a product. So instead of me saying, Hey Pat, let’s, let’s do a newsletter swap. And you’re like, okay, well I can fit that in mid q3, you know, and we do that one time.

It’s like, actually, let’s just build it into the product and let’s turn that on and let’s do the equivalent of a newsletter swap all day every day with all of our new subscribers. So that’s really what’s been happening, which is absolutely like newsletter growth rates are. Changing like crazy.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, it’s been really neat to see.

And I gotta say, it’s about time that, you know, something like this has, has come out and I know you’ve pulled inspiration from other companies and that’s what you do. You take something that you’re inspired by and, and can help your own people and you make it even better.

Nathan Barry: Well think about Instagram Stories and Snapchat, right?

Well, right. We don’t even think about Snapchat. We, the only thing about Instagram Stories now.

Pat Flynn: And I’m not trying to, you know, say that, you know, nothing was taken or anything like that because ultimately this just helps everybody who has email, which is amazing. And so I was invited to be a part of the Alpha Group for the Creator Network inside of ConvertKit.

And I love how that was rolled out. Can you tell me how you how you got the team to roll it out in, in, in such a way? I mean, there’s, there were a lot of people involved with this of course, but I thought it was handled beautifully because tools like this, features like this can, when rolling out be very confusing, they can break and be buggy, but I thought it was handled really neatly.

Nathan Barry: Yeah. This is a very different feature for us because everything before in ConvertKit it has been single player, right? Like you operate your business independently. What I’m doing inside my ConvertKit account has nothing to do with what you’re doing inside yours.

We can share automations, you know, I can be like, Hey, like why don’t you import this automation that I made? You know, or an affiliate could do that, but it’s not, it’s not inherently social, unlike the social networks, but this feature for the first time, like it only works if you have friends and you’re onboarding with other people and you have these partnerships and relationships.

And so we took a different approach and we went very, very small. We did just 40 creators. In the alpha version of it and we say, Hey, let’s recruit. Who do you wanna recommend? Let’s recruit those people in and let’s build these cohorts onboard everyone by hand, ver you know, take a very concierge model. And that way everyone’s seeing success.

And so we started with 40, worked out all the kinks in the software, and then added another like 25 to 50. And then now we’re at the point we’re recording this in early May. We just hit 2000 people that have access to it. And we’re gonna ramp up from there. But we’re telling people, Hey, you don’t get access until you filled out your creator profile so people can find and recommend you.

And you’ve also said who you want to recommend. So there’s a few of these little things in there. Like, you can’t actually, your profile doesn’t go live in the creator directory until you’ve selected someone that you’re gonna start recommending. So it, it starts with this like pay it forward, dynamic.

Yeah, and like if you think about, I think everyone in their creative journey has a handful of people where you’re like, oh, I would not be where I’m at today without those people. Like for me, I think about Chris Guillebeau super early on his World Domination Summit conference.

Things I learned from him, like, ConvertKit would not be where it is today without you. There’s a bunch of other people in that journey, and so this is a feature where you’re like, wait, I can actually be that for someone else. Right. I can go who’s a a up and coming creator that I want to recommend, and I can put them into my My Creator Network and start sending them subscribers because they’re putting out high quality content and they deserve it.

And so just like. You could easily go transactional with us. And so we’re putting these little dynamics in to make it say like, no, this is a, like rising tide raises all ships, you know, or a pay it forward type feature.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, it’s great. I mean, even in the, the month or two that I’ve been in it, I mean as a result of I’m, I’m being currently recommended by 38 different creators.

Some of these creators I don’t even know, like they’ve found me in my profile there and have added me to their own website. Like now my newsletter can grow on somebody else’s website, which is really cool. And so 38 people recommended me thousands of views on those forms and hundreds and like hundreds of sub new subscribers that I would’ve never gotten otherwise.

And a 26.55% conversion rate, which is pretty darn good. And I’m currently recommending five creators. And you know, we have a 44% conversion rate. And it’s really cool because yeah, that’s a really solid conversion rate. Yeah, we’re, I mean, I, I, I’m being very selective with who I recommend because they perfectly align with, with the audience that I have.

And then some of the, you know, I’m gonna rotate them and, and whatnot. Tiago Forte, for example, he was recently on the podcast, he has a 45% conversion rate. So it made sense that people would see then Tiago being recommended after he was on my podcast, which is pretty cool. So we’re kind of like dynamically changing that, which is neat.

And then I go to the discovery area here, and this is again, only available on ConvertKit and, and I love that, you know, as an advisor and a, and a user of ConvertKit, I just love to see these things that make ConvertKit even more awesome than it already is. And I can discover more people. I mean, there’s, there’s thousands of people here and I can filter them in different kinds of ways.

I can filter them by creator type or topic. And so I can, I can even meet new friends here. I can, I, I, if I was just starting out in a space and using ConvertKit, I could easily begin to see myself building relationships with people just literally off the backs of this. Like, Hey, I noticed that you were on the Crater Network.

I’m gonna share your newsletter to my people, and like, what’s gonna happen after that? I mean, if, especially if I bring some people in, I mean, that creator’s gonna come and reach out to me and say, Hey, maybe, maybe I can do that for you too. We should talk. Let’s get on the podcast together. Let’s meet somewhere.

Right, right. So now you’re adding that social part to something that felt very alone. Inside of a world of email, which is really cool. What are some of the plans that you have? I know that certain things and announcements can only happen at certain times, but I think at the time that this episode comes out, maybe you could share some, some plans for the future.

Cuz this is only the beginning.

Nathan Barry: I know. Yeah, so we, you know, we’re just in the alpha and then the beta stage of this at Craft and Commerce, which is our event in early June, a month from when we’re recording, but like just the episode will go live just after that we’ve got some big announcements. So we’re, we’ll go to the general release of the Creator Network, so you’ll no longer need to be on the wait list to get in.

But there’s a really interesting, we talked about SparkLoop earlier and how they were pioneering a lot of the space. They did it with a feature called Upscribe which is basically, you know, this functionality. And they were doing it ultimately to build what they called their Partner Network. And this is where you can do paid recommendations.

And so what this means is as a creator, I can browse a directory of creators, find who I see as interesting and select to recommend them and get paid for every engaged subscriber that I sent to them. Wow. If you think about it from the other way, right? Like, you know, like Pat, you’ve run like sold a lot of products.

You know what a subscriber is worth to you on SPI, and so it’s pretty normal to go out and say like, okay, well, through this funnel, people are going to convert to this rate, and so I could spend X amount for every new subscriber. Let me go to Facebook, Instagram, Google, and buy ads. And if I can go, you know, on a, a cost per lead basis, well I guess I’m paying on a, on CPMs for views and getting through the clicks, then I’ve got a conversion rate coming in.

If I could get to $3 per subscriber who’s engaged, that would be amazing. I can drop them into my content, educate them, and then ultimately some number will buy, and then I’ve got my payback period and all of that. So we’re very used to, as professional creators, we’re very used to going out and paying, you know, advertising to reach more creators.

And what SparkLoop did that I think is so innovative is they said, Hey, what if instead of paying Mark Zuckerberg, you could pay other creators? And so what they said is, and you only have to pay for performance. So instead of running these ads and, and seeing how it turns out, you could just say, I will pay $2 for every engaged subscriber that someone sends to me in the design space, in the small business space, like whatever community you’re a part of.

And so then what happens is you get this network where it’s just, it’s peer-to-peer creators saying, Hey, I will pay this amount. And other people saying, I would love to earn money on every new subscriber that I get and I refer to you. So an example of this is a creator named Sahil Bloom, and he’s growing crazy fast and he reinvests a lot of the money that he makes on products and sponsorships with his audience, he reinvests $20,000-$25,000 a month on SparkLoop’s Partner Network in order, you know, saying, Hey, I’ll pay a $1.50 per subscriber. And he’s got all these other creators who are happily recommending to him earning a living from it, and his list is growing 14,000 subscribers a month just from that, and it’s all money in the creator ecosystem.

Pat Flynn: And then he’s able to sell more of his product, which then gives him more money to spend more money on bringing new people in from the peer-to-peer network, which then just creates a nice loop.

Nathan Barry: Yeah, you’re talking, I mean, you’re touching on really Sahil’s flywheel, which is the more subscribers he has, the more sponsorships he sells in his newsletter, and the more products you know, of his own products he sells, which gives him more money to reinvest in advertising, which makes his newsletter bigger, which means he can sell sponsorships for more and it just, this flywheel just accelerates and gets bigger and bigger.

When you combine his social growth and everything with it, like an early rotation of, of his flywheel would generate like 5,000 subscribers a month, and now he’s generating more like 50,000 subscribers a month because he is a, he is making so much money, he is reinvesting all of it. So kind of the, the exciting news in that is that we can now announce is that we’ve acquired SparkLoop and we’re bringing their partner.

Woo. That’s very exciting. You’re probably also excited cuz you were an early investor in SparkLoop.

Pat Flynn: I was. Yes.

Nathan Barry: You, you get to see this deal happen from both sides of like Yeah. Being a shareholder in both companies, but really bringing this new way to earn a living and this new way to grow your audience directly into the Creator Network.

And so it’s like, oh, I can do free recommendations. I can get paid for recommendations and I can also take the money I’m earning and reinvest it to grow even faster.

Pat Flynn: You know, and I’m, I’m incentivized to make sure that I have more traffic on my website because, you know, I can pay for access to other things that, that make that happen.

That again, just this whole flywheel situation can happen. First of all, that, that sounds awesome. So, I know we’re recording this on May 4th, so Star Wars Day, when does that, Partner network start or happen? Like, when could I get on on that please? Because that I, I would pay for that right now.

Nathan Barry: You know, SparkLoop side independently is live now and it’ll be live in ConvertKit at the time that this airs, you know, in mid-June.

Pat Flynn: Okay. So let, let’s say I am me. And I want, hypothetically speaking, I and, and I wanna pay who? Who am I paying? How much is it gonna cost? How is that all determined? Like what’s the workflow gonna be like?

Nathan Barry: Yeah. So what you’d do is you’d go inside the Partner Network and you’d set up as a sponsor and you’d say, Hey, I am looking for creators in these industries like marketing and business, and I’m willing to pay $2 per subscriber, and you know, so you make a listing, here’s what people would get. Here’s why. Like my content is good. And you put that up in the marketplace and then, then creators go and browse that and they go, oh, Pat Flynn, I love his stuff. What’s he paying $2 a subscriber? Absolutely. You know? And so then they add you into their recommendations, form. And they might have a couple, right? Let’s say that they’re in a mastermind group with two other people and so they’re recommending those two people for free, cuz that’s just the swap that they’re doing. And then the third slot, they’re like, I’d love to get paid for every new subscriber that joins my list who also joins Pat’s list.

So they might have that third slot be, be paid where they’re making now that $2 per subscriber.

Pat Flynn: So if then I get, you know, 50 new subscribers coming in, which is awesome. I pay that creator a hundred bucks. Has ConvertKit, taken any of that? And you know, is there any rev share with, with the company?

Nathan Barry: Yeah, so the way that it works is as a sponsor you’d pay a hundred bucks and then the creator on the earning side would like for the transaction and, and running the marketplace ConvertKit takes 20%.

And so the creator would get, or the everyone in this, it’s a hard, little hard. Everyone in this is a creator, which is what makes it amazing. But the, the person who is, you know, the publisher, the referer would, would make $80. And kind of the other cool thing about it is that you could get started at any size.

It’s not like, oh, once you have 5,000 subscribers on your email list, you could launch a community or it’s worth selling this course. Or once you have 10,000, you could start selling sponsorships. It’s like, no, you could be getting your first 10 people, your first 50 people, and you might only be making $10 a month or a hundred dollars a month or something, but you’re earning on day one.

And one thing that makes me think a lot about is, I mean, you’ve watched this over the years, the number of people that are like, oh, I’m gonna become a creator. And they’re all excited and they install WordPress and they do some, you know, they get ConvertKit and then they like kind of just stall out because the motivation is gone.

And so what I love the idea you maybe they stall out at 50 subscribers or 200 subscribers or whatever else, because a way to earn money feels too far off. But I like to imagine someone starting to stall out and then like that payout for the first $27 comes and it’s like, oh, I’m making money right now off of a really small audience.

And that I think will turn into like this vote of confidence in yourself and this encouragement to say like, oh, Okay. If I grow my audience to 500 people and I’m making money off of each subscriber that I refer out, like I have this steady stream of income and it. It doesn’t discriminate based on whether I’m a small creator or a large established creator.

Pat Flynn: No, I, I agree with that for sure. I’m also considering another use case, which is I’m brand new to a niche and I would love to have some email subscribers to converse with to learn about, to get to know. Right. And so I can go into convert its Creator Network or Partner Network. I could pay to have my email list, which you know, is hopefully set up in a way that’s, that would convert and very topic specific.

And I could find literally the other creators in the space who I would love to feed me some subscribers. And not all I, like, I wouldn’t just like, they would get paid. Right. And I would happily pay for that, right? I, I would pay a hundred bucks. To start a company and get to know my avatar immediately. I mean that’s, that’s absolutely huge.

And now my email list is, is 50 strong on day one even, perhaps. Depending on the network and who I’m targeting and how much traffic they’re getting and their conversion rates. I mean, there’s a lot of math involved, but that would be way easier than what we used to do, which was, let’s start a blog, let’s just hopefully, you know, rank in Google and hopefully the right people find us.

Versus like, if, if I know my audience aligns and I can offer value to, you know, Tiago Forte’s audience, then I’m gonna bring some of his audience in. I mean, maybe we already have a relationship and we can do a collaboration and swap for free, but if I’m a nobody, right, I can still bring those people in, serve that creator who’s brought those people in, because you know, they’re, they’re on the network and I’m paying them, but also I can observe that community as well that way.

Nathan Barry: Yeah. When I think about it. Like the amount of time that that would take the process of starting the blog and ranking in Google and all this stuff. Like that’s six months probably.

Pat Flynn: Minimum, probably. Yeah. Especially today. Yeah.

Nathan Barry: This other process could be six days if that we’re talking so, so much faster.

Another thing that I think is interesting, let’s say you do this and you’re new to a space and you have, maybe you’ve been successful somewhere else, you have some budget that you’re investing. Maybe it’s a thousand dollars or $5,000, right? And people find your stuff. And now you’re like, I want to meet more creators.

Well look at the people who you just paid money to and send them a DM on Twitter, you know, or Instagram or something and be like, Hey man, I’d love to meet, by the way, I’m like, you’ve been recommending my stuff and I’ve been paying for it, and I’ve paid you $580. You know, and you know, just saying, I’d love to learn more about your audience.

I’d love to see more ways we could collaborate. That’s an interesting way to get on someone’s radar. Another version of that, let’s say you have a fast growing audience, right? And you could do, there’s someone, another creator that you wanna meet. Let’s say I wanted to meet you. Then I could go in there into the Creator network and say, all right, I’m gonna start recommending Pat, and now I’m showing up in your dashboard.

And you’re like, who’s this Nathan guy that just sent me a hundred subscribers? That’s cool. And then a few weeks later you’re like, wow, this Nathan guy who I’ve never met has sent me 500 subscribers. That’s pretty wild. And then if I send you a DM and be like, Hey Pat, I’m gonna be in San Diego. I’d love to meet up.

You’re like, yeah, dude, like you’ve sent me now a thousand subscribers or something like that would be super interesting. Just as a way to even meet creators. And so I could see someone doing that.

Pat Flynn: That’s already happened. Dude. It’s already happened. Like Corey from Creator Alchemy and I met because I was like, who’s this guy promoting my stuff?

Like it’s converting. And his audience aligns with mine and we reached out to him and he’s now a guest on SPI or an upcoming guest on SPI at least.

Nathan Barry: It’s wild. Like he browsed through the the directory, found you. What, said you, he’s a fan. And so you’re saying he didn’t even reach out to you. You saw the number of subscribers he was driving and reached out to him.

Is that right? Or somehow you guys got connected?

Pat Flynn: We, we connected in the Alpha launch. Oh yeah, yeah. In Slack. But he reached out to me and said, Pat, like I’ve been a fan. Thank you. I’m gonna recommend your newsletter to my people. And I was like, wait, what? Who? Like, and then I looked at his stuff and I was like, dude, I need to get you on the show cuz your, your stuff would be relevant to my audience.

And he was in episode 683. This is Corey Wilks. And like, it was a great episode and we wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for the Creator Network, but, right. I mean, again, that’s that being the point rather than like, you know, there’s many ways to meet people through connections like that.

Nathan Barry: Yeah. But this idea, like, it’d be one thing, right? If I enjoy your show and I, I post on Twitter about it. Right. You’re gonna be like, oh thanks. Cool. I appreciate that. People do that all the time. That’s pretty normal. You know, you’ll get a favorite or a reply. Thank you for that. It’s an entirely different thing. If I send you 500 subscribers that are going to, like, assuming they’re engaged subscribers, that’s gonna turn into some amount of meaningful revenue in your business as people click on affiliate links, byproducts, join your community, and it’s just pretty wild how that works.

Pat Flynn: Interesting. Okay, so you got my gears going again and, and, you know, we’re almost done here because I just wanted to a, tell the story about how this came to be, but also excite people for what this is.

And if, if you’re, you’re in ConvertKit already, you can just see it inside of your dashboard. If you go to the grow tab and then look at Creator Network, it should be open and available to everybody and by the time this comes out, if not, Very close to that. Let’s say I am running a launch for a particular product, maybe I know it’s specifically for women, for example, right?

Maybe even for, for moms in particular, and I can maybe adjust my profile for a time, for a period of time that specifically says, I, I do this for moms, right? And target, specifically other creators who I know have moms in their audience. And pay them. I would pay way more than I would pay Facebook and I’d be happy to pay that, knowing that that is the exact audience I’m looking for.

Right, and maybe even on the back end of that, I reach out to them and we can even create a deal, right? And say, Hey, I’d love to have you as an affiliate for my product. I’m already, you know, paying you, in fact for bringing emails in. If you want to go take it one step further, I’d be happy to pay you 50% commission for, for converting my audience into your product, which is specifically for moms or something.

I don’t know. I’m just, I’m just trying to think of ninja things that I could do with this.

Nathan Barry: Yeah, I think there’s, there’s a lot in that Brendan Dunn actually is doing this kind of thing already where he, he set up like, he integrated the Partner Network with his affiliate program and he said, Hey, I will pay $2 per subscriber or $3 per subscriber, and then if they end up buying, I’ll pay you 30% of whatever they buy.

And so he’s like, you could be making 20, 50, maybe a hundred dollars per subscriber that you send me if they’re high quality. And for him, like, that’s a great deal. It’s a great deal for everybody, and I think what I love most is that this money is staying in the creator ecosystem rather than going to like Instagram advertising or whoever else, right.

Pat Flynn: And 20% to ConvertKit is, I mean, that’s, that’s small change compared to what a lot of these other companies are, are, are taking. Yeah. And you know, I know the company, it’s gonna be used to make the features even better.

Nathan Barry: We’re just gonna spend money on hiring engineers to, yeah, make the product better and basically go from there.

Pat Flynn: Now we’re getting like silly. If I just was like, if you had the ability to accept money from people like me to grow my email list and then I just say like, I make my profile like Nathan Barry fan. Right. And so when people see that in your recommendations, like it just captures their attention right away cuz it’s literally so specific to that, to those people who are there.

Nathan Barry: Yeah. Oh, that’d be interesting. I think there’s a going to be a lot of ways that you’ll end up building these connections and we don’t actually know yet.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, that’s what’s exciting. I, I’m getting excited about the possibilities.

Nathan Barry: It’s so new. Like one thing that, that we were kind of talking about before, someone was asking like, why do you call it the Creator Network?

Instead of like, recommendations. And it’s really, cuz this is the first of many features that we don’t, we don’t even know what’s coming from this, but email has always been the solo activity that you do, you know, your business runs entirely separately from mine and so on, because the space has been so fragmented.

Right, everyone’s on MailChimp and Infusionsoft and ConvertKit in a bunch of different tools, and so you can’t really collaborate in that way. But now, like ConvertKit it’s about to pass 50,000 paying customers and we’ve got a huge amount of the creator market. And so now, like I was just at the Creator Economy Expo conference in Cleveland.

And like most people there were on ConvertKit It and most speakers were on stage saying someone’s like, Hey, what email platform? And you know, the speakers just like ConvertKit they’re booth’s over there, they’ll take care of this for you. You know? Yeah. That’s cool. And so what happens is like you could build all kinds of things.

Like what if you and I were doing a product launch together and we have our separate accounts, but what if you could share a segment into my account of all the people who have bought your product that I’m about to recommend, and I could say, cool, I’ve got 30,000 people on my list, but I’m gonna exclude the 3000 that are already paying members of your product.

I don’t need to see the email addresses. We can maintain full privacy. Wow. I can just exclude that group and then, you know, I could promote your product to my list and make sure that there’s no overlaps and I’m not like exporting and importing CSVs.

Pat Flynn: I could use that right now with, with a partnership thing I’m doing.

That would’ve been because cuz it the conversation about like, well, who emails who and like how, what if the customers or overlap, like those kinds of things always come up. Right, that’s neat. I like how you’re thinking.

Nathan Barry: Yeah. To be clear, we have not built that yet, but that’s the sort of thing where I’m just like, I, you know exactly what’s happening for you wheels start turning.

Pat Flynn: I, I will push Nathan to make it happen faster for all of us. That is neat, dude. Well, first of all, thank you for, for coming on and sharing this and, you know, and for being innovative. How, how are you in a, as a company, going to continue to try to remain on the forefront and, and leading edge of, of email?

Nathan Barry: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is just talking to creators. It’s pretty easy for anyone building like an established company. It’s pretty easy to get bogged down inside of your company. And I, I think that happened for a while, just as we were navigating like everything of the pandemic and scaling issues and everything else, and now, and really just being stuck at home.

But now it’s like being at all the conferences and talking to creators and saying, Hey, what’s working for your business? I, and you realize like, oh, you’re doing that. Oh, we can make that so much more easy in this other way. And so like just being like deeply embedded in the creator community and then seeing what ideas come from that.

I, I’m really excited for the next couple years because of it.

Pat Flynn: I’m excited too, man. Well thank you so much Nathan. I appreciate you and a couple days I’ll see you at the advisory board meeting in Boise, so I look forward to hanging out for a little bit.

Nathan Barry: Good times. Thanks for having me on.

Pat Flynn: Thanks so much.

Alright, isn’t that awesome? I hope you enjoyed this episode short and sweet and into the point. Creator Network, amazing. And what it’s gonna become, even better. So if you aren’t yet on ConvertKit and you wanna get access to this and try it out and also congrats to the team and congrats to the SparkLoop team as well.

That’s gonna be amazing. Anyway, sorry, you might have heard my gears turning during this entire episode of things that we could do with, with now this capability. But if you wanna try ConvertKit if you haven’t already, you can get started. They have for free trial, all the good things, Again, You can check it out there and we’ll have all the links in the show notes for everything that was mentioned before, including the previous episodes. If you wanna hear Nathan’s bootstrapping story and some of the hard decisions he gets made to get here, you can check that out as well.

Just head on over to Again, Thank you so much. I appreciate you. I look forward to serving you in the next episode. Cheers.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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