Email marketing tools are fundamental for anyone trying to make a living from a blog. Having a mailing list allows us to stay in touch with our audience - without spamming people, of course. Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve been using Mailchimp. Before releasing my new book, Master Ruby Web APIs, I decided to switch to ConvertKit to handle the launch.
I wanted to explain why I made the switch at such a crucial moment by presenting the differences between the two tools.
This article contains affiliate links, which means I will get a commission if you purchase something using them (at no extra cost to you).
Why build a Mailing List?
Before we talk about the actual tools to build and manage mailing lists, I want to tell you why you should be building a mailing list for your blog or your website in the first place. Whatever you are doing online, you need to interact with your audience, right? You can use Twitter, on Facebook or any other social media platform - but the best way to communicate directly with your audience, with the people who are interested in what you have to say and share, is through emails.
To be able to send emails, you first need the email addresses of your regular readers. Generally, people who like what you are writing or doing will give you their emails, if you ask them nicely. You just need to give them a place to enter it - with forms on your website or on your landing pages.
Once you have their emails, you will be able to build trust, and with time, build a relationship. In order to do that, you will need to give them value: tips, free content, or opinions. Once in a while, you can also promote your products, if they contain value for your subscribers.
That’s also when you’re going to make some money.
A mailing list is a fundamental and absolutely awesome tool for any blogger.
Starting Out With Mailchimp…
First, let’s talk about Mailchimp - one of the top email marketing tool today. It’s the one people usually get started with, because they offer a free plan as long as you have less than 2000 subscribers.
I was quite happy with the free plan, until I tried to implement some automation (e.g. sending a series of emails when someone signs up). To be able to start using this feature, I had to start paying $20 - which I did.
But at the end of the day, even Mailchimp’s paid features were never fully satisfying to me. For one, I wasn’t able to easily integrate with Gumroad when a subscriber purchased a product (maybe it’s possible, but I just never found out how). And I was paying more if the same subscriber was in two different list. These are just two examples on the top of my mind.
After a while with Mailchimp, I realized it just wasn’t meeting my needs - and I decided to look around and see if there was a better system out there.
… Before Switching To ConvertKit
ConvertKit is a marketing tool specifically designed for professional bloggers. It was created by Nathan Barry, whom I’ve been following for a few years now. ConvertKit was a bit more expensive than Mailchimp, which led me to avoid it for a long time - that ended up being a big mistake.
Around Christmas 2015, I was able to use ConvertKit for free for a month, and I quickly fell in love with it.
Everything was so simple and easy to use, and the automation feature (based on a “if this - then that” system) was a delight. It made managing my subscribers and interacting with my mailing list effortless. Sure, I now pay a bit more, but it’s so worth it. Read further to see the features that I can’t live without in the next section.
For info, ConvertKit starts at $29 for 1000 subscribers or less. Check the slider on this page to know how much you would have to pay.
ConvertKit Features I Love
In this section, I’m going to share some of the features ConvertKit offers that helped me to start making a living from my blog.
The four features I want to talk about are the management of subscribers, the broadcasts, the sequences and the automation. Well, that’s almost all the features of ConvertKit actually…
With ConvertKit, subscribers are collected through forms, like this one. By the way, it’s a real form, so feel free to subscribe if you want to hear more from me ;)
Forms can easily be embedded anywhere you need them. For places where you can’t embed anything, it’s super easy to integrate Zapier. That’s what I do for my landing pages made with Unbounce. This way, email addresses are sent to ConvertKit through Zapier.
After that, you have a list of forms that are linked to the subscribers who used it. Contrary to Mailchimp, subscribers are shared (so you don’t pay double) and you can access the global list by checking the “subscribers” page.
The first step before sending a broadcast is picking the people you want to send it to. See the screenshot below to see how this process happens. Basically, you can pick anything (a form, a sequence, a tag, etc.) and include the matching subscribers. Note that you can also exclude subscribers if you want to. That’s super useful when you want to send an email targeted towards a more specific audience; for example, to market to subscribers who haven’t yet purchased your product.
The next step is pretty simple and consists in writing the actual email.
Sequences are perfect to teach your subscribers in an automated way. For example, once someone subscribes in order to receive the free chapter from Modular Rails, they are automatically subscribed to a sequence that will teach them more about modularity and how they can use it.
The automation system in ConvertKit is awesome. You just pick a trigger and an action, and that creates a new rule. That’s it - it couldn’t be easier.
Want to give ConvertKit a try? Learn more about it and sign up on convertkit.com!