“Email marketing is dead.” Sure. But only if you don’t know how to do it properly.
Email marketing still works. Tried and true, and if anything, instead of losing its value, it has adapted and become even better and sophisticated.
Email marketing is so critical for any small business to get right.
If implemented properly, it will certainly become the most important tool in your business for creating relationships and making sales.
According to Capterra, the average return on $1 spent on email marketing is $44.25!
This is why you should take your time and invest in a good email marketing software for your business.
ConvertKit is a powerful new email service provider that provides automation capabilities without being expensive as many others.
If you are a blogger, the consensus autoresponder of choice used to be Aweber or MailChimp.
For a long time, the standard feature set of Aweber worked perfectly fine. All marketers needed it to do was reliably send out emails and integrate with their favorite tools like LeadPages and ClickFunnels.
Nowadays though, email marketing automation has become more and more important.
For example, Infusionsoft used to be the go-to service for big-name bloggers and businesses wanting more advanced email automation capabilities.
The problem with Infusionsoft though is that it is a hugely complicated system to learn. Couple that with a hefty price tag and an initial setup cost put it out of reach for most bloggers.
But things are changing for the better and ConvertKit has emerged as one of the more popular email services that can provide marketing automations without the huge cost.
Here’s what I will be covering inside this ConvertKit review.
What is ConvertKit?
ConvertKit is an email service provider that is specifically marketed towards bloggers, podcasters, and other businesses who are building audiences.
It was started by Nathan Barry who I was already a fan of, being a regular reader of his blog.
For one brief moment in 2018, they rebranded to Seva, but they quickly reverted back to ConvertKit after some backlash over the name.
What’s interesting about ConvertKit is how transparent Nathan is about the entire process of taking ConvertKit from scratch to making $30k a month in 2015. Now in 2020, they have over 28,000 active customers and doing over $1.7 million in monthly recurring revenue.
We are basically getting a front-row seat on his journey to building a successful SaaS product. It’s pretty cool since we get to read about both the highs and the lows.
Even if you don’t end up using ConvertKit, his blog posts are always interesting and I recommend giving Nathan a follow.
ConvertKit Review: History of an outstanding digital product
Nathan Barry established ConvertKit in 2013 out of a desire to sell a product to an audience of his own. The problem was, he didn’t have an audience.
He had left his job as the head of a software design team for a startup, and began working with clients of his own building iOS apps and writing about it on his newly minted blog.
During this process, he wrote his first ebook (The App Design Handbook). When he launched the book sale to his small list (only 798 subscribers at the time), he was able to sell $12,000+ in the first 24 hours.
At this point, Nathan realized there was something special about digital products. A few months later, he wrote another book, which he shared with his audience that had doubled, but he still had a relatively small amount of subscribers.
A search for more predictable income
Nathan was excited that he had been able to create a big revenue stream from his ebooks ($80,000+ in sales in the first few months alone) but wanted to create something that could offer a more predictable income between book launches.
Using his knowledge of designing and software building, Nathan set out to create a SaaS app, even though he didn’t know what he would build, and wrote on his blog about it throughout the process.
He launched the project, The Web App Challenge, with a self-set cap of a $5,000 investment because he didn’t want to invest a lot of money in something without knowing if there was a market for it.
Relying mostly on pre-orders, he began to create a digital product for an audience he knew and was a part of — an email marketing tool that focused on the needs of authors/bloggers who wanted to sell digital products.
ConvertKit was born
Basic at first, but it grew over time. Every time Nathan came across something his Big competitors couldn’t do, or how un-user-friendly they were, a new idea or thought emerged about how he could improve the tool he was creating.
Eventually, he hired Ruby on Rails to build an app, and while he hadn’t hit the $5,000 mark he was hoping for in the first six months, he knew he was onto something great.
A year and a half in, a conversation that stopped him in his tracks made him amp up his efforts to go “all in” with ConvertKit.
Nathan hadn’t made up much ground in the months since creation. His friend, Hiten Shah, encouraged him bluntly to either “take ConvertKit seriously and go all in, or shut it down.”
Nathan noted the conversation with Hiten, but did nothing for another six months, until he finally came to a crossroads of either having to, in his words:
“Double down or shut down”
He decided to double down.
Nathan shut down the rest of his businesses, invested $50,000, hired a full-time developer, and went all in on his marketing efforts, continuing his content marketing while hardcore introducing direct sales through cold-emailing leads.
Bloggers liked the idea of ConvertKit, but hated the idea of all the work it would be to move from one system to a new one.
So, Nathan went out on a limb and offered to do all the heavy lifting, for free.
Six months after offering what ConvertKit now calls “concierge migration,” its revenue stream was finally hitting $5,000 per month.
ConvertKit coined the phrases “email marketing for bloggers” and “the power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than Mailchimp,” during their new marketing focus and audience shift.
The first 50 customers of ConvertKit came from the original App Challenge, however by switching their focus to direct sales, Nathan began bringing in clients that were bigger and more likely to stick around.
Once ConvertKit had hit the $20,000/month mark, they rolled out an affiliate program, which worked great because their new target market/users were bloggers with big lists who could share their experience with the software.
Since they were known and trusted by their audience, this brought in a massive amount of new revenue and a massive number of new subscribers.
This is the point in my review of ConvertKit where people say “the rest is history.” The revenue numbers skyrocketed as the cold sales and referrals continued to roll in.
ConvertKit Review: Core values
ConvertKit’s values alone set them apart from the competition.
In fact, you can find those core values listed right on their website. That’s one of the most critical parts of this ConvertKit review.
They care about the customer and their experience, creating a better product, keeping it simple, and offering support that is bar none.
ConvertKit’s values include:
- Teach everything you know.
- Create every day.
- Work in public.
- Default to generosity.
- Do less, better.
From the list, it’s easy to see they value relationships with both customers and their team, as well as honesty.
ConvertKit Review: What are some of the best features?
What makes ConvertKit better than the rest?
Going back to one of their core values to “create every day,” the system’s already-excellent features are always improving.
Not only are the free landing page templates beautiful and completely customizable, you don’t need a website to host them.
With no code and tons of options, you can create your landing page quickly and efficiently, so it’s ready to land in front of potential subscribers in no time.
Plus, they work seamlessly with the sign-up forms that you can create in-house with ConvertKit.
Your subscribers get the first glimpse of what they can expect from you by how seamlessly they can join your email list.
Something as simple as a sign-up form makes the process of joining your email list smooth.
A major aspect to note in this ConvertKit review is that the tool has something for everyone. From gorgeous, customizable designs to forms for any need, you’re able to determine the data you need to collect and embed the forms on your current website.
But don’t forget, users don’t even need a website to use these amazing features! Sign-up forms can be housed right on the landing pages you build in ConvertKit. Win!
You can use a sign-up form to deliver a free incentive if you have one (you should definitely have one!) for joining your email list. It works like a charm.
There are debates everywhere about whether you should use double opt-in vs single opt-in. The main reason why you want double opt-in is that it will improve your email list quality. But the main argument against is that the extra step will hurt your conversions. All this is true. However, if you’re using a lead magnet, then ConvertKit can handle double opt-in for you automatically like this.
When the user clicks the download button to get their lead magnet, they are automatically opted in. So you get the best of both worlds!
Visual Automation Editor
ConvertKit’s visual automation editor is a joy to use, especially when you compare it to some of the other automation editors out there. That’s because ConvertKit makes editing each step in your automation workflow seamless.
Let’s say one of the steps in your automation is sending an email. With other services, editing the email will take you out of the automation editor and into a separate email editor page. This can cause you to lose the context of what you were doing.
With ConvertKit, everything is done inside the automation editor itself. So clicking on an email step will allow you to edit it inline. And you can also edit your forms in the same way.
You can build easy to set up automated funnels that are user-friendly yet packed with customizable options. The beauty of the system is that you can see everything that is happening for your subscriber, from start to finish.
Simple Segmentation Within Emails
Another useful feature is ConvertKit’s ability to segment individual emails using conditional tags.
Being able to tag subscribers and segment your list into separate parts or sections is by far one of the greatest functions ConvertKit has to offer. A key differentiating feature I wanted to note in my review of ConvertKit.
Tagging is as simple as it sounds. If someone does a certain action (i.e., joins your list through a specific opt-in, purchases a product, clicks a link within an email, etc.), they are labeled with the tag you’ve created.
This comes in handy during the segmentation process. In ConvertKit, you can choose to segment your list, or only send a specific email to customers with a certain tag or tags. You can choose several tags, or just one (any or all functions). Or, you can choose to send it to “none” with that tag.
The choice is yours. Once you’ve begun creating tags, you won’t believe how easy it is to ensure the right target audience receives your message.
Conditional Email Content
When someone greets you by name in person, the conversation feels more personable and connected. So why would you want your email to be any different?
At ConvertKit, using the Conditional Content feature helps to systemize the personalization of emails. Depending on the tags you have created, you are able to add personalization like first and/or the last name to your email.
The real beauty of these “conditional content” options? If the subscriber didn’t provide that information, don’t worry, they won’t see weird punctuation and errors where their name should be.
Auto Resend Broadcasts to Un-opens
Every time you send out a broadcast email, a certain percentage of people won’t open it. Hubspot says marketing and advertising emails only get 25% email open rates. Maybe you didn’t write a good headline, or they were too busy at the time to take a look.
ConvertKit has a neat feature where you can resend your broadcast to the people who didn’t open it the first time.
You can edit the title and the body of the broadcast, schedule the resend in advance, and have peace of mind knowing that all the automation is taken care of, so you can move onto other things in your business.
With this amazing feature you can maximize the eyeballs you get for every broadcast you send out.
By the time I decided to write this Convertkit review, there was no free plan. But now there is one!
One of the biggest selling points for MailChimp is their free plan. But now ConvertKit has added a free plan of their own as well. You won’t get access to any of the visual automation features of ConvertKit with the free plan and you are limited to 500 subscribers.
But you can create unlimited landing pages and send out regular broadcast emails.
Which is good enough for people just starting out who just want to get a feel of what ConvertKit is all about.
Share Your Visual Automations with Others
This is one of the newest features of ConvertKit, and one of the coolest. Similar to ClickFunnel’s share funnel concept, you can now share any ConvertKit visual automation inside of your account with others.
When editing any automation, you can now click a toggle button to enable it to be shared publicly as a template. This will give you a URL that you can give to anyone and it will load that automation into their own account.
Even better is that if the person you are sharing with does not have a ConvertKit account, the share page includes a call to action to sign up for a 14-day free trial. And if they sign up under you, you will get the affiliate commission from it!
There are so many amazing things you can do with this. For example, you could create a lead magnet that contains some of your best ConvertKit automations. Or use them as bonuses to promote ConvertKit or even other affiliate products. By the way, this article has affiliate links, to more about this please read our disclaimer and disclosure page.
ConvertKit Review: What it Could Improve
Limited A/B Testing
A/B testing is a really important feature to have for any email service. Doing this regularly will help you improve your open and conversion rates. At the time we finished writing this ConvertKit review, it only allows you to split test your subject lines, but there’s no way to split test for things like delivery time, email body content, or automations.
Not a ton of customization options for forms and templates
We do love the forms that ConvertKit provides. They are nice and clean. But the form editor is very limited. Besides color, there’s not much you can change. For example, there’s no way to change the font for any of the text.
Unless you’re willing to add in your own CSS, which not everyone knows how to.
No email templates
ConvertKit has a couple of email templates, but the process of using them is very tedious. You’ll need to muck around with HTML and CSS which not everyone wants to do.
So you’ll want to look elsewhere if this is what you need.
ConvertKit Review: A Look Inside
ConvertKit consists of 5 major building blocks. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Forms are how you get subscribers into your account. ConvertKit allows you to create both forms and landing pages.
ConvertKit has 4 different form types to pick from. You can do inline, modal popup, slide-in or sticky bar forms that can be embedded on any page of your website.
There are 7 different form templates to choose from for regular forms.
Landing pages, on the other hand, have their own dedicated page hosted on ConvertKit’s servers or your own site via a WordPress plugin.
As mentioned above, the form editor doesn’t give you many customization options, although the built-in styles do have a nice clean look to them.
You also have the option to create Landing Pages with ConvertKit as well. Although not as customizable as a landing page you might create with LeadPages, the pages do look nice and there are now 18 landing page templates to pick from.
Unlike MailChimp or Aweber, ConvertKit is tag and not list based. This means that you have a single database of subscribers in your ConvertKit account.
To group subscribers together, you can use tags or create segments. With segments, you can do things like creating a group of contacts that subscribed before a certain date.
Or group subscribers by location or any custom field you create.
ConvertKit also lets you drill down into any specific subscriber you have. You can see things like what sequences they are on, what emails you have sent them, and if you are doing e-commerce, what products they have purchased from you.
Sending one-off emails in ConvertKit is simple.
Since there are no lists in ConvertKit, whenever you send a broadcast email you’ll want to use their filter mechanism to target who you will be sending your broadcast to.
You’ll most often use the Subscribed to filter where you can segment your broadcast to specific forms, sequences, tags or products.
The email editor is just your standard HTML email editor, with a couple of extra options. Click on the A/B button next to the subject line and you can start a split test between a couple of different headlines.
The personalization button can be used to enter in merge tags into your email or to use the in-email tag segmentation I talked about above.
Sequences are where you can create autoresponders, a series of emails that get sent to your subscribers at a predefined schedule of your choice.
On the left, you’ll see all the emails in your series along with when they’ll be sent out. You can drag emails around on the left to quickly change the order they are sent.
To the right, you’ll see the same email editor as you get for Broadcasts. So all the same features apply, except you can’t split test subject lines here.
To tie everything together, let’s talk about ConvertKit’s automations. In ConvertKit, subscribers can enter an automation in 4 different ways.
Through a form, getting tagged, having a custom field updated, or from a purchase.
From there, you can add an Event, Action or Condition.
Actions are the easiest to understand. The most common actions are adding a subscriber to one of your email sequences, add or remove a tag, setting a custom field, or introducing a delay.
Conditions let you branch your automation based on a tag or custom field.
So you could use branching to have your VIP customers go down one path and your non-VIPs go down a separate path like this:
Finally, you have Events, which pull your subscriber forward to the next step in the automation when an event occurs.
Let’s say one of your subscribers is on day 2 of your 5 part email sequence, which is trying to get them to buy your product.
You can add an event to your automation using the Add tag event. If on day 2, the subscriber buys your product (and you tag them as a customer), it will pull them out of the current email sequence they were in.
Which is handy because you won’t annoy them with the last 3 emails in your sequence (by asking them to buy) since they are now a customer of yours.
ConvertKit’s automation editor is very fast and easy to use. As mentioned above, I love the ability to seamlessly edit forms and emails directly within the editor itself.
It makes for a much better experience when creating new automations.
ConvertKit Review: Pricing
ConvertKit’s uses the same tiered pricing model as most other email services do. So the price goes up the more subscribers you have.
When compared to its competitors, ConvertKit’s pricing comes out in the middle of the pack at lower subscriber levels.
But as you get past 10,000 subscribers and beyond, ConvertKit actually doesn’t jump up as much in price as some of the rest.
Prices below are if you pay monthly, but if you pre-pay yearly, you get 2 months of service free.
Convert offers a 14-day free trial and a full 30-day money-back guarantee.
Plus, they also recently introduced a completely Free Plan as well. It is limited in that you can only have up to 500 subscribers and you can only send out Broadcast emails. But you can create unlimited landing pages on it.
So it’s a really great way to try ConvertKit without having to commit anything.
ConvertKit Review: Everything Else You Need to Know About
How is their support?
ConvertKit’s support is good from my experience. While there’s no phone support like Aweber has, they offer email and live chat 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Email response time ranges from 2-3 hours in my experience. But live chat is usually pretty responsive.
Do they have an active community?
They have a Facebook group called The ConvertKit Family. It currently has 8.7k members and averages around 7 posts a day.
It’s a good place to get your questions answered by other users, besides this Convertkit review.
What integrations do they offer?
You can find the full list of ConvertKit integrations here.
How good is ConvertKit for lead magnets?
ConvertKit is awesome for lead magnets. Not only will it host your lead magnets for you, but the automatic double opt-in is a great feature.
How good is ConvertKit for eCommerce?
ConvertKit is getting quite a bit better when it comes to eCommerce. They just launched a new feature that’s going to allow you to track every purchase made by a subscriber.
What makes this cool is that you can then start automations based on a purchase.
Can it handle live events or webinars?
To handle live events and webinars, you have to be able to send emails out at a specific date and time. It’s typical for webinars to send out multiple emails at specific times before it starts, like 24 hours before, 8 hours before, 10 minutes before, etc.
ConvertKit can handle live events and webinars through broadcasts only. This is not very convenient because then you have to schedule all your emails manually.
It would be preferable if ConvertKit gave you a way to send emails at a specific date and time. But that’s currently not possible through sequences or automations.
Do they have an affiliate program?
Yes, ConvertKit offers the standard 30% recurring commissions as part of its affiliate program. The affiliate program is hosted on LinkMink.
Alexis is their affiliate director, and she does a nice job of keeping you updated on the various promotions they are running.
Who’s Switching over to ConvertKit?
ConvertKit has been growing by leaps and bounds, and I’m reading about people switching over to ConvertKit every day.
Here are a few examples of bloggers who have switched over to ConvertKit from their old email service:
ConvertKit vs MailChimp
MailChimp has a couple of things going for it versus ConvertKit. It’s cheaper, and it has better email templates.
But for everything else, ConvertKit definitely wins out. Especially when you compare MailChimp’s crappy automation editor versus the beautiful ConvertKit one.
Plus ConvertKit has tags which gives you much better flexibility for segmenting your subscribers. MailChimp is very much lacking there.
ConvertKit vs Aweber
The only reason I would recommend Aweber versus ConvertKit is if you’re purely doing affiliate marketing/CPA offers. Then, it might be harder to get approval on ConvertKit, and Aweber will be your best bet.
Aweber is also slightly cheaper than ConvertKit.
Otherwise, ConvertKit is better than Aweber at pretty much everything else, including automations.
ConvertKit vs ActiveCampaign
This is a much harder comparison. ActiveCampaign is a great email marketing software, with tons of features for power users. You can do more with its automations, and it has better split testing capabilities.
Price-wise, it’s cheaper than ConvertKit at lower subscriber levels, but it gets more expensive as you add more and more contacts.
But ConvertKit is easier to use, with a nicer and crisper interface.
Which one you should pick depends on your business needs. Do you want something that just works for everyday email marketing tasks, without a ton of effort? Then ConvertKit would make a great choice.
But if you need more advanced automations, then ActiveCampaign is the better way to go.
Convertkit Review – Conclusion
When I initially wrote this ConvertKit review, it was an up and coming email marketing service.
But five years later, ConvertKit has firmly established itself as one of the major players in the email marketing space.
Marketing automation is the future of email. It will help you target your customers better, resulting in higher conversion and sales.
What ConvertKit does is make marketing automations truly accessible to even non-techie people. It also provides you with a headache-free user experience.
While it may not be the most powerful email marketing software out there, it doesn’t aim to be. You need to understand it’s an email service that’s targeted towards bloggers and other content creators.
Just make sure you understand its limitations, and decide whether you are ok with it.
If you are, then I highly recommend you give ConvertKit a try.