You may already use a system to collect emails so you can communicate directly with readers who want to hear from you. If you’re unfamiliar with email marketing systems, they offer a powerful way for you to interact with your audience.
If you have a new book coming out, for example, these are the people who would want to know about it. If you’re doing a poetry reading, you can send a note and readers in that city will be glad to hear about it and might make plans to attend. If you have a special price on an e-book, you can let them know about the sale.
If you haven’t started yet, I highly recommend you begin building an email list comprised of ideal readers.
Start List-Building with MailChimp
I started out with MailChimp and used it for years. MailChimp was free, and free sounded like a good place to start.
I liked MailChimp’s option to pull content from my website’s RSS feed so people could automatically receive my latest blog posts. I chose from one of their many templates and tried to tweak the code, but messed it up. I read articles and watched videos in their vast knowledge base to try to fix my mistake, but even when I stop-started the video to break down each tick of a box or tap of a character, I still ended up with something wonky. I lost hours trying to solve my problems. Attractive templates ended up looking goofy.
I limped along with MailChimp by choosing a simple template and avoiding any customization. I didn’t want to touch any code for fear of breaking something. I stayed in set-it-and-forget-it mode for years, with MailChimp automatically sending emails featuring nothing more than my blog content.
Over time, I realized I wanted to send emails more a personal tone. And, if possible, I wanted a simpler system that made more sense to me. I periodically tried to tweak my MailChimp templates only to mess them up again and have to start over from scratch.
Then I heard about the new kid on the block: ConvertKit. It’s not new any longer, but at the time it sounded like it might offer almost all the features I wanted without the elements that troubled me in MailChimp.
The Pros and Cons I saw in ConvertKit and MailChimp
Every system comes with its own set of pros and cons. Here’s what I observed at the time I was deciding.
ConvertKit didn’t offer a wide variety templates like MailChimp did, so if I wanted pretty emails, I’d have to get creative. But I wanted to send simple emails anyway, so that wasn’t a huge concern.
Emails Generated from RSS Feed
ConvertKit draws from a blog’s RSS feed to generate an email, but doesn’t automatically send it like MailChimp does. You have to go in and manually send it.
I thought that was a weakness when I first signed up, but now I see it as a strength because I actually want to look at the email before sending it, to personalize it. It supports my reason for having an email list in the first place: to interact with people, encourage them, and support their writing goals.
One big drawback of ConvertKit was its unsubscribe option. If readers click on the link in the footer, they’re immediately unsubscribed and removed from the system. They don’t have any way to manage their subscription; they’re just out. I didn’t like that.
ConvertKit didn’t show much in the way of stats at the time I considered it. That, too, made me hesitate. I wanted to know how many people were signing up and through which pages or forms. MailChimp did well with that.
Compared to MailChimp, though, ConvertKit was lean, clean, and simple both visually for the reader and behind-the-scenes in the dashboard. That was a plus.
Subscriber-Centered vs List-Driven
ConvertKit takes a subscriber-centered approach, whereas MailChimp organizes by lists, and a single person may be on multiple lists. I found that list-philosophy harder to manage and organize. I could easily tag a subscriber in ConvertKit to indicate the things that reader is interested in. Later, I can send information to everyone drawn to a particular topic. That opened up options for me to send customized content.
Drip Content Functionality
ConvertKit offered drip content, or sequenced emails, which I also wanted. At the time, MailChimp did not offer drip content in their free version.
And then there was the biggest deciding factor of all: unlike MailChimp, which was free up to 2,000 subscribers, ConvertKit required a monthly payment from the get-go. The cost varied based on subscribers, but everyone paid something.
MailChimp was imperfect and free up to a certain number of subscribers; ConvertKit was imperfect and cost money each month.
If ConvertKit had been near-perfect, I would have tried it right when I heard about it—even with the cost. But it had its shortcomings and I’m cheap, so I put off the decision.
Conversion to ConvertKit
Until one day I attempted once more to tweak a MailChimp template and messed up an email yet again. I decided to take the plunge. I signed up for ConvertKit.
I had a hard time justifying the cost until I started to view it as hiring virtual “staff,” if you will, and the first paid addition to my team was ConvertKit.
I imported my list from MailChimp following video instructions. That was easy.
Then I prepared to send my first email. That was easy.
I learned about tagging and signup forms. Could it all be so easy? I anticipated a learning curve, but it all made sense so quickly, I was up and running in no time and it made sense. It was simple.
As I played with ConvertKit, I realized ConvertKit made sense to my brain. For the few things that felt confused about, I sent a quick note to the ConvertKit team and they got back with me shortly with an explanation. If they had any extra documentation, they’d provide links. Their interaction was personalized and prompt.
So I’m with ConvertKit now. I left MailChimp and never went back.
MailChimp and ConvertKit Improvements
Since the time I converted to ConvertKit, a lot of changes have been made to both programs.
From what I hear, MailChimp has added a lot of features that make it comparable to ConvertKit and other list management services. I think you can send email sequences even in free MailChimp, and they now offer segmentation to indicate a subscriber’s particular interest, which is different than the tagging system in ConvertKit, but comparable. And MailChimp continues to make it easy for subscribers to manage their subscriptions—they can click on a button and change their choices without extracting themselves from the system forever and ever.
But ConvertKit, which I already liked, has been improving, too, and some of my initial concerns have been addressed. They offer better stats so you can see how many people subscribe and through which forms. If your subscriber clicks “unsubscribe” thinking he’ll get to manage his subscription but suddenly realizes he’s about to be forever removed from my system, he can click on a button that says: “Didn’t mean to unsubscribe? Click here to resubscribe.” It’s not as strong as MailChimp’s approach, but it’s better than it was.
Find What Works for You
A friend of mine loves MailChimp—she understands how it works, and she doesn’t want to switch to anything else.
I love ConvertKit—I understand how it works, and I don’t want to switch to anything else. It fits the way I think.
When you’re selecting technology to support your goals, find something that has the functionality you’re looking for and aligns with how you think, reducing aggravation and increasing efficiency so you can get to the work you love most.
You may prefer MailChimp over ConvertKit or yet another email marketing platform, like Drip or MailerLite. Read reviews and find what works for you.
ConvertKit Free Trial Offer
But I admit I’ve been so happy with ConvertKit, I wish everyone could try it out and see if it’s a good fit for their needs. Normally, you’d have to sign up and start paying their monthly fee to do that. Well, guess what?
ConvertKit is having a “Christmas in July” promotion going on right now. Starting Monday, July 24, you can get your first 30 days with ConvertKit for free! ConvertKit doesn’t usually offer free trials, so I’m delighted you can give it a test drive. Even if you already use MailChimp, you can sign up for ConvertKit’s free trial, poke around under the hood for a month, and see what you think. It’s a chance to compare what you have with what ConvertKit offers.
Maybe you’ll realize you’re like my friend who totally loves MailChimp and never wants to leave. It’s good to confirm your decision so you can confidently move forward with MailChimp or whatever system you use instead of worrying you’re missing out.
Or maybe you’ll realize you’re like me and ConvertKit’s a great fit, alleviating frustrations and setting you up for long-term success. You may get to the end of the month-long trial and decide to hire your first staff member to support your list-building efforts.
Just so you know, this free trial sign-up opportunity expires on Monday, July 31st.
Help Out a Coach?
If you sign up for the trial—and I really hope you do—would you pop over to my show notes and use my affiliate link? ConvertKit was the first affiliate program other than Amazon’s that I actively pursued and signed up for because it was the first product I appreciated so much I wanted to tell people about it. No more broken code. With ConvertKit, you just go in, write the note, and send it.
Ann’s Affiliate Code: http://mbsy.co/hMHhd
My affiliate link will take you to ConvertKit’s main landing page and you should be able to walk through the free trial signup. If you decide to continue, the affiliate system will send me a small thank-you.
One Way or Another, Build Your List
Whatever system you use, I urge you to build your list, because it’s a lot of fun to stay in contact with people who are getting to know you and your message. You write because you care about these people who have said, “Yes, I want to read what you have to say. Send your stuff.” By giving you their email, they’ve invited you into their inbox.
That’s a big deal. Connect with those people, support them, and let them know you care.
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
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