Home / Tips / The Advantage of Email Marketing, Featuring Nathan Barry of Conve…

The Advantage of Email Marketing, Featuring Nathan Barry of Conve…

ConvertKit founder and CEO, Nathan Barry, returned to the podcast this week and joined host Darrell Vesterfelt to talk about how he got his start, the competitive advantage of email marketing, and the future of email.

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Nathan Barry founded his company to help founders, creators, and digital marketers serve their audiences better with email … and earn a living doing it.

ConvertKit is an “email marketing company for creators” that offers its users powerful segmentation and automation tools without a lot of resources to implement.

In this week’s conversation, Darrell and Nathan dig into email marketing from beginner to advanced.

In this episode Darrell and Nathan discussed:

  • Nathan’s early views on digital marketing and why his core values haven’t changed
  • How to build your audience (the right way)
  • Why “Teach everything you know,” and “Work in public,” are still Nathan’s mottos
  • The right time to build a product or sell something to your email list
  • Why email is still the central hub for building your business
  • And best practices for cleaning your list

The Show Notes

Resources Mentioned:

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Transcript:

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Hey Copyblogger, it’s Darrell Vesterfelt and I’m excited. So, so excited to have my good friend Nathan Barry, who’s the founder and CEO of ConvertKit on the show today. Nathan and I have been friends for quite a few years now. I actually worked for him for a while on the ConvertKit team and Nathan is one of the most inspiring friends that I have. He’s built ConvertKit, in my opinion, the right way, bootstrapped from the ground up, all on the back of his online course business back in the day. So, we’re going to talk all about that today. The importance of email marketing, his time at ConvertKit, and what he sees as the future of email. Excited to have him with us. So, Nathan, welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah, thanks for having me on. It’s always fun. Anytime I can spend with you, I’m thrilled. It’s good times.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I know we just literally spent 20 minutes just shooting the (beep) before we were on here because we cherish anytime that we have together. So, Nathan, I know that you’ve told your story, like the whole comprehensive story on podcasts before, so I don’t want you to go through the whole story of, “I started making apps, and then I started selling courses, and I created ConvertKit,” but give us the three-minute version of that just so people who don’t know the story, aren’t aware of that, can track the narrative arc of how you got to this point of having an incredibly successful company that serves a lot of people just like the Copyblogger audience.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, at a high level, my background is in design. So, I started doing web design then got into user experience design, iPhone apps, all of that. I always loved following the blogging community, so way back in the day, following Copyblogger, following people like Chris Guillebeau, and Tim Ferriss, and Leo Babauta, and that whole early blogger crew. And so then at one point I kind of merged these two worlds of like I’m starting to design iOS apps and I wanted to build a blog. So, I started a blog on that topic, ended up writing a book called The App Design Handbook, and that’s what got me into the world of self-publishing and selling courses and that kind of thing. My goal was to sell 10 grand of that book over the lifetime. Sold 12 grand in the first day and was like, “Okay. I’m never looking back. This is where it goes.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Nathan Barry:

So, I wrote a few more books, became fascinated with email marketing. I thought that social media and Instagram and all these new platforms would really be driving all the sales and it was email time and again, that was driving the sales. So, I became obsessed with best practices and what can I learn and how to implement all those in Mailchimp, and because of my code background, I was able to get a lot of that hack pieces together and write custom code and all of this. But then I tell other people, and they’d be like, “Ah. Okay, wait. How do you do that?”

And so then I thought, “Okay, let’s build an email tool, not for small businesses, but for creators like me, people, bloggers, podcasters, course creators, all of that, to have those best practices built-in by default,” so that’s how ConvertKit started. That was in January 2013 and now we’re seven years later. It was a long road to get here, but ConvertKit’s now doing 20 million a year in revenue and has a team of 50 people, and we’ve got 28,000 paid customers. Actually the same, 28,000 free customers now as well, and things are going well.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I like it. Yeah. I think we could spend an entire 30 or 40 minutes just talking about the success of ConvertKit and looking back from now to 2013. That’s, I’m sure, had been a while the ride if you put the stake in the ground and look backwards that way, but here’s my question. You guys serve 28,000 creators and you were selling courses all the way up until I think 2015, ’16-

Nathan Barry:

Yep.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

… on your platform even though ConvertKit was still going. That’s a little bit ago. What have you learned serving all these creators and how would you approach it differently if you were building an email list now versus 2011, ’12, ’13?

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, I guess contrasting a few of these things. I was all about, in the past, about like building the best site and getting all these details in place. I was a web designer, right? And so, I put a lot of effort into that, and then from there, that was all of step one, and then once that was totally done, then you can go to step two of growing an email list. And so, now what I would do is just put together a landing page really quickly using ConvertKit and get this idea, whatever my next creative project is, getting it up really, really quickly and building the email list right away. So, that’s probably the first thing is the whole website hosting debate. Should I use Squarespace, WordPress? Just opt out of that entire discussion and say, “I will make that decision when I have 500 email subscribers.”

The second thing and this is something that hasn’t changed, and that is the quality of the content. I had some great influences early on. The one that really stands out to me would be Corbett Barr from Think Traffic and then Fizzle where he had this post that he wrote years ago called Write Epic (beep). And it was basically like stop writing these little 300 word, 500 blog posts or whatever was really popular at the time. And it said, write these really detailed articles, the definitive guide to whatever. That’s how I built my list in the early days, and that is 100% how I would build the list today of writing really in-depth articles. So, I wrote one years ago called The Complete Guide to Product Launches. It’s like 4,000 words, tons of detail that got me, I don’t know, probably 2000 email subscribers, just that one post.

And then as an example today or I guess a few months ago I wrote a post called The Ladders of Wealth Creation. That’s like this 6,000 word post with diagrams and illustrations and all this, like it’s a mini ebook. And so, many people link to that and say, “Okay, that’s one of my favorite things you’ve ever written.” And it’s not like these little ideas fired off, it’s very substantial, and so I’d take that same approach today. That’s something that I think is more true than ever of go all in on content that people are like, “Wow, this is so good. I would gladly pay for it. And you’re giving it away for free? That’s amazing.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So, question about that. What’s your specific process between 4,000 and 6,000-word posts and any other type of posts? Are you only publishing posts that are that long and that epic or are you posting things in between as well?

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. I’m definitely posting things in between. My barometer for it is I basically decide I only want to publish things that I want to read. So, a few details in there. One, it means I’m not asking my audience. I will ask what do you want to hear about because that will spark some ideas but I get tons of responses back when I ask that of things that’s like, “Ah, I don’t care about that. I wouldn’t read that post.” If I wouldn’t read the post, I’m not going to write it. Four ways to do X. I have no interest in that. But if it’s the kind of content that I would read, then I will absolutely write it, and so that will alternate between.

Sometimes I just need a little bit of inspiration and actually like you and I, I guess this was a year ago, right? We’re sitting in a Starbucks waiting to go skiing in Colorado and I just wrote this post that you actually titled of Endure Long Enough to Get Noticed and that’s not this huge meaty post, but it was this spark of inspiration and trying to be this encouragement for somebody who’s getting through a dark time. But it’s content that I want to read, so other details like I’ll put numbers and stats and a link to my spreadsheets and whatever else, like all the details in it instead of glossing over that because that’s what I want to read.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So, step one is to set up a landing page, get about 500 or 1,000 subscribers, then worry about building a website.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Step two, create epic content. What’s next?

Nathan Barry:

Yeah, I think the next thing, and this is something that I’ve done all the way through and I wouldn’t change, is to weave your personal story into it. I think so many people when they think about starting a business, they want it to be bigger than themselves. Or I talked to a filmmaker who, she had a great site, great portfolio and all of that, but as you went through it, you couldn’t tell is this a one-man band or is this a whole studio, or a whole agency? And really when you dig anytime and you find out, okay it’s just her. But she wanted it to seem like this so much of a bigger thing. And I remember feeling that in the earlier days. But now what I would do is be really authentic and share your whole story and share the journey that you’re on.

I’m working to get my first clients. This is the film that we just came out with. This is whatever and just be you. And then as you bring people around you, share who that is and their backstory and everything else. But I think so many people are trying to, not pretend to be something that they’re not, but try to be more official or fancier or something, right? It’s like the tiny little business where you’re like, “I’m the CEO of it, or this is my CMO and this is my CTO.” And it’s like, “There’s three of you. Why are you all C level executives?” So, instead, it’s like we’ve built this audience, we’re writing really incredible educational content, let’s tell stories to go with it. Let’s be human, let’s be authentic, let’s share our struggles, let’s share our goals. So, it’d be another big thing.

Why are you building an audience? I want to know. And put that in there. What does an audience mean to you? If it means getting to 500 subscribers, set that as a goal and say, “For this community, I’m trying to grow the email as to this.” It’s something I did early on with ConvertKit was have a goal of getting that first $5,000 a month in recurring revenue. And so, many people said, “Oh, that’s clear. Let me help you with that.” And all these incredible people offered to get on calls and help out because I was on a journey, and they said, “Okay. I might be able to help in some small way with that.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So, because I know you, two of your core values are teach everything you know and work in public. How did those two concepts play into what we’re talking about now?

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, teach everything you know came about because I realized that’s actually how audiences are built. I thought that there was some major difference between me and the people I would follow online. So, then I was following like Chris Coyier from CSS-Tricks, Jason and David from Basecamp, Chris Guillebeau, Tim Ferris, and I was just like, “Wow, these guys, they’re all incredible.” They’re putting out this amazing content and I didn’t understand what the difference was between me and what they were doing, right? They’re internet famous and I wasn’t at all. And it finally sunk in that, oh, the difference is that they’re learning something and putting it out there. They’re teaching it. Whatever they learned that week or whatever idea was in the head, they wrote it down and shared it with the world. Whereas I might’ve written it down and put it in my journal.

And so, I started thinking, “Okay. All right. I can teach. What can I teach about? What am I an expert in?” And that was a very narrow thing, a very narrow slice of the world that I felt like I was truly qualified to teach on. And so, when I realized, “Okay, no. It’s about the journey, it’s about teaching to people who are just a couple steps behind you,” then I embraced this motto of teach everything you know, and I mean everything. So, I would write posts about things that I had just learned, and I had no business pretending to be an expert. So, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert, and so I’d say, “This is what I just learned. Here’s how I implemented it. Here are my results.” And so, that’s a core motto and it’s on our tee shirts and posters and everything else.

And then the other one of work in public is really just about that share the journey. There’s so many tutorial sites out there of teaching you something with WordPress or whatever else, and that’s great. Those need to exist, but I want to follow a person in a brand. I don’t just want to Google for something and get the result. So, if you share that work in public, it basically has this idea of putting things out there that aren’t polished. They don’t have to be done. You can also think of it as show your work.

I always go back like in, I don’t know, fourth, fifth, sixth-grade doing math. Whatever math problem would come over and be like, “Oh, here’s the answer.” And I was homeschooled. My mom would make me go back and show my work, how I got to that process, and I’m like, “I don’t need to do that. Is the answer right or wrong?” And she’s like, “It’s right, but I’m still going to mark the problem down if you don’t show your work.” And so, it’s like that. Instead of coming out and saying, “Here’s this beautifully designed website. Here’s this perfect solution that I did.” People were like, “Wow, that’s incredible. You’re such a talented designer.” But that’s great. But it’s so much more powerful if you show your work, you show your process, and you bring people along for that journey.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I love that. All right. So, set up a landing page. Now, easy to do with ConvertKit free. We’ll drop a link below in the show notes so you can sign up for that. Building amazing content, doing it with this authentic way, teaching way. When do you know it’s time to build a product or to sell something as a part of this process? And as a secondary question, why is email the right tool in creating and selling products, either products or services, whatever it might be that you’re offering?

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, the time to sell a product really kind of depends. There’s this idea that was really prevalent for a long time of build an email list or build an audience and then come up with a product based on that. And I have always had a bit of a different approach and you can, there’s no right or wrong answer to this, I would just encourage everyone to consider starting with a product and building an audience around that particular product because when you’re saying something like, “I’m going to build a site teaching you how to design iPhone apps.” People are like, “Cool. There’s a bunch of those. That’s so great.” They’re not that interested in it. It’s not that exciting. You can give yourself a level of expertise, like assign it, claim it for yourself. If you come out and say, “I am writing a book on how to design iPhone apps.” I now think I’m like, “Okay. I’d check out that book. I’ll sign up for the waitlist on it and then you send tutorials to me.”

So, it’s the same thing, right? We have a free email list, we have tutorials going out to it, and we have a paid product of a book. But if we swap the order in it and go, “This is the paid product that’s coming soon, so sign up to the email list, and while you wait for the email for the book, I’ll send you tutorials and content to keep you interested.” It transfers more authority, it gives yourself more authority. You and I joked about this years ago at Social Media Marketing World. I remember sitting there and Michael Stelzner goes up on stage to talk about the state of social media. So, it was in this huge room in front of 4,000 people and there’s Michael Stelzner who’s saying like, this is what’s going on in social media. This is all of that. It’s a play on the state of the union, right? He’s the most important person, at least to that audience of thousands and thousands of people in all of social media.

So, I thought, “Okay. Well, hold on. Who appointed? Was he elected? Who appointed him the chief social media person for the entire industry?” There’s an important thing we realize that nobody did, in the same way, that nobody appointed Chris Guillebeau, the leader of the World Domination Summit or anything like that. They each appointed themselves, and they said, “I am stepping into that role.” Michael said, “I am going to build this entire community. And because of it, yep. I get to give the state of social media.” Is he the best person ever to be able to do it? Probably not. But he was able to say, “I appoint myself. I am taking this role.” And so, you realize that in building an audience, and a community, all of that, you really just have to appoint yourself and step into that role and claim that level of expertise and that status and people will rally behind you and follow you for it.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, I love that. I remember that very clearly because the conversation we were having is like, “Well, who’s stopping us from being the authority on email marketing?”

Nathan Barry:

Right.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Nathan Barry:

Yep, exactly.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And nobody, we can appoint ourselves. And I think from that we had a really cool project. Talk about the project that was kind of birthed out of that conversation, the state of the blogging world project, which I thought was really fun.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah, that was a great project. Basically what we did is realized, well, two things. One, that blogging or online business at the time really had this, not a negative perception, but like, “Okay, that’s great. I’m glad you’re getting that out of your system. When are you going to start a real job,” tendency to it.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Someday you’ll grow up.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah, exactly. Like, “Okay, that’s good, but do you need a loan because I don’t want you to have to go back to working at Starbucks,” or I don’t know. And so, what we wanted to do was really show there’s tons of creators across a huge range of industries who are earning a great living from their blogs and podcasts and everything else, so we did this big annual report. The idea was that we would make it happen every year. I’d still love to circle back to that. I think it is such a cool thing. I think we got so caught up in running, like surviving growing a startup and all of that, but it got totally carried away, but yeah. It was also the thing of saying instead of waiting for somebody else to do it, we could launch this and say, “Yep, we’re the company that puts out the annual state of the blogging world.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, that was a fun project. So, why is email the best tool for building an audience based business this way? Because there are so many different options now. I could do it on YouTube, TikTok seems to be the flavor of the month right now.

Nathan Barry:

Right.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

People build massive followings on Instagram. Why is email still the best tool for building this process in the way that you’re talking about when I’m seeing people do it in other ways? I’m seeing people with big YouTube channels. I’m seeing people who have gone from zero to 100,000 followers on TikTok in 30 days. And I’m getting ads for those all the time right now actually. But why is email the tool? And I think we’ve talked about this before, but I want to get your perspective on why email is still the most important tool.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, these are all platforms that come and go, and you absolutely should be on them, and you absolutely should be pushing heavily to grow an audience in those places. But if you think of those as waves, right? Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Facebook pages, all of these things, Twitter, they’re all waves that are coming, and they don’t go away, right? If you spend a ton of time building an audience on Facebook like we have some really good friends who have built incredible audiences on Facebook that are serving them really well. But then also at some point, Facebook comes and says, “Hey, why don’t you pay to boost those posts? I know you’re reaching 50% of your followers, now you’re reaching 20%,” until you pay her. It’s very clear that you don’t own that relationship as these things come and go.

And then so that’s why you have email of you have this one place that you own the connection to and you say, “Okay Darrell Vesterfelt, I have your email address. I can send you updates. I can have this much more personal style.” Because email also has a higher quality of content around it. If I’m teaching business or any of these other things, like detailed things, like okay, TikTok’s not the place that I’m going to do that. But I might be able to create some viral version of that and get some exposure there, or YouTube. You can and absolutely should build an incredible audience on YouTube, but then you want to bring that back to your emails as well so that if YouTube ever dies off or something changes you have email. Or even let’s say we do something that’s really common in the YouTube space of we’d build our channel, do a couple hundred thousand subscribers, and then we want to sell merge, right?

I want to be able to put up a video and say, “Hey. Check out this great merch that I have,” and all that. And I want to be able to send an email because then people are in an environment where they’re more likely to buy and be able to have both of those channels. So, I really think of it, email doesn’t have discoverability, right? There’s no way that you’re going to discover my email newsletter unless I’m out there on other channels, right? YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, all of these have discoverability, and so you use those. If it’s a hub and spoke model, those are all of the spokes and then the email is just the hub because you’re going to own that relationship long-term. You can know who bought your course, who didn’t. You can know who your best people are and who aren’t. Whereas on YouTube it’s like I got 100,000 people and somewhere in that 100,000 is my 1,000 true fans and I don’t know who they are, but with email, you know who they are.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Okay. So, you said hub and spoke model. Tell me more about what you mean by that.

Nathan Barry:

Okay. So, there’s so many of these things that are transient, right? They’re these waves that are coming through and if you jump up and surf that wave really well, then you’re going to get great results from it, and I think we’ve seen that with people who have built massive followings on Instagram, or Facebook, or any of these platforms. But as it passes by, there’s not this long-term benefit from it, there’s not this deep connection. And so, what you want to do is take a portion of that and it’s not siphon it off, but it’s allow them to join your community on the next level. Yeah, you can scroll through and you’ll keep seeing my Instagram posts, but if you really enjoy it, join the community on the next level and join the email list. And so, I mean you can have many of these spokes, right?

Pat Flynn always talked about be everywhere. Having this content on YouTube, and Twitter, and Facebook, and on these different platforms, and those are each your spokes, and that’s going to add to the discoverability. And then you can build up those fans and some people might follow you only on YouTube, only on Facebook. Others might cross platforms, but really they can get drawn into that hub which is your email list, and that’s the thing that you always own. If say Twitter dies off or Facebook continues to make it more and more expensive to reach your audience, email is something that you always have and you can always if you don’t like one email tool provider, you can export your list and import it somewhere else. You actually own the relationship, whereas on every other platform you’re just renting the relationship.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

That’s good. I love that. Hub and spoke is a really good metaphor for that because even a website technically is searchable with Google and other search engines. So, the email list really is the hub because it’s the most direct way to communicate to your audience. I liked the phrase that you also said about it’s an environment where they’re more likely to buy from you. So, kind of pivoting here. That environment is something that is a interesting topic of conversation right now and I’m not sure if you’ve seen some of these conversations about data and privacy with email. I’m curious to know your opinion about some people who are taking really strong stances about blocking data tracking and emailing.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Maybe give us a little bit of context of what this conversation is, and I’d love to know your perspective on it. What you think it might mean for people who have used email marketing for their businesses, and for their growth, and for creating that syllable environment, and what implications that might have in the long-term.

Nathan Barry:

Right. So, privacy online is a great conversation that’s been going on for quite a while. You have search engines like DuckDuckGo coming out and competing with Google and taking this other approach that was as Google and Facebook and all these other businesses make all of their money off of extensive tracking. So, I think there’s a really good push against to cut down on tracking and to cut down on all of this. So, more recently the conversation turned to email open tracking. And this was really kicked off a lot by a David Heinemeier Hansson from Basecamp, which when he gets something in his sights, he’s always like, “Okay. This is evil, let’s end it.” And so, he’s really pushing for people to stop tracking email opens because when you, basically the way email open tracking works is a little pixel is added to every email and that’s unique to that email.

So, I can know who opened that email and then roughly where they opened it, and then exactly when they opened it, and how many times they opened the email. And that’s if they don’t have display images turned off in Gmail, so that’s all that it’s doing is loading that pixel. But it transfers a lot of information. If you were going on a, I don’t know, a month-long, two or three Europe and you were subscribed to my email list the whole way along and you’re opening all the emails, as a creator, I could technically have that map of all the places that you jumped through to open emails. And so, it can be an invasion of privacy. So, the argument is that that’s evil. There’s no legitimate purpose for it. It should be eliminated.

And there’s a portion of that that I agree with, right? As content creators on any of these platforms, we can get really caught up in the metrics. And so, I’m falling victim to this today. We had a big email blast go out that’s promoting our free accounts and I in the corner of my eye, have the stats of like how many free accounts did we get today? And I’m watching that, right? And you can fall into this trap of refreshing and caring too much about okay what’s the open rate, what’s the engagement on each thing? And that’s not going to do any good. As a creator, you should get back to creating and check those stats occasionally.

But there is this really useful, very important side of open tracking that I think most people are missing out on and either not understanding or actively choosing to ignore. And that’s the deliverability side of it because you need to use tracking in some way to know who’s engaged on your list. And the reason that matters is as an email center, especially at volume, you need to keep a clean list. So, a lot of people will say, “Oh, I don’t clean off cold subscribers.” People say, “Oh. You have to.” And so, this debate going on, I always see it on Twitter and sometimes I get tagged into it, and I am firmly in the camp of clean your email list and remove the dead weight subscribers. Even though I am, through ConvertKit host 28,000 email lists and if no one cleaned their subscribers, I would be making so much more money.

So, it’s like, “Okay. I am financially incentivized to tell you to not clean your list.” And yet in the other camps always like, “No. You must clean your list.” And the reason why, and this is something that most people don’t understand is spam traps. So, basically the way that a spam trap works is when you get these spam traps on your email list, the provider goes, “Ah. You’re sending to people that you shouldn’t have. You got that email address on there in a way that you shouldn’t have,” and they’re going to start to blacklist you, and mark you down, and move more of your emails to spam. So, you might be thinking, “Okay. That’s not a worry for me. I don’t scrape the web adding email addresses. Everyone on my list is double opt-in. I’ve always run a tight ship, so I would never hit a spam trap.” And that’s actually not true because spam traps exist in two ways.

One is you put out these trap email addresses on the web, and that’s what most people expect where someone’s scraping the web, they find this email address, add it to their list, and they do all that, and that totally happens. But the second way is that the email providers, so Gmail, Yahoo, et cetera, they take all the email addresses, so that Gmail address that you signed up for in college that you haven’t used since then because it was totally unprofessional of the handle on that, the Gmail has commandeered that if you haven’t logged into it for a long time, and it is now a spam trap. And so, if you’ve signed up for an email list years ago, now triggering spam traps and It’s hurting your reputation.

Now, if that owner of that email address ever logs in again, right? They come back, and they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I got to check that out.” Gmail will go, “Oh. Huh. This is an active email address. Just kidding. Here you go.” And they’ll give it back to the provider, and it won’t be a spam trap anymore. So, basically what happens is if you want to protect your email reputation, you have to keep these old email addresses that haven’t opened in years. You need to clean them off your email list. And guess what? In order to do that, you need some kind of tracking. So, you either need to rely entirely on click tracking of telling everybody who wants to stay on your list, please click this link, all of that, or you get to use a combination of open and click tracking, which is what ConvertKit recommends.

And that’s where you do actually, it gets into this gray area of, “Okay. All of a sudden, I went from the camp of there’s never a reason to track. Open tracking is evil,” to, “Oh, okay. I understand how the whole ecosystem requires open tracking,” and all of a sudden there’s a bunch of nuance discussion. So, where ConvertKit falls on it, we’re building up the functionality where you can turn off open tracking for your account if you want to, as a email sender. But then you have to understand the nuance of you got to find a different way to keep your list clean and fresh.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Okay. Really quickly, talk to me about some of the best practices in cleaning your list because I, as you know, you and I argued about this for a long, long time, I was always against cleaning the list and now I am a very large proponent for cleaning the list. So, tell me just some of the basics and best practices of what it means to clean your list.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, the biggest thing is just you only want people who are really engaged and want your content on your list. So, the way to think about it is everyone talks about, okay, how big is your email list? It’s 20,000 people, 50,000 people, whatever. And I would stop paying attention to that number. The number I would pay attention to instead is how many engaged email subscribers do you have? So, just take your open rate times your total list status, so if we have 100,000 people and a 30% open rate, the number that I’m tracking is the 30,000 number. I’ll have 30,000 engaged email subscribers. So, that’s the number that we’re optimizing for, and so we’re trying to write great content that gets people to open, keeps them engaged long-term, all that. But now all of a sudden, I don’t have to take this ego hit when I cut 25,000 out of my total because my engaged subscribers stays the same.

So, as far as best practices, it depends on how strict do you want to be. Basically, what I would do is and what’s built in a ConvertKit, which is [inaudible 00:33:05] anyone who has not opened or collected anything for at least 90 days. And I would drop them off into a sequence that basically says, “Hey. It’s time to break up. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re not contributing anything to this relationship. You’re not even opening a single email I send you.” And I just send two or three emails in a sequence that basically says, “Hey. This is the kind of content we send. If you want to stay on the list, click this link.” And if they open or click any of those emails, then you keep them. If they don’t, then you just delete them off. You can’t automate it. But I prefer to do it every three to six months just manually. It’s pretty easy to queue up and handle, and then you can be deliberate about it rather than automatically deleting people off your list, which any automation that automatically deletes stuff makes me nervous.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah. Totally understand. All right. You mentioned this at the beginning, but I want you to give you a chance to talk about the free account for ConvertKit because I think that’s really exciting. Talk to me about why you created a free account, why landing pages are an important part of that, and then how we can sign up for it.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah, exactly. So, the first thing is that we saw thousands of people coming to ConvertKit every month who were eager to get started earning a living online. And we had the sole sign up survey and asked them, “Are you brand-new to email marketing, or are you just getting started, or are you migrating for another tool?” And tons of people were saying they’re brand-new. And if you went that path and said, “Okay, do you have a website yet? And if so, what platform?” Or, “Do you not have a website?” And tons of people were saying they don’t have a website, so what we found is that there’s this huge group. So, we were getting about 8,000 trials to ConvertKit every month and 5,000 of them were beginners with no website. And so, they’re trying to get into email marketing and you realize that’s actually, they’re on step two. They’re in how do I grow and automate my list?

And it said what they need is a website. They need a landing page. They need a way to get that audience. And so, instead of getting into the wordpress.org, versus .com, versus Squarespace versus whatever debate we built out our landing page platform and said, “You don’t need any of that. Start with a simple landing page.” We built out 40 or so any page templates that they can choose from and then get a site up initially and go from there, so that was the reasoning behind it. And then the reason to make it free is one, we think it’s the best way it could be with Mailchimp of get all these people on for free, building a great landing page, and then growing into the platform. But also, it’s like, “Look. We don’t want to make money from you until you have traction,” because it’s this big bet to say, “I think I can build an audience. I’ve always wanted to try, but do I want to pay $29 a month to try to figure that out?”

And now you don’t have to. You can get started, build landing pages for free, build your email list for free up to 500 subscribers, and then actually we’re seeing a lot of people before they’re having to pay for landing pages, like lead pages and unbalanced Instapage and all these tools and pay for an email provider, and now they’re canceling both and using ConvertKit totally for free. And then once they have traction, and they’re like, “Okay. I got my first couple hundred subscribers, this is working.” Then they upgrade to paid and using some of the automation and going from there.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I love it. So, we’ll put a link in the show notes where you can check out the free version of ConvertKit, set up a landing page, and start sending emails right away, which is super exciting.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Nathan, thanks so much for the wide range in conversation from beginning to advanced email tactics. I always love anytime that we get to chat together and super grateful for the generosity of insight and knowledge that you gave us today. Tell me something you’re excited about. Other than the free ConvertKit account, tell me something you’re excited about or where we can check something out that you’re doing kind of as a final statement here.

Nathan Barry:

Yeah. So, I finally launched my own podcast again and as we record this, we’re right in the middle of quarantine for COVID-19, and basically Barrett, our COO of ConvertKit and I, we’re seeing so many people just caught up totally in fear of what’s going to happen next? Here where I am in Boise, Idaho, they just announced yesterday, “Okay. Essentials only.” Everything is closed. Most other states and cities have announced that days or weeks earlier, but it’s a really uncertain time. And so, we launched this podcast called The Future Belongs to the Creators and it’s a daily show, at least for the next eight weeks or so, and then maybe we’ll find a different format of going to just a couple times a week or something. But it’s live on YouTube, so if you go to youtube.com/convertkit you’ll see a bunch of our past episodes and follow along and get this reminder that these crazy uncertain times to get back to creating it.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Awesome. I love it. It’s a great podcast. I’ve listened to a handful of the episodes so far, and so excited that you guys are doing that because I have long pushed you for and wanting more content from you.

Nathan Barry:

Yes, you have.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And now it’s finally here. So, if you haven’t checked out the podcast, check out the podcast. Nathan, thanks so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it.

Nathan Barry:

Thanks for having me.


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