ConvertKit

Guest Post: How I used ConvertKit to Launch my Online Course to a Small List

December 24, 2015 by

If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I would be supporting my family of four on a single income from money made online, I would have thought you were crazy (or that I was officially a scam artist). Yet here I am, making an honest living from online business, supporting my family, and experiencing a life of freedom I never knew was available to me.

That being said, I’m not a popular blogger or a YouTube celebrity, I don’t have the online impact of Tim Ferris nor do I have an impressive email list like Pat Flynn. I am Brad Hussey, a freelance web developer who grew up in a tiny northern Canadian town (seriously, I’m from the sub-arctic).

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[My hometown. And no, we didn’t ride polar bears to school. We did build igloos though.]

From 0 to 10k in 2 years: How I started building my list

Despite my relative unknownness in the blogosphere, I have amassed a “small but mighty” following in the oversaturated market of coding tutorials. In the past 2 years I’ve been able to rapidly grow my email list from 0 to almost 10,000 subscribers due to the fact that I’m a top instructor at Udemy with a large student following.

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Once I started gaining popularity as an instructor on Udemy, I noticed that my blog had a significant increase in unique visitors, so I began to collect email addresses. The approach I used to convert a large number of my visitors into subscribers was to offer optional final course files — which included final code, design assets, Photoshop files, etc. — as a download in exchange for their email address.

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[ConvertKit helps me snag an average of 30+ subscribers per day]

My Transition from MailChimp to AWeber to ConvertKit

I started building my list with MailChimp, primarily because they offer an attractive free plan. However, I never actually did anything with my list except send out a broadcast when I wrote a new blog post (which was rare). By the time my list grew to over 3,000 people I realized I should probably set up an autoresponder sequence to try and convert my subscribers into paying customers for my online courses. While Mailchimp has the autoresponder feature, I decided to take the leap and pay for AWeber (mainly because Pat Flynn used to use them – he’s a ConvertKit user now) which was a risk for me because I’d never actually made any money from my email list.

However, I was in for an unpleasant surprise when I logged into AWeber for the first time. Plain and simple: The UI was poorly designed. It was like I had time travelled back to 2001. I couldn’t believe I was paying money to use such an outdated UI (I mean the software has a ton of bells & whistles, and works quite well, but the web designer in me could hardly bear using it).

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I’d only been using AWeber for a week or two before I was contacted by Nathan Barry, who reached out to—let’s be honest here—get me to sign up for ConvertKit. I was hesitant at first, because the price seemed more expensive than AWeber (which I realized is not true, because AWeber charges you for duplicate subscribers). Nathan was able to answer all of my questions directly (and because ConvertKit has a sexy UI) I switched from AWeber to ConvertKit on the spot.

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[My first email course has helped me generate up to 30 subscribers per day]

I immediately began creating my first “email course”, Cultivate a Successful Freelance Career, and over the next few months my email list increased to more than 8,000 subscribers, with the help of ConvertKit’s landing pages, forms, and opt-in bonuses. At this point—although my list had grown significantly—I still hadn’t made any money from my email list, mainly because I’d only ever offered a free email course.

Planning the ultimate launch for my new course

Before ConvertKit, this is what my launch strategy looked like for a new course:

  1. Send out a promotion email using Udemy’s built-in email tools
  2. Send a one-off MailChimp broadcast to my email list
  3. Write a blog post and share it on Facebook & Twitter

These launches would result in modest spikes in revenue, but nothing truly significant.

For my newest course, The Ultimate Web Developer Course, I pulled out all the stops and researched everything I could on successful product launches. I took notes and read everything Nathan Barry wrote about how to launch digital products. I re-subscribed to popular bloggers like Ramit Sethi, Bryan Harris, David Siteman Garland & Pat Flynn just to analyze and reverse engineer their autoresponders and dissect how they pitched products & courses. I incorporated all of the tips, tricks and strategies and planned exactly how I wanted to launch my new course using ConvertKit.

How I used ConvertKit to launch my course & maximize enrollments

ConvertKit Broadcasts
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[ConvertKit’s Broadcast feature lets you send one-off emails to your subscribers]

I decided to use the ConvertKit Broadcast feature to send out all of my emails. I could have easily set all of my emails on autopilot by creating an email course, but because this was my first time using ConvertKit, I wanted to have complete control over every aspect of the launch.

The first thing I did was create seven individual broadcasts, and set them to “draft mode” so I could manually send them at the exact times I wanted. The broadcasts were sent over a span of 72 hours, and the email sequence was as follows:

Email #1: An educational email that presented and agitated a problem

In this email I presented the problem of how it’s nearly impossible to find high quality, coding tutorials due to the fact that there are too many to choose from. Additionally, I explained that most coding tutorials are taught by instructors who can’t keep the audience’s attention, which is a huge problem because… well, you try staying awake while somebody mumbles at you about creating PHP and MySQL applications in a blurry screencast!

I then agitated the problem by focusing the attention on paid web development courses— Udemy in particular. There are more than 3,000 web development courses on Udemy alone! How are you supposed to know which one is worth your money? Which instructors are worth your time?

Email #2: A course announcement email (solution to the problem)

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I then presented a solution to these problems by highlighting my new course, which covers everything from design to front & back end development. The course concludes with a career building section that gives the student the tools & resources necessary to start their own web design career.

I outlined the new course in epic detail, complete with an in-depth overview of the curriculum, the skills learned, screenshots of the projects we build, and 8 free lectures to test drive the course.

Email #3: A time-sensitive “open for enrolment” email

At this point, I cut straight to the point and offered my subscribers three separate “Early Access Packages” with a 48 hour time limit. Each access package included early access to the course, and depending on the package purchased, students received private coaching, course extras, and material not offered anywhere else. I used this strategy to incentivize my subscribers to invest in the course at a higher price point.

Email #4, 5 & 6: Three reminder emails

I sent a 24-hour reminder email, complete with answers to frequently asked questions from my students, and links to all of the access packages.

I also sent a 5 hour reminder, and a 1 hour “last call” email, each with additional information about the course, student testimonials, and links to purchase an early access package.

Email #7 & 8: A 24-hour extension + last call email

I received a handful of emails from subscribers who said they missed the “last call” email and really wanted to enroll in an early access package, so I sent out a 24 hour “extension” email with the added bonus of an additional course for free. One hour before the extension expired, I sent out one final “last call” email before I stopped offering the early access packages for good.

ConvertKit Tags

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The “tags” feature in ConvertKit was paramount to the success of my launch sequence, because it allowed me to collect valuable data about my subscribers.

I was able to see who was actively interested in my course by tracking who clicked through to watch the free videos, and who clicked through to the sales page. I used tags to track who purchased an Early Access Package, which allowed me to omit these subscribers from additional launch emails.

ConvertKit Automations

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In order to track who purchased which access package, I sold the three packages via Gumroad and used ConvertKit’s Gumroad integration and built-in automation tools to add a tag to a subscriber who purchased a specific access package on Gumroad.

So at this point in my launch campaign:

  • I’d been manually sending out each broadcast in specific time increments
  • I knew exactly who was interested in my course
  • I had a list of subscribers who purchased a specific access package
  • I was able to omit converted subscribers from the rest of the launch emails
  • I had a segment of “interested subscribers” who didn’t follow through with a purchase, whom I could manually follow up with later

… all things made possible with ConvertKit.

The Launch + Results

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In a matter of 72 hours, I sent out 8 emails to roughly 7,900 subscribers.

On average, 22% of my subscribers opened my emails (my open rate is usually 30%, but because these were relatively “hard selling” emails, the open rate decreased).

15% clicked through to the Gumroad sales page.

Of the 1,216 visits to the sales page, 8.22% of those visits purchased an Early Access Package.

75 total enrollments in the first 48 hours.

25 additional enrollments in the 24 hour extension.

100 total early access enrollments.

While I’d prefer not to share exact revenue figures, let’s just say that the profit generated directly from using ConvertKit to launch my course was enough to pay for my ConvertKit subscription for a couple decades. Talk about Return on Investment!

Final Thoughts

What I would like to make clear is that no software, tool, or service alone is going to hand you a successful product launch. First and foremost, you need to have a relationship with your audience, and you must offer something of massive value to them — preferably something that’s going to solve a major problem. For me, the success of my launch was due largely because I’d built a strong relationship with my audience, I’d discovered the problems they needed solving, and I’d painstakingly validated, planned and developed a massive online course to solve those problems.

That being said, it was because of ConvertKit that I was able to grow my email list from 3,000 to almost 10,000 in less than a year.

It was because of ConvertKit that I was able to cultivate a relationship and provide high quality content to my subscribers with an automated email course.

And it was because of ConvertKit that the effectiveness of my course launch—and the revenue I generated in 72 hours—was dramatically amplified.

By comparison, the course I created prior to The Ultimate Web Developer Course was launched with a single MailChimp email blast, a couple tweets and a Facebook post. I had one shot, with no build up, and no follow up. Because of this, I missed out on a significant number of enrolments and thousands of dollars in potential revenue (whoops)!

Not only has ConvertKit already provided me with an incredible return on my investment, I’ve been incredibly impressed with Nathan and his team. They crank out new features on a monthly basis, their responsive one-on-one customer service is second-to-none, and I truly believe ConvertKit is quietly (and quickly) taking over the #1 spot in Email Marketing software.

It really doesn’t matter if you have a list of 1000 or 100,000 — I believe ConvertKit will help you rapidly grow your audience, expand your reach, and convert your list into paying customers.

To see exactly how I put ConvertKit into action, subscribe to my free email course Cultivate a Successful Freelance Career.

If you’re interested in learning to code, you can sign up for a free Code College account.

Comments

  • http://www.bradhussey.ca/ Brad Hussey

    Thanks for posting my article 🙂

    • http://www.convertkit.com Val Geisler {ConvertKit}

      Absolutely, Brad! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Damon Stoddard

    Hey Brad, thanks for writing this article. I really enjoyed the actual numbers in the article (added a lot of credibility). Question for you: It looks like you manually sent the emails and this set the “timer”. Am I reading it correctly?

    • http://www.convertkit.com Val Geisler {ConvertKit}

      I think that’s right, Damon. Brad mentions using broadcasts instead of the automated Courses so he could have more control over who got what and when. So glad you hopped over to read this today!

    • http://www.bradhussey.ca/ Brad Hussey

      You bet! Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed seeing the actual numbers, too. Val answered your question correctly — I manually created the Broadcasts, and set them to send at specific times.

  • http://www.cultivatedwellbeing.com toni

    this is really interesting. I’m still at a sub-1000 email subscriber list (using the free Mailchimp option right now), and my blogging career is one of three jobs at the moment (one of which includes a start up), but I’m very interested in launching some form of online course in 2016. I’m wondering at what point it’s worth it to pay to use ConvertKit, and how does it compare to the automated option you chose not to use on Mailchimp? I’m still searching for what my online course offering might be, so I suppose I should wait until I have that idea a little more solidified. I’ve been using Leadpages to get more subscribers and that’s been working magic — doubled my list in 2 months (I had/have small numbers, but it’s made a big difference). I’d really like to have a pre-programmed follow-up email sequence, but I suppose I have to pay for that no matter which service I use … just not sure what the next step is. Any advice would be awesome. thanks!

    • http://www.bradhussey.ca/ Brad Hussey

      Hi Toni! Thanks for reading. Regarding price comparisons and why you get a much better bang for your buck with ConvertKit, watch Nathan’s video about the topic here: https://convertkit.com/2014/3-reasons-use-convertkit-instead-mailchimp/

      At what point is it worth it to pay for ConvertKit? Because you seem to be building a list for a purpose, have intentions of creating products and monetizing your blog, I would say you’ve already reached that point.

      Here’s a scenario for you…

      Your email list is 900 strong. In ConvertKit, you’ll set up an email course (or multiple, sent to different segments) to automatically send email to your subscribers (new & old).

      This email course will warm up your subscribers with valuable content, and when it comes time to launch your first product, you’ll have a list of potential customers with whom you’ve been maintaining contact, sending great free content, and making aware of your upcoming product.

      You launch a product for $197 over the timeline of a week, your list converts at the average 1% and 9 people buy your product. You’ve just made $1,773.

      The cost of you using ConvertKit with that list size is $29/month. Even if you invested $29/month for an entire year before launching your first product, you’d still have made a profit 49x over (if we use the scenario above).

      If that’s not enough to convince you, I like to use the cell phone plan analogy to help people justify the cost of ConvertKit:

      You pay a cellphone bill. The cost ranges, but let’s say you’re paying an average $70 / month — is that money going to find it’s way back to you? Are you investing into a service that is going to give you a return? Or are you just paying for the luxury to use your smartphone? Of course, it’s the latter. We are able to easily justify this expense because we value the luxury of our smart phones, but when it comes to investing in a product or service that can grow our business and make us more money, we sweat, worry and put it off!

      Your cell phone won’t make you $1,773.

      I hope that helps ease any worry, or hesitation you may have 🙂

      Hope to see you in the ConvertKit family sometime!

      p.s. ConvertKit integrates with LeadPages (plus a bunch of other great tools, like Teachable, where you can create your first course 🙂

      • Pablo Fernandez

        This is really a great reply @bradhussey:disqus ; it wasn’t intended for me but I wanted to thank you anyway. It really shows that you care.

        Thanks for caring!

    • http://www.convertkit.com Val Geisler {ConvertKit}

      Hey Toni! I think it all depends on how serious you are about the course and blogging. It sounds like you have a few balls in the air and some decisions to make but you do have a big opportunity with that list growth – now’s the time to give them something they want and an email nurture sequence is the best way to set that up.

      You are correct that for any automations, you’re looking at a paid service. That’s where many people find they get more bang for their buck with ConvertKit over MailChimp. For what it’s worth, it’s so much easier to move services before having sequences already in place. Since every email service is so different, it’s nearly impossible to move mid-automation without either having an overlap in services for a month or so while they time out or having people miss emails. Neither is ideal so, in my opinion, it’s easier to move before you begin!

  • http://www.thecommoncents.com/ Joyce M Washington

    hi @bradhussey:disqus,

    Totally understand the use of broadcasts instead of ConvertKit courses for control purposes & timing but I have a question about subsequent launches. When you launch again, are you just going to resend that sequence of emails or will you create an automated course?

    PS – I also loved seeing the hard core numbers. I’m sub-500 (right now) and looking to triple my list too. Thanks for this great guest post @ConvertKit:disqus.

    • http://www.convertkit.com Val Geisler {ConvertKit}

      That’s a great question, Joyce. I’ll let Brad answer what he would do but I would set it to an automated course for the next time around.

      Happy to be sharing Brad’s story with you and looking forward to sharing even more!

    • http://www.bradhussey.ca/ Brad Hussey

      Great question! I’m actually planning a launch right now, and it’s likely I’ll use broadcasts again for the primary launch sequence, but I’ll use automated courses as a follow up for those who purchased. I’m still toying with using courses for an evergreen launch sequence, too.

  • Lukas

    Do the tags allow you to see whether someone actually completed the purchase on the Udemy website, or just “who clicked through to the sales page.” I wonder if you’re removing people who clicked to the sales page but didn’t quite get around to purchasing.

    • http://www.convertkit.com Val Geisler {ConvertKit}

      Depending on how you set it up, Lukas, you can do both. So you can tag people who click through to the sales page and then have a second automation to remove that tag (and maybe add a new one) once they become purchasers. Super targeted marketing!

      • Lukas

        That’s very cool, but I’m confused about how it is technically feasible, since Udemy doesn’t send information back to ConvertKit so I can’t see how ConvertKit can tell whether a person goes through the entire purchase process on Udemy’s website.

        • http://LaTishaStyles.com/ LaTisha Styles

          Because once they purchase (as long as they use the same email address) the tag can be updated using the API integration with the payment processor.
          I just switched last month and I love it!

  • http://maryshaw.net Mary Shaw

    @bradhussey:disqus Thank you very much for this excellent post! I’m also a student in several of your Udemy courses and have learned a tremendous amount from you. The details of your launch sequence are very helpful. I’m wondering, would you use Gumroad again? Did you launch UWD only on Gumroad first and then submit it to Udemy later? I’m working on my first Udemy course and hadn’t considered launching it independently. Per you and Nathan’s book Authority, it sounds like it would be far better to first launch independently and then “sub” out to other platforms after you close your indie packages. Thanks again and thanks @ConvertKit:disqus for posting!

  • Jay Enachi

    It’s a known fact that confidence not only will contribute to your positive self-image but carrying that confidence in your life will create opportunities for you at work, in relationships and with family and friends. http://tinyurl.com/h8pxftd