Andrew Coates is a fitness professional making big strides with his business. His business is doing well, his Instagram following is rapidly growing and he’s ready to make the next big move — one that’s been on his list for awhile: build his email list.
Andrew knows how crucial email is. He shares content regularly and is a wealth of information but knows without an email list he is at the mercy of social media algorithms to make sure his audience sees his messages. Not to mention, he’d love to have a relationship with his followers beyond social media. He knows they don’t see every post, and wants them to get his latest articles, his new podcasts and future promotions.
He also did what most fitness professionals do when they’re ready to work on email: got a free Mailchimp account.
It’s trusted. It’s free. It’s well known. It likely integrates with your website and you don’t need a tech person to set things up.
All great reasons.
But maybe you’re like Andrew and you’re facing a problem out of the gate: It’s confusing and you don’t like using it.
Or, you signed up for it and you’re struggling with another concern I hear all the time: You can’t do some of the things you want to do with your email list, like set up a basic Wait List.
It might be time to break up with Mailchimp and choose another tool.
But, then you’re faced with the dreaded question of which one to switch to and a flurry of overwhelm starts to rush over you.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
There are two important factors to consider:
- Make sure you pick a tool you’ll actually use
- Pick a tool that grows with you
Just like working out. It doesn’t matter what cardio you do. Whether you like Billy Blanks Tae-Bo in your basement or you groove to your mom’s old Jane Fonda VHS tapes — what matters is you get the movement in. And you’ll be more likely to stick with it if you choose something you enjoy doing. If you like your email tool, you’ll be more likely to use it.
Just like working out, to get results from email you’ve got to be consistent. You can’t just show up in your subscriber’s inbox when you want to sell. You can’t send 1 email a month and expect results. You’ve got to put in the reps and send consistent communication.
There is also a learning curve. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to want to quit. You might be two hours deep in YouTube videos and ask yourself if it’s even worth it. It is. It’s the number one channel your audience prefers to buy through when you’re ready to sell.
Choosing the right tool for your needs is key, and which one is right for you depends on your starting point. Check out these three scenarios below and see which best describes you. Then, I’ll tell you exactly which tool you need and why.
Scenario 1: You have a full client roster, but you’re just starting to work on growing your online presence
You plan to start your email list (or start it up again) and use it for engagement. You’ve got ideas for digital products or online training, but you haven’t launched anything yet. You know the power of having an email list so you want to start building it now before you’re ready to sell anything (great decision).
You plan on:
- Communicating to one general audience. You plan to have one main audience and keep things very simple to start.
- Sending a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter to your audience. You don’t need anything automated yet and you want to focus on sending your newsletter for the foreseeable future.
- Setting up your email tool by yourself. You need something that integrates easily with Squarespace, Wix or WordPress and aren’t in a position to hire out the tech setup. Mailchimp offers the most options for integrating with other online tools. It’s been around for a long time, so chances are it works with your online tool kit.
- Creating one Lead Magnet/Freebie. You plan to set up one Lead Magnet and you don’t see a need for two any time soon.
- Having one single opt-in form for your subscribers to sign up. You want one simple form and will everyone sign up through it so it’s easy for you to manage.
Mailchimp will serve you well. You can start free and use the basic plan for up to 2,000 subscribers. This will give you access to set up your opt-in form and send weekly newsletters.
Mailchimp is the easiest email tool to connect with your website because Squarespace and Wix have built in tools you can use.
But, if you think you will eventually have two audiences, or two Lead Magnets, or will want to create a Wait List for a special offer, ConvertKit might be better for you.
Scenario 2: You’re an emerging fit pro with a healthy online following (1k+) and you’re ready to take things to the next level
You’ve had “start email list” on your to-do list forever. You have a strong social media following and/or solid reputation, and you know email is the next step for growing your business. You’ve dabbled in Mailchimp, AWeber or another basic tool, but you’re finding some of the things you want to do aren’t supported and it’s starting to hold you back. Or, you’ve dabbled in Mailchimp but find you don’t like using it. You also need something that doesn’t cost a lot of money as you start to grow your list.
You plan on:
- Communicating to more than one audience, such as your Clients and fellow Fit Pros who follow you. ConvertKit offers easy options to select different people on your audience and send different emails to each group.
- Creating a Wait List for promotions or special offers you run. ConvertKit gives you easy tools to create landing pages for special offers/events, and they look great on mobile. You can embed the landing pages to your website, or you can link people directly to them with a swipe up. This gives you a quick and easy way to get people to sign up for your Wait List (or special offers) and you can easily identify them in ConvertKit.
- Personalizing your communication so you can send the type of content your readers prefer (for example: Do you want to Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?). ConvertKit has a feature that lets you ask people their preferences in an email and when they click on what they want, it marks them so you can follow up by what they select.
- Creating a Welcome Sequence for your new subscribers to add value and stay top of mind. ConvertKit has the easiest content builder without fussy features you won’t use. You can easily add or remove emails without worry about breaking something.
- Connecting your payment processor so you can tell your Customers from your regular subscribers (Prospects). ConvertKit offers a simple way to connect your payment processor without requiring a tech person. You can see all of their built in options here.
ConvertKit is a great option for you. You can start with their free plan (up to 2,000 subscribers just like Mailchimp) to get the foundation pieces set up, and then upgrade to a paid account when you’re ready to turn on automation.
ConvertKit grows with you for the long run, is more user friendly and has easier segmentation capabilities than Mailchimp. It also allows you to use different forms, and embed Landing Pages directly onto your website (you can’t do this with Mailchimp).
ConvertKit also makes it easy to get started and includes a checklist, with help videos for each step.
You also get access to the Help Center chat on the free plan, which you’ll use often.
If you plan to do a Wait List or use multiple signup forms, start with ConvertKit out of the gate.
*Something to note: If you’re planning to send very stylized emails with heavy graphics, you won’t like ConvertKit. It purposely doesn’t offer drag and drop templates and the reason is so your emails read like a human, not a brand.
Scenario 3: Your online business is growing, you’re actively selling multiple products (or brands), you market to different audiences, consistently send emails, you’ve outgrown your current tool and you have someone to do your emails for you.
You plan on:
- Creating sophisticated drip sequences, and being able to trigger follow up emails based on subscriber actions in your emails, your website, and social media, so you can create a highly personalized experience
- Sending promotions based on type, number of purchases, actions taken or time parameters so you can reach people at just the right moment, with the offer or product you know they’ll want the most
- Managing unsubscribes and preferences for different audiences. You have multiple Brands and if someone opts out of Brand A, but still want to get emails for Brand B, you can easily set this up and keep reaching your audience
- Have a tool that gives you a central location for all your customer data so you can keep a master copy in one spot (a CRM tool). This gives your sales team a tool to manage and follow up with Leads, and keep track of their path to purchase.
- Using advanced segmentation in your emails with criteria such as “Has Clicked this Email” + “Saw this Ad on Facebook” + “Has not Purchased this Product” +“Subscribed in the last 6 months”. You need advanced segment options so you can reach qualified subscribers at optimal timing and increase conversion, as well as test different segments.
ActiveCampaign is your one stop shop. It will serve all of your email marketing needs, plus gives you a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for your sales team to manage leads, apply follow ups to customers and mark conversions so they are removed from follow up email campaigns.
However, I would not advise using ActiveCampaign unless you can hire a dedicated person with existing email knowledge and skills. It requires a thoughtful set up, but is easy to use after the initial set up is complete.
If you’re currently using Infusionsoft, Drip or another eCRM tool and are not happy with it, switch to ActiveCampaign. I’ve migrated two clients to it and it’s the best eCRM tool I’ve ever used.
*Something to note: It’s an investment to get started with ($139 for the basic plan) and some of the features like Facebook Audience integration requires you to upgrade to the next level up.
Bottom line: to be successful at email, you need to choose a tool you’ll actually use. Mailchimp may seem like the obvious choice, but I’ve worked with a lot of fitness professionals who struggle with it and end up not sending emails because they find it complicated (it is).
Make sure you consider your future and where you plan to be in 6 months and a year, and the email tool you choose supports your growth.
My favorite tool all around is ConvertKit. I find it to be the easiest tool for beginners and sending Broadcasts (newsletters) is straightforward, which is what you’ll do first. It gives you a checklist when you sign up, with tutorial videos linked for each step, so you can easily go through all the set up without feeling overwhelmed or lost.
And most importantly, it grows with you.