On today’s show I’m talking with Brennan Dunn. Brennan is a longtime friend. He’s been around since the very early days of ConvertKit. He helped me review pull requests from our very first developers.
These days Brennan is an expert in all things email marketing and automation. He’s fantastic at segmenting lists, personalizing content, using Liquid, and other advanced techniques to create a custom experience for subscribers.
We talk about some of the ways you can gradually get into automation. We go over some examples of the advanced things Brennan does with Liquid and snippets to create custom experiences for subscribers. We also talk about how you can earn more money from email with these systems, and much more.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Strategies for tailoring your website to boost engagement & sales
- How to free up more time so you can focus on growing your audience
- Brennan’s tips for creating and sharing the right content for your audience
- How to make your repurposed content feel fresh & relevant
Links & Resources
Brennan Dunn’s Links
- Create & Sell
- Creator Email Template Pack
- Double Your Freelancing
- Brennan’s book: Double Your Freelancing Rate
- Mastering ConvertKit
- Follow Brennan on Twitter
People want to be on a list, and they want to be getting a high signal-to-noise ratio.
If you’ve given them input signals, you can then respond with content that helps them. It’s just a matter of you curating and saying, “Alright, I have three different groups that people fit into. I’ve written a lot of content. How can I curate things in such a way that the PLC serves these groups?”
In this episode I talk to Brennan Dunn. Brennan is a longtime friend. He’s been around since the very early days of ConvertKit. He was helping me review pull requests from our very first developers. We’ve known each other a long time.
We talk about the early days when we started working together, became friends, and all that.
These days Brennan is mostly known as an expert in all things email marketing and automation. He’s fantastic at segmenting your list, personalizing the content, using Liquid, all these advanced things to create this custom experience for each of your subscribers.
In this episode we talk about how to break that down. What are some of the ways you can get into automation more gradually, and then we have some examples of the crazy advanced things that he does with Liquid and snippets, and all this stuff to create a totally custom experience.
It was a really fun episode. We talk about how you can earn more money from email with these systems. I think you’re going to love it. Let’s dive in.
Brennan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Nathan.
So we haven’t actually spoken in a year. You’ve had all kinds of big life changes, and you live on a different continent since the last time we spoke.
Yeah. I’m now in the UK, which has been wild. I moved to the UK, sold a house in the US, bought a house here, got my dog over, had a baby, just a lot of things in the last year that have been keeping me busy.
I didn’t actually internalize it all until I moved here. It’s kind of like being a teenager all over again in the sense that I had no credit score, couldn’t even get a mobile phone account because they’re like, “You don’t have any credit.”
I was able to get a house, amazingly. They used my US income, which apparently was hard to do. I had to relearn how to drive. I had to do the whole driving school thing. It’s been interesting.
So you’re like going in and you’re like, I’m a fully functioning adult. I have a successful career, like I’m internet famous. And they’re like, yeah, we doesn’t matter.
Yeah. Well, you know, funny enough, the only way that, any like the one advantage I had was the driving and the driving examiner here. When I pass my test, it’s first off, it’s a lot harder here than in the US
This has in the U S is like, well, I mean, you can pass it as a 15 year older. So, you know, so
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, here it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty comparatively intense.
But it was funny, the, driving examiner I found out we were just chatting and found out we were both pilots, just start talking about planes and he’s like, all right, like you’re, you’re good. Let’s just drive around for the rest of the time and just talk, talk aviation. so that was, that was pretty
Yeah. So, this much stuff in that, but, did you end up selling your plane because you, you were flying out in Virginia.
Yeah. Yeah. So the problem is, to get it across the ocean, there’s two ways of doing that. You can either take off the wings and stick it on a container ship, which is risky from like a mechanic point of view in that it could get dinged up and all that stuff. Or you can do the, the Arctic crossing.
So like that’s like Canada graph into
Canada, Greenland Iceland, Faroe, islands, Scotland, and then finally here, which I really wanted to do.
I mean, I’ve watching videos of people doing that and they’ve got like you, I mean, you’re wearing like your cold water suit, well flying and
Yeah. Yeah. You need, you, you rent an immersion suit. You, you need to rent like a, a, what do they call them? Like, just like, an external tank kind of for, for fuel. and it’s just like, like you, you need to get a, not a, not a VA or a UHF for a VHF, but an HF high frequency radio.
Because once you’re over, I think it’s from Canada and Greenland.
There’s no air traffic control and you’re just kind of like, you’re halfway there. And in my plane, it’s like, You know, this is the go no-go decision. Is the weather going to hold? Because if we go any further and I can’t land in Greenland, I’m screwed. or do I go back to Canada and hope I can land there and that the weather hasn’t turned.
So it’s just a lot of, like, I think if it in a different life I would have, if I was single, single, and like 15 years younger, I might’ve done it.
Yeah. So so no generally vacation plans in the UK, or you had to pick that up.
Not anytime soon, there’s a glider club that I want to get involved in, that I’ve never actually done gliding before that I’d like to check out. but yeah, I’ve just So much has been going on. I haven’t had a time, had time to do any of that. and the annoying thing would be for me to rent a plane here, I would need to rent a what’s called an N registered plane.
So us register plane, which they do have, but I couldn’t cause I’m, I’m registered with the FAA. That’s how I got my license. So I couldn’t fly at a golf or a G registered plane here without converting it to a, the UK equivalent, which again means like you just can’t fill out a form and have them convert it.
You need to go through the whole like trading thing again.
Yeah, you have to be a big change. Lots of other things to focus on like
Yeah. Life in a new country and everything else. I want to talk about like, I think probably a lot of people as we interact online, don’t realize how long we’ve known each other. Like I went back and I searched my inbox for, you know, just Brennan Dunn.
One, it comes up with like 800 results. So we’ve interacted a lot, you know, or really we talk about each other newsletters and so right. All the replies to newsletters and everything else. but the first email, oh, I just close out of this. Where did I put it? the first email that I sent you, the subject line is my book launch September 4th, 2012.
So I think we went in, interacted
Hacker news, maybe.
I think it was, I think it was hacker news. And I think actually before we emailed, there was a DM stuff on Twitter that I think we, we, yeah. But yeah, I think, I think it was because back then, you and I played the whole, like game-ify hacker news game.
The, the email is, Brennan guidance to your book coming out in a few hours, looking forward to reading it. My book, the Amazon handbook is out as of this morning, would you mind giving it some love on hacker news currently? It’s just below the home page.
That’s all Yeah. It was good back when we can just write these like intense blog posts and then just kind of know how to get it to the top of hacker news and get that, that massive amount of traffic that was worthless, but still a lot of fun to see in Google analytics. yeah,
Hey, read those blog posts and it was really about getting like three to five up votes and or comments, like comments were useful as well, an algorithm, in the first 15 minutes, 20 minutes.
And then he’d have a shot at being on the homepage. And then it was kind of up to like the quality of the headline, the quality of the article to like, do whatever it was going to do from that.
And once you’re kind of at the top, but just kind of self propels
At least for the next 24 hours or so.
Yeah. And I remember the first time I had that, I think it was my article, how I made $19,000 in the app store while learning to code, which predated our conversations a little bit. but that one, I think it was like 30,000 visits in a day. So it was, it was a time now I knew nothing about email lists, like how to turn those people into, into fans, but then you and I talked more, you invited me on my, on your podcast.
And then I invited you to do an interview for, designing web applications. and then I just remember riffing on things cause you had, we’ll talk about it for a second. What were you working on at the time that, back in 2012?
Yeah. Back then it was planned scope.
Yeah. So what, what was plan, scope and, and kind of the arc of it
Yeah. So plan scope was the I guess that was my first SaaS. It was right after. So before planned scope, I was,
Doing the agency thing. So I had a, an 11 person agency in Virginia and frankly just got tired of client work. So, I think so what I did is I actually took, I took Amy Hoy’s class just to show how long she’s been doing this stuff to, 35, 500 back in 2010 or 2011. and it was back then. It was a bit different format wise, but long, long, and short of It was I ended up, she convinced me not to do kind of the the, flashy, web app things that I wanted to do And have me focus in on like something where targeting businesses, something that actually solves a tangible problem they have and so on.
And that led to plan scope, which was a project management tool specific to. well, freelancers and agencies, So it was kind of the tool I wish I would have had my own company. and in doing that that was kind of the, you know, I think all of us know that you put up a marketing site for SaaS and if you have no audience, good luck, anyone to it.
So I started doing the, content marketing thing, I guess. I didn’t really know what it was called back then. I just knew blog. Yeah,
I read blogs. If I write them,
Other people will read them and
That into whatever I’m promoting.
Right. Yeah. So I did that. And then I would do, like, you know, one of the things Amy teaches is the whole watering hole approach where you go in like, go to forums, I’ve read even the name of these random forums that had freelancers way back then.
But I would go and kind of post links to my own articles and them not just as spammy, but like contextually into my replies and that’s that started to work. And then. the by-product of that was, the SaaS never hugely took off, but I started doing info products alongside of it that came with, I guess, the blog, if you will.
So a lot of freelancers started joining who didn’t really care about the software, but they wanted to know my advice on pricing or getting clients or whatever else. So I started to create products for them. I think one of the first ones was that book you referenced, which was a book at the time, double your freelancing rate, which I sold an Ejunkie just to date myself.
And then, and yeah, that, that kind of evolved in a few other products over the years. And then eventually I, sold plan scope and focused on sole plans without the blog and without the email list. So just this. And, turn that into double your freelancing, which, was really, I guess, how I started to really get into this stuff. that was just a kind of, still is, but like a email list of, you know, a good amount of people and then just products and I’ve done conferences, which I know you spoke
Stockholm. And, did you do the U S one
Yeah. It’s spoken to U S one as well, actually. Brad, who’s one of our longest engineers at ConvertKit he and I always talk about the double, your freelancing conference in Virginia, because.
I think we’d met maybe at Amy Hoy’s bacon biz, a little bit before that. And so we, Brad and I knew each other, but on the, like evening cruise that you rented around around the Harvard grad and I talked to bunch and that’s when, like we decided that he was going to come work for ConvertKit and you
Oh, that’s awesome. yeah, He was one of your first hires. he was
Yeah. Like he he’s been with convergent for, just over six years now. So
So we always go back to like, oh yeah, we met on like a dinner cruise. And so all things putting it together at the, you know, at the double, your freelancing conference in Virginia.
So it’s been a wild ride, I mean, and then, double your freelancing again, like I mentioned, it’s still around, but it’s kind of in maintenance mode is probably a good way of putting
And, but it’s still works, in the sense that people still buy stuff and people
Well, that’s where, I mean, you really got into the whole world of automation at that point. Right? Cause I mean, describing it as in maintenance mode is kind of like, downplays what it actually is. It’s like this, pretty, I don’t know. I’m trying to think of what the word is like sophisticated set of automations and content. Right. That’s been built over time.
Yeah. yeah. I mean, there’s good amount of like automatic pitching and, automatic onboarding and all that good stuff that’s happening. that, yeah, I mean, it could be frankly, there’s stuff I could do to make it even more effective, but
They’re always at
I’m yeah, it’s just one of those things like
Well let’s, maybe let’s finish the arc and then I want to dive into some of those things like the evergreen newsletters and, And all of that. So from double your freelancing, you, that like got you totally immersed in the world of, personalization automation, how to do, things with email.
Like I think of you as like one of the foremost experts in the world of, personalization and all of that, just taking, I mean, you ended up with a deep marketing background and a deep code background. You’re like, great. Let me combine these two, and build systems for it.
And then you got into, starting right.Message to kind of make some of those things easier. let’s talk about that for a second. What? Well, so actually, right. Message was born out of your drip scripts.
So yeah, it, first version was. Straight up website personalization with the idea of like, you’ve got data and say drip or ConvertKit or wherever of like, Hey, this person’s a customer they’re in this industry, whatever else. And therefore I’m going to change the headline on our home page or I’m going to change this round or whatever else.
And that was the first version, which is kind of how we started. And then we quickly started to realize that there was a big segmentation deficiency that cause you can’t do like personalization requires segmentation data behind the scenes. So you can’t say like show this case study if you don’t know what industry somebody’s setting.
So we then started doing, initially it was called right ask, but it was kind of like a TA, add on if you will, to write message that would let you do like unobtrusive surveys on your website, that way. You know, you say, oh, I’m in finance. And then it just syncs up to ConvertKit and stores that data on their contact record.
And that’s slowly where we’ve been going ever since is we, we started to realize that the website personalization stuff while really interesting and fun is really hard strategically to get people to execute on because it requires like right now we need to come up with 10 different headline variations instead of one different headline, one headline.
And you know, there’s a lot of offering strategy that really requires more than just, I’m starting to think that that’s more of like a kind of bounce exchange model where you need to have, or whatever they’re called nowadays of, like strategy, but also software. Right? So we’re, we’re shifting away toward that to be more of a straight up lead gen slash segmentation platform.
And that’s what we’ve been kind of doing ever since.
So for someone who doesn’t know, like the type of personalization that you would use, I think that what type of freelancer you are like you would always use in, for w freelancing, like maybe talk through that, both how you’d ask the question
How you’d use that data, you know, down the road.
Right. Well, sure. The big light bulb moment. So when I first double your freelancing rate, which is that book, I taught that Ejunkie book way back when turned into an online course, because what’s an easy way to add another figure to the price point, call it a course. so made it a course, you know, put together the sales page. And one thing that came from, I think that early hacker news. Thing that you and I share was that most of the early testimonials were all developers or designer types. So, you know, there’s definitely like a bias toward that. That’s, that’s what I was too. So you, you read the sales page, you look at all the case studies and testimonials, and they’re pretty much all developers and designers.
I got an email once from a copywriter who wrote in and said, I’ve heard good things about your course, but I’m looking at the sales page, and it looks like it’s targeting developers and designers. I’m a copywriter Can this help me? And I, I started, you know, not not immediately, but over time I started to think how many other people thought that, but didn’t write it right.
Probably a lot. I mean, this happens all the time because people want the thing seemingly made just for them. So what I started thinking was well, okay. a web page is a webpage and whether it’s dynamically generated or state. You know, who cares. if I can know that this person was a copywriter in advance and then make it.
So when she gets to the sales page, I just swap out little bits and pieces of content to make it more copywriter ish, because the fact of the matter is the course is about, you know, it’s not technical in any way. It’s, it’s, it’s just how to think about pricing freelance work. so the bias was probably really helping developers and designers, but it was, you know, cutting off a whole big audience, potential customers.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I just thought, well, what if I could somehow capture what they are and then just spit it back out at them when they’re on the sales page, through, you know, show testimonials from other copywriters, show testimonials from other designers and kind of make it seem like. You know, like you don’t want to be too heavy, like, Hey designer, comma, buy this thing, but you could do like softer, you could do more nuanced stuff.
Right. So that’s really frankly, where it all started is experimenting with a lot of custom code with that stuff. And then thinking, well, this, you know, this is a viable thing that I think makes a lot of sense for people and they don’t want to deal with getting developers to implement this stuff. So, yeah.
And that’s yeah. So that’s where it all started.
Yeah. And so an example, I think the best example of that on a sales page is you’re swapping out two things. And I think it’s really important. Like most people think of personalization and I think of like, Hey. First name, you know, or whatever. And so they’re like, okay, I’m going to ask you what type of freelance you are, designer, developer, copywriter, et cetera.
And now I’m going to print that into the page of like, exactly talking about like, Hey designer, or since you’re a designer, you know, and it’s like Madlibs style filling in and you can do that. But the better thing to do is to say, like, in this testimonial block, I have four testimonials and I’m going to pick the ones that’s most appropriate where someone’s like, you know, as a copywriter, this course helped me do X, Y, and Z.
Right. And you know, or then here’s a
One from a designer and you’re just picking which one to go in there
Yeah. That could be the future testimony. You can still have other
One could be somebody like them. Yeah.
Yeah. And actually that’s a great point. Right? You might have say if that block has four testimonials, then you’re just picking which one goes in the big block versus the smaller, you know, it’s purely a design aesthetic, change. the contents is. And then another thing that you and I have both nerded out forever about sales pages, you know, and have had a lot of help from Amy Hoyt and others who are really good copywriters.
And one thing that we’ve always done is, like make an assertion in your page. Like, it was like, if you were saying, this is really great to help, designers increase their freelancing rate, right. Then we would follow it up with a testimonial that says basically the same thing in a totally different way.
Right? So we’re like, here’s the, thing that will help you. And then the testimony is like, wow, this really helped me do exactly that thing. And so you’re with the personalization, you’re able to tie these things together, in a way that someone’s like, oh, I see myself in this page, this product was made for me.
Exactly. And I think, I think a lot of us, especially those of us who have done stuff with paid ads, we’ve always been told, like, you need to match the ad creative with landing page, right? Like you need to make it so that they click the, this ad, the landing page headline should probably just reiterate that ad.
Right. and then that’s kind of what, what we’re getting at here, which is like, one of the ways I’m using this with double your freelancing at the moment is when people join the email horse that leads to the sales page. Eventually I ask people point blank. Why are you joining? Why did you just opt into this course?
Is it because you want to figure out how to price in general or you want to, you’re doing okay, but you want to start pricing on value or maybe you’re sending proposals and they’re all getting shot down. So I’ve, I’ve kind of come up with three different reasons that people generally have that originally came from a lot of open-ended reply.
And tell me why you joined. Specific three different groups. So people answer that. I get about an 80% completion rate of that. so 80% of people basically joining the email course tells me that this is great. And then about two weeks later, they’re going to get pitched on the paid course and the headline on the sales page and the way the offer is described, surprise prize is dialed in to that pain point because if the email course, the problem that led them to join, the email course is going to mirror the problem.
That’s going to lead them to buy the paid course that relates to it. So that’s all that’s happening. And it’s just a lot of, if you think about it, if Ben condition stuff, like if they said this, say that, you know, and that’s really just what’s going on with that.
Yeah. So in that case there’s two main, segmentation things happening, right. What type of freelancer are you in? What’s the biggest pain point that your.
Exactly. So I boil it down to the who and the why? Like, who are you? So I can show you case studies and testimonials and maybe even language phone to go that far, that reflects who you are and your worldview. And then why are you here right now? That can allow me to either give you a specific product if I have a portfolio, or if I want to give everyone the same product, I can describe it in such a way that aligns with what they need help with.
Yup. I love that. when I guess another important point to make is this personalization or the, yeah, the segmentation is not happening on the sales page, right. That’s information that you’re collecting much earlier. Cause did you come to the sales page and it’s like, what type are you in the answer that, and I mean, that might be
Washes or something.
Interaction right at the beginning, but like it’s not, it’s not as good.
What you’re doing is using a free email course, you know, to say, Hey, sign up for this. I’m going to give you all this information for free. That’s your, your lead magnet. as part of that, you’re collecting information either upfront on the signup page, with Right Message. It makes it really easy to collect information like immediately after they sign up, or over time, you know, in the email,
Like link triggers or whatever else to email. Yeah.
And So with that, then you’re building the profile over time. and
When it comes time and it go up right, the right time might just be two weeks later. but when it comes time to some sales page.
We’re just whatever, I mean, the way it works out is, and not to get too technical, but with what we’re doing at Right Messages, we basically have created a link between like, in this case, ConvertKit with my, my site. So, what happens is somebody on the sales page and we’re basically acquiring ConvertKit and saying, Hey, what do we know about this person?
Oh, they’re segmented this way. So if that’s true, since they’re segmented as a. Struggling with proposals. We’re going to change the H one or the heading on that page to be the proposal, text or
Pretty much all that’s happening there, but yeah, we’re, we’re collecting all this interference.
Yeah, I like it. Well, it’s talking about the evergreen, newsletters that you put together, right? Cause people have this idea of getting on a constant treadmill. Right. Of okay. Every Tuesday I’m putting out a newsletter.
Here we go. And I’m supposed to write something epic. Right? It should be just fantastic. The best thing you’ve read on the internet about this topic.
No problem. Just do it every
Forever. You know, what’s your approach and how did you, how do You approach that and make it evergreen?
I mean, I think that’s fine when you’re starting out because you have nothing to make evergreen, but I think over time you start to realize like you definitely, we all have best hits. And my thinking is that when somebody just joins your email list, they’re kind of really eager to see like, am I, is this, is this good for me?
Like, do I really like what this person has to say? So rather than throwing somebody headfirst into whatever you happen to be sending that week, I really liked the idea of saying, well, look, I’ve been writing consistently for a year. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to, I’m going to repurpose that content and say, these articles got a lot of really great response and put them first. and then, you know, kind of prioritize things that way so that there’s two ways of looking at this. I think the first is that you could say everyone. Yeah, an automated evergreen newsletter, if they’re eligible for it. Meaning if you have a 52 week evergreen newsletter and they’ve been on your list 53 weeks, they’re not going to get it any longer because you don’t have anything for them.
So they they’re, if they’re eligible, they get that. And then also if you’re sending a live newsletter that week, they also get that. So then essentially somebody who is within that window of kind of being new, they’re getting maybe hearing from you twice a week. One of them happens to be live. The other happens to be canned, but from their perspective, as long as the information that they’re getting is eyeopening and valuable.
They don’t care if you wrote it that morning, or if you wrote it a year ago, as long as it’s benefiting them. so yeah, I’m, I’m very much of the opinion. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s what allowed me to focus on right. Message and kind of ignore double your freelancing because I had a 52 week long evergreen sequence.
So if somebody joins the email list from a Google search, I have no idea that I’ve, you know, this isn’t content that changes frequently. I mean, if I was writing about like the news or, you know, what’s happening in Ukraine or something like that, that wouldn’t work as an evergreen newsletter, but for this kind of stuff for most, like, if you’re helping somebody like with, you know, marketing or freelancing or whatever else, I mean, the stuff can be refreshed, but it doesn’t need to be something that is, that matters if it was written that morning or not.
Yeah. So having you wear your best content, I guess another thing is you can tweak this over time, right? So your newsletter is in this order. And then you’re like, Ooh, this one that I wrote is really good. Let me go put that here.
And the other thing is you can write these as you go. So say you had four or five emails in there and then people are our buddy, right?
Like you’ve got this group that arrived at the end, you know, and you put the fifth email
They get it the 60 amount and then they get it. But then someone signs up six months later. Right. And they’re on their own timeline, working through it at a completely different pace.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I was just gonna say that’s the beauty of it is you can, you can, yeah, like you said, you can, you can add to it in real time and everyone who’s, who’s lingering at the end of that automate that sequence is going to get that, that email you push to the end. but you know, the guy who joins a year from now is just going to get it naturally a week later or whatever your interval is, and it just works out well. You could also do one other thing that, that, I really, enjoyed doing with this stuff too, is when you get segmentation data up front, like if they say they’re struggling with X. you could have feeder evergreen newsletter sequences that are dialed into X for the first, say month or two, and then dump everyone into kind of a general trip if you will.
And one benefit of that is, you know, if they say, Hey, I’m struggling with X and then your weekly emails
Seem to really, really help me with X. I mean, like, it’s incredible just how, how that works. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s better for, I think user experience, right? Like that’s what people want and they want to be on a list and they want to be getting a high signal-to-noise ratio.
And if you’ve given them inputs signals, you can then respond in kind with content that helps them with that. And, and that’s just a matter of you curating. All right. I’ve, you know, I have three different groups that people fit into. I’ve written a lot of content. How can I, you know, curate things in such a way that a PLC should these groups.
Yeah. The other thing that I like about it is it lets me reference my earlier content. Right? So there’s a couple articles that I’ve written that are sort of the flagship pieces. And I don’t want to, you know, in email 57, you know, or newsletter 57, right. I don’t want to rehash that so that you understand it well enough, right?
Because it’s buried in my archives. You’ve probably never read it. I want to just be able to say in my ladders wealth creation article, and I want to be able to trust that you’ve read that. ‘cause you, you know, in my evergreen sequence, it’s like email number four, you know, it’s email like those things.
So now I know everyone who signs up is at least who knows if they’re reading it right. But they’re there at least I’m getting that sent to them and then I can reference back to it. And it’s like, Hey, to understand my work and the things that, I value in what I’m teaching. Like these five pieces are foundational. And now I know that everyone has done that because I remember, like when I first discovered Chris Guillebeau’s content, I went and read, I don’t know when this was 2011, probably I wouldn’t read his entire website, you know, from like the previous four years.
Most people don’t do that.
Not a normal experience.
And so this lets you go, okay, but here’s the five most important things.
Exactly. And to be honest, if they happen to read, say syndicate all your content to your site, if they haven’t to read that before opting in or even after, and you happen to email to them a few weeks later, first question is, will they remember? Which is always something that I think we put a little too much. I don’t know, a diplomatic way of putting this.
Yeah. Talking to people, actually caring about what we’re up to as much as we are, and as much as we hear about it, you know? so first off, well they remember, and secondly, even if they do remember reading this in the past, now, maybe having read other stuff of yours, kind of being a bit more immersed into your world, it’s going to be, it’s going to be a little more impactful to read it maybe again.
So yeah, I think that’s, I really, really don’t think you need to be on this hook for coming up with original content every single week. And if you do great, like some people might get two emails that week from you and there’s no harm if they’re both really good emails,
Yeah. That’s the thing that I do where I send a live email. so a broadcast in ConvertKit every Tuesday, except for the Tuesdays that I miss, because various things I tried, and then my evergreen sequence, which is only maybe 12 emails long or something, he goes out every Thursday. And so then, yeah, there’s no day that you’re going to get both of them.
And then the Thursday one eventually drops off, you know?
And I go in and add other stuff. if someone was just getting started and maybe the answer is an evergreen sequence, but they’re talking about like automation, personalization, all that stuff. What’s sort of the gateway drug that you would give them to be like, okay, here’s this crazy complex world.
And we haven’t gotten into the, intensity that you can do it all with, but where you’re like trying to just get them in.a little bit of like, Hey, try this one thing and you’ll start to see some value without having to go off the deep.
Yeah. So I think what I would do, so I used to be a big advocate of doing, print segmentation. So that would be like, like a survey or something that leads to an opt form. Thinking that well, even though you’re going to get fewer people, seeing the opt-in form, the people who do see it are going to be more likely to opt in. So on and so forth. Fortunately, I’ve been doing this awhile that I’ve realized numerically that doesn’t always work that well. So what I prefer to now is using the confirmation page or the thank you page, which is generally a go check your email page and that’s it to embed a, effectively a survey on it that is very simple and says, look, I want to make sure you get exactly what you need being now that you’re on my email list, I’d love to know a bit about like, what, what do you need from me right now?
What’s most important a bit about like, so what I ask on Create and Sell is stuff like, why are you. Is it because you want to build your audience. Are you looking to turn more subscribers into customers? You know, whatever. I also ask them things like what email platform use VR kit, nothing, this, that, whatever.
And then I ask them to kind of self-assess their abilities with said platform and all that data then gets sent up to convert it. So what ends up happening is my onboarding emails are delayed five minutes to give time for that data to come through. And then I just kind of drop bits and pieces of that to show people that I’m listening and the onboarding emails.
So, you know, it’s as simple as just saying like, Hey, I know you’re looking to build a list, your list faster, and you’re using it for our kids. So I just want to show you, I’m going to, like, what I’m going to be doing is every single week you’re going to get high quality content for me. That’s going to help you do exactly that.
And it’s one of those things where. Experience-wise, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who said, like, I know that’s automated. I know you’re just kind of parroting back what I’ve told you but it’s good to know you’re listening. and I’m not just being treated as, like a one size fits all message type thing.
So I think the simplest thing, which is typically most effective would be the first few emails that you send out are critical of these onboarding emails. And if you can find a way to, you know, just, just rehash and, and you can do this with like say you have four different lead magnets, and one of them is targeting a certain need and another targets, a different need.
And they all funnel maybe into the same. You say, you give them the file or the PDF, and then they all funnel into the same onboarding flow. Maybe even just use that as indicators like, well, if they join this one, maybe I can mention something about what that lead magnets helping with or something. And.
Drop that a few times into the onboarding sequence. So I think like that’s usually what I recommend people do is just think, how can I welcome roll out the welcome mat and give them a more individual experience based off of what I know about them so far.
Yeah. And you know, we’re talking about people knowing that like how this works or that like, oh, I understand how using the segmentation and that you’re using data. I just gave you. But that’s because you and I are both in a market where we’re talking to newsletter, creators and marketers and others who get this right.
If you have your, if your newsletter is about food, right. Or fitness or something else, they have no idea. Like your audience is going to be like, I see what you’re doing. They’re going to be like,
This is great. This content, it feels like it’s written just for me, you know, no one is going to be like, oh, you put me inside of a switch statement and I’ve dropped down into this spot. Like the broader.
I mean, I’m sure you get these emails too, where it’s like, you know, Nathan, the email you sent me today was so good. I’m like, thank you so much for writing that.
Today, which emails did you get today?
I had that with, blowing up my Twitter, DMS, and you know exactly that it was like, they were disagreeing with the article that I wrote today. And I had published an article that day, like life, like actually on my blog. And so I was like,
What was controversial about it?
I know I’m not seeing the connection. And then I realized, oh, you’re on Everett. Yep. Yeah. The article that I wrote months ago got.
Yeah, exactly. And that’s, I mean, granted, there, there CD things you can do that, that kind of are, make that even worse. Like the, you know, we’ve talked about this as set for my iPhone trick that some people do and like the fake reply, Hey Nathan, I saw you didn’t reply to this email. I want to make sure you got it.
Like that kind of stuff. I’m not advocating at all ever doing that, but, even we’re relatively simplest thing, things like what we’re talking about, automated newsletters. yeah, I mean, I can, people don’t care in it and it allows you. I think you do this right. If you, if you set up like an automated or evergreen newsletter, you can focus your efforts on, acquisition going out and getting more people on your list or R and D and building out new products and services rather than the game.
Crap. I need to go and log into. This week and bang out a new article and to keep the list warm and you know, all the usual stuff that, that we, we do. yeah, I just, I, I find it really freeing once you’ve once you had that kind of system in place.
Well on that note, it is really framed because you can put time into creating new content. Cause everything you create keeps working for you rather than just being this one-off thing. you’re sent from my iPhone comment. if everyone didn’t quite pick up on that, what it’s talking about is what you’re talking about Brennan is, people will often switch up the format of their auto responders, right?
So if you have like a nicely designed email, it’s got a template and all of that, right. Email one, two and three, this often happens like a lot of SaaS companies do this honestly is like, here’s how to get the most of it, right. A hundred percent onboarded or, automated looking, emails, all that. We all get it, understand it.
And then that third or fourth email is like totally personalized, super short, probably has no capitalization in the subject line. And it’s just like, Hey, Brennan’s how you signed up. Love it. Any quick feedback for me? Or like, you know, like sign Nathan, you know, and. Yeah. And then it’s got like sent from my iPhone and then, you know, so there’s a version of it.
I personally liked the, switching from the template, like the email template, the design one into the plan text, and then making it casual and then
It to far side would be like adding, you know, re colon, like, you know, whatever, and then stuff in my head where it’s like, okay, now you’re just lying to me. Whereas
Like, you’re just breaking up the format, you know, to optimize for replies.
I saw a great one the other day. I’m not going to name names, but it was like a, it was one of those re subject ones. Right. And it was like, Hey Brennan, got this forwarded from my assistant realized we never, you know, never heard back from you. And then the like fake reply, the bottom was, it looks like Brennan has not read this article that we sent him last week or something doesn’t work that way.
I wasn’t born yesterday. yeah. And you S you see stuff like that, right. Where someone has made a, it has an image generation tool, like banner bearer or something like that, where they’re using it to take your website and put it onto their laptops. So that it’s like trying to pretend that you personalize.
There’s so much stuff that you can do. But one other thing that I picked up from you years ago is just that email. the ask for replies, and this is especially valuable in the early days, they just said, Hey, what’s your biggest frustration with learning design learning for like, whatever the topic that you write about is because then you just have this thing in your automation where I don’t know, say 30%, 40% of people who sign up are replying and giving you their biggest frustrates.
So that you can know what to write about because in the early days, you’re just like, what do I even write about? Like, I don’t, I don’t know. Then you get this email that pops up in your inbox and was like, oh, this was really helpful. You know, my biggest frustration is learning how to do back. And you’re like, oh, I guess I’ll write about that today.
Like, that’s easy, know, I can be like, dear John, here’s how to do X. And then I can like tweak it into a, you know, an article and add to it. So I think that’s a great automation to add.
So two things I’m doing that I really like that have been working well so far. one of them is that right after somebody joins my list, even though I have a segment data, I push them to a form that says if I were to dedicate next week’s newsletter to you, what would you want me to write about in that, in that newsletter?
The uptake rate is huge and I just have it falling into an air table. Dip into that from time to time and think like, oh, this, this would be fun to write about. And You get the benefit of being able to say, you know, Nathan wrote it and said copy and paste. and then it just makes writing it a lot easier.
It shows people that there are others like them who are reading your stuff. so doing that is a really like that plus, well, that’s just the version of what you what you just described. And then you can also do something like a month after somebody joins, this would be an automation. You could say, Hey, you’ve been getting my stuff for about a month.
Now. I’d love to know like, are you getting what you said? And this is where you can throw back what they told you they joined for. but, but even without that, you can just say like, are you getting what you hoped to be getting, you know, from my emails, you know, I’d love to know just like reply and share with the like, Yay.
Nay, like what should I be doing differently? And you can just build these automated feedback loops that, like you said, just on autopilot, bringing great data that helps you course correct. And helps you figure out what I should be focusing on and so on and so forth.
Yeah, I love it. Like I think when people think of automation, they think of these flywheels that you’re building a tied to revenue Write of. Okay, now I don’t have to launch my course every six months. So remember to link to it in this newsletter, I can just build this out and it’s linking to it and I have regular sales coming in.
But I think the flywheels that are built around content and feedback loops are, are just as valuable because then you could
In there. Let’s say you really enjoy making new products. You could have one in those saying like, Hey, this is quite a ways down the funnel, you know, Hey, I see that you bought X, Y, and Z. What else would you like to see me make as a paid
And you’ll see these come through and you’re like, oh no, I don’t want to make that. Nope. Oh, that is actually a good idea. I might, I might make that. sometime. Or if you see five people ask for the same thing, you’re like, all right, maybe I should validate that and go down that path.
What’s that whole thing of like life cycles, right? Where if I, if I just joined your list today, and then tomorrow I get a broadcast email that was sent from you. That’s like, what should I be writing about differently that I’ve than what I, I’m not ready for that email. Right. but you know, the life cycle thing, the story I like to tell about this is way back when I did my, agency stuff.
We had a client who was a real estate firm locally who wanted us to build a very simple app that would say, whenever they closed on a house, they go and plug in the person’s name, like Nathan Berry plugging the date of closure. And then we would just generate an ICL calendar feed for them. That they’d load it into their phone and would say like two weeks later, call Nathan and say, Hey, have you met the neighbors yet?
What are they like, blah, blah, blah, four weeks later, has anything broken? Like, are you settling nicely to the house one year later? Happy anniversary because they know referrals are such a big thing. Right. But w which is makes sense for them, but we can be doing this to say, yeah, somebody buys from us, let’s hit them up two weeks later and say like, what have you implemented so far?
And use us to like, maybe generate early case studies or testimonials or whatever else. you can kind of capture kind of work in progress. Things like when they buy, ask them to reply and share what it is, why did they buy? Like, what do they need this to do for them? And then like a month in, or however long it takes them to kind of apply what your, what your, what you sold them, asked him, like, Hey, even if it’s still a work in progress, like what kind of, what, what, from what you’ve learned so far has, has, have you started applying. and benefiting from it potentially. And you could just use this to like, I mean, it’s such a great way. automation. is such a powerful tool for generating testimonials, generating, article ideas, product ideas, and just getting a pulse in a really nice way that, you know, do this right. You’re going to get feedback coming in daily from like all these various, streams where, you know, people are replying and this and that.
And yeah, it’s just, I think it’s a really underutilized way to, to leverage automation.
Yeah. So we talked a lot about like, you know, relatively simple automation. So you can layer these on each other. Maybe if we’re going the other way, what’s the thing that’s more complex or they’re really complex or more complex that you feel like the got you really excited where you’re putting something together and you’re like, okay, this is advanced or expert level.
As far as the complexity, they set it up, but it’s so freaking cool that I can do this thing.
Okay. I just wrote it out last week so I can share with that. But I mean, with that, so I’m using spark loop, which I know we all know about, which is newsletter referral program. And typically speaking, most of the ways of using it is like you, you refer three people, you get X, you for 10, you get Y or something like that,
Stickers a free
Yeah, exactly. So I built a model where every referral generates $5 in store credit for my S my stuff. And I’m storing all that data in ConvertKit as custom field data. So I’m using ConvertKit as a bank ledger, where it’s tracking available. Yeah, it’s tracking total, total credit generated less credit spent, equals out to available credit.
Right? So what it’s doing is every time a referral happens, that’s, data’s getting sinked into ConvertKit. And so I can go in and see like how much credit different people have. but on top of that, what’s happening is so I mentioned that the newsletters that I send out, right. my, my business with great and sell is basically sent out a weekly or twice weekly newsletter.
And I want to have a recommended product since I have a few different products now and offer a recommended product. That’s based off of what I think you should buy based off of what I know about you. So segmentation along with, or interest segment data, along with what you’ve done so far, like what have you bought and haven’t bought, so what’s happening is it’s crunching a randomized.
And there’s a bunch of variations to the call to actions for each of these different things. So if like Nathan gets email and it says you should buy a mastering ConvertKit, there might be five or six different things I have loaded in that gets cycled through to promote master ConvertKit with every email you get.
But it’s also layering on top of your credit. So if you have $2,000 course, so let’s say you have $200 in credit cause you referred 40 people or whatever that would be. it would say mastering ConvertKit, 1000 strike out 800 save 20%. and then you click on it. You go to the site, a little thing pops up saying, do you want to apply your $200 credit you click?
Yes. And then it’s like a custom coupon that gets magically applied. So it took a lot of work to make that happen, but I’m starting. I mean, it’s only been, it’s been less than a week, but, it’s definitely starting to work, both from a referral basis, like people wanting credit and also, People buying and seeing, oh, I’ve, I’ve already got some money in my account. might as well apply it to, to one of his things
That by giving them $20 off, cause they revert referred for people. They might be more likely to buy because
A sunk cost, but it’s a, I don’t know what the psycho psychology term would be, but they already have some skin in the game. Right, right.
Have it in. Yeah. Yeah. And who doesn’t want to pass a deal and I’m already thinking, I dunno if I’m going to go this way of having to case, so yeah. You get $5. So when you refer somebody, but if you don’t use that $5 in a month or two, it goes away. so like, yeah. I don’t know if I’ll go that far, but I think what I really like about this is I can just go out and send out my newsletters and just do kind of a one size fits all.
Like I want to write about this this week.
And then I know that a recommended, personalized offer. With potentially credit applied based off of their activity and there’s copy under it about how they can get more credit. that’s being shown. So I just write the thing and the call to action is dynamic based off of them and their unique attributes.
Right. Okay. So something, that we haven’t talked about yet specifically is Liquid and how Liquid
Key to making this all happen. What’s an example of something that is a hard question, right? Cause you do everything in the emails With, Liquid. So maybe, maybe explain quickly what, what Liquid is and then some of those examples of what you use it for in an email.
Okay. So Liquid is a, a, templating language built by Shopify, which funny enough way back when back in 2008, I was using it for the CMS, for an agency I was working for at the time because every agency built a CMS. I was using it. With, with Ruby way back when, but basically long and short of it, is Liquid is a, it’s a relatively sophisticated with quite a few drawbacks, but it’s a, it’s a way for you to, at its most basic level spit data out from like a custom field or something, or conditionally show content based off of say a tag.
But you can go a bit further because you can do mathematical things w with Liquid, you can do, you can transform things. You can say, like, you know, take the first name, reverse it, make it all caps, spit it back out. so you can do kind of like Cody type things. but yeah, I mean done, right? You can, you can calculate whatever you can draw percentage bar graphs, because you can say, well, if you know, 10 emails total, and they’ve done three while we’re going to calculate that and realize that’s 30% and we’re going to have a bar graph and make it 30% wide.
And that can all be done, with Liquid. So yeah, I mean, ConvertKit, processes, all your emails with, with Liquid. So, it’s a cool templating language. and I’m glad it supported.
One, I mean, there’s, there’s a bunch of interesting things that you can do with it. You know, one, one thing is, if you were doing a, a course that like automatically opens and closes or sorry, a product launch. Right. And so it’s time just to you instead of it being like from February 1st to February 15th, every year, right?
It’s time just to where you are in the sequence. It’s, it’s like going from week 27 to week 30 in our evergreen sequence with Liquid, you can do things like, figure out what that date is that the car is going to close, and then say, Hey, then you can cast it over and figure out what day of the week that is.
It’s a, Hey, this is closing
And you, print an absolute date into an email that was sent relative to when,
It and all kinds of other things.
Yeah. I mean, you can do care on the date stuff. One thing I’m doing with double your freelancing is when you first joined the list, the first email says like, I it’s heavily personalized with a lot of Liquid, but then at the bottom of it, I say, if you’re committed to doing this email course and what I teach in it And want to commit to me that you, you want to make a change, you want to increase X or whatever else, click this link.
That’s a link trigger. And when that link triggers clicked, it sets a timestamp of the time and date of when that link was clicked so that when I go to pay. About a week and a half later, it’ll spit out. It’ll say, Hey, so on the 14th of February at 4 27, you told them I actually don’t put the time, but I say the 14th February you told me that you were committed to solving X once and for all, no more excuses, no more, whatever. And now I want to show you exactly how you can do.
That. So little things like that, where we’re basically using Liquid to say, getting a date, and we’re going to transform it in such a way to say last Monday, like you mentioned, or 14th of February or whatever. yeah, there’s just a lot, a lot of interesting things you can do.
One thing I do with it is my email templates. I have all of my affiliate links as Liquid variables. So whenever I’m like linking, let’s say I talk about ConvertKit and I’m going to link to my ConvertKit, affiliate link, or if I do it with spark loop or whatever else, all I do is I just put in the, Liquid variable name.
And then I don’t need to worry about like, remembering. You know, stupid or whatever. I, her, I gotta remember, for it since it’s a really nice, like, there’s, it does take some coding prowess, to be honest, to, know how to use it beyond just sticking in field data or conditional stuff. but there’s a lot you can do with it.
Yeah. When you have the Creator Email Template pack, which has taken a bunch of, of these things that are kind of a pain to put together, like one example, is the, the newsletter referral widget, right? Where you have a bar graph that you’ve made, that’s like you referred zero out of three, two out of three, you know, and you have update your one referral away from unlocking this
You know, and I’ve seen a bunch of people use that like I think even James, Claire has used that on, on,
Yeah. He’s using it. Yep.
On his newsletter. Have you seen like that much bigger block in that, you know, tailored call to action really increase referrals.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve never, I’ve never done a proper AB test, against like the normal, like, here’s your link. But I do think that having like a game it’s not gamified, but like a leaderboard type thing. Like what I, what you’re referencing has, like the progress that you’re making towards your current year through your current tier.
So like you said, you’re 60% of the way there. and then it shows like what you’ve unlocked and having unlocked. So I know gamification works, which is what that is. and yeah, again, I haven’t done a proper, but I know that enough people have switched over to doing that. And if stuck doing that to assume that it seems to
Yeah, that it’s, it’s working well. and then like one other advanced feature that you use for all of this is, content snippets. Like I think that’s one of the things it’s kind of buried away in converting. Actually, I got emails with people, like, why did you redesign the nap?
Right? Cause we changed it to add these drop downs.
It’s like, so we redesigned it so that people would find features like email templates, content snippets, and all of stuff that people had no idea that it existed, but you’ve used
snippets to make it so that, you know, you’ll write this advanced thing, whether it’s the referral widget or, you know, any of these things, and then you put it away in a snippet and you can just call the snippet and
Even do more things.
You pass variables into your step and see you do a lot more
Yeah. So these are like a function call to, to get technical. So yeah, like case in point. So I have a fancy headline or actually no, case a better example would be, I have a testimonial block, right? Where a testimonial is composed of a photo of a person, their quote, and their name. And so what I wanted to do was to think, well, I want to use this in a lot of different ways.
So what if I can put the HTML code? So the design, along with the logic code, so the Liquid and a universal or global content snippet, and then whenever I’m doing an email, I just say, Hey, define name, you know, Bob photo, here’s a URL to the photo of Bob and then Bob, his quote, and then call the testimonial snippet.
And that thing is smart enough to pull in that data because the Liquid data shared between the email and the content snippet, and then show a really nice run. Testimonial from Bob. and that’s, that’s basically what I’m using it for us to kind of create this consistency that I can just update that one content snippet, and then everything that is showing testimonials from all these various people, all that gets affected and updated kind of in one go.
Yeah, it’s amazing what, and to bring it all the way back to what we’re talking about, sales pages, right? You could iterate through three of those and say, here’s my three testimonials. I’m only going to show one of them based on whether you’re a designer or developer a copywriter. and so you can abstract it further.
And this is a matter of hearing conditionals around the Liquid variables and then everyone still gets the embedded contents of it.
So yeah, it just makes it really,
One thing that I think that’s important to point out is that this can be really time consuming if you’re doing it in each broadcast. But if you’re doing it in email three of your evergreen sequence, that’s going to work for you
For the next like three to five years, then the time is worth it. But if you’re sending out to like 500 people, you know, on your, you know, one-off broadcast, unless you’re just learning and playing right then it’s probably not worth it in that format, but it’s very
Like creating the system that will power my business and content for years to come.
Yeah. I mean, completely agree. high value things like the onboarding emails or, possibly even the pitch emails, that makes sense to be a little more, especially with pitch stuff. Cause you know, that’s the thing where, you know, if every, if the job of every line of copy is to get somebody to keep reading and not to archive email, you know, one thing I did with my black Friday stuff last year was I did a survey, a few weeks in advance where I asked people what their goal was in 2022 and some other questions too.
And then what I did is when I started promoting my stuff, I would modify subjects based off that goal. And I would especially modify like the opening lines of these sales emails to reflect that. And, I did AB test that and it was substantially higher. It’s about 90% higher, in terms of overall sales, just because if you think about it, what we’re doing with that is we’re saying you’re, you’ve told me that your goal is X.
And here’s why I think this thing specifically can help you with X And then you can read a scribe the way you position the product to fit that. And, and Yeah. It takes like it takes more work because you need to think you need to do the Liquid coding when you also need to think, what do I want to say differently about this product to this person versus that person?
But it makes sense why it would work. And it’s a high value email. I mean, if it’s a proper promotional sales campaign. Yeah.
It makes sense to spend a bit more time making it work.
Yeah, I love that.
We can talk about automation for a long time, and we should. We’ll get around to it at some point and dive into more of it. We haven’t even gotten into the details on how you could do segmentation with Right Message, and so many of those other things. This was the very high-level overview.
I’m gonna give a flag for CreateAndSell.co, which is your newsletter about all of this, and goes into the details. If anyone’s really looking to take their email marketing, newsletter, and all that to the next level you’re the person through Create and Sell who’s trying all of the most advanced things and playing with it.
Everyone should definitely go subscribe there.
Then there’s the Creator Email Template Pack, which has so many things in there. You’ve got Mastering ConvertKit, and then probably most of all is Right Message. That’s the biggest full SaaS application to make all of the customizations
and personalization work.
What else did I miss, as far as where people should go to follow you and find your work?
That’s probably it. You can say hi on Twitter. I’m Brennan Dunn on Twitter. Obviously there’s doubleyourfreelancing.com, too. But if you’re listening, you’re probably more into email stuff.
That sounds good.
Thanks for building so much awesome stuff on top of ConvertKit. It’s way more powerful because of what you’ve made.
You built a great platform, so it makes it really enjoyable to work with. That’s been good.
Awesome. We’ll have to just keep going. More stuff to build, and more content about it.
Thanks for coming on the show. We’ll talk again soon.
Of course. Yeah. Thanks Nathan.