Today I announced a radical new direction for ConvertKit, my email marketing SaaS application: You can’t create an account.
Seriously, go to the website and try to pay me. You can’t.
Like every other SaaS business, ConvertKit’s goal is to make money. So why remove every payment method from the site?
Well, I have a few reasons, but the biggest is that I am taking SaaS (software as a service) closer to its actual definition. Now ConvertKit will be including training services directly with every subscription.
Why aren’t customers succeeding?
I went through my metrics from the last six months to determine why most customers cancel. It comes down to two major reasons:
- They never set it up or wrote the content.
- They didn’t know how to best use email to meet their marketing goals.
In other words, half weren’t ready to use the product yet, and the other half didn’t know the best tactics to make it successful. It’s frustrating to watch accounts churn because of problems like this. It would be one thing if customers canceled because of problems with the product, but that is rarely the reason given.
Based on what I’ve learned over the last six months, I don’t think ConvertKit customers need just a web app. They need something more. They need hands-on help and training on how to make the most of email marketing and their ConvertKit subscription.
What am I good at?
2013 was an incredibly successful year for me. My business did over $250,000 in revenue and I sold thousands of books. That gives me confidence that I know a thing or two about online marketing. But ConvertKit didn’t do that well. Even a year after starting The Web App Challenge I still haven’t hit my goal of $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
Instead of continuing to market and sell ConvertKit like a traditional SaaS app (which isn’t working for me), I’m taking a step back and looking at what I’m good at: teaching and launching.
I make 90% of my income through teaching, yet ConvertKit customers are canceling because they still don’t know how to use email marketing successfully in their business. That’s my fault, and I need to fix it.
People who sign up and don’t know what do won’t see any results. If they don’t see results, they are going to cancel. My goal now is to clearly teach the tactics necessary to make email marketing a fantastic ROI—not just teach how to use a tool.
Next I plan to use multiple launches to increase conversion rates.
Increase Conversion Rates
I actually came up with this idea while talking to my friend Rob Walling, who runs Drip (another great email marketing provider). He was about to take Drip out of private beta/pre-launch and open it up to the public. I encouraged him to keep it private, meaning that only people on the email list could get access. He could then push new visitors to the prelaunch list.
Rob does this with his membership/training site, The Micropreneur Academy. If you go the site, you won’t find a way to join. Instead you need to get on the email list, where every month or so Rob and Mike (the co-founder of the site) open up registrations for a short period of time, letting in a small group.
This has three major advantages:
- New members of the group are added in batches. That means the existing community can welcome them all at once, instead of new people showing up just any time. This also helps the support requests from new members to be grouped all at once, which makes them easier to deal with.
- It filters out the tire kickers. No matter what your service is, people will want to sign up just to see what is going on. Especially for people like Rob who are always teaching and sharing their knowledge, people will sign up just to learn from his lifecycle emails sequence. By adding this extra barrier to subscription, each customer is higher quality.
- It triples the conversion rate. Rob tried allowing visitors to buy at any time, but he found that using the monthly launches to an email list resulted in 2.5 to 3 times the number of visitors converting into customers!
After our conversation Rob decided to continue with his plan to open Drip up to the public with a traditional SaaS sales page, but I still had this idea stuck in my head.
Product launches are one thing I know how to do very well. With each book launch I build up anticipation and excitement over time, then have a huge launch day that brings in tens of thousands of dollars in 24 hours. But after that launch, sales die down. I still make a good living from each book, but I am never as good at driving sales as I am during a launch.
There are many skills to learn when running a business, but gradually getting customers for a SaaS app is one that I just haven’t been successful with. So I’m changing the strategy to something that I know how to do better (launches) rather than what has been the standard model (sign up any time).
I think this is a better fit for my style and will allow each customer to be more successful. Email marketing, when done well, can radically transform a business. It’s that powerful. So it’s important to me that I structure ConvertKit’s customer acquisition model around helping the customer be as successful as possible.
Introducing ConvertKit Academy
Now when you visit ConvertKit.com you’ll get the same marketing site, but it will be more focused on education. Then instead of a Plans & Pricing link like most SaaS apps have, you’ll be invited to get on the wait list for the next time ConvertKit Academy opens up. Initially I plan to welcome 10 new customers at a time, and open it up once a month. That launch will only be to the waiting list, so that’s the only way to create an account.
I am also ending the 14-day free trial and replacing it with a 30-day money back guarantee. Since only 10 people will be allowed in each round, it’s important that they are serious about email marketing and aren’t just kicking the tires of another product.
Each new round of customers will receive a detailed, five-part course that combines the necessary tactics and strategy to grow an email list along with learning exactly how to use ConvertKit to make that happen. Seventy-five percent of the content could apply to almost any email tool, and the remaining 25% is focused on getting the best results through ConvertKit.
The lessons take you through:
- How to create and package an opt-in incentive that will make visitors eager to join your list.
- Delivering value so that your subscribers want to read every email you send.
- How to set up landing pages and add relevant opt-in forms to your blog posts for much higher conversion rates.
- Getting consistent visitors to your content so that you can grow your list.
- And finally, the entire course teaches you how to wildly accelerate your biz through teaching!
Each day of the week a detailed lesson will be sent by email, and then my team and I will be available to answer specific questions and help with setup.
Near the end of the week we will do a live call to answer questions and help provide more tactics. I will also include Photoshop templates of book covers, landing pages, sample chapters, and other things to help make the process easier.
All for the Same Price
I decided to keep the exact same pricing, starting at $50/month, that I’ve had before, but structured in a new way. ConvertKit Academy costs $300 (one time) and includes the first six months of ConvertKit. So effectively the price hasn’t changed; customers just get a free course with it as well.
By collecting more money up front my plan is that customers will take the course seriously and put the content into action. Also they will think long term (at least 6 months) about their email marketing strategy, rather than just dumping the tool if they don’t have time for it in the first month.
Everything about ConvertKit Academy comes down to the idea that ConvertKit will be successful long term only if I can make my customers successful. So I am doing everything in my power to teach, help, and empower each customer with everything they need.
Customers who are growing their list by hundreds of subscribers each month and are able to sell products successfully aren’t going to cancel. They are going to see ConvertKit as a valuable part of their marketing strategy and see the monthly cost as trivial compared to the ROI they are receiving.
Quite simply, successful customers are happier and less likely to churn.
Existing customers will have access to the exact same help and content as members of the ConvertKit Academy. It just may take me a couple weeks to get the same system set up. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I’ve seen this model done for other online products, but never for SaaS apps. That means this is an experiment. I have no idea how it will turn out, but I’m hoping that three months from now I’ll have another 20+ success stories of ConvertKit fully implemented into online businesses and driving meaningful revenue.
As with everything I do, I’ll share the results with anyone who wants to follow along.
The First Round
If you want to use the best tool (in my biased opinion) for rapidly building a profitable email list, and hands-on training sounds good to you, join the invite list here. I’ll open up the first round within two weeks.
Get on the waiting list here: ConvertKit Academy.