Bonus: Inside AppSumo’s Killer 37 Million Per Year SaaS Email Marketing Strategy

Doesn’t matter what type of SaaS you own or what job title you have.

If you have been in SaaS email marketing for a few years, odds are you know that the internet was not short of email marketing solutions at the time ConvertKit established itself as one of the most prominent email marketing services available. 

In fact, prior to the $2.3M+ MRR ConvertKit we know today, the company went through some tough times to achieve success, especially in the flourishing days of many heavy-hitters like MailChimp, AWeber, and Hubspot. 

Creating an even best of a breed software is not enough to guarantee its success. Clearly, there are a lot of things that the company did right to hit that level. And the billion dollar question is: How was the small fish in a big pond able to achieve that big of a growth? 

SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's MRR
SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's Cash Flow
SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's Monthly Vistor
Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's active customers
SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's ARPU

Many articles describe the bumpy road that Nathan Barry, the founder, and CEO of ConvertKit, took to bring his company from the bottom to today's industry leader. In fact, you can see it all here. But the one thing they fail to mention is the email marketing strategy that encouraged this growth. 

So we've taken it upon ourselves to break down ConvertKit's email marketing strategies that helped achieve an MRR of over $2.3 million, with actionable takeaways to get you up and running quickly.

Now for the sake of this article, we don't mean that email marketing is the only marketing channel that helped ConvertKit grow to $2.3 million in monthly revenue.

Let's start with an in-depth look at the SaaS email marketing strategy ConvertKit used to achieve a $2.3+ million MRR.

Peek Inside the Email Marketing Strategy That Helped ConvertKit Hit $2.3M+ MRR

One of the best techniques Nathan used to grow his business was to position it in a specific niche. 

But niching down is only one piece of the puzzle. There was also a well-thought-out SaaS email marketing strategy behind the phenomenal Convertkit's success.

To start, Nathan built an email list and found ways to expand and grow it. Then, he used that list to promote Convertkit and get subscribers to pay for his services. 

How ConvertKit Built and Grew Its Email List

Nathan needed to develop his prospect and customer base to grow his business. And as you know, developing an email list of prospects and customers isn't the easiest thing on earth.

So here's how he did it. 

#1 Leveraging lead magnets and a community

Nathan is a marketing genius. Bringing together like-minded people to cross-share their insights is one of the smartest hacks that triggered growth for the company.

SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's Community

Creating a community for his target audience helped Nathan build an audience for ConvertKit long before the actual launch of the software. 

In addition, it gave him a direct communication channel with prospects and customers to promote ConvertKit's services while growing their email mailing list.

How?

By gating the access to the community. In fact, to join the community, every user is required to sign up with their email address. 

SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's community log in form

On top of that, since most community members are people with a huge fan base, they quickly spread the word, which sparked virality around Convertkit.

Some people like to call it influencer marketing, but it's more like leveraging the power of user-generated content.

More on that further down in the next section.

But before the community was even established, Nathan first grew his email list, long before ConvertKit was ready. At that time, he shared his knowledge for free. This strategy was successful mostly because the type of content Nathan was sharing for free was the kind that influencers at the time were selling for $997.

#2 Using user-generated-content to capture leads

When you have a community made up of your customers and potential future customers, you don’t have to do the talks every time to grow your business. The content created by the people inside the community will do just as fine.   

Here is an example:

SaaS email marketing: ConvertKit's user genrated content

Actually, any content associated with your business created by someone who is not an actual member of your company is a kind of social proof you can use to promote your business and attract more leads. But, more importantly, it's free advertising for your business.

How ConvertKit Leverage Its Email List to Make Money

#1 Building a powerful onboarding sequence

When a customer buys a product from your company, you have one and only one chance to make a great first impression. Once that impression is formed, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to change their perception. 

Nathan and his marketing team understand that getting someone to become a customer is only half the battle. Delighting the customer enough to stay for the long term is the biggest challenge.

Statistics show that 74 percent of consumers expect to be onboarded as soon as they buy a product. In addition, it has been proven that new leads are most engaged within the first 48 hours of subscribing. 

One surefire way Convertkit turns every user into a long-term fan is by using a powerful onboarding email sequence. And this is what allows them to minimize churn rate. 

Nathan and his team's secret sauce is to prove to each subscriber that they are important and not just another email added to Convertkit's large email list.  

When you subscribe to Convertkit, you receive a succession of emails that aim to establish a long-term relationship that is not just transactional.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's onboarding email

For example, the first email you receive is from a person named Angel. This email is recipient-centric and doesn't ask much of the recipient. More importantly, it contains no intention to sell or discount.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's email

The second email in the onboarding sequence is from Nathan Barry himself. In the email, he talks about why he created Convertkit and offers to help grow your email list and get your first 10 email subscribers.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's teaching email

He also makes an introduction to Tradecraft, their online publication to help creators earn a living.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's nathan barry

The third email is from Haley, who is the Community Manager of Convertkit. This email is an official invitation to join the community. Again, it's an offer that suits the Convertkit user because it will give them a chance to connect with other users and share experiences.

Here is what makes these three emails great:

#2 Turning subscribers into fans by teaching and educating them

At Convertkit, the culture of giving is strongly accentuated. This is nothing new. Since the beginning of the company, Nathan Barry would do the migration from an email service provider to Convertkit for his subscribers for free. 

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's Teaching strategy

This same culture has continued over the years and is now part of Convertkit's DNA. According to Nathan, "the more you teach and giveaway, the more your subscribers will trust you."

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's teaching quote

In the early days, when Convertkit was in development, Nathan would give away his knowledge for free in exchange for subscribers' email. 

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's opt-in form

This allowed him to gain the trust of subscribers and turn them into real fans who would be willing to buy from him. 

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's Teaching materials

But Convertkit wasn't just about ebooks. They were also giving away free courses while most companies and online entrepreneurs were selling theirs for $997. As a result, more than 100k people visit Convertkit's website per month expecting to learn and go away with something valuable.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's teaching strategy

But Convertkit didn't stop there. In each of their email broadcasts, they're more likely to help the recipient instead of selling them a product. This has created a craze among the recipients and as a result, Convertkit is getting over 100k visitors to their website.

Email marketing strategy: ConvertKit's traffic overview

Oh, did we mention that those 10k+ visitors came from their email list alone?

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's traffic sources

By applying Nathan Barry's philosophy, which is "Teach everything you know, and turn your customers into true fans," Convertkit has managed to build a true fan base that is willing to spend on the brand's products.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's t-shirts

#3 Using email as a channel for direct sales

If there are 100 people in the world who know the value of an email list, Nathan Barry is one of them. No doubt about it.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's email marketing strategy

As mentioned above, opt-in forms were one of the first elements Convertkit featured in the early versions of their website. It allowed them to quickly grow their email list. More importantly, it allowed them to have a customer base ready to buy their product.

But before the list was warmed up, Nathan would look for emails from authors who use his competitor's services - like MailChimp, AWeber, and InfusionSoft - and offer them to use Convertkit. According to Nathan himself, it was this strategy that allowed Convertkit to grow from $1,300 to $725,000 MRR. 

How did they do it?

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's frist audience

At first, they targeted authors – who don't have a large community – but since that wasn't scalable, they re-focused their direct sales outreach on professional bloggers with 30,000 to 250,000 email subscribers.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit niching down

This brought them clients like Pat Flynn, Suzi Whitford, and many other internet sensations. And that's when they started to see momentum because the emails gave Convertkit traction and it quickly turned into referrals.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's MRR changes

Here's an example of the email Nathan sent to bloggers who use Convertkit's competing services.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's email

And each time, they classified each lead in the category in which they fell in the sales funnel.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's sales funnel

But despite the success of this strategy, Nathan remained obsessed with the size of his email list. Recently, Convertkit acquired FanBridge, a leading email marketing platform serving musicians since 2006. FanBridge added a list of 25 million emails to the more than 100 million active emails that Convertkit has.

#4 Sending promotional emails to encourage upgrades

As of this writing, Convertkit counts 36371 active users.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's active customers

And of all these users, 32% are free users, that is 11959 users in total.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's pricing

To convert these free users into paid customers, Convertkit uses promotional emails. A study proved that 75% of consumers report scouring their inboxes just to look for relevant discounts. 

Being aware of this, Convertkit offers coupons that incentivize recipients to upgrade their plan.

Email marketing strategy for saas: ConvertKit's discounts

And thanks to these promotional offers, the number of upgrades is constantly increasing.

Email marketing: ConvertKit's upgrades

To sell or increase upgrades through emails, Nathan Barry has a very specific framework. Here is what the framework looks like.

SaaS Email marketing: ConvertKit's email sequences

In a more practical way, here is how Nathan uses it.

SaaS Email Marketing Strategy: ConvertKit's email method

This strategy allows you to gain subscribers' trust and show them that you care about them. 

Recap

There you have it. The folks at the company used SaaS email marketing to boost the growth of ConvertKit. Yet, Nathan didn't put email at the forefront of growing his business, but he didn't achieve success without it either. And the email marketing he used was very effective. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Expanding your prospect base entails all the effort you can put into building and growing your email list. This is the starting point of any email marketing strategy. Find ways to attract as many people as possible to your business. You can create a community like ConvertKit or employ conventional tactics to grow your email lists

The ideas and knowledge you have make you an authority in your business niche. As you've seen, ConvertKit teaches its subscribers to turn them into true fans. Teaching works just like giveaways. It makes you cool in the eyes of your subscribers. It doesn't have to be about your product, you can teach them anything valuable that you know that's worth sharing. They will adore you and will keep coming back for more. Way to grow your business through word of mouth.

This is where the magic happens. Promotional emails simply help you market your products to your subscribers. But before you send your emails, make sure you design emails that your subscribers can relate to. Segmentation and personalization are key. So be sure to have a great email copy, and send as many promotional emails as possible. 

Note: This post is a digest of the first day of the Full funnel Summit ‘21.

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