Powerful, yet easy to use. ConvertKit is an email list solution designed for content creators. But, how does it compare in context with other tool options today?
- Supports marketing automation using visual builder
- Email editor not over-engineered and bloated
- Good deliverability
- Very good support staff
- Weak support of custom fields
- “Fluff” most WordPress users wouldn’t use (but you still pay for)
- Over-priced compared to alternatives (see post for details)
I make no secret of the fact that I personally use FluentCRM for my email marketing. I like having everything in-house and a tight integration with my entire tech stack. However…
If you weren’t willing to host your own email list, ConvertKit would be a strong contender in the world of hosted email service providers. I think they’re one of the better third-party email solutions out there right now and it is specifically positioned to content creators. I will say, however, that I do feel there’s some “fluff” to it that isn’t necessary. Let me spell out what I mean…
ConvertKit offers all of the core functions you would need from a modern email hosting provider:
- Tagging and segmentation of subscribers
- Visual automations for marketing automation
- Visual email builder (but not over-engineered)
- Strong email deliverability
- Lots of integrations
- Automatic creation of content digest based on your RSS feed (cool one for bloggers!)
- Some elementary ability to set up and sell your digital products via ConvertKit itself
It is nice and easy to manage your email subscribers. They have nice profile screens for each subscriber and you can add custom fields, view their email history, automations, things they’ve bought, forms they’ve filled out, etc.
One downside of this interface, however, is I think they’ve made custom fields a little odd to use. There’s no single place to control custom fields across the account. Instead, you add them in the sidebar of a person’s subscriber profile. Not only that, but they are simple name/value pairs in plain text and there are no field types.
So, in essence, while ConvertKit does support custom fields, it is so basic compared to many other options that I’m, frankly, rather surprised by it.
One thing I do like about ConvertKit is that they have not over-engineered their email editor or over-focused on stupid pre-designed templates barely anybody would use. Instead, the editor is simple to use. Frankly, it excels at text-only emails with only basic things… and those are the emails that usually work the best anyway. If you want to get fancier, though, you can. They’ve got some pre-designed templates you can bring in and you can change basic settings like fonts, images and colors. It’s enough. I see too many services add a bunch of bloat and trash to their email editors and I like that ConvertKit doesn’t do that.
ConvertKit does offer marketing automation and you can design those automations using a nice visual builder.
ConvertKit provides a library of pre-built automations of common things you can use as a starting point, but the builder is also pretty straightforward for building from scratch. Triggers for automations include filling out a form, getting a tag, changes to a custom field, or making a purchase. You can then add events, actions or conditions to the automation. It supports most automation steps one would usually need, like changing fields, add/remove tags, adding to sequences, delays, etc.
But, let’s not keep talking about ConvertKit features. Let’s talk context. How does ConvertKit stand up today? Is it worth your money?
Let’s talk pricing…
ConvertKit offers a free and limited account for up to 300 subscribers. Once you go paid, it starts at $9/month if you pay annually ($15 otherwise). And it goes up quickly as your list grows. A relatively small list of just 1,000 people? That’ll run you $29/month. Once you hit 1001 subscribers, you bump up to the next tier and you’re up to $49/month.
That can be a rather large expense for people and usually costs far more than your actual hosting. But then, look at what you’re paying for with ConvertKit that you may not actually even use:
- “Unlimited forms”. ConvertKit has it’s own WordPress plugin where you can stick forms that you designed within ConvertKit all over your site. However, there are a number of much better options for WordPress for your opt-in forms. I see little point to using ConvertKit’s hosted forms compared to alternatives.
- “Unlimited landing pages”. Yes, you can make landing pages with ConvertKit, but I don’t recommend it. I recommend you build your landing pages in WordPress for a multitude of reasons and you’ll have far better control.
- “Sell digital products & subscriptions”. Yes, ConvertKit has an elementary ability to process orders and sell products. But, it is really limited. In my opinion, you’d be far better off selling in-house using WooCommerce.
In the end, the only functionality of ConvertKit I think most people will actually use are the subscriber list (obviously) and the automations. Most of the rest of it will be fluff for most WordPress users, in my opinion. But, you’re paying for it just the same.
Outside of those core functions of ConvertKit, I think there’s a lot of fluff. I don’t see any reason to use their landing pages, their forms, their “creator network”, their product selling functionality, their tip jar, etc. Also the interface has “Learn” as a major navigation item and their account dashboard has “quick tips” in it which take up space and are little more than cross promotions to their other content.
So, ConvertKit is positioned best for people who need and want the hand-holding. They want to feel like they’re part of a community. They want the interaction. They’re not very tech-savvy and want a tool to hold your hand as a creator. They work mostly with other similar, third-party tools and don’t focus so much on WordPress. That’s the real target market of ConvertKit. And the tool works best as a “one stop shop” for that functionality.
For my typical reader and client, I think ConvertKit is probably not the best fit. All we would care about is the automations and the list. ConvertKit does fine in those departments, but it isn’t as if it excels at it. We can do that stuff much better in-house with FluentCRM, pay much less money, have no “growth tax” as our bill goes up as the list grows.
As an example, one of my clients (as of this writing) is using ConvertKit and has 981 subscribers. In the last 30 days, she has sent 28,951 emails to her list. She is paying $29/month, however is only 19 subscribers from her bill shooting up to $49. If she switches to FluentCRM, it will run her $99 for a full year. And since she is hosted on Cloudways, we would use the ElasticEmail add-on for the account to send her email and it would literally cost her less than $5 to send that much email. If she connected to Amazon to send email, it would be even less.
ConvertKit is a great company. Great support. In fact, in one instance where I was dealing with ConvertKit for a client, they have some of the most helpful support I’ve ever seen. There’s a lot to like about ConvertKit. But…
When ConvertKit first came out, I think they had a stronger selling proposition. They carved out a nice position in the market by targeting content creators and building just the solutions they need, keeping them simple, and letting creators just focus on their content. It was awesome.
Today, however, things have changed. Specifically, Wordpress-based CRMs have changed. They offer more power, more flexibility with less cost than ConvertKit. And if you’re building a Wordpress-focused business such as a membership site, selling online courses, coaching and the like… I don’t recommend ConvertKit. Not because they’re bad at what they do, but because the tool isn’t the right fit.
Since my focus is building businesses you fully own and control within WordPress… and because a fair amount of what you’re paying for with ConvertKit is done better within WordPress itself, I do not recommend ConvertKit as the best fit for my clients and customers.
However, if you use WordPress for nothing more than your blog and use third-party solutions for most everything else, ConvertKit may be a good option for you.