In episode 215 of Podcast Answer Man, I shared that I have finally made the decision to switch my email marketing service provider from MailChimp over to AWeber. Many of you have been asking me why I made this decision. I plan to answer this question in this post. However, let me give you a little background first.
When I am interviewed about how I have built a business around my podcasting efforts, people often ask the question, “If you could go back and change anything, what would you have done differently?” For the longest time, I didn’t have an answer to that question. I have been content with the journey that I have been on over these past few years.
However, today, I don’t hesitate when I am asked this question. The answer is simple. I wish I would have started collecting names and email addresses for my mailing list from the very beginning.
I typically receive between 40 to 100+ emails each day and I make it a point to respond to everyone who emails me. If that is not crazy enough, I’m a huge “Inbox Zero” guy. I prefer to have an empty inbox before I end my day. Unfortunately, this only occurs between one to three days out of each week, and sometimes it only happens one to three times each month, depending on how busy I get with projects that I am working on.
As you might imagine, I don’t sign up for many “mailing lists.” Those who sign me up to their list, without my personally subscribing to it myself, are quickly taken care of with the quick set up of an email filter that will make it so that future updates from that mailing list will never hit my email inbox again.
I simply assumed that this was how everyone felt about email communication that was not a personally crafted message from one person to another. For this reason, I had always avoided signing up for email marketing services that would allow me to collect people’s names and email addresses to allow me to mass email a written message to everyone on “my list.”
Now that I look back, I am amazed by the number of folks, from my community, that had actually requested that I send out a weekly or monthly newsletter to keep everyone up to date with all that is going on within our gspn.tv community. The argument was that I would share some announcements in some podcasts and other announcements in other podcasts and a regular newsletter would be the perfect way, for those who don’t listen to every episode of every podcast, to be kept up to date with all that is going on in our online community.
It took a long time to convince me, but in October of 2009, I decided to sign up for an email marketing service. At the time, I looked at AWeber, Constant Contact, iContact, and MailChimp.
Everyone that I talked to told me that I should go with AWeber. They explained all the reasons why they thought that AWeber was worth the extra expense over some of these other solutions. However, despite the advice that I had received, I signed up for MailChimp.
Why did I choose MailChimp?
I didn’t really know anything about auto-responders and had zero interest in learning about them. I simply wanted a service that would allow me to broadcast a standard email messages to a group of people who have subscribed to my mailing list. MailChimp offered a plan that is FREE FOR LIFE up to 500 subscribers. At the time, I didn’t think more than 500 people would ever want to receive regular gspn.tv updates in their email inbox. I figured that MailChimp would always be a free solution that would allow me to do what I wanted to accomplish.
Boy was I wrong! It turned out that my service with MailChimp was only free for two months. Not because of any deceptive pricing scheme or anything like that. It is because more than 500 people had signed up for regular email updates related to the gspn.tv community within the first 90 days of making the list available for people to subscribe to.
Because of the initial success of that list, I decided to see if people would be interested in signing up for a Podcast Answer Man mailing list. I didn’t do much to promote this list at all. I simply shared, in a few of my podcast episodes, that I had created a mailing list that would not be used like a standard newsletter, but instead, it would simply be used to announce new products and services that I am offering related to my podcast consulting/coaching business.
On Tuesday, January 5th I sent out my VERY FIRST EMAIL MESSAGE to those subscribed to my Podcast Answer Man Mailing List. This date is very special to me, because it is the date that forever changed my mind about the use of an email marketing service.
When I sent out that first message, I had a mere 131 people signed up to the list. The message I sent out was to promote a series of seven online webinars that I was going to perform over a period of six weeks. These webinars were going to cover the seven topics that people had hired me to the most to teach in my one on one consulting sessions. The cost of attending each webinar was $100 and I offered the ability to have access to all seven webinars at the cost of $595.00.
As you can see from the image above, this message went out to all 131 people who had subscribed to my mailing list. Out of those who received the message, 76 of them actually opened the email to read my message. This single email caused me to sell out every one of my available spots in those seven webinars. I used a webinar service with a limit of 15 people at the time. My first email sent to my Podcast Answer Man mailing list generated just over $10,000 of income for my business within six days of sending out that message.
Since that first email, I have had multiple experiences where a single message has generated somewhere between $2,000 to just over $16,000 of income for my business.
I have learned a great deal about the value of building a relationship of trust with an audience who is genuinely interested in what I have to say about a particular topic and offering them the option to sign up for exclusive announcements, via an email list, related to that particular topic.
Simply put, there is power in “the list.” Before, when I heard people say this, I had always felt that it seemed like some sort of “sleazy internet marketing” catch phrase. Almost as if those who focused on building their mailing list were viewed much in the same light as a used car salesman. However, I think there is a lot to be said about the integrity and business principles of the person who owns the list that determines whether or not “the list” should be viewed in a negative or positive light.
Why The Change From MailChimp to AWeber?
So, as I said, many people are asking me why have I decided to leave MailChimp and move the management of my mailing lists over to AWeber. It may seem silly to see where I have achieved the success that I have mentioned above and then tell you that I’m not happy with the service that has done so much to benefit my business.
This is not a decision that I came to lightly. In fact, the task of transferring my lists from MailChimp to AWeber has been on my to do list since October of 2010, just after I did the Passive Income Strategies For Podcasters webinar with Pat Flynn. After talking with many of my friends who manage highly successful mailing lists, I have come to the conclusion, that AWeber is simply a better option for me and my business.
Here are the reasons why I am making the switch.
1) Better Opt-In Forms. I have not been happy with the opt-in, aka signup, forms from MailChimp. In fact, I’d been so unhappy with their design editor, that I have never included a MailChimp opt-in form in any of the sidebars of my websites. I finally have an opt-in form in the sidebar of this site and http://gspn.tv.
As I write this post on Wednesday, June 22nd 2011, I’ve only spent about 5 to 10 minutes each on the opt-in forms currently found on my sites. However, I’ve included a screen capture of my friend, Pat Flynn’s, opt-in form from his site to give you an example of how nice a customized opt-in form with AWeber can look.
2) Messages Going To Spam Folders with MailChimp. Recently, I’ve noticed more and more of my messages ending up in people’s spam folders. In fact, my last broadcast message led more than ten people to email me, saying they found my message in their spam folder. I wasn’t surprised, as it actually put my message to myself in my own spam folder.
From what I have researched, I am hear that AWeber has a much better track record for successfully delivering messages into people’s inbox, without getting stuck in spam filters. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this.
After going through this switch, I see why. AWeber DOES NOT allow me to add people to my mailing list without them actually receiving a confirmation email that requires them to click a link to confirm that they do, indeed, wish to be added to my list.
With MailChimp, I could easily add your name and email address to my mailing list without you receiving any notice that I had done so. You would simply start receiving all future emails that I would send out. I think that this is one of the reasons why AWeber has a better track record of avoiding spam filters. Because every person on the mailing list has “confirmed” that they have requested to be on your mailing list, there is a much lower chance of your subscribers clicking the “SPAM” button in their email clients.
If Gmail, for example, sees a trend where a certain IP address is getting a lot of spam complaints, they can and often will mark all email messages from that IP address to go directly into a spam folder. With this, you can see why having an email list provider who has less spam complaints would be a better solution to make sure that your important messages are delivered to the people who really do want to hear from you.
3) Advanced Auto-Responders & Other Features. MailChimp has some auto-responder functionality built into their service. However, AWeber takes this feature to a whole new level. This is where you can create a new email list where, when someone signs up, it will automatically send them a pre-written email message or even a series of emails over a certain period of time.
These auto-responder messages require a bit of advanced planning, a good strategy, and some time to configure. However, once in place, these can be powerful tools to help provide valuable information to your audience in an easily consumed manner.
Let’s say I create a new list that offers a special one time auto-responder with a report or ebook for those who sign up for my Podcast Answer Man list. I can use AWeber’s automation rules to automatically unsubscribe those who were already signed up for my main mailing list once they sign up for this new list. This helps me avoid being billed for multiple subscribers on the same list.
Let’s say I want to broadcast a message to both my gspn.tv and Podcast Answer Man mailing lists at the same time. I’ve done this before with MailChimp and actually ended up losing subscribers due to the fact that everyone who was subscribed to both of my lists actually received the message twice. With AWeber, when I send a broadcast message, I could send the email to as many lists that I have. And if it sees that there is a subscriber who is on more than one of the lists, it will only send that person one message.
These are just a few of the many additional, advanced features that AWeber offers over MailChimp. I’m looking forward to making uses of the once I’ve already mentioned above and learning more about other features I haven’t even discovered yet.
4) Affiliate Commissions. I happen to have a significant number of people who have come to trust my thoughts and opinions related tools and services that I use. Many people have chosen to sign up for the same services that I use and are more than happy to click through my affiliate link, when signing up.
My community is fully aware that I receive a commission when I offer these affiliate links and are happy to know that their use of my link is an additional way to support the ongoing efforts of producing the content that I produce on a regular basis.
MailChimp’s affiliate program left a great deal to be desired with their “Monkey Rewards.” With AWeber, I actually earn a recurring 30% commission of whatever my clients pay over the lifetime of their account. And yes, every time AWeber is shown as a hyperlink in this post, it is, in fact, an affiliate link.
Affiliate commissions actually generate between $1,000 to $2,000 of income to my business on a monthly basis and that amount is rapidly increasing. I openly admit that one of the reasons that I decide to make a switch from MailChimp to AWeber is because I am looking forward to adding them to the list of companies that send me a check each month.
Wrapping This Up:
Changing your email marketing service provider is not a simple task. There is a potential that you could even lose some of your subscribers in the process. However, due to all the reasons stated in this post, I certainly felt that it was 100% worth the effort and I’m very delighted that the change has finally been made.
I know many people who are with MailChimp, who have experienced a great deal of success using their services, much like I have, and who are completely satisfied with the service they have there. If you find yourself in this camp, this post was not written to convince you to make the switch.
The purpose of this post was to fully explain why I have come to find so much value in the building of “the list” and to let people know my reasoning behind moving from MailChimp to AWeber.
If you do not yet have a mailing list, I would highly recommend that you start one as soon as possible. If you feel like you will ever have more than 500 people on your mailing list, I would highly recommend AWeber from the beginning.