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Redesigning Email Marketing With ActiveCampaign

by Matt Giovanisci | Updated: December 29, 2020 | Article

After switching from MailChimp to ConvertKit, redesigning funnels, and measuring results, things didn’t go well. So I’m switching again to ActiveCampaign to build unique automations and save some money.

In over 15 years in online business, I still haven’t taken email marketing seriously. However, since the world fell apart in 2020, I’ve been thinking about how to keep my business from doing the same.

I asked myself, “what if Google disappeared tomorrow?” Or worse, “what if it was bought by Microsoft?!”

This may sound a little paranoid with some doomsday-prepper vibes, but ever since my Amazon commissions basically disappeared, I’ve been looking for ways to future-proof my income streams.

Focusing on building an email list seems like a good idea. Because if I stop getting traffic to my sites tomorrow, at least I can continue to sell through my email list.

And I know what you’re thinking, “yeah, but what if email disappears tomorrow?!” Come on, now YOU’RE paranoid.

Redesigning My Email Marketing Funnels with ActiveCampaign v2

I’m Switching Email Providers Again

There are two main reasons for switching from ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign:

  1. To save money
  2. Loopable and seasonal automations

Let me explain…

1. Saving Money With ActiveCampaign

Because I run three websites, I need three ConvertKit accounts. Each account is a list. I could have combined them all into one account, but that would’ve been messy.

And because I needed multiple accounts, I had to pay more:

  • Swim University (30,000 subscribers): $259/month
  • Money Lab (1,900 subscribers): $49/month
  • Brew Cabin (2,500 subscribers): $49/month
  • Total: $357/month

However, since ActiveCampaign allows me to host multiple lists under one account, now I have a monthly combined payment for 34,400 subscribers at $239/month (up to 50,000 subscribers on the Lite plan).

This saves me $118/month!

Don’t get me wrong, I love ConvertKit (does that affiliate link prove it?). It helped me step up my email marketing game a few years ago.

ConvertKit is great for simple websites like Money Lab and Brew Cabin. But Swim University is a special beast that needed some pro-level features to get what I want to be done.

2. Loopable and Seasonal Automations

What sold me on ActiveCampaign is the ability to build a forever automation. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for years.

I want pool owners to subscribe and get the same weekly emails every year at the right time.

Every year, a subscriber loops through an automation based on the month. If someone subscribes in August, they should get emails about closing their pool.

With ActiveCampaign, I was able to achieve this ideal setup with Automation Goals.

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If any of that was confusing, I think this video will explain what I’m trying to do.

How I Switched From ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign

If you watched the video above, you already know I switched and started building my automations. But I took some deliberate steps when making the big switch.

1. Created Lists and Basic Automations for New Subscribers

First, I had to create a few lists. Ideally, I wanted to create one for each brand.

However, because I use Podia, the only ActiveCampaign integration they had was to lists. That meant I had to create a different list for each product.

ActiveCampaign Lists

Then, I created some quick and dirty automations for anyone who subscribed to ActiveCampaign. So I created a few automations with just a few emails until I moved everything over and could fully flesh them out.

Quick ActiveCampaign Automations

Don’t ask me why the images are broken. I have no idea and I already asked them and they had no idea either.

UPDATE: After several months of complaining about these broken images, they clearly don’t give a shit. Makes their software look broken when I create visuals. Oh well.

2. Replaced Forms On All Websites

I created a bunch of forms for each of my websites in ActiveCampaign and coded up a lightweight version of the HTML. If you want that HTML, click here.

ActiveCampaign Forms

I don’t like using the HTML these ESPs give you. They’re bloated with a lot of unnecessary Javascript and CSS. So I code the bare minimum I need for the form to work. The result is a super-fast and lightweight form that’s easy to use

Nothing changed on my website design-wise. Just a simple form code replacement.

At this point, new subscribers were now entering ActiveCampaign instead of ConvertKit.

3. Import and Tag Subscribers From ConvertKit and Podia

Finally, I exported all my subscribers in different CSV files based on their tags and imported them into the appropriate ActiveCampaign list. To be honest, this was a bitch because I was having trouble with the import feature. Thankfully, ActiveCampaign helped via chat immediately.

When I imported everyone, I tagged them as Imported from ConvertKit so I knew where I had to add people into automations.

And that’s it. I made it sound easy. It wasn’t. But I’ve done this 4 times now so I got pretty good at it.

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Setting Up New Subscriber and Loopable Evergreen Newsletter Automations

The video above is pretty long, but if you watch it, let me know what you think of my process by Tweeting me.

In a nutshell, when someone subscribes to receive a weekly newsletter on SwimUniversity.com…

  1. They’re put into a New Subscriber automation and hard-pitched the main course/product for three straight days.
  2. Then, they get an email promoting our YouTube channel.
  3. Then, they get dumped into a loopable evergreen newsletter that cycles every year using Goals in ActiveCampaign.
  4. Within the newsletter, they’re hard-pitched the main course/product every quarter via a sales email.

I’m pretty confident that everything is set up correctly and people are getting emails. Because I’m only paying for the lite version of ActiveCampaign, I don’t have all the features I really want. But if this plan works, I’ll certainly upgrade.

Meaning, I’ll upgrade if it’s worth the money. And the only way to know that is to track the living shit out of every email.

UPDATE: In order to get subscribers to wait until the next month occurs, I needed to change a few settings in all the Goals that I didn’t show in the video.

The Goal must be set to “Anywhere” and “Wait until the conditions are met.”

ActiveCampaign Goal Conditions

Setting Up Conversion Tracking with Google Analytics

I asked my followers on Twitter which tools they use to measure email marketing sales conversion rates. Only one person replied with a simple strategy that I could get behind. Miles Beckler shared his technique.

Miles Beckler Twitter Response About Email Marketing Tracking

This seems pretty easy to setup. Tedious, but easy. And thanks to Podia’s Google Analytics integration, I can track which email in my automations is generating the most sales.

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Tracking The Welcome Automations

I have two automations for both pool and hot tub subscribers. These are people who simply subscribe to the website to receive a weekly newsletter.

They all get dumped into a simple welcome automation that currently includes three emails:

  1. Welcome to Swim University and buy our course for 10% off using a promo code.
  2. Answering FAQs about the course and 10% off using a promo code.
  3. Last chance to take advantage of the 10% off promo code.

I’m using Google’s own UTM builder and starting with the hot tub subscriber welcome automation. But first, I had to develop a naming convention that would work.

The Campaign Source will be “ActiveCampaign.” I could have used ESP, but this makes it more specific which I like. And the Campaign Medium will simply be “email.”

As for the Campaign Name, the first part will start with the type of subscriber, followed by the automation name, followed by Goal/Section (if applicable), followed by the email number.

Email Campaign Naming Convention V3

For example, all product links in the second email in June in the evergreen newsletter for hot tub subscribers will include the Campaign Name: Spa-Newsletter-June-E2.

Putting that together for the hot tub welcome automation first looks like this in the UTM builder:

Google Analytics UTM Builder

Here’s a video walkthrough of exactly how I did this with the pool subscriber welcome series.

Now What?

From here on out, I’ll slowly build my evergreen newsletters with useful tips to send to subscribers. I can’t do it all at once because I’d go crazy writing all those emails.

Throughout the end of 2020 and 2021, I’ll be adding emails to all my automations and keeping an eye on how they perform. I’ll edit and tweak as needed.

I also plan to build out quarterly sales automations for all my products that I can drop people into at certain times of the year.

What I Learned In This Experiment

Just like before, I feel like I have a simple, but firm grasp on how Swim University visitors become customers. They just need to be beaten over the head with my offer.

I have to just consistently deliver valuable information in my emails and promote my offers. The sales will come as they always do.

Overall, I’m happy with my switch to ActiveCampaign. It’s not as easy to use as ConvertKit, but I love the fact that I can create seasonal, loopable automations.

All in all, I think this experiment has solidified my email marketing process. And it’s helped me to get clearer on what it is I’m good at.

Everything’s an experiment!

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