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Gravity Forms + ConvertKit: The Killer Combo That Defeated MailChimp

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When I first started my newsletter, my goal was to cultivate an audience that I could educate and offer paid products to in the future. So, I quickly researched popular email marketing platforms and chose MailChimp. I set up my list, added the subscription forms to my website, and started collecting email addresses.

But six months and about 75 subscribers later, I realized that something was wrong.

Unclear Incentives

The first problem was that my signup incentives were very unclear which resulted in relatively few signups over the first 6 months. In order to increase my number of subscribers, I knew I needed to offer better incentives in exchange for email addresses, but with very little content on my blog and no clear understanding of who my subscribers were, I wasn’t sure how to accomplish this.

Problems with MailChimp

So, I conducted a few quick surveys that revealed who my subscribers were and what they were interested in. About 70% were interested in freelancing and the other 30% were interested in hiring freelancers; two VERY different types of people.

However, I had added their email addresses to only one list using only one form. So when I wrote an article, I had to send it to everyone on the list regardless of what they were interested in. This led to unsubscribes and general frustration when the article didn’t relate to what that subscriber was interested in learning about.

As my subscriber list continued to grow, I knew something had to change, but didn’t know what it was or how to do it.

The Turning Point

In September 2015, I attended the first-ever Double Your Freelancing Conference (DYFC) hosted in Norfolk, VA by Brennan Dunn. While there, I met Nathan Barry, a highly successful pro blogger who created his own email marketing platform called ConvertKit and Naomi Bush, a Gravity Forms representative.

Gravity Forms is an extremely powerful WordPress plugin that allows you to create highly flexible and robust forms for your website. For my personal website, it only cost a one-time $39 fee. However, I had no way of aggregating the emails from the submissions into a useful list that I could use to send follow-ups.

ConvertKit is an email marketing platform that focuses on – you guessed it – converting viewers into subscribers with powerful incentives and simple forms. It starts out at $29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers, but the forms only supported name and email fields and the WordPress integration was lacking.

The Killer Combo

I quickly realized that these two tools could be the answer to my growing problem, but when I found out that ConvertKit had released a Gravity Forms add-on just 3 weeks prior to the conference, I immediately began researching the feasibility of the transition away from MailChimp.

I had to figure it out for myself though, since I’m fairly certain that I was the first person to ever install this WordPress plugin add-on!


As it turns out, the Gravity Forms ConvertKit add-on allows me to map the name and email fields of my gravity forms to my ConvertKit forms. Better yet, it automatically subscribes and tags anyone who fills out a form to the correct segment on my master subscriber list.

That means I can create complex forms like this one and automatically pass the names and emails to a special list.

From there, I can harness the power of ConvertKit’s “courses” feature to send new subscribers automated email sequences after they sign up, saving me time while still communicating personally with every subscriber.

Transplanting Existing Subscribers

The only thing left to do was move all of my subscribers out of MailChimp and into ConvertKit. Thanks to MailChimps simple export features and ConvertKits simple import features, this was relatively easy. However, there was still one major problem. I wanted to segment and tag my existing subscribers so that they could start receiving ONLY the content they were interested in from now on.

To solve this, I utilized ConvertKits “automation” feature to set up a few simple rules. Then, I sent an email to all of my subscribers and simply asked them to click one of two links:

  • If they were interested in Freelancing, the link would instantly and automatically remove the “All” tag and add the “Freelancer” tag.
  • If they were interested in hiring freelancers and growing their business, the link would remove the “All” tag and add the “Client” tag.
  • If they wanted to receive all my emails, no action was required.

And with that, I exported the reporting data from MailChimp and deactivated my account. While MailChimp is powerful and extremely simple, it didn’t fulfill the more complex needs I had while trying to grow my audience.

Future Offerings

Now that I have this powerful, dare I say – killer – infrastructure in place and have a more thorough understanding of who my subscribers are, I can send email courses and digital books to the people that are interested in them the most. To me, this a killer combo that will help me grow my business tremendously and is well worth the investment.

Last updated on April 18th, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.
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