Robby Fowler Articles

How Life-Giving Brands Can Onboard New Email Subscribers

I’m a longtime Mailchimp user who finally “converted” to ConvertKit as my Email Marketing Solution. One of the powerful features of ConverKit is tagging. Tagging helps businesses and marketers send subscribers specific content they actually want. With powerful tags, you can segment, sort, combine, and target. For example, you can apply a tag to subscribers interested in a particular topic, like “content marketing.” You might also have a tag for subscribers who have purchased from you in the past. You can then combine tags and send targeted emails. In this case, an email about your new content marketing to subscribers tagged:
    purchased product Xinterested in content marketing

    Quick Aside on Why We’re Talking About New Email Subscribers

    You probably know how effective email marketing is to growing your business. Stats like this prove it:
      “On average, email marketing puts $38 back in your pocket for every $1 you spend on it.”Email has a higher reach, click rate, and conversion rate than social media.
      This is why onboarding new email subscribers is an important part of growing your business.

      Now, back to Onboarding and ConvertKit…
      Tagging in ConverKit is a new tool for us longtime Mailchimpers. This new ConvertKit ‘tagging’ power got me thinking. What if I give new subscribers a few simple options right after they signup for my list?

      Using the Life-Giving Brands Flip Content Marketing ‘Onboarding’ On Its Head

      Onboarding is the process of welcoming and orienting new email subscribers. It’s common practice, and a good practice.

      But if you subscribe to a large number of email lists like I do, you can notice a trend. Sometimes being ‘onboarded’ feels more like being waterboarded. The first email inserts a proverbial nose ring. And the next emails in the sequence drag me around to various products and offerings. You feel like a small child led through an antique mall by your grandparent. Not fun.

      The “normal” onboarding email workflow for new subscribers follows this basic outline:
        offer a valuable content-upgrade or lead magnet on your websiteadd subscribers to your listfire off an automated ‘onboarding’ sequence of emails to new subscribersuse your onboarding sequence to steer subscribers to where you want them to go (often towards a product or service you sell)
        Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach at all. I’ve never had any complaints. A few unsubscribes, but nothing unusual. But the ‘normal onboarding’ approach entices me to create a workflow for my business different than what I ‘preach’.

        What do I mean?

        The workflow outlined above violates the very thing I help my clients do with their messaging, marketing, website, and brand.

        That’s the kind of irony I don’t want. Let me explain.

        How is it different from how I coach my clients?

        I help my clients start with their customer, not their business. But the ‘normal onboarding workflow’ temps me starts with what I want, not what my new subscriber wants.
          I want you on my list.I want you to start here.I want you to finish here.Without thinking about it, I’m like that bossy two-year-old who demands you join her tea party, sit here, and drink! But life-giving brands choose to take the posture of a servant.

          Life-Giving Brands Choose an Alternative Starting Point

          What would it look like to be a life-giving brand in my onboarding workflow? How can I serve my audience and not be a slave to ‘onboarding norms’?

          Here’s what I came up with.

          Rather than me force them down one onboarding path, what if I gave them three clear options? This will let subscribers know I’m here to serve them right from the get-go. That is what I actually want to do, so I figure it’s worth a shot.

          The question is, what does that look like? And how do you do it? (You’ve got great questions btw!)

          Step 1: Create 3 helpful options for new subscribers.

          The first step is to create 3 helpful options for your new subscriber. Take a few minutes and go for a walk. Bring something with you to record your thoughts. Use your phone or a pen and paper. (Hint: Wave to the neighbors as you walk by and talk/write. This shows them you’re not nuts and puts them at ease. Love thy neighbor, right?)

          Here are a few tips to get your creative juices flowing as you walk. (FYI Walking and moving around always works. Trust me.):
            Take your shoes off (not literally). Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes.What caused them to hop on your list?What are they struggling with as it relates to this lead magnet or content upgrade?In light of that, what are some other ways you can help them?What existing content or resources do you have that could serve them?
            This shouldn’t take long. You will likely have existing content that serves them…if you’ve been doing this for more than a couple weeks. If you’re starting today, you still have ideas in your head you could offer them.

            Take your ideas and narrow them down to your 3 best choices. (Define “best” as: what would best serve my new subscriber.) Limit it to 3 choices. More than that feels overwhelming. Less than that doesn’t feel like a choice. Plus research shows three choices is the most helpful. Starbucks has tall, grande, and venti. God has 3 in 1: Father, Son, Holy Spirit ;-)

            Step 2: Use to Create a Simple Landing Page to Confirm Subscribers’ Choice

            Now you have three good options. How do you let new subscribers choose one of those? And how do you keep it drop-dead simple? NOT a survey or poll on another website your new subscriber has to visit.

            The best way to serve your new subscriber with these options is in the first email. Give your subscriber the ability to click and choose right within the email.

            Sidenote: Research shows your highest open rate is your first welcome or onboarding email.
            To do this in ConvertKit, you create “link triggers.” When a subscriber clicks a link, ConvertKit can add a tag to his/her profile.

            Here’s the catch. The link has to point somewhere. It has to go to a public web page. It doesn’t work like a checkbox on a survey or form.

            But who has the time or energy to go create three new pages on your website? Especially when they are really just placeholders. You just need a link to trigger the ConvertKit…uhm…trigger.

            This is where comes to the rescue. If you’ve not heard of or used yet, you must! I’ll even say, ‘your welcome’ in advance. is flat-out smooth. Beautiful. Fast. Simple. Responsive. Perfect. Inexpensive. Landing pages.

            Here’s how you use to crush step 2.

            Create a new landing page on Start with one of Carrd’s amazing templates. Use the easy interface to quickly ‘brand it up’. Add your brand logo and colors. Put a clear heading so users know why they’re on this page. Mine says, “Your Topics & Interests”.

            Create 3 section breaks. In Carrd, these function like ‘pages’…but better! You can have several ‘sections’ on your Carrd landing page. But only 1 section shows at a time. This means you can use Carrd to build a single page for all three of your options from Step 1. And you can do it in minutes.

            Give each section a name corresponding to your three options from Step 1. Users don’t see the section name. Rather, this lets you point directly to a single section. It works like an anchor tag in html. Think ‘’. So you’ll end up with:

            Up Your Game with These 5 Pro Tips for

            1. Snag a cheap pro plan on It’s totally worth it! (FYI I get no kickbacks from the recommendation.)
            Use your own domain. (I’ll show you how easy it is in the video.)
            Add your logo icon to the site settings (under Publish this site). Carrd will use it as a favicon for a nice branding touch.
            Add your Google Analytics ID for tracking.
            Don’t forget your site title and description.

            Don’t let those tips frighten you. They’re icing. You can serve your new subscribers without them. Plus the free resource at the end includes an easy-to-follow video.

            Step 3: Setup Your ConvertKit Sequence Email & Automation

            Now you’ve got your three options for new subscribers. And you’ve created a brilliant landing page with three sections that act like ‘pages’—one for each option. Let’s get this thing firing so we can serve our new friends!

            Head over to ConvertKit. Create a new sequence (or modify your existing onboarding sequence). Create a simple welcome email and give your new subscriber 3 options for what happens next.

            For each option, create a link trigger. This is where your subscriber can choose what he/she thinks would serve best. It will look something like…

            Welcome…Choose what happens next…
              Send me [option 1] (trigger link to’d love more info about [option 2] (trigger link to me up for [option 3] (trigger link to
              Use the link triggers in ConvertKit to assign tags. Then use those tags to segment or filter your automation and follow-up accordingly.

              Here’s a quick summary of how this life-giving brand approach works for you and your subscriber.

              How It Brings Good News for Subscribers

                Subscribers join your list and get a welcome email from you.The email gives them 3 choices.They click the option (link trigger) that serves them best.The link takes them to a beautiful landing page confirming their choice (e.g. Thanks! You chose [blank]. Here’s what will happen next.)They go on with their busy schedules excited about the help coming soon.

                How You Take the Position of “Life-Giving Brand” with New Subscribers
                  Subscribers join your list and get a welcome email from you.The email gives them 3 choices.They click the option (link trigger) that serves them best.The link trigger assigns tags.You use those tags to kick off an automation based on their choice (without lifting a finger).You go on with your busy schedules excited about the opportunity to serve your new subscriber.

                  Another Win for Life-Giving Brands

                  Once again, the life-giving brand approach is a win/win equation. This approach to onboarding adds some life-giving seasoning. You get to put your subscribers’ needs above your own. You get to adopt the posture of ‘servant’. And that always blesses your subscribers.

                  PS There is a way to do something similar using Mailchimp and custom forms with hidden fields. But it’s more tedious and tricky for normal, busy business leaders like yourself! Just keepin’ it real.
                  Branding Email Marketing