Issue #031

ūüöĘ Ship 30 For 30: Here's how they're taking automation to the next level

I had a really interesting chat with Dickie Bush of Ship 30 for 30 last week, and I thought I'd share what we talked about with you.

If you haven't heard of Ship 30 for 30, it's an incredibly successful cohort-based course that runs every few months.

(How successful? Their January cohort had ~1,000 people register for it. At $500 a pop. ūü§Į)

Dickie doesn't have a live newsletter.

When you join his list, you get a drip of educational content sent out a few times a week. I call this a Shadow Newsletter. Others call this an Evergreen Newsletter. Whatever you call it, it's a lengthy automated sequence of emails that systematically go out a few days apart.

This means Dickie & co. can spend most of their time helping their current cohort to succeed, and less time mucking around inside their ConvertKit account.

Automations are pretty amazing, and do a bang-up job at sending individual subscribers strings of email relative to when they did something (like joined your list.)


Automations tend to lack one critical feature: contextual awareness

Automations operate in a world without nuance or curveballs:

  • There are no 9/11-type disasters that make hyped up sales pitches suddenly faux pas.

  • Every Monday is a Monday. Every Friday a Friday. What are seasons? What are holidays?

  • And, in Dickie's case, whether a cohort goes up for sale in a month, in a week, or if it's on hiatus for a few months, it's all the same to ConvertKit's email queue system.

Dickie asked to chat because he wanted to figure out how to get his automated newsletter, which reliably sends email to thousands of subscribers 24/7/365, to have some knowledge of his upcoming cohorts.

Here's what I recommended he do, and what I'd also recommend to you (especially if you sell events, like live workshops, conferences, closed-enrolment courses, or cohort-based programmes.)

The Dynamic PS

Dickie is a customer of my course, Mastering ConvertKit.

I'm happy to report that he not only loves what's inside, but ‚Ästmost importantly ‚Ästthat he's done a pretty incredible job implementing what I teach.

His automated newsletter includes a Dynamic PS at the end of each email. Simply put, this is a recommendation engine that pitches each subscriber with a specific program he offers, described differently each week.

This means that if someone is a non-customer of Ship 30 For 30, they'll get promotions for his programme every week until they buy. And to keep things from getting too repetitive and stale, the Dynamic PS engine randomises each email's CTA.

Make sense? Excellent.

Still foggy? It's something I teach that Dickie's doing that substantially boosts how many non-customers of his course end up buying his course.

Dickie's Dynamic PS is totally clueless when it comes to what's on the horizon

Anyway, the Dynamic PS Dickie's set up is unaware of any upcoming cohorts the team is running.

In a perfect world, there'd be some degree of awareness, and the Dynamic PS would do something like:

  • 4+ weeks out from a cohort:¬†promote in-depth case studies and student success stories

  • 3-4 weeks out:¬†mention that a new cohort is coming soon, and to start considering how they could budget the time and money for it

  • 2-3 weeks out:¬†is Ship 30 For 30 right for you? Here's a killer case study from someone who thought it might not help them. Oh, here's a countdown timer, too.

  • 1-2 weeks out:¬†Urgency! There's no time like now. In a little over a week, their life as a writer will change forever. There are less digits on that countdown timer.

  • 0-1 week out:¬†Limited supply. Because this is a live course, we can only bring in so many people. Here's a quick hit list of what you need to know once registration opens up. The "registration opens" countdown timer is almost at zero!

The above, contextual Dynamic PS content is automatically added to the end of every automated educational newsletter email.

These aren't purely pitch emails, but they are pitching. They're setting a foundation for what's to come, and creating a substantial amount of pent-up excitement.

And the Dynamic element of the Dynamic PS means that there are multiple variations for each of the above bullet points. This means that subscribers aren't just seeing the same, e.g., case study for a few weeks at a time.

While one subscriber might get Email A today, and another subscriber gets Email C, whilst another gets Email N, and so on,¬†all of these subscribers ‚Ästassuming they're non-customers ‚Ästwill see at the end of the email a call-to-action specific to however far out Ship 30 For 30 is from opening up registration.

The easy way to do this

The simplest way to do something like this is to have a Content Snippet that you just go in and update from time to time.

Every email in your evergreen newsletter includes this snippet, and you frequently update this single snippet to reflect a call-to-action or something you want people to read/watch that's relative to however far out your upcoming event / programme is.

Dickie didn't want to do it this way.

The downside to the easy method is that it involves lots of logging into your email platform and manually tweaking a content snippet. Dickie's team doesn't have the bandwidth or desire to live inside their ConvertKit account, so they opted for the more involved ‚Ästbut more effective ‚Ästmethod:

The hard way to do this (but the most effective + 'set it and forget it')

You'll recall that Dickie has implemented what I teach in Mastering ConvertKit, a Dynamic PS recommendation engine.

Without getting into the weeds of Liquid templating, here's a quick overview of how this engine would need to be altered to accomplish what Ship 30 For 30 is looking for:

  1. A variable, let's call it "upcoming cohorts", is set in a content snippet. It's value is a comma-separated list of dates for upcoming cohorts. Dickie only ever needs to touch this one variable.

  2. The "next offer" for the current subscriber is fetched

  3. If the upcoming offer is Ship 30 For 30, look at "upcoming cohorts" and find the next cohort. Now calculate the number of weeks between right now and then.

  4. If # weeks > 4, grab all the "4+ weeks" call-to-actions. If # weeks is between 3-4, grab the "3-4 weeks" call-to-actions. Etc.

  5. With the call-to-actions that were pulled back, randomly pull one of them. That's your Dynamic PS. Spit it out at the bottom of the email.

Once this engine is up and running, there are exactly two reasons Dickie & co. will ever need to log in to ConvertKit and update any of this:

  • Add more cohorts to the "upcoming cohorts" list. Assuming they plan this stuff a year in advance or so, this is a 3-minute job once a year.

  • Add additional case studies and other calls-to-action. As their success base expands and they come up with more effective ways to pitch their programme, they'll go in and add these new call-to-actions to their system. The engine will automatically pick up on them.

Start doing this, and start with the easy method

While it's admirable that Dickie's doing this the right way (with the "hard method"), he already has a Mastering ConvertKit-style Dynamic PS in place. It just needs to be slightly tweaked.

If you're not there yet and have an automated newsletter that's already humming along, start with content snippets (the "easy method").

Here's why this conceptually works so well...

You don't want people to be caught unaware of what you're launching or promoting, whether this be a cohort-based course, a closed-enrolment course, an in-person conference, or a live virtual workshop.

And, ideally, you want people to already be fully onboard when your first promotional "buy now!" pitch email hits their inbox.

That's why I love this model.

You're already sending out your newsletter-ish content. It's keeping your list warm, building trust, and doing all the nurturing stuff that's required to effectively promote and pitch.

But, tacked on to the end of these emails, you can also soft-promote what's on the horizon relative to how far out it is.

So when that first sales email hits their inbox, they're not blindsided and thinking "is this right for me?"

That's already been accomplished ‚Ästin advance.

Your sales emails, instead, are simply rounding out what you're offering, overcoming any lingering objections, and delivering the details (timing, price, schedule, etc.)