The Essentials for Building a MailChimp Online Course with Paul Jarvis
WP eCommerce Show

00:00 / 21:39

It’s one thing to be an expert in email marketing. It’s another thing to use it to build up your online course about email marketing. Our guest today, Paul Jarvis, has both of them down. I asked Paul to join us to talk about his MailChimp online course, ChimpEssentials and share with us the how he started it and what keeps it running.

We chatted about:

  • What inspired Paul to offer this online course
  • The tech part of his site and what he is using to run it
  • Some insights into the challenges around doing your own affiliate program
  • What social platforms Paul uses to advertise and/or share his online course
  • Two of Paul’s top tips for email and newsletter marketing

We rounded the interview off by asking which Paul prefers, physical books or ebooks—and why.

Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: AffiliateWP


Bob Dunn: Hey, Paul. Welcome to the show.

Paul Jarvis: Thanks for having me, Bob.

Bob: I know you have a lot going on. I saw on Twitter that you’re writing a book and doing a lot of good stuff. So I’m not going to keep you any longer than I have to, but I do want you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you’re up to lately.

Meet Paul Jarvis, designer, author and online course maker

Paul: Sure. So I’m pretty much a designer, author and online course maker. I sell a couple of online courses. So those things are keeping me fairly busy at the moment.

Bob: And with that book, it’s something I’ve noticed that ou’re trying to stay off social to keep the focus on that.

Paul: Yeah. I want to get the first draft done and then I can go back to pretending that I have a full and rich life with social things.

Bob: What we’re going to be talking about for this particular episode of the BobWP eCommerce Show is one of the many things you’re doing and that is I’d like to talk a bit about the actual site because  it’s an online course and that falls right into the whole e-commerce base. What inspired you to start a MailChimp online training course?

What inspired you to create a MailChimp online training course?

Paul: It actually started as a service. I was a web designer for probably about 15 or 16 years and people started asking, “Hey, you did my website. I want to do this thing called a mailing list. Why don’t you help set this up since you know internet things?”

So I started to figure out MailChimp. I started to show my clients how to use it. Then more and more people were like, “How about you help me?” Eventually it got so big that I couldn’t handle all of the work one-on-one. So I was like, “Hmm. Maybe I should make this a course and then I don’t have to work with them one-on-one but they can still get the brain dump of everything I know about using MailChimp properly.”

What is the biggest frustration you see over and over around MailChimp?

Bob: This is kind of a second part of that question but it’s not really related to why you started it. I’m curious. What is the biggest frustration you see over and over around MailChimp? Is there one thing that really stands out?

Paul: Yeah. So the main thing is that people think it can’t do a lot of things that it can do. Like,  a lot of people think, okay, if people sign up for my list a whole bunch of times I’m going to have to double or triple pay for them. And that would be the case if you have different lists for every little thing that you do. But if you make one list and have segments and groups that are updated when people say sign up for a content upgrade or sign up for a webinar and you just update them instead of saying oh, you’re now on this list and this and this list, then it doesn’t cost any extra because you’re never doubling up on subscribers on different lists. You have the same subscriber with updated information on the same list.

Share with us some insights into what you used to build and run your site.

Bob: Now you’re a designer and obviously you’re into building your own sites. Can you give us a little insight into the technology behind, what you used to build and run the site (I’m assuming it’s on Word Press)? You know, some of the plugins you used and maybe why you used them?

Paul: Definitely. So being a designer and developer, I used a custom theme that I built, that is not for sale. That’s probably one of the biggest questions that I get when people see any of my courses. I don’t sell my course themes because I built them for the courses.

But really, Word Press is great for online courses because online courses are content and Word Press does a good job with content. And so the things that run those are Restrict Content Pro, which handles taking payments from people saying that they are set to this subscription level or that subscription level if some of my courses have different plans and then it gives them access and it doesn’t give the outside world access to the course content.

Then I use AffiliateWP which connects to Restrict Content Pro, so if people want to sell my courses to their audience and make some money off my courses in the affiliate program, they can do that and then the third plugin I use is one that I drew up myself with my friend Zach Gilbert called WP Complete. So students can keep track of where they are at in a course. So they do a lesson. They mark it as complete and then that shows up on their dashboard as a completed lesson. So if they log back in a month later they’re like okay. I know where I’m at. I can keep going.

Those are the three biggest ones. I couldn’t run any of my courses without those three plugins.

Bob: Yeah. Now that third one, your own plugin, is that something that’s available or is that a custom thing you keep?

Paul: No, I sell that. It’s at

Bob: Okay. Cool. You know, it seems like I’ve heard of it but sometimes my mind is so full of plugins that I’m trying to remember everything I’ve heard but yeah, will definitely check that out.

What insights can you share on building an affiliate program?

Now, you said Affiliate WP and I know that actually I had Pippin on talking about doing an affiliate program, the challenges and everything. What insights can you share with everyone, maybe some of the challenges or successes, what you saw really worked with your affiliate program?

Paul: So it’s not enough, like the software is great and it just works and that’s what I like about it. So I don’t have to think about the software.

It’s not enough to say, “I have an affiliate program. Sign up and make some money.” That just doesn’t work. (If only it did. That would be really, really cool because everybody would make a lot of money.) But you need to guide people into how to be good affiliates. For bigger affiliates or for people who have a bigger reach or bigger audiences, figure out how you can show that audience how trust exists between the affiliate and yourself. Whether it’s a joint webinar, a recorded call between the two of you, just some way to show that there is a relationship there, why the relationship exists and why that person believes so strongly in your product.

Because for the affiliates I have for all my courses—and all my courses use Restrict Content Pro and Affiliate WP— the best affiliates are the ones that can show this relationship. So if I do a joint webinar with an affiliate during a course lunch, that affiliate is going to sell more than any other affiliate that I haven’t done some kind of event with on the internet.

I think you also have to give them things like assets. You need to give them if the course is open or closed, give them the dates way ahead of time. You can’t just email your affiliates on launch day and say, “Hey, it’s time to promote it.” There has to be some lead-up because people have content calendars. They have newsletters queued up weeks in advance or—if you’re a nerd like me— months in advance. So you need to give people lead time as well, which I think is really important.

Bob: That’s a great point, that last part. As an affiliate marketer myself, I have even contacted some affiliates and they’ve asked me do you have any recommendations and I say it’d be really great to know when you’re having specials, when you’re doing launches. I guess I’m in Nerdville with you. I schedule things. I have a lot of content. I have it all planned out and I want to be able to formulate something that isn’t last-minute, shoot- it-out. I like to put some strategy into it.

How do you use email marketing to promote your Chimp Essentials?

Okay. I’m switching out this next one and I’m going to make it a two-part question. Obviously, you use email marketing to promote your training. How do you use it for your own markting of Chimp Essentials?

Paul: It’s good because all of the lessons in Chimp Essentials I can use myself as an example when I’m teaching. I do screen walk-throughs of how I run my business in Mail Chimp. The course is open twice a year for two weeks because I don’t have time to keep it open all the time. So I put it up in the spring and fall. During the year I am collecting people’s email addresses to let them know when Chimp Essentials launches and how to get the best deal, how to sign up for the list. So that traction. I rank pretty  high in Google with the content that I’ve written in terms of MailChimp training.

I get a decent amount of traffic. I get a decent amount of sign ups. Then a month before the launch, I start to drip out content to the list, to the people who are interested in the course but have not purchased. I don’t need to sell to the people who have already purchased, which is a good thing about MailChimp, because they are segmented. If they have already bought, they don’t get the funnels or the sales pitches or anything like.

So I just start dripping out content. Sharing success stories other students have seen. SAaring why MailChimp is important. Last time, I shared the misconception that Convert Kit does more than Mail Chimp does, which was powerful. Because I had been listening to people saying, “ I just switched to Convert Kit because MailChimp doesn’t do X.” And I was like, “MailChimp does do X.” So I learned that the problem was on my end because I hadn’t taught people successfully how to do that.

For this course, I also have six free lessons. So when the cart opens up for the ability to buy, I’d rather people try it first. I’d rather have people try the free lessons and see if this is for them, this isn’t for them, then buy the course, rather than and be like, “Hey, Paul, can I get a refund?” I’d rather people get a sense of what the course is first and then decide if they want to buy it or not based on the information they have instead of based on a countdown time or something like that.

I’d rather people get as much information as they can so if they buy it they know they’re going to use it and they know they’re going to like it.

Are there other avenues you’ve used in promoting your course?

Bob: Now, the email marketing, obviously, keeps you busy but are there other avenues you use that have been effective in promoting your course such as social or any other kind of advertising?

Paul: Nope.

Bob: Well, that’s a straightforward answer.

Paul: Yeah. Because I tested it out. I don’t even have a Facebook account but I got one and I hired some Facebook experts and I think I spent about three or four grand on ads last year for Chimp Essentials, just to see. because I had heard that Facebook ads work. So let’s see what happens. Of the probably just under four grandI spent, I think I got two sales out of it.

Bob: Oh, man.

Paul: So it didn’t work. Whereas with Mail Chimp, I get about 120 times return on my investment. For every dollar I spend on my Mail Chimp account,  I make $120. So the comparison is really night and day. My entire focus is on my mailing list because I know that pays off better for me.

Some of my friends run Facebook campaigns and just make money hand over fist with it. It didn’t work for me, which is fine. Which is kind of fun because now I promote it using the thing that I’m teaching in the course.

Do you use any other social to let people know that your course is open?

Bob: Now, do you use any other social maybe not for direct advertising but do you use Twitter or anything, just kind of to let people know that it’s open, any kind of like I said unpaid but just your basic social sharing?

Paul: Yeah. I might mention it on Twitter once when the cart’s open. But I don’t really use Twitter for promotion. I use it more for sarcastic commentary.

I use Instagram to post pictures of like my pet rat. So like I don’t really use social. I guess social for me is brand awareness. So it kind of reminds people that I exist. But I don’t really do a whole lot of promoting on it.

Bob: That’s interesting. And that’s a lesson learned. I mean, like you said, that’s how it worked for you. But it does show the power of email marketing. I’m the same way with Facebook. I have done a few sponsored posts or boost posts with a few bucks and that’s okay but, boy, putting any kind of investment in there…

And it’s a consumer-to-consumer based. I’m sure some people make business stuff work, but people are looking to buy fun things, not courses and themes and plugins.

Now, lastly, you talked a lot about email newsletter marketing. That’s where your expertise is. Can you leave us with two nuggets: a little Paul Jarvis wisdom on those subjects?

Any nuggets of wisdom about email newsletter marketing?

Paul: I want to talk about consistency and trust. The reason that my email marketing does well is because I’m consistent with it. I started my main mailing list, the Sunday Dispatches, four or five years ago. So I send out an email every single Sunday no exceptions. I don’t miss a Sunday unless I’m on a break, which I schedule far in advance.

Consistency shows people that hey, this guy cares about emailing me every single week. If I email him, he replies. Like sometimes I get, because my list is fairly large, I’ll get 200-300 emails. I’ll get 200-300 replies on Sundays from people and I answer every single one because email converts the best for me. It’s where I can learn the most about my customers and it’s the most fun. I like talking to people by email. Consistency has really been a factor for me; I don’t miss a Sunday. I schedule them far in advance. I take time to write the emails. I take time to reply to people. I am always consistent.

The second thing is that a lot of people try with email marketing to jump right into a sale. So somebody signs up for your list and it’s ‘churn and burn.’ You’re going to push your product on this person until they either relent and buy or they unsubscribe, which I’m sure works for some people, especially if they have ginormous volume. But for me, I found that it works a lot better and makes me feel better as a business person as well, if I  build a relationship based on trust first.

So somebody signs up, to know when a course is launching or to get more information about a course. I’m not going to sell them the course right away. I’m going to talk to them about why the course material is important, why email marketing is important. If I’m selling something like Chimp Essentials, it’s about email marketing. So I’m going to talk about why it’s important, how it can help a business. I’m going to have a survey or two like, what are you interested in? What are you not interested in? And I’m going to build some trust there because I care about the people who are buying from me; honestly, because I like the people who buy from me.

So I build that trust and then when I offer something for sale, it’s less of a sales pitch and more of a hey, you know, I’ve been talking to you about email marketing for the last couple of weeks. I have a product, if you’re interested, called Chimp Essentials. Maybe you’d like to check it out. It’s available now and if you buy it today, you’ll get a discount and it’s up to you. I find that that works really well. Like that works really well in terms of conversion rates because I built this relationship, I built this trust first. I am basically creating a win-win. I win because obviously I get their money but they win because they get something they actually want. They get something that they know is important to their business. They get something that they know is actually going to help them.

And if they learn that it’s not, then they leave and I’m 100% okay with that.

Bob: Excellent. Now, I have a bonus question for you.

Now, a different question. Do you prefer reading a physical book or an ebook?

Absolutely nothing to do with email marketing but might have something to do with you writing a book. Personally, do you prefer reading a physical book that smells and you can touch and feel or an ebook and why?

Paul: I read probably two or three books a week. So I wouldn’t have the space to store. Like my Kindle Paper White, I use so much. I like the smell of books.I like the tactile-ness of books. But ‘m such a voracious reader, I wouldn’t be able to walk through my house. It would look like one of those hoarder shows, but with books.

Everything is on my Kindle and it holds a lot of books and I see the space continually creeping up. Oh, you’re at 40%. It’s something like 2000 books. It’s like oh, you’re at 40%. You’re at 50%.

Bob: Yeah. I can relate to that. I am crazy, except I read a lot of fiction.

Paul: Same.

Bob: I used to have them sitting, when I would actually buy books. I’d have them sitting in the bedroom because I’d always read in the evening and they were like piling up by the wall, piles all over the floors and stuff. Now it’s a little easier, also, to look and remember what books you’ve read before.

Paul: I make a lot of notes as well, and I can just go through my Kindle notes. After I finish a book I download the PDF and then I save it on my computer so I have a reference library of all the notes and the highlights that I’ve made for every book. That would be slightly harder with physical books because I’d have to keep those books.

Where can people connect with Paul on the web?

Bob: That certainly is an advantage there. Okay. Well, where can people connect with you on the web or where is the best place?

Paul: Sure. If people want to find me, just Google my name. Paul Jarvis. My mailing list, the Sunday dispatches, which we talked about, is an email I send out every Sunday that is an article that has something to do with connecting creativity and commerce and building businesses. That’s the best place to find out what I’m doing and to get the information I put out into the world goes. Because it goes to my mailing list before it goes anywhere else.

Bob: Excellent. Well, I’ll put up those links and make sure to get those in the transcript. I really appreciate you taking the time today to join us, Paul.

Paul: Thanks, Bob.

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