Let me ask you a question:
How important is building an email list to you?
If you think it’s a waste of time…this post isn’t for you.
But if you’re a blogger who’s focused on building an email list…or if you’ve tried to build an email list but just couldn’t seem to get over the hump, then you should set aside 7 minutes to read my Growtheme review.
Growtheme is a premium WordPress theme that’s singularly focused on helping professional bloggers grow their email list. And, spoiler alert, it’s pretty dang cool.
In this review, I’ll tell you a bit more about Growtheme, give you a hands-on tour of everything it has to offer, and then get into the nitty gritty details like pricing and support.
What is Growtheme and how does it help you?
As I said in the lede, Growtheme is all about one thing – building your email list. Yes, it’s a pretty snazzy theme in its own right. And yes, it has all of the basic features that you’d expect in any normal WordPress theme.
But what really differentiates Growtheme, its Unique Selling Proposition if you will, is its focus on building your email list.
Next question – how does Growtheme help you build your email list? Well, you know all of those email list building plugins that add all kinds of opt-ins to your site? With Growtheme, all of the functionality that you previously needed one or more plugins for is baked directly into your theme.
This approach has a couple of advantages:
- You just plain don’t need to install and/or pay for other plugins, which is nice by itself.
- More importantly, all of your opt-ins and content upgrades integrate perfectly with your theme.
With a third-party plugin, the styling or positioning is sometimes just a little…off. Which is natural, because the plugin is trying to tack itself onto your WordPress theme after the fact. But when you go with Growtheme, everything is built to work together from the ground up.
Now, you could probably achieve the same effect with third-party plugins if you were willing to put in the time adding custom styling or hacking up the code a bit…but it’s pretty dang nice to not have to do that.
A bit more specific about Growtheme’s opt-in features
Ok, up until now I’ve been pretty vague about what actually constitutes “building your email list”. Let’s fix that. Here’s what you actually get when you go with Growtheme:
First off, Growtheme sets you up with 10 different email opt-in techniques that you can easily enable or disable as needed. Those are:
- Feature boxes
- Notification bars
- In-content boxes
- Blog index
- Opt-in popups
- Comment opt-ins
- Author byline opt-ins
- After content boxes
- Sticky widgets
- And content upgrades
And again, because everything is implemented into the theme, it’s super easy to add anything you want. For example, to add a content upgrade, you just need to click a button in the WordPress Editor, choose your content upgrade file, and you’re pretty much set! I’ll cover this in more detail in the hands-on section. But it’s pretty dang cool.
Growtheme isn’t just about those basic opt-ins, though. It also sets you up with an optional welcome gate, as well as feature boxes, opt-in confirmation and thank you pages, and lots more.
Seriously, I was surprised at how well thought out everything is. And it’s all connected – if you create a feature box with an opt-in button, it will naturally sync up with your confirmation and thank you pages.
And what’s really cool is that all of this is done using the native WordPress Customizer. For example, to give you a little preview, here’s the feature box I created in about 30 seconds:
Who is Growtheme for?
Ok, at this point, you probably get that Growtheme helps you build your email list.
But who is Growtheme actually for? Cui bono? It’s a fairly important question because Growtheme neither is, nor pretends to be, a multipurpose theme.
Instead, Growtheme is built pretty much exclusively for professional bloggers. If you’re not a professional blogger (or someone who needs identical functionality), many of the features won’t work for you.
That cool feature box I showed you above? Perfect for a blogger a trying to build his or her email list. But not so good for an agency trying to push people towards a contact form.
I actually think this is a great thing. Basically, instead of trying to please everyone, Growtheme is just trying to be the perfect solution for one specific niche of WordPress users.
Hands-on with Growtheme
Alright, I think it’s just about time we actually dug into the theme itself. So, let’s go hands-on with Growtheme. Starting right at the beginning…
Booting up with the startup wizard
Normally, I wouldn’t dedicate an entire section to a theme’s activation process. But Growtheme uses this really nifty setup wizard that’s absolutely worth sharing.
It helps you:
- Install the accompanying Growbox plugin
- Get set up with your email marketing service of choice
- Configure some basic color options
Once you upload the theme and click the Activate button, you’ll see this stylish screen to get you started:
After you click Let’s get started, you’ll be asked to install the Growbox plugin. As you can read in the description below, this is done to follow coding best practices and to ensure that, in the event you switch away from Growtheme, you don’t lose your data (aka to avoid locking you in):
And once you get that out of the way, Growtheme asks you to set up your email marketing software – because what use are all those nifty email opt-ins without something to manage the emails you collect?
It’s pretty simple. I didn’t test all the configurations – but to set up MailChimp, all I had to do was log into my MailChimp account:
Then there’s only one more thing to do! Choose some basic settings for your site. This pretty much consists of basic styling/logo options:
And that’s it for the setup process! You’ll still need to do more work in the WordPress Customizer, but this process provides a nice way of squaring away the basic details.
Exploring the theme settings panel
There’s really not that much to do in the Growtheme options panel because, as I mentioned, most of your customization will happen in the WordPress Customizer.
You can basically do five things:
- Add your Twitter username for consistent use across the theme
- Choose your email input field placeholder
- Add custom scripts and CSS
- Edit your email marketing provider and choose which email list to subscribe people to
- Choose whether or not to use double opt-ins
Digging into the basic WordPress customizer
Ok, let’s dig into the WordPress Customizer now. I’ll show you the basic style options first, and then I’ll get into some of the neat goodies that Growtheme adds.
Using the standard WordPress Customizer, Growtheme lets you configure pretty much every part of your site.
While the Customizer options aren’t as detailed as you might get with a more multipurpose theme, they still give you a good amount of control over your site.
For example, in the Navigation settings you can quickly choose where you want your navigation menu to appear, how you want it aligned, as well as colors and some other styling:
You’ll get a similar set of options to format your:
All in all, this is pretty standard stuff for any theme that uses the WordPress Customizer. Nothing mindblowing yet. So let’s get to the cool stuff.
Customizing your Welcome Gate and opt-ins
I played a sneaky trick on you before – I didn’t show you the whole WordPress Customizer menu. That’s because I wanted to save the reveal for these options:
These are what really make Growtheme unique. They let you customize all of your opt-in content…using the live WordPress Customizer. Once you set up their styling here, you can quickly insert opt-ins wherever you want using shortcodes or toggles.
Say you want to configure your Welcome Gate – this is basically the “welcome” overlay displayed to new visitors. Just click on that option, then, you can customize everything using the WordPress Customizer. No need to mess around with a third-party page builder:
To edit the text, you just pop into the Page Header list and change it:
Ok, so that’s the Welcome Gate. But it’s far from the only thing you can customize.
You can also customize every single opt-in form using a similar interface.
For example, say you want to customize your Inside Content opt-in form. Just give that a click and you can change everything about it. Look how you can even choose whether or not to use animation or the Popup Optin:
Like I said, you get the same level of control for every single opt-in element. It’s much easier than trying to use a third-party plugin.
Adding opt-ins and bonuses to your content
Ok, so you can configure opt-ins using the Customizer. That’s cool…but what’s next? How do you actually use those opt-ins in your content?
Easy! Growtheme sets you up with a number of new options inside the WordPress Editor. Three new options to be exact. I’ll show you each.
First up, you get three new shortcode builders:
They let you:
- Insert a content upgrade
- Insert a custom opt-in
- Add a Tweet This box
Then, you also get some new meta boxes that let you enable other content:
For example, this is how simple it is to set up a custom lead magnet using Growtheme:
Just turn on the Show Post Specific Bonus box, enter your messages, upload your lead magnet and preview image, and you’re done!
And finally, the last new addition to the WordPress Editor is some handy layout options. For each individual piece of content on your site, you can enable or disable your:
- Author Byline
All in all, you have a ton of flexibility over individual posts and opt-ins.
Growtheme pro’s and con’s
- Email opt-in functionality is baked into your theme for seamless opt-ins
- Everything uses the native WordPress Customizer and is easy to set up
- Uses a plugin to avoid locking you in
- The theme just plain looks pretty
- List segmentation only possible with certain email providers but more will be added in the near future
- More expensive than your average WordPress theme, though it backs it up with added value
Where could Growtheme get better?
I don’t have very many criticisms of Growtheme. But there is one thing I think is a bit of an oversight:
Expanding support for email list segmentation:
The ability to segment your email list is an important feature. Growtheme provides the option to send subscribers to different lists for each of your content upgrades, but only for certain email providers.
This includes; ConvertKit, Drip, Ontraport and Infusionsoft.
I’d love to see more email providers on this list. Fortunately, they do have more on their roadmap; including AWeber and MailChimp.
The reality is that this isn’t necessarily an issue with Growtheme.
Why? They are at the mercy of the API’s that email marketing platforms provide. Some API’s simply don’t support list segmentation.
My second suggestion is something that I waver on – because I see both sides of the issue:
I would love a simple way to split-test important elements like CTA buttons and headlines. Growtheme does such a great job letting you easily create stylish and attention-grabbing elements…but if you could test and optimize those elements as well, I think that would put it really over the top.
I understand why it’s not there – it adds a whole new level of complexity and, for some people, bloat. But I think if there were a lightweight way to work it in, it would make Growtheme a totally comprehensive solution for list building.
How much does Growtheme cost?
You know how they say “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”? Yeah, that’s true. Sorry!
For all of the neat features that I listed above, you’re going to pay. Growtheme costs a cool $197. With that, you get to use Growtheme on unlimited personal sites and you get support and updates for one year.
So…is Growtheme expensive?
Well, if you compare it to your average $59 ThemeForest theme, then you might think so. But you need to remember that your average $59 theme isn’t going to offer this specific set of functionality.
And let’s look on the bright side. If, as Adam put it to me through email, you compare Growtheme to the similar-in-functionality $497 (!) per year Conversion Cats theme, then Growtheme’s $197 price tag doesn’t actually seem that bad, does it?
I think it comes down to this:
If you’re really going to use all of the features offered by Growtheme, it’s still a pretty good deal. You’d probably pay close to that in third party opt-in/lead magnet plugins just to get similar functionality. And you’d still have the issue of your system being a patchwork of third-party tools rather than an integrated platform.
If you’re not 100% bought into building your email list, though, then it might make sense to go with a cheaper theme for now.
How is Growtheme’s support?
I didn’t have the occasion to use Growtheme’s support, so I’m relying on the information that Adam relayed to me for this section.
Here’s what he had to say in our email exchange:
Support so far for me has been good. Bugs are fixed once reported, and they’ve incorporated a bunch of feature requests already.
So, it appears that Growtheme’s support performs as well as advertised. As always, your mileage may vary.
Wrapping things up
Growtheme is an exceedingly interesting offering. In a world where multipurpose monster themes like Divi and Avada are reigning supreme, it’s refreshing to see a theme so singularly focused on just servicing one niche really well.
You can tell that Jascha, the developer, spent a ton of time working out the best way to put everything together. Beyond that, Jascha has worked with some really successful bloggers like Ramit of I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Andrew from Mixergy, so I trust that he knows his stuff when it comes to designing a theme to set you up for success.
So, it’s definitely not for everyone, but if you are a blogger struggling to build an email list, you should give this theme a detailed look.