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A Complete Convertkit Email Marketing Crash Course

By Nate McCallister / a couple of weeks ago
ConvertKit Course

Email marketing is responsible for 30-40% of my revenue each month so to say I take it seriously is a gross understatement.

When I hear people say things like, "email marketing is dead," I cringe. I know this isn't the case. The results I'm getting with email marketing remind me daily that these sorts of statements aren't based in reality.

So, let's let others think it's dead. This just means less competition for our subscriber's attention. 

Now, I couldn't ​do the things I do with my email marketing without ConvertKit

While I hate to start any article off with a sales pitch, this blog post doesn't mean much if you aren't using ConvertKit for your email marketing. 

If you're interested in joining ConverKit, sign up via my affiliate link and I will greatly appreciate it. No pressure of course and using my affiliate link doesn't come at any extra cost to you.

Pricing ranges from $29 and up and it is tiered billing (my bill is north of $150/month currently). 

I average $1/email subscriber per month on my email marketing efforts. I gladly make my ConvertKit payment each month without batting an eye. 

If you aren't ready to switch to ConvertKit or join right now, simply bookmark this article and check it out if and when you're ready in the future. 

Why Choose ConvertKit over Other Email Marketing Platforms?

At the time of this post, there are dozens of different email marketing softwares on the market.

ConvertKit is the "new kid on the block" relatively speaking.

It is young but complete.

There are a few big name softwares that most internet marketers have heard of.

These include:

  • Infusionsoft
  • ​Aweber
  • Drip
  • Get Response
  • Mailchimp 

I have tried Aweber, Infusionsoft, Drip, Actionetics and Mailchimp extensively in the past either with my business or with the businesses of clients. 

Most marketers can't say they have seen so many of the available platforms with this sort of perspective.

From what I've heard about the others that I haven't tried, it's safe to say that none of these softwares flat out "suck." 

They all send email.

The value comes when you transition from just sending a few email blasts to taking your email marketing efforts seriously. 

It's important though to choose the provider that is going to be best for you. There is no solution that is best for every single person. 

Here is why Convertkit is best for me (right now). 

  1. ConverKit is straightforward and minimalistic. I recommend solopreneurs and smaller brands (anything other than massive corporations and retailers) should focus on text heavy emails. ConvertKit makes it easy to not get distracted with fancy features. 
  2. ConvertKit has enough under the hood to do everything I need. While it is "minimalistic," you can still do more than enough to drive serious results. 
  3. ConverKit integrates with all of my favorite 3rd party tools. It would be impossible for me to use a software that doesn't integrate with my other services (like Clickfunnels who offers their own email marketing option) and the Zapier functionality makes it easy to integrate almost anything else I could want (Gumroad, Stripe, PayPal). 
  4. ConvertKit was made with bloggers in mind. There are a number of features that make it clear ConvertKit was thinking of us bloggers when building it. 

I will be the first to admit, ConvertKit isn't perfect. None of these solutions are. The longer you use them, the more the grass is going to seem greener on the other side.

 For example, there are features of Drip I'd love to see in ConvertKit (automations based on page views for example) but I know that switching isn't going to be worth it right now. 

Why?

Switching an email list is a huge hassle and it can impact your metrics for quite awhile.

If I transfer my list of 10,000+ subscribers to another provider, I am going to get a lot of bounced emails on my first blast since the server won't be recognized by my subscribers' email providers. There are other issues in transferring, but let's save that for another day. 

Ok, last call. Ready to join? 

This is a rather long post so if you are looking for some specific instructions, check the table of contents below and navigate to the section relevant to you. 

Overview of the ConvertKit Interface

ConvertKit differs from other email marketing softwares because of its simplicity. I consider ConvertKit to be the embodiment of the "80/20" rule  for email marketing software. It focuses predominately on the 20% of features that bring 80% of the results.

Don't be mistaken though, it isn't completely stripped down. There is still plenty of horsepower under the ConvertKit hood. 

If you're a small business or blogger (like me) you shouldn't be weighing yourself down with overly powerful softwares that end up leaving you confused and less effective in the long run. 

Lots of the available tools for email marketing are completely overkill for people like you and me. 

In my experience working with new marketers, more often than not, they aren't even close to utilizing the basic features that would improve their email marketing success. 

Now, if you're part of a large team and have a full scale marketing department, I don't recommend ConvertKit. Large scale softwares like InfusionSoft (ConfusionSoft as Russell Brunson of Clickfunnels calls it) should be worth the investment. 

Many companies have entire positions made for Infusionsoft experts (and they pay well compared to basic marketing jobs). 

Let's go over the ConvertKit dashboard section by section.

I will cover (in order):

  1. Forms
  2. Sequences
  3. Broadcasts
  4. Subscribers
  5. Automations
  6. Account
  7. Support
  8. Subscriber dashboard

Once we cover each of the key sections, we will bring it all together in the end and I'll touch on some general best practices for email marketing.

ConvertKit Overview

1. Forms

ConvertKit Forms

Forms are opt-in pages. These can deliver lead magnets (bribes to subscribe) in exchange for email addresses. 

You can make either landing pages or boxes within the ConvertKit program.

A basic box form looks like this. That demo shows the opt-in on it's own page, but these would actually be shown inside your blog posts. 

You can append these to the bottom of a post or anywhere inside the post with short code (assuming you are using the ConvertKit plugin) or with Java or HTML codes. 

ConvertKit Code

Here is where my opinion of ConvertKit differs from many of the other users.

While I am in love with 99% of ConvertKit's features and functions, I HATE the way that their forms and landing pages look. 

That's ok because there are a lot of other options for creating landing pages, forms and pop ups that look fantastic and integrate seamlessly with ConvertKit. 

Unless you have a solid understanding of CSS and the willingness to work harder than you need to to make these look good OR you are ok with their mind numbing simplicity (many bloggers do use these) I recommend you use one of the following tools instead.

Alternatives to ConvertKit's Forms

I like having options so I use the following three tools for gathering emails (they all integrate directly with ConvertKit). 

Alternative #1. Sumo
  • Create beautiful pop-ups and opt-ins
  • Allows for split testing 
  • User intent and timed pop ups (exit intent) 
  • Integrates with most major 3rd party email marketing tools (ConvertKit of course is included)
  • Easily deliver premium content to users in exchange for emails.

Formerly called SumoMe I use this for about 75% of my web based opt-ins here on EntreResource.com. 

Anything on my site that pops up or comes in from the sides is done with Sumo. 

Sumo

Sumo provides you with templates and full editing functionality so you can create beautiful looking opt-ins without much design experience. 

Sumo does have the ability to send email sequences directly for you BUT I integrate with ConvertKit directly and handle everything there. Sending from too many different email addresses is going to negatively impact your deliverability and opens going forward so stick to just one sender. 

Alternative #2 Thrive Leads for (Some) Inline Opt-Ins
Thrive Leads
  • Works seamlessly inside Thrive Themes.
  • Integrates with most major 3rd party email marketing tools (ConvertKit of course is included)
  • Easily deliver premium content to users in exchange for emails. 

The EntreResource blog runs on a WordPress theme from Thrive Themes. 

The company does much more than Themes though. You can easily embed Thrive forms into your blog posts (if you are using Thrive Themes). 

Connect ConvertKit and Thrive

Here is an example opt-in created with Thrive (feel free to opt-in of course if you don't already have the Perfect Blog Post eBook).

ATTN BLOGGERS: Get a FREE copy of my latest ebook!

Learn How to Make Serious Money Blogging WITHOUT Writing Hundreds of Posts

The also have landing pages that aren't too shabby BUT I prefer the powerhouse tool Clickfunnels for landing pages

If you aren't using Thrive Themes, I recommend you consider it. If you are happy with your current theme, ignore this 🙂 

Alternative #3 Clickfunnels for Landing Pages
  • Create pages from templates for multiple page types
  • Integrates with most major 3rd party email marketing tools (ConvertKit of course is included)
  • Easily deliver premium content to users in exchange for emails. 
  • Maximize cart value on products by creating powerful upsells, downsells, crosssells and continuity programs for both physical and digital goods and services. 

Clickfunnels is the front runner for landing page softwares. I have written about Clickfunnels at length before (I am one of their biggest fans).

While it is known for its powerful sales funnels, I love Clickfunnels for simple 2 step opt-ins. ​

Clickfunnels has a powerful set of tools and templates that allow you to create, publish and test high converting pages to sell products or collect email addresses. 

I have grown a majority of my email list through Clickfunnels and it is worth every penny of the $99-$299/month that it costs. ​

Clickfunnels Split Test

If you're serious about improving conversions, start a free 14 day trial of Clickfunnels ASAP. 

I am asked often about Clickfunnel's email marketing software Actionetics.

While it is powerful (and I use it for clients and a few smaller products) I still use ConvertKit for sending most of my emails. Actionetics is somewhere between ConvertKit and Infusionsoft with functionality and is worth considering if you want something a little more robust than ConvertKit. 

2. Sequences

ConvertKit Sequences

Sequences (originally called Courses) are automated email series that are sent when triggered by a user action such as signing up for a form. 

ConvertKit Email Sequences

Many of my readers are searching for that magical passive income. What most of them fail to realize is that you need to put systems in place like these email sequences to make sure that each reader is getting exposed to all of your best content, becomes indoctrinated to your brand and sees your most compelling offers. 

Writing a quality email sequence merits more than a short mention in this massive blog post. 

An entire book could (and should) be written about the power of email sequences and how to implement them.

For now, just realize that email sequences do the following.​

  • Get your relationship off on the right foot with your subsciber
  • Help you put your most important content in front of your new subscriber
  • Help you reach your subscriber while you are still "top of mind"
  • Increase the lifetime value of a subscriber

ConvertKit is certainly not the only software that has sequence functionality but it is my favorite. 

Each email sequence should be targeted to the individual who signed up for the list. This means if they signed up for a lead magnet that relates to personal finance, your emails should be catered towards personal finance. 

You can make your sequence as long or short as you'd like. Having just 2 emails in place is much better than having none. Some marketers go so far as to write email sequences for months in advance! ​

I send a lot of manual broadcasts (more on those next) so I don't lock my new subscribers into sequences longer than about 14 days max. 

3. Broadcasts and 4. Subscibers

ConvertKit Subscribers and Broadcasts

I need to touch on these two components simultaneously since you can't send broadcasts without understanding what tags and segments are. 

Broadcasts are emails that you send manually to a selected subscribers (tags, segments and more).

ConvertKit forces you to keep these email broadcasts simple. With ConvertKit, you focus more on the text than flashy images, headers, etc. 

Here is an example of one of my most effective email broadcasts selling a software for wholesalers that I wrote on the day of the Mayweather vs. Mcgregor fight.

ConvertKit Open Rates

Broadcasts can be scheduled to be sent immediately or at a future date and time.

Subscribers are broken down in several ways. 

  • Tags
  • Segments
  • Form subscribers

In a broadcast, we are given even more ways to target these subscribers (more on that later). 

Whenever we create a lead magnet or import a list of subscribers it is critical that we tag and segment them. This allows us to send the most relevant emails to the right people at the right time. 

For example, I can send a broadcast to people who are in a large segment while removing anyone who has purchased a certain product. 

Don't fall behind on this part. If you have thousands of subscribers and no tags or segments, I recommend you make segmenting your list a high priority.

If I want to sell something, it isn't smart for me to bombard existing buyers with sales pitches for products they already own! Especially if there is a new discount on the product. This is a great way to get unsubscribes and even refunds in some cases. 

If I tag my buyers, I can create logic that makes it so they don't receive sales emails for the product that they already bought going forward. 

What Are Tags

ConvertKit Tags

Tags are simple identifiers assigned to email subscribers. 

All subscribers can be assigned many different tags. ​

The tags that you create will vary based on your business, the number of different interests you target, the number of products you sell etc. 

Default Tags You Should Create

Here are some tags that I recommend you create

  1. Potential buyer of [INSERT PRODUCT]
  2. Existing buyer of [INSERT PRODUCT]
  3. Attended webinar on [TOPIC]

Don't be afraid to create a lot of tags. The more information you have on each subscriber, the better you can serve them. 

This means fewer unsubscribes, better open rates and more revenue. 

What Are Segments​

ConvertKit Segments

Segments are collections of various tags and identifiers. These are more broad are usually a starting point for creating your broadcast audience. 

Creating a Broadcast Audience from Subscribers

We create our audiences using a combination of identifiers. 

We can use logic that will include or remove certain subscribers based on how they are identified. 

The skill of consistently targeting the right subscribers with the right emails is going to make or break your email marketing success.

Sending users too many emails or emails that aren't relevant to them means an increased unsubscribe rate and decreased open and click through rates.  

When creating a broadcast, we must first select "Any," "All" or "None" matching option. 

ConvertKit Broadcast

Next we can choose which groups to start with. These can be any of the following shown below.

ConvertKit Broadcast

Once the first identifier is chosen, we can expand or reduce it with new filters. 

The more filters you run, the more defined your audience should become. 

If you have created segments and tagged your users properly, this part should be easy. 

5. Automations

ConvertKit Automations

One of the more advanced features of ConvertKit is it's ability to create custom automations.

These automations allow you to get tactical with your list and make sure you're always optimizing your efforts. 

ConvertKit Automations

Think of these triggers like an internal IFTTT.com or Zapier.com that only does ConvertKit related functions. 

Yes, I know I said ConvertKit was simple and this might be a bit overwhelming at first but understand a few things. 

  1. You don't need to use these right away.​ It is ok to keep things very simple. 
  2. You don't need to use a lot of automations. I have about 10 and I am more than happy with the results. 

I can't go into every possible automation but here are two that I recommend most highly. 

Recommended Automation #1 Clicks Link --> Add or Remove Tag

This feature allows us to better segment our list. 

Lets say for instance that you want to contact a list of people who are interested in marathon running and want to find out if they would also be interested in paleo dieting.

You could send this group a link to an article on the paleo diet and then create a tag called "Paleo Diet Interest."

We would then add an automation so that when any user clicks the article, they become tagged with "Paleo Diet Interest."

You could then add this tag to a segment of people interested in dieting.  

You now have more people on your dieting segment and you didn't actually get any new subscribers, you are just getting more out of the subscribers you already have.

You can send these newly tagged subscribers emails related to dieting and you won't see nearly as many unsubscribes and complaints. They have confirmed they are in fact interested in the topic.

The more data you store on each of your subscribers, the better you can target them and the better your results will be. 

This is where the "size doesn't matter," argument comes into play. Having a well segmented list is usually better than having a larger but far more broad list. 

Recommended Automation #2 Purchases a Product --> Add or Remove Tag

I mentioned earlier how important it is to not sell people things that they already bought. This is a great way to get your best subscribers (people who have already shown they support you and like what you sell) to unsubscribe. 

Emails that sell things to users that already bought them are annoying and disingenuous. 

It shows that you aren't paying attention to what your subscribers are doing and it will hurt you in the long run. 

RSS Feed Automation

Since ConvertKit was created with bloggers in mind, they have a feature that allows you to send automatic emails to your list every time that you publish a new blog post. 

RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) are fine but I don't use this feature. I like to craft individual emails and ensure that the extensive tags and segments I have created are used to ensure that only the right content is sent to the right subscribers. 

RSS feeds are much more impersonal broadcasts. 

ConvertKit RSS

If you have a blog that is very targeted and there is a segment of your list that wants to see everything that you write, this might be a good option for you. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, you likely have an RSS Feed. Enter (http://www.yourblogname.com/feed) to find out. If you are using WordPress it should be available. 

ConvertKit RSS Feed

The RSS feature allows you to send broadcasts that include only your most recent post or a "digest" of several recent posts. 

If you blog frequently, a digest post scheduled weekly can be a great option. 

ConvertKit Digests

The email auto-populates with content showing the blog title and the excerpt of the post. For this reason it's important that you understand what these look like before you start one of these RSS schedules.

Make sure that the excerpt reflects the content in the post and makes the reader want to click on the link to read more. 

ConvertKit Integrations

ConvertKit Integrations

A majority of the power of ConvertKit lies in the ability to connect with 3rd party softwares. 

ConvertKit and Zapier

ConvertKit currently shows 15 default integrations on their website. I know that there are many other softwares that do integrate directly with ConvertKit that are not displayed here. These include Sumo, Thrive Leads and Clickfunnels (three tools I recommended earlier). 

If there is a 3rd party software that you see that isn't integrated directly with ConvertKit, you can use a software called Zapier to create your own integrations.

Zapier supports hundreds of different programs and makes it possible to do things that ConvertKit wouldn't be able to do on it's own. ​

6. Account

The account section is where you will provide all of your personal information, where you will find your API key and where you can edit your email templates.

ConvertKit Accounts

All three default templates are very simple and only slightly different. 

ConvertKit Email Templates

If you want to create a more custom styled email, you will need to have an understanding of HTML and CSS or hire someone who does.

Just know that you can edit the font, font size, spacing and other typography elements so your email broadcasts have more personality.

I keep it simple and use the text only default template. I let my words convey my personality, not typography. 

7. Support

Any good software has great support. If you are having any issues with your ConvertKit account, this is where you can submit a ticket. 

ConvertKit Contact

The help documentation is another great resource (although I cover most of what they do here in this mega post).

8. Subscriber Dashboard

The dashboard shows you how many new subscribers you have acquired. 

ConvertKit Dashboard

The best part of this is that it breaks down each day by the opt-in source. ​

Email Marketing Best Practices

Email Marketing Best Practices

Now that we have covered the ins and outs of ConvertKit, let's touch briefly on the fundamentals of email marketing. 

Understanding the CANSPAM Act and the Legality of Email Marketing

Compliance comes first and foremost. 

If we violate the CAN-SPAM Act we can end up with bigger problems on our hands than unsubscribes and low open rates. Fines range as high as $40,000+ for violating the CAN-SPAM Act so don't take this lightly. 

So, read up on the CAN-SPAM Act before you do anything else. 

Here is my short version...

​#1 You must give your subscriber the ability to quickly and easily unsubscribe.

Your subscriber should be able to unsubscribe without jumping through any hoops. If it takes more than 10 seconds to unsubscribe you are doing something wrong. 

Now, there is some wiggle room here if you use a service that asks the user to choose which segments to unsubscribe from or asks them why they unsubscribed. This information can be helpful but it can also be quite annoying to someone who doesn't want to be surveyed to get off your list. 

​#2 You must include a physical address in your emails.

To be compliant you need to provide a physical business address. ConvertKit does this for you as well as the one click unsubscribe.

CANSPAM Act and Unsubscribes

#3 Don't mislead your recipient. 

You cannot pretend to be another entity. Avoid any sort of "ClickBait" headlines that cause people to open and leave them disappointed when they see what the content really is. 

Ask yourself, "is the subject of this email reflective of the content?" If the answer is no, revise it. 

Finding Your "Voice"

Part of why I love ConvertKit is that it allows me to contact my subscriber in a way that makes it feel very personal. You don't receive emails from a friend that have big banners at the top of them do you? Probably not. That is for big businesses, not me. 

I can't tell you what your voice is, I can just encourage you to find one and not let your content turn into bland sales pitches. ​

Limiting Your Calls to Action

Each email should encourage your reader to do something. This means there should always be some sort of link for your reader to click. 

For each email, I recommend you focus on ONE call to action and link to it several times in the email depending on how long the copy is. 

When we give our readers too many options, they generally choose none of them. 

Sheena Iyengar

Too many choices can overwhelm us and cause us to not choose at all. For businesses, this means that if they offer us too many choices, we may not buy anything. 


Most email marketers fall victim to the "Round Up" email where they give the reader 5-10 different things to do. These types of email broadcasts have their place, but for the most part, you will get better results sending more targeted emails more frequently with one call to action per email and multiple links to the same call to action per email. 

What to Never Put in an Email

  • Never put "RE:" in front of your subject line. This is a cheap way to get opens and may end up annoying your audience and leading to a lot of SPAM complaints. 
  • Avoid Politics. I don't want to stand in the way of you expressing yourself and having a unique character, but mentioning politics can lead to a lot of SPAM complaints and annoyed readers. 
  • Don't Mention "Money Back Guarantee." I learned this the hard way. Convertkit froze my account briefly because I had this phrase in an email! This is common language in SPAM emails, so it is flagged quickly. It stinks because the money back guarantee is one of my favorite parts of copywriting, but it is what it is. Just avoid it. 

5 Point Checklist before Your Press "Send"

  • Did you review the email for typos? You should literally read each email out loud before you send anything. Typos aren't the end of the world (sometimes, they can actually make you more relatable to your readers) but they aren't ideal. 
  • Did you test all the links? You should click on each link and make sure that it is opening properly. 
  • Did you compress your images? If you added images, make sure that they are as small as possible. I use a tool called TinyPng.com (free). Aim to keep all images below 50 kb whenever possible. 
  • Did you fact check your email? Make sure that important details are correct. I have messed this up many times... Check that all dates and times for webinars or deadlines are correct. If you're selling something, make sure you explain the deal properly.
  • Did you send a test email to yourself to ensure it looks correct on mobile? Most people check their emails on their phones. I like the simplicity of Convertkit because it makes for less hassle when its time to send. Text heavy emails have much less that can go wrong. 

General Email Marketing FAQ

So you now have a better understanding of the ConvertKit platform and how to get more out of it. 

You probably have some questions about email marketing still so here are answers to my most commonly asked questions (with links to additional reading).

How Often Should I Email my List?

This is an extremely important question. 

In my experience, most people aren't emailing their lists enough.

Don't let a few angry messages about sending too many emails sway your entire approach. If they become common you should certainly take them into consideration but at scale, you will always get a few complaints if you're emailing your list enough. 

"Enough," is relative though. I have seen people who email their list daily and don't seem to bug their readers. I have also seen people who send one broadcast a month and annoy their subscribers to death.

Why is that?

The answer comes down to value.

If each email you send provides extreme value, you probably can't send enough emails given your time constraints. I mean REAL value. Things that get people to open the email and want to reply, "thanks!"

Hubspot shows that more email broadcasts doesn't mean lower open rates until it reaches a tipping point (somewhere around an email every day). 

Email campaign correlation


There is a correlation between the number of campaigns sent and open rates.

I send emails almost daily but not to each subscriber. Remember how I said that I define my list with tags and segments? Having targeted audiences allows me to send more emails because I am sending them to people who actually benefit from them. 

You need to send sales emails but you need to also send emails that create massive amounts of goodwill and instill in your readers the desire to reciprocate the value you are giving them. 

Your metrics will also tell you if your emailing your list too much or too little. If your unsubscribes are through the roof (more on this in a minute) and your open and click through rates are in the basement (that was a fun little house themed analogy) you might want to make adjustments. 

Adjustments doesn't mean send fewer emails across the board. If can mean send better targeted emails or more valuable content.

What Is a "Good" Open Rate?

Open rates vary from industry to industry. 

I like to keep my emails around 25-30% open rates and 35-45% if I send a resend to un-opens campaign

How Do I Start Emailing my List when it Is Only a Few Subscribers

This is one of those questions that is hard to answer and not sound like a smart ass. 

The answer is blunt: it doesn't matter how big your list is. Email a list of 100 subscribers the same way you'd email a list of 100,000 subscribers.

No one knows how many subscribers are on your list and they really don't care.

Having a small list and emailing them from day one is going to help you develop a more personal voice. This will pay off for you big time down the road.

The biggest mistake I see is people waiting until they hit some magical critical mass before they start sending any emails at all.

If you wait until your list is 2,000 subscribers long (which realistically can take over a year for some bloggers) when you finally do send a broadcast, your readers will have no clue who you are. You are no longer top of mind and they will unsubscribe from your list at higher rates than if you emailed them consistently.

What Is a "Good" Click Through Rate?

These numbers vary from industry to industry but I aim for at least 3% CTR. 

Mailchimp provides average data for all industries.

Email marketing data



Via mailchimp

What Is a "Normal" Number of Unsubscribes per Broadcast?

I like giving solid numbers instead of vague answers so I am going to recommend you aim to stay below .5% .

This means on a broadcast to 1000 subscribers you should have no more than 5 unsubscribes. Don't count users who were on your list with different emails (sometimes users unsubscribe because they get 2-3 emails from you at a time since they used multiple emails to get various lead magnets from you).

Unsubscribe Tolerance Formula 

Audience Size * .005 < 5 ​

If you are above this number consistently review your methods and try to identify why this is. 

If you have been sending emails for over a year and have never had a single person send you a message saying "You're sending too many emails!" You likely aren't sending enough emails. 

About the author

Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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