Indie Hackers often seem to be looking for ways to grow their email list, so I thought I'd summarize recent email list growth tips that I've come across, with a few bits of my own commentary sprinkled in.
There is no one way
What is clear and obvious, is that one approach won't work for everyone. It is all too easy to look on with envy at people who appear to be killing it with viral Hacker News posts or Product Hunt launches that win the top spot.
The best thing you can do is to not think too much about what others are doing, but to look within yourself, your product and your audience and try to create something special and unique. Some people will win with laziness, but the reality is that to achieve the growth you will need to put in the grunt work.
Common channels that are used are:
- Product Hunt
- Facebook (groups)
These are just channels, and very generalized ones too. It's important to not see this as a complete list; go hunting for others.
Gaining initial traction can be hard, and it's not uncommon to have to post to multiple channels to get your first handful of subscribers. Especially if you don't have an existing following or trust within the channels that you post to.
And if you are in this for the long term (which you should be), then explore ways of creating your own channels that you will own or control.
"I just put a very comprehensive guide on how we used engagement posts on LinkedIn and Facebook to get from 0 to 3,000 subscribers - https://encharge.io/engagement-posts/"
The Cold or Warm Outreach Approach
Cold outreach is getting in contact when people don't really know who you are. Warm outreach is when people are aware of who you are. I guess you could also go as far as hot outreach, these are your good friends or raving fans who will mostly like do anything you say.
There are various ways to outreach to people, you need to choose what is right for you, they could include:
- Twitter / Facebook
- Slack / Discord
- Telegram, Whatsapp
- Call them!
For example, when starting out @csallen cold emailed 150 people:
"I interviewed ten people for Indie Hackers, but in the course of doing so, I cold emailed about 150 people to ask them to be interviewed. The vast majority of them said no, but a good deal of them agreed to be on my initial email list. That got me my first 30 or so. And the ten people who said yes to being interviewed also joined my list, which pushed me to 40."
This ended up with him having enough support to get lots of upvotes and then 1K email subscribers when he launched on Hacker News.
The creation of content still seems to be a firm favourite amongst indie hackers. The trick is to find the right balance of providing things for free or asking people for an email in return for something useful.
Sometimes just having the option to sign up to a newsletter is enough; other times you may need to encourage people a bit more with something bigger and more attractive.
"I produced a 2.5 hour course released it for free. Posted it in places where people would be interested."
- … is great for SEO in the long term
- … it helps build trust
- … can come in many formats—writing, images, podcasts, videos, slides, transcripts, data, spreadsheets, etc.
Gated content is not necessarily dying. Personally, I avoid gated content more these days. But I'll still stick my email in if I really want something. It has to be good, useful, and no fluff that will waste my precious time.
"I'm not sure how gated content is dying. Because based on observation, the reason why other articles get to be read while others don't is because of the value that the audience would get. Gated content is still effective as long as the business knows that it's what the audience wants. It's the same as the free content being used differently to capture leads." —@erroltiozon
If you can create something awesome, try trading it for an email. Worse thing that can happen is no one subscribes. And if that is the case, try repurposing the content!
Repurposing of Content
Creating content is time consuming, but you can be smart and reuse the content in different ways.
"I turned a presentation I made into an email course: Common Accessibility Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. It's a 10 email course for web developers wanting to learn about web accessibility."
- Quotes—use quotes from anything you create and share them whenever you can, on your website, social media or create images of them.
- Blog posts—can you turn your many blog posts into an ebook?
- Ebook—or can you turn your ebook into many blog posts? 😊
- Videos—turn it into a podcast!
- Podcasts/Videos—turn it into an article or presentation or ebook!
- Twitter threads—turn any bit of content into a Twitter thread!
The above list can be used for your content, but you can also repurpose other people's content too. Of course, give credit where credit is due.
"I set up a website and wrote ten case studies about marketing. I shared these case studies on a few different Slack groups, Reddit, Facebook groups and turned them into twitter threads."
A newer thing onto the scene is using Facebook Chatbots. This most likely means that you and your audience needs to be hanging out in Facebook.
@erroltiozon says to build his list "I use mainly messenger chatbots to get email addresses." To do this, he posts in relevant Facebook groups and leads users to a lead magnet (e.g. a PDF). Then, the person will be directed to a chatbot asking for their email first. The great advantage of this is the ability to reach out afterwards via chat or email.
General tips for thinking about how to grow your list
It's hard to get started, there's no doubt about that. But, if you do get started and keep going, you'll be ahead of 99.9% of everyone else out there who just can't be bothered.
- How can you get people interested and talking?
- How can you reach out one to one?
- Don't be a sales douche.
- Think about your audiences’ needs more than your own.
- Copy is hard, get it reviewed. (IH community is great for that!)
- Do research.
- Do keyword research.
- Define your audience!
- Find your audience!
- Hang out with your audience!
- Is your activity providing value?
"Overall would say it's a process and delivering quality content, but your circles are your most trusted people and many will try to help!"