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100k visitors and 5k email subs in 6 weeks—here's what I did wrong. 👇

Hey 👋

In April, Built for Mars had about 1000 visitors, then it exploded and received 100,000 visitors in 6 weeks. 🤯

And it's still growing.

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At one point it hit about 230 concurrent readers. (I was so excited I forgot to screenshot it 😅... did get this one though).

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My UX email newsletter also grew by 5000 subs—currently gaining 150+ subs a day.

So, in the spirit of Indie Hackers, here are a list of:

  1. 🎉 Things that worked really well
  2. 😔 A few things that I wish I'd done differently

Hopefully some of these help you in your next project / launch. 🤞


🎉 Things that worked well

1. High effort = high reward.

People appreciate content that clearly took a lot of effort to create.

I think this is one of the reasons why people are drawn to YouTubers like MrBeast—he does things that obviously took a huge amount of effort.

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If you're planning a launch / blog / campaign, ask yourself how it can be bigger.

Or, how can it look bigger.

i.e:

10 ways to improve your sales pipeline.

Would be more impressive as:

The complete 100 tip guide to improving your sales pipeline.


2. Give people a clear reason to subscribe.

People will be more likely to subscribe to your mailing list if they have FOMO that if they don't, then they'll miss something.

That's really the bottom line of a mailing list, right? People don't want to miss your content.

Here's what I did:

  1. Released a series of blogs weekly, so people were subscribing for the next chapter.

  2. The sign up area was specific about when the next content would be released.

  3. Send an automated 'welcome' email, which reminded them what type of content they can expect to receive.

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3. The power of traditional media

I managed to get featured in a bunch of mainstream media, including TechCrunch, Financial Times, Forbes and MorningBrew ☕️.

This was my strategy with journalists:

  1. Created a list of journalists who've written about this niche before.

  2. Approach them 3/4 days before the content went live (they need enough time to write about it, but not so long they don't feel any time pressure).

  3. Send super personalised emails, not generic press releases.

  4. Tracked responses in a Google Sheets, if a journalist didn't respond, I'd try another journalist from the same paper in a few days.

  5. Twitter DMs seem to convert as well as emails.

  6. Follow people who showed an interest up, and gave up on the ones that didn't bother replying (most of them).

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4. Twitter threads are great

I read about the power of Twitter threads from Harry Dry, and they worked really well for me.

I know this isn't that many retweets, but I had like 300 followers at the time and it was by far the best engagement I've ever had on Twitter. We celebrate the small wins, right?

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The key to a good Twitter thread:

  1. Be concise.

  2. Save the self-promotion for the end.

  3. Images and graphs help break up the text.

  4. Compress the real value of an article down into a few tweets. Not just the clickbaity stuff.

  5. Try and have one theme / point per tweet. Don't cram loads into one just because you have enough available characters.

You can see my Twitter thread here 🔗


5. Consider other platforms (not just Twitter / ProductHunt)

I knew that my primary audience (FinTech / founders / investors) were all on LinkedIn. And, LinkedIn generally has really crappy content.

So I largely ignored competitive places like Facebook / Slack channels / Reddit, and focused on LinkedIn.

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In total I saw tens of millions of impressions on LinkedIn posts—and they were just the ones people were sending me!

So, consider:

  1. Are there other platforms / communities where you could publish something that's 10x better than the average content?

  2. Focus your efforts on a few platforms, and actually engaging with people there. Don't just post it everywhere and hope it catches on.

  3. If possible, build relationships with influencers on that platform (long term strategy).



Things that I wish I'd done differently

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1. Track signups better

I hadn't set it up so I could see where my subscribers were coming from. They all just came from 'Mailchimp API'.

If I'd done this before publishing, I'd have a much better idea of where my sign ups were coming from, and which methods to double down on.


2. Get good hosting

I was still using a £2 per month hosting package, and every time I sent the newsletter out it'd die.

For anyone that's been in that situation, it's totally crushing. 😱

Eventually I moved host and set up Cloudflare, but I probably won't get many of those visitors back.

Lesson #2: Don't expect much from £2 p/m hosting.


3. RSS feeds exist

I completed forgot about RSS feeds, and had a bunch of articles published on Wordpress but without any links to them. I naively assumed nobody would find them.

Wrong. They appeared in RSS feeds and people saw them early.

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Luckily I had a few people email to let me know, but if they hadn't I'd never have known. Now I password protect everything.

(Facepalms)


🤔 But, what was it that went viral?

I opened 12 real bank accounts to benchmark their UX. Basically, to find out which is the best bank in the UK.
Link to the study 🔗

☝️If you're into UX or FinTech, you may find this interesting.


See you in the comments!

  1. 4

    It's impressive how much effort you put into it. It's a well deserved success.

  2. 2

    Congrats! Great thread!

  3. 2

    This is really inspiration, thanks for sharing. Im a UXer and fellow IH too. I saw the post about the bank accounts in my LinkedIn feed, nice to see it came from a fellow IH!!

    I have a quick question, I've been listening to The Hustle podcast (really recommend btw) and they've been saying how good a business an email newsletter is. Like really good. So my question is: does your blog make money from your email newsletter or is it the paid audits? If not, have you considered making money from your email newsletter?

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks, I'm glad it helped.

      So, I think some people have monetised their newsletters, but I plan on keeping it free. Instead I make money when people pay me for private UX consultancy (I actually had the consultancy before I started the newsletter).

      My aim is to grow Built for Mars to a large community / newsletter / resource for people to learn about UX. This year I'm doubling down on the content too.

      And then hopefully, 0.001% of people continue to pay me privately.

      1. 2

        Thanks for the reply! I'm not sure they were making money by charging. But I don't know so much about that type of business model. Amazing work and good luck with the consulting!

  4. 2

    @PeteRamsey - really clever & well done.

    Question: Is/was your ultimate primary objective to get clients who hire you to do UX consulting or actual UX work?

    Meaning, get exposure to BFM, get people on your newsletter, and eventually those people will hire you?

    1. 1

      Thanks Mike!

      That's the funnel yeah, but to be honest my private UX audit work is mainly word of mouth (has been for a few years). There's only one of me, so I turn down a lot more work than I take on.

      I dedicated about 30% of my time to Built for Mars content, because I really enjoy it. I have no plan to monetise the newsletter or get sponsors.

      It definitely helps when things go viral, like this, but my UX audit work was pretty near capacity anyway.

      1. 2

        Great problem to have @PeteRamsey :)

  5. 2

    Wow, it's you! I saw it all over my social media (Twitter and Linkedin) multiple times.
    Congrats, nice work and very interesting.

    1. 1

      Ah awesome. Yeah it's certainly done the round.

      Can't take all the credit though, viral posts need a lot of luck, and I think I got super lucky.

  6. 2

    Yes chap! Ridiculous amount of work put into your teardowns and articles. And it's bang on what people in the industry want to read about. Tidy!

  7. 2

    Thanks for sharing.

    I think that it's very important the fact that you create an AWESOME case study about banks. How many time do you need for create this?

    Good job :)

    1. 1

      Thanks! All in, it took somewhere between 4-6 months. A lot of planning, a lot of study and then I had to actually build the blogging part of the website.

      So the next one will be probably half that time.

  8. 2

    Thanks, so interesting and helpful content- I actually saw your linkedin chart about 5 times on my feed!!- and yes, i think linkedin is probably a bit of an untapped opportunity for reaching quite a few customer segments....- the current content there is usually pretty average...

    1. 1

      Hah, yeah it certainly did the rounds on LinkedIn! Still is really. The average content is so weak I think it's fairly easy to do well on LinkedIn.

  9. 2

    Thanks for sharing Peter. This is great resources (both this post and your site) for people new to products. Look forward to more contents!

  10. 2

    That is pretty helping <3

    1. 1

      Great! I'm glad I could help.

  11. 2

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing @PeteRamsey - all that work deserves the success. Well played sit 👏

    Can you elaborate on the RSS section for me, I don't fully follow (I have never understood RSS!) - what was the issue?

    1. 2

      Thanks!

      I'll be honest, I didn't/don't know much about RSS feeds either—that's why I got in this mess.

      But RSS feeds seem to crawl your site for new content, so as soon as you post it, it can appear in someones feed.

      So what was happening is I was posting a draft, but publishing it because, well... I'm an idiot... and then they were finding it.

      The RSS feed didn't know what was real new content, and what was me just publishing crap.

      1. 2

        Ahhh, I see - so while you didn't have a link to the new content, the RSS feed could find it and show it to the user.

        Ok, really good to know actually!

  12. 2

    I created a Twitter thread on it 😅

    1. 1

      Thank you so much! That's awesome. 🤯

      (Part 2: I was on IndieHackers and got another....)

  13. 2

    Awesome write up Pete, great idea on the detailed breakdown in a combination of the UX teardowns. I remember signing up after reading the Intercom teardown a while back!

    1. 1

      So great to hear, thanks!

  14. 2

    I followed the series from the first edition and it was amazing to see the momentum grow.

    Shows the 'doing the work' and putting in a ton of planning - then executing on it delivers amazing results!

    Excited to see what the next study will be!

    1. 1

      You rock James. 🤟

  15. 2

    Incredible stuff. Thanks for sharing. Really actionable advice that I will incorporate into my own projects. Keep it up!

    1. 1

      Awesome—this is why IH is such a great community.

      1. 2

        People like you make it great!

  16. 2

    Thanks for sharing @PeteRamsey. Some great insights here.

  17. 1

    Amazing post and journey, now I just need to replicate it with my newsletter dealsflow.com 🤓 easier said then done I guess..

  18. 1

    Impressive. Thanks for sharing.

  19. 1

    FYI you can use free hosting for static sites like Netlify or Github Pages that would've handled the load for you.

  20. 1

    Thank you for sharing your valuable insights buddy

    1. 1

      No problem, fingers crossed they work on your next project.

  21. 1

    Thanks for sharing this @PeteRamsey ! And congrats on your numbers! 🥳
    Really insightful read! Also, thanks for sharing areas where you made mistakes too. I've made quite a few mistakes myself learning the ropes as a first-time founder.

    This read was especially important for me now more than ever since our team is getting ready to go-to-market. I'm going to set up a spreadsheet similar to yours to track my efforts for reaching out to journalists, I think that's a really great idea.

    1. 1

      Awesome, good luck with with it! Feel free to reach out if you need a hand.

  22. 1

    Good job! You have created a very appealing product, this is just some wonderful work.
    What is your business model? it doesn't state you charge anything for UX audit.
    I would have loved to see a case study of a social network, maybe even indie hackers.
    Good luck with the next step!

    1. 1

      Thanks 🙏

      So, i've been a UX advisor for a few years now—it came before the website. So Built for Mars is a free resource for people to learn about product, and a very small % of those people will pay me for a UX audit.

      Indie Hackers would be a great study...

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    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      Thanks, yeah it was a massive uphill battle initially (as this kind of stuff normally is, right?)

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        This comment was deleted a year ago.

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