I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things we've learned and done growing our newsletter from zero to just under 500 subscribers in less than 5 months. The newsletter also has a 74% open rate.
Some of these insights might be things you've already heard, but by including them I hope that they reinforce just how important they are to consider.
1. Go niche
Don't try to be everything to everyone. It doesn't work. Pick a niche topic, or a niche audience, and create content people actually find useful, valuable and/or entertaining. If you want to know what that content might be - ask people!
For example, our newsletter is for B2B content marketers looking to create content for, as of right now, 6 particular topics - Marketing, advertising, startups, entrepreneurship, software and technology.
We found out what people were after by asking our current clients what some of their biggest content marketing issues are and "coming up with ideas for content" was by far the biggest.
2. Ask your subscribers for feedback
If you want to know what's working and what's not with your newsletter, it's best to ask the people who are opening or not opening your emails. Listen to them, don't assume you know what's best for them.
It's astonishing how many entrepreneurs and marketers convince themselves they know what's best for their customers and clients. That's a one way road to building a product or service with bad market fit.
We ask our subscribers in every email to get in touch with us if they have any feedback at all, good or bad. And we plan on sending out a survey every 6 months too - to get a more in-depth feel for what is and isn't working.
Don't start something if you're not going to commit to it. If you say you're going to do a weekly newsletter, then do it weekly. Nothing kills engagement and momentum faster than a lack of consistency. Even in the early stages.
Also, start with an achievable goal and scale only if you have the resource (time, staff or money). If you don't think you can manage 52 newsletters per year, then don't do a weekly newsletter.
TrendingUP is a monthly newsletter at the moment because that's all we can realistically put out while ensuring the quality of the content is always high and we maintain that excellent open rate and engagement.
If we get 1000 subscribers, we're thinking about moving that to bi-weekly. But ONLY if we feel 100% confident we can maintain the quality and value for our subs.
OK - moving on to some of the things we did to grow the newsletter.
We've bootstrapped this. So no paid advertising anywhere and very little time resource. So that means we have relied on doing two things so far:
1. Posted regularly on social media - it's an obvious one. We've used LinkedIn and Twitter more than anything else as we have a reasonable presence on both platforms and use them the most.
To try and break through the noise, we've tried to share interesting findings from the newsletters with the hope that people will be intrigued to find out more - we figured this will always work more than just "Click here to sign up to our amazing newsletter".
We also try and get some of our closest contacts and followers to help share our posts, but that isn't something we rely upon or ask them to do every time we post about the newsletter. It does help when it happens, though.
Summary: We've had a good response from our posts on social, and we'll keep looking at what works best, doubling down on that, and look at paid advertising to further cut through all the crap.
2. Encouraged word of mouth - the holy grail. In every newsletter we ask people to share it with their colleagues and networks if they found it valuable. We're not expecting everyone to do this, as it takes some effort on their part, but every time someone has, we've seen a jump in subscribers.
In fact, Michael Brenner (a well known and respected content marketer) got in touch with us to say he had used some of the information we shared to write two articles, both of which did really well for him, and he included links to the TrendingUP signup page within those articles. You can see those articles and his kind comments below:
Those mentions led to the best 2 week period we've had in terms of new subs. And hopefully with more newsletters and more subscribers, situations like this will occur more often. We also got a video testimonial from Michael that you can see on our TrendingUP landing page.
Summary: Obviously word of mouth is rarely something you can plan to get, but you can make it easier for your subscribers to share your content and encourage more of their networks to sign up so that it might happen more often.
I hope the above was interesting and even a little bit useful for you to read. I am here to answer any questions you might have as well and, if you like, you can connect with me on Twitter right here.