Newsletter Crew November 18, 2020

74% open rate and nearly 500 subscribers in 5 months. Here's some stuff we did and learned.

James Tennant @JamesT88

Hey 👋

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.

3. Commit

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:

Article 1 - LinkedIn Stories
Article 2 - Phygital Marketing

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.

  1. 2

    Lot of that resonates well with my recent experience.

    Primary newsletter is supporting a business rather than an entity of itself.
    But regular postings, niche focus and audience feedback have made it a success.
    500+ subscribers after 18 months and generating around $2k of direct revenue monthly now.

    1. 1

      Those are great results. Are you monetising the newsletter directly, or is that monthly revenue from the main business that you can attribute to having come from the newsletter?

      1. 2

        Sales in main store directly from the newsletter.
        Nice spike in sales once a week when it goes out, tracking gives the full figures.

        It does depend on the business and industry, this is products that lend themself to regular purchases so a weekly newsletter nudges the hunger (food pun intended).

        Not tried a newsletter where the newsletter is the product/business but imagine many of the same success levers apply.

  2. 2

    Love this! Thanks for sharing @JamesT88 :)

    1. 1

      Thanks Toby, glad you found it useful!

  3. 2

    Perfect timy for me, as I just starting one!

    How do you combine the things you love, like in my case, I am a multitalented person, meaning I cant stick to one thing and I like many, with creating a niche newsletter?

    1. 1

      I think focusing on one thing and committing to it is a big part of success. I'm like you in that I always find myself looking at new things and new ideas, but I am strict enough to not take my focus away from what I'm trying to achieve. It's hard at times, but I know it's going to help in the long run.

      We want to hit 10,000 subscribers with this email. So, after my tasks with the main business are done, I concentrate on things that will get TrendingUP to that number.

      I've also got the hobbies and personal interests that I enjoy in my downtime as well - it's certainly not all about work.

  4. 2

    Really inspiring post and thanks for sharing it. Can you also let us know what are the tools you use for this setup.

    1. 1

      We use Mailerlite to create and send the emails.

      That's it.

      The actual newsletter content comes from the research we do.

      Is that what you meant?

      1. 2

        Yes that's it, thanks!

  5. 2

    USeful reflection! I'm been collecting/aggregating material for something myself in the startup space. Torn on releasing it as a Notion product or a weekly newsletter highlighting some of the key points. Haven't settled on each, but I've been leaning free newsletter to gain some traction and maybe release as product to move to paid.

    Any plan to go paid on your end? Ideas for product offerings to your subscribers? What has been your plan to monetize?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Glad you found it useful.

      I'm not sure about going paid with it. I think we might go down a sponsorship route for monetising.

      Our main business is a content publishing and amplification platform. So the folks who subscribe to our newsletter tend to be great potential customers for the main business too.

      We do have plans to create some digital products like ebooks further down the line as well. So there are a few potential revenue streams to play with.

      Not sure how easy it would be to go from a free newsletter to a paid for one. Might see some resistance from early subscribers. What you think?

  6. 2

    Really useful James, thanks for this.

    1. 1

      Glad you found it useful!

  7. 2

    This is a great summary, thanks.

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