Newsletter Crew September 24, 2020

How I Got To 2k Subs - Lessons, Growth Strategies and Process

Victor Lei @Victorlei

About the newsletter

I launched The Average Joe in May 2020, an investing newsletter that explains the impact of financial news, analyzes investing tends and breaks down complex concepts in a light and conversational tone.

  • Our emails are sent out twice per week (Tuesday and Thursday)
  • 2 articles per email (350-400 words each)
  • Launched May 2020 and we just sent out our newsletter #31
  • We hit 2k subs in 4 months
  • Here's our most recent issue

Tech stack

Nothing fancy here but I'm using Mailchimp for our ESP, Sparkloop (amazing tool) for our referral program, Wordpress for our site and landing page (I post each of our articles on our site)

Writing process

I've had very little writing experience before starting the newsletter so the first 10 newsletter was a struggle until I started improving. Our newsletter started out as a weekly email and switched to 2x per week when my writing time decreased and I knew I could consistently pump out quality content.

Here's my weekly cadence:

I left my job end of 2020 to pursue entrepreneurship so I spend 100% of my working time on The Average Joe newsletter. I spend a lot of time researching and reading financial news since we're an investing newsletter. On top of the activities below, I'll spend a couple hours everyday reading the news, listening to podcasts and reading other blogs/ newsletters.

Monday: Write, a bit of growth and prepare to send out Tuesday's newsletter
Tuesday: Write and growth
Wednesday: Write and prepare to send out Thursday's newsletter
Thursday: Growth
Friday: Growth and a bit of writing
Weekends: Research, growth and a bit of writing

What we used to grow from 0-2000 subs

Reposting content on various channels

  • Reddit (investing heavy groups) - got me a couple hundred subs repurposing content, eventually got banned in 75% of these groups.
  • Facebook groups (investing heavy groups) - I've found a couple groups where I could post my content on a weekly basis without worrying that it won't be approved.
  • Medium - Our content is short-form and doesn't fit Medium so didn’t work out too well for us.
  • The Capital - Medium for financial articles, platform is still relatively new so results have been abysmal.

Facebook ads - I started doing Facebook ads a month ago and our cost/subscriber is ~$3-4. I set my my budget to $25/ day. I've started monetizing the newsletter through paid ads a month ago so I've been able to afford to invest in some ads. I'll likely be increasing my budget here over the next couple months and will also be trying out some other paid channels (running giveaways).

Referral program

We implemented a referral program at ~1k subs and we've since gotten ~100 new subs from the program. However, half of the 100 referrals came from our ambassador program. We recruited a couple students to represent our brand in schools. We made our first reward (3 referrals) access to a premium email that I send out biweekly. I promote this in our regular newsletter before I send it out which gives us a nice boost in referrals.

Partnerships/ speaking engagements - We've reached out to our alumni programs to help promote us and we'll speak at events through our alumni programs.

Why not Twitter? - I've never been one to use social media and still don't really understand Twitter - Join my 10 other followers here :)

Cross-promoting/ guest posts

  • Cross promotion - tried a couple but hasn't worked out for us.
  • Guest posting - also didn't work out too well for us, I'm really picky about the format/ content so I spent a lot of time editing the article to fit our email - just wasn't worth it.

Some early lessons

  • Improving deliverability - changing from a weekly email to 2 emails per week. I split my content into two emails to make sure my emails don’t clip.
  • Improving deliverability - played around with send times and realized that earlier send times worked better for me - 9am is our send time.
  • Getting sponsors - build relationships early. My first 2 sponsors came from connecting (Linkedin) with other startups in my space months before I thought I could monetize.
  • Referral program - set up double opt in so you don't get garbage emails.
  • Guest posting - don't do it too much, your readers subscribed to your newsletter to read your thoughts.

Goals for the newsletter

  • Turn The Average Joe into a financial media company - most importantly, make investing simple, accessible, and millennial.
  • Grow to 10,000 subs by the end of 2020.
  • Grow to 100,000 subs by the end of 2021.

Subscribe to The Average Joe, the newsletter that breaks down investing in a simple and millennial tone - Financial news you'll actually enjoy, actionable investing tips, delivered in a 5-minute read.

  1. 4

    Congrats on the milestone, great work! Fun seeing someone from my high school on IH 😆

    1. 4

      What a place for reunion hah! Look at that, IH bringing people together

  2. 1

    Grats, that's huge! Nothing suprising when you said you got banned from most subreddits.

    Would you be willing to shine a bit more light on how you acquired the advertisers for your newsletter? What did the deal look like etc? Did you get paid by lead, or was it like a one-off payment?

  3. 1

    Hey Victor, thanks so much for sharing. My wife and I set up a newsletter a month ago and we're currently at ~100 subs. Finding ads a little expensive as a way to acquire new subs so I'm going to try the "content repurposing" route :-)

    Right now we're using Sendfox which has its own referral system but it's a little rigid. No integration with Sparkloop so will probably switch to MailChimp or ConvertKit.

  4. 1

    Congrats on everything so far. What's been your split of organic vs paid acquisition? Or more bluntly: how many of the 2k subs did you pay for?

    1. 2

      ~50 subs, I began testing ads a month ago with a $10 daily budget to get data and slowly ramped up from there.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the response! And congrats again - keep up the good work. I totally agree with you re: 2x a week (I do the same on my newsletter and found the switch helped organic growth)

  5. 1

    Thanks for posting these insights.

    Can you go a little bit more into detail on the "content reposting" part? You wrote that you used Reddit and Facebook to spread your message. Unfortunately you got banned from 75% of subreddits. Did you simply drop the link in Facebook Groups / Subreddits or did you wrote a dedicated mini-post for the Subreddits / Facebook Groups?

    1. 2

      I found ~10 different investing groups and posted an intro message telling everyone I launched the newsletter and a bit about the content - Drove 100-150 subs. Got banned from 3-4 subreddits.

      Every week or two, I'll post one of my full articles directly into a subreddit and link to my landing page at the bottom of the article. Over 2 months, I got banned from 3-4 more. I get a lot fewer subscribers from posting these.

      Facebook group - I'll do the same thing but I haven't really been banned from any groups yet, they'll simply not approve the post if they don't find it valuable.

      1. 1

        Great! Thanks for the in-depth answer!

        I was asking because I did the same thing on Reddit. The reaction was a mixed bag. Some subreddits where I thought that my post should thrive downvoted me into oblivion (although I followed the exact same format the other posters used) while other, only tangentially subreddits upvoted it like crazy. Not sure why that was.

        Just another quick question: Do you know if using your original blog post content in a Reddit post harms your SEO due to duplicate content issues?

        What I did was rewrite the whole article and post it on Reddit. It had the same content but was completely rewritten from scratch. Of course that doesn't scale...

        1. 1

          I'm not too sure, to be honest. I haven't been worrying about my SEO at all so when I'm posting, I don't usually optimize for search. I'm competing with a lot of financial publications in my space which makes it very difficult to rank.

          1. 1

            I see. That makes sense. Maybe one shouldn't worry too about this as the content is used to attract people from places such as Reddit rather than being optimized for search.

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