How we grew our Canadian biz newsletter from 0-7,000 Subscribers in 3 Months

Three months into the pandemic, friends and I were brainstorming business ideas over Zoom and we landed on one we thought had some legs. We follow business news closely but realized that we were getting all of our news from US publications, like TechCrunch, Morning Brew and The Hustle.

And that was an issue... Why? Canadians talk to each other about Canadian news and we kept getting lost in conversations because we weren’t up-to-date with what was going on here – in our own country!!

So we started The Peak (https://www.readthepeak.com/), it’s Morning Brew for Canada, a daily newsletter covering the top Canadian and global business news in an informative and entertaining email that only takes 10 minutes to read. Think of it as The Report on Business for millennials.

And three months into it, we’ve grown to over 7,000 subscribers and want to share with you how we did it.

Content is King

Newsletter design
We spent the first month fine tuning content for the newsletter. Unlike traditional media, we wanted to strip away all the fluff and provide short summaries of the important stories and context on why they matter for you.

We experimented with different formats and tone but landed on the one that we thought fit best for our audience. Once we were happy with the tone, we recruited our closest friends to read it for two weeks and provide their feedback.

Remember, your newsletter is your product and finding product-market fit is crucial for success. After getting positive reviews on the the first few editions, we released it into the wild.

First 1,000 Subscribers

We got our first 1,000 subscribers through brute force. We posted on our personal LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with a story on why we founded The Peak and what readers could expect.

But the real growth came from direct 1-to-1 messaging. We went through our contact list and individually messaged anyone who might be interested:

"Hey! Wanted to let you know I started The Peak, a daily newsletter covering the top Canadian and business news in an informative and entertaining email. Would love if you signed up: readthepeak.com"

Between the three of us we were able to assemble our first thousand subs which gave us a good foundation for future growth.

1,000-4,000 Subscribers

Once we got the first thousand and validated that subscribers were getting value (30% daily open rates), we wanted to really turn the taps on for growth. So we started running Facebook and Instagram ads.

We originally were running traditional ads with a standard subscribe CTA, but quickly found that contests were getting far lower CPAs (Cost Per Acquisition). Although these subscribers were more likely to churn, even after removing the inactive subscribers, we were getting around a. $.60 CPA.

AirPods were our most popular giveaway so we focused on that to get our next 3,000 subscribers.

4,000-7,000 Subscribers

Referral Program

Referral Program
As our numbers started to grow, we knew we had to set-up a referral system. My co-founder developed a program that would incentivize readers to refer their friends to The Peak. For each new subscriber they referred, the reader would get one point. Points would make them eligible for free swag ranging from stickers to a MacBook Pro at the highest tier.

The program made the most out of our existing list and created a cheap channel for ongoing growth. We expect that between 30-40% of our growth over the next year will come from referrals and are investing heavily into it.

Campus Ambassadors

We knew intuitively that business school students would like our product. As they prepare for summer internships and future full-time employment, they need to stay informed on the latest Canadian business news, but want to do it in a tone that resonates with them.

Here’s the issue: I haven’t been on campus in about seven years. So we put a call out for business students to help us grow our brand on campus. In return, they’d get networking opportunities, mentorship, a line on their LinkedIn profile and a reference letter from us.

We recruited six ambassadors initially who did an incredible job. Their success was instrumental in getting us to 7,000 and we’re looking to grow the program in 2021.

What’s next?

We’re going to continue to double down on the channels that are working for us while exploring new paid opportunities. We’re excited to try placing native ads with other newsletters as we think there’s pretty obvious audience crossover. Earned media is something we’re also interested in and are keen to test whether it can convert at a greater scale than other channels.

Want to keep up with what we're building – we'd love if you subscribed: https://www.readthepeak.com/

  1. 2

    Fellow Canuck here! Cool story—thanks for sharing! I'll have to subscribe 🇨🇦

  2. 1

    Great story. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. 1

    You won't believe me, but literally yesterday I thought I wish there was Morning Brew for Canada since their newsletter is very focused on the US. And today I see this post!

    Thank you guys and subscribed!

  4. 1

    Congratulations Brett! I subscribed around a month ago based on your newsletter being recommended by a friend (so, word-of-mouth is working for you). Had no idea you've only been around for 3 months. Really slick, professional product with an easy-to-skim layout and useful nuggets of information.

  5. 1

    Did you use a 3rd party for your ref program?

    1. 1

      We built it in-house but I've heard this works well: https://sparkloop.app/

      1. 1

        Congratulations for growing fast. How much it costed to build referral tool in-house?

  6. 1

    Did you use a 3rd party for your ref program?

  7. 1

    Congrats on your launch Brett! Given Morning Brew's latest news, it's pretty cool to see what kind of opportunity there is (albeit smaller market over here).

    Not sure where I came across you guys - it was probably here on IH - but I subscribed! I definitely see the parallels between the two, but if it works, why not re-invent the wheel right?

    Contests really do seem to be a great promo advertising tactic. Interesting to see that AirPods generate the most interest!

    1. 1

      Awesome! Thanks so much for the support.

Trending on Indie Hackers
How long did it take to build your MVP? 28 comments Dealing with lack of motivation due to failed soft launch 20 comments Free e-mail countdown timer that doesn't suck 💩 6 comments Bootstrapped my productivity app to 700 paying customers! AMA. 6 comments Return of the external link 4 comments How To 10X Your Design Rates in 2022 (Free Script) 2 comments