November 27, 2019

9,000 Subscribers in 9 months: 5 Key Tactics

Dan B. @danbe

We went from 0.5% to 12% email opt-in (24x!) for Growth.Design.

In fact, this helped my cofounder @louisxavierl and I go from 0 to 9k+ subscribers in 9 months (with zero SEO effort):

As IndieHackers we love the tactical growth stuff.

So we’ll give you our top 5 tactics 😉:

  • 1️⃣The "Feedback Loop"
  • 2️⃣ The "Sniper Links" Email Confirmation Technique
  • 3️⃣ The “Immersive” Experience
  • 4️⃣ The “Hard Stop” Prompt
  • 5️⃣ The “Cheatsheet Summary”

IMPORTANT:

We just launched on ProductHunt today and we're in the #1 spot! 😸. If you have a minute, come and say hi, we read and reply to everyone!

🔥TACTIC #1: The "Feedback Loop"

From day one, our main goal was to stay as close as possible to our users.

For example, we have a Slack channel where every single signup is listed (we enrich signups with Clearbit). This makes every new subscriber feel a lot more "human" and concrete to us than a "# email subscriber" number on a dashboard:

Our first 50 emails were super hard to get (took us months). It's part of the reason why we:

  • researched people who signed up,
  • looked at their Linkedin profiles and
  • crafted a super personal email to contact them.

We have a 40% reply rate on that email because it's personal and we genuinely care to connect with people.

(The easiest way to see our best-converting email template is to sign up to our newsletter here: https://growth.design/case-studies ).

Even today with thousands of emails per month, we look at this Slack channel religiously on a daily basis to get a good grasp of who's in our audience and WHY.

Learning why people subscribe (and what they wanted to see more of) has been eye-opening for all new initiatives. Almost everything we do today is driven by customer feedback.

📝TAKEAWAY #1: Connect with your users

It may feel time-consuming at first, but it's 100% worth it.

Extra credit if you take the time to video chat with them. One video call is typically worth the insights of 10-20 emails and 100+ survey answers.

Plus, people typically really appreciate seeing the founder of a project taking the time to chat with them.

🔥TACTIC #2: The "Sniper Links" Technique

This technique allows you to get people who sign up for your product or content to ALWAYS find your confirmation email, even if you were to land in their spam box.

Very few companies know about the "Sniper Link" technique. In short, you want to use URL parameters for your email confirmation step:

We optimized that experience and most people who signed up loved it so much they took the time to send us an email.

(Note: we recently removed it because we reverted to single opt-in for an AB test, but we'll use it again soon!)

📝TAKEAWAY #2: Minimize user distractions

A simple tweak in your onboarding can boost your email confirmation rate significantly. The "Sniper Link Technique" is a bit long to explain so it's probably simpler if you see it in context: go to slide #22 here https://growth.design/case-studies/trello-user-onboarding/

🔥TACTIC #3: The “Immersive” Experience

We used to have a nice blog layout with the case study on top and rich text content under it (basically a blog post).

But after a few days of research, we realized the majority of users just scrolled pass the case study, skimmed through the text and left. 😰

So we decided to force case studies in fullscreen mode by default:

No more text.
No more blog posts.
Only what mattered: the story.
Our conversions increased by 350%.

📝TAKEAWAY #3: Focus on Value

Look at the core value you're offering and remove the friction between your users and that value.

For example, if your offer is mainly blog content, optimize its reading UX (happy to provide resources around that if you're interested).

Removing clutter and widgets will likely increase your conversion. If you're offering a product, don't neglect the importance of user onboarding.

Keep things simple.

We talk about this concept of immersion and onboarding in detail in this Superhuman cases study if you're interested: https://growth.design/case-studies/superhuman-user-onboarding/

🔥TACTIC #4: The “Hard Stop” Prompt

At the end of our case studies, we have a slide with an email prompt if you want to receive future case studies.

We used to also have a couple more slides for legal stuff and special thanks.

That was hurting our conversion big time.

After we played with the order of the slides, we realized that stopping the story at the exact slide of the email prompt increased conversions by 200%.

📝TAKEAWAY #4: Highlight Your CTAs

This phenomenon can be replicated in a blog post.

In fact, you can see an example here in the footer that's already yielding HUGE conversion improvements for us: https://growth.design/case-studies/
(scroll to the bottom)

🔥TACTIC #5: The “Cheatsheet Summary”

After talking with hundreds of users, we learned that most of them were taking “screenshots” of the insights while they were watching our case study.

So we simply decided to take those screenshots ourselves and package them in a “cheatsheet summary” along with key takeaways and a nice checklist to help you in your work:

We saw a lift of ~40% in our conversions once we started to offer this.

📝TAKEAWAY #5: JTBD, not "features"

Whether it's with content (opt-in bonus) or product features, always start with the "jobs to be done" of the customer.

Focusing on their needs will help you boost your conversion (and deliver a better experience for the user).

Now your turn…

Which tactic from this post feels more relevant to you as an indie hacker?

Was it the "Feedback Loops"?
The "Sniper Links"?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!

  1. 5

    Nice writing. Enjoyed reading it. I have interest in the ui/ux stuff to improve a blog. I have one but I want to make the reading a lot easier.

    1. 1

      Thanks Ely! Feel free to share some of your challenges with the reading UX and maybe I can try to give you some hints! Cheers.

  2. 4

    9k subs is a great milestone. Could you share financial stats too related to your list building journey? If possible of course.:)

    1. 1

      Great question. As Dan mentioned in another comment, it's one of our upcoming milestones. We've already done the validation and research (maybe we can share how we did it in an upcoming post?) But here's a current overview of what we can do:

      • Some upcoming content types will be under a premium subscription.
      • We could also go the sponsored newsletter route, but we'll keep things as simple as possible for as long as possible.
  3. 4

    Really good write up. Enjoyed this. Cheers Dan!

    1. 1

      Thanks Harry! Huge fan of MarketingExamples.com! 👏

  4. 3

    This is really good! You were really clear about what the issue was, how you fixed it and the results you got after the fix. I'm sold and I'm subscribing!

    1. 2

      Thanks @gczh ! :) As Louis-Xavier said, we'll share a couple more strategies very soon!

    2. 2

      Awesome to hear! Stay tuned, we're preparing a new post on the fundamental strategies (behind the tactics) that got us where we are today.

  5. 3

    Great content and lessons learned. Much appreciated.

    1. 1

      🙌 Glad this can help other indie hackers!

  6. 3

    Awesome writeup, Dan! I upvoted your product the first minute it was out and will continue to support your newsletter!

    1. 2

      Thanks Peter it's super appreciated! Don't hesitate to reach out if you have ideas on how to improve. Cheers!

      1. 1

        Of course! I'm still digging some other lessons before having a full review for you guys.

  7. 2

    Dan bud! This is amazing!! You both are doing some amazing work. We definitely need a way to collaborate together, maybe for a montreal edition of our event ;)

    or get you folks to Toronto!

    Kudos on growth.design

    1. 1

      Thanks man super appreciated! 🙂. Sure thing!

  8. 2

    Super useful -- thanks @danbe!

    1. 1

      Thanks @saasify ! Glad to hear that was useful! :)

  9. 2

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. 1

      Cheers Shaun! As mentioned above... We'll do another post soon (probably tomorrow) on the fundamental strategies (behind the tactics) that helped us reach those milestones.

  10. 2

    awesome site, great functionality. Looks good, insightful information. Well done.

    Only question is how are you planning to make money from this?

    1. 1

      Thanks @combition !

      Great question. A few things:

      1. We get a lot of inbound consultation requests
      2. Some upcoming content types will be under a premium subscription.
      3. We could also go the sponsored newsletter route, but we'll keep things as simple as possible for as long as possible.

      Stay tuned :)

  11. 1

    I opened this article from your newest article so don't be surprised of so late comment :)

    This is a really good article describing good techniques... it would be perfect but... let me just add a spoon of tar into this barrel of honey...

    Your website is aimed to improve users' product experience but honestly, what you use yourself is pretty far from being perfect... I'm talking about your subscription workflow.

    1. When I clicked subscribe and entered my email I expected to 1) see the sniper link and 2) to have a confirmation email - nothing of them happened. Instead, I saw a form asking my role. Why the heck you asked this? Do you want to personalize my experience? But I don't want my experience to be personalized. I want to get all the case studies without exception. And you made me think I can make a wrong choice.

    2. So, I closed the website and looked into my mailbox. Nothing :(( I guessed I did something wrong, or something went wrong... So, you definitely didn't subscribe me - maybe just because I refused to answer your question? Don't you think you could have much better conversion if you would remove this step that doesn't look obvious to make?

    3. Okay, I open your page again and found the form already filled. But this step showed you spied on my email. My name linked to my email is different from my email and I don't like you (okay, your scripts) investigated and dug into my email. I gave you ONLY my email, nothing more.

    4. I didn't see any sniper links :(((

    5. And finally, I had the confirmation email - with my name, again!

    Hope, it helps to make your own workflow better!

    1. 1

      Hey Zencentric,

      Thank you for taking the time to analyze our own flow. As you might have seen in the article comment section. We take feedback seriously!

      So here it is... I hope this can shine some light on your experience.

      Re: Sniper Link:
      We used this technique a couple of months back when we had a double opt-in confirmation email. However, we soon realized that we were losing 10-15% of subs from the get-go (because of the double-opt-in). The reality was people re-subscribed later because they missed our case studies and didn't understand why, so we removed the double opt-in.

      Unfortunately, today, we have some timing limitations due to delivery delays from our marketing tool. We just tested it a few days ago if you ask for a bonus, and the search wasn't finding anything because the email wasn't there yet. 😕

      Re: Asking for your role:
      You are right! The wording might have been confusing.

      At first, we wanted to segment our list and send different content to different roles, but unfortunately, we never had the chance to test it!

      So we just changed it to:

      This only helps us create better content for you!

      Which is exactly why we ask that question now. To have a better understanding of what kind of work people do. That gives us more ideas and a better point of view when we create content afterward.

      Does this make sense?

      Re: Name:
      I understand how that might make you feel. To be honest, we mainly wanted to make our subscribers feel welcomed. If you want I can delete your name info and just keep your email. Just email me directly at [email protected]

      Once again, thanks for your feedback!
      Cheers 🙌

      1. 1

        Ok, got your point. I would just suggest adding an option like "I want all content" or so.

        1. 1

          Good idea! We now specify what you'll receive in the welcome email you get.

  12. 1

    Wow nice product. The quality completely blew my mind. Congrats!

    1. 1

      💪Thanks Lucas, there's more good stuff coming soon! Stay tuned.

  13. 1

    Thanks for sharing your insights! Your case studies are awesome. I just signed up. 😁 Love the "sniper links" technique; was only able to figure out the search URLs for Gmail and Yahoo but that's still a lot of verification email streamlining!

  14. 1

    Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. Very data driven approach. Good luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks P! Yeah, my cofounder and I are both weird hybrids of Design x Engineering so we tend to like to approach everything as an experiment to validate.

      We’ll keep sharing more. 🙂

  15. 1

    That sniper link tactic is fantastic, love it! How is the A/B test going?

    1. 1

      Thanks Alex! Yes—we had very good feedback regarding our "Magic Link" button with the Sniper Link. As for the test, we'll keep that for an upcoming Milestone! Cheers!

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