50K emails subscribers (after 14 months)

Hey everyone,

We made it past 50K email subscribers! 🥳

After starting this project from scratch in April 2019, 51K people now subscribe to our weekly newsletter: Exploding Topics Tuesday.

ET List Growth

(This only goes back to November since we moved over from Mailchimp to Aweber then.)

How did we get here? Here’s a rough breakdown:

0 ➡️ 80 subs:

  • Posting on subreddits (eg. r/entrepreneur, r/EntrepreneurRideAlong)

80 ➡️ 200 subs:

  • Posting on IndieHackers, Facebook groups, etc

200 ➡️ 2,000 subs:

  • Hacker News launch (front page!)

2,000 ➡️ 2,500 subs:

  • Twitter “Word of Mouth” (tweets from big names like Rand Fishkin)

2,500 ➡️ 6,000 subs:

  • Product Hunt launch (#1 product of the month!)

6,000 ➡️ 15,000 subs:

  • Promoting to Brian’s Backlinko massive audience via email/YouTube/LinkedIn
  • Organic mentions in other HUGE newsletters - Morning Brew and Kevin Kelly’s (Founder of Wired) Recomendo

15K ➡️ 51K subs:

  • Facebook ads with extensive split testing (both ad copy and landing page)
  • Cross promotions with other newsletters (like Harry Dry’s Marketing Examples)

51K ➡️ ??? subs:

It still blows my mind how many people are subscribed and how fast it has grown. A year ago, none of this would have seemed remotely realistic. 🤯

And yet now, my co-founders Brian, Kyle and I are shooting for 100K subscribers by the end of 2020.

So I hope this helps show fellow Indiehackers how quickly your thing can snowball if you keep on it.

I know I left out A LOT of details. So any questions on specifics, just let me know in the comments. 👋

  1. 4

    What was the effective cost per subscriber from FB? How's the churn been on those?

    1. 3

      It was ranging $1.5 - $3 when we very first started the FB ads. Since Kyle joined as a co-founder, he's taken the reigns on FB ads so I'm not sure. He's an absolute pro though and has it properly optimized now. Churn is probably too early to say.

      1. 1

        Would be curious to compare email capture ads vs. promoted posts that bring people to your site (where they then encounter signup forms/popups/etc).

        We ran multiple experiments across publishers using Pico (for on-site signups) and so far (to my surprise) the email capture ads way underperformed. But we're still trying to tease out confounding variables so this isn't conclusive yet.

  2. 3

    Congratulations! And thanks for the detailed milestone, explaining how you grew it

  3. 2

    Congrats Josh! Once you hit 100k whats the current front runner for monetisation?

    1. 1

      Cheers Harry :) Currently we're thinking premium newsletter for monetization.

  4. 2

    Thanks for sharing! Did you have to pay to promote to Backlinko's audience? Would appreciate it if you could tell us!

    1. 1

      If I am not wrong Backlinko is a co-founder and exploding topic is part of his videos and articles automatically

      1. 1

        Yup, Brian is a co-founder. So he sometimes shares Exploding Topics with his Backlinko audience to give us some exposure.

  5. 1

    how did you use Facebook groups to grow? What strategies worked for you?

  6. 1

    You've built an amazing product. I've used insights from your newsletter to decide what markets to enter next or what products to promote. When asked about what newsletters to subscribe to? I've recommended yours. Congrats on crossing 50K and I'm quite positive that you will cross 100K mark too.

    1. 1

      Thanks man, that means a lot! Appreciate it 😊

  7. 1

    That's great news, congrats Josh!!

  8. 1

    Congratulations Josh. Been following you since last June IIRC. You have done awesome work.

    Do you mind sharing what us the open rate currently?

    1. 1

      Thanks for following Vivek. Appreciate it 🙌

      Sure, open rates range from 35% - 50% depending on the week and which Gmail tab we land in.

      1. 1

        Are there methods you've learned to have more control over which tab you land in?

        1. 2

          Yeah, a lot of it is sender reputation. Which you can build over time if people open and engage with your emails.

          And the email content matters a lot too. Especially certain words or phrases that can trigger Gmail to flag it as promo or spam. Check out this tool to test for that: https://litmus.com/gmail-tabs

          1. 1

            Huge! Great link share.

            Thanks for sharing.

  9. 1

    Congrats on the success! 🍾 Do you know what your average CPL (cost per lead) on Facebook was/is?? I'm currently promoting my newsletter and got it down to around $0.60 per signup...no idea if that's good or not 🤷🏻‍♂️

    1. 1

      Cheers! $0.60 is extremely good. Our is higher than that, but it does tend to increase as you widen your net.

  10. 1

    Great stuff.

    You got one more - subscribed.

    Is Brian one of the founders?

    1. 1

      Noice! Glad to have you onboard :)

      And yup, Brian is one of the founders. Along with @kyle_byers

  11. 1

    Hi Josh, can elaborate more on say sharing on reddit or indiehacker initially? How did you pitch? Link to those posts last year?


    1. 2

      Cheers Navdeep! Harry Dry actually explained it way better than I could with his awesome write-up of one of those reddit posts: https://marketingexamples.com/content/self-promote-on-reddit

      1. 1

        thanks Josh! will check

  12. 1

    Big congrats and thanks for sharing the journey
    You mentioned you have used other newsletters and other people's marketing channels.
    I wonder how you approached them and convinced them into promoting your product: what did you offer in exchange ?

    1. 1

      We'd promote them in return. Once you get over a certain size you can convince others to cross promote because they want to get in front of your audience too.

  13. 1

    Very impressive growth, you’ll blow through 100k subs soon!

  14. 1

    This is super growth @jhowarth15. Major congrats.

  15. 1

    Thank for sharing!
    Did you use PPC on Twitter or it grew organically?

    1. 1

      No prob. And twitter has been organic :D

      1. 1

        Twitter has always been a mystery for me ;) I have zero ideas about how to grow it organically :D

  16. 1

    Firstly, thanks for posting details about your milestones.
    I am launching a newsletter for bootstrappers: https://www.producthunt.com/upcoming/the-bootstrapping-guide

    It would be great if you could look into it and suggest some tips on growing my initial subscriber base. I will really appreciate it 🙂

  17. 1

    Nice to see this!

  18. 1

    Just wow. I remember when you posted here on IH back then (the project had another name I think?). What’s your plan to make it profitable?

    1. 1

      Cheers Andrea. I know - crazy right! (It was called Trennd back then)

      We're working on the monetization angle. A premium newsletter likely makes most sense. Interested to get your thoughts on that?

      1. 1

        I’d try to figure out who among your audience is willing to pay for a premium product first. (Journalists? Dropshippers? I have no idea). But you have Kyle now so I don’t think you need my advice 🙂

        1. 1

          "you have Kyle now so I don’t think you need my advice" -> 💯% 😁

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