What I Learned After Growing My Newsletter to 1000+ Readers in 8 Months
Hey you. Yes you, aspiring marketer. Can you come here? I want to tell you something. Lend me your ear.
“Email is not dead.”
You’ve probably heard the myths. Social media is replacing email. People don’t want to share their data online. Millennials don’t use email. Other marketing methods are more successful than email marketing. Email marketing is dead.
Before you rub the benefits of social media marketing in my face, consider this — email has more users than any of those platforms. There are more than 5.5 billion email accounts in use worldwide, with that number increasing every year.
Pew Research says that 92% of adults who are online use email. That compares to just 79% of internet users who have a social media profile.
I’m surprised how people devalue having an email list. I work in marketing with a B2B retail-tech startup. 90% of all the deals we close, where each gives us hundreds of thousands of rupees, starts with one reply on the email.
We often do cold outreach and get them to reply. Once they’re a lead, we continue to nurture them. At some point in the funnel, they get activated and interested enough to sign a deal. Essentially, our whole demand generation engine relies on email. That says a lot about its importance.
Without an email list, it’s almost impossible to build any kind of online business. How else are you going to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say/sell?
As for writers, readers may come to your article, like it, and go away forever. The way to have a lasting relationship with them is to get them on your email list.
Having It Set Up From Day One
When most writers start they just want to test the waters. They don’t feel the need to have an email list. Heck, most of us aren’t sure that someone would like to read what we write, let alone give their email.
I can understand that. But like most things in life, it’s all in your head. There will always be some people who’re interested in what you have to say, you just have to find them (more on that later). Once you put yourself in front of them, you need to tell them what to do once they’re done reading your article.
That’s what a Call To Action (CTA) is. To have a CTA for people to join you need to have email software. Don’t go crazy at this point. You can use a free software like Mailchimp for a while.
The important part here is to not lose the initial opportunity to have people on your list.
I started with Mailchimp, then shifted to ConvertKit, then to Aweber, and then back to ConvertKit. I can safely say that ConvertKit is the best option. It gives the best delivery rates, has the most intuitive design I’ve seen, and they also gave me a free T-shirt when I signed up!
At any rate, software can come and go. But you need to get started first. The best time to start your email list was yesterday. The next best time is today.
Make a Killer Lead Magnet
You need to give value to people if you want them to give their email addresses. In the world of shady newsletters and frustrated email users, people hesitate to give their email to anyone.
For instance, no matter how tasty the food of a restaurant is, I usually never give them my email address. I also have a separate email just for newsletters that I don’t want to ever read. Only when I find the newsletter super valuable do I give them my primary email address.
You too need to give people enough value so they give you their best email address.
When I started my journey, I gave away an ebook — it’s the most basic form of lead magnet you can imagine. But that sucked. It sucked because once I gave the ebook, very few readers would open my emails. They just took the book and ran away!
That’s when I realized the power of email courses. When I converted my ebook into an email course, I saw all my metrics improved.
An email course makes your subscribers used to seeing you in their inbox. Perhaps they add you to their contact list to never miss a lesson of their course. All in all, it’s training them to open your emails which is good for you.
How many of the free ebooks you downloaded have you actually read? Very few, I suppose. The reason is, an ebook throws everything on you in one go. An email course gives you the opportunity to break it into chunks which is easier for the reader to digest. They can reply to a specific lesson and ask their doubts. You can even ask them to practice one lesson before sending the next.
It takes the course to another level. Instead of transacting with your subscribers, you’re interacting with them every step of the way.
Having a weekly newsletter can also be a good lead magnet. But it gets much less open rates than my email course. Receiving a weekly newsletter is good, but learning something through an email course is an even better incentive.
Be Consistent Even When It’s Tough
Once you have your email system and your lead magnet setup, it’s time to get some traffic to it. You can do this through organic ways or through ads.
I’ve used ads a little but most of my subscribers came organically for I didn’t have any money to spend! I’ve tried running solo ads (where you pay a person to put an ad for your list in front of their email list) and FB ads.
While the paid traffic was good, it wasn’t sustainable. Deep down, was trying to avoid the hard work of producing great content on a regular basis.
Soon after that, I shifted my focus completely to content creation and forgot about my email list for a while. I churned out content every week and put a CTA at the end.
The first couple of months were as dry as they could be. But once the momentum kicked in, I saw a steady stream of subscribers coming through different channels like Medium, LinkedIn, my website, and so on.
I published 200+ articles between June 2020 and March 2021 on Medium. I’ve posted more than daily on LinkedIn since August 2020. And I’ve never missed sending a newsletter to my email list.
To get people to stay, you need to give them a reason to stay. Don’t be the guy who gets flowers for his girl on the first few dates only. Provide consistent value, gain their trust, and always deliver on your promise. They’ll love you for that, even if they don’t say it.
Side Note: As for the subscribers I got through solo ads, most of them left very soon, leaving most of my list full of organic subscribers.
Tell Everyone About It
Tell the world about your newsletter/email course every way you can. Put it on your email signature, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, your website, and anywhere else you can imagine.
There’s a lot of content out there on the Internet. People forget things. Don’t think you’re bombarding people, you’re just reminding them. Moreover, these social media platforms can vanish any day and you can lose your followers overnight. Get them on your email list so you can sleep soundly.
Personalize Your Lead Magnets
When I started out, naturally I had only one lead magnet that I put in every article, post, or platform. Soon, I realized that this is not going to work.
People have different interests and redirecting them to the same landing page didn’t make sense. For example, I write a lot about meditation. But if you’re reading this article, you’re not interested in meditation. So I’ll have a different CTA for you!
I learned to have multiple lead magnets and landing pages for different audiences. Make every landing page specific to the problem you’re trying to solve. For my meditation email course landing page, I write for people who want to learn to meditate but are struggling. On my newsletter landing page, I talk about something else. The same is the case with my other email courses.
That said, don’t go crazy trying to make something for every little niche. I write about tons of different topics but don’t have that many landing pages. That’s fine. I don’t want to squeeze every drop of this world. If I don’t have anything, I just ask them to stay in touch with my weekly newsletter.
Repeat Your “One Thing” Everywhere
When you come to my website, the number one action I want you to take is to join my email list. The CTAs may change according to the context (refer to the previous point). But the goal is the same.
No one is going to buy your product/service the first time they find you. So don’t ask them to! Instead, first, form a relationship with them through your email list. Then, down the line, you’ll be in a better position to sell something.
The discipline of only promoting one thing gives your readers a crystal clear goal. They don’t have to think before taking action. I see websites showing me three or four different CTAs even before I start scrolling. Don’t do that.
Know exactly what you want your audience to do. And then tell them.
Another way to get more subscribers is through cross-promotion. The deal is simple — you find a friend to promote to your email list and in turn, they promote you to their email list.
You will need to grow your list to a certain point before you can do this. But it’s a good way to find the right audience through someone who writes about a related topic.
Things I’m Going To Try
What I love about marketing is there’s always something to experiment. There’s always a thrill of finding that golden strategy that gives unconventional results. And so in that pursuit, here are some things I’m trying (or will try) to grow my newsletter:
Paid ads: I’m planning to experiment with Facebook and Google ads to get more traffic to my email courses. On Facebook, once I have some subscribers, I’ll create a lookalike audience and run ads through that to further reduce my cost.
Online community: It’s been some time since I’m experimenting with an online community. I’ve tried and failed with Slack (too many restrictions in the free plan). I’ll be moving to Discord next. Further, I’ll keep the community exclusive to the most serious subscribers who’re not only willing to get value but also provide value to others.
Sharing my newsletter on Medium: I’m surprised why I didn’t do it before but I’m sure it will bring me more subscribers with little or no extra effort. (However, my email subscribers will receive it way before my Medium audience sees it)
**Re-sending emails to non-openers: **This is a practice I want to restart. If people don’t open your email in two days, they’re most likely never opening it. It doesn’t hurt to send them a kind reminder if they missed it. I’ve seen open rates increase significantly using this.
P.S. If you have any other suggestions, I can’t wait to hear from you in the comments!