Growing your newsletter can be a difficult feat. It takes a lot of patience and consistency to reach that first 1,000 subscribers mark. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Here are the strategies I used to grow my newsletter to 1,000 readers.
Find out where your audience hangs out
As you're starting out, joining a forum like Indie Hackers can be a great way for you to get your initial subscribers and to validate your idea.
In the early days of The Slice, a good portion of my initial subscriber base joined from Indie Hackers. When you join a new community, ask as many questions as you can, comment on the posts, be active, ask for advice. If you've just finished building your landing page, ask the community on what improvements you can make.
The important thing to remember is to “give more than you take”. Nobody likes that person that just spams every group, telling them to subscribe to your newsletter or buy product. You need to provide value first before you can ask the group to support your own work.
Twitter is also a great way to build an audience if you know what you’re doing.
To give you a little anecdote of how I got my initial subscribers, here is the accidental growth loop that I made.
- I’d post on Indie Hackers asking people if they wanted their product featured (I usually got 20+ replies in comments).
- Then, I'd choose the ones I liked and DM them on Twitter saying I’d feature them on my newsletter.
- In turn, they would give me a follow back and would sub to my newsletter.
- After I sent the newsletter out I would post on Twitter with a weblink mentioning all the founders and features.
- I’d get likes and retweets because their product was featured, thus furthering my tweet to their own audience.
- They would click on the weblink, and I’d get subscribers directly from that weblink being shared on Twitter.
Because of this, in my early days I saw rapid growth averaging between 30-60 news subs a week, all through Twitter and the Indie Hacker community.
This can be a great way to get a nice little bump in subscribers. Find another newsletter that has roughly the same subscriber count as you with the same interest. Then, swap links, and promote each other's newsletter to each of your audiences. I reached out to 4 or 5 other newsletter creators, planned a few cross-promotions for the month ahead and used it as a new growth channel.
When you scale, you can offer effective cross-promotion with bigger newsletters, which makes it even more worthwhile.
This can get expensive, but if you know what you are doing, it can offer a substantial return on investment.
There are no shortage of paid channels to run ads:
- Facebook Ads
- Reddit Ads
- Quora Ads
- Google Ads
- Bing Ads
- Newsletter Classifieds/Sponsorships
- Paid blog posts
My first form of paid advertising was an ad in the Dense Discovery newsletter for $69. It was well worth it. Dense Discovery has 28k subscribers with 52% open rate and a click rate of 22%. I payed $69 and got 371 clicks on my ad, which led to 173 new subscribers in one day. That means I paid just under 30c a subscriber, which is a remarkably low customer acquisition cost. 10/10 would pay again.
Facebook groups, Slack Channels, Telegram Groups, Discord servers, and Subreddits can all be great audiences for your newsletter.
If you look hard enough you can find a lot of these tiny groups/communities covering specific topics. If you join a group that matches your newsletter's subject matter, you can find a lot of potential subscribers. Again, remember, give more than you take.
For newsletter specific groups, here are a few that I recommend:
Newsletter Geeks (invite only)
Serial Marketers (Slack Channel)
Other channels of growth
Launching on Product Hunt can be quite beneficial, but I’d recommend doing this only when you have a enough subscribers to back you up.
Growing via SEO is a strong long term option. Although it takes a lot of time and you need to have a blog alongside your newsletter for this to work properly, the pros of far outweigh the cons.
Using a lead magnet. A lead magnet is an incentive: Offer to give something away for free for new readers that sign up. It can be a free ebook, a course, or a database, as long as it provides some sort of value.
If you have a passion for writing, try guest posting on blogs that have a lot of organic traffic.
HackerNews. This can be a big hit or miss, but if executed right, you could land on the top page. I got lucky once and it gave me 73 new subscribers in one day, but again, it's the luck of the draw.
Growing a newsletter can be quite hard, and it takes a lot of time and patience, but you will reap the rewards if you can stick to it. It sounds cliche, but consistency really is key when it comes to building a newsletter. Even though the journey is slow, it's an enjoyable ride.
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