Newsletter Growth Strategy: From 60 to 1,060 Subscribers
Do you have a newsletter growth strategy for your mailing list?
If not, you should have one. If you do have one, the tips below might help you strengthen your current strategy. Whatever the case, I wanted to write something to show you how I took my 60-subscriber hiking newsletter to over 1,000 subscribers in about a year.
And it continues to grow.
I have to pay for my newsletter now. And that might alarm some of you who are currently not paying for one. Don’t worry. There are excellent ways to monetize your newsletter to have it pay for itself and eventually pay you a profit.
But none of that can happen without an effective newsletter growth strategy.
If you’re ready to take control of your mailing list and scale it, you should continue to read this article because I will show you how easy it is to do it.
This is a big guide, so I’ve added this table of contents for your convenience:
Reasons for a Newsletter Growth Strategy
You would want to adopt a newsletter growth strategy for many different reasons. I think it’s important to sell you on this idea before we go too far into the strategy. You want to determine your reasoning for the strategy so that you can focus on an end goal as you process with the strategy. Here are a few of the most important reasons behind adopting a newsletter strategy.
A Newsletter is Owned Space
Let’s play out an imaginary but extremely possible scenario.
You create a Facebook Page. You promote your page to develop a community for your business. You get the page all the way up to 50K followers. You’re able to convert many followers into customers. One day you log in to your page to post about a new product drop that you think will make a lot of money. But your page is gone because Facebook says you violated their terms. You appeal the suspension, but they ultimately decide to keep the page closed. You lose your community just like that.
As I said before the scenario, something like this can happen. It happens to many businesses. Facebook isn’t corrupt, but people make mistakes and lose their pages.
Facebook has language in their terms of service that allows them to end your account at will, and by using Facebook, you agree to those terms. Those terms are on all the other social media platforms, too. That includes YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok.
Social media is a great tool for business. It’s a good way to build a community and get new customers. But at the end of the day, social media is rented space.
You own nothing on social media. Customization features are up to them to provide. Ultimately, your content is theirs; they can do anything they want with it.
Your mailing list is your space. It’s owned space. And with a newsletter growth strategy, you can get as many subscribers on your mailing list as you can on any social media platform you participate in.
And you have their names and email contacts, and no one can take that from you because you can download it to your computer.
Don’t completely rely on rented space as your core community; losing it might end your business or brand.
A Newsletter is a Community
It’s important to build a brand with your business and to build a community.
You can turn your mailing list into a community with a newsletter growth strategy. You have the people who are subscribers to your content. They voluntarily gave you their contact information so you can send them stuff. That’s pretty loyal.
There are many different types of communities to build, too.
You can build a brand community focusing on increasing customers and creating organic ambassadors who will market your business without asking them to. This kind of community will keep your business going.
Maybe you have a non-profit organization. You can build a learning community with your newsletter growth strategy. Members of your community can learn new things and help keep the organization afloat through community and donations.
You can create communities that act, support causes, and help make important changes for the environment, public access, and social justice.
You can create a community for networking, and a mailing list provides a perfect point for networking connections.
There are many reasons why you should form a community. It will give you direct connections with your audience and customers. It increases customer loyalty and promotes brand advocacy. You’ll get better feedback to help you improve your brand. A community will get your new leads and can increase your conversion rate. A community is a competitive advantage.
And many more!
And you can accomplish all these things with a mailing list and a newsletter growth strategy.
A Defense Against Algorithms and AI
Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more prominent in our digital society.
Google Search Algorithms will service the results people are searching for at the time people are making their searches. Social media algorithms help keep people on their platforms and serve them the ideal content they want while serving them their ads to make money with the platform. AI is doing remarkable things and advancing every day to a point where companies might not even have to hire employees for many different tasks anymore.
But algorithms and AI aren’t just all peachy. There are plenty of scary disadvantages that go along with them.
The disadvantage of Google’s algorithm is that you must work hard on your website content to rank on their massive search engine. It can take years to notice any optimizations taking effect. The algorithm is always changing, and you must pay close attention to change with it, or you could be doing things that will only bury you further down in the search results.
Social media algorithms are always changing. The main disadvantage is they tend to put less viewing capability on external links and more on content that keeps people on their platforms. It’s hard to sell products off of Facebook using Facebook unless you spend a lot of money on their advertising solutions. And who knows if you’ll make that money back or earn a profit higher than what you paid out.
AI may eventually change SEO and content distribution to something different. Competition may become a lot more difficult than it is today, which is hard to imagine. AI is questionable right now. Many are for it. Many are against it. But it’s happening.
With a newsletter growth strategy, you can build a list that Google, social media, or AI can’t control with their tech. You don’t have to modify your newsletter content to adhere to algorithmic frequencies. That’s because you own the space. The people subscribed to your space. And you no longer need social or Google to help you reach an audience because they’ve connected with you.
Getting People to Subscribe
Just because you have a mailing list doesn’t mean people will subscribe. A newsletter doesn’t make people automatically find you and connect with you. It takes more than that. Your newsletter growth strategy helps. But you also need to keep your wording in mind, too. Copywriting is an important step if encouraging people to subscribe. And here are a few different techniques to use to get subscribers with copy in mind.
Giving a Subscription Reward
One copywriting technique is to offer new subscribers something for becoming a subscriber.
A gift. A reward. Something FREE!
My newsletter is all about hiking in my local area. My gift to new subscribers is a free information-packed guide featuring many local hiking trails. I created a PDF with photos and information about each trail to give it value. It’s like a mini-eBook for local hiking trails.
In my language, I explain to the viewer that they get the guide immediately if they subscribe. They can keep the guide if they unsubscribe right after.
However, I also mentioned that I’d be giving more free trail guides to subscribers who remain subscribed, and the only way to get those guides is by staying on the mailing list. I make sure to deliver what I promise in almost every issue.
Offering a reward for a limited time increases your chance of gaining a new subscriber. People don’t want to miss out on an opportunity of getting something free that won’t be available for the taking forever.
Creating a sense of urgency is using copywriting in your subscription offer content.
You’ll have a better chance of growing your newsletter by offering a free gift for subscribing versus not offering anything at all.
Subscription Links Everywhere
Regarding your website or landing page, your newsletter growth strategy should be putting subscriptions everywhere.
Put a subscription form on every page. Try to keep the form close to the top of your pages. It should be one of the first things that load up when the page is opened. Keep it simple. I keep mine as simple as two fields and a button. I have “Name,” “Email,” and “Subscribe Button.” The more form fields you have, the less chance you’ll get a subscriber. No one wants to fill out a survey just to get your newsletter. Make it simple and fast.
Put the subscribe form on the bottom of your pages, too. Make them just like what they look like on the top of the page.
A popup tends to get more subscribers than anything else. Yes, popups are annoying, but they work. I put most of the reason for getting over 1,000 subscribers in a year on my popups alone. A popup will typically show a certain amount of time a page has been opened. It will take over the screen inviting the viewer to subscribe. This is where you add your copy and offer a free gift. If the gift is limited, urgency is created.
You should also create a dedicated landing page for promoting your newsletter. You can use it to provide a link on other websites, social media (more in the next section), and various pages.
People will only know about your newsletter if you make sure you wave it in their faces.
Social Media Promotion
Promote your newsletter on social media. That’s an important part of your newsletter growth strategy.
This is where creating a newsletter landing page comes in handy. You can use copywriting formulas to convince people to subscribe. I personally like the P.A.S. and the A.I.D.A. formulas. Each formula is meant to persuade people to take action. Subscribing to your newsletter is the action to be taken.
You can share that quick link on your social media.
I also created a “Connect with me” page on my website. It’s the same concept as Link Tree, but it’s my own website, so it’s not rented space. I choose what links to add. I choose the design. I also added a function on Google Analytics to see page visits and conversion metrics. It’s mine to do what I want with. Aside from my logo, the main top element is the newsletter inviting you to subscribe for a free gift. After that, I share my Patreon, online store, and social media links. I link to this page on the website link area on all social media platforms I’m active on.
You should also make posts about your newsletter. You can make normal ones that invite people to subscribe. But you can also create ones with a sense of urgency added to them. “I’m about to send this month’s newsletter! Click here if you’re not subscribed yet to get it today: link” is a good example. For something to see today’s newsletter, they have to hurry and subscribe.
Social media is a go-to platform for recommending people subscribe to your newsletter. Don’t over-promote it because it could lead to suspension over spam, and the social networking algorithms are working against you as you promote external links. Too much promotion will be a wasted effort.
Keeping People Subscribed
Keeping people subscribed will be the most challenging element of your newsletter growth strategy. There are many different reasons why people unsubscribe from newsletters. Some reasons you can’t combat. Some people are just sick of getting too many emails and will leave your list for no reason. You don’t want to make it a habit to contact people and ask why they’ve unsubscribed. They left your list; the last thing you should do is send them more emails. Instead, focus on how to keep people subscribed, and in this section, we’ll go over those tactics.
Content Really Matters
Your content is so important when it comes to your newsletter growth strategy.
The content of your newsletter should be unique. That means it shouldn’t be the same content found in other newsletters. It needs to be as original as possible. You should subscribe to every newsletter in your niche and closely pay attention to what content they’re including. Then you should make sure you avoid duplicating their content because you want to be original.
The content needs to be interesting. They must leave your newsletter with new knowledge or inspiration to take action. Don’t expect people to stick around on your mailing list if your content is boring. Boring content is the best way to turn an active list into a ghost town. If all you can provide is boring content, you need to get out of the newsletter business altogether.
Copywriting is really important for the content portion of your newsletter. Audit every sentence you put in and ensure it has elements that keep a reader reading.
Your subject lines are important too. These are what people will see in their inboxes. You need to ensure that you use words that catch attention and create a desire to read. Use emojis and trigger words to add to your newsletter email’s eye-catching equation.
Every issue you send matters. You should have the goal of each issue better than the last.
And make sure you’re creating content for mobile display first. Most of your audience and subscribers will access your newsletter on mobile devices. Most of us scan through newsletters, so using shorter sentences and paragraphs is ideal.
Experiment with different copywriting techniques and methods of distributing content in your newsletter to find your perfect system.
Solve Major Problems
Regarding the best type of content to feature in your newsletter, feature content that solves problems for the best results.
Every niche has its problems. Every niche has hard questions that have no easy answers. Every niche has gaps in information and know-how. Your job as an expert, leader, and authority in your niche is to seek out these problems, questions, and information gaps. Then you need to put in the time and energy to research and solve them. Make the results easy to understand, and add them to your newsletter.
Do this to watch your newsletter growth strategy do better than it ever has before.
People will flock to get closer to you if you can solve your niche’s biggest issues and questions. This is one of the best ways to build your mailing list.
It’ll make you even more of an expert than you’ve ever been before.
But how do you find these problems, questions, and information gaps?
Start with finding where your community is and researching those spaces. Look for engagement and questions about various topics relating to your niche. Write down the questions and count how many times they are asked. Look at the answers, if any, and ask yourself if they completely solve the issue.
When transferring the results of a problem, question, or information gap – make sure the newsletter’s content is simple to understand. The easier it is to inform a subscriber, the more likely they will be back on future issues to see more problems solved.
Not only do you need to be a good storyteller with your newsletter, but you need to be a good problem solver, too.
Make Your List Exclusive
Only offer content on your email list that cannot be found anywhere else.
Exclusive content is an important component of an effective newsletter growth strategy. Offer content that subscribers will only get in the newsletter. They can’t find it on your blog. They can’t find it on your social media pages. They can’t find it anywhere but in your newsletter. But the exclusive content must be interesting and worth subscribing to; otherwise, why subscribe to the newsletter?
What kind of content can you offer exclusively in your newsletter?
I try to give exclusive hiking tips and writeups about communities around hiking trails to add to the adventure of using the trails. I highlight many things specifically, whereas, on my blog, I highlight more broadly to give multiple options.
I also enable guest authors for my newsletter. Some of them have written exclusive articles about certain hiking subjects, while others have shared outdoor cooking recipes helpful to people who are camping.
Offer the kind of content that makes people want to come back again and again for more.
Monetizing Your Newsletter Growth Strategy
As your newsletter grows, so does the cost of maintaining it. I started out paying nothing for my newsletter until I joined the “comma club” and hit 1,000+ subscribers. Once I got that many, my newsletter service quickly informed me that I’d outgrown the free plan. It was time to start paying each month and bring my newsletter to the next level. Sure, it costs money, but it’s a milestone worth being happy about. But now, I must focus on monetizing my list as my main newsletter growth strategy.
Selling Sponsored Ads
The best way to make money with your newsletter is to sell sponsored ads on it.
Most newsletter creators do this. Most people who subscribe to a newsletter expect this. You should do this from the start so that no one sees ads abruptly added and becomes upset because of it. If you can’t find sponsors, advertise your own products as sponsored posts. I’m constantly advertising my Patreon, online shop, and hiking guide service when no one purchases ad space.
It’s important to ensure you don’t turn your newsletter into one big ad. There is a difference between a few ads versus too many ads.
I recommend putting an ad after the first main section of the newsletter, which is typically an introduction to the issue. Then you can have ad space after every 2 or 3 sections beyond that. You can even charge differently for those positions. The one at the top has a better chance of getting seen, so that you can charge more for that spot.
If there are too many ads, you’ll likely see an increase in unsubscribes and a decrease in open rates. Ads get annoying when there are too many of them.
Keep ads simple. Text and links are the best way to go. You can use images but try to stay away from flashy or highly animated images. Some email providers might not even show your image. This is why the text is always better with ads.
You should use ads as a way to monetize your newsletter growth strategy but use them smartly and effectively.
Finding People Who Will Purchase Ads
The hardest part of selling ads on a newsletter is finding people to sell ads to.
This part is often difficult because newsletter creators create an ad space and await people to contact them to purchase advertising. That’s not how the digital marketing world works. If you want advertisers, you must find and sell them to them. We call this “cold calling” whether you contact them by social DM, email, phone, or sending them a letter in the mail. You have to seek them out typically before they seek you out.
This often changes when your newsletter gets exceptionally large and popular. Then people and buyers start to notice you better and the opportunities you provide them.
You should also mention in your newsletter that ad space is for sale. Many of your subscribers may be business owners, and your newsletter could provide them with good sources to gain more customers.
For the people you want to contact first, you need to make sure you understand who they are first.
What type of ads do you want to see in your newsletter? I don’t want to see fast food ads in my hiking newsletter. I want to see outdoor gear stores, local lodging outfitters, and local events advertised on my issues. So, those are the people I contact to pitch my sponsored listings to.
Your ideal advertisers are out there waiting for you to contact them with an offer they can’t refuse.
And if you get rejected, don’t give up. Keep trying.
The ultimate money-making newsletter growth strategy is offering a paid newsletter.
A paid newsletter is exactly what it sounds like it is. It’s a newsletter that people have to pay to subscribe to. Most paid newsletters have annual fees rather than monthly ones. This allows the creator to make more money in one sitting. Instead of charging $25 monthly for a newsletter, you can charge $300 for a full year. You can earn more money by choosing an annual cost because after a month or two, your paid subscriber might change their mind and quit paying unless you have a contract system that usually scares people off.
There are tons of very successful pain newsletters on the web. It isn’t a bad occupation to get into. The tricky part is when and how to offer a paid newsletter.
It is almost impossible to require payment for a newsletter that used to be free. Most of your subscribers will likely ditch you unless your content is so important to them that they have no choice. But chances are, you don’t have that kind of content. Not many people do!
So, the best thing would be to create a different newsletter with different content. It can be the same niche, but the content needs to be different and add more value.
Creating an entirely new newsletter can be overwhelming, even if you monetize it successfully. It means you have two newsletters that you have to keep active. This option is less popular than simply selling a free newsletter ad space.
If your web content creation can be your main job and you have the time to do it all, then creating a secondary paid newsletter is something you should consider.
A paid newsletter, in addition to your free newsletter, will be a significant challenge, but if successful, it can be a wonderful way to earn a living. Many paid newsletters have a full-time staff team and are full companies.
But remember, the content has to be worth paying for.
And that completes this guide for creating your own newsletter growth strategy. You can see now why it’s important to adopt a strategy. A newsletter can do so much for you and your business. But a newsletter won’t be free forever. You’ll eventually have to pay for it, and you must monetize some aspect of your newsletter to make it worth keeping updated. Speaking of newsletters, I’m trying to grow my email list. If you go to my homepage and subscribe to it, you’ll soon be able to expect some awesome content and freebies. Thank you for reading this article, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.
About the Author
Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers that follow this blog. Shawn also offers a variety of services for extra help in the area of content creation, blogging, forums, and digital marketing. Learn more about Shawn Gossman by clicking here.
Sign up for my free newsletter to learn about outdoor recreation content and marketing!