How to Start a Newsletter: Getting First 1000 Subscribers
Hey guys! Not a long while ago I shared the experience of writing a daily newsletter. You liked the text a lot so there was only one logical thing to do: to write more about writing a newsletter.
But what’s the point of writing a newsletter if you don’t have people who will read it, actual recipients? The first stages of starting a newsletter when no one knows you are quite a challenge. We know it cause we started one not long time ago.
Let’s answer such questions as:
- How to find these first subscribers?
- What are DOs and DON’Ts for email marketing?
- How find people who are actually engaged and interested?
- How to make people read your news.
There is actually another pressing question to answer. Now, with Messengers and push-up notifications, it seems like there are many other efficient ways to engage the audience. Who reads newsletters anyway? It looks like the only thing people do with their emails is deleting spam. Maybe, it’s better to invest in something else?
Should we even bother with emails?
So, answering the question: both yes and no.
Latest IBM research showed that in 2018 people sent 294 billion emails and only one billion of Google search requests. So, do people use emails? Obviously, yes. Is email-marketing struggling? No, it’s just going through evolution stage. Email marketing, in the form it existed 5-10 years ago, won’t work anymore, it’s apparent.
Overcoming problems of email marketing
Problem #1 - Spam fight
In 2014, Google became fixated on blocking spam. Any regular user of Gmail knows that most newsletters go straight to the ‘Promotion’ folder. Same works for Outlook and almost all kinds of mails. With that it mind, marketer's’ task is to make communication as natural and native as possible (we’ll talk more about that further).
However, the problem might not be so much of a problem after all. We all look into that ‘Promotion” folder sometimes. But not just any time but when we want to take a look at our newsletters, or find a discount, or buy something. So, the task is not to avoid getting to the ‘Promotion’ tab (subscribers will check it if they feel like doing so) but make a newsletter so good that user will check that folder himself.
Problem #2 - People mostly use Messengers for daily communication
It’s true that now people actively switch to Messengers and applications for daily matters. Is it so bad though? At least, when all daily interactions switched from email to Messenger we can be sure our newsletter won’t get lost with all this ‘Hello, how are you doing?’. When a person opens an email, he/she is ready to read something serious whether it’s work or education matters. I would say, that might be a blessing in disguise.
Problem #3 - Storing personal information
All these news on data breaches and personal information leaks surely can’t leave marketers indifferent. Firstly, we fight a hard fight to get these addresses, then we have to take care of their safety so they won’t be leaked. Security is a responsibility, and responsibility creates additional problems.
However, trustworthy email-senders like MailChimp have their own algorithms for email base protection so you don’t have to worry about that as much. Also, with emails, you at least have some information about your user. You can take emails and use any service you like, switch from one to another and so on. It’s freedom. With Messenger, you are completely dependent on Facebook and its Messengers algorithms. If on one bad day Facebook decides to close Messenger, all the efforts you put into promotion are wasted. You lost the contact with subscribers.
No matter, how shiny these new tools seem, good old email marketing still rocks. Email is the most private corner of the Internet. Think about it. How often does one change an email address? We have all the social media, services, and registration connected to that one address. It’s like a mobile phone: we are more likely to move to different city or country than change a number or an email. It’s who we are on the Web. That’s why, no matter what fancy tools appear, email marketing is still the king.
Also, with email marketing, you can regulate almost anything. When will be the letter sent, how will the audience be segmented, whether to personalize or not - we can manage it all. If you send a push-notification, it will get to readers when you sent it, not at the time which is better for a subscriber. In email marketing, you can manage all that.
Okay, email marketing isn’t going anywhere. What to do if I just started a blog and no one knows me yet? How to start?
The first thing you can and should do is to register on MailChimp. It’s a great platform for email marketing. Firstly, you’ll cope with the free version, later when the subscriber list grows, you can always upgrade your account.
After you registered, the next step is to add the information about your newsletter to every article on the blog. It can be something like ‘Hey, you know that you can get a checklist for this guide? Just leave an email in the form’.
How to make a signup form?
I tested two tools: MailChimp and HelloBar. For a beginner, I suggest firstly sticking MailChimp, then start to testing different services. I won’t go much into technical details because MailChimp has an excellent official guide.
These are basically all steps you need to know.
You can generate the form without knowledge of HTML or web design. Basically, the only thing you have to do is to copy the ready code and paste it into the page.
What information to collect?
Email and name are enough. But what if I want to know my audience really well so I can personalize my content and sell them something that fits their needs just perfectly? Well, let’s see.
FreshMail did an interesting experiment. They changed a number of fields on the form from two to six. Those users who were ready to leave their name and email address declined to fill in a bigger form. 100% of potential subscribers turned to 8%. It’s not surprising. Not only you make your visitors work harder spending time on all this additional writing but also you create unnecessary concern.
I hate when I have to give not only a huge pile of my personal information but also all possible details about my business.
Job title, industry, business email address? How about a credit card number and password? Maybe, I need to fill that in as well? Ugh.
A visitor doesn’t give a damn about your marketing research. The truth is, no one needs a random ebook so much to write so much information.
But what if I need to know my audience better?
You don’t have to do it in a subscriber form. You can send an introduction letter where you’ll ask subscribers for more details.
‘Hey, Rosanne, you signed up for my newsletter. I am curious how did you find out about me?
P.S. Write three topics you’d like me to cover. It’ll help me to send only things you are interested in.’
Take a look at how we did it in our free coffeewriting course.
Okay, we won’t take any more of your time. The next letter will be about our failures in content-marketing and little stories of how we fixed them (or tried to). It’s going to get real.
We are not giving any tasks today but if you feel like doing a little exercise, write us a story about how you found out about us. We are in for great reads.
Thanks and have a great coffee
You know why else this strategy works? When you make users answer your emails, Gmail or any other service will automatically add your email to their contact list. It will help you avoid that ‘Promotion’ folder.
BTW, we received awesome stories from our subscribers. You can read them in our newsletter case study.
How do I get subscribers to fill that form in?
Good news, if you write awesome things on your blog, people will subscribe anyway.
So, tip #1 - do great content.
Tip #2 is to promise a great content.
That’s what all awesome newsletters do. Your subscribers leave you emails, and you should give them something back.
This just a brief list of what you can promise:
- An ebook (doesn’t work that well, people don’t have time to read long ebooks anymore. Also, they are everywhere).
- A checklist. Better offer not just any checklist but the one connected to a specific article the visitor has just read. That’s what Brian Dean does, for example.
- A guide. If checklists work for long materials, guides go hand-by-hand with shorter posts. You cover the subject briefly and then in a pop-up offer an ultimate guide on that same topic.
- Templates. Templates always work - people download them ‘just because’.
- Reports. A report is a great way of getting emails but only if you have a high authority on the field and resources to do deep research.
- Cases. If you do deep case analysis and add your expert comments, it will not only bring you subscribers but very likely, leads.
The sky is a limit. Everything can work if it’s connected to the content of the page that visitor is currently on. That said, the material on the page has to be awesome as well. It’s a possibility for a reader to receive a sneak peek of how your newsletter might look like.
Take a look at our article about pop-ups for more insights (and cases).
Let’s wrap it up - with two tricks you can do to improve your email marketing right now
Tip #1 - delete inactive users
Mail services monitor if you send emails to non-existing addresses. It’s one of the reasons why your email can go to spam.
Tip #2 - before deleting inactive users, write them from different email
Could be, they are not opening your emails because they are in sam. Take another email and send a message from this email.
A bonus takeaway: start your retention letters with words sorry. This is our template - feel free to use.
Headline 1: It’s Vera from Cofeewriting, I am sorry
Headline 2: I apologize for the misunderstanding
This is Vera from Coffeewriting, and I am sorry for misunderstanding we had recently. I am responsible for Coffeewriting newsletter, and you haven’t opened a single one of our letters. Could you help me figure out what did I do wrong? I must be doing something wrong.
You’ll be surprised but there could be emails like ‘Don’t fire Vera, she’s cool’. People do take it seriously.
P.S. It’s not all insights on email marketing, probably not even 50%. Would you like a Part 2? Write in comments here or on our Facebook page.