Since Substack made a splash in the market, everyone and their grandmothers have a newsletter they proudly flaunt on Twitter.
And having been an enthusiastic participant (consumer) in the early days of the newsletter boom, I can categorically state that most of them are horrible and add little to no value.
Some “guru” spouts the magic phrase, and thousands line up to create a newsletter to engage with their customers or to make some decent recurring income from subscriptions.
While there is nothing wrong with customer engagement or recurring income, the idea of low-effort content being okay simply because it is a newsletter is a problem.
Is there a redemption arc to these newsletters? Yes, and therefore this post.
So strap in, and let’s look at why and how you can add more value to your subscribers without breaking the bank.
Send fewer emails and focus on quality
If given a choice between 100 pounds of stale roadkill meat and 10 pounds of fresh Wagyu beef, the answer is pretty straightforward for most people.
Despite this, there is the urge for newsletter creators to adhere to a strict schedule that prioritizes frequency over value.
It would be best if you respected your subscriber’s time.
Your subscribers are not keeping count on the emails they get from you, nor are they unforgiving if you miss a few deadlines.
The bottom line is that they have trusted your promise of value, and you should choose to honor that with concise, focused, and highly relevant content, even if it means you send just one every 2-3 weeks.
Create a getting started page
Most of your subscribers weren’t there when you started the newsletter, and they will not be able to get all that value that you created before they subscribed. So what can you do?
Create a “Getting started” page where you share a chronology of all your best posts along with links, plus context for the subscriber in terms of how they can get the best value out of your content.
Having a “Getting Started” or “Start here” page is pretty standard practice amongst bloggers (even the bad ones), so it is crazy to me that more newsletters have not adopted it.
Some bloggers/newsletter creators use their “About” page to do this, and if you are strapped for time and resources, I suggest taking this route.
Host Q&A right after you send an email
To boost your engagement, you’ll need your subscribers to interact with you in real-time at some point. While this need not happen often, it is recommended that you do this at least every time you put out some original content.
So the process is simple:
- Send an email with the pitch line at the end – “Hello, I’ll answer any questions you may have about this edition of the newsletter for the next 30 minutes. Just reply to this email with your questions!”
- Answer the questions for 30 minutes and set an automated response to those who reach out after 30 minutes reminding them to keep an eye out for your next email.
By refusing to answer your questions after 30 minutes and asking them to keep an eye out for the following email, you are doing two things:
- Demonstrating that you respect your time.
- Giving them an incentive to be conscious of your content.
Share insights from original surveys
One thing that you, as a newsletter creator, have access to is a mass audience, and with a decent-sized audience comes a decent-sized responsibility to conduct user surveys, the results of which can add value to your audience.
For example, suppose you run a trade newsletter in the fishing equipment space. In that case, your audience will benefit from data about buyer behavior, new trends in fishing equipment, marketing channels for selling fishing equipment, etc.
And this is simple to run too. Like the previous tip, you can add a line: “Can you take a quick survey about your industry? I’ll share the results of this survey if you do.”
You can use Google Forms or Typeform to collect data and Canva to create a presentable infographic.
Give feedback to your subscribers
I bet you didn’t expect this UNO! reverse card, but here we are. When you create content and do so with a decent level of commitment, there is a high likelihood that you know a fair bit about your domain.
So why not use your knowledge to help your subscribers? It costs nothing but can be a game changer for some of them.
Going with the previous fish equipment example, you can ask your subscribers to send their marketing material to you that you can then assess and share your insights on.
If you are running a no-code-related newsletter, you can ask to review the no-code sites/apps that your subscribers built and give them a fair critique.
Whatever your domain expertise, there is someone who can benefit from it. So why not add that value?
The only downside of this is that there are only so many people you can help, but you can overcome that if you can share your critique publicly with the relevant subscriber’s permission.
Bonus: Publish bonus content behind an engagement wall
If someone opens 80% of your emails and regularly engages with your brand, you should really consider rewarding that behavior.
Subscribers are hard to get sometimes, and loyal subscribers are like unicorns that you need to nurture and cherish.
So create bonus content that is exclusive to those with high engagement rates. Most email platforms like Substack and MailChimp will give you these metrics, and you should be able to get started in no time.
You can set up a secret space where people can consume this content through a Gumroad Offer Code, Carrd page, or even a simple Google Doc that you can DM.
Give as much value as possible with these content pages and convert your loyal subscribers into super fans since they are worth their weight in gold.
So those were some tips that I’m confident sharing because I have personally used all of them to good traction on the newsletters that I ran and now sold.
So go ahead and try some of them. Let me know on Twitter.
If you’d like to check out my other work, Google “Shiva Prabhakaran,” and you should stumble upon my blog posts.
And if you are interested in productivity content, I also regularly post on Routine‘s blog.