A big list doesn’t really mean anything if subscribers don’t engage with a newsletter. I am most interested in the community aspect, getting replies from readers with feedback and suggestions.
I had launched
the newsletter according to our own “start quickly but slowly” advice. I wrote the first few issues without promoting them a lot, instead asking a few trusted friends, colleagues and peers for feedback. The replies were very helpful and I enjoyed the resulting conversations enough to turn this into a long-term strategy.
I look up every new subscriber and send them a personal note. The idea is that it’s much easier for readers to reply to a personal email than to a question in a newsletter. And that once someone has replied personally, and we have built trust, they are more at ease to also reply to questions in the newsletter or with ideas in general.
The message I send is one part about the reader and one part a simple question. If I were to reach out to Michaël Jarjour
, Revue’s head of publisher relations, this is what it would read:
This is Mark. I write The week in newsletters for Revue.
I try to have a good feel for who reads my newsletter and look up a little info about new subscribers. Think you’re the head of publisher relations at Revue? And also worked on newsletters for the NZZ before?
Could you send me a quick reply and let me know which topics you are most interested in? Pop-up newsletters, conversion to subscription, ads and sponsoring, monetization, growth, deliverability, engagement, metrics, strategy, examples of great newsletters, or maybe something different?
Given the roughly 900 current subscribers plus some un-subscribers along the way, I gather that I have sent an email to close to 1.000 people who subscribed to The Week in Newsletters. I went through the replies and counted more than 200.
So one in four or five people take the time to write back. Some of them with just one or two topic suggestions. Which is great. And many with some personal background about themselves, new ideas and perspectives for the newsletter, or related projects they are working on.
It’s a little bit of work to do the research and reach out individually, but the replies are well worth it. I have gotten a lot of ideas and inspiration for the newsletter, built a network of newsletter experts, connected to people who work for Revue and also some future customers.
It has also resulted in a solid and growing segment of highly engaged readers, so I definitely recommend the approach. And if you haven’t replied yet or my email didn’t make it through to you, I would love to hear from you!