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Engaging your readers from day 1

Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hi there,
Hope your week is going well!
Whenever someone new signs up to this newsletter, we send them a welcome email asking them what they’re most interested in learning about. If you’re reading this, you may well have seen this email:
And we’ve seen a theme developing. Actually it’s kind of meta: people have been asking for advice on sending welcome emails, and engaging their readers from the moment they sign up.
That’s what I’m going to talk about today — ways to use that first touchpoint to make your readers feel like they’re part of a community, and to establish a two-way channel of communication. 
User research
One of the most important things about starting a newsletter is knowing your audience, and knowing what they want to read about. That will help you hone your newsletter content to ensure you’re bringing maximum value to your readers. 
Of course, you could spend weeks lurking on message boards and individually contacting other people who write about similar topics to gather advice. But there’s a simpler option, and it’s one that comes with extra benefits: just ask your subscribers what they want. 
It’s the purest form of user research — and it turns what might feel like a marketing exercise into a distinctly human experience. Plus, you get to talk to the people actually reading your newsletter. Once you’ve struck up a conversation, you’re more likely to receive all-important feedback later down the line (especially if you ask for it!).
Welcome emails
That brings me to the humble welcome email. It’s a deceptively powerful tool, and one that more writers should make the most of. Dan Oshinsky recently revisited the idea in the April edition of Not a Newsletter:
If you’re sending a newsletter, don’t just use it as a broadcast tool. Hit reply, and start a real conversation with your readers.
It’s something he’s been talking about for a while, actually. Check out this interview with Really Good Emails from March 2020 for more great tips and insights. Something from this interview that really stood out to me was that many publishers and brands don’t have welcome emails at all — such a missed opportunity. 
Dan recently hit the admirable milestone of having 1,000 readers reply to his welcome message — and he makes a point of setting aside time every day to respond to his readers. This manual, low-tech process can lead to some of the most fruitful relationships and conversations:
Sure, it takes a little time — maybe 5 or 10 minutes a day — to reply to these emails. But I cannot tell how many loyal readers (and how many eventual clients!) I’ve gotten just from that simple email.
This quote really resonated with me — and I’m a little embarrassed to tell you why. While I read and reply to every single reply to The Week in Newsletters, it sometimes takes a week or so before I can get back to some of those messages. Sometimes it’s longer. That’s a missed opportunity to establish a timely relationship, and to discuss questions and comments while they’re front-of-mind for the reader. 
From now on I’m scheduling time in my calendar every day to make sure I fulfil this commitment. 
Examples of great welcome emails
Personal confessions aside, I wanted to provide some inspiration from newsletter writers already nailing their welcome emails — and to give some actionable bullet points that you should be able to take with you on your own newsletter journey. 
Not all of these examples will necessarily resonate with how you want to run your newsletter — and it’s good to keep that welcome email short, so I’m not suggesting you throw all of these at the page at once. I’d urge you to check them out, and see what would work best for you.
Dan Oshinsky — Not a Newsletter
  • In his own welcome email, Dan reiterates that there’s a human on the other end of this thing. He says that he “actually” wants a reply, and will get back to you personally.
  • He focuses on two questions that will help him serve his audience best. Limiting the questions to two also gives the request a completable feel, lowering the bar to engagement.
The Atlantic
  • This message has a different flavor. The Atlantic puts a clear call to action in its welcome email to convert free newsletter subscribers into paying subscribers to the publication.
  • If you include a call to action (like asking people to subscribe to a publication or a paid version of your newsletter), make sure the value proposition is clear. The Atlantic spells out what you’ll get, and for how much.
Hunter Harris — Hung Up
  • Hunter explains what to expect from her newsletter and when. This can be a great way to orientate your readers and to help them get the most out of what you’re offering.
  • She also urges readers to mark the sending address as ‘not spam’, and to add it to the primary/priority inbox. By telling her readers how they can make sure they receive her emails, she’s reducing the chance of deliverability problems in the future.
Morning Brew
  • Here’s another example of a welcome email clearly explaining to readers how they can ensure newsletter issues end up in their inbox.
Kevin Roose — Futureproof
  • Kevin kicks off with a positive vibe, thanking readers for subscribing.
  • He explains his vision for the newsletter, why it exists, and introduces the tone readers can expect from the newsletter itself.
  • He also links out to social media and a place where readers can buy his book. If you have other content you want to cross-promote, like a website or YouTube channel, the welcome email is a great place to do it.
More ideas
If you’re looking for more structured data, you could even create a survey with a tool like Typeform and link to it in your welcome email. Not sure what percentage of your subscribers are interested in a certain topic? Create a quick, easy-to-complete survey and ask them!
How to change your welcome email in Revue
Just in case you haven’t come across this setting yet, I wanted to leave you with a quick rundown on how to find and edit the email sent out to new subscribers to your newsletter in Revue. 
  1. First, head to Account Settings by clicking on your profile picture in the top right corner. 
  2. Next, find the Profile tab.
  3. Scroll to ‘Welcome Text’ and edit the default message in the box on the right.
  4. Hit ‘Save’ at the bottom of the page, and you’re done! 
And why let the inspiration end there? Check out our newsletter highlight below.
Newsletter inspiration
Tom Victor’s newsletter But doctor, I *am* Tom Victor is a masterclass in building a rapport with the reader. Tom’s writing is utterly absorbing from the very first issue:
On Playlists
The week in newsletters
Morning Brew shakes up its leadership structure
Heated founder Emily Atkin talks about making the transition from staff writer to newsletter host
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Have a great week,
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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