The Secrets Behind the Most Successful Newsletters with Matt McGarry

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What are the growth tactics behind the world’s largest and fastest growing newsletters?

Think Codie Sanchez, Sahil Bloom and The Hustle

We asked Matt McGarry, the mastermind behind them all  

Matt McGarry is the founder of Newsletter Operator and GrowLetter. He’s worked with the world’s leading creators and brands, from Sahil Bloom to The Hustle, to help them grow their email lists.

In this episode of Creators on Air, Matt McGarry *joins us to discuss how to accelerate your newsletter growth, connect to your audience, and build a newsletter landing page that converts.

Follow Matt:

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Episode Transcript

Akta: Have you ever wondered the secrets behind the world's largest and fastest growing newsletters? 

Matt: Try to be different rather than better. And so don't try and have a better newsletter than the competition, but take a different angle and perspective. 

Akta: Meet Matt McGarry. He runs GrowLetter, a newsletter growth agency that has worked with the likes of The Daily Upside, Milk Road, The Hustle, Codie Sanchez, and Sahil Bloom.

In this episode of Creators On Air, Matt shares how to get more email subscribers and how to turn your newsletter into a thriving business. 

Matt: But there's really three main channels I think of. So one is paid growth, which is what my company does. We're paying to get subscribers with a Facebook ad or a Twitter ad, TikTok ad.

That's a great channel, but not the best for everybody. Then there is organic social growth, growing on Twitter and LinkedIn. Those seem to be the most effective platforms to grow your newsletter because they're written content platforms and people are kind of more likely to talk to a written newsletter versus.

On TikTok, they may prefer video, they're not going to come to a newsletter. So that's organic social growth, and the final one is what I call: email platform growth. And so this is usually the smallest one, but it's really underlooked and it can be a source of high quality subscribers.

This could be a newsletter referral program. It could be as simple as, um, asking your readers to forward the newsletter to a friend, and having a link to sign up within the newsletter. Um, you can also cross promote with other newsletters that are a similar size and topic of you or cross recommend with other newsletters using a recommendation tool that like Substack or Beehiiv or ConvertKit now has.

So those are the three categories and we can dive into each of those if you'd like to. 

Akta: I'm really interested in what you said about how paid ads aren't necessarily for everyone. So how did newsletter creators know which category would suit them best? 

Matt: Yeah, it really depends on where you're at in your journey.

And so if you want to think about paid acquisition, some people are very savvy with it and they have past experience and they know it well. So if you're that person, you probably know when to start. But if you don't, what I would recommend is, you know, of course, number one, you're, you're already making revenue from your newsletter or you're from your creator business.

So when you spend on paid acquisition, you have a way to recoup that spend. So that's number one, you need to already be monetizing it. At some level, it doesn't need to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, but at some level, you want to get an idea of your subscriber LTV to how much each subscriber is worth to you.

You can do that with some simple math, kind of like dividing your subscriber count by your revenue, or if that's the, I don't know if that's the exact math, but something like that, or you can get more sophisticated with it. And I have a calculator I'm going to release soon on this, but basically you can look at, you know.

If, you know, X percent of your subscribers convert to a paid customer, like a course customer or a subscription customer, you can calculate LTV that way. Or if you sell sponsorships, you can look at the rate that you're selling sponsorships at, you know, how often you're selling them and calculate your LTV that way.

We won't get into all the details of how to do that, but you want to get at least a rough idea of what that looks like. So, you know, if your LTV is 10 dollars per subscriber, you can be comfortable paying, you know, two or 3 per subscriber from paid ads and, um, recoup that over time. So those are the two or three factors I think about.

Akta: What makes a good ad that would actually lead to conversions? Is there an approach that people should be taking? 

Matt: Absolutely. Yeah. What I focus on is authenticity. Um, so ads that don't look like ads is what we want them to look like. Um, if you've scrolled, you know, Instagram or Facebook or Twitter long enough, you've probably seen ads where it's like a headline, then there's someone holding a phone. There might be a newsletter on it. There's something that's just very clearly just screams ads and those aren't very effective. We want to be more creative and we want our ad to look like an organic social post. And hopefully if you're already successful on organic social, you kind of know what that looks like and how that works already.

And so you want your ads to be the same way. You know, if you're doing Twitter ads, for example, the types of hooks and ideas that go viral on Twitter also work well on Facebook or Instagram. So you can take a lot of learnings from organic growth to your paid ads,  to get into some examples of what works well.

One of the ones that has been working for over a year now for almost all of our clients is just like an iPhone notes ad. So we write some good copy about the newsletter and iPhone notes. We take a screenshot. We use that as an ad. Um, even something like, you know, a text message. So like we might text a friend about the newsletter.

Take a screenshot of that. Use that as an ad. You can do that with Notion too. Basically people started to call this like user interface hacking. So it's like, you know, I'm seeing a screenshot of a Reddit post on Facebook. Like it grabs my attention, especially if the copy is interesting to me. So that's one example.

There's many more. The second example that works really well is UGC videos. So like a TikTok style video. So using that as an ad on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok works really well. Um, video content is just more engaging. You have more time to explain the value of your newsletter too. So that can be really effective as well.

Akta: And does the copy of the ad focus more on things like what the newsletter is generally about or specific issues?

Matt: Yeah, typically we focus on the benefits of the newsletter, how the newsletter solves a problem for that specific person, whoever the ideal reader is.

And so it's kind of hard to show and tell issues, but some issues, I mean, if you do a lot of deep dive content where it's evergreen, you can talk about that in your ads, but a lot of newsletters are day to day. It's a daily newsletter, weekly newsletters, it's really much relevant to that week.

So it's hard to advertise that content. So instead we're focusing on grabbing attention for whoever that audience is using what we call dog whistle copy to call out that audience. So if it's, you know, product designers or if it's CEOs or marketers or creators. We want to do that in the first part of the ad and then explain the benefits of the newsletter and how it's going to help them improve their lives, make them smarter, save them time, whatever the benefits are.

We want to explain that. And we like to back up that benefit or that promise of proof. So some type of social proof, you know: this is read by 10,000 people. This is read by people that work at these prestigious companies or organizations. Or it's written by an expert in this topic. So some, some way to just explain logically that the promise that we just gave is achievable.

And then finally, we just have a call to action that says: click the link to subscribe for free. Of course, if it's free, we want to mention that in the ad too. So that's kind of the format that I think about: the hook. The product introduction and promise and the proof and then the call to action.

Akta: And how do you measure that these ads are like working? So like, do you audit the results that you're getting? Like what's the best way to go about it? 

Matt: Yeah, we're basically always running conversion campaigns. So it's a campaign that's optimized to get someone to sign up for the newsletter. And so one mistake people make often is running a traffic campaign just to drive traffic to their newsletter or their landing page or.

Even in an engagement campaign, you always wanna focus on conversions. And so when you set up your tracking, um, with the Facebook Pixel or the TikTok Pixel, you can measure how many, um, people signed up from that particular ad or that ad campaign. And we want to verify this too, not just what fa we don't wanna listen to just what Facebook says or what Trigger says.

We want to verify this in our email service provider. So we go into Beehiiv or whoever we're using and see, you know, Facebook said they sent us a hundred signups. Um, does beehive say that usually we don't have an issue if you set up the tracking the way that we do it, which is somewhat simple, but sometimes when there's a discrepancy, we'll, we'll, we'll figure out what the issue is there too.

So you want to be looking at what Facebook says, tracking that the cost per subscriber there. And then looking at your email service provider and seeing what the cost per subscriber is based off of that math as well. 

Akta: And how long do you typically run ad campaigns? Like, is there a problem in doing it too much or, you know, is it okay to run ads quite often?

Matt: Yeah, it's totally fine. Usually we're doing evergreen, so we're trying to do it year round. And so you're not really going to fatigue your ads unless you're at a really, really. High level of ad spend, which most people don't have to worry about since, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.

That's when the audience starts getting fatigued. But there's a lot of people on these social platforms that want to learn about your newsletter. You might run into a problem. If you do retargeting, which people have heard of, where it's like, you know, you're targeting your Instagram followers or your traffic.

For that, you can do that year around, but you would just want to have a smaller budget. So you're not showing those people your ads too often. Um, in these app platforms, you can look at frequency, which means how many times someone saw your ad. And if you're retargeting your existing audience, you would want to keep your frequency under two per day.

So people don't see your ad more often than that, and they don't get fatigued by seeing your ad too often. So that's how I would think about it.

Akta: And you mentioned that, um, organic posts,you tend to use similar hooks as ads and things like that. What do you do differently for organic posts compared to ads?

Matt: Yeah, there's a couple of things. I mean, the point of the organic post is really to add value in some way, so that people like it, share it, follow you, maybe go and subscribe to your newsletter afterwards. Whereas an ad, there's not really time to add value. You know, I just have a couple of lines to convince you to click and subscribe.

And so I'm using the same type of hook or concept or idea to get attention. But after I get that attention, I'm giving you a very brief pitch of why you should subscribe to this. And then I'm asking you to subscribe. And so you're kind of missing that, that middle part that you might have an organic post where it's like, you know, organic buses, you have the hook, you have the quarterly content, and then you might have a small call to action at the end where the ad it's, it's just way more condensed.

Akta: Yeah, and is there a time to do organic posts? I mean, most creators that I know tend to create an issue and then once they've published the issue, then they create a promo post for it. Is that the right approach or is there a better way of doing things? 

Matt: I would take the opposite approach, actually.

So I think a lot of creators promote their newsletter wrong on social media. The time to promote it is not after you create the post, it's before, so I would do what we call a pre call to action. So before your newsletter is sent, you have a post that goes out the day before that teases all the content that people are going to get when they subscribe or what they're going to learn from the newsletter.

It's kind of like a tease, curiosity inducing post. And then in that post, you have a link to subscribe. So people almost have like FOMO of not getting the newsletter if they don't subscribe. And those are extremely effective. I recommend people do those. If you have a weekly newsletter, do it once a week.

You can't do it every day because that's too often. But you know, once a week, bi weekly, that's a great time to do this pre call to actions. And then a lot of people just don't have strong and clear call to actions within their profiles and their bios either. 

It’s very vague and they don't get as many clicks from their profile as they could. A lot of people also use a Link Tree or like as a link tool in their bio and, you know, their newsletter is one out of five links and the amount of people who click that, then the click the newsletter is so much lower than if you just had your newsletter landing page linked in your bio track.

You might have a 50% conversion rate from your newsletter, landing page directly, versus if you send people at a link tree, only 20% of the people might actually go and click and subscribe to your newsletter and you know, 20% versus 50%. That's double the subscriber growth if you just have that difference there.

So it's another common mistake I see.

Akta: That's a really good point actually. And you mentioned that Twitter and LinkedIn are two of the best platforms to use, I'm really interested to know, does it make a difference whether you put the link of your newsletter or the call to action, like in the post or in the comments?

Matt: Because I see people doing it very differently. Yeah. I'm not, not the algorithm expert. I typically do it on Twitter. I do it beneath the tweet. So it's threads the last tweet, if it's a tweet. It's the tweet below that, um, on LinkedIn. I'm not as good at LinkedIn. I'm seeing the comments work best for people even just, you know, you don't even have to have a link.

Sometimes you can just say the link is in my bio as you've seen before. And like, if you have a well optimized bio, I know LinkedIn can have featured sections in your bio too. So you can really have multiple links for your newsletter within your LinkedIn profile, which will give you a higher click through rate, more subscribers.

So I think the general rule of thumb is avoid links in the actual post you want to reach people and then link below that or in the comments somewhere. 

Akta: Yeah, that makes sense. And I feel like you've worked with some really big newsletters like The Hustle and Milk Road. What do you think those newsletters have in common that have made them so successful?

Matt: I think they're getting every aspect right. So there's really three aspects to a newsletter. It's what the founder of a Morning Brew calls: Write, Grow, sell. So writing is obviously the content that has to be amazing. Growth is getting subscribers and then selling is monetization.

For those newsletters, you mentioned that that meant selling sponsorships, but for others, that could be selling a product or subscription or whatever way they're monetizing. So there's not a lot of moving parts, but each of those parts, you need to do well. So we can get into these all types of directions.

We can go on, like, what content is good, how to grow. We talked about growth a ton already. Um, but if you have all those newsletters, you mentioned had all those things done very well, where a lot of people that I see are missing, they have kind of one part of the pillar. They have one pillar, for example, but they are missing the other two or they might have two, but they don't have three.

That's kind of the whole thing. 

Akta: Yeah. Let's dive into it then. Let's dive into content. What makes good newsletter content and Especially how important is format as well, because I feel like some of these newsletters have this format that you become familiar with if you subscribe. Yeah, let's start with format because that's something that's overlooked, right?

Matt: You want to think about your newsletter as kind of like the most similar physical medium is like a newspaper or a magazine. And so some people treat their newsletter like a place to write an essay. And it's just a long blocks of post and there's no separators or sections or different parts, and that's a mistake.

And so treat it like a newspaper or magazine, have different sections and make it look good with the tools available now with Beehive and Substack and Verkat. You can all have, you can build a very beautiful newsletter, even if you don't have a designer. So like, take your time doing that. And you also want to give people a consistent experience every newsletter.

And so like every newsletter, I know, you know, this is, you know, the, the tools and trends section, this is like the news and events section. This is the meme section. And so, like, if I like a certain section, I can just go there. I can navigate there right away without having to think about it. Just like when you open a newspaper, like, which we don't do anymore.

But, you know, back in the day, you know where the sports section is, and you can just open to that page and just go to that section immediately. People should be able to do the same thing with your newsletter. So you want to have different sections in a consistent template every newsletter sent. That doesn't mean you can't experiment with it at all and try new things.

But he wanted to be somewhat consistent and make small changes and small improvements over time to your newsletter format and template. So that's step number one. If you just don't have a template, which most people don't, just take some time to create that and look at other newsletters and get some inspiration from what they do.

The content is really so unique. It's hard to give general advice on, right? A lot of it comes down to your unique experiences and expertise that you've. Built up over your lifetime. A lot of the most successful newsletters I see are either someone who has deep expertise, like they've been working in an industry or they did something for the past five or 10 years.

And they're right about that. Or they just have a ton of passion and natural writing skill or developed writing skill. And they write about their passion. So it's usually one of those two things that works well for content. And it really comes down to what the cool thing is like, if you have good newsletter format and template design that can make up for kind of mediocre writing.

So if you feel like you're like, I am not a great writer at all. Um, and I just try and make up for that in other ways. 

Akta: Right. Okay. And how important is like the length of newsletter? Do short newsletters do better because we're in an attention economy or can you get away with writing longer newsletters too?

Matt: Yeah, there are some great long newsletters out there and there's exceptions to every rule, but you probably want your newsletter to be between a three and five minute read time. That's what people prefer by far. I've seen a lot of data on that. So you, you want to go for that. I mean, short in three minutes is really maybe not enough content, but over five minutes is too long for most people.

And so that's the sweet spot. And if you think about email, it's really like a skimmable format. Like you're not spending hours reading one email. You want people to be able to get in, get value and then get out and not be reading for a very long time. However, there are some good exceptions we can point to as well.

And have you found a difference between. I guess like personal newsletters where it's kind of more about the writer versus, you know, newsletters that are more of a brand in itself. Yeah. I think even if it's about a brand or about a writer, you still want to make it personal. And so with, with email and newsletters, you can build a tone from yourself or your brand and people really care about your tone and your voice.

And so you want to have a unique tone and voice. That people will come back to. You want to write to your subscribers like a friend. Um, so not like a PR essay, not like a marketing email. You want to write personally, directly to one person. This again is tough to kind of talk about and define, but if you look at some people, I mean, Morningburn and The Hustle are known really well for their tone and their voice.

Um, The Milk Road, I haven't read it as much recently, but especially early on it had a really strong tone and voice. It was really witty and funny. So you want to bring your personality into it for sure. And if it's a brand try and. Create a personality for the brand. Right. Okay. And then let's move on to monetization because I feel like, I feel like it's quite difficult to convert subscribers into paying customers.

Akta: Do you have any effective strategies for converting people from subscribers into paying customers?

Matt: Absolutely. There's a couple of ways. 

So one, after someone subscribes to your newsletter, you want to have a confirmation page or a thank you page that tells them more about the newsletter, but also has a subtle call to action to your paid product there. You want to do it again in your welcome email. You don't want to pitch too hard initially because they just joined and oversell them.

But those are two places right away where you can sell people. Thank you page, and welcome email. That's a great opportunity. Another opportunity most people miss is through email automation. Most, and that's okay. You don't want to have too many automations and too many, um, triggered emails either, but most people just send a weekly or a daily newsletter and nothing outside of that.

After someone joins your newsletter, it makes sense to have like a welcome series as they joined. So the first email is your welcome email. Of course, it's sent out immediately. Then usually 24 hours later is a great time for another, um, email. Then 72 hours later, 48 hours later, and you can have kind of like a three to four email welcome series.

And what this can do is tell people more about your brand, how you help people. You can direct people to your best content, but you can also educate them and sell them on whatever your premium product is. And so this welcome series of three to four emails is probably the best way to convert. Your new free subscribers into paid subscribers.

So you want to take time and build out a, um, welcome sales sequence. If you have a paid product like this, and of course you want to have a call to action within every broadcast newsletter. So if you send a weekly on Friday, some type of call to action within that, the call to action should vary a little bit every newsletter, because you don't want people to get banner fatigued.

If you have a call to action in the same section, the same place, every single newsletter, it's going to become less effective over time. So you want to switch it up. Some weeks you want to have a stronger call to action, maybe in your intro section at the top where everybody reads it. Some weeks you want to have a more soft call to action in your outro section at the bottom, where only your most loyal subscribers are reading there.

And so mix it up, don't have banner fatigue. Um, and then also like pre call to actions, like we talked about earlier with organic content, work with paid subscriptions too. And so like. If you're doing, um, if you're adding new content to the membership or sending the new paid newsletter, the only subscribers could access to, you want to sell that before it goes out.

So people have FOMO and subscribe to get it. There's lots of other psychological and like copywriting tactics to do this. We won't get into now because we don't have a ton of time. Um, but that's something you want to think about as well. 

Akta: Okay. Amazing. And what about, um, sponsorships as a revenue stream? Like, do you think there's a way to create your newsletter in a way that can attract more sponsors and build more partnerships? 

Matt: Yeah. Sponsorships seem to be the go to and the place where most people get started and it can make a significant amount of revenue quickly. Right. So I do recommend for that, for most folks, I think how to get more revenue from a sponsor really depends on how valued your audience is.

And then what that means is does your audience have buying power, the ability to buy things, and do they have purchase making ability? And so that could be for an individual or a household, but it also could be for a business. And the highest sponsorship rates are all for B2B newsletters, for newsletters that focus on covering a certain business or industry, and the people who read them are founders, executives, and professionals in that industry.

And the more buying power and decision making ability those readers have, the higher the sponsorships rates. So if I had a newsletter that just had, you know, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on it, The sponsorship rates I could charge are, you know, easily 50 or 100x what I could charge of a newsletter about, you know, travel, for example.

Um, because there's just a big difference in decision making ability and buying power between a fortune 500 CEO newsletter versus a travel newsletter, right? We know the average person might spend 5, 000 per year on travel, whereas a CEO can spend millions of dollars per year on the products they buy for their business.

And so CPMs vary a lot. Usually newsletter ads are, um, price based off of CPM. I think the industry average right now is like 40 to 60, but it can vary a ton. You know, at the lower end. And really competitive in big niches, you're seeing like a 20 CPM, but these B2B newsletters I mentioned often see well over a hundred dollars CPM, even to like the high hundreds in some rare cases.

So that's something to think about. If you're starting a newsletter from scratch, you probably want to start in a space, at least if you're focused on sponsorship, starting in a space that has high CPMs for advertisers. And it has lots of advertisers that are promoting themselves in newsletters. 

Akta: Hmm. So do you think that any newsletter could become a business in its own right, or does it really depend on niche and audience?

Matt: On sponsorships alone, it can be hard to build a business in that a lot of that is because you need to send more often, right? Because you're selling for your sponsorships. The more sponsorships you can have, the better. So if you have a weekly newsletter, you're probably not going to make an amazing living on sponsorships alone.

But if you move that three times a week. And you can sell more sponsorships. So it can be a great path for a lot of newsletters and some big newsletter companies have basically been built on sponsorships and advertising support alone. If you look, like Morning Brew as a hundred million dollar business.

The Hustle is in, the 20 millions, um, or like sold for, for over 20 million industry dive is advertising supported newsletter immediate company that sold for over 500 million. So like. That's definitely a possibility there. Um, I do think the average creator who's more focused on a small niche and doesn't want to send a newsletter every day or, you know, four or five times a week, um, should think about monetizing some other way.

Usually through some other type of media product, like a paid community, paid subscription, course. Coaching, consulting, et cetera, and for a lot of people that can be a better model and your newsletter can be demanding lead generation for that model. Okay. And let's talk about, um, like newsletter landing pages.

Like how important are they for, you know, newsletter growth, monetization, and some of the things that we've talked about. Newsletter landing pages are very important and very overlooked. And the reason why is because, like we talked about earlier, if your newsletter landing page converts at 25%, so 25 percent of people that land your landing page become a subscriber and you're able to improve that and increase it to 50%, which is very doable.

You just double the amount of subscribers you can get. And so that's a huge difference to your growth and your revenue over time. Right? And so you want to spend a lot of time on this. And the good thing is it's not very complicated to make a great newsletter landing page either. Um, you basically want to have a page that's just one section.

So if I'm looking at it on my phone or on my laptop. I can basically see everything about the page there. It's not multiple sections. It's not a long sales page or website. Basically, there's no scroll. And the elements you want to have on the page are very simple, too. So you're going to have a headline.

You're going to have a sub headline. You're going to have your form and your button to subscribe. You might have some text under that. You might have some testimonials beneath that. Some people like to have an image too of something about their brand or like a, the newsletter itself on a phone. And that's really it.

And the, the key thing is, um, there's only one action people can take. They can enter their email and submit the form and subscribe or they, or they can leave. You don't want to have links to everything that ever exists about you on your landing page. You just want to focus everybody towards subscribing, and then you can direct them to other things afterwards.

So you want to remove your menu, remove your footer, remove links to your past newsletter. And just focus on people subscribing, you know, for some people, they like to maybe include one link, like a small link to the pet, to recent newsletters, but you want that to be not nearly as visible as everything else.

Right. And so that's what it should look like in the key. If you have that section of format, right? The key to making a convert high is just having a clear value proposition, explaining your headline and sub headline, how this is going to help people if you subscribe, and then backing that up with social proof.

So including testimonials. How many readers, where your readers work at, et cetera, that type of, that type of group helps a ton. 

Akta: That's really interesting. Cause I thought it would be better to have like previous issues so people could see like, you know, what they were signing up for. Um, what about the design of the actual newsletter itself?

Like, is that something that creators should be thinking about? Like trying to make it more, I guess, visually appealing and user friendly or. Is that not as important as the content itself? 

Matt: Yeah, it's super important. It's probably even more important than the content in some cases, because if you just see ugly, you know, contents, a bunch of blocks and paragraphs, that's not going to work.

And so it's hard to like explain in the podcast what a good newsletter should look like. I've mentioned before, I love Morning Brew, I love The Hustle. Check those out. Um, there's probably more design resources on my website that people can see. Um, and like, once you see that, you'll kind of see each section is different.

It's kind of like a magazine, it has colors, there's a very consistent font and font size. Um, and so I think once people see those examples, they'll be able to get it right. 

Akta: And how else can, um, use assets? Like creative stand out, especially if they're in really crowded niches. 

Matt: Yeah, it's, it's a challenge, but I think my take is try and be different rather than better.

And so don't try and have a better newsletter than the competition, but take a different angle and perspective. For a lot of people, this can mean a lot of things, but one is just going, um, niche or going deeper and going more deeper in a niche. And so a lot of people start with initial, let's say, like, you know, AI newsletters are popular.

We might use that example. So I don't, if I wouldn't recommend focusing on this niche at all at the moment, because it's just so crowded, but like, if you were to. You wouldn't start a newsletter about AI news. You would go one to two levels deeper and start a newsletter about how marketers can use AI to grow their business or how, you know, software developers can use AI to write code faster.

And so you're going one to two levels deeper in a nation that helps you stand out and get more subscribers. Even though it's a smaller market, people will care more about you because you're actually solving a specific problem for them rather than just AI news. It's going to help a lot of people, but it's, it's going to help them at like a somewhat surface level.

That is landing page conversion rate, which we already talked about. I think the 45 percent plus conversion rate. The second one is open rate. Open rates become less important because of Apple's changes to email open tracking, but it's still, you know, the top one or two metrics I would look at. And so for most clients, we aim for 40 to 50 percent plus that.

A lot of this can depend on the size of your newsletter. So if you're a massive newsletter, a 40 percent plus open rate can be good, but if you're smaller, I think you should be aiming for a 50 percent plus unique open rate. The other one we look at is click through rate, a unique click through rate. So this depends a lot on the newsletter format because some newsletters have a lot of links, some have very few links.

And so there's no really true benchmark for click through rate, but I would like to see most newsletters have a 5 to 10 percent plus click through rate. 5 percent on the lower end, 10 percent on the higher end is really awesome. You should look at unsubscribe rate too, but again, not as many benchmarks.

You want each newsletter sent to probably have a less than  0.5 percent unsubscribe rate, but if you're writing good content and you have a high open rate, your unsubscribe rate is probably going to be very low anyways. Spam is important to track too. Every time you send a newsletter, look for spam reports.

Ideally that's zero. Um, but if you're very large, it's going to be a handful of spam complaints, but you want to keep it in like. Less than 10%. Those are the main ones I looked at. And like, a lot of it comes down to revenue percent and like LTV, but that's not going to apply to everyone quite. And we've spoken about landing page conversion already and how to improve that.

Akta: How do you improve things like the open rate and click through rate? 

Matt: So the open rate really comes down to your first impression. Obviously, if you already have a list of a hundred thousand people and you have a low open rate, there's a lot of things you need to do to fix that. And it's basically going to come down to writing better and better content every single week.

It's really a challenge to kind of steer a big ship like that to a higher open rate. But if you're much smaller, it's a lot easier to change that. So what I focus on is the first impression. What happens after people subscribe? What happens immediately after people subscribe? So your landing page sells people on subscribing, of course, but then your thank you page and your welcome email needs to sell people on opening.

And so a lot of people. Missed that part of the sales process and they have no landing page. You're just a very basic landing page and, and welcome email. And so, um, what I like to do, especially in that welcome emails, have people take a couple actions. And so obviously you want to get them excited about the next newsletter that's coming, whatever that's coming.

But you also want to have them do a couple of things. One is a reply to your welcome email that will get more of your emails in their primary inbox. Another one is to click some type of link. Um, another one is to move the email to their primary inbox if it landed in their Spam/Promotions folder. And those are really the main three things.

I think inform people about when your newsletter is sent, when it's coming, why they should read it. Get people to click a link, get people to reply, and get people to their primary folder. If you do those four things in your welcome email, your open rates for future emails will increase significantly. Um, and you also want to measure your welcome email open rate over time.

And so the best way to improve your welcome email open rate is through a great thank you page that tells them to go open the welcome email and gets them excited to do that. So do that on your thank you page. Also test your welcome email subject line, A, B test that or test that over time. That can make a big difference too, because basically the only thing people see in their inbox is the subject line and the preview text.

And if that's mediocre or just very generic or not good, they may not open that and may not even have the opportunity to, you know, reply to it or click on it if they don't even open in the first place. So Um, I know that's a lot of different things to do, but that's how I think about it. 

Akta: Yeah. I'm interested about the subject line actually, because especially for a welcome email, I didn't realize there could be much of a difference to subject lines: are there any examples that you've seen do really well or like the way that the copy is written?

Matt: Yeah. So I like to think a little bit outside the box. I have a lot of examples on my website. I think I have a  post called ‘How to improve your open rate’, um, that has maybe 15 examples. I don't remember all of them. Now, a lot of times you see generic ones like ‘Hey, welcome. Thank you. You're subscribed’

I would avoid doing that, but don't get too outside the box either. So I'll just try and riff on that a little. 

Why did they join your newsletter? Can you just, can you show that in your welcome email immediately? Um, it's also worth thinking about the preview text too. Does that play together with your subject line? Because people will see that as well, but don't, don't go too crazy with it, but don't use the generic options either.

Akta: That makes a lot of sense. And last question I want to ask is: you've worked with so many newsletter creators and you've audited so many newsletters as well - what are the most common mistakes that creators tend to make that is holding them apart, like from either growth or monetization?

Matt: Yeah, there's a lot of, not one huge mistake comes to mind.

I think one of the biggest ones is, you know, if you're growing organically, whatever social platform you're, you're big on, it's just not having enough call to actions for your newsletter. I've talked about that before in this interview, but like you, you have to have clear call to actions. You don't want to use a link tree.

You want to send people to your landing page. You're going to be really happy you did that later if your reach goes down or your account gets banned or something. Um, because newsletters, the only truly owned platform. So I think the main takeaway I have is people just don't spend enough time and effort on it.

They're so focused on social growth. They don't see that a newsletter subscribers way more valuable, and they never send people the newsletter and they don't put any time and effort into actually building it or writing it either. So, um, I think if they do all the things we talked about in this call, I think they're gonna be a much better space in the long run.

And they're going to have a better shot at converting people to actually buy from them because email is the best way to do that. 

Akta: I feel like I've already learned so much about how to improve Passionfroot's newsletter. So thank you so much for that. I'm going to end with a quick fire round.

So I'm going to ask you five questions that I ask every creator that comes on air, starting with: what's your favorite thing about being a creator? 

Matt: I think my favorite thing is meeting people. And getting great feedback. I mean, it always feels good to get a positive response on something you post or people talk about how to actually help them.

So that's amazing. Um, one underrated ability is I hire a lot of people from my agency and being able to find, um, great, talented, hard working people. I found so many people just through my Twitter and through my newsletter. Um, whereas before I would have to, you know, post up job postings, post ads, take their applications, like.

I've been able to recruit so many people through my content, which has been awesome. 

Akta: Oh, I love that. And what's something that gives you the most inspiration for what you create? 

Matt: Um, I think it's tough. I think just seeing the feedback every day and seeing the results, you know, I've actually only been at this for, um, creating the newsletter and content for about eight months now.

And so like I've managed to grow a bit now and I'm just thinking about how that compounds over five years, 10 years as I keep doing this at the same pace. And so that keeps me inspired. 

Akta: What's one tool that helps you the most as a creator? 

Matt: I love Beehiiv. Um, as you know, I mentioned it a ton. Um, our agency is a Beehiiv partner.

Um, but I've been using the product for like almost a year now, um, outside of that and before that. It's an incredible tool for newsletters

Akta: And what's one thing that helps with your creative work life balance?

Matt: Ah, I’ve got to work on that. I think, um, keeping a consistent schedule, right?

So I have one newsletter I send per week. I try and do one long form post on social media per week. And I try and do one short form post a day. And so. That, that's doable, um, in my spare time because my full time job isn't really being a creator. It's running my agency, but I get all the clients by being a creator.

So that, that keeps me, keeps me balanced. It's just like having a realistic post treatment schedule that's doable. 

Akta: And what's one piece of advice that you'd give to other creators? 

Matt: Um, start your newsletter now. Even if you don't want to write a newsletter, we just start capturing emails, like spin up a landing page on Beehive or whatever email service provider you need to use.

And just, even if you don't want to put it as the main link in your bio, just put it somewhere in there. And so you're collecting emails. And so when you do decide to write that newsletter, you already have subscribers there. So just get started. And you know, not everybody should be collecting emails. Not everybody has to write a newsletter, but just start collecting emails.

It's going to help you over time. 

Akta: Thank you so much, Matt. I feel like this has been such an insightful conversation for newsletter creators. I feel like it's definitely been probably our most in depth conversation that we've had on newsletters. So I think it'd be really helpful. So thank you so much.

Matt: Yeah. Thanks for having me. This was great. 

Akta: You can find Matt on Twitter, his newsletter, Newsletter Operator, and his newsletter growth agency, GrowLetter. 

And if you are a creator and one of your revenue streams is sponsorships, check out Passionfroot. We help you to streamline your entire workflow. I'll see you in the next one.