I thought I’d spend a few moments sharing a few lessons that I’ve learned after having been writing email newsletters for a good bit of time now — one of which is still active even after 9+ years!
But, before I share any insights, I was reminded the other day via my daily reading in The Daily Stoic that teachers and educators, especially, should be cautious and conservative with what they share:
Crimes often return to their teacher.Seneca, Thyestes, 311.
In other words, we often reap what we sow. And Seneca, as we know, paid the ultimate price for mentoring the young emperor Nero.
Consequently, it’s important that you all know that I take great care in curating these daily issues that have gained precious access to your sacred inboxes and I endeavor to only include what I believe is the very best use of your time and consideration.
And, when I share any personal insights, I’ll only share the ones that I know to be empirically true, positively beneficial, and repeatable — there’s an ever-increasing amount of community building “fluff” and it’s starting to clog inboxes everywhere, if you know what I’m saying.
Okay, enough of that. Onto the lesson!
To infinity & community,
Building a growing and engaging newsletter isn’t rocket science but it does take a few raw ingredients that, if done modestly-well, should prove to result in a newsletter that continues to grow in readers and subscribers.
After having launched a dozen or so email newsletters over the last 10+ years, I know what it’s like to see them work and what it’s like to see them “fall on deaf ears” so to speak.
As a consequence I’ve now recognized emergent patterns from the ones that have found success and they aren’t crazy-difficult to execute against; in fact, their outward appearance of simplicity masks the true challenge behind it all: Consistency, consistency, consistency.
But, more specifically, in these 3 areas:
- Experimentation, All The Things — Newsletters are powered by humans and humans change. Consequently, a newsletter should be just as dynamic, not static. In fact, a static newsletter is a dead one and one should be open to trying new ways of engaging the audience, test-driving different content types, experimenting with various workflows, and even changing the colors and design based on community feedback. Treat your newsletter like an evolving product and you’ll never fail to experiment.
- Be a Pro From Day One — The newsletters that ultimately stand-out and never stop growing are typically ones that operate with a high degree of sophistication that is palpable and obvious; it’s clear that the writer(s) takes their art seriously and they are professional through and through. This is especially important in the beginning where the only thing you may have going for you is the trustworthiness of your delivery schedule and the mountain of value that awaits them when they open it.
- Don’t Forget Their Human — Something that I’ve seen happen quite a bit, especially as a newsletter gets “to scale” is that they lose touch with their audience and they all become a growing number and statistic. Sadly, they give up on the one thing that made the newsletter really work! I know this because I’ve fucked this up myself. Now, for the two newsletters that I publish, I send a small, personalized email to each and every new subscriber, the moment they commit their email to me. Imagine that.
These aren’t difficult behaviors but they are hard to do over a long period of time. This is why most folks have newsletters that ultimately end up failing to grow, mostly because they give up on them before they really get going!
These simple behaviors, when repeated over a long period of time, can result in a meaningful and valuable newsletter for everyone involved.
Good luck and have fun.