Hey, This Newsletter Thing Can Actually Work…

It’s been an incredibly busy week in every way and I’m always so grateful for it.

Yes, sure, of course… we all have a ton of things going on but not all of our “busy-ness” is good; in fact, if I’m to be honest, there have been times in my life where the work that I was doing didn’t amount to very much and in the worst cases I knew that I was essentially wasting my time.

I hate that and I don’t want that for you nor do I want that for myself! Time is short, limited, and valuable and we should always be working on the stuff that really matters!

With that being said, the big news this week is the fact that I’ve re-imagined the “update” newsletter into one that’s a weekly digest of valuable links and perspectives that can help you build better software and the first update went out on Monday.

Take a look!
Take a look!
You can actually take a look at the first update here – you’ll get a taste of what I’ve done and what I hope to accomplish every week with it! As I mention, this is just as much of an iterative experiment as anything else and so I hope that I can continue to make it better over time, especially as I optimize my own systems and get good feedback from readers!

So, please consider subscribing and I hope to create as much value in your inboxes every Monday!

A Few Stats, Metrics, and Goals

Like most of the experiments that I deploy I like to have goals and metrics that can help me stay on target and focused on doing good work (or at least what I believe to be “good” work).

Whoa~!
Whoa~!

Since I’ve never put together a newsletter of this type I decided to keep things simple at first and just count subscribers as the top-end metric.

I also decided that if I could hit “100 subscribers” by the end of the week (July 1st) then I was on my way to something that I felt good about investing my time into it.

Well, what do you know – I broke 100 subs by the end of Monday night (after the first newsletter went out)! I imagine that what happened was the first newsletter went out and people were able to get a taste of what I was going to be publishing and so they could then make a much more informed “purchasing” decision on the newsletter, which makes a lot of sense.

I shared the first newsletter update publicly via Twitter and started getting a bunch of great feedback:

"Primary Stab" is about right...
“Primary Stab” is about right…
"Gold Mine"...?! Awesome.
“Gold Mine”…?! Awesome.
"Appreciate the effort!"
“Appreciate the effort!”

As you might imagine, the feedback came from all over the place, from LinkedIn, Twitter, and then directly into my inbox via email. Opening oneself up to this type of feedback from a variety of sources is always a positive thing, and I think it’s important to make sure that you not only stay open but also solicit feedback consistently and explicitly. I’ve done this in the newsletter itself and I’ve also done it in this post (again).

What I am curious about and excited to learn is the click-through and open rates as the newsletter progresses. So far, I’ve had more than 56% “open rate” and a “click rate” of nearly 30%.

Open, Click Rates
Open, Click Rates

After having a bunch of newsletters in the past these stats are really high – I don’t think I’ve ever had a newsletter that had that high of an “open rate” historically! And I bet that spending even more time on optimizing the newsletter can continue to pump these numbers up.

There’s just something super-valuable about these types of opt-ins that’s enticing and it’s clearly working. And, I know that many great products (and companies) started as email newsletter and lists – I think I now know why.

If I’m able to start a new newsletter and get some pretty good statistics with the first one out the door while working on the product in-tandem, I think that’s a pretty powerful combination and one tactic and strategy that should be heavily considered when putting together a new project.

The Most Important Thing to Consider

Or, another way of putting this is “The Most Obvious Thing I Learned and Was Reminded About in the Past Week About Launching a New Email Newsletter”…

The first thing that you should know is that putting an email newsletter together is really hard. Actually, what I mean specifically by “hard” is that it takes a lot of work and it especially takes a lot of work to do it really well.

If you take a look at the first release you’ll find nearly 40 resources, with links, with commentary, and supporting artwork and/or images. This is in addition the header text and the footer text and then, of course, the design / templating work to put it together.

Me & the couch.
Me & the couch.

Oh, and this doesn’t count the amount of time curating the links and putting them into some narrative order that made a least some sort of sense and then creating all of the external collateral that was associated with it, like the landing page, any code necessary to get subscription forms working (and integrations), and then the content marketing copy on the blog posts and via social media.

Overall, this first pass took ~10 hours to produce, the bulk of it on Sunday morning where I sat and didn’t move for 4-5 hours to put the final pieces together and then to hit the “Publish” button.

I feel good about the first version iteration but I immediately knew that it would be really hard to keep that amount of investment up week-to-week, especially if I didn’t build working systems. I’ve already begun adding them but I know it’ll take some time to get right.

This is, of course, in addition to engineering work, product development and customer research, and any/all of the administrative things required to put together a new project. I couldn’t help but thinking that I may have added a monstrous addition to my weekly schedule that may not ultimately prove to be very useful (but who’s the know?!).

For those considering an email newsletter I think it’s worth pointing out that to do it well it’s going to take more than a few man-hours to get right. Knowing that in advance is worth the consideration and talking that through with your team is important.

But from what I’ve read and what I’ve already gathered, I think the long-term benefit is obvious. I definitely want to say, at the end of it all, that the newsletter “worked” – it just might not “work” exactly in the way that I had hoped and intended.

And isn’t that what a startup truly is? Predictably-unpredictable? Right-on.


Also published on Medium.

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