Once upon a time, my biggest niche site had 65,000 email subs.
Had I not regularly scrubbed, it would have topped 100K.
In the world of email, that’s a sizeable list.
Many would salivate at such numbers.
As I was attracting 300+ subs per day, I too salivated at the prospect of owning a million-dollar email list.
Everybody told me the money is on the list.
I sent out emails regularly.
Links to new blog posts.
Text-based write-ups like this email.
Emails with curated content to excellent articles on the Web relevant to the niche.
As my email autoresponder monthly bill skyrocketed, I struggled to merely break even.
I put a lot of time into that list to no avail.
Ultimately, I shut it down.
It wasn’t worth the cost or the time.
And then there’s the little ole Fat Stacks email newsletter.
It boasts 1/5 of those lofty numbers.
Yet the revenue it generates surprises even me.
More importantly, I’m surprised how much I enjoy penning these emails. This is #3 for the day.
I’ve been running the Fat Stacks email for some time.
It’s evolved as all things do.
It’s never been better content-wise and revenue-wise.
I think not.
Which leads to today’s question: What makes for a successful email newsletter?
Given I’ve had failures and successes (my B2B auto-sequence email newsletter is fairly successful for a handsfree endeavor).
It’s more than just great content, but I’ll address that as well.
You MUST have the following:
- Ongoing interest;
- Solid monetization options; and
- Great content.
Let’s dig into each element.
Alignment is where your readers are very interested in what your email newsletter is about.
This is one reason my behemoth 65K sub newsletter failed. My niche site is broad. Covers many topics and sub-niches within a sector. While this is outstanding for traffic, social and ad revenue, it’s not so good for email.
My main subscriber incentive was free software. While it converted very well, there was absolutely no alignment.
Folks just wanted the software.
It was impossible to engage beyond providing the software.
With Fat Stacks, on the other hand, most subscribers are referred by other bloggers, community platforms (FB groups, YouTube comments, etc.) and of course the Fat Stacks blog.
Those who sign up are interested in learning how to grow a blog or niche site (online publishing).
Everything about this newsletter is geared toward online publishing.
Alignment is strong.
2. Ongoing interest
This is huge for ongoing engagement.
Your niche must be one where people interested in the niche have an ongoing interest.
Exceptions: You can certainly set up a quick 7 email auto-sequence to promote a product that aligns with visitors’ interest at the time – perhaps some type of product purchase. This can be a great revenue stream, but once they buy the product, they are no longer interested.
Moreover, I’m more interested in an email newsletter where readers stick around for years. That’s the fun part and potentially highly profitable approach.
For my failed email list, subscribers had only a very temporary interest in the offering. Once used, they no longer cared. No matter what I wrote, they wouldn’t care.
Fat Stacks, on the other hand, covers topics where readers have a long-term interest… potentially a lifetime.
Consequently, there are Fat Stacks readers who have been around for years.
3. Proven monetization
This isn’t necessary unless you want to make money.
If you merely seek fame and want a large readership, ignore this.
But if you want to make good money from your email newsletter, you need a proven way to monetize it.
The best option involves selling something and/or promoting it as an affiliate.
The more solid products you can promote over time, the better.
I don’t have to tell you there are quite a few proven monetization options in the Fat Stacks niche.
But for my failed email newsletter, monetization options that would resonate with a large portion of the readership didn’t exist.
Believe me, I tried. I threw everything and the kitchen sink at that list.
4. Great content
If you want people to engage and read, you need to provide great content.
Great content is necessary, but not sufficient.
It’s necessary for that without it, you lose your audience. Game over.
It’s not sufficient in that great content does not guarantee success if the other elements are lacking like they were with my failed email newsletter.
I actually wrote some stellar content for my failed newsletter. Tons of emails. Funny. Inspiring. Informative. I put my all into it yet it failed because it wasn’t well aligned, there wasn’t ongoing interest, and lack of monetization options.
Over the years, the Fat Stacks email newsletter has evolved.
I used to link out to new blog posts. They were decent. I published sporadically. The newsletter wasn’t a focus for me.
At some point, I decided to put all the content directly in the email.
Open rates increased. Affiliate promotions were far more successful.
I sold more courses.
Far more people replied with good feedback. Engagement skyrocketed.
Fewer people unsubscribed.
I was onto something.
I was reading Ben Settle at the time who writes about email marketing.
He emails daily. Most of it good content. He doesn’t do fancy stuff like funnels or any of that. He just writes and sends. That’s my style. Nice and simple.
I decided to try it. I’ve developed my own style.
I enjoy it a great deal.
I haven’t stopped writing since.
In time I may have a 6 months inventory. I could probably send two per day but that might be overdoing it haha.
Nobody wants to read that much of one person.
Open rates are high and stable.
I’d say this newsletter is performing better than it ever has.
It’s a lot of work of but I love it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.
Writing this newsletter is the one task I gravitate to by default whenever the work juggling multiple niche sites is done.
It’s worth trying but no guarantee
I’m often asked whether I run email newsletters for my niche sites.
I run a newsletter for only one niche site and that one is just a preset sequence of 30 emails. It’s set it and forget it.
However, I believe it’s worth trying no matter your niche.
You never know.
You don’t need a ton of subscribers to get a sense of whether it will work.
If you get 1,000 subscribers and don’t make a nickel after a month, it’s hopeless.
If money isn’t your focus, measure success with whatever outcome you seek. Maybe it’s brand building or traffic to your site or you just want to become famous in your niche.
Because my biggest niche site was missing pretty much all of the above-listed elements, it was a bust.
I should’ve known.
Live and learn.
At least I have the Fat Stacks newsletter to tell you about my email newsletter failure.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.