This is a guest post by BEMAVEN CEO John Gannon. Check out his upcoming webinar called “Start A Life Changing Newsletter: 2 Hours, 1 Newsletter, and a New Trajectory for You” on Tuesday, October 27th at 1p ET / 10a PT.
Starting a personal email newsletter can be a career defining moment.
I’ll even go as far as to say:
It can change your life.
Maybe this sounds a little over the top. But stick with me…
Because in this post I’ll show you exactly why you should start a newsletter now.
And then I’ll show you how I did it, so you can do it too.
Why do it at all?
You might not be convinced that this is a good idea. So let me share a personal story.
After running my Venture Capital Careers newsletter for a bit I started getting emails like this one:
Like most humans I feel awesome when I hear people say stuff like this. And as my lists have grown I get more and more positive reinforcement.
Once you get that feedback loop going it will make you want to do more with your newsletter. It will get better and better.
And then something will happen…maybe in 6 months….maybe in a year…but it will happen:
You’ll get huge leverage at work, for your company, and in your life.
Great things started happening to me as I kept on sending my newsletters.
- Starting a $300/hr coaching practice with zero investment in paid marketing or advertising
- Getting published on a leading careers website multiple times
- Saving tens of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees
And more recently — readers of my newsletter ended up becoming some of the first customers of my startup BEMAVEN.
For you maybe it means:
- More customers or partners coming to your door
- Access to better job opportunities and a higher comp package
- Getting the attention of potential investors in your startup
- Speaking engagements or panel invitations
And there’s always the chance you could build a breakout success…like these folks:
REDEF was originally a private mailing list with heavy hitting subscribers like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. It’s become a must-read for influencers across industries and has turned into a full blown media company.
CB Insights’ newsletter about startup investment trends is chock full of great data and yes, insights 🙂
It’s also become a ‘nasty amazing‘ driver of growth for their SaaS offering according to their CEO — who also happens to write the newsletter.
What I love about this newsletter is that he manages to make what could be a dry topic into an enjoyable read that will give you a few laughs along the way.
Laura Roeder from Edgar took the 75,000 member list she built running herboutique social media marketing agency and used it to jumpstart an entirely new business to $1 million+ in annual revenue…in less than a year!
And this newsletter (with 40,000+ subscribers) helped Benedict Evans catch the eye of leading VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. (Yup, they hired him.)
Hopefully this has you pumped that doing your own newsletter is a great move.
So let’s get started on the how:
I hear this all the time:
“I don’t know what I’d write about that other people would care about.”
No problem. Here’s how you figure it out.
Ask yourself one simple question: What do I know professionally (and maybe personally) that almost no one else knows?
Here’s why this strategy works really well:
He’s a product manager who moved from Microsoft to a fast growing startup — who learned a whole lot along the way about how to run high performing, agile product teams. And he blogs about it here.
You might be thinking to yourself that there are probably millions of product management blogs on the web. And you might be right.
- Out of all of the product management blogs on the web, how many do you think are written by product managers who had a long career at Microsoft and then went on to run product at a startup on the other side of the country?
- Of the blogs that are left, how many are focused on managing product teams (vs. other product management topics)?
- And let’s cut that number down again… by thinking about how many of those remaining bloggers who fit -all- of those criteria are actually running their own newsletter.
What does this mean for Mike?
He’s defined a niche that he’s in a great position to own because there aren’t many (or any) people like him speaking up.
Once you’ve narrowed in on your niche (go ahead, I’ll wait) you’re almost ready to send your first email.
Here’s what’s next:
4 simple steps to build your list and activate your audience
1. Do a dump of your LinkedIn connections into Excel. (Here’s how.)
2. Filter by title or keyword to get a quick but relevant cut of people you think will be interested in what you have to say. For example, if you’re starting a product management focused newsletter then just filter for people with the word ‘product’ in their title. That’s your targeted list!
3. Load them up into an email marketing service. There are so many but I recommend Madmimi (I’ve been a customer for years) or TinyLetter for people that are just getting started.
4. Send your first email.
Make sure the first email is super simple.
“Hey – I’m starting this mailing list about <widgets, software development, kung fu, whatever your niche is>. If you want to opt-out, it’s okay! I won’t be offended.” (and give them a link to easily opt-out)
Or even something slightly longer could work, too.
I know it seems counterintuitive to ask people to leave your list.
But giving people an easy way to opt-out means less people will unsubscribe than if you had just started sending them your newsletter without a short intro.
Because you’ve already filtered your list down to a interested subgroup they’ll be inclined to stick around.
Now, grow your list:
To grow my email lists I give away free gifts to new subscribers.
- A free chapter of my venture capital eBook (Here’s the exact email I send.)
- A Startup Stock Option Calculator
You can easily do the same thing. In fact, these goodies don’t have to cost you much — or anything — to make.
For example, giving away that chapter cost me nothing because I had already written the book and had all of the content.
If you have a blog you can use a tool like SumoMe (which is awesome) to ask visitors for their email address.
And you can set up your email marketing service to automatically email that freebie to the new subscriber so you can just set and forget.
But if you don’t blog:
Just add a link on your email signature that sends someone to your email list signup page (a page that you get for free from any email provider you use).
How often you should send your newsletter — and what should you send?
Here are 2 rules of thumb:
- If you want to send your newsletter daily your newsletter should contain news or time-sensitive information.
- If you want to send it weekly or monthly it should have a sampling of content you’ve recently created and shared. (Here’s a good example of a monthly newsletter.)
If you’re just getting started weekly or monthly will be your best bet.
Sending daily is a lot of work, so you can build up to that over time if you end up really loving this newsletter thing.
How to make your newsletter totally unique
Offer one-of-a-kind experiences and opportunities to the people on your email list.
- On my VC Careers email list I regularly connect hiring VC firms with qualified candidates. And some of those candidates have been hired, so I know this is having an impact.
- On my Startup Career Advice email list I share jobs that haven’t been posted publicly, so my readers get first crack at them.
Doing this will make your subscribers more likely to stick around and more likely to recommend your list to their friends and colleagues.
Even just sending deals and discounts to your list can be another great way to stand out:
- This could be through setting up some affiliate partnerships.
- Or sharing an awesome offer you heard about that you think your readers could benefit from, too. (“Hey, I found this great thing that could help you – and it’s 50% off this week. Check it out.”)
You’re on your way!
It may seem hard to find the time to do all of these things yourself, but trust me:
It’s worth it.
Especially when you see the impact it will have:
On your business…
…to your career…
…and to your life.
If you liked this post, come learn more on Tuesday, October 27th at 1p ET / 10a PT in my free webinar “Start A Life Changing Newsletter: 2 Hours, 1 Newsletter, and a New Trajectory for You.”
John Gannon is co-founder of BEMAVEN, a personal branding platform for executives (and those who aspire to be). He’s also the founder of StartupCareerAdvice.com, a site where he helps people who aren’t engineers get jobs at startups.