The secret to meaningful newsletter growth

A lot of newsletter growth advice focuses on quantity over quality.

Growing fast isn’t necessarily bad.

But if you want to build a newsletter readers love, a focus on quantity overlooks something much bigger.

People love newsletters that they see value from.

I’ll admit that I’m passively subscribed to quite a few newsletter that I might open but rarely read.

You probably do the same thing.

So while their open rates and subscriber count might look impressive, they aren’t the hot topic on social or the newsletter refers to as “life changing”.

To really understand how this affects the future of your newsletter, let’s zoom out and look at the stages your subscribers go through:

  1. Unaware - Oh, you have a newsletter?
  2. Subscriber - I signed up, now what?
  3. Reader - I open and read some of your newsletters.
  4. Anticipator - I can’t wait for your next newsletter!
  5. Practitioner - I get so much value from this newsletter, it’s really helped me do ___.
  6. Referrer - Everyone should know about this newsletter!

It’s the leap between stages 3 and 4 that we’re focusing in on. If you can take your subscribers to that next step, you have strong momentum toward a list of stage 6 subscribers.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Learn from your stage 3 readers

We’ve already established that these readers open some of your newsletters but not all of them.

You need to find out:

  • Why did they subscribe?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What do they really want to read?

Fair warning: You might learn things in this process that will change your entire approach.

The most common reasons readers don’t move to anticipators is either that you’re writing for quantity over quality or attracting the wrong audience. Maybe even both…

Learn from your stage 4 anticipators

Even in a sea of readers, you’ll find a few anticipators.

Sorry, your mom and best friend don’t count, as much as we love them.

What you need to find are the anticipators who were once at stage 1. Completely unaware that your newsletter exists.

They’ve managed to take the leap from stage 3 to 4 and they hold the key to convincing others to take that leap too.

For this group, you need to find out:

  • Why do they love your newsletter?
  • What sets your content apart in their mind?
  • What would they change?

That last one might seem a bit odd, but knowing what your anticipators would change is how you start to move them toward the next stages.

The takeaway

Are you satisfying your readers or satisfying the machine?

If you want to build a lasting and loved newsletter, you have to share good quality content that your readers can’t wait to share.

While consistent quantity is important, it’s not worth sacrificing quality just to build a big list of passive readers.

Get to know your readers and anticipators. They hold the key to understanding what quality looks like for your newsletter.

Your next step

Check in with your readers and anticipators.

You may not know who is who yet (I’ll be sharing something soon to help you narrow that down), but you don’t need to know definitively to start asking questions.

In the next 3 newsletters you send, ask this question:

What do you hope to see more of from this newsletter?

It’s an open-ended question that should give you some interesting food for though.

Written by Kyle Adams

I work at ConvertKit helping top creators every day and bring what I know about growing your email list to Creator Glue every week.