As well as curating the best newsletters, we want to showcase the publishers and get inside the mind of the individuals who do the painstaking work week-in week-out. And celebrate those who bring the hell-yeah back to your inbox.
For issue 2, I caught up with Miles Burke to talk about the launch of growth.email, a curated weekly email with the best growth and marketing articles.
Tell me about you. Where are you? Where did you grow up?
I am the founder and MD of Bam Creative, an award winning digital agency that I started 15 years ago. I’m also the co-founder of a two year old tech startup, called 6Q. I spend the rest of my time speaking at events, blogging, working on an insane amount of side projects or spending time with my wife and three kids.
Whoa, makes me think I need to simplify my life reading that paragraph again!
I was born in Perth, Western Australia, where I am currently living. Outside of a few years in another part of Australia, I’ve always lived here.
What are you working on?
All of the above, and one of my favourite side projects, a weekly email newsletter featuring 10 growth hacking and marketing articles, called growth.email. This is something I really enjoy, because it gives me an excuse to read a ton of articles every week.
To be honest, I read every day as it is, so I don’t see this as work – I have my process tuned now, so I send articles I feel my audience would enjoy straight into a draft for the next issue.
Why did you start growth.email? how does it fit into your masterplan?
It all started with an idea to create a side project for less than $100. I wanted to do this, as I am always hearing people outside the startup world tell me how expensive it is to test out a business idea. I wanted to illustrate how you could start something for less than a good night out.
I love growth marketing, and I read many articles on the topic every week. I also enjoy reading email newsletters, so it was an easy decision to try growth.email as the side project.
I gave myself 3 months, and a budget of $99. The idea was if I didn’t make the money back after 3 months, I was going to shelve the idea. I wrote a series of blog posts where I explain how it all unfolded. Spoiler: I made more than $99 in three months, and 7 months later, I’m still doing it.
How many subscribers do you have right now?
I have just over 1,700 subscribers, which has flatlined a bit over the last few months – it is all organic growth, as I haven’t spent much time at all since April promoting it.
How do you approach growing your own newsletter about growth? meta, right?
Well, I’ve often blogged about blogging, so I have a thing for meta.
I tried a number of different tactics in those first three months. The most subscribers came as a result of being listed on Product Hunt. The next biggest channel was my blog posts writing about attracting subscribers. That’s right – I attracted subscribers by writing about ways to attract subscribers.
Can you go through the growth channels you’ve explored? Any surprises? What worked and what didn’t?
I didn’t expect to find so many people keen on reading my $99 side project series, and then signing up as a result. I’ve often ignored my personal blog, as I often write articles for my business blogs and then forget my own. I just assumed I was writing these for myself.
Twitter works quite well – I have a Twitter account for the newsletter, @thegrowthemail and I share the links that have appeared in the emails on it. I get a number of people click the bio link and sign up as a result of liking the tweets.
There are two things that really didn’t work for me. First, I ran a promoted post on Facebook targeting people who have ‘growth hacking’ as an interest. I spent $20 and gained a total of one new subscriber. That was one expensive email address!
Then, I spent hours curating the first 100 articles I had linked in the first ten issues, made it into a Google Spreadsheet and created an article on Medium to act as ‘gated content’. I only had about 15 or so new subscribers – certainly not worth the time I put into it.
I don’t regret any of this though – the entire purpose was to experiment with channels and see what works and what doesn’t.
I’m fascinated by other peoples’ workflows. Can you walk me through your curation process.
I’ve settled into a fairly solid process now. I have around 100 rss feeds pulled into Feedly, which I have sorted into a number of topic categories. I tend to find a lot of the material there, as well as a list of Facebook groups and sites like Quibb and Reddit.
Once I’ve skimmed an article, I’ll read it properly if it looks to have actionable content and is lengthier than 500-600 words. I avoid articles that are product centric or seem like a thinly veiled sales pitch.
Then, if an article passes my interest test, I have the Goodbits chrome plugin, which allows me to send it to Goodbits content library, where I then pick the best 10 articles. I try to always end up with one issue having a number of topics – so there’s email marketing, social media, conversion optimisation and the like.
All up, I read at least 2-5 hours worth of articles a week, and then spend under an hour putting the email together, rewriting the intro text and ensuring it all reads well.
I have a spreadsheet of the 200+ articles I have shared to date as well. I refer to this sometimes if I am concerned I have used too many articles from one source.
Like you, I’m a big believer in side projects as a way to test and learn from new ideas. How do you think about side projects?
A great side project to me is something that personally interests me, or solves an issue I have – the old scratch my itch first idea. A great side project will be low time investment, high chance of at least covering costs, and ultimately teaches me something; it could be some development technique, writing which I enjoy or marketing experimentation which is where growth.email came from.
I already run two businesses – a 13 person digital marketing team and a tech startup, so I do have a very full plate. I haven’t got plenty of spare time, so it really needs to be something I can do relatively quickly.
My aim with most of the side projects I have ever had is to encourage me to keep learning – if I had one that became profitable enough to hire someone full time to help with, that would be great, but it isn’t my main driver.
How does the side-project idea relate to growth.email? What’s the big goal for this newsletter?
I have been enacting many of the lessons I share in growth.email with my clients and their projects, so the learning goal is ticked off. I’d be very keen to see growth.email attract a sizeable subscriber list, so I can ask for higher sponsorship rates, with the dream of being able to start a few curated emails in other complementary topics.
At the moment, I guess in a way it is certainly helping me lift my personal brand and means I am making plenty of new contacts across the globe.
It’s great to see that you tackled revenue from day 1. What made you decide on the ad/sponsorship model?
There are so many ways to get curated growth marketing articles, I didn’t imagine many people would pay for a subscription. I thought I’d try the sponsorship model and see how that pans out for the first few months.
Can you go through the process of how you find sponsors, reach out and sell ads. Can you lay out the exact steps for us?
OK, I check my email. I know, that’s pretty bad, however, I’ve been lucky up until two weeks ago, to have had all inbound enquiries to date. I always include a link to the sponsorship page in each edition and encourage interested parties to get in touch. Now that I seem to have answered all of those, I need to start considering looking further afield. I’ve run the last two issues with no sponsor, so need to pull my finger out.
What I’ve found previously, is to look at who is advertising in similar newsletters – either approach these companies themselves or find competitors who seem to be spending on lead generation. I’m mindful that I don’t want links to random companies – if they don’t interest me, I doubt very much they would interest my readers.
What’s the future for email newsletters?
For the last 20 years, I’ve seen articles on why email is dead. Nope, it isn’t, and I can’t fathom a future without email.
The future is in high quality, curated newsletters on specific niches. I am always keen to sign up to a newsletter if they provide great value to me, for my specific interests. I don’t want to see links to fishing articles; I’m not into fishing. I would rather have subscriptions to a handful of high quality newsletters that collect content from a variety of sources, rather than receive the typical “Here’s everything we’ve published” style emails.
What big idea would you like to work on if you had unlimited time?
If I won the lottery tomorrow, and didn’t need to spend most of my week focussed on making an income, I would love to create a digital marketing learning platform for not for profit organisations. Assemble the best minds in many areas; design, promotion, content, etc and have a series of awesome actionable courses, ebooks and articles which enable charities to get more from digital marketing. The best part would be these courses and workshops would be entirely free for registered charities doing good things.
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