How to Hustle Your Way to 1.5 Million Newsletter Subscribersby@niteshgu
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How to Hustle Your Way to 1.5 Million Newsletter Subscribers

by Nitesh GuptaSeptember 4th, 2021
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Sam Parr describes The Hustle as ‘The Wall Street Journal meets The Daily Show’ The newsletter has over 1 million subscribers, and was bought by HubSpot earlier this year. It was started out of emails sent out to promote a conference called HustleCon (which also is his brainchild) Parr was an entrepreneur by habit. He saw an opportunity to connect with millennials over email over email. He used a conversational tone in everything he wrote to create a space of comfort and relatability.

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How The Hustle grew their subscribers to 1.5 million and learning for us!

Sam Parr started The Hustle in his kitchen in 2014. The newsletter that Sam Parr describes as “The Wall Street Journal meets The Daily Show” has over 1 million subscribers, and was bought by HubSpot earlier this year began out of emails sent out to promote a conference called HustleCon (which also is his brainchild). Parr was an entrepreneur by habit. Building one business after another, he went on to sell a bunch and earn profits, steadily. But this story is not about Parr. This is all about The Hustle.

A Millennial Opportunity

"We built our product on email because we wanted to own our channel. Unlike search-optimized platforms like Google or Facebook where a change in the algorithm can decimate the business, email as a platform is not going anywhere and offers us a relatively cheap, direct, and intimate line to our subscribers.” - Jon Havel, Co-Founder

Not many emails that come into our inboxes as promotional mail are looked at, forget responded to. Sam’s story was drastically different. The deluge of replies to his emails caused a spark. He saw an opportunity to be able to connect with millennials over email. And so, The Hustle was born.

To stand out with millennials and make them want to be part of a brand is no mean feat. So what did Sam do? Sam centered his newsletter around Tech and Culture. And carved a space of comfort and relatability for his readers by using a conversational tone in everything he wrote. The language is informal, relatable, and ‘cool’.

The Hustle Growth Formula

“Emails allow us to scale quickly. It’s cheap, allows us to build an audience, and it’s intimate.”

It’s one thing to find what works. Getting what you believe in to grow is the next challenge. Businesses don’t make sense unless you can scale them. Here’s how The Hustle grew.

  1. By word of mouth

This is the oldest and most reliable marketing tactic. Human beings are wired to trust another’s opinion. To encourage people to talk about them, The Hustle introduced an ambassador programme. The Hustle Ambassador Programme is designed to give subscribers access to a private online community, free swag, and tickets to The Hustle Con when they refer other people to the newsletter.

2. By converting traffic from their main website

Sam has mentioned multiple times that they could very quickly identify the Lifetime Value of their subscribers. Once that happened, economics became easier. By spending small sums of money accurately, The Hustle could convert readers to subscribers.

Parr believes (and rightly so, it seems) that the email experience is a lot more intimate than any other social media.

And that helped The Hustle quickly transition from a website blog to an email newsletter. Initially, their website articles were wacky, completely out of the box, and great at piquing reader interest. They were smart to leave hooks in pieces on their website, quite like all great authors when they write anthologies. And that leads to quick conversion.

3. By identifying their loyal subscribers and incentivizing their loyalty

The idea of turning subscribers into ambassadors came from Parr and John Havell’s use of the idea even before The Hustle was conceptualized.

When the two men were working on their start-up conference called Hustlecon, they figured that incentivizing website visitors would lead to better footfall at their conferences. So this is what they did.

The website prompted every visitor to enter their email id. Once one did that, it said “Thanks for joining the Hustlecon email list, here’s how you can buy a ticket. And if you want $10 off your ticket, share this with three friends, and if three friends join, you’ll get $10 off.”

The incentives didn’t stop there; if you referred 50 friends, you got 50 percent off your ticket. The ticket was free if you referred 100 friends. And for 1,000 referrals? You could come to the speakers’ dinner.

The results of this incentivizing were so good, that when The Hustle was born, they used the same strategy here. A few weeks after a new user signs up for The Hustle, that person is sent an official invitation to join the ambassador program.

The invite takes the subscriber to a personalized landing page that tells the subscriber how long they’ve been a member, how many editions they’ve opened, and, most important, how many friends they’ve referred thus far. The number of referrals gives each subscriber exclusive goodies or access to events.

4. By creating mutually beneficial partnerships

“We partner with badass brands to create custom content our audience will love Get in touch and let’s figure out how we can best work together.”

That’s what The Hustle says on their webpage calling for advertisements.

A good advertisement seeking advertisement is one that makes the potential advertiser feel like you care. The secret to any successful relationship is building it around a win-win attitude. The articles built around collaborations have the same tone, tenor, and voice as the rest of their newsletter.

Advertisement is subtle, yet effective and most posts end with a CTA that allows a The Hustle subscriber a discount or incentive to use the services of the advertiser.

5. Creating the right content

Running a media company is largely, if not fully, dependent on generating quality content. Everything that you choose to write about must add value to the reader’s life. Else, why write about it at all? The Hustle has aced this formula.

Let’s look at how they do it.

I. Know your audience

The people The Hustle targets are millennials or those who think like millennials. They figured out what drives this bunch of people. A 9-5 job does not matter to them as much as being remembered does. This group of people wants to put a dent in the world through the work they do. Work and life must be integrated and careers must be defined by missions. They also sent regular surveys to their audience to understand who they are and what they want.

II. Tell stories for your audience

The millennial generation is also a generation that’s always looking for inspiration - to be and to do. The Hustle began unearthing stories that they thought would help their audience get closer to their life goals. Yes, they share the news but they do it using the ‘Jon Stewart Effect’ - giving the news a new perspective or opinion- one they believe their audience may not have heard before.

Over time, with a sustained supply of meaningful content, they built a relationship of trust with each of their readers. And these people started relying on them for their opinions. Not surprising how they have over a million subscribers, no?

Very recently, this email newsletter company was acquired by HubSpot in a deal worth about $27 million dollars! Why would a company like HubSpot acquire a media company like The Hustle?

In the words of HubSpot, “We believe that the next generation of software companies will invest in media that earn the attention of their audience. Instead of the traditional model of having a software company embedded inside of a media company, we predict that the next generation of tech companies will have the opposite – a media company embedded inside a software company.”

So, what does The Hustle teach us?

It’s okay to chase after a seemingly crazy idea. All you need to know is who you’re building this crazy idea for. Most often, the crazy ideas are the simplest ones. The key is to find your niche and then own it.

So, looking to create a newsletter that is impossible not to read?

It’s not rocket science.

All you have to remember is who you’re writing for. Figure out your audience, and write great content. Every day. Never stop hustling.